Tuesday, December 9, 2014

~My Limoncello Italian Christmas Party 2014~

With all the craziness in the World...it was time for a break!What better way to celebrate this year's Christmas-themed Party...than getting my "GURLFRIENDS" together for a Limoncello Tasting & yummy Italian foods! 14th year of celebrating Christmas Around the World with Food,Music & Decor with my Friends!

First,here's a little story & knowledge as to why I wanted to theme this year's Christmas as "Limoncello".
A couple year's back at a Birthday Party a friend_Joy_ bought a Limoncello Cheesecake for Dessert. Jilly P. (another friend) & I went ape shitacky crazy because we'd been discussing how we'd love to taste Limoncello unbeknown to Joy. Long story short,after that we had Limoncello on our lips in most conversation...cause we were "PINING TO TASTE" this magical potion & this character was in the News several times for having "Imbibed"a little to much on his David Letterman Late Night Show chat,touting his own Brand....

So,after our Wine Tasting at my Birthday Party_"Under The Tuscan Sun"(2011)...conducted by the Regional Manager from Candoni Wines....
I figured it was time to have a "Limoncello Tasting"! So about that Limoncello...

An Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy,especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples,the Sorrentine Penninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida,Ischia,and Capri.Although there is debate about the exact origin of the drink, it is at least one hundred years old.
Traditionally, it is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento lemons or Sfusato Lemons.Lemon zest, or peels without the pith, is steeped in rectified spirit until the oil is released. The resulting yellow liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying sugar to water ratio and temperature will affect the clarity, viscosity, and flavor. Opaque limoncellos are the result of spontaneous emulsification (otherwise known as the Ouzo Effect) of the sugar syrup and extracted lemon oils.
Limoncello is the second most popular liqueur in Italy and it has recently become popular in other parts of the world.Limoncello has an ethanol content of 28-32% & considered optimal ,it is traditionally served chilled after-dinner,has many variations i.e. Pistachiocello (flavored with pistachio nuts), Meloncello (flavored with cantaloupe), and Fragoncello (flavored with strawberry).And with less alcoholic, (at around 16% vol.) creamier version also exists, known as Crema di Limoncello.

First..we did our Tradition of Toasting with
                      Candoni Prosecco
...in my long handle Toasting Glasses...see below on coffee table_here's a photo I found of 2....

THEN after a bite to eat...Let the Tasting begin_(Tasting Tray with Shot glasses & Limoncello).

And, another friend (Bev)_offered the OTHER drink of Italy she'd pick up on her last trip to Florence,Italy...
Grappa...is an alcoholic beverage, a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin that contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume (70 to 120 US proof)....of which WE ALL SAID..."JUST SAY NO"! 

                           "THE MENU"
For my "Limoncello Christmas Dinner Party" (12-7-14)....Appetizers: Lemon & Fig Tapenade w/Lemon Pepper Crackers, Prosciutto & Fig Crostata, Artichoke Dip,Cornichons,Stuffed Pepperoncini.
Salad: Fresh Mozzarella Celery Salad w/Limoncello Vinegar Dressing and Arugula w/ Warm Broiled Lemons served w/ warm Focacci Bread. 
Main: Crab Cakes w/ Lemon Tarragon Tarter Sauce,Green Bean Gremolate, Spinach Ravioli and Fettuccine w/Shrimp in Limoncello Creme Sauce. 
Desserts: Pandora Lemodora Cake w/ Limoncello Ice Cream,Baba' al liquore di limoni Cake,Cookies(Pantorrone al Lomomcello & Amaretto Limoncello). 

Beverages: Lemon Verbena Tea,Prosecco & Pinot Grigio. "Limoncello Tasting"_Limoncello Panna Liquore & Gioia Luisa Limoncello Liqueur,+Grappa.

Snacks:Limoncello Almond candy and Limoncello Dark Chocolate........It was "A LEMONY WEEKEND HERE AT AARON'S HILLTOP FARM,Texas". 

                    ~Toasting Glasses w/Red handles~


Last but not least...I want to make this clear...Gioia Luisa Sweets Limoncello Rhum "BabĂ " is NOT to be taken lightly(Italian After Dinner Dessert).It is a small yeast  cake saturated in Hard Liquor.
Limoncello in this case_usually Rum. It was part of the Gift Basket I ordered from  www.dolceterra.com 
Great Products,Great Customer Service...Thank-You!

My FAVORITE was the Limoncello Panna(Creme)...OMG!! So good,smooth,rich....WAIT...I need a shot right NOW!

