Friday, September 30, 2005

Maya Cafe

Maya Cafe & Cantina, Route 9, Fishkill, 845-896-4042
Cafe Maya, Route 9 Cold Spring, 845-265-4636

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My favorite local Mexican restaurant, Cafe Maya, finally moved to its new larger, mucho closer location in the former Moog's Bar across from the former Dutchess Mall, and changed the name to Maya Cafe & Cantina. The walls are filled with hand-painted Mexican murals, pottery and colorful fabrics. The tables and booths are simple and spacious. I might drop in and give him this photo of the gerber daisy. It was on the table there at lunch.

I had a terrific cheese chile relleno, filled with creamy queso blanco cheese, fried to perfection in an egg batter and served with a red enchilada sauce and the standard sides of rice, refried beans and guacamole. My friend had the sour cream chicken enchiladas and the sauce was creamy and well-seasoned. Our other guest had the Cochinita Pibil, a Yucatan seasoned pork served with traditional pickled red onion and tortillas. The steak tacos are tasty topped with fresh pico de gallo.

At previous visits to the much more intimate and diner-like (and BYOB)Cold Spring restaurant, I've had terrific grilled flank steak dishes, chicken dishes with freshly made tomatillo sauces and various appetizers. All the meals have such wonderful, authentic flavors and seasonings. The guacamole I ordered there was handmade in front of me in an authentic pig-shaped mortar bowl. Pinch of this, handful of that and it was perfect!

The owner, Luis Pinto is busy in the restaurant seating and greeting people, serving the meals and being a wonderful host. He welcomes you as if you were a guest at his house. A great place for business lunches and a terrific family restaurant.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On Hope and a 41-year old Quarterback

On Hope and a 41-year old Quarterback

I’m not sure why the New York Times headline, “Quarterback Testaverde to Return to Jets,” brought me to tears. I’m not that into Vinny Testaverde. Truth be told, I’m not into football all that much either, lately. But in the same week that I wished my father (recovering from a prolonged illness) and grandfather (recently widowed after 60+years of marriage) their respective “Happy” Birthdays, and interviewed for a job which I’m not confident I have (and the phones have been eerily silent), and then read today’s headlines: “Iraqi Teachers Gunned Down,” or “Storm Victims May Face Curbs on Bankruptcy,” or “Former FEMA Chief Blames Local Officials for Failures,” or any headline for the past month that started with “Hurricane (Name Here),” suddenly, the return of a 41-year old quarterback was really good news.

Maybe it has to do with hope. Without Chad Pennington, or even backup quarterback, Jay Fiedler, both sidelined with shoulder injuries, the Jets season looks as promising as, as…I’m in such a funk, I can’t name something that’s even remotely promising. As promising as me thinking of something that’s promising.

When you’ve lost hope or, haven’t been given any hope, you fail to see the reason to go on. Why bother? I know what it’s like to have no hope. My father suffered a devastating illness this summer: his aorta ruptured from an aneurysm he didn’t know he had. He went to the emergency room after he complained of stomach pain and nausea and collapsed in the ER. After a CAT scan, the doctor came out to inform us that he had suffered massive internal bleeding from a ruptured artery. Then he said, “We don’t think he’ll make it. If you believe in God, pray.” That’s what he said. It was hopeless. I won’t replay the next excruciating five hours our family endured, sitting, hopeless, in the surgical waiting room. It’s a low I never want to visit again. But, I am happy to tell you, that doctor was wrong.

My father made, what some would call, a miraculous recovery. He did what others said could not be done. Against all odds, he made it. And when he returned to that hospital recently for a visit, after staying there for six long weeks, recovering without any brain damage, without any organ damage, walking on the legs they said he’d lose from the blood loss, he was applauded by the hospital staff. They knew, that was Hope walking out the door.

So, you see, with the return of Vinny Testaverde to the rudderless Jets, suddenly, there is hope on the horizon. Maybe just a faint green glimmer, but it’s there.

