Sunday, July 21, 2013


We are having a lovely time on the island of Barbados with the Cunningham Clan. The house is on Gibbes Beach, one of the few beaches that hasn't had a hotelier move in. The crystal clear water in its aquamarine glory is literally a few yards from our doorstep. We have spent hours floating, skiing, snorkeling, and sea glass collecting in the sea. 

When we are on dry land, we are tooling around in our Mini Moke, what used to be the cool island car but now just pegs us for tourists. It might be the banana yellow color. 

What really surprised me about the island is the variety of landscapes. One part of the island-- the Scotland district-- is quite mountainous and named thus because it is reminiscent of the Scottish highlands. There is also a cave system and deep gullies with amazing flora in them. 

We also have been able to enjoy some of the local culture, from rum punches with local Mount Gay rum...

...To a day at the racetrack, where we were the big winners (and basically broke even). 

A week in to our two week island holiday and life is good, mon!

Friday, July 12, 2013

On our way!

Will and I are off to Barbados for a two week vacation! Bags are checked, off to security. Will's carry on?: his sun hat. How strange not to pull out a laptop as we go through security. 

Next time you hear from us, we will be on the beach, drinking rum punches! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rhubarb Vodka

We have more rhubarb than we know what to do with and in an effort to not let it rot while we are away, I decided to try to make rhubarb vodka.  Two+ pounds of vodka, one cup+ sugar, and one and half bottles of vodka were poured into our glass container.  We have to leave it for a month and then strain out the rhubarb.  The timing should be perfect: we return from Barbados and one week later will have the Italian and her husband B as guests.  We should be able to enjoy this concoction by then-- and hopefully I didn't just waste all that rhubarb!  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Base Tans

Will and I are working on our base tans in preparation for a two-week vacation in Barbados with the Cunningham clan. We have been sitting outside in our garden, an hour or two at a time, trying to get some color on our pale and pasty white skin.  All in an effort to not get burned while down on the island.

ohh plus a lovely view of the upper garden!

Though, I think Will's effort to not get burned might not have succeeded....

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rhubarb Curd Shortbread

Step 1. Cut your rhubarb, home grown in your garden.  About a pound.

 Step 2. slice your cleaned rhubarb into 1 inch sections

 Step 3. Crush a pinch of cloves

 Step 4. Boil down your rhubarb in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of sugar and 4 Tblsp. of water.

 Step 5. Combine your dry ingredients (1 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 teasp cinnamon, 1/4 teasp ground ginger, 1/4 cup powder sugar, pinch of cloves) with 12 Tblsp of butter, cut into chucks.  Combine until you have solid dough.  Take out the dough, wrap into plastic, and chill in the fridge for an hour.

 Step 6. Wait for the dough to chill.

 Step 7. After the dough has chilled for an hour, press into a 8 x 8 in baking dish.  Bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated to 350ºF oven, until golden brown.  Once baked, set aside to cool.

Step 8.  Take the rhubarb liquid and put into a blender to puree until smooth.  Since my rhubarb isn't that bright red variety, I added about 5 drops of red food coloring so it looked like a nice pink versus a sick green. Once pureed, set aside.

Step 9. In a double boiler, combine 1/2 cup sugar, 4 egg yolks, 2 teasp of fresh lemon juice; 1 teasp of lemon zest, and 3 Tbls of butter cut into chunks, stirring constantly.  Once the sugar has dissolved, add the rhubarb puree to the egg mixture by the spoonfuls to temper the eggs.  Stir together.

 Step 10.  Push the rhubarb curd through a mesh colander to get it extra smooth. Set aside.

Step 11.  Pour the extra smooth rhubarb curd over the cooled yet golden shortbread.  Use an off-set spatula to spread it out evenly over the surface of the shortbread.

 Step 12.  Put the dish into the fridge for a few hours.  The curd needs to set. 

 Step 13. When the curd has set (I left mine in there for 4 hours), pull it out and dust with powder sugar.  Cut into bars and serve.

Step 14. Eat.  Enjoy.  Eat another piece.  Lick the plate and the fork.  Ask for a 3rd piece. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Flowers in the Yard

In case you think that we only have fruits and vegetables in the garden, here is a post to dispell that thought.  We have tulips, peonies, irises, marigolds, and Easter lilies in yard-- though none of those are in bloom at the moment, having either finished already (in the case of the tulips, peonies, irises, and Easter lilies) or just starting to pop out (the marigolds).  

Currently in bloom are spectacular Calla Lilies.  There is a clump in the upper garden that are a brilliant yellow, with one flower rimmed in crimson red.  Even the leaves are beautiful, with the speckled white flecks. 

