Monthly Archives: June 2013

A few Days At The Beach AND A Quick Way to Feed People with Minimum Effort: Foiled Fish For Four (or more!)

Evening at Cape May Point

Evening at Cape May Point

It is beach time again and I thought that would mean lounging around reading, swimming and writing long meandering posts of my observations and what I have been cooking. Well, that’s not exactly how it has been working out!

Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

My friend Kelley and I are have been abandoned by our spouses this year to fend for ourselves. What I can I say…the week at the beach was booked for a year, circumstances changed and Kelley and I were the only ones free this particular week, (Dave managed two days before leaving). How could we disappoint our children who had been dreaming about this moment for what seemed like an eternity when you use “kid logic” (they live in different countries!)

Calder

Calder

Who knew it would be so much more difficult to do this with only two adults. This year I am chief cook and bottle washer while Kelley is errand boy and wrangler of all things beach-related.

Ide

Ide

This left very little time for that novel I was looking forward to reading and writing down what I have been up to.

Marie-Lyse

Marie-Lyse

We have also had a few misadventures, like the first day when we were not thinking sensibly and dragged everyone to the beach at high noon, resulting in burning my poor fair-skinned son to a crisp!

Cape May Light House

Cape May Light House

Then there was the day we were determined to stay on the beach even though the wind was whipping sand in our faces and our big umbrella was threatening to uproot itself and sail away down the beach.

Looking for nice rocks on sunset Beach

Looking for nice rocks on Sunset Beach

Or the other evening when we felt so bad because the kids couldn’t swim all of that day because of the sudden appearance of hundreds of jellyfish keeping them out of the water, and then letting them swim in their clothes when we went for a walk on the beach in the evening. This left me with a pile of sand-ridden clothes and towels to wash: never again!

Fried!

Fried!

Yesterday we thought we had finally gotten things right: leaving for the beach in the later cooler afternoon, buying my son something to cover his entire body to guard against another case of sunburn, and getting food ready before we left to quickly throw on the grill for dinner upon our return.

Jelly Fish Farming

Jelly Fish Farming

However, when we got to the beach the jellyfish had decided to stick around and I’m afraid digging holes in the sand did not appeal to my teenage boy so he went back to the house to mope and the girls decided the only thing to do was remove the jellyfish from the water, one shovel load at a time.

Must be mating season

Must be mating season

They had done this the day before and now they were getting profession. They dug a wide pond-like hole several feet from the water and filled it with water with their trusty orange beach bucket. Then, for the next couple of hours they filled their pond with jellyfish until it looked like a pink pulsating planet.

No swimming today

No swimming today

It didn’t rid the ocean of these stinging creatures but it did mange to keep them busy for hours and even managed to amuse anyone who walked by who were also more than a little put out by not being able to enjoy the water.

What life guards do after 5pm

What Life Guards do after 5pm

By about 7pm, Kelley and I, who had enough of the beach for the day, asked if they were ready to leave? They kept asking us to wait just in case there was a chance that the jellyfish would magically decide to go our to sea leaving them to swim at least once that day.

Lots of fishing but as Dave said "I've never seen anyone catch anything!"

Lots of fishing but as Dave said “I’ve never seen anyone catch a fish!”

We would have held out only it looked like it was going to storm and we didn’t want to get struck by lightning!

Kelly grilled Scallops

Kelley grilled Scallops

When we got back our barbecue plan was foiled by the rolling thunder so we had to cook our lovely marinated chicken in the oven. It was good but would have tasted so much better eating it from the grill outside on the porch.

and shrimp (so we did get lucky with the grilling one night!)

and shrimp (so we did get lucky with the grilling one night!)

Okay, so we have two beach days left and this morning I said to Kelley, “how about ousting the kids out of bed early, taking them to the beach before the jellyfish invasion, no long preparations, no snacks, just towels and sunscreen?”

He popped out of his chair and said “ready in five!”

on the beach

on the beach

They were installed in our usual spot by 10am and Kelley took the first shift while I escaped to be alone for the first time in 5 days!

A text from Kelley sent the news that the waves were perfect, there was a cool breeze and the kids had not left the water since their arrival.

uh

Another look

I have not seen sight nor hair of anyone in two hours.We may have finally got it right!

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Foiled Fish Recipe

This is a great way to feed plenty of hungry beach goers and allows you to spend them with them rather than tied to the kitchen!

All it requires you to do is wrap fish in some foil with some great flavorings in the morning, letting everything marinate, and then throwing the foiled packs into the oven for 15 minutes to cook!

Foiled Fish

Foiled Fish

You will need:

4 pieces of firm white fish or more for more people (tilapia, flounder, haddock, cod, fillet trout, monk fish etc)

1/4 cup extra virgin oil

1/2 cup white wine

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp sea salt

several grinds black pepper

8 sprigs thyme

Method:

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Wash and dry fish.

