A radar detector in our Mini-Cooper makes high pitched melodic noises every time the car is started and thus it was dubbed R2D2 - it reminded me of the sounds that came from the robot in Star Wars. Both make me laugh. It would be handy having a radar detector on a long road trip but the Cooper's just too small for three weeks of gear. So we decided to use the Audi for our three week trek to the midwest and back.
The Audi has an equally neat feature - GPS. It may not keep us out of trouble but it should help us get where we're going. The day before our departure, I programmed the GPS for every one of our destinations and yesterday, as we started the system up in our driveway the voice confidently instructed us to find the nearest road!
It really is great, a monotone asexual voice announces every turn that should be taken, sounding very much like R2D2's sidekick C3PO. This Star Wars technology is something special and strange at the same time. The idea that we may never need to be lost again is special, but it is strange to be placing so much trust - trust for our well being - in satellites unseen.
Being in the co-pilot's seat yesterday, I monitored our progress on one of several maps and, to no one's real surprise who knows me, I second guessed C3PO right up to the Philadelphia suburbs. In hind sight, it's apparent that C3PO was going to have us cross the Delaware in Northern New Jersey and then travel south on Route 95 directly in to Phili rather than take the NJ Turnpike to Phili's suburbs and then cross the Delaware. I just couldn't fathom why we would be leaving what was obviously the most direct route according to the map. The good news is C3PO proved to be a great deal more flexible than the co-pilot. Whenever we continued on our way taking no heed of the directions coming from the console, C3PO would patiently recalculate the route, adjusting itself to my hubris!
Peter's in the co-pilot's seat today, I wonder what sort of symbiotic relationship he'll establish with our ever present companion.
I can feel it once again. The excitement of anticipation. Anticipation of what?, you ask. Well we're hitting the road next week for a 20 day road trip! The impetus of the trip is a nephew's graduation and we've decided to drive.
Needless to say, we're packing all of our camera equipment and the computer too and will be posting underway. We're excited and will try our best to make the trip fun for you too!
Have you got any suggestions for sights to see along our way? Please leave a Comment here to let us know where to go, we'll take any and all suggestions.
There's something about Sunday mornings and popovers that go together and when guests stay over, it gives me an excuse to indulge. Years ago I bought a specialty non-stick popover pan (Baker's Advantage by Roshco), a purchase I have never regretted. There's something very satisfying about watching this simple mixture rise to unimaginable heights in the oven and knowing that these hollow morsels will release lots of steam as they're opened in order to cradle oodles of butter and home made jam.
Makes 6 popovers
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 jumbo eggs
Hey there, any comments? Leave them here.
SoHo is where we stayed earlier this week when Peter and I went in to New York to photograph the gardens in lower Manhattan. We've come to love this area of New York and thought we'd share some of the highlights of its history and photographs from "today".
SoHo, meaning South of Houston, is an eclectic section of New York, the core of which spans from West Broadway to Broadway, and from Houston to Canal. It's surrounded by Greenwich Village to the north, the West Village to the west (where else would it be?), Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal) and Chinatown to the south, and Little Italy and Nolita (North of Little Italy) to the east.
Residential at its start, the "SoHo" neighborhood with cast-iron warehouse buildings and cobblestone streets was built after the residential population moved north, circa 1850. The ornately decorated buildings that you see today housed merchandise and fabrics for the likes of Tiffany's and Lord & Taylor, displaying wares through the large first floor windows. When these businesses moved uptown as well, the area deteriorated into a sweatshop-filled slum known as "hell's hundred acres". Labor laws changed and the sweatshops were closed in the mid-1900s, leaving the buildings empty. Artists began occupying the vacant lofts in the '60s and by the '80s the neighborhood had fully morphed into SoHo, a neighborhood of high-end fashion boutiques, art galleries and gourmet restaurants.
Trendy and edgy at the same time, in SoHo a high fashion window dressing can have full-length graffiti as its neighbor, as you can see ...
Housekeeping: Click on the 360 and select either 480 or 720, the latter being high def. Don't forget the four arrows enlarges the slide show on your screen.
So tell us what you think? Did you know the history of SoHo? Leave a Comment and add some color to an already colorful story.
We've been really busy ... in and out of the city to photograph the gardens downtown, getting ready for a road trip next week and friends are gathering this week-end!
