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Monday, August 25, 2008

On Facebook, finding old friends, & the Quest for long, beautiful nails...

After much prodding, we have finally joined the 21st Facebook Century, and now have a page, photo albums, & tons of other kewl stuff on Facebook! And I now have 21 friends! One of them is M., a friend from high school- I think she may be my Only friend from high school!- who found me, the way people do on Facebook, & yes, after some 30 years, this was fun & very cool! Back in high school, in Forest Hills, Queens, NYC, M. not only had totally Gorgeous Farah Fawcett hair, she had Gorgeous nails- I remember them as always being long & perfectly polished, & that I was So jealous of those nails! I think I've tried Everything over the last 30+ years in a seemingly never-ending Quest to have Nails Like Hers: Hard as Nails, Wraps, Paste-Ons, drinking gelatin, eating calcium tablets, salon-done Acrylic Nails- you name it, I have put it on my nails- pretty much to no avail. I just have crappy, thin, ridgy, weak nails, & while they do grow, they invariably crack & tear off at the quick, & usually look like crud. And it's not like I ever wanted Really long nails; I Never aspired to nails like my friend Margaret has: she has complete island sunsets airbrushed on hers! (Margaret is Amazing- I have actually seen her type 100 wpm with those Dragon Lady nails. I couldn't even pick up a pencil when I had acrylic nails done...) I simply wanted my nails to be long enough to cover with hot pink polish and not look stupid- a humble aspiration, yes? I work with my hands as an artist, I was a soldier, I like to garden- all things that don't really mesh with long nails & beautiful hands- & I'm rather proud of my callouses... But I also love wearing Big Rings, & so a sporadic but endless Don Quixote-ish Quest For Nails continued throughout the years... And it once almost killed me, taking the old adage "suffer to be beautiful" to its truly idiot extreme. In April of 1988 I had salon nail tips done in NYC, and they were done with "nail glue", also known as Crazy Glue. Polished hot pink, they looked Really good, and were Really strong, and I finally LOVED looking at my hands! (This sounds really stupid, but I clearly remember looking at my hands a Lot, & for once really enjoying what I saw...) FINALLY I could buy Revlon Red polish, & not just for my toes! I decided to keep them, in an attempt to finally grow out my nails... but how do you keep glue-on nails? You keep putting Crazy Glue on them... On October 31, 1988, me & my beautiful nails wound up being carried into the Franz Hospital ER, in Duelmen, Germany, massively dehydrated, with Pancreatitis (my pancreas simply stopped...), blisters on the palms if my hands, no hair, & one day from death. I spent 2 weeks on an IV, being tested for Everything, & the conclusion was that I had suffered a massive toxic reaction to Crazy Glue- cynoacrylate- which got into my bloodstream via my 10 little nail beds... (If you get a magnifying glass & read the microscopic directions on the little tube of Nail Glue, you will see it states that you're only supposed to put it only on the Tip of the nail- Not on the nail itself, or on the nail bed. But how do you hold the fake nail tip on when you don't have a tip to begin with? By putting the glue on the nail bed itself, that's how...) I survived, & my hair grew back (6 months later), but that was where Me & Long Nails parted company. This would have been, I decided, a Really Stupid Way To Die.
And then, as I was sitting here last night, putting another layer of NailTek on my nails, in a new attempt to, yes, grow out my nails (and it's working! I now have 7 nails that actually have little white tips!), I thought about M., and wondered if, now that she is a landscape designer, she still has those gorgeous nails! I will have to write on her Facebook "wall" and ask her...
I asked her! And she Does still have Serious Nails!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Dan's Demi-Glace & other wonderful (mostly edible) things...


This post is mostly about FOOD - in all it's summer glory!

For starters, my husband, Chef Dan, recently made the most amazing French demi-glace I have ever eaten in my life. A truly sublime thing of such delicious, rich intensity, it turned every mundane thing it touched into the most delectable gourmet dish imaginable- I kid you not! This was the Real Demi-Glace Deal- a two-day marathon of roasting & cooking down beef bones into a rich stock, making the "Espagnole Sauce", & then, finally, the demi-glace... and this stuff has NOTHING to do with ANYTHING you can buy in a bottle or a jar, even from a fancy "gourmet" store... It is truly & totally "essence of cow", & for a carnivore, an orgasmic revelation: this is what eating meat is supposed to be about!
Our Demi-Galce Days started with a gift I'd given Dan: the gourmet Cassoulet Kit from D'ARTAGNAN, which I found on a Father's Day gift website while searching for a suitable gift the puppies could get The Dogfather- a man who LOVES beans & stews made with beans- for Father's Day. The kit was totally excellent, & I will be ordering from them as often as I can afford to! The kit came with more than enough Coco Tarbais beans, ventreche, duck confit legs, Armagnac sausages, garlic sausages, & even a tub of duck & veal demi-glace, & created a Truly luscious stew that was positively THE best stew I've EVER eaten, bar none. I've never been terribly fond of beans (or slow-cooked stews, for that matter), I guess because I'd never had this! After eating it up (with me literally licking the pan), we realized the sad fact that none of the wonderful ingredients are available locally... and so I began pulling recipes off the internet & Dan started roasting bones! And the resulting Demi-Glace was, if you'll pardon my French, Ooh, la, la! Some foods are almost as sexy as, well, sex- and this is one of those foods!