Maybe Vinny's hopeful to me for another reason. We have something in common; matching Achilles tendon surgery scars. His was more famous, obviously, but we both recovered and one of us is, apparently, none worse for the wear. (I, on the other hand, have trouble surviving the Tuesday night volleyball league without reaching for the Advil bottle.) And even at 41, he’s like that Energizer Bunny - still going.

Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets, wrote,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…

Today, for me, hope is the guy with a green and white jersey, a quarterback, formerly of Brooklyn, NY, who never stops at all. Funny thing, that hope. If you've lost it, you never know where it might turn up.

Now, the Jets fans, the sports columnists, the real football fans, the ones who know a thing or two about players’ career statistics or how tough the competition is or even how this new, older, former NY quarterback will fit in with this newer NY offense, they will, surely, have something to say about how hopeful this season really is. They might question how much further that bunny can go on drumming.

And when Testaverde goes to Baltimore on Sunday to back up the Jets’ backup backup QB, Brooks Bollinger, will I still have hope? I think the answer is, yes. Maybe not for the Jets or their lame-out-of-the-gate season. But hopeful, still. Again. And it has nothing to do with football.

There is a very hopeful line in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy which, though it’s no “J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets,” might serve in some inspirational capacity for Jets fans:

All that is gold does not glitter,
not all those who wander are lost;
the old that is strong does not wither,
deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
a light from the shadows shall spring;
renewed shall be blade that was broken,
the crownless again shall be king.*

Here’s to all the strong, old, wandering, deep-rooted, glitterless gold in the world, particularly the ones wearing a green & white #16 jersey. Thanks for the hope. Go Jets!

* The King referred to in this stanza is Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, exiled heir to the throne of Gondor, who’s Elvish name, “Estel,” means, “Hope,” and who was quoted in the story as saying, “There is always hope.”

That was far too much geeky information, wasn’t it? ;-
- digitally-enhanced photo by Carolyn Torella
Giants vs. Jets
August 6, 2005
Giants training camp, Albany, NY

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pumpkin Picking

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So much for this "still life" shot of the pumpkin patch.

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Photo Samples

Photo Samples by Carolyn Torella

The Gates
Housing Development
Kiyiwana Farm
Hudson Valley Winter
World Photo Day
Local Places

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Autumn Begins

Lament for the Passing of Summer

The corn bin stood empty, save a few strands of golden silk left from the last batch. The new crop of apples, Macintosh, Gala and, my new favorite, Ginger Gold, encroached uneasily from the side bins, leaving space for the corn that never came. Tomorrow is the first day of Autumn, but it came too early. There had to be more corn.

I spent the better part of six weeks in an ICU unit, praying, crying, pacing, visiting, crying, sleeping, reading, waiting for my father to recover from a rupture of his aorta. Not an easy thing to recover from, not for the patient, not for the family. It's long and slow and you take it day by day. The day by days added up quickly and summer, apparently, turned to fall. I lost track of the days.

I asked if perhaps there was a bag in the back yet to be opened. "No, there is no more corn." Failing to register the words properly, or maybe I was in denial, "You mean no more today, right?" "No," she said, gently breaking the news to me, "No more this year." I gasped, "No more corn?!!" Another farm stand customer shared my dismay. "Was it the drought?" I asked the farm stand cashier, "No, this is about right...the drought only really affected the white corn. Now it's time for apples..." Her words trailed off like the dried leaves swirling in the open doorway.

No more corn. Autumn is here. I should've seen it coming. Even the kiosk in the park across the street said it in big black and white letters, "First Day of Autumn Tomorrow." They knew. The signs were everywhere. I wasn't paying attention.

Maybe it was this tortuously hot Indian summer...the heat got to me. When I wasn't in the heat, I was in the stale aired, sun-starved ICU unit, where only the beeping of heart and breating monitors seemed to mark the passage of time. My father suffered from ICU psychosis, maybe I had a form of it. No sense of time, no day or night. Just alive or not. Conscious or not. It's September and I'm still sending the kids to school with shorts on and I couldn't tell you where my favorite pair of jeans have been hibernating since early June. It felt like summer. How could there be no more corn?