2 – Tear off 4 large pieces of heavy-duty foil and double it. Lay fish is center. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

3 – Mix oil, wine, and lemon juice together and spoon over the fish carefully. Add 2 sprigs of thyme to each fish and fold packet neatly but not too tight. (This can be done hours or up to 15 minutes ahead of time)

Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove and check to make sure the fish is cooked through, and serve with all of its lovely juices.

You can serve this as is or with some sautéed spinach and rice, some pasta or a salad.

More of this tomorrow

More of this tomorrow

The Beach, Cape May: Day 1 and deciding on the Holiday Happy Hour Cocktail (with recipe!)

So, it is officially Summer and yesterday, we packed the car to the gills and headed to what appears to be our annual trip to the beach at Cape May, New Jersey.

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The first look at the beach for my kids and their best friend Marie-Lyse!

The traffic was pretty brutal, so what was supposed to be a 3 hour drive turned into 5. This would have been awful except for the fact that my daughter and I decided to use her iPod to make videos of ourselves singing along to whatever was playing on the radio. Yes, it had definite goof-ball qualities but I am pretty sure that it is done on long road trips more than travelers are willing to admit!

Day 1

Day 1

We were meeting our friends who drove from Quebec to meet us at the same house they rented last year. The kids had not seen each other since Christmas when they came to stay at our house for the holiday, and were beside themselves when we arrived. It was so odd, I was a year older and felt every bit of it, and they had grown inches taller and looked fabulous.

jhg

Ide & Marie-Lyse

Instantly they hugged and laughed and then sort of stood back and looked,  feeling sort of shy staring back at their friend who had morphed into a different person, older looking… was that eye make-up?  It was an interesting moment to watch, and then I remembered I was a tired and frustrated woman in dire need of a drink: just to calm the nerves.

Beach finds

Beach finds

Our friend Kelley stood in the kitchen and pointed to the counter and said, “I’ve been to the wine store, what should we open?” I told him that wine was great but that this time I was going to introduce him to a new drink, a cocktail that perhaps we could make a staple of our happy hour for the week. There were no objections.

green rocks

Green rocks

The day before I had killed myself cleaning the house, planning possible menus and packing for our trip, and by evening felt the urge to go to a bar and have a shot of whiskey. What I mean is…have you ever watched one of those movies where the protagonist has gone through some major crisis and the next shot is of him (or her) bellied up to their local bar and nodding to the bartender? Of course you have. Then the bartender would pour the required drink and it would be downed in a single head throw-back. This is how I felt, only I wanted to act as my own barkeep.

Marie-Lyse and Green Rocks

Marie-Lyse and Green Rocks

As Kelley went for the wine opener I asked if there was ice? When he nodded I told him we were going to have something a little stronger. “Like what?”, he said. “Like Vodka”, I replied. He said he hadn’t had anything but beer or wine in “God knows how long”, but he felt my urgency and pointed to the freezer.

The Beach

The Beach

I told him about my crazy day of trip preparations and the need for a drink, and the discovery of having nothing alcoholic in the house, followed by the trip to my sister-in-law next door where we were supplied with what they had: vodka, and then my inventing this drink, which was derived from pure desperation: lemonade from my daughter’s Lemonade Stand and the vodka from next door.

The cocktail

The cocktail

The drink that was created satisfied me to no end and this is what I wanted to reinvent for Kelley, (after all when drinking one needs a partner!). I paired vodka with homemade lemonade over ice. I wasn’t quiet satisfied as I wanted it to be something special and more unique. It is hard to serve up a simple vodka and lemonade in this day and age with all of those mixologists out there grinding herbs and infusing fruits into drinks that should be photographed and not libated! So, I added a sage leaf that I had brought from my garden and served it to Kelley who said, “Why would you put a leaf into a perfectly good drink?”

Well, he drank it! And, the next day we had another, and another. He seems to be fine with the “leaf ” now.

The drink with a leaf in it!

The drink with a leaf in it!

Anyway, we have 6 more days here in Cape May and the only thing missing is Celine, Kelley’s lovely wife and my good friend who could not make it this time around. This week of our adventures of sun, beach, food and cocktails is dedicated to her so she feels a little like she is here with us.

Recipe for Vodka with Lemonade and Sage

1 shot (1/4 cup) of chilled vodka

2/3 cup lemonade (the most natural you can find)

1 slice lemon

1 sage leaf

Method:

Fill glass with ice. Pour vodka with lemonade into glass. Add a slice of lemon and sage leaf. Feel free to bruise sage before adding to release flavor. Drink!

More to come

More to come

Chipotle Chicken Stir-Fry with Rice (serves 6)

A new recipe at last and it’s a really great one! It is fast and a wonderful summer dish and even better if you decide to invite the neighbors over (if you happen to have good ones that is!)

chipotle

chipotle laced chicken stir-fry: The BEST!

Right now the supermarkets are over-flowing with avocados and they seem to be on sale everywhere I go. This is what prompted me to make this. I love to combine the cool creaminess of avocado with something spicy and crunchy.