And in the end...it's these GURLFRIENDS pictured_that count the most_and we missed Amy in Washington State  & Shelly in Hill Country,Texas....maybe next time!

My "Partners -in-Crime"....(Bev.came late,not in photo)..
Ginger P.,KB,Val,Joy D.,Pammy P.(me) and Jilly P. Indeed, it was a "Limoncello Christmas" here at Aaron's Hilltop Farm!

                       "SEAL OF APPROVAL"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Summer of 2014 Mind Travels"Part 2 of 3

.And the Mind Travels continue.....

Early 1950's_En Route to meet the infamous 11 year old Sleuth Flavia de Luce at Buckshaw Mansion (the family's country Manor) in Bishop Lacey,England_(now known as Chudleigh National Park,England).Landed at Heathrow Airport (built c.1929)_then on to the Railway Station..

_picked up the 3 T's_Timetable,Ticket & Tea and some PIE,with intentions of  re-reading"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"_
_while glancing at the English Countryside_rustic cottages,ages old,bordered by stone fences and spotted with English gardens along the way and pastures of rolling green ,Manors galore,etc...

..arriving at the Chudleigh Railway Station_read about it's History here: http://www.chudleighhistorygroup.com/teign-valley.html 
                            1950's Train arrival at Chudleigh Railway Station

GUESS who I spotted right away? Pigtails flying,excitement galore_why it was "Flavia" and her crusty old bike she calls "Gladys"!

We got down to business right away.Seems her Father_Colonel Haviland "Jacko" de Luce, a "Philatelist" and former amateur illusionist who spends most of his time poring over his stamp collection_is a suspect in a Murder! 
The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in Britain on 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year and features a profile of the Queen Victoria.

                                                    Common Jack Snipe
Mrs. Mullet, Buckshaw's housekeeper and cook, discovers a dead Jack Snipe bird on the porch with a Penny Black Stamp pierced through its beak. Then, Flavia and Dogger overhear a heated argument between Colonel de Luce and a red-headed stranger who shortly turns up dead in the family cucumber patch...Colonel de Luce is arrested for the crime! Flavia had already began her investigation to save her Father! It's on....

No sooner than we're done with solving that WhoDunnit along comes another. I wanted a tour of Flavia's Chemist Lab in a remote part of Buckshaw Manor_inhabited only by her _no time she says,no time,later! Seems a Puppeteer has gone and got himself HANGED! _

...this is going to be a long,long,long Mind Travel Journey!!! Little did I know there was gonna be four more WhoDunnits!
I'm thinking...is this one going to be a traditional English "Punch And Judy Show?

...Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who'd do such a thing and why?  

Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? There’s a German pilot obsessed with the BrontĂ« sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson’s assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can't solve—without Flavia’s help of course! I think Flavia has  finally gotten in way over her head! 

~The Wood,The Weed,the Wag...it chokes the child~Sir Walter Raleigh (Quoted at beginning of book). Wood (used to make a gallows for hanging), Weed (hemp rope for hanging) and a Wag (a smart-aleck, a wit -- someone who thinks they are very clever and keeps making jests and jokes, which others might not find funny _all grow well when they are apart, but if they are brought together,it means "RUINATION". 

*** Interesting Poem to his son _since Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded at the Gallows with his head presented to his wife_of which she keep in a Velvet Bag until her dead_when his head was buried /united with his body!

Up next...we venture into a "BIG FISHY STORY"!

 Flavia reminded me of a passage written in 1592 by Thomas Lodge & Robert Greene_"A Looking Glasse, for London and Englande"....."a cup of ale without a wench,why,alas,'tis like an egg without salt or a red herring without mustard." 
As we rush pass the Colonel,Dogger and Mrs.Mullet having a spot of tea in the kitchen_Flavia shouts ...No Time,No Time for Tea! I'm like really? She hops on "Gladys" with me following on her sister's Ophelia old bicycle_headed to Bishop's Lacey .The Gypsy woman told Flavia's  fortune earlier_NOW_she had been found bludgeoned to death! Some say it was revenge from her abducting a local child many years ago......BUT then again_The Red Herrings are everywhere_this is gonna take some time sorting it all out....since all signs are misleading!Here we go.....

