Foreshadowed

There we were in our hotel room in Prague—much more sophisticated and glamorous than the sort we’d have booked for ourselves, to be sure, thanks to the tour organizers—and I looked up and saw this through the curtains on our window:
Photo: Through the Curtains

Isn’t it amazing how just the hint of an image, a fluttering silhouette in the afternoon sun, can promise so much romance and adventure?
Digital illustration from a photo: Shades of Dusk

You know, naturally, that since we were in Prague, any promise of romance and adventure was bound to be fulfilled and, indeed, surpassed. A holiday of any sort is not to be shunned, generally speaking. But when I find myself in a city so marvelously compounded of history, mystery, drama and delight as Prague, I feel from the first glimpse of its thousand towers that frisson, that lovely shiver, presaging wonderful things not yet imagined even by me in my most vivid dreams.

Pretty Thievery

You’ve heard of petty thieves; this summer I saw a pretty thief. My husband and I were visiting in Washington (state), seeing family, attending a fundraising event and spending a couple of days at the end of the trip where my partner was doing some work conducting a choir (comprising as its singers a batch of veteran choral conductors and teachers, a handful of whom are longtime friends of ours) in a workshop. It was all quite delightful, with the exception of the horrid respiratory gunk that my guy received as a gift along the way and that cut short the workshop fun. [He has fully recovered by now, thankfully.]

But another unexpected happy thing about the trip was that the fundraiser was held very near a condominium we own that, while it’s normally rented out as a residence—so we’ve not been inside it since we viewed it for purchase—our property manager informed us that we were getting a new renter and our visit sat right in the between-renters gap. So there was this handy opportunity for us to go in and renew our familiarity with the place where we might conceivably someday live ourselves as retirees, not to mention a chance to measure rooms, note the condition of things now that the home was actually clean and unfurnished, and so forth. All useful, along with the visit to that town itself, in reminding ourselves what had attracted us to the locale and the home in the first place.

Another attraction we were reminded of appeared serendipitously on this visit. As we were wandering through the neighborhood and trying to remember exactly how to find our only-once-visited place, we passed a house with beautiful dwarf fruit trees planted along its street side, and there stood a deer, placidly unruffled by either our passing car or the midday sun, casually balancing on two legs to reach up and nab some marvelous, rosy ripe apples and munch them one after another. We stopped, rolled down our windows to enjoy the sight, and listened to birds chorusing in the trees, and vowed never to turn in such a charming miscreant even if it one day dined on our own deck plants.Photo: Pretty Thievery

Foodie Tuesday: Some Useful Rules for Desserts

Our recent trip in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic served as a fine reminder that Europeans have some special talents when it comes to taking advantage of the fun factor of making and enjoying desserts. A cafe many of us from the choir tour group found on our stop just before crossing the Hungarian-Austrian border had a menu loaded not only with bright, shiny pictures but dessert items guaranteed to put any dedicated diner into a happy but instantaneous snacking coma.

Photo: Dessert Rules 1

You really have to admire any dessert that is not only as substantial as this but has booze or some effectively delicious substitute for it in the mix.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 2

Switch a few of the ingredients and keep the sugary deliciousness quotient (and possibly, the eaters) high, and the menu begins to expand. As do waistbands on both sides of the international border.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 3

Something with a typically European liquor flair keeps the menu distinctly local, perhaps. Even if your typography can’t keep up with your recipe tinkering, good taste will abound.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 4

Hot raspberry sauce = Heisse Liebe (Hot Love, a traditional romantic dish) when served over rich vanilla ice cream. A great dessert for honeymooners (I just happen to know), and another way to brighten up the sweetness of a giant sundae.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 5

No reason to limit the brightness of either color or flavor to raspberries and ice cream; why not add yogurt and kiwi fruit for some jazz?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 6

But really, if you’re going to get splashy with the colors and textures and flavors, why not get more elaborate yet?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 7

Or make some kid-crazy concoction that will invite the most stoic and stalwart child of any age to play with his food?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 8

Heck, why not just make the dessert as *big* as a kid. No point in being shy or subtle if you’re serious about making desserts that compel attention and ravenous attacks on the dish.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 9

Of course, if you’re planning to entice the larger, older variety of child to eat, you might consider making some semblance of slightly more grownup-sounding dishes. How about a nice spaghetti-style sundae?

Photo: Rules of Dessert 10

What, that wasn’t flashy enough for you? Try a Pizza sundae. Not surreal enough in the spaghetti imitation department? Make some rich, red strawberry sauce to pour over the ice cream spaghetti. Or for the more soigné palate, perhaps a Carbonara version.

Photo: Rules of Dessert 11

Still, I have to admit that perhaps my favorite from this elaborate collection was the skillet-with-eggs doppelgänger, which in its simple ingredients would likely be a very yummy, creamy dream of an apricot cooler for a hot afternoon and also take a good run at pretending to be much better for me than piles of whipped cream and sweetened fruit.

All of this enticement aside—and I did, however reluctantly, lay it all aside despite the strong temptations, having already eaten a pretty substantial and dairy-laden traditional European meal of ‘fried cheese’ (crisply crumb-coated slow-melt cheese served with a sweet tartar dipping sauce)—there are other dessert paths to my heart, even in the heart of dessert-magical Europe. So I waited a moderate amount of time for my digestion, stroll aided, to recover from lunch before I opted for a much smaller and less elaborate dessert. elsewhere. It was only a single scoop of Stracciatella gelato, but it was cold, creamy, rich and delectable all the same. I’m not made of stone, you know.