I was still reeling at the cash register, comforted somewhat by the feel of my fresh-baked cider donuts and home-grown tomatoes, warmed from their sunny location near the window. Like refusing to believe the death of someone you recently saw, I lamented, "But I just had corn on Saturday. Butter & was so sweet," The other lady nodded in sympathy as I added, "I would've bought more…I would've make the fresh corn salsa I've been saying I'd make all summer." But now there was no more summer.

I took my produce, cider donuts and sorrow to the car. I felt empty without my baker's dozen of corn. The sight of rows and rows of pumpkins with signs "39cents/lb" were encouraging. I sighed and considered the reasonable price and variety and sizes of pumpkins. At the end of the pumpkin trail, I found an inviting picnic table, readied for the eventual pilgrimage of elementary school students, and ate my still warm cinnamon donut. It wasn't corn, but it was good. Cornstalks lazily leaned against the maple tree, like they've been resting there for weeks. The sun, even at 3pm, cast long shadows behind the apple crates.

Autumn begins tomorrow. I guess I'm ready. I don’t really have a choice. Maybe I’ll make apple pie...but I'll be dreaming of corn and the lost summer.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Photo Friday Challenge: Divine

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divine light
Fountain Jet, Innisfree Garden
Millbrook, NY

more photos from Innisfree here

For those of you unfamiliar with Photo Friday, here is a summary from their site:
Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

Monday, September 12, 2005

September days

Somewhere between the last harvest of my tomatoes and the ripening of the pumpkins, school starts and all hell breaks loose at our house. The mostly empty summer calendar turns over to September and suddenly I've nowhere to scribble in my dentist appointment. School's in, the kids' soccer starts, leaves are falling, days are shorter, nights colder and Walmart has a Santa waving inside the garden center.

Not so fast, Santa. Autumn's just starting. There's still a few heirloom tomatoes on the vine and I just started a late crop of snow peas. So back away from the snow shovels and ice scrapers, please. Amidst all the family madness that is September, my garden to-do list still silently beckons. "Clean out the dead brush," she whispers. "Turn under the spent tomato plants and add the compost!" "Don't forget to divide the hostas and the promised!" Maybe she's not so silent. I have to buy new mums and icicle pansies, hit the end of season perennial sale, move the boxwood, plant the daffodil & allium bulbs, fertilize and build up the garden beds, trim back and mulch the sleeping rose beds. The list is endless. But, such is the garden. The earth gives eternally if we give in equal measure. A fair trade, in my opinion, for the beauty and bounty of the home garden and the peace you find within its borders.

I found this poem the other day and I thought I'd share it. I loved getting lost in his words and images. It's quite lengthy, but worth staying with until the end. This was said of the poet, Alan Seeger, by his Harvard classmate, "The work is well done, and so much out of date as to be almost a positive quality. It is high-flown, heavily decorated and solemn, but its solemnity is thorough going, not a mere literary formality. Alan Seeger, as one who knew him can attest, lived his whole life on this plane, with impeccable poetic dignity; everything about him was in keeping." The roommate was T.S. Eliot.

He has a stamina in his writing I'm not sure I'd ever achieve with two kids in the house. Just in the time it took to write these few lines, I've changed rooms three times seeking refuge from the noise, answered the phone twice, retrieved snacks, fed the persistently scratching cat at my door, helped with my little baker's cookie baking efforts, helped hubbie decide if he needs to go home first or go to soccer practice straightaway...and relocated a stray bee. I've got dinner on my mind and, even with a full refrigerator, I'm coming up empty. Soccer practice is at 5:30, I've packed a book to read, but I'm sure I'm going to be recruited for soccer drills. I think the only haven left is around midnight, when the whole house, its inhabitants, human, electronic and otherwise, are quiet. I bet the best poets were reclusive insomniacs.

The Deserted Garden
by Alan Seeger

I know a village in a far-off land
Where from a sunny, mountain-girdled plain
With tinted walls a space on either hand
And fed by many an olive-darkened lane
The high-road mounts, and thence a silver band
Through vineyard slopes above and rolling grain,
Winds off to that dim corner of the skies
Where behind sunset hills a stately city lies.