Spring and flowers, what a glorious way to come out of winter's doldrums - I find it intoxicating. Sunday morning was lightly overcast, with little to no wind - perfect conditions for photographing flowers. So if you were in the vicinity of Sagaponack on Long Island yesterday morning and saw a woman sitting cross-legged on a plastic tarp around 6:30 a.m. in front of a diamond of daffodils ... that was a very happy me, despite the damp and chill in the air!
The results are assembled in this slide show - as you all seem to respond most positively to them. "Dancing with the Daffodils" was a wonderful way to spend the day and I hope you enjoy the music as well. It's a song called "Si Do Mhaimeo" sung by two members of a group I adore called Celtic Woman.
Photos by Claudia Ward 2010 All Rights Reserved
Note: Change to 480 to maximize quality; click on the four arrows to enlarge the show.
Please leave a Comment here and let us know what you think, or how you spent your Sunday, or just say "Hey!" We love hearing from you, as always.
My favorite lunch of all time is a slice of this leek tart, with a crisp salad and a glass of chardonnay. It never fails to make me smile and feel as if I'm in France. When I first made this recipe the pastry seemed a bit intimidating, but rest assured, it's EASY, and making it yourself makes all the difference in the world. Just leave the ham out if there are vegetarians in your crowd, the tart is just as good. When I make this for just the two of us, we'll cut the left overs into serving portions and freeze them for later. We "defrost" and warm them at the same time by putting the slices on some foil in a 250-300 degree F oven, depending on how much time we have.
Leek Tart - Recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells
Yields 6-8 servings
1 Recipe Pâte Brisée, prepared through Step 1 (recipe below)
12 Small leeks (about 3 pounds)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 Large eggs
1/4 Cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
4 Slices (about 3 ounces) of ham, such as Parma or Black Forest, coarsely chopped
1 Cup (about 3 ounces) freshly grated imported Gruyere cheese (it makes a difference, get swiss or french not american)
Pâte Brisée = Flakey Pastry
1 cup of all-purpose flour (do not use unbleached)
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¹⁄₈ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of ice water
1. Place 1 cup of flour, the butter pieces and salt in a food processor. Process just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. Add the ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to come together, about 6-10 times. Do not let it form a ball. Transfer the pastry to waxed paper, flatten the dough into a disk. (If the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle it with additional flour, incorporating 1 Tablespoon at a time.) Wrap the pastry in waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
For a party, you can make this recipe into bite-size tarts, just double the pastry recipe and make a single portion of the leek mixture and you can make 36 party-tarts.
Have another tart recipe to share? Please do, or just leave a Comment here to let us know how your leek tart turned out.
There are several documentaries that I've seen this winter that I believe you should seek out and place on your "Must See" list. Without exception, each is thought-provoking and disturbing, and has made me shake my head and ask, "What has the world come to?" These four documentary movies are about: Food, water, dolphins and a trust, all based on public trust and all broken.
Each has sparked lively conversation within our four walls. The first two have made us change our behavior of purchasing food and water. The latter two are "just not right", and in a world where I was taught that wrongs will not prevail ... their wrongs continue to disturb me as they will and can never be made right.
"Food, Inc", "Tapped", and "The Cove" all involve the abusive use of food, water and animal resources - precious resources we should be protecting for the generations to come. "The Art of the Steal" is about The Barnes Collection, arguably the finest private collection of impressionistic and post-impressionistic art in the world, one protected by a private trust, and broken by public and political figures breaking a basic public trust - that the law will protect our wills and trusts after we are gone.
Let us know what you think on any of these topics.
Note: The Barnes has not yet been moved to Philadelphia and can be seen, by reservation, in its original venue in Merion, PA for a few more months. Peter and I are thrilled, we have tickets to see The Barnes in early May!
Early morning is a very special time of the day, particularly around water. Add a little fog as it's just starting to burn off and it's a magical way to start the day.
Photos by Claudia Ward 2010 All Rights Reserved
Enjoy your morning ... but be sure let us know how you started your day by leaving a Comment here.
Remember to change to 480 from 360 (lower right corner of the slideshow) and click on the four arrows to make it bigger.