I also served this with avocado slices, which gave everything a lovely creaminess

Having a couple of avocados on hand was also incentive for this dish

I used peppers and zucchini because it what was in my fridge when I went rummaging for dinner the other night. But this does not mean that you have to go running off to the shop to make this dish exactly the same. Use whatever you have on hand: any color pepper, onions (diced), shredded carrot, yellow squash (diced), the list goes on…

Make it up as you go along and it will be luscious!

___________________________

You will need:

1 to 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

2 to 3 chipotle peppers with a tbs of adobo sauce, chopped (press HERE for more information on this ingredient)

4 tbs olive oil

1 bunch scallions (between 6-10), chopped

1 red pepper, small dice

1 large (not enormous!) zucchini, diced

1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

2 or 3 Haas avocado, pitted and sliced

Cooked basmati rice  – *if using a rice cooker, use 3 cups of raw rice in your rice cooker cup measure. If using stove-top, use 2 regular cup measures of rice. Cook both according to instructions.

Method:

1 – Cook rice. when cooked set aside. No need to keep warm.

cool basmati rice or take leftover rice from frige adn mix to seperate

Cook Rice

1 – Put chopped chicken, 2 tbs olive oil, chipotle peppers and sauce, garlic and lime juice into bowl and combine. Set aside for about 20 minutes. Can be made ahead of time and left in the fridge.

Chicken with Rock Creek Marinade

Marinade Chicken

3 – Put big saute pan on medium to high (more towards the high side but not all the way up), heat and add the last 2 tbs of oil. When it is hot, add the chopped veggies and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Stir-fry veggies first

Stir-fry veggies first

4 – Turn the heat up to high and immediately add  1/2 of the chicken mixture. *If you add all of  the chicken in one batch it will end up getting too moist and will steam more than stir-fry* Cook in an even layer for between 4 to 6 minutes. Taste a little to be sure it is cooked.

A smokey spicy stir-fry

A smokey spicy stir-fry

5 – Add the veggies back to the pan and turn heat off.

jkyg

Great Dinner! (chipotle chicken stir-fry)

Divide rice and chicken mixture between warmed plates or bowls and add a “fan” of avocado slices to each plate. I like to add some tapatio hot sauce (press here for more info on this hot sauce), and a cooling spoonful of sour cream to each serving, but each to his own!

Introducing SweeTerra Farm! A New Farmer, Chickens, Rabbits, Goats, Turkeys and 2 Toulouse Geese!

I have a friend. His name is Tom. He is an architect. He has three grown daughters. One of his daughter’s is Catherine. This is a story about her.

A Chicken

A Chicken (trying to avoid me)

When I met Tom he invited us all to his house, and during that Summer a few years ago we visited again and again. It was true that he had a wife and three children but I did not meet them for nearly a year.

The Pond at Sweet Terra

The Pond at SweeTerra

What I love about Tom is his wide-embracing view of the world and his mixture of very conventional and wildly unconventional way of life. For starters he designed and build his own house, and as the years went by he kept adding on more “bits” Also, when an idea strikes him, he either invents something or buys the patent! There are a lot of posts with Tom in them if you are curious (here, here, here, here and here  and many more!)

Poor little bait fish

Poor little bait fish

So, where was this family he appeared to be ultra-close to, leaving him all alone in the middle of the countryside? We joked that he had made them all up, and for him to say that they were also in China seemed like a conveniently far-flung invention of his too!

Tom's fountain awash with lily pads

Tom’s fountain awash with lily pads

But, they were all in China as it turned out. Catherine armed with fluent Mandarin left for Hong Kong to work in the corporate world, cubicle and all! Then the youngest daughter B. decided that this was the best place to go to medical school, so off she went too.

Catherine the Farm Girl

Catherine the Farm Girl

Well, I said they were a close family so I am presuming after some time had gone by, the other sister Laura, missed her sisters so much she jumped on a plane to China to be close to them. All three sisters had left their home for presumably a very long time.

The beginning of something great: Sweet Terra

The beginning of something great: SweeTerra

So what was a mother to do? Their mother decided that the girls needed a maternal eye to watch over them and help set them up comfortably in their various accommodations and jobs. So you all  know where she went. It was during this time that I met Tom, and I must say he came across as a man quite content with this new arrangement. He could come and go as he pleased, eat when and what he liked, and sleep in any room in his topsy-turvy house.

The Cat preferred her own company

The Cat preferring her own company

Of course over time I did eventually meet the whole family. This happened over holidays like Christmas and impromptu visits, and we became close pretty quickly as we felt we had met long ago through stories swapped back and forth between the two families.

San Marzano tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes

Jumping a few years to the present they are all, save one, back at home, and I mean literally living at home. What happened?

My favorite thing there: crunchy radishes and lettuces

My favorite thing there: crunchy radishes and lettuces

Well Laura decided that China was not for her and moved home, followed less than a year later by Catherine who had grown weary of her little cubicle and living in a stacked apartment building in the heart of the city.