Here, among trees whose overhanging shade
Strews petals on the little droves below,
Pattering townward in the morning weighed
With greens from many an upland garden-row,
Runs an old wall; long centuries have frayed
Its scalloped edge, and passers to and fro
Heard never from beyond its crumbling height
Sweet laughter ring at noon or plaintive song at night.

But here where little lizards bask and blink
The tendrils of the trumpet-vine have run,
At whose red bells the humming bird to drink
Stops oft before his garden feast is done;
And rose-geraniums, with that tender pink
That cloud-banks borrow from the setting sun,
Have covered part of this old wall, entwined
With fair plumbago, blue as evening heavens behind.

And crowning other parts the wild white rose
Rivals the honey-suckle with the bees.
Above the old abandoned orchard shows
And all within beneath the dense-set trees,
Tall and luxuriant the rank grass grows,
That settled in its wavy depth one sees
Grass melt in leaves, the mossy trunks between,
Down fading avenues of implicated green;

Wherein no lack of flowers the verdurous night
With stars and pearly nebula o'erlay;
Azalea-boughs half rosy and half white
Shine through the green and clustering apple-spray,
Such as the fairy-queen before her knight
Waved in old story, luring him away
Where round lost isles Hesperian billows break
Or towers loom up beneath the clear, translucent lake;

And under the deep grass blue hare-bells hide,
And myrtle plots with dew-fall ever wet,
Gay tiger-lilies flammulate and pied,
Sometime on pathway borders neatly set,
Now blossom through the brake on either side,
Where heliotrope and weedy mignonette,
With vines in bloom and flower-bearing trees,
Mingle their incense all to swell the perfumed breeze,


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Baseball - Now I Get It

I wrote this essay in September 2001. That date marks it in history, of course, as a piece written post 9-11. That was the month I realized I could, through words, purge myself of my thoughts and troubles and share my observations with others. A very dear friend told me, "Carolyn, you write too well to keep your work hidden on a computer. Share it." I have ever since.

I was mourning with everyone else that tragic month. This was one voice, mine, in a crowded Queens baseball stadium on a cool autumn 9-11.

24 September 2001

Baseball – Now, I Get It.
By Carolyn La Duca Torella

I guess it took me 151 games to figure it out. It took 151 games and one tragic national event and countless tears shed to figure it out. It took all that and then the cheers and smiles from thousands of Mets fans to figure it out, but I did.

Baseball, it is true, is a game. Just a game. Lately, it seems, it has been more than that to a lot of people. It is a game woven into the fabric of this country, and now, it seems, at games, woven into the fabric of our national flag and anthem, and vice versa.

Before this year, I couldn’t tell you what I’d be doing on any given night from April to September at around, say 7:10pm and at 1:10pm on Sundays. I would never have guessed that this year, you would find me in front of a TV or at the stadium, cheering on a team of baseball players. But this year, I became a baseball fan.

"Hello, my name is Carolyn. I am 35 years old and I am a baseball fan." Some of my friends call it pre-mid-life crisis. Some friends call it delayed enlightenment. Some Yankee friends call it pathetic. Some lifelong Mets fans call it a little too late.

I don’t know why I decided to follow Mets baseball this year. Maybe I’m a fan now because I almost bumped into Mike Piazza at the LasVegas airport in February. Maybe it was that whole Subway Series thing last fall. Maybe there was just nothing good on TV.

Except for my older brother, a Mets fan, we were never a baseball family. Football, yes. Baseball, hardly ever. As a teenager, I was tortured by my brother’s unending desire to "just check the score on the Mets" while my television show was on. I just didn’t get it.

Baseball seemed painfully slow. Baseball, it seemed to me, was just a bunch of guys waiting around for something exciting to happen. Something exciting would, eventually, happen and then the crowd would cheer and the players would run around a little bit and maybe get dirty and get their adrenaline going again. It didn’t seem to be a real sport by any means.

