Let’s Get Down to Business

We’re safely home from an enjoyable weekend (too short!) with family in Florida.  The weather was perfect, the birthday celebration was terrific, and the antiquing was fun, too.  I’ll post some photos of my finds later this week.  In the meantime, we’re leaving for St. Simon’s Island this afternoon.

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It’s a business trip.

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Really.beach2

It is.

Field of dreams

We’re heading south this weekend to central Florida.  The main event will be celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday with my husband’s siblings and their respective families.  The cousins will be together and will make doughnuts one morning, a longstanding and delicious tradition.  Some of us will shoot.  And some of us, including me, will spend at least one day antiquing at the Renninger’s Extravaganza in Mount Dora, Florida.   It’s a tradition for my sisters-in-law and me to attend each winter.  I am beside myself with excitement.

The Extrav consists of acres and acres of dealers and wares, ranging from items euphemistically dubbed “collectibles” to the sublime—Tennessee sugar chest, anyone?  Some booths are elegantly staged; others are, well, honestly, they are simply random items displayed on the grass or a piece of tarp.  Most dealers opt for a few folding tables to showcase the “smalls,” placing furniture and larger pieces around the perimeter of their spaces.fair_oct_scape-314x228 In the past, I’ve found furniture, paintings, lithographs, etchings, rugs, lamps, and well, I could go on and on.  For years, each of us girls (another euphemism) had a long list of specific items she hoped to find.  Now, we’re all in the “upgrade” phase of antiquing, which means we’re really only interested in furniture if the piece is a much better replacement for something we already have.  (The replaced piece may either be sold, or more likely, stored for one of our children’s first apartment.)  This year, specifically,  I’m looking for:

old leather books in English,

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rose medallion porcelain,

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and American coin silver.

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So, my “hit list” is rather short, which means the possibility of finding some unexpected wonderful “gets” is deliciously unlimited.

I’m feeling rather giddy.

Pink and Green

For all the pink and green lovers, myself included, here are a few fun finds to brighten up these winter days!

IMG_1062A new ironing board cover from Marshall’s Home Goods.  Who doesn’t need a bit of cheer when ironing?

IMG_1066  Charming cupcake papers from Hobby Lobby.  I’m setting these aside for Little’s birthday cupcakes.

IMG_1065 Yes, preppies, even Peru knows that pink and green is a winning combination.  This sweet blanket is the newest addition to Little’s bedroom.

IMG_1110 A bright new collar for Maid Marian!

IMG_1104  Polka-dot preppie scarves from Go Fish Clothing & Jewelry!

IMG_1105 And earrings!

What are your favorite pink and green finds this season?

An Inspired Evening

It was my Heart's Desire to host an intimate, casual Valentine’s dinner for dear friends, fashioned loosely after the brilliant party featured in the movie Julie and Julia.  IMG_1044Clearly, Julia Child’s inspiration was foremost in the planning.  The main course had to be bouef bourguignon.  But wait.  I’m no Julia Child, a remarkable cook who was able to devote hours to perfecting every recipe. I’m more of an Ina Garten style cook, so it was the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe  that I referenced. I also took her advice and served the beef on toasted sourdough bread rubbed with garlic. IMG_1047

I contemplated serving green peas or even broccoli, but in the end, I decided on a salad of baby greens, halved grape tomatoes, and sliced avocado topped with my new favorite dressing, inspired by the mission cooks in Peru.  It’s so simple and fresh:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons chicken stock (!)

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Whisk it all together and chill, if desired.

For dessert, homemade cupcakes frosted with the incomparable Magnolia Bakery chocolate buttercream icing.  Each cupcake was topped with a retro Valentine pick, which I found at Hobby Lobby.IMG_1046

When choosing a wine for the evening, I made my selection based on the label, terribly unsophisticated of me I know.  Nevertheless, the Cupcake Cabernet was quite good, perfect with the hearty beef.

IMG_1048Dear friends.

IMG_1050    The Mister and me.