The Tudors, a Showtime special in its fourth and final season begins tonight, which will have Peter and me riveted to the television. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is doing a superb job of portraying this mercurial monarch. Who of us doesn't find the complex story of Henry VIII and his six wives interesting? The dynamics of Henry's life and marriages changed governments and religion forever.
Amongst Henry's wives there were 3 Catherine's, 2 Ann's and 1 Jane and their respective stories are equally as interesting as Henry's. The intrigues of Henry's court make today's political games look like child's play, as the stakes were much higher then ... you could really die! But for all my fascination with Henry's epoch story, for the life of me I couldn't remember what happened to his wives until my Uncle John shared this rhyme with me, which I have never forgotten:
Divorced, Beheaded, Died,
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived!
Anything to contribute? Comment, go ahead ... consider it a conversation, really.
I love to bake bread, despite the fact that I really don't eat much of it. I love the process of measuring all of the ingredients, the heady smell of yeast, the anticipation involved in watching dough rise, the texture of the dough as you shape it in to loaves, and the oh-so-comforting aroma it spreads throughout the house as it cooks. It's a small project which I love to see through to it's very satisfactory end - a piece of fresh, warm bread like none you get from any store.
Well on Easter morning my desire to bake bread met my already-confessed weakness for cinnamon - and what a dynamic duo they turned out to be. I've made this Cinnamon Oatmeal bread before but I never remember it tasting quite as wonderful as this turned out to be. Peter and I could only groan with pleasure as we both bit into the first warm pieces from one loaf. Needless to say, the models in this photo never made it to the bread box. This bread is great toasted for breakfast which produces yet again that addictive aroma of cinnamon.
Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
1 1/2 cup of boiling water
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup of raisins
1 package of dry yeast
2 eggs, room temperature
4-5 cups of bread or all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 medium (8" x 4") loaf pans, greased or teflon
Mixer with paddle & dough hook or two clean hands
In the interest of full disclosure, I made this recipe with a mixer and my dough was still quite sticky when I spooned it in the buttered bowl to rise. Once I got all the dough in the bowl, I patted it into the shape of a ball and then turned it over so now the entire ball was coated with butter. I found it a cinch to roll each half of the dough in to the required rectangle, the challenge was securing the seam while keeping the dough rolled together tightly - all I can say is "practice makes perfect" and all efforts are worthwhile when it comes to this delectible delight.
Have you got any bread or cinnamon recipes you want to share with us? Leave us a comment even if you don't have anything say about bread or cinnamon, we love hearing from you.
One day when I was reading Comments in my favorite blog, French Word-A-Day, I read about an artist named Barbara Andolsek. Intrigued, I clicked over to her blog, then on to her Fine Art website and thus began "a beautiful friendship". I love Barbara's paintings and began leaving Comments on her blog, which led to email exchanges and my buying one of her paintings. Barbara and I have been "chatting" almost every day since giving each other support, encouragement and advice as well as sharing our respective passions ... painting for her and photography for me. The result has been rich and rewarding for both of us and I hope it will continue for a long time to come. And, I sincerely hope you find the results of this new friendship as delightful as we do.
Photograph by Claudia Ward, Child in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris 2008
I have never been so proud. Let us know what you think! Click here to leave a comment.
Click here to reach Barbara's blog and to enjoy her paintings.
Friends share and friends care - that we all know, and I'm lucky enough to be able to say that I've had one friend for 40 years (in September). We met our freshman year in college and have shared and cared our ways through at least one of nearly every life event - boyfriends and breakups, new jobs and career changes, new businesses and corporate takeovers, a couple of marriages (each) and the ensuing divorces, births and deaths, laughter and sorrow. These events and our friendship have played on the stages of at least seven states (she moved a lot) and numerous countries if you count her business travel and my vacations.
My longtime friend came to visit a week ago with her two daughters and a friend of hers; my friend lives in Rhode Island and I live in New York. We all have such a good time when we get together and pick up right where we left off. Over the years we've learned to respect each other's choices, to offer advice and never lecture, to critically support but never criticize, and to recognize that we each have our own separate path in this life, we're just lucky enough to share and be part of the other's journey.
These friends gave me some beautiful tulips during their stay and a week later I'm still enjoying them. They greet me every morning in the bay window in the living room, bathed in sunlight - and remind me how very lucky I am.