But then, this year, I sat through a whole game and actually watched it. Not from over the top of my Cooking Light magazine, mind you. I sat fully focused on the game for the whole nine innings. It was Mets at Atlanta, the season opener for the Mets. In one game of nine innings, I learned that baseball is an incredibly difficult game that very few could play well and even fewer could play exceptionally.

Then, of course, I’ve had to learn all about baseball strategy. Runners on the corners, two outs, you’re down two runs, they just put in a left-handed pitcher, a train is leaving the station at 2PM heading west at 53 mph and your pitcher is up to bat, what do you do? I still don’t have the answer, but I figure by the end of the season, I might.

I learned that baseball is great drama. When your team has a 5-2 lead going into the ninth and your reliever gives up two back-to-back homeruns; that is drama. When he gives up a two-out double and then walks the next batter; that is drama. The starting pitcher in the dugout can’t even look up. The catcher is just trying to calm the pitcher down, "Forget about it. One pitch at a time. You can do it. Get the next one." The manager’s hair is turning grayer by the minute. The crowd is booing. And in that 94-degree heat, NO one is sweating more than the guy on the mound. Drama.

It is better than Days of Our Lives, or the West Wing or even that fly-fishing show on ESPN.

But what I also figured out this year, after all the rules and strategy and highlight reels, is that baseball is still after all, just a game. It is a temporary diversion from reality. Lately, reality has been particularly painful and the escape, however temporary, has been welcome. I have carved out a niche for this game, this team, in my life. I committed myself to one season, good or bad, to figure it out. And I think I had it. And then September 11th happened.

And while I knew that baseball had become part of my life this year, I didn’t know how much until that week. Through the grieving and the tears and the grim news by the minute, I wanted my baseball. Of course, no one could play. How could they possibly? But I wanted it. It was part of my "normal" life this year and I wanted it back. By Friday the 14th, I needed it.

I found a tape of a Mets game I had made of the three innings I missed when I had to go out on a Sunday. I don’t even know which game it was. But it was baseball. So, like an addict hiding in the bathroom to get his fix, I popped the tape in and watched.

I don’t remember what happened. I didn’t care. I just wanted it on. The voices of the announcers were happy and spontaneous and at times, elated and seemed so different and out of place with every voice I had heard that week.

But I didn’t care. I wanted it. And I watched. And I cried.

I called my friend, a psychologist, and I asked her if I was crazy and pathetic to watch a taped game from a month ago. She said no, and that she’d only start to worry if I watched it over and over and over. Good, I thought. I only watched it once.

And when baseball finally returned, for those three hours, those nine innings, I was happy again. At 7:10pm, I had a piece of my life back. A small piece that I missed and wanted back. And it was there, but it was different. The first night at Pittsburgh was different, strained, subdued, but it was back. By the second night, it was better, but not the same.

On the first night back at Shea, the players seemed to be playing with more raw emotion than skill or strength, although they had that, too. Mike Piazza’s 8th inning homerun on September 21st lifted our spirits as high as the ball that night. Who can forget the sight of 41,000 people in the stands that night with arms lifted overheard, jumping up and down, cheering, smiling – he gave us one moment of sheer joy during a month of complete and utter grief.

The game was emotional and exciting, but, still, it was not the same. But then, on Saturday…on Saturday, it was finally back. It was baseball again. From the first pitch to the last out, it was baseball.

I went to the stadium that night to watch the Mets play Atlanta with 41,000 other Mets fans, baseball fans, New Yorkers, Americans. We were all there together that night. Cheering. Again.

Mock chops. Chipper boos. Clutch hits. Bullpen saves. It was back.

Before the game, we all watched the touching video paying tribute to the emergency personnel of New York City for their heroic efforts. I was not the only one crying. During the game, NYPD officers stationed in the stands were thanked, personally and sincerely by passing fans. We looked them squarely in the eyes and thanked them, and without saying it, passed on our heartfelt sympathy for their tragic losses.

We all sang, with flags held up high during the pre-game and 7th inning tributes. And for the rest of the game, we cheered. And we were happy.

