Beauty ~ The Gentler Side of Life

“The voice of beauty speaks softly; it creeps only into the most fully awakened souls.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Good morning, sweet friends.  Welcome to the first post of  “The Gentler Side of Life.”   Beauty truly is the gentler, sweeter, softer, and more lovely side of life, isn’t it?  Whenever I see a beautiful flower, a magnificent tree, a gorgeous piece of china, or a lovely piece of needlework (the list goes on), my heart melts.  You may not be as gushy about it as I am, but I imagine your heart turns a little softer too.  I return to a gentler world.

As many of you may know, I began my blog as a source of inspiration for those of you who are interested in beauty and goodness and, like myself, weary from the chaos in our world.  I like to think it is a respite for all those who visit.  These days, I believe beauty is more important than ever. So, I had a revelation.  I have decided to write “The Gentler Side of Life” as a once a month series as I do “At Table.”  It is my great hope that you will enjoy the beauty that I share and you will feel uplifted with a sense of peace when you leave.  I will do my best to keep the posts from being too lengthy. However, I make no guarantees.

“Sometimes a revelation comes with a flash of heavenly light and a booming voice ~ and sometimes it is jotted in a sun-bleached spiral notebook.” ~ Jeffrey A. Lockwood

You Are Now Entering A Stress-Free Zone ~ Relax and Enjoy!

colorel11: “via ”

“Beauty is visible music.” ~  T.C. Henley

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” ~ Boris Pasternak

Do you love sweet little surprises?  A small bouquet of flowers tied to your door, a book someone thought you would enjoy, which they left it on your porch, an unexpected package from an old friend, a loaf of Greek bread a friend knows you love, or hubby arriving home with a lovely bouquet of a few precious blooms.  It really is all about the little things.  They bring so much beauty and joy to our world.

twoweeks: “https://www.instagram.com/p/B9-K-k2FTGH ”

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” ~ Samuel Johnson

“On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.” ~ Jules Renard

Ah, the lavender fields of France.  I have never seen them, but when it is once again safe to travel, we are headed there.  Although I am not as well-traveled as many of you, I have visited many of the Caribbean Islands and have been all throughout the South. Through these travels, I have experienced unforgettable beauty. And, the place I call home, “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia” is majestic.  Truly, there is beauty in our world at every turn.

New River Gorge in West Virginia.  Dressed in her autumn beauty.

 

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” ~ Mary Oliver

“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard

“I often think of that rare fulfilling joy when I am in the presence of some wonderful alignment of events.  Where the light, the colour, the shapes and the balance all interlock so beautifully that I feel truly overwhelmed by the wonder of it.” ~ Charlie Waite

matialonsorphoto: “ lavender days by matialonsor ”

Isn’t light wonderful?  I love to see the early morning dappled light as it filters into our old home.  And, another thing I love is to see: it dancing and sparkling like diamonds on the water.  Such beauty is incredible.

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“Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers ~ for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.” ~ Osho

Golden Rain Tree in bloom.

 

“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.” ~ Rachel Carson

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed “The Gentler Side of Life.”  As you know, I love beautiful words and it is my hope that you do too.  For me, it seems important, even more so these days, to read words that are meaningful and make us pause for a moment and just think. I will also try to present lovely photos to accompany these words which will be peaceful and happy.

For some time, I have continually felt a gentle nudge to write this series, which I have been working on for a while.  I know  I have no solutions to problems in our world, that is in God’s hands.  But if I can offer solace and a few moments of peace, I want to do just that.   

I want you to know how much I appreciate your visit and if you can take a moment, I would love to hear your thoughts about this series.  Wishing you a beautiful and peaceful day.  Stay well !  

 

 

“Beauty gives us hope” ~ unknown

 

Amour,

Sandra

Images: via tumblr and WV travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts – A Whisper of Fall

“In the hazy days at summer’s end when the air’s still warm and the green near spent.  When the days grow short and the evenings tall.  Then you feel in a whisper, Fall.” ~ Laura Jaworski

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Good Sunday morning, sweet friends.  Are you beginning to see “whispers of fall?”  I hope so, because they are signs of magnificent beauty about to arrive in the days ahead.  If you would, take a moment and do as Catherynne M. Valente instructs us,  “Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together…”  Now, isn’t that a lovely way to begin your day?  I imagine you could describe many beautiful days and times that accompanied your perfect autumns.