As if things couldn't get better, Dan periodically comes home from Food City in Bluefield with sushi-quality tuna & scallops- my other sexy food- & we get to have a true Japanese feast, with sashimi, pickled ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi (yes, you can get these things (periodically) in southern WV!), and rice in our little Vietnamese lacquer rice bowls, eating with our Japanese lacquer chop sticks! I've been making my "garden tomato" sauce with our 5 different tomatoes (see below) and fresh herbs; the one culinary thing Dan will give me credit for, is that, as his designated "Pastas Queen", I do make really good pasta sauces!

Dan & I have been out ATVing in the mountains near the Elkhorn Inn to pick wild berries- which, for a "City Girl" is still one of the great joys of life! There is truly something magical about finding zillions of wild blackberries and raspberries free for the picking- so many that the birds, deer, & bears don't bother with them, and you can pick & eat berries until you're sick of 'em all July! We've come home with cans and bags of them, and made sauces & chutney & pie... My "point of reference" for raspberries was heretofore a $10 box of tasteless berries (some 15 years ago- heaven knows what they cost now...) at Balducci's in Manhattan, so Free Vine-Ripened Berries has a kind of magic allure! One of the first things Dan & I did when we were still playing "tourist" in WV, was pull over on the side of the highways so I could pick wild berries- and Dan could roll his eyes! We even have them growing on our property- down by the creek- and every time we get down there on that slope to pick them I get a terrific case of poison ivy!

























It's August now, and we've been harvesting the bounty of our garden for awhile: white and (gorgeous, oh-so-sweet) red corn, hot peppers (which I planted throughout the flower gardens- along with broccoli & tomatoes!), squash, yellow "ball" cucumbers, okra, beans (which again, I planted all over the place- we really do have to come up with more bean recipes...), peas, broccoli, onions, garlic, eggplant, all sorts of herbs, & 5 different kinds of tomatoes! The grape tomatoes are the best- literally as sweet as candy! There is NOTHING like a vine-ripened tomato! I can't eat WalMart tomatoes any more- great, big, photo-perfect red spheres that have have a mealy texture and taste like sour cardboard! Dan has been making us wonderful batches of his rich, creamy fresh-from-the-garden broccoli bisque; it tastes so lusciously "green" that I call it "essence of summer"! I've been drying branches of oregano (which is one of the few things that does REALLY well here...), and freezing batches of basil in preparation for our annual fall "Pesto Processing Party"! The sunflowers are in bloom, their giant bright yellow faces waving happily in front of our patio & about the corn... I LOVE sunflowers,. and one of my dreams since we moved here has been to plant a whole field of sunflowers across from the Inn in that big, vacant weedy space, turning it into a mini Holland... It would be SO gorgeous! Maybe next spring we'll get some help tilling it up & we can do that...


On a non-edible note, our Swallow Family launched their babies from their front-porch nest, & have taken off, but Squeaky, our resident Front Porch Bat, & his kids, are still swooping around (no skeeters!), the doves & finches are still cleaning out our seed feeders, & masses of hummingbirds are cleaning out our 3 hummer feeders every day! We've got several duck families who return annually to our part of Elkhorn Creek, and Mommy White Duck came by with her darling ducklings the other day, while we were outside...





And then there's Snakey... who's now left (we hope), the Inn...











Yes, that is a snake - curled up on top of a box in the window, & oh, so small that I thought he was a piece of garden hose, & must have walked past him for weeks...

But then Dan realized it was a Snake, and poked at him with a broom, & Snakey unfurled himself... & we found that he could move pretty damn fast... After we chased him around the room, we finally managed to shoo him out the door, whereupon he scooted under the fence into the back "puppy" yard...

Bye bye, Snakey!
The last we saw of him, the dogs had barked at him so much that he slithered himself over the retaining wall & down into the creek...

And last, but not least, here are a couple of pix of Dan spoiling Tiger rotten (Tiger likes lemonade...), and "banging to fit & painting to match" the newest addition to the Elkhorn Inn's growing collection of eBay bargain vehicles: our "new" trailer, and, just out of camera-range, our "new" riding mower! So I can now mow the "farm"! I've always secretly wanted a riding mower- instead of a car, actually- because they looked like such Fun!- & because I took Roseanne's joke (that she'd start vacuuming when they make one you can ride on) to heart... if only it'd fit thru the door of the Inn, climb stairs, & do carpets...