Done and Done!No sooner than I was enjoying a look-about in Flavia's Chemistry Lab_rather "Poison making Lab"_with all the old fixtures,books,potions,Bunsen burners,etc...where I spotted these cool bookends..
And was about to have a chat over Tea_ which she steeped in a vintage glass pot boiler_
SHE exclaims_ "I am Half-Sick of Shadows"...I sighed_it was time for another adventure_
I'd been there since the Summer_it was Christmastime! I thought we were going to whip up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick coming down the chimney_as Flavia wasn't to sure about his existence! However,there was a distraction_Buckshaw had a film crew in the living room_long before "Downton Abbey" filming at Manor Houses_the Famed actress Phyllis Wyvern was present with cast in tow & all sorts of equipment_amid a raging BLIZZARD outside...then there's a MURDER! 
~But in her web she still delights_To weave the mirror's magic sights, For often thro' the silent nights A funeral, with plumes and lights  And music, came from Camelot: Or when the moon was overhead Came two young lovers lately wed; I am half sick of shadows,' said The Lady of Shalott~....Alfred Tennyson                                                              

                             Merry Christmas! 
& Happy New Year...I'm still at Buckshaw Manor_time for another mystery!

 This is gonna be spooky.Now Flavia maybe accustomed to digging around in Crypts of 500-year old Saint's or otherwise_but not me!The English Hamlet of Bishop Lacey is preparing to open the tomb of its patron saint...there's precious jewels in there! What Flavia's dig finds will halt the proceeding in their tracks_the body of the Church Organist,Mr.Collicutt. 

 The Graveyard Poet_Thomas Parnell _wrote this little ditty in 1721 called "A Night-Piece on Death"...excerpt_

      Now from yon black and fun'ral Yew,
That bathes the Charnel House with Dew,
Methinks I hear a Voice begin;
(Ye Ravens, cease your croaking Din,
Ye tolling Clocks, no Time resound
O'er the long Lake and midnight Ground)
It sends a Peal of hollow Groans,
 Thus, "Speaking From Among the Bones" 
***The "Graveyard Poets", also termed “Churchyard Poets” or "the Boneyard Boys” were a number of pre-Romantic English poets of the 18th century characterised by their gloomy meditations on mortality, 'skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms elicited by the presence of the graveyard. 
 I started to pack my Gladstone_it was time to part from my little friend.On that bright Spring morning of 1951, flowers peeking out,crispness in the air_when Flavia gets the NEWS! Her long lost mother "Harriet" remains will arrive at the railway station.As her family gathered_she gives me a look of sadness and whispers ..."Stay,Please". What's the harm a couple more days with a bright,aspiring Chemist,Amateur Detective, 
  precocious little Hostess with the Most-est....Right? 

As we wait for the train carrying the remains_a tall stranger whispers a cryptic message in Flavia's ear...moments later..he's DEAD!Who was this man ...what did he know? Back home at Buckshaw, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to work fast,finding reels of films stashed away in the attic...she begans to unravel the Secrets of The De Luces' Clan including a visitor in the film...none other than Winston Churchill. BUT...the creme de la creme was the side work in the Chemist Lab....a potion that MIGHT JUST raise her Mother from the DEAD! This is gonna be good..

~The Marble Tombs that rise on high,Whose Dead in vaulted Arches lye...~ Thomas Parnell   

     And in the end..Flavia solves the mystery!

I bid my friend and her family Goodbye! It was an AWESOME 
journey_I learned so much as there was always a favorite book or classical music piece referenced throughout the journey in the book....I have a list now to followup on! 

But the time has come to "Board the Train" and head deeper into the English Countryside around the 1800's! Headed to Kensington,England for a visit with G.K.  Chesterton...all 800 pages....

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Summer of 2014 Mind Travels" Part 1 of 3

Well...."Hello"...missed Y'all_but I was on Mind Travel & it was a wonderful Summer trip_many,many places! I packed my Vintage Gladstone Bag_

...Passport,My 2014 Reading List,Quality Wines & Teas,a snack or two_& "Let The Journey Commence"...

First stop...decided to visit Holden Caulfield  narrating from his psychiatric facility a few months after the events took place. 
I knew I was in trouble...as he babbled on about his long weekend around the late 1940's early 50's _a total of three days_from Pencey's Prep.School in Pennsylvania_then on to his adventures in New York City. Holden's tone varied between disgust,cynicism,bitterness,nostalgic longings, all expressed in a colloquial style of the time. I told myself if he refers to one more thing as G**D*MN...I'm outta here! That was the extent of his vocabulary. Holden's major conflict was his own mind.Part wanted to connect with people on an Adult level (especially to have a sexual encounter)_while the other part rejected adults as phony which made him want to retreat back to own memories of his childhood.So he continues down this road for three days_there's some tender moments & then you just want to say..."Get over yourself Holden"...it could be worst! I decided this was a bad idea to re-visit  Holden which I'd visited in my Freshman year of College(1967). 