“Summer is leaving silently.  Much like a traveler approaching the end of  an amazing journey.” ~ Darnell Lamont Walker

Summer does quietly slip away as we welcome glorious autumn.  Every season holds its own great magic and beauty, however, to me autumn is extraordinary.  The weather is delightful, the humidity of summer is gone, and the sights are a visual feast.  There is a beautiful stillness to everything as Mother Nature‘s summer begins to drift off to sleep.  Truly, a magical season.

“Autumn evokes different feelings for everyone…As the energy of summer slows down, the frosty winter is getting closer, a beautiful autumn day is truly special.  Cool morning air, grass wet with dew, and those amazing warm golden colors spreading through the trees…unforgettable autumn.” ~ Vicki Chicago-Marsh

“A tangerine and russet cascade of kaleidoscopic leaves create a tapestry of autumn magic Upon the emerald carpet of fading summer.” ~ Judith A. Lindbergh

Dear friends, I hope this finds you well and beginning to dream of lovely autumn days.  This is such a wonderful time to enjoy simply being alive, dressing our homes for autumn, and soaking in every drop of  Nature’s glory.  The magnificent beauty is free for our enjoyment.  

Know I wish you and yours a glorious day. 

And…

Thanks so much for your visit, have a wonderful week.  Stay well!  

 

“The sunshine kissed the summer blooms and sent them all to slumber.  Sweet dreams to you, my treasures, for I’ll see you all next summer.” ~ Freya Turrill

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

Images:  via tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ “Living In Love”

“Love is the only gold.” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Good Sunday morning, beautiful souls.  I do hope this finds you well and everything peaceful and lovely in your world.  Certainly, I know you join me in wishing such was the case for everyone.  The current unrest in our nation and world is most concerning to me, as I know it is to you also. 

Many of you may know, I am a great fan of Alexandra Stoddard.  She is a lovely writer and is extraordinarily inspirational. Thus, once again, I have returned to her book “Living In Love.”  It has been most comforting to me during these distressing times. In this book, she speaks mainly about home and family life.  However, there are many of her words that also relate to how we treat our fellow man.  For example, she writes:  As human beings with divine souls, none of us is ever justified in hurting another person.  Our belief in the sacredness of life helps us to replace negative energy felt toward others with compassion, understanding, empathy, and love.  This has been confirmed over history by the lives of spiritual guides who teach us about the energy, health, and wisdom of love.

Love me in my brokenness, love me as I am, because we are all here together, and the divine spirit in you is touching this same spirit in me.  Grace is the linchpin that holds us together in wholeness and harmony.  When we live in love, grace is our bonus.”

It is my belief that each and every one of us has a tremendous capacity for love.  Even if our lives have not been as we envisioned, we are humans.  As humans, we can be kind and inspire our fellow man.  Perhaps, we have been placed on this earth for a specific moment or situation that we touch.  And, how do we know that our loving hand can not and will not change the world?   

“Sometimes big things happen, and they echo. Those echoes crash across worlds. They are the ripples in the fabric of things. Often they manifest as storms.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Dear friends, as you know, I take pleasure in (hopefully) giving you something each week to carry with you, something which inspires.  I hope I have been successful today.  Know I wish you and yours a beautiful day.  One full of love and joy.  

Thanks so much for visiting and stay well!

“Love is a wondrous miracle.  It has power to heal and to overcome pain; to transform our struggles into opportunities for joy and a deeper appreciation of life.  The first step we take on our miraculous journey toward greater love is to open the wellspring of love within ourselves.  Living in love is an attitude and a way.  It requires living up to our fullest possibilities and giving birth to our higher power.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

Images: via tumblr and M.S. Lambiotte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ A Wee Walk

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” ~ Oscar Wilde

terrinakamura: “My next-door-neighbor brought over a pretty bouquet of flowers, 💐 thanking me for taking care of her cat! 🐈 Such a nice gesture! Thanks, Lety! . . #bouquet #flowers #dahlias #summer #seattle #neighbors . . Shot with #googlepixel2xl...

Good Sunday morning, sweet friends.  I hope this finds you well and enjoying these last days of summer.  In our area, we are already seeing a few signs of autumn.  While it certainly isn’t because of the temperatures, it is the leaves.  Many are taking on a slight change of color and some are falling.  However, the goldfinches continue to entertain us as well as the hummingbirds. However, sadly, both will be leaving soon.  Until then, I am enjoying going “Down The Lanes of August.”   I invite you to walk with me this morning.