And all the while cheering, we knew, in the back of our minds, that it was just a game. But it was our game. And the players were playing and the fans were cheering. And they couldn’t take that away.

151 games. Eleven left. I’m still here watching the game. And I think I finally figured it out.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Photo Friday Challenge: massive

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Niagara Falls. Larger photo can be seen here.

I took this photo from the seating area near the Ferry Ride at the base of the NY side of the Falls. We (my friends in the shot) had just played a "massive" volleyball tournament at the Empire State Games in Buffalo (we lost, but that's irrelevant). I just couldn't walk anymore, I was so sore, so I said, "I'll wait here." At least I had a nice view.

For those of you unfamiliar with Photo Friday, here is a summary from their site:

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Innisfree Gardens

Fountain Jet & sunlight

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

There is, not too far from here, a beautiful garden of the same name. Innisfree Garden is set around a scenic natural lake in Millbrook, NY. From their site: "Innisfree embraces the Eastern design concept of asymmetric balance that combines rhythm, pattern, space and form in a harmony independent of formal symmetry. In Western gardens little is hidden. The garden, like a stage set, is there in its entirety; its overall design revealed at a glance. The traditional Eastern garden hides this complete view. Visitors walk into a series of episodes or pictures and can enter the sequence of pictures wherever they choose. The rugged topography of the Innisfree site invariably enframes these pictures called cup gardens. A garden picture may be composed of several small cup gardens within the larger one.

Everywhere you walked, you seemed to enter a precise entity of natural beauty that had no formal or manmade enclosure, nor abrupt lines. The rocks and plants seemed to belong there and they were in harmony with each other as well as the space they inhabited. The natural ending of the space, or cup, was gently sloped into the hills or the lake. Nothing about the place was more striking than the seeming lack of manipulated space. It all was manipulated, of course, and that is the beauty and sheer genious of it. It was all painstakingly, or should I say, lovingly, designed and planned out.

I've been to many gardens in the US, England and Europe, but none like this. Don't expect rigid boxwood hedges and rose bushes in a row. You won't find much of anything "in a row" save the stone stairs and brick walkways, but even they seem less linear than normal, their harsh lines softened by the surrounding lush, cascading vines and plants.

As I walked throughout the gardens, I was amazed by the number of species of plants in any one little ten foot square area, although to measure the space in that way in this setting seems incongruent, as does using the word, "incongruent." Semantics aside, it was lovely. It was high noon when I was shooting, like most of my "kids are at school" outings, but I think I got a few shady shots. The sedum were at their most alluring color, the bright pink flowers with edges of burgundy starting, all atop the broad pale green leaves. The sedum was abuzz with bumble bees who didn't seem to mind me. Even a hummingbird graced me with his company, sitting high on a vine of wisteria in a quiet alcove looking out over the lake.

The lotus flowers on the lake were still blooming, wide open cups catching sunshine. I tried to get close to one to capture a backlit shot, but they were naturally protected by a deceiving layer of dry dirt over endlessly sinking mud. I got one shot (and a muddy shoe for my efforts) and a few more from the safety of the shore.

What I can't share with you here are the tranquil sounds of this garden. There are natural waterfalls and fountains on either side of the lake and one manmade water sculpture in a garden high on a hill. Even the rhythmic splashes of the water sprinkler (it's been tortuously dry here) sounded calming. And from the highest terraced gardens, you could still hear the fish coming to the surface for their lunch and geese could be heard squawking in the distance. On the far side of the lake, near where the geese take their afternoon shade, an air spring gushes right below the surface of the water. The bubbling and splashing can be heard well down the path. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Here's a few shots from today's visit. (click to enlarge)

The complete slideshow can be seen here.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hurricane Relief

Amazon's website has a one-click method for making a contribution to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief fund. It's fast and easy if you already have an account set up with them. And it seems the Red Cross phone system may have delays.

Please give.

Do You Know What It Mean to Miss New Orleans
by Harry Connick, Jr.

