Monthly Archives: October 2017
The Durrells in Corfu
My mother loves all things PBS and Masterpiece Theater, so when she mentioned a new series she was watching I listened politely, nodded, and didn’t watch it. I’m more of the reading type, but every now and then I enjoy a good television show or movie. Those seem to be few and far between. Downton Abbey is no more, and while waiting for Poldark to return, I tried a couple of American TV shows I used to follow. I believe I’ve outgrown them.
What was that series my mother mentioned? Oh, yes: The Durrells in Corfu. She pronounced the family’s name in such a way as to rhyme with Purell, the hand sanitizer. Turns out it was pronounced more like the word rural if you switched out the R for a D. I requested the Season One from the library and couldn’t wait to be entertained by what Mother described as a charming series set on a Greek island. She made it sound romantic and beautiful.
My husband and I watched the first episode, and while it wasn’t depressing, it wasn’t the delightful whirlwind adventure of picking up and moving to a Greek island that we thought it would be. Widowed mother of four, Louisa Durrell, was at her wits end trying to make ends meet on her widow’s pension. The idea to move to Corfu came from her oldest son, Larry, an estate agent who wants to be a writer but never writes.
Second son, Leslie, decided he’s going to quit school and find a job to help make ends meet. Margot, his sister, announced that she, too, will quit school because she’s not that bright to begin with and school really wasn’t doing her any good. Then there’s Jerry, the youngest son who loved anything to do with the animal kingdom and was rather odd. This family was what one would describe as a hot mess. In fact, by the third episode, husband and I looked at each other and wondered why we were still watching.
The Durrells were downright horrible to each other sometimes, especially Larry who delivered the harshest barbs to his mother and siblings. When they arrived in Corfu from England, they displayed the attitude of foreigners who couldn’t quite let go of their own culture to make the effort to fit in. Throughout the first season, the worst character for this was the boorish Leslie who blathered on at the locals insisting they speak English even though it’s their country. It was rather refreshing to know that Americans aren’t the only ones to do this even though we seem to be the only ones catching flack for it.
Larry finally took up writing, but this meant he wasn’t bringing in any money to help his mother. In fact, none of the three eldest Durrells lifted a finger to help Louisa. Leslie and Margot have clearly abandoned school, but they made no move to gets jobs. I couldn’t feel bad for Louisa because she enabled them to be the slugs they were by constantly coddling them. I turned my attention to weird little Jerry who also wasn’t attending school but provided himself the most amazing hands-on education by exploring the island for wildlife and building a personal zoo.
Still, I couldn’t quite connect with any of the Durrells. It was time to focus on the peripheral characters. I started with Lugaretzia, the Durrell’s housekeeper and cook who mumbled Greek to herself in such a way that even though one had no idea what she said understood that she, too, thought the Durrells were twits. She took a liking to Leslie, who she declared the best son when he decided to learn Greek just so he could communicate with his girlfriend.
Then there was Theo Stephanides, the naturalist who assisted young Jerry in his pursuit of all things animal. One couldn’t help but fall for the soft-spoken man as he guided Jerry through his makeshift education especially when he acted the part of a priest and presided over a bat funeral. He and Jerry dug up the bat later so they could stuff it, but at least Jerry had a solid and intelligent father figure in his life.
Spiros Halikiopoulos was also a major favorite. He was the type of person who believed he knew everything, yet he didn’t come across as arrogant because he actually did know everything. The handsome taxi driver was always getting the Durrells out of scrapes and attempting to teach them how to be more Greek. It was obvious he was sweet on Louisa, but he held back and was most gentlemanly toward her making him all the more desirable.
Another interesting peripheral character was Sven, the accordion-playing Swedish farmer. Of the three men, he was the one Louisa fell for. There’s a spoiler alert with Sven and Louisa’s story, so I’ll leave it up to my followers to either watch the series and/or discover what that was. Sven was odd but likeable, handsome but practical. He was a man of few words, and while he could be easily offended, he also forgave quickly to maintain the friendship.
Leslie Caron made a delightful cameo as the Countess Mavrodaki in the first season, and Jeremy Swift, who portrayed the unpleasant butler, Spratt, in Downtown Abbey, played her manservant, Dennis. But with all these great peripheral characters, what about the Durrells? It was, after all, their show. My husband and I finished watching Season One and not for lack of something better to do. We laughed several times over a couple of lines that were absolutely brilliant. Kudos to the writers.