The Garden God

The Garden God

One day Tom told me that Catherine said she was moving home to become a farmer. “A what?” I said, “I know” was his reply in a not so surprised tone. He had no one to blame but himself. He raised three girls to think they could do anything they set their mind to.

Jaya, the Toulouse goose (named after my freind Jaya from Paris!)

Ide feeding Jaya, the greedy Toulouse goose (named after my friend Jaya from Paris!)

The bolt of lightning that hit Catherine happened when she went trekking around Europe with her sister this spring. They lived on the cheap, staying with friends (or friends of friends’) and ate in restaurants a little off the beaten path. Catherine thought she had died and gone to gastronomic heaven.

Biscuit

Biscuit

I could say that this only happened because the food she was used to eating in China appeared a little sterile and engineered by comparison but when she told me that her idea to grow her own food came to her while she was in Naples I have to disagree with that theory and say that it was the sublimely good Italian food that clinched it!

Tom was on the grill all day getting this lovely plate together

Tom grills everything!

I am from Ireland so you never see the words “grass-fed” cows on labels in the meat section. All cows are grass-fed and that is that. So much more of the food in Europe locally sourced and as far as my experience goes, Italy is pretty close to the top of the heap when it comes to eating close to the table.

Spinach grwon from seeds from Naples

Spinach grown from seeds from Naples

They eat seasonally and food is brought in almost daily to butcher shops and green groceries. I lived there last year for a stint and cooked almost everyday with ingredients from no more than a few miles to several miles away. The food tasted good above and beyond anything I did to it for that reason alone. Click on “Italy” to the side of this blog to read all about it!

Baby Turkey (There are two; Thanksgiving and Christmas!)

Baby Turkey (There are two; Thanksgiving and Christmas!)

This is what Catherine found out and she wanted that for herself. She is at that glorious point in her life where time is most definitely on her side and there was no better time to go off and be adventurous than right now. She also had Tom, and acres of land at her disposal. There was no way I could see him objecting. He is the best kind of push-over and it is most convenient if he happens to be your father!

Veggies i got yesterday from the Farm

Veggies I got yesterday from the Farm

After her decision, her mission was to buy as many seeds as she could find, and as she tramped the rest of Italy, and then France, she found what she could in flower and plant shops before it was time to get home and start digging.

Very Rustic Badminton was in full swing in between courses

Very Rustic Badminton can be played (and was!) while waiting on dinner.

She picked the piece of ground where her mother had always had a vegetable garden when she was growing up but made it a great deal larger. She then went about finding out how to be this person she wanted to become and started classes on organic farming, reading mountains of books and magazine articles as well as seeking out other like-minded agriculturers.

And the Drink of course (Joe on the poarch sampling some of the beer he helps brew!)

And a Drink is nice too (Joe on the porch sampling some of the beer he helps brew!)

I must say I am impressed. Her enthusiasm has not waned but excelled, and the more she finds out the more she wants to do. It truly is like watching a kid in a candy store.

Butter

Butter

When she talks about what she is doing and takes me on tours to show me how well her San Marzano tomatoes seeds are doing, or to see the new goat or the baby rabbits she just makes me happy. It is hard for her downright good humor not to rub off on you as you walk alongside her.

The Spread (or at least part of it)

The Spread for the Farm picnic at SweeTerra

She certainly doesn’t look like a farmer as she is usually wearing a strapless sun dress with a pair of bright yellow rubber boots, hair up, sometime with a ribbon, and not a complaint from her lips about being tired or jaded from all the hard work.

The doomed bunny

The doomed bunny

I would find out about a new animal arrival via a picture email from Tom. The kids would beg to see it and over we would trot (in fact after I write this we are going there for tea and to hold the new Toulouse geese!)

He also made this flaxseed-ridden bread!

A couple of Sundays ago we were invited to a Farm Picnic. This is when the  farm was introduced to the locals. Lots of people came and we all ate food from the garden cooked with enthusiasm and love by Catherine, Laura, Tom and of course the ever-always supporting Mom!

Preparations (after all, it's all about the food!)

Preparations (after all, it’s all about the food!)

Everyday more veggies are planted and more animals arrive. There is talk about 60 chickens and that scares me a little. It doesn’t seem to bother Catherine so rather her than me.

Time to clean up

The women on the farm favor white dresses

I am more than content to take surplus greens home and stop by for tea and a tour. This is the first of what I hope to be many posts about SweeTerra Farm. After all I haven’t even touched on her learning to butcher rabbits and her beehives!

As is the tradition at Tom's: the evening must end with a bonfire

As is the tradition at Tom’s: the evening must end with a bonfire

I’m sure Tom will get used to this.

As is the tradition at Tom's: the evening must end with a bonfire

GOOD LUCK SweeTerra!

Cold Raspberry Tart With Mascarpone Cheese – Great Summer Birthday Cake! (serves 8-10)

I promised to post this recipe, so here it is!