Do you know what it means to miss new orleans
And miss her each night and day
I know I’m not wrong because the feeling’s
Getting stronger the longer I stay away

Miss the moss-covered vines, tall sugar pines
Where mockingbirds used to sing
I’d love to see that old lazy mississippi
Running in the spring

Moonlight on the bayous
Creole tunes fill the air
I dream about magnolias in june
And I’m wishin I was there

Do you know what it means to miss new orleans
When that’s where you left your heart
And there’s one thing more,
I miss the one I care for
More than I miss new orleans

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Who am I and what am I cooking?!

So I was making dinner the other night, a classic Americana three-color dinner (sans the divided dinner plate) of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, breaded/fried asparagus for us and broccoli for the kids, and it occurred to me how much of what I was making was not of my own invention. The meatloaf recipe was from mom with grandpa's favorite beef flavoring, thyme, thrown in, the potatoes were thefted from the Food Network's Alton Brown's show, "Good Eats" and the fried asparagus I learned from my sister-in-law. The unadorned, steamed broccoli was my own mundane contribution, but at least it inspired me to think!

Where are *my* recipes? What are *my* contributions to our family menu?? Then, of course, the usual cacophony of dinner dishes being jostled, kids being rounded up, spills being spilled, sighs being sighed and the day's events being recounted, often simultaneously, I lost my train of thought.

Until, that is, we went to visit the in-laws. First, we hit my other sister-in-law's house, where, after a quick non-chalant review of her refrigerator contents, I spotted leftovers of her Italian gramma's recipe for chicken cacciatore. We're talking "right off the boat" gramma from Italy, by the way, so, of course, I indulged. At my mother-in-law's house, she made turkey and all the fixings for our big impromptu family reunion, because, you know, what's an impromptu family gathering without a 17-lb. turkey, and at dessert, out came gramma's cannolis, with my mother-in-law's personal recipe adjustments made, of course. (She never got along well with gramma.)

So fifteen pounds and a few hundred miles of driving later, it hit me again, the thought, not indigestion, where are *my* recipes? What will my kids cook from *my* repertoire for their children? Once, of course, they're tall enough to reach the stove. What recipe will they call me about from their luxury homes in some visually appealing coastal town, where they have an extra, well-appointed room, with it's own private bathroom for random guests, and say, "Give it to me just like you make it, Mom, and don't forget anything!" What recipe of mine will they want to try on their bosses when they come to dinner? How much will it frustrate them that I don't measure anything and will that be, in some small measure, equal payback for all the grief they put me through in their teen years? I wonder these things.

I suppose in some way, the melange of what I make from my Filipino/Chinese mom's recipes and my Italian grandfather's classics, grandma's English heritage and hubbie's family's dishes and all the recipes I've taken as my own from the internet and food tv, could be, if you squinted really hard and maybe had a martini or two, be considered *my* contribution. My cooking is all this in any given week, sometimes at the same meal. I mean, how many people have had Filipino Pancit (rice noodles) with grilled BBQ chicken? How many families gather round the table to share in Barcelona Pork Chops (that I thieved in Barcelona at a wonderful, tiny bistro on the corner of...oh, ok, I'll save it for another story) with chinese fried rice? How many people have come to dinner at my house to witness at one party buffet, indian satay next to thai-inspired dumplings with a big tray of baked ziti steaming nearby?

Variety will be my legacy. Variety and a realllllly thick book of recipes with or without accurate measurements. Happy reading, kids.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Photo Friday Challenge: order

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Wedding chairs, NY Botanical Gardens

For a larger photo, click here. Large photos throw off my blog margins (and I don't know how to fix that!).

For those of you unfamiliar with Photo Friday, here is a summary from their site:

Each week Photo Friday posts a photo assignment. Your mission is the creative interpretation of the week's theme. When you're done, post the picture you took to your website and submit your link to Photo Friday.Photo Friday is about challenging our participants to be original and creative within the constraints of the week's theme. It's not a competition. Anyone with a camera and a place on the internet to post pictures can participate.

More photos from the NY Botanical Gardens are here.