IMG_1045 Bon appetit!

Snow time! ( with special thanks to LL Bean, Pendleton, and Land’s End)

Much of the East Coast and Midwest has suffered relentless snowfall for most of the winter, but in our little corner of the South, snow is rare and still celebrated.  Our street is steep and shady, so a city crew closed it sometime in the wee hours.IMG_1082 We tend to get lots of ice, which is beautiful for about half an hour—then the power lines and tree limbs start breaking.  Anyhow, last night we had real snow—snowman snow—and it is beautiful!IMG_1083 This morning I pulled on my LL Bean Norwegian sweater (circa 1988), my red LL Bean snow boots (bought in 2006 for a school field trip to Washington, DC), my Pendleton scarf (circa 1984), and my Lands End cap and turtleneck (also mid1980s vintage).  Then, we all went out to play in the snow.  IMG_1087 Big, Middle, and Little slid down our driveway and hurled snowballs at one another.IMG_1081   Maid Marian had a spring in her step as she bounded through the white stuff.IMG_1084   The Mister and I chatted with the neighbors, and then the Mister made snow cream, a delight for the children. 

The sun is out now, and I imagine that most of the snow will be gone by evening, leaving slush to refreeze.  For everyone dealing with much more serious and inconvenient winter weather, be careful.  crocus%20in%20snow

Spring will come again!

shopping in Peru

Yes, we were on a mission, but I managed to work in a little shopping.  It is astounding to contemplate the contrast that is Peru, as well as that of other developing nations.  My first foray into shopping was in Chimbote, where—accompanied by Big, another member of our team, and a Peruvian translator, I ventured into the city’s main market.  We were hoping to find juice drinks for the carnival we had planned for the children.

IMG_0795Acres of goods in the Chimbote mercado.

IMG_0796 Fresh cuts of goat hang alongside gym shorts.

IMG_0797Varieties of corn and grains, such as quinoa, from the mountain farms.  Prices are in soles.

IMG_0798Varieties of green beans.IMG_0809Corn, chiles, limes.

IMG_0800 Mermaid juice bottles.

IMG_0799At last, a vendor who has the 200 juice bottles we need.

IMG_0808 Black corn and red, blue, or yellow potatoes.

Our group had two doctors and two nurses who worked from sun up to sun down each day in the indigent hospital.  Although they dealt with many run-of-the-mill ailments and diagnoses, they also faced diseases and traumas never seen in the United States.  The intricacies of the Peruvian health care system defy comprehension.  For instance, when hospital patients receive a prescription—even for medicine they must take while hospitalized—they are responsible for obtaining the medicine from a pharmacy and having it brought in to the hospital to be dispensed by a nurse.  So, here we are at a nearby pharmacy,  purchasing various prescriptions and buying diapers for some of the children in the pediatric unit.

IMG_0814 At the Pharmacy; that’s Big on the right.

My next shopping expedition was taking some high school girls shopping for school supplies.  School starts March 1.  Our destination was Plaza Vea, a modern shopping venue that opened a little more than a month ago.  As you can see from the photo, middle class Chimboteans are loving it.  It will undoubtedly mean the loss of smaller mom-and-pop bodegas and tiendas. 

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IMG_0861 Inca Kola, the drink of Peru.  Tastes like bubble gum; owned by—who else?—Coca-Cola.

IMG_0855The bakery counter featured an array of tortes.

My final shopping adventure was at the Indian Market in the Mira Flores neighborhood of Lima.  Somewhat like a vast outdoor mall, the Indian Market is the place to shop for traditional Peruvian handcrafts as well as for jewelry, silver, and works by local artists.

IMG_1041 Fine wool scarves for co-workers.

IMG_1043Pink and green for my preppy readers.

IMG_1061  The Mister and I bought a couple of things for ourselves, one being this alpaca blanket, which we are using as a throw in the family room.  High quality alpaca and baby alpaca are similar in quality to Scottish cashmere.  It is not quite as soft, but it does not pill.  It is quite silky, making it perfect for scarves, as well.IMG_1070 Unfortunately my photography skills are lacking, but another favorite find are these coasters.  Handpainted glass backed with wood, they are really much more elegant than they look here.