My Birthday Cake this year

My Birthday Cake this year

I had a busy and very fun birthday recently (Press HERE to read about it!) but I really wanted to have a cake when I got home from my grand adventure. I didn’t want one from a shop, even though there are so many great bakeries now that make wonderful cakes.

Yes, I know, there is nothing too pretty about this cake. The icing is sloppily applied, the top half slightly sliding away from the bottom half, and lets not even mention the writing (hey, I I have an unsteady hand!). However, there is no mistaking the love that went into every detail, and it tasted spectacular to boot!stied

For Bridget’s Birthday Party, press THIS

There is something so special about one made at home, whether it is a layer cake that looks a little wobbly or one where the icing looks a little slap-dash and the sentiment precariously written in an uneven stream of piped colors.

Our six-minute Cake with little umbrellas (didn't have birthday candles!)

Our six-minute Cake with little umbrellas (didn’t have birthday candles!) for recipe: press HERE

I favor these types of cakes for occasions like this over any picture perfect confection where the only trouble that was taken was to pick it up from the bake shop.

Ide's request every year is for this chocolate cake. The frosting color is the only thing that changes!

My daughter’s request each year is for this chocolate cake. The frosting color is the only thing that changes!

If you are flat broke, the best thing to give, or receive, is a home-made cake. Nothing says you care more than a couple of eggs, sugar and a few candles.

My son is also a creature of habit and his request is ALWAYS this cheesecake!

My son is also a creature of habit and his request is ALWAYS this cheesecake!

For me, I’m not really as picky. It depends on who makes the cake, and this year I happen to make my own (more out of necessity than desire). I was under pressure for time so it had to be quick and had to be able to keep perfectly in the fridge for 36 hours.

My favorite fruit; raspberries!

My favorite fruit; raspberries!

This cold tart was perfect. There was no actual cooking required, and on a hot Summer evening, cold was the most perfect temperature. All it requires is good quality fruit and this little tart practically makes itself.

Cold Raspberry tart

Cold Raspberry tart

You will need:

14 chocolate graham crackers OR 4 cups chocolate teddy graham crackers

4 tbs unsalted butter

2 eggs

3 tbs sugar

1 lb mascarpone cheese

  3 to 4 cups fresh raspberries

1 fluted tart pan (11 x 1 1/4″ with removable bottom if possible)

Method:

1 – Pulverize crackers in food processor until it has turned to a meal.

blitz graham crackers in food processor

blitz graham crackers in food processor

2 – Melt butter on low heat and slowly add to the processor through funnel as it is spinning.

Melt butter in pan on low heat.

Melt butter in pan on low heat.

3 – Empty contents into tart pan and spread evenly. Press down firmly, but gently until it feels like a solid mass. 

Press crumbs into tart pan

Press crumbs into tart pan

4 – Separate egg yolks and egg whites, putting each in a separate bowl. Add sugar to the yolks and whisk until the mixture becomes creamy (about 4 minutes).

Whisk egg yolks with sugar

Whisk egg yolks with sugar

5 – Whisk whites until they become nice and foamy (about 4 minutes). Put the mascarpone into the bowl with the egg yolks and mix together gently. Fold in the egg whites until they are fully incorporated.

Whisk egg whites until stiff

Whisk egg whites until stiff

6 – Spread mixture into tart pan and spread evenly. Top with lots and lots of raspberries. Chill in fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

Spread mascarpone mixture into tart pan

Spread mascarpone mixture into tart pan

Serve Cold

My Birthday Cake this year

Top with Raspberries

There is nothing sweeter than Birthday Cake!

Yum to all Birthday cakes!

Yum to all Home Made Birthday Cakes – elegant or sloppy!

My Most Magnificant Birthday (You’ll See!)

My birthday was June 1st and in honor of the occasion I made a plan. It is not my usual form to put a lot of thought into things that are very specific to me, usually leaving it up to what the day brings and to whatever anyone else might have arranged, but this one was different.

my birthday (card from my daughter)

My birthday (card from my daughter)

This was supposedly one of those “milestone” birthdays and I thought the only way I would be satisfied with the outcome was to plan it myself. A milestone usually has a Marker of some kind and I wanted my Marker to say two things: Philip Johnson and The Glass House!

Philip Johnson by Andy Warhol

Philip Johnson by Andy Warhol (hanging in the Painting Gallery at The Glass House estate)

At this point you either know what I am talking about or you don’t. If the former you are going to take the tour with me and maybe see something new or perhaps a building from a different perspective (mine!), and if the latter, you are about to discover an architect, who in the 1940’s, built a house that was unlike any other in concept or design that would forever stand as one of the major examples of modern architecture.

My Breakfast: A Cheese & Almond Danish from Le Pain Quotidien Bakery in New Canaan

My Breakfast: A Cheese & Almond Danish from Le Pain Quotidien Bakery in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Before I talk about where I went, I have to say something about why I choose The Glass House as the place I wanted to remember when I thought about this particular birthday.

