I'd much rather read than write so it's not much of a blog...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


With some things there's never been a moment's hesitation; I always loved this relish dish. It was a wedding present to my parents from someone who must have known how much my mother loved Lilly-of-the-Valley. When I was growing up it was my job to arrange the cornichons, olives and crudité on this plate for special occasions.

I've had this plate now for more than ten years but during that time it was still, to my mind, my mother's plate. It's one of those funny, unexpected little shifts in the universe that happens when someone dies but only now does it feel like it's my plate.

The question remains what to do with it. I don't see the point in having such things just to stick them in a cupboard somewhere to be brought out for the increasingly rare, more formal dinner party and I don't have a breakfront where these things can be displayed.

I do have a lot of table top that I prefer to keep free of clutter but I've decided that I'm going to change that and keep at least one 'heirloom' on the dining room table or the sideboard, changing it every so often.

For the time being, the relish plate sits on the sideboard.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I have a habit of putting the last of something special aside, hoping to delay the final moment of pleasure as long as possible. Unfortunately I often wait too long and whatever it is goes bad before I eat or drink it.

There have been a few bottles of wine that we have finally opened when the wine had passed its peak and I was prepared for as much when I pulled a crumbling cork from this bottle of 1989 Mount Veeder Meritage Saturday evening. But, BUT, it – was – fabulous!! It still had plenty of tannin and a big smokey, spicy, plum flavor. Delish.

This was the style of wine that got us interested in wine over thirty years ago but that's no longer made. Now no one wants to wait fifteen to twenty years for a wine to mature naturally. It's all made to drink as soon as possible and very little of it is likely to be around in twenty-two years if anyone dares drink it then.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


This is Trappy. Trappy was with my mother's unit in Belgium in 1944-45. My mother was a nurse with the 30th General Hospital. She and four of her classmates from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing joined the army and served together in Europe for over two years. They called themselves 'Riff Ram'.

One of the group bought Trappy in Brussels and gave it to my mother's closest and dearest friend, Peggy. Peggy was also one of the most important women in my life and before she died she gave Trappy to my mother with the understanding that he would eventually be with me.

Now he is and he has been reunited with Joshua, another charismatic little monk that Peg picked up over the years.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Clearing Out

Being away so much this summer the garden was pretty much a bust. It seems strange not to be spending long days in the kitchen, canning tomatoes, chutneys and such. On the up side though, this winter, for the first time in a long time, I may actually empty my cellar shelves of all the canned goods.

I've been spending the time instead clearing out the attic. Over the years my mother foisted upon me boxes of things that belonged first to my grandmother, then my great aunt, followed by remnants of my parents' move from house to condo and then my mother's move to assisted living. I often took some things with me on my visits and we reminisced as we went through them one more time, making decisions as to their final disposition but there were still a lot of boxes in the attic.

The attic is big and it's been easy to just keep hauling stuff up there but now there's no point in keeping most of it. No one else has shown any interest in any of it and I have no children to whom I can leave even the things I will be keeping.

I guess I will never understand the lack of curiosity that characterizes the surviving members of my family. My mother and father weren't anything like that, my grandmother wasn't either. That's why there are so many letters, photographs and mementos in my possession. It's a rich history, well documented, and it seems it will disappear with me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Revelation

My grandfather gave this watercolor to my grandmother on their 10th wedding anniversary. It became part of my life when I was little and visited my grandparents in Lakewood. In the past twelve years I made sure it stayed with my mother through her various moves but when I visited after my brother moved her last year I found the painting had been stuck behind a dresser. I pulled it out, cleaned it up and put it on the wall.

The morning before I left on my last visit I asked my brother if he wanted any of the artwork hanging on the walls. He looked around and finally said he'd like to have the cardinal, a print that my mother never really liked, that I kept moving with her just because it fit in anywhere, filled a space on a wall.

I told him I was taking the watercolor. I reminded him of its history but he didn't shown any sign of recognition, didn't seem remotely interested in its significance.

I've known it for some time but somehow that last conversation with my brother made it final; it was probably the last time we see each other. There is no longer anything binding us.

The most remarkable thing though, about this painting is that it now binds me more strongly to people who have died.

I thought my mother had had the watercolor reframed at some point but when I took it to my framer and we began to disassemble it, it seemed clear to both of us that we were removing the original framing. We worked on it face down and when it was free the framer lifted the bare painting to face me.

It was such a revelation I cried. Over the years there had been so much ghosting and discoloration of the old glass that much of the painting's beauty was hard to see. The color and detail that I saw that day at the framer's was breathtaking. For the first time I could remember, I saw what my grandfather saw when he bought the painting and what my grandmother saw when he gave it to her.