Still, what was it about the Durrells that kept us coming back? In short, they were so true to real life, and we couldn’t wait to discover how things turned out for them. We were actually quite pleased that the series didn’t end up being a piece of fluff. We agreed that Leslie was our least favorite, that even though Margot was dim her family should probably stop telling her so, Larry was an ass (there’s no other way around it), and Jerry needed a bath in the worst way. Yet when Season Two started last week, we were right there watching the Durrells stumble their way through life and learning the hard lessons.
With This Ring
It is amazing the stuff William and I have accumulated over twenty four years of marriage. About every five years, we purge the closets, cupboards, basement, and garage. We have a sale or haul the pile of unearthed stuff to one of our favorite charities. Every time we do this, we say, “There. We’re done. We’ve rid ourselves of everything we didn’t need or haven’t used.” And yet, somehow, the stuff manages to creep its way back in to our home, hiding in the closets and cupboards, piling up in the basement and garage. How does this happen?
The thing is Will and I don’t spend like we did in our younger days when we had the money and were completely irresponsible. In our defense, we also didn’t have a child for the first seven years. So yeah, we spent on ourselves. But as we’ve matured (notice I didn’t just say got older), our spending habits have been reigned in completely. Still, the stuff magically appears in our home.
I’m not talking about the unexpected gifts one receives and upon opening says, “Oh…that’s so…lovely,” all the while thinking, This has garage sale item written all over it. Those items disappear immediately. (Right now my very much alive mother is digging her own grave so she can roll over in it all the while despairing of my bad manners.)
Will is on vacation this week, and it is the perfect time to rearrange the closet in the back bedroom where I have stored all sorts of home décor and mementos from our son’s baby years. My darling hubby takes up half of the closet we share with his dress and casual clothes, and now he needs another full closet for his works clothes. This means it is also time to move the shelf from the basement where his overflow of clothing is stored as well as empty the bins where he keeps his unmentionables. Remember: I have half a closet for all my dress and casual clothes, shoes, and lingerie. Is there something wrong with this picture?
The job takes longer than I expect because I have to dust and sort the home décor and Joshua’s keepsakes into separate bins, and I discard a whole bunch of stuff I forgot we even owned. When combined with the things removed from the basement shelves, we part with a Victoria’s Secret purse given as a promotional item with a purchase of perfume, a vintage-looking hat stand, two egg trays I never used, a two-pound dumbbell whose mate went to Goodwill years ago, a mini-vacuum for electronics, a bag of tee-shirts, paint-by-number pictures Will’s Grandmother Richards painted, three Asian prints I swore I’d have framed someday, and on and on and on.
Why do we hold on to this stuff especially when it isn’t even the good stuff? Still, I’d like to think we received a reward for making the effort to clear our lives of so much junk. Will shifts the shelf in the basement and immediately realizes it must be swept off before I allow him to move it another inch. As I step closer to pick up what our two cats have knocked under the shelf, I spy something of incredible worth lying in the dust.
“Oh my gosh,” I scream as I squeeze past Will and the shelf, swipe the item off the floor, and crash into my canning jars. I break one of the jars, so now I’m hopping around on one foot, our son has come running down the stairs because he believes I’ve hurt myself, and William, who cannot see what I’m holding, is in a bit of a panic. He shouts at me to not cut myself on the broken jar. But my face is beaming and I’m laughing as I hold up a gold, circular band and say, “Look—I found your wedding ring!”
Two years ago, one of the cats (probably Henry) knocked Will’s wedding ring out of the cubby hole beneath our bathroom cabinet. When I noticed the ring wasn’t in the bathroom and hadn’t been placed in my jewelry box (where it belongs), I questioned Will. Long story short, we came to the conclusion that it had been batted down the sink or into the register vents, lost forever, my heart broken. Today, it has been restored to its proper place. No, not Will’s finger; he’s still employed in a warehouse doing work that would wreak havoc upon fine gold jewelry.
As I think back on the whole wonderful experience, I keep wondering why after two years of praying did I find Will’s wedding ring now? Yes, finding the ring is reward enough, but I also believe we learned the lesson of keeping our lives clutter free. Whether it’s physically, mentally, or spiritually, a clean life really does provide opportunity for extraordinary reward.
May I Take Your Order, Please?
I’m not a big fan of blog posts that are nothing but links, but a few people have requested this of me, and I dare not disappoint my loyal followers. What they wanted to know was which recipes I featured from my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, went together to create the meals. I didn’t write the posts in order, and since my novel has yet to be published, I thought I’d do them this favor.
From Chapter One, I featured fried eggs and potatoes, ham and redeye gravy, buttermilk biscuits with butter and jelly, creamed peas, fried apples, and canned peaches for the breakfast celebrating my protagonist’s birth.