Calla Lilies
Crimson rimmed

As bright as a yellow finch
In the lower garden, we have a volunteer lettuce plant that has now gone to seed and flower-- delicate purple blossoms.  The roses are in their second blooming for the season and their perfume wafts through the air. 

Down by the path to the garage, the lavender is starting to bloom, the Sweet Williams are finishing, and the Tiger Lilies are all about to pop open.  We have balloon flowers opening and the sneezeweed starting to show.  The saliva is absolutely huge, attracting the butterflies again. And last, but not least, the honeysuckle is starting to really climb.

one of the opened Tiger Lilies

Balloon Flower



climbing Honeysuckle

And further up the side of the house (and really all over the yard), the hostas are blooming.  It is the only time that I am actually happy we have them.   Most of the time I try to ignore them. They just aren't my favorite thing in the yard. 

For the moment, everything is green and gorgeous.  Hopefully the weather pattern will hold and we will have a glorious un-DC summer!  
The back yard

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Garden Update

Our lemon "tree"
 Time for our regularly scheduled garden update!  Because it has been a proper spring (warm but not hot, rainy but not soaking wet), the garden looks great.  Plants have had a chance to really develop and grow, not just get burnt to a crisp as per usual in the DC swamp.  It has been perfect weather for our lemon tree-- which had so many flowers on its small body that Will had to pick a few off for fear of developing too many lemons and the branches not being able to support them all.  At the moment, we have 7 growing, with one enormous one that tempts me to pick it every time I walk by. 
baby lemons!

We still have pears on the pear tree, though not the millions we initially dreamed about-- they haven't all fallen off or been an early dinner for the birds or squirrels.  I keep looking up recipes on how to cook my Bosc pears-- roasting them in the oven? eaten raw? a cobbler?-- and hoping that they will continue to grow big while we are away on vacation.

Bosc pear perfection

The fig tree is once again in full production.  We have smaller jam jars at the ready for all the fruit weighing down its branches.  I am tempted to net the tree as the catbirds and starlings seem to be particularly interested in eating the figs and I am not particularly interested in sharing with them. 

one of the many clusters of figs

Not to ignore our vegetable side of the our garden, we have a purple pepper ready to pick, lots of stalks of rhubarb waiting to be harvested, and several tomato flowers turning into green tomatoes.  None of them have started to turn red, but we check every day.

Peter picked a peck of purple peppers...


tomato blooms

lower garden
In the lower garden, the three types of lettuce has been used in salads and on sandwiches already.  The blueberries are just coming ripe (while the golden raspberries are finished).  The peppers, carrots, beets, brussel sprouts, and eggplant (not for me, but for Kelly) are all starting to take hold and grow. 


Waiting to turn red

Friday, July 5, 2013

Walkng Lecture at the National Portrait Gallery

Fiona and Abe
 In June, Fiona came for a visit and to give a lecture at the National Portrait Gallery about her book, focusing on the relationship between Thomas Nast and Presidents Lincoln, Grant, and Hay.  We all thought that it was going to be bit more like a formal lecture and not what it was, which was weird. One of the museum's "Three-Point Author Talks", Fiona stood before there presidential portraits.  The crowd that was there (about 20) were gathered together about 10 minutes before her talk began.  A relaxed setting, Fiona did her thing entertaining the masses with educational and interesting stories about Thomas Nast, his life, his work, and his influence on American history by using Nast's relationships to and with Lincoln, Grant, and Hay. 

standing crowd listening to the description of Nast's relationship with Lincoln
 At one point, signals got crossed and both she and I thought that she was running over time, so she moved onto the next painting.  Only, it wasn't time.  The museum program director just wanted her to stand closer to the painting.  Gotta come up with a better signal than touching your wrist and a directional head nod-- to me, all signs to move on, not to move closer. 

Fiona and President Grant
 Regardless, Fiona was awesome and it made me (and Will!) once again be in her history class.  After the walking talk, we went to the gift shop to sign books.  (Here is where the program breaks down: no sign saying to meet the author; no sign saying that there was a walking tour at 2 with the author; really just poor in-shop advertizing.). 
F with President Hay, as she describes the sad ending of Nast's list

the group

Ulysses, Tom, and Faynaynay

Fiona's book at the gift shop

Where is the sign to meet the author?

The Author ready to sign
After signing books, we were taken on a private tour of the museum, where Fiona, idiot savant, was able to name the people in the portraits as we walked by without reading the exhibit label.  She made sure to stop by a crazy dude and her historical boyfriend, General Sherman. 
Crazy dude!

Her heart is going pitter-patter!