My final purchase was Peruvian coffee, dark and rich.  Next time, though, I think I’ll be doing a lot of Christmas shopping at the Indian market.  In the meantime, I’ll be watching the Olympics under my alpaca blanket!

A taste of Peru

For such a poor country, Peru has a diverse and delicious national cuisine that draws both from the Indian or Quechuan culture of the Andes and from the continental culture of Spain.  Its location below the Equator provides a lengthy growing season for grains and vegetables in the plains and fruits in the jungle.  Our group was fed by the three women who worked at the mission where we stayed, and they provided a variety of Peruvian dishes for us to sample. 

DSC01219 Breakfasts were generally a corn mush with bits of olive and hard-boiled egg hidden inside and wrapped in corn husk.  It was a little like polenta or grits.  Every breakfast was accompanied by fresh mango and watermelon.  The fruit was really unbelievably good.  I am not a huge mango fan, but these were incredible.  Many of us gringos grew addicted to peanut butter & mango sandwiches.  Every watermelon was like the best melon of the summer.mango Chicken and rice were the dinner staples, although a far cry from the comfort-food version we often serve in the South.  This was arroz con pollo with a kick, and, the kick most likely came from the extremely fresh chickens, which were still clucking at breakfast.  One evening we had cuy, or guinea pig, which is a delicacy in Peru.  healthy-living-cuy When cuy (pronounced coo-ey) is served in a traditional household, the oldest son is served the head.  Let me just say that I enjoy being a girl.  Goat is another popular entree in Peru, although among the poor, all meats and poultry are considered rare and special treats.

Bowls of whole avocados and platters of sliced tomatoes were also served daily! Lettuce salads are lightly tossed with an indescribable lemony dressing.avocado-salad-400X400-kalynskitchen

We also had the pleasure of enjoying several meals in Lima, where the influence of Spain is evident.  Ceviche is everywhere along with delicious seafood fried, grilled, and steamed. ceviche_lgIMG_0927 Bakeries line the streets of Lima, and the pastries are delicious when accompanied by a cup of Peruvian coffee.  Orejitas (or elephant ears) were our favorite.  Apricot-filled horns were tasty, too.

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Rosa limonada is a popular non-alcoholic drink.  Order only when you are sure the restaurant is serving ice made from purified water.IMG_1036

So, there you have it—the briefest culinary tour of a country that, although poor in many ways, celebrates its cuisine and warm hospitality.

It’s complicated

No, not the movie, although I do hope to see it.  It’s processing our trip to Peru that’s got my brain and my heart all twisted.  Peru is the sixth poorest country in the world.  The city where we stayed and worked is the poorest city in the country. IMG_0708 - Copy

Chimbote.  It’s about seven hours north of Lima on the Pacific coast.    The city is about 400,000 people in the middle of the San Luis desert.  The wind—and the dust—are relentless.  The people are beautiful beyond words.  Simply, we went to serve the poor in Jesus’ name.  Nothing is solved or resolved; the scope of the poverty is enormous, and we are only one drop of relief, one brief moment of eased suffering, of hope.

Days One, Two, and Three were primarily devoted to construction and re-building existing “houses.” IMG_0721Before, home of Manuel y Isabel, Luz, Anna, y Manuel Jesus

IMG_0793The old house has been torn down, and the new estera house is near completion.

IMG_0790Anna in her new room with her toys—all of them.

Our medical team worked all day everyday in the indigent care hospital and in a free clinic they set up each afternoon.

IMG_0724Our helpers, las architectas, Sayudi y Brenda

I was blessed to be able to take these two 16-year-old girls shopping for school supplies.  When I invited them to pick out something “fun” for themselves, they asked if they could get rice for their families  instead.

I guess it’s not so complicated after all.

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