In Chapter Six, the first time Johnny Welles meets his Aunt Prudence, I had his stepmother, Collie, serve fried chicken, black eyed peas, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
The menu for the meal I created for Chapter Seven, when Johnny leaves the farm with his Aunt Prudence, includes cold fried chicken (See recipe above), fresh peaches, apple pie, and lemonade.
The pork chops I served in Chapter Nine went with the buttermilk biscuits, fried eggs, and fried apples from Chapter One. If the food item appeared twice in my novel, I only featured the recipe once.
The brisket from Chapter Twelve, when John and Claude celebrated Hanukkah with their friend, Sam Feldman, was enjoyed with latkes.
John and his girlfriend, Garland, were served roast chicken, buttermilk biscuits (See recipe above), and peach pie by Garland’s father, Hugh Griffin, in Chapter Fifteen. Those buttermilk biscuits were obviously a favorite of mine!
But then I must have liked the latkes, too, because they reappeared in Chapter Twenty Eight when John dined with the Hannah and Reuben Wise and I featured salmon patties topped with carrot slices and horseradish, latkes (See recipe above) with applesauce and sour cream, and homemade grape juice.
The last little meal I have to mention is the brown beans and cornbread served in Chapter Twenty Nine. I assumed most people would figure out they go together, but they’re just too delicious not to mention.
I hope this satisfies the request to group my recipes as they were featured in my novel. I still laugh to myself when I think how I feed my characters as if entertaining good friends. It’s probably because I grew up with parents who can cook and enjoy doing so, and a grandmother whose simple food prepared with love forms some of my best memories.
There are only a handful of chapters that do not include a single mention of food. As for the ones that do, and aren’t included here, I hope you’ll enjoy a trip through the Edible Fiction portion of my blog discovering the recipes.
Sukkah Like a Pro
There’s nothing to make you realize you stink at sukkahs quite like dining in the sukkah of people who have been doing it for years. Imagine the cringe I felt in my heart as I approached the home of our friends, Dan and Valeri Remark, who, you will recall, also put on one prodigious Passover this past printemps. But please don’t think for one minute that we weren’t made to feel extremely welcome or that we didn’t enjoy ourselves.
Still, I have to laugh at myself and the thoughts running through my mind as I walked toward the Remarks’ home. Things like…oh, they have tiki torches lit…how charming…is that wisteria growing over the sukkah frame…please don’t tell me they trained wisteria to grow over the frame…of course they have wisteria growing over the frame—Dan and Valeri are awesome…oh, it’s branches of butterfly bush…yeah, that’s not any less gorgeous.
And don’t get me started on Valeri’s table. In a word: Wow. Each place setting had a different yet perfectly coordinated bowl and plate, there was an eclectic mixture of wine glasses, and candelabras from Don Drumm Studio & Gallery graced the table. For just a touch of whimsy, chili pepper and shotgun shell lights were strung beneath the branches adding to the glow from the candles.
We dined on Dan’s homemade chicken soup. Other guests brought cucumber salad and challah bread . My contribution was a cheeseball and assorted crackers. I’ve provided my recipe below. Dessert was extra special because we celebrated the fourth birthday of Dan and Valeri’s grandson, Roman, with a chocolate cake with whipped icing.
My thoughts regarding our soggy sukkah back home (it’s been a very rainy Sukkot this year) were allayed by stories Dan and Valeri shared with us on their first attempts toward keeping the moedim (appointed times). We may be eating off a card table and a too-small teak table from a patio set, but our hearts and our motives are in the right place. As I said before, there is always room for growth with Adonai.
Pineapple Cheese Ball
1 – 8 oz. bar of cream cheese, softened
1 T sweet onion, finely diced
½ c. crushed pineapple, thoroughly drained
1 t sea salt
2 T green pepper, finely diced
1 c whole pecans
Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast at 400° F for exactly five minutes. Pecans toast quickly, so set an accurate timer. Set aside to cool for later used. Drain the crushed pineapple in a fine mesh sieve or colander with small holes and press out the excess liquid with the back of a large spoon. Place the softened cream cheese, onion, green pepper, drained pineapple, and salt in a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Use a spatula to form into a ball. Coarsely chop the pecans and spread them in a neat pile on a cutting board. Roll the cheese ball in the nuts, gently patting them in when necessary, until the entire cheese ball is covered. A spatula helps with this process. Serve with assorted crackers.
The Artist’s Corner – Taking Pictures With Rosita Larsson, Photographer
Several years ago, a collection of artists pursuing various art forms found themselves in a group message on Twitter complimenting each other’s work and wishing each other a great day. This went on for some time, and out of this a few became particularly close. They followed each other on Facebook and via blogs, and their friendships became closer. Although they’ve never met (their relationships are still bound up in social media), their separation didn’t reduce the fondness they had for each other or the appreciation they expressed toward the individual’s chosen art form.