This rowdy (in a good way) bunch of man

This rowdy (in a good way) bunch of men stopped me on my way to the restroom; why? Well if I had a camera around my neck I had to of course capture their “Mens’ Breakfast” which apparently they have every Saturday at around 9am! There were no objections when I asked if I could post their image!

The first thing I thought about when I began thinking about what I would like to do is who or if anybody would accompany me at whatever I choose to do. After all, sometimes it is only on the occasion of one’s birthday that you can say (and be forgiven), “I want to spend the day completely and utterly alone!” I did think about it but it didn’t feel right this time.

On to The Glass House

On to The Glass House! (The door to the Glass house Visitor Center)

I wanted to share this with my immediate family. I wanted to go some place that I have always wanted to see and I wanted it to be a treat for everybody. I didn’t want to drive too far and I wanted to feel for sure that the whole family would enjoy the experience as much as me. Taking all of this into account, it was very difficult to decide.

Philip & Ide

Philip & Ide (She bought this amusing Philip Johnson finger puppet at the visitor center before our tour saying she would like him to accompany her around his home – yes, she is a sweet little girl)

I decided it had to be art of some kind or another. We live as artists, and so, for better or for worse, this has rubbed off on our two children. By the way, when I say “for better or for worse” I am definitely being sarcastic! There is no one in this world that could convince me that art does not hold the secret to happiness and general contentment. I believe this most strongly indeed!

The Library/Study

The Library/Study

Art it was, and now, where to go within a reasonable distance that none of us had been to already? It was right around that perplexing moment I saw the book Philip Johnson THE GLASS HOUSE sitting on a table. I was pretty sure Dave had been reading it lately and then of course it was obvious. Our trip would be to the most widely publicized work of modern architecture in the world: The Glass House by architect Philip Johnson.

on closer inspection

On closer inspection

Philip Johnson bought a few acres in New Canaan, Connecticut and set about making it special, and by this I mean, he created a place that would serve as the finest example of modern architecture which not only took into account buildings, but sculptural art, paintings and the actual landscape. All would serve his polemic vision that a modern building does not stand alone. He took 49 acres and created a place where the land itself would be the most important part of the architecture.

The reason for our visit is somewhere down this path, barely visible

The reason for our visit is somewhere down this path, barely visible

The Glass House was in itself a place from which to view this landscape on a daily basis. It was a magnificent idea and Philip Johnson completed the house in 1949 and even today it is considered a building beyond its time.

the view from one side

Approaching The Glass house from a path to the left of this sculpture by Donald Judd. It was made on site with reinforced concrete in 1971

I could go on about all the things that excite me about this building and the other buildings that I visited on the estate, but it would really all come down to me talking about the architect himself, about what made him “tick” as he put it himself. I will not for a couple of reasons: I would be inadequate in my explanations of his vision, and two, I don’t want to rule out anybody because of my boring analysis. This Building is for everybody and after standing inside it, I know that Mr. Johnson was not being high-minded when he designed it. Because… it felt like Home (yes, with a capital “H”!)

Approaching The Glass House

And a path approaching from the right

Luckily I had made sure to check out the Glass House website early (click HERE) to find out about tours and tickets as all the slots were practically sold out for June 1st, two months in advance! It is an expensive tour which can only be conducted in groups of twelve and is guided.

angled paths and a massive stone wall on the walk to The Glass House

Angled paths and a massive stone wall on the walk to The Glass House

I gulped when I forked out the $48 per ticket but now I realize there should have been no regrets whatsoever. We arrived safe and sound for our tour at 9.45am after a lovely coffee and pastry for breakfast down the street. It was a gloriously sunny day and we were all shaky with anticipation.

The Brick House

The Brick House

Our little tour bus filled up and off we went under the wing of our very enthusiastic tour guide, Pat McCaughey. He was the perfect man for the job as he was a wealth of information about Philip Johnson, The Glass House estate, and the contemporaries of the day. He spoke with great ease referring to Mr. Johnson simply as “Philip”, like they had been friends for years!
 

The back of The Brick House

The back of The Brick House

He did know Philip Johnson who had only died in 2005 but only from the standpoint of another resident. He said he was far too shy to walk up to him and say “hi, I love your work!”

The Glass House

The Glass House

In retrospect, it seems he could have easily done that as he told story after story of how complete strangers, who were either architect students, devout lovers of his work or simply curious nosy parkers who would cold-call the estate and Philip Johnson would give them the grand tour himself, or as in one case, simply say he was on his way out but that the door was open and to by all means take a look!

The front door

The front door

He only learned of his wonderful generosity and friendly demeanor after he took the job as tour guide in 2007 when the house was open to the public for the first time since it’s completion in 1949.

The seating area

The seating area: This furniture was designed by his contemporary and good friend Mies van der Rohe and made by the Knoll Factory.