 

 

 

Elsewhere

Digital illustrationMy mind is one place. My body is elsewhere. Isn’t that just the way of things?

Today, it’s not problematic, signifying only that I’m privileged to be on holiday with my beloved and friends, yet attempting to keep a small corner of my normal schedule in the mix, i.e., posting to my daily blog. (So, Hi!) The way that any holiday’s events, from traveling exotic and remote lands to a simple ‘staycation’ involving no travel, only a change of pace, change our entire thought pattern almost instantly right along with the alteration of the days’ expectations, and that makes it easier to find change of spirit and attitude. That’s the real reason to take a holiday of any sort in the first place, isn’t it.

So I’m beginning to feel a seeping sense of the lassitude and restful forgetfulness that I always find so welcome on such breaks. But there’s still that edge of wariness that comes with fearing I’ll forget or fail to do something essential at the required time. This, too, is the way of things in real life. Letting go is harder than we think.

This week, the only essentials in actuality are being present at the right times and places for wedding-related events today and tomorrow, our primary reason for being together and on holiday with this group of dear friends. So I will endeavor to let the other stuff happen however it does or doesn’t happen, including that if I should slip up and fail to post every day in the coming week, and know that when the wedding has been properly feted with all of its events and all of the players in them equally joy-filled, then what was necessary to the days has been fully accomplished.

The important lesson that I most need to learn, however, is that the same is true when I’m not on holiday: I should sort out the essential from the non-essential and not obsess over things that only fill up my hours and days, not worry that every small item be crossed off the list perfectly without regard to its actual value in bringing joy to my life, let alone anyone else’s. It’s perfectly fine to let down my guard and simply revel in knowing I’ve seen to the true essentials: fulfilling genuine requirements, yes, but first and foremost, spending time with those who matter to me most.

Water Babies, All

digital illustrationOcean-front Property

A stroll along the esplanade, sun-worship on the beach,

Dining on oysters, clams or cod, there’s pleasure fit for each

And every taste, along the shore, delights enough at sea,

That, whether you are rich or poor, seaside’s the place to be!digital illustration

Kick Up Those Heels and Run

I was watching a television interview with a couple who had just come in from horseback riding on their beautiful Montana acreage. The man was walking his horse to the gate the woman rode up, dismounted and pulled off her horse’s tack. Both horses were beautiful, healthy and contented looking animals, and clearly had bonds with their riders. But when the woman took off that bridle, the mare kicked up her hooves and ran into the pasture at top speed, rocking like a foal over the tussocks with her tail streaming behind her.digital illustration

There was no sense that she wanted, let alone needed, to get away from her Person. Still, she seemed to relish the unencumbered moment and revel in what she could do all of her own volition in it. And that, I think, is a wonderful thing.

Shouldn’t we all remember, from time to time, to throw off the traces of what we must do, throw our propriety and responsibility and all of the trappings of expectation and normalcy and Requirement and just cut a little caper? Isn’t there a reason we are capable of being free, adventuresome, unpredictable and happy? I’m pretty sure that the earth will not stop rotating on its axis if even the most high-powered and busy, the most seemingly essential and useful people on it, actually get out of harness once in a while and take pleasure in the moment with childlike innocence. And I’m even more sure that once anyone has taken the break that offers such a sense of independence, ease and simple happiness, he/she can return to work as a healthier and more productive person; whatever might have been missing or diminished in the time of absence is caught up and refreshed, right along with the person who does it all.

What could be better than to return to our day-to-day Normal life refreshed, renewed and recharged because we dared to demand a moment of freedom and playtime! Yes, we do have to demand it. It’s almost unheard-of that anyone would hand any of us a one-hour holiday, let alone a day or two. Why should they? Every one of us has a whole list of things we need, or at least want, others to do for us, so we aren’t likely to cut each other a break from supplying our wants and needs unless and until they buck their bonds, too.

It won’t do to be rude and selfish about it, but I would advocate for our all keeping our eyes open and ears pricked up so we can notice any opportunity to stand up for our good health and happiness. And take it. And take off with it!

Country Comforts

It’s easy to indulge my love of the bucolic and pastoral when I live where I do in north Texas. This county is full, as it has been for generations, of farms and ranches of all sorts that intermingle freely with the towns, cities and suburbs of the area. Whenever we take a drive or go running errands, we’re just as likely to see fields full of sorghum or corn, red or black Angus cattle, or sleek tobiano horses as we are shops and schools and natural gas pumping derricks.photo montagePlenty of relics and remnants still stand that tell me it’s been this way for a very, very long time. The little bronze school bell and windmill that remain standing right next to the old Ponder schoolhouse’s clapboard walls seem perfectly ready to go back to work (with just a tiny bit of functional renovation first, of course)–or to transport me instantly backward into the nineteenth century. A small private herd of longhorns spends its days in a cozy paddock that sits directly next door to a modern brick housing development, and on the other side of it is a stretch of fields full of wildflowers and prickly pear, punctuated by the occasional gas well and electrical tower, the latter often populated by small flocks of turkey vultures.photoAll of this makes an atmosphere highly conducive to my happiness: the conveniences and riches of contemporary urban existence, conveniently interspersed with spirit-soothing farmland or ranch and historic pleasures. If I play it right, I can feel like I’m on vacation no matter which world I happen to be in at the moment.