As one of those artists, I’d like to feature my friend, Rosita Larsson, and her amazing skill as a photographer. Rosita was interested and willing to answer my questions for The Artist’s Corner. The little bit of language barrier between us wasn’t a problem at all. That’s probably because her English is much better than my Swedish! Without further ado, allow me to introduce Rosita Larsson, photographer.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My name is Rosita Larsson. I am a bighearted, international, Swedish autodidact and artist born in 1956. I am the mother for four and grandmother of five. I am a very kind person who expresses what is on her mind. In my soul and heart, I hold the freedom and beauty that is art. Creation has been a driving force and a salvation my whole life and through my own personal illness as well as my career spanning more than thirty years. The best addition to creation is to put a smile on someone’s face, to inspire, and to help out! I have always created in some form and began exhibiting intermittently for over thirty years, both as an individual and in group exhibitions. I’ve exhibited worldwide in places such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Bulgaria, and France.
Do you put yourself into your photography?
I put my soul into my photography just like when I create. And I have the eye as you might say.
What has your experience been?
I see myself as an artist first; one who photographs and does artwork, like painting or drawing. I’ve always created in some form. I worked in a laboratory with perfumes and essences, worked in stock and stores that sold beautiful things and clothes. I have worked with kindergarten children doing arts and crafts. I’ve worked in offices, the latest being the Economy Department. I’ve created brochures, layouts, etc. outside of my regular office work. These are my ‘livelihood projects,’ and as I was the sole provider for my family, I created and participated in exhibitions in my free time. In addition to the above, I’ve worked as a class Ma/PTA worker, a leader for leisure activities, in theater groups, and union work.
Did your work experience lead to the pursuit of photography?
I was always the one who photographed all the conferences, company meetings, my family first and foremost, and quite a lot of people. I seldom photograph people now days except my family, of course. But I held back my passion for photographing abstracts and flowers, etc. It was very expensive with film in addition to the specific camera I wanted.
How did you develop your passion for photography?
From when I was eight years old, I loved to photograph (borrowed my grandmother’s Kodak Instamatic). I got my first camera a couple years later. Since then, photography has been one of my major interests. But things happen, and I had to limit photography to my wonderful family, a flower, or a stone or brick wall now and then. I have always written, created, and primarily painted and drawn, but when the digital camera made its entry, I began more and more to photograph. And guess what I always have with me: my camera.
What or who is your inspiration?
Everything! The experience rich life, and then I have a passion for flowers and architecture. I see motivation and beauty in almost everything which makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. I look upward and see angles to construct photo art. I see subjects everywhere to the extent that it can be difficult which is why I prefer to be alone when I photograph. When I’m with others, I give them the focus, show consideration, and listen, but when I photograph, I give the objects the focus!
What do you enjoy photographing?
Multiple POVs in reflections, in water, mirrors, windows. Wherever I am on earth, I always have a camera with me. It’s like a treasure hunt: which designs, patterns, funny things, or flowers does my eye find today? It doesn’t matter if it’s on a trip abroad or to the local grocery store; the treasure hunt is always there. This applies to all aspecst of my life, too, when I’m in the woods searching for sticks and material to create with, searching for the best recipes or creating my own personal best. At flea markets, secondhand stores, and vintage shops, I’m always looking for treasures.
That’s why my photos can be about almost anything. Some things are my absolute passion such as flowers and stone in all forms (such as walls), water in all forms, and buildings (especially old houses and churches). I get a lot of inspiration for my photographs, and a lot of people get inspired by my photographs. It’s a win/win situation!
My photographs are completely true as you see it. I don’t use Photoshop or other programs, no manipulation, alterations, or processing.
Where can someone find you online? Do you have a website?
You can find me here: Rosita Larrson
or here: Rosita Larsson Art Collections
In which contests have you competed? What awards have you won?
Awards won in Design/Crystal Chandelier/Krebs 2006
Botanical and floral photographs have won awards in Sweden 2012
Photographers Forum/Sigma USA Awarded in 35th Annual 2015
Premio Drops from the World, National Civil War Victims Association
Culture and Peace Education/Honorable Mention
Witness of Peace and Solidarity, Italy, September 2016
Attestato di Meriot Artistico 2012 – 2017, many exhibitions in Italy
Conferisce il titolo di laurea ad honorem, Globalart Galleria, Italy, June 2017
Have you been featured in a magazine or other publication?