He said he applied for the job right from a newspaper advertisement. When he read the ad he said, “I could do that!’ and so he trained as a guide, learning all there was to know about the man and gave us a splendid 2 1/2 hour tour with lots of facts flavored with just as many delightful tidbits of personal information.

Different light

Different angle, Different light

Like what he said when asked why there were no windows in the front of the guest house (known as The Brick House – see it a few pictures above) he built at the same time that lies at an angle facing the front of The Glass House. He said that he designed it with no windows because he did not want to know what was going on in the house just the same as he did not want his guests to know what was going on in his. This is why all of the windows on the Brick House face the back and are on the roof!

The sense of space

The sense of space (the painting in the background is by 17th century artist Nicolas Poussin titled, “Burial of Phocion”

Philip Johnson built this house on a site where he could appreciate the view of the outside from any side. He built it for his most important client, for himself, and, he either lived there full-time or on the weekends until his death in 2005. He died in The Glass House with his glass walls reflecting the familiar trees, rocks and meadows on the other side.

Walking from the Bedroom past the Living Room

Calder taking a walk from the Bedroom and on through the Living Room

And the trees were also not completely left to nature. He was an obsessive landscape architect also. He said that “all landscape architecture is hopeful architecture” and he worked compulsively on improving his view.

The Bedroom

The Bedroom

He cleared parts of the woods to allow for meadow space and ferns to grow. He wanted “dappled-shade” and I’m guessing that this was probably the most beautiful light in the world to him, light which reflected, danced and shimmered.

Where Philip Johnson sat

Where Philip Johnson sat and worked (although I’m pretty sure that was distracting!)

He had trees pruned so your eye could make paths through them as you looked from certain points, and he only kept grass tightly mown in specific spots. He let the grass grow high saying that if a building is interesting enough the grass shouldn’t stop one from getting to it; you’ve got to love that kind of stubbornness!

A view of the desk from outside

A view of the desk

I haven’t even mentioned being in the Glass House yet and I cannot do that until I tell you that getting to the front door was not just a simple matter of walking directly up a path and there it was right in front of you.

A not-so-Crappy Kitchen!

A not-so-Crappy Kitchen!

Philip Johnson believed that you should never approach a building from a direct line, but rather from an angle. And so to get to the door you had to navigate the circular concrete sculpture by Donald Judd (a few pictures above) and then the path went off to an angle before joining a path that let to the front door.

The backyard!

The backyard

I had to stop myself from running across the grass and meander the path I was meant to take. It certainly did serve to build up my anticipation and excitement.

The view from where Philip Johson sat outside (you know, the backyard!)

The view from the backyard! (The Lake pavilion was built in 1962 and plays with perspective with the design making it seem further than it actually is)

No amount of looking at pictures of The Glass House can prepare you for what it is actually like being inside The Glass House. It was one of those moments where you are waiting to see how you feel and if it lives up to your expectations of whatever picture you have painted in your mind. It was so different from what I thought it would feel like.

A giant tree close to the house

A giant tree close to the house

It immediately felt like home, like when you are away from your house on holidays somewhere and when you open the back door,  you can finally breath and you cannot wait to sleep in your own bed. I thought it would have this aura of austerity, something unapproachable, cold even. It was quite the opposite emotion.

A view from the Glass House and the pool from the path to the Painting and sculpture Gallereies

A view from the Glass House and the pool from the path to the Painting and Sculpture Galleries

I could see myself happily unloading the groceries for dinner or lounging with some friends on the sofa or rug. It felt happy and warm, and the idea of being out in the open in a vulnerable way disappeared. The acres of green color outside felt more like a curtain bellowing around the walls.

The underground Painting Gallery

The underground Painting Gallery (inspired by a Grecian Tomb from 1250 BC)

We all got a chance to explore the house in great detail and at a leisurely pace. My kids were truly in awe and Dave looked like he had died and gone to heaven. I would safely say after seeing how we all felt that this tour was a very good idea.

Frank Stella painting

Frank Stella painting (and Dave deciding if he could warm a little more to this painter in this spectacular setting)

Upon leaving the house we walked to some of the other buildings that Johnson has been continually building since moving in. He built an amazing Painting Gallery to house his ever-changing hanging art collection.

Approaching the sculpture Gallery

Approaching the sculpture Gallery

The Painting Gallery was built in 1965 and is a masonry and earth bern with 3,778 square feet shaped in three circular rooms where art could be viewed. He liked to view 6 paintings at once and the walls rotated like giant poster racks with two paintings on each wall. The little stools from which to view the work, and to sit around on were also round, reinforcing the circular theme.

Inside the amazing Sculpture Gallery

Inside the amazing Sculpture Gallery

One of my favorite other buildings was the Sculpture Gallery. It was built in 1970 and this brick cavity wall construction is a massive 3,650 square feet. The glass ceiling made of tubular steel was the most amazing roof I had ever seen. It changed the entire room into this magical place filled with hundreds of lined shadows which plastered the walls and floor in every direction.

another look at the magnificant light

Another look at the magnificent light

Philip Johnson loved it so much himself that he even contemplated moving house, until he thought, “where will all the sculpture go!” I would have been sorely tempted myself but I have to say that the special warmth of The Glass House would have kept me there.