PROFOUND THEN....BORING NOW! Much water has crossed under the bridge_but I still don't understand why it was banned.

I eased pass the 25 Psyche Guards dressed in black at Holden's Psyche Cell door_ with a scary look on my face_the Ward Cleaning Lady directed me to the closest EXIT...I got the hell outta Dodge!!! Whew,glad that's over with!So,I re-packed my Gladstone and headed to the Streets of... 

Hooked up with my Brother!Langston Hughes.I knew we were about to get Real...handle some REAL issues of 1934. We lunched at "The Cotton Club"_as they were finally allowing people of color to dine there,they could perform "Jungle Dances" but couldn't eat or drink there. We had a plate of  fried chicken,cornbread,green beans,sweet potatoes,collard greens and drank a couple cocktails_then moved on...barely! Meantime he explained  his new book....
...As a collection of fourteen stories. The title is derived from the story “Berry,” an account of a young black man who works as a handyman in a home for handicapped children. Berry is exploited and does more than his share of work for a pittance. He cannot understand why this happens and remarks, “The ways of white folks, I mean some white folks, is too much for me. I rekon they must be a few good ones, but most of em ain’t good—least wise they don’t treat me good. And Lawd knows, I ain’t never done nothin’ to them, nothin’ a-tall.” 

My favorite was "Cora Unashamed"...Wow! It is a story of  an isolated black woman in a small Middle Western town, who stoically survives her own sorrows but in the end lashes out against the hypocrisy of the whites who employ her. In other words she goes CRAY-CRAY at the funeral in the living room of her "Upstanding White Folks"_ in a community where SECRETS were the norm of the day! Hard to find movie(I Scored) but read the story....I am so laughing still at that scene in the Parlour! 
Overall, the stories comment on the suffering the black community endures at the hands of white society. I thanked Langston for his Hospitality & Insight...told him I was expected Down South in Stamps,Arkansas for a visit with Maya,Bailey, Uncle Willie &Momma (Grandmother Annie Henderson)_she was making her special "Caramel Cake" of her Quilting Bee Fame.

 FYI...the recipe & the story of "THE SLAPPING"starts on page 13-19 in Maya's Cookbook...amazing!

So, I caught the next Greyhound Bus & headed down South! After what seems like days upon days,gazing out of the window at the tallest Pine & Oak Trees ever_I arrived in Stamps,Arkansas. No need for directions because Sister Henderson ran the only African-American General Store in the African American community(for real).Maya,Bailey,Uncle Willie and Sister Henderson were sitting on the front porch waiting..Maya & Bailey in the Swing. Sister Henderson had on one of her freshly washed,starched,sun-dried,and ironed aprons.We went to the backyard _where a Table was adorned with a beautiful "Yo-Yo Quilt Tablecloth." 
                                       Yo-Yo Tablecloth

Couldn't wait for my slice of mouthwatering "Caramel Cake". And the story telling began....

Maya  describes her coming of age as a precocious but insecure black girl in the American South during the 1930s and subsequently in California during the 1940s. That visit ...well it lasted for two days straight (couldn't put the book down)! I loved the Ghost stories, tale of hiding Uncle Willie in the Potato /Onion Bin so the White folks couldn't find a Black man to hang one night,Sister Henderson in Church daring Maya & Bailey to breathe hard_they in return became hysterical with the giggles, how her Daddy rolled his ers/errers when he talked,etc...I vowed to continue Maya's Journey via_

Chronology of autobiographies:

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969): Up to 1944 (age 17)
  • Gather Together in My Name (1974): 1944–48
  • Singin'and Swingin'and Gettin'Merry Like Christmas (1976): 1949–55
  • The Heart of a Woman (1981): 1957–62
  • All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986): 1962–65
  • A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002): 1965–68
  • Mom & Me& Mom (2013): overview   

Watch the full movie on YouTube ...(very hard to find in DVD form):

...it was hard to say Goodbye! BUT...it was time to move on. Move on or maybe Move back?...in TIME that is....to the "Land of Sleepy Hollow".....hehhehehehhe_(in my best Boris Karloff voice).
                 "The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane" (1858) John Quidor

OMG! I've always loved the Hudson River Valley Landscape Painters of the Mid-