Peter and I have a new lens - a 90mm 1:2.8 macro lens. We bought it with my flower and shell photography in mind but Peter played with it all day yesterday, taking stills of a whole bunch of bric-a-brac we have around the house, with spectacular results. We couldn't decide on one or two photos to share with you so we assembled another slide show. After you click on the arrow below, remember to change the setting from 360p to 480p - make the change just below the picture to the right. This makes a huge difference and lets you see what Peter's photos really look like. Also if you want to see his photos full screen, click on the square made of four arrows going in four different directions.
Please let Peter know what you think by leaving a comment here.
By the way, you can see Peter reflected in one of these photos, can you find him?
It may be spring but there's still a chill in the air early in the morning and as the sun reaches for the horizon at the end of the day, so I offer up this recipe for the best stew I have ever had. My mother was not a cook, but she mastered this recipe we think from a 1940s edition of The Joy of Cooking. As with most stews, it gets even better after the flavors and spices have had a chance to meld really well. It also freezes very well, just be sure to defrost it slowly and then heat it up on the stove over a really low heat - you want to keep all of that lovely gravy. Packed with flavor and satisfying; you can't fail with a supper of Gaston Stew, a big salad and some crusty, garlic bread. This is my kind of comfort food.
Yields 6-8 servings
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Pounds of Beef [Chuck], cut into pieces suitable for stewing
Add the oil to a dutch oven; coat the bottom. Brown the meat in the oil over a quick fire. Sprinkle with:
1 Tablespoon of Flour
1 Teaspoon of Salt
1/2 Teaspoon of Pepper
Combine and heat until boiling:
1 1/2 Cloves of Garlic, Chopped
1 Large Onion, Chopped
1 Bouillon Cube Dissolved in 1 Cup of Boiling Water
8 Ounces Canned Tomato Sauce
12 Pepper Corns
3 Whole Cloves
1/4 Cup Parsley, Chopped
1/2 Bay Leaf
Pour sauce over the meat in the dutch oven. Simmer for 4 hours. After 3 hours, add:
1/2 Cup White Wine
Cook separately (from the stew and from each other), until nearly tender (do NOT over cook); choose quantities according to your preferences:
3-6 Medium Potatoes, Peeled and Quartered
6-9 Carrots, Peeled and Quartered
Add the vegetables for the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Have you got any recipes for "knock-your-socks-off" stew? If so, please share - they are hard to come by. Try this recipe and let us know what you think. Leave a comment to let us know how it turned out.
After two and a half days of various classes and workshops in the city (New York City that is), Peter and I decided to reward the student body - literally. We went to one of our favorite restaurants in Manhattan - Balthazar - for lunch. Balthazar serves traditional bistro food in a perfect bistro environment. Tell me we weren't happy spending a couple of hours here!
Looking at the menu (and we recommend you do too), we grappled with our choices because there wasn't one thing listed that we didn't like. Peter decided to order completely off the appetizer portion of the menu and my eyes landed on Wednesdays' special, Koulibiac - a salmon dish wrapped in pastry with wild rice and spinach accompanied by sauteed mushrooms in a delightful white sauce. After sharing a sampler of east- and west-coast oysters and some delicious split pea soup with smokey bacon, Peter was served his "entree" - Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Mousse.
Being a bistro, tables are quite close to one another which is cozy to the clientele but can be challenging to the wait-staff. As one of the waiters was delivering lunch to our neighbors, he accidentally tipped my water glass over. I successfully caught it before it emptied all of its contents in my half eaten lunch plate but some "damage" was still done. I mention this not to criticize but, in fact, to compliment the staff as they efficiently corrected the problem by whisking my plate to the kitchen, replacing the paper that covered our table cloth and delivering an entirely new entree - all within a matter of minutes.
I certainly would have thought this would be enough compensation for what was obviously an accident, but not for the staff of Balthazar. Look what they brought to us ... homemade sorbets and assorted berries, "compliments of the house".
So our wonderful lunch became dinner for our last day in the city. For those of you who live in or around New York or plan to visit, we recommend you call to make a reservation at this very special restaurant. You'll probably have to wait to get through, but we assure you it's worth any amount of time.
For those of you who are interested, all of these photos were taken with the camera on our iPhone.
Like what we're writing about? Let us know, leave a comment and we can "chat".