The George Washington Bridge on our way into Manhattan

Zooming by the George Washington Bridge on our way into Manhattan

We were all very sad when our visit ended but I anticipate I will be back again to learn and see more. I’m sure there is so much I missed (like when you watch a movie over and over and discover so many little details that tie everything together).

Ma Peache

Ma Peche for Lunch

Our next stop was a quick drive to Manhattan for lunch and to pick up my friend Bird and bring her back to our little house for the remainder of my birthday. I also wanted to get home and be in a place where I felt comfortable and happy. Also, I had a birthday cake waiting, (which of course I made the day before).

I got presents!

I got presents!

We tried to tell Bird about where we had been and what it was like but it was truly impossible to emphasize how fantastic the whole place was and that the Glass House did not feel small and weird, but airy and alive. She will just have to see for herself.

My Backyard

My Backyard

It was a lovely mild evening and we sat outside while I barbecued chicken and we indulged in cold beers with lemons; just perfect.

We had Cold Raspberry Tart for dessert

We had Cold Raspberry Tart for dessert (which I will post the recipe for of course!)

The quick cold tart I whipped up the day before was absolutely the best birthday cake a girl could ask for and the whole day will be remembered as one of my most worthwhile moments.

It was a truely magnificant birthday

It was indeed a most magnificent birthday

“Maybe what makes me tick is unique. I don’t mind, but it may be of interest to know how different my tick is from yours and yours”

From a lecture given by Johnson at Columbia University in 1975.

The Amazing Lemon Squeezer and A Great Lemonade Recipe (makes little or lots!)

Have you ever gotten a gift from someone and you think, “gosh, I would never have bought that!” Well this was the Christmas present I received from a woman who I thought would never have bought something like this either? She does not strike me as the “gimmicky” type, however when she gave me this contraption she made sure to justify her reason for buying it.

This is The Amazing Lemon Squeezer!

This is The Amazing Lemon Squeezer!

This woman I speak of is my brother’s Mother-in-law and since his whole family was invited for Christmas, of course Susan, who flew all the way from Texas to be with them, was most certainly welcome too: the more the merrier is the motto I live by when it comes to a grand feast! (read about it HERE)

Side View

Side View

Anyway, I had to open it on the spot as she wanted to assure me that as odd as this thing might look, she had it from a couple of good sources that it worked like a charm and that it could be that kitchen gadget I may not be able to live without once I squeezed my first lemon!

Stick the lemon in like so (the lemon looks bald because i first grated the zest!)

Stick the lemon in like so (the lemon looks bald because I first grated the zest!)

Well that was 5 months ago and other than me moving it out of my way to find something in that draw we all have, you know the one? The drawer that is a tangle of dangerous items like kitchen scissors, pizza cutters, metal kebab skewers and various specialty knives all bound together in a mysterious solid mass. There it languished, unused and ignored, that is until the weekend before last when my daughter wanted to set up a Lemonade Stand (Read about that HERE!). I was faced with the task of squeezing mounds of lemons and suddenly remembered Susan’s gadget-y gift!

And squeeze the handles together to press out the juice

And squeeze the handles together to press out the juice

Squeezing about 30 lemons was a true test for this highly touted tool, and it passed the rigors of my relentless compressions! As I squeezed lemon after lemon I kept remarking how great a job it was doing and felt a little guilty about my contempt upon first seeing it.

Another garden update: I planted this little flower in my cat planter but it seems this cat cannot be pleased!

Another garden update: I planted this little flower in my cat planter but it seems this cat cannot be pleased!

It has now been promoted to a nicer spot in my kitchen and the next time I see Susan I must properly thank her for this juicing gem!

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You will need (for 24 8oz cups):

juice from 20 lemons (have 2 or 3 more on hand just in case it needs adjusting)

3 1/2 cups fine granulated sugar

24 cups water (more if necessary)

Ice cubes

Method:

1 – Mix 4 cups of water with the sugar in a pot and place on medium heat. Heat (stirring occasionally) until sugar completely dissolves. Turn off heat and set aside.

make simple syrup

Make simple syrup

2 – Before cutting the lemons roll back and forth on your work top using a little pressure as you do so. This will soften the lemon and release more juice. Cut the lemons and squeeze juice into a large bowl.

Cut lots of lemons in half

Cut lots of lemons in half

3 – add about 18 cups of cold water followed by the simple syrup mixture (it’s fine if it is still hot or warm). Mix everything together and taste. Add more water if it is too strong or more lemon juice if you want more tang.

*I also make extra simple syrup in case I need it and it also keeps well in a closed container in your fridge for use in the next batch!*

hey presto; lemonade!

Hey presto; lemonade!

Serve over lots of ice in tall pretty glasses!