The book is in English. I have three works in this anthology along with other poets and artists from several countries. The purchase helps supply filters to purify water in Bangladesh. So far, it’s yielded pure water for three villages.
Right now, I am the Featured Artist of the Month in Sanctuary Magazine on the Internet.
Do you take photos for people? How does a client contact you?
Yes, and I participate and use my art in different charities. It’s a passion! Potential clients may contact me here: email@example.com
What is your process for photographing people?
I rarely photograph people nowadays. I go into photography focused as if in another world. It’s calmer and almost like meditation for me.
How is what you shoot for yourself different from what you take for other people?
It’s painting with the camera, so no difference.
Has your work ever been used for commercial purposes?
Not that I know of!
What’s your favorite photograph that you’ve taken?
Oh, dear—so many favs! I have about 25,000 photos on my computer. Not all of them are favs, of course, but many of them are in different ways because I photograph many different styles and objects, abstracts, macro, still life, nature, etc., etc. Three is a charm, so I’ll take one of my still lifes, one macro, and my latest from this summer, a multiple POV/reflection photo. (View Rosita’s photographers throughout the post.)
The Aurora Borealis/ Northern Lights and the pyramids without the tourists.
What’s your biggest complaint with photography?
I take too many photographs, and I see too much motivation everywhere! Also, I need a meaning with everything, so that’s a paradox.
Would you like to work full-time as a photographer? If so, how do you see your business growing?
No, but as an artist whether it’s with a camera, brush, or pen. I would like to do book illustrations and covers for example.
Do you work alone or with a partner?
Alone, but after I have done my artwork, I like to work on different projects with others.
The Sukkah Experiment
Less than twenty-four hours to Sukkot, and I have no sukkah. What I have is a cabana frame with no way to attach the Chinese silver grass (and no promise the frame will support the weight) and no way to affix the sheets I plan on using as curtains. Oh, I also have a mother who says, “You know I like things elaborate,” and “I just ran out of time to make the curtains.” Funny how we’re back to using the sheets I suggested in the first place and she dismissed as hillbilly.
This is round two of building a sukkah for the Gibson Family. You’ll recall last year’s efforts (Learning Curve) were redneck at best. We’ve come a long way since then, and we’ve learned a few things. Such as sukkahs need four walls and branches still attached to the tree don’t count. Still, we did our best, and I truly believe Adonai was honored by our efforts. This year, I’m thinking He might be grading on a tougher curve, and we’re getting points checked off for lack of preparedness.
You see, I had this all planned out on Monday when Mom and I went to buy the PVC pipe, three-way elbows, and the shower curtain clips. We were on our way to Home Depot and ended up everywhere except Home Depot. I could have had this finished Monday evening and been peacefully admiring my sukkah in anticipation of sundown Wednesday. Instead, I’m anticipating watching my mother weave paracord around the top of the frame (at minus five-foot-short, I have no idea how she’s going to reach the top of the ten-foot-plus, peaked cabana frame) probably while standing on a step ladder (I’m not sure we own one anymore) placed on uneven ground. I’m having flashbacks to Mom and Dad fighting over the set-up of…well, just about everything.
And the grasses still need cut down. With a reciprocating saw. I know we own one of those, but I have absolutely no idea what it looks like or where it is. Dad is supposed to help me with this, but then I wonder who will watch Mom while she’s weaving paracord on a ladder? This is not going well. At least Dad should be sufficiently occupied cutting grasses so as not to pick a fight with Mom. And nobody better pick a fight with me because I have a headache already. Is it too early in the day for a glass of bourbon?
Here’s the kicker: we have until sundown this evening to complete this, except Mom wants to eats dinner in the sukkah as a family. My husband, William, leaves for work at 3:30 PM. So, we have roughly four and a half hours to get this thing ready. I’m thinking we should have completed the sukkah today, enjoyed some coffee, tea, and cake in it, and then tomorrow when husband’s vacation starts, enjoy dinner as a family. Am I the only person who sees this spiraling out of control?
Don’t even get me started on dinner. Mom asked what I planned on making for the first evening. This is code for “I’m buying the cabana frame, so you make dinner.” Not a problem at all. Really. I figured we’d have the sukkah up by Monday evening anyhow, so I’d be free to prepare food. Then she texts me with a picture of the marinara sauce she’s making for dinner. I hadn’t even suggested a menu, and already she nixed it. Again, not a problem. We like marinara over spaghetti, and I have back-up sauce in case our teenager snarls his nose at it.
It’s anyone’s guess how this is going to go off. I know there are a few details we still aren’t going to get right, but like life in general, Adonai gives us time to grow. It’s anyone’s guess whether it’s His voice or mother’s in my head saying, “Have a little faith.”