 

Down The Lanes of August, by Edgar Albert Guest

“Down the lanes of August ~ and the bees upon the wing.

mostlythemarsh: “Being ”

All the world’s in color now, and all the song birds sing:

x-enial: “Indigo Bunting on Sunflower ” The bird is an Indigo Bunting, common in the countryside of WV.

Never reds will redder be, more golden be the gold.

Down the lanes of August, and the summer getting old.

Mother Nature’s brushes now with paints are dripping wet,

Gorgeous is her canvas with the tints we can’t forget;

Here’s a yellow wheat field~purple asters there,

Riotous the colors that she’s splashing everywhere.

 

Red the cheeks of apples 

And pink the peaches’ bloom,

Redolent the breezes with the sweetness of perfume;

Everything is beauty crowned by skies of clearest blue,

Mother Earth is at her best once more for me and you.

 

Down the lanes of August with her blossoms at our feet,

Rich with gold and scarlet, dripping wet with honey sweet.

Rich or poor, no matter, here are splendors spread

Down the lanes of August, for all who wish to tread.”

 

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed your wee walk this morning.   

And…

May you have a beautiful day and a week filled with beauty and joy.

Stay well!

 

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

Images:  via tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Table ~ Maison de Jardin

“I don’t like gourmet cooking or this cooking or that cooking. I like good cooking.” ~ James Beard

 

Good morning, sweet friends.  Welcome to my August ‘At Table.”  Can you believe we have passed the halfway mark of August?  Time certainly marches on!

Today, I thought I would share a few dishes that have been on our table this past month.  Our sweet kitchen has been a place of enjoyment for me during the virus.  I am grateful that I enjoy cooking, as it would be a serious chore if I didn’t.  I hope you will enjoy the recipes as much as we have.  They have all been approved by the ‘official taste tester’ who resides at Maison De Jardin.  His name is Michael and he does enjoy good food.

“Going to Europe as a budding cook opened my eyes to food in a different way. When I got to Italy, the first thing I did was put my little basil plants in the ground and watch them turn into big, healthy bushes.” ~ Frances Mayes

This past March, not knowing if we would be able to visit garden centers, I ordered basil seed.  If I could possibly help it, I wasn’t about to go through a summer without home-grown basil and tomatoes. 

Around the first of May, the seeds were planted and soon we had basil everywhere and in every pot.  They were truly “healthy bushes” and way more than we could use.  Therefore, we decided to make basil pesto.  Notice I said, “We.”   Yes, this was a joint and fun venture.

While we love nuts, we don’t care for them in pesto, they seem to make it a little too earthy for our taste. Our recipe has lemon and it is so fresh tasting.  Give it a try if you also have an abundance of basil. This recipe freezes well and is wonderful on pasta, chicken, and shrimp.  It also adds flavor to almost any vegetable dish.

Basil Pesto

2 cups packed basil leaves, washed and dried

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

2 cloves garlic chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. pepper

salt to taste, about 1 tsp.

1-2 Tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor, combine fresh basil, Pecorino Romano cheese, and garlic.  Pulse until coarsely chopped.  With the food processor running on low, slowly add olive oil until mixture is well blended.  Check the mixture after adding the olive oil.  Depending on how well you packed the basil, you may need to add a little more olive oil.  But no more than 1/3 cup total.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pack in jars and freeze.  The pesto will keep in the fridge for about 3-4 days.

“Chicken in cream sauce is a specialty of the town where I was born, Bourg-en-Bresse. My mother’s simple recipe included a whole cut-up chicken with water, a dash of flour, and a bit of cream to finish. I have added white wine and mushrooms to make the dish a bit more sophisticated, and used chicken thighs, which are the best part of the chicken (1½ thighs per person should be a generous serving for a main course). A sprinking of chopped tarragon at the end makes it more special but it is optional. Most of the time, my mother served hers with rice pilaf.” ~ Jacques Pepin

“Great cooking favors the prepared hands.” ~ Jacques Pepin

This is a lovely and delicious recipe.  Don’t skip the tarragon at the end.  It is wonderful with the sauce served over the rice or mashed potatoes.

Poulet a la Crème ~ Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), skin removed (about 2 ½ pounds skinned)

8 mushrooms (about 6 ounces), washed and sliced

1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup dry white wine ( I used Sauvignon Blanc)

¼ cup water

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

Procedures:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chicken thighs to the pan in one layer and brown over high heat for about 2½ minutes on each side.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle on the flour. Turn the chicken pieces with tongs so the flour is dispersed evenly. Stir in the wine and water and mix well. Bring to a boil and add the salt and pepper. Cover, reduce the heat and cook gently for 25 minutes.

