Tag Archives: birthday

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)


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.

What Is It??

This weekend was one great time! It was my son’s birthday and we went to a friend’s house at the beach! We cooked some great food, drank fabulous wine and devoured a Key Lime Pie with 12 candles on it!

Everyone had a hand in making the Birthday Dinner, and, my new friend Gab got the best job of all. Can you guess what the heck she is wrestling with? Find out tomorrow when I blog about our lovely day and the feast that topped it off!

A dirty job, but, everyone wanted to do it!