Add the cream, bring to a boil, and boil, uncovered, for about 1 minute.

Serve sprinkled with the chopped tarragon, if desired.

“Our father and grandfather were both charcutiers in France so we were destined to cook, it is in our genes. But I credit my mother, Germaine, who was an inventive, instinctive cook. She raised us during the War so learnt to nourish and inspire us with her simple, but delicious cooking based on sparse, humble ingredients.” ~ Michel Roux

Michel Roux Dead After Multi-Michelin-Starred Restaurant Chef Career - Eater London Michel Roux ~ 1941-2020

I almost didn’t include this recipe today, as I plan to do a feature later on Michel Roux.  But, it was just too good to keep for another month or so.  I  made it a couple of weeks ago and Mike is still singing its praises.  If you love scallops, I can’t imagine you won’t adore it, just as we do.

The recipe is from his book, “The Essence of French Cooking.”

 

Noix de Coquilles Saint Jacques au Vermouth ~ Scallops in Vermouth

8 fresh scallops – about 1 pound

10 Tbls. Noilly Prat (Vermouth)

1 oz. shallot, peeled and very finely chopped (I used 2 large shallots)

2 Tbls. heavy cream

4 Tbls. butter

2 tsp. dill leaves, plus a little more for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

Bring the Vermouth to a boil in a saute pan and reduce by 1/3.  Turn the heat to low and add the shallots with the scallops.  Poach for 1 minute, turning the scallops after 30 seconds.  Transfer the scallops to a bowl, cover with a wet paper towel, set aside.  Reduce the cooking liquid over medium heat by 1/3,  then stir in the cream.  Remove from the heat and gradually add the butter, making sure to add the next piece before the previous piece melts.  Gently shake the pan so that the butter mixes perfectly to create a sauce.  Place the scallops on the serving plate and pour the sauce generously over the scallops.  I served this with a garden salad and new potatoes.

“After one taste of French food… I was hooked. I’d never eaten like that before, I didn’t know such food existed. The wonderful attention paid to each detail of the meal was incredible to me. … It was simply a whole new life experience.” ~ Julia Child

Photo from, The Julia Child Foundation. 

I always try to include a dessert recipe.  Because, as we all know, often that is the best part of the meal.  This recipe is certainly a treat, especially during this time of year when wonderful fresh peaches are available.  So, I highly recommend that you try this, the peaches won’t be in season too much longer.

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Julia Child’s Peach Clafoutis

This recipe is from her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I; by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck.

serves 6-8

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 ripe peaches, sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamom (I used cinnamon)
powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a blender blend the milk, 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, cardamom(cinnamon), salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan (about 2-3 minutes).

Remove from the heat and spread the peaches over the batter. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.This is wonderful served with ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche.

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed being ‘At Table’ today.  The recipes are not difficult and are worthy of a try.   I do believe your family or special someone will thank you.

Enjoy these remaining summer days, the fresh fruits, and vegetables while they are in abundance.  Because it won’t be long before ‘Jack Frost’ will slip in one night and take them all away.

May all the times ‘at your table’ be happy ones!

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.” ~ Shauna Niequist

 

Bon Appétit 

Sandra

 

Images: Michael S. Lambiotte, tumblr and Pinterest

Sunday Thoughts ~ Bluebird Memories

“The bluebird carries the sky on his back.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Good Sunday morning, sweet friends.  Do you love bluebirds?  I certainly do, and I miss them terribly.  However, I am so grateful to have enjoyed them for many years at our home in Virginia.  The sky was filled with the beauty of their magnificent blue little selves bouncing through the air.  Our home was surrounded by acres and acres of open fields.  The perfect environment, for a place they love to call home.  Mike built many nesting boxes for them and they thanked us over and over by raising their young on our property.

“The bluebird had come from the distant South to his box in the poplar tree, And he opened wide his slender mouth, On purpose to sing to me.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Mike was committed to cleaning the boxes each year and having the job completed by early January.  By middle to late February, the bluebirds would be checking out the boxes and begin their nest building.  Spring arrives early in coastal Virginia, and it is a lovely sight to enjoy bright yellow daffodils and gorgeous Eastern Bluebirds fluttering about.  Perhaps, it is as Van Gogh said ~ “There is no blue without yellow.”

Vol. 37 No. 4 $5.00

 

“What Gorgeous Thing” ~ Mary Oliver

I do not know what gorgeous thing
the bluebird keeps saying,
his voice easing out of his throat,
beak, body into the pink air
of the early morning. I like it
whatever it is. Sometimes
it seems the only thing in the world
that is without dark thoughts.
Sometimes it seems the only thing
in the world that is without
questions that can’t and probably
never will be answered, the
only thing that is entirely content
with the pink, then clear white
morning and, gratefully, says so.

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed my ‘Bluebird Memories.’  Maybe, you are fortunate enough to have these dear birds where you live.  While they are abundant in West Virginia, they do not enjoy town living.  Therefore, I will be content and grateful to enjoy the cardinals, goldfinches, purple finches, precious hummingbirds, and joyful sparrows.   God provides beauty for all of us, wherever our homes may be.  All we have to do is, look and listen.

Have a beautiful day and week ahead.  Stay well!

@edilia_moreno @gbowling2 @AlfonsinNilda @monicasloves @pablopichardo4 @mariaberia30

 

“A light broke in upon my soul it was the carol of a bird; It ceased and then it came again.  The sweetest song ear ever heard.” ~ Lord Byron

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

Images:  via tumblr and Pinterest

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ Happy Blooms

“Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.” ~ Jim Carrey

Good Sunday morning, dear friends.  I just came in from the garden, where I was enjoying the chatter of the goldfinches.  Of course, that makes me happy, so I thought I would try to start your day in a pleasant way by sharing happy blooms.  Every human needs to smile and to begin their day in a cheerful way, in my opinion.

“To analyze the charms of flowers is like dissecting music; it is one of those things which it is far better to enjoy than to attempt to fully understand.” ~ Henry T. Tuckerman

Velvet queen sunflower

Sunflowers symbolize adoration, loyalty, and longevity.  They are known for being happy flowers, making them a lovely gift, should you know someone who would love a big smile.  To me,  I don’t think there is a bloom that radiates happiness more than a sunflower.  Unless, of course, it may be a peony.  Sunflowers seem to smile, and I have always been a little partial to the red variety.  One of my favorite reds is named Chianti.  They are simply delightful and can almost put one under a spell with their charm.

Avoir la main verte! (To have a green thumb)

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I don’t believe there are green thumbs or black thumbs.  I just believe gardening is all about the love and enjoyment of planting something gorgeous and watching it grow and bloom.  One of my many loves in the plant world is dahlias.  They are available in a wide range of colors and forms.  It is easy to find one or several that are a perfect size for the vase or arrangement.

“Gardening is an act of love of the most pure form. … It is an act that teaches us to love life in all the different forms it takes. Those who are gardeners at heart possess lots of great virtues. They are a unique blend of patience, vision, creativity, wisdom, and kindness. And their never-ending propensity to love is surely among those qualities.” ~ Unknown

“To me, flowers are happiness.” ~ Stefano Gabbana

hirokinop: “Rainy day. Botanical garden. #flower #rain #rainy #japan #japanese #uji #kyoto #botanical #botanicalgarden ☔️ #lantana ”

 

 

Dear friends, thanks so much for your visit and I hope it has been enjoyable for you.

Perhaps, you have found a happy bloom or two to carry with you through the week ~ something that will keep you smiling.

Know, I wish you and yours a beautiful day. 

Stay well and be good to you!

image

 

“A flower is a smile from heaven.” ~ Unknown

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

Images:  via tumblr

Notes:  The little orange flowers are coreopsis and the next photo is of petunias and lantanas. 

Sunday Thoughts – August 9, 2020

“Nature is loved by what is best in us.” ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

American Goldfinch Breeding male Photo from, The Cornell Lab ~ All About Birds

Good Sunday morning, beautiful people.  I am a happy soul this morning and I hope you are too.  But, what is it that I am happy about?  My friends are back, the beautiful and sweet goldfinches.  They know I have been so anxious to hear their precious conversations and to once again enjoy the beauty of their little sunflower gold selves bouncing through the sky.  Truly a lovely sight to behold.  Just arriving this past week, they are busy burying themselves in the zinnias and I adore listening to them chatter away.  I am certain they are thanking me for their food and telling me how much they were looking forward to their visit.  Perhaps though, not as much as I was.

“Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.” ~ Jimmy Carter

Blaise Pascal wrote, “In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart.”  For me, these words hold true.  We are all living in difficult times and from many reports it appears as though we will be for quite a while.  So the goal of my future ‘Sunday Thoughts,’ will be to give you something lovely to carry in your heart.  It may be a beautiful image or meaningful words, but I hope you will find something you will want to tuck away.  Something to make your days a little lighter.  I hope you will enjoy what I have discovered.

“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

May you see beauty at your every turn.  It is there, just waiting for you to notice.

“The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful ~ an endless prospect of magic and wonder.” ~ Ansel Adams

 

“On earth, there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.” ~ Jules Renard

 

“The rich fire of the orange sunset gloriously announces the coming night. ” ~ Susan S. Florence

 

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed your visit and that this finds you well. 

Wishing you and yours a beautiful day.

 And…

Know the words of Humphry Davy are also my “desire and hope” for you. 

Stay well!

 

“Nature is beautiful and you are in her bosom. That voice of comfort which speaks in the breezes of the morning, may visit your mind, that the delightful influences which the green leaves, the blue sky, the moonbeams and clouds of the evening diffuse over the universe, may in their powers of soul-healing, visit your day visions, is my desire and hope.” ~  Humphry Davy

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

Images:  via tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ Poignant Words

“These beautiful days … do not exist as mere pictures – maps hung upon the walls of memory to brighten at times when touched by association or will … They saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always.” ~ John Muir

Good Sunday morning, beautiful souls.  Have you ever heard something lovely and thought, “I have heard that before ~ but where?”  It could be a song, a phrase someone uses or perhaps, as in my case, a moving poem.

This past week I was listening to some of the tributes given at the funeral of Congressman, John Lewis, by his friends and colleagues.   One gentleman who gave such an inspirational tribute to Lewis was the Reverand, James Lawson.  At ninety-two years young, he certainly imparted the wisdom of his years for all who were listening and I hope many were.  At the end of his tribute, he read a poem that was truly written from a heart full of love, but scared by the experiences of life. 

This poem was one I knew I had heard or read before, but couldn’t remember when.  To me, it is amazing how time does not erase things that deeply touch our hearts.  So, after doing a little research through my volumes of writings, I found what I was looking for.  I had heard this poem at a poetry reading in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s.  I was a young girl then, but the poignancy of this piece has lingered in my heart all these years.  I hope it will speak to you as it did me.

 

I Dream a World,  by Langston Hughes
“I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!”
We are hungry for tenderness.  In a world where everything abounds, we are poor of this feeling which is like a caress for our heart.” ~ Alda Merini

Dear friends, I hope this finds you and yours well.  May the month of August bring you smiles and good memories.
Know I am wishing you a beautiful day and week ahead.
And,
May we live to see the day where we will enjoy…

“One country, one destiny.”

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

 

Images:  via tumblr

Note:  The ending quote, “One country, one destiny” was found embroidered on the lining of the coat Abraham Lincoln was wearing the night he was assassinated.

bio of Langston Hughes, author of “I Dream A World.”  The information is from Wikipedia

James Mercer Langston Hughes (1901-1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He moved to New York City as a young man, where he made his career. One of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry.  Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that “the negro was in vogue”, which was later paraphrased as “when Harlem was in vogue.”

Growing up in a series of Midwestern towns, Hughes became a prolific writer at an early age. He graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and soon began studies at Columbia University in New York City. Although he dropped out, he gained notice from New York publishers, first in The Crisis magazine, and then from book publishers and became known in the creative community in Harlem. He eventually graduated from Lincoln University. In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote plays and short stories. He also published several non-fiction works. From 1942 to 1962, as the civil rights movement was gaining traction, he wrote an in-depth weekly column in a leading black newspaper, The Chicago Defender.

At Table ~ With David Lebovitz

“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.” ~ Guy Fieri

Good morning, dear friends.  Welcome to the July post of ‘At Table.’  I do hope this finds you well and ready to try a few new recipes.  It is certainly too hot in my part of the world to be outside.  Therefore, it is a  good time to be in the kitchen.  And, today we are, virtually, in the ‘Paris Kitchen’ with David Lebovitz.  So,  pour yourself a coffee or tea and join me as I share a bit of information about him, some of my favorite recipes from his wonderful book, “My Paris Kitchen,” and a wee bit of history.

My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories [A Cookbook]: Lebovitz, David: 8601401105633: Amazon.com: Books

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

 David Lebovitz

 

David Lebovitz is an American, born and raised in Connecticut.  When he was sixteen, he began working in restaurants, including a job washing dishes.  He attended Ithaca College where he began his cooking career at a vegetarian café.  From this café, he went on to Berkeley, California to Chez Panisse.  Working with Alice Waters (who has touched the lives of many great chefs) and co-owner, Executive Pastry Chef Lindsey Shere. Lebovitz describes these thirteen years at Chez Panisse as most important to him and formative in his cooking career.  

In 1999, Lebovitz launched his website davidlebovitz.com to coincide with the release of his first book, “Room for Dessert”(currently out of print).   It was his intention for his website to be a place to share recipes and stories. Shortly after his move to Paris, Lebovitz began to blog more frequently and developed quite a name for himself in the pastry world. At the time, the word “blog” hadn’t been invented nor had the concept, but the blog hasn’t stopped, and recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary. In 2019, Lebovitz was honored by Saveur magazine with its first-ever Blog of the Decade Award. 
Additionally, he was named one of the Top Five Pastry Chefs in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle and has been featured in, Bon Appétit, Chocolatier, Cooking Light, Food+Wine, Cook’s Illustrated, Oprah, Real Simple, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Travel and Leisure, The New York Times, People, Saveur, Sunset, and USA Today. 
Lebovitz, who has gone on to be the author of eight books was trained as a pastry chef, with certificates from Callebaut College in Belgium, as well as Ecole Lenôtre and Valrhona’s Ecole du Grand Chocolat in France. 

“A recipe has no soul.  You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” ~ Thomas Keller

While conversation and stories make being ‘at the table’ most enjoyable.  I thought I would share a little family history. 
Perhaps, the recipes I am sharing, which have roots in Belgium,  caught my attention because my husband’s family is from the village of Jumet, Belgium.  Jumet is a section of the Belgian town of Charleroi, within the Walloon region in the province of Hainaut.  It is a French-speaking community of the Walloon dialect.  Jumet is famous for its skilled glassworkers, many of which arrived at Ellis Island during the late 1800s.  One of these men was Jules Lambiotte, my husband’s great grandfather who arrived in 1893.

The Lambiotte family is one of great cooks.  My husband’s grandfather (also Jules) was an outstanding cook.  He passed his love of cooking and recipes on to his son, Jean Jacques Lambiotte, and then on to my husband, Michael.  I had the pleasure of eating meals that both Jules and Jean prepared and they were outstanding.  In a later post, I will share a few of their recipes, one of which I treasure the most is Boudin, which the Lambiotte family makes during the Christmas season. I know both of these gentlemen would have enjoyed the recipes I am sharing today.

“When I’m in the kitchen, I know I’m going to have to do a little thinking for myself and rely on my senses, no matter how closely I’m following a recipe.” ~ David Lebovitz

The following recipes are from My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz.
Pain d’epices ~ Honey-Spice Bread ~ The classic addition to Carbonade Flamande.

3/4 cup honey

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup water

1/2 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder ( preferably aluminum-free)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. whole or ground anise seed

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground all-spice

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Heat the honey, brown sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan until it begins to boil.  Decrease the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the all-purpose flour.  Let this cool to room temperature.

3. In a large bowl whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, anise, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk.

5. Stir half the honey mixture into the dry ingredients; add the eggs, then the rest of the honey mixture, stirring just until smooth. If any bits of the flour remain, whisk the batter briefly to break them up and incorporate them.  Note:  This takes a little stirring, but it will eventually become smooth.

6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center, comes out clean.  Let cool for 20 minutes.  If necessary loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a knife,  then tip out onto a wire cooling rack.  Note:  My oven at 350 is not really hot.  I baked this for about 50 minutes.  However, do check it at 35 minutes to see what your oven may be doing.

Also, this bread is marvelous toasted and buttered with a cup of coffee.

Variation:  Replace 1/4 cup of the honey with a mild-flavored molasses for a more robust flavor. * I have never tried this.

Carbonade Flamande ~ Belgian Beef Stew With Beer and Spice Bread

I don’t know about you, but stew is something I usually make during the fall and winter months.  However, when I read this recipe I was so intrigued about bread actually in the stew, I couldn’t wait for fall to arrive.  When I was telling my friend Janet about this recipe she said, “Interesting.”  That translates to – “I’m not sure about that, Sandie.”  Lebovitz suggests serving this with mashed potatoes or fresh pasta.  I served it with egg noodles and it was scrumptious.  Now, for all you southerners out there, Janet suggests grits.  And, I think she may just be onto a grand idea.  But then I have Mississippi roots.

3-pound beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 Tbls. olive oil, plus more if needed

2 onions, peeled and diced

2 cups smoked or unsmoked thick-cut bacon cut into lardons

1 cup of warm water

3 cups beer, preferably amber ~ Note:  I used a Belgian Amber Beer

2 tsp. minces fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried

2 bay leaves

5 whole cloves

1 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt

4 slices Pain d’epices, spread with Dijon mustard

1. Pat the beef dry and toss it in the seasoned flour,  shake off any excess.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the chunks of meat in a single layer, in batches (don’t crowd the pan), and fry until they are dark brown on each side.  It’s important to turn them infrequently because you want a deep, dark browning, which gives the dish additional flavor.  As you finish each batch, transfer the pieces to a large bowl.  Add more olive to the pan as needed to keep the beef from sticking.

3. When the beef is browned, add the onions and bacon to the Dutch oven and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent.  Transfer the onions and bacon to the bowl with the beef.  Add the water to the hot pan, scraping up the dark bits on the bottom, and then add the beer.

4. Return the beef, bacon, and onions to the pot and add the thyme, bay leaves, cloves, and salt.  Cover and let simmer over very low heat for 1 hour.

5. Spread the slices of Pain d’epices with a thin layer of Dijon mustard.  Lay the slices on top of the stew in the pot, mustard-side up.  Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours more, leaving the lid ajar and stirring the contents (including the bread) every once in a while during cooking until the beef is tender.  Remove the bay leaves and serve.  

Now, you know why I was so intrigued.  This recipe is outstanding and received a 5-star award from my husband.  Do give a try on a chilly fall or winter day.  Your home will smell amazing, and the dish is marvelous.  Be sure to bake the Pain d’epices a few days ahead of when you are planning to make the stew, as it needs to ripen a bit and becomes better with age.

Note:  This recipe originated in Belgium, but is extremely popular in France.  Once you taste it you will understand the reason for its popularity.  Should you be wondering about the bread in the stew, it makes a beautiful thickening and completely dissolves.  The taste is amazing from all the spices in the bread.

“…I got an unexpected lesson in the art of arranging the poireaux (leeks):   I learned that it’s imperative that you lay them with the queue (tail) alternating with the tête (head).  So I recommend you follow those instructions, if you want, don’t want to raise any Parisian eyebrows.” ~ David Lebovitz

 

Poireaux Vinaigrette A La Moutarde Et Aux Lardons ~ Leeks With Mustard-Bacon Vinaigrette

Bacon Vinaigrette

2 cups thick-cut smoked bacon cut into lardons 

1 Tbls. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 Tbls. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt

3 Tbls. neutral-tasting vegetable oil

2 Tbls. olive oil

2 Tbls. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

5 large or 10 small leeks, cleaned

2 hard-cooked eggs

1. To make the vinaigrette, cook the bacon over medium heat in a skillet until nearly crisp.  Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.  When cool, chop the bacon into pieces about the size of small peas.

2. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and salt.  Whisk in the oils, 1 Tbls. at a time (the sauce may emulsify, which is fine), then stir in 1 Tbls of the parsley and 2/3 of the bacon.  Set aside.

3. To prepare the leeks, fill a large pot fitted with a steamer with a couple of inches of water.  Bring it to a boil over high heat and add the leeks.  Cook the leeks until tender, when you poke them with a sharp knife, it should meet no resistance at the root ends.  Smaller leeks take about 15 minutes and larger leeks about 30 minutes.

4. Remove the leeks and let drain and cool on a plate lined with paper towels.  Cut the leeks in half crosswise, and arrange on a serving platter, alternating them head to tail.

5. Peel and dice the hard-cooked eggs and scatter them over the leeks.  Pour the vinaigrette over the leeks and toss them and the pieces of egg in the dressing so they’re thoroughly coated, then scatter over the remaining bacon pieces and parsley.

6. Serve at room temperature.

Note:  I served this with pan-seared salmon with mustard butter for the salmon.  It was yummy.  This dish is a lovely accompaniment to most meats, poultry, or fish.  French and Belgium cooks add leeks to many things.  They are wonderful in soups and stews or in many dishes to substitute for onions.  To me, they have a sweet mild flavor.

Also, I prefer this made with smaller leeks as they are more tender.

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed your time ‘At Table’ and that you will give the recipes a try.  I don’t believe you will be disappointed.  

Wishing you a beautiful day, happy times in the kitchen, and many wonderful memories ‘At Your Table.’

Stay Well!

 

“A garden brings life and beauty to the table.” ~ AliceWaters 

 

Bon Appétit,

Sandra

Images: via Tumblr and Facebook

Information on David Lebovitz, from his book “My Paris Kitchen and his blog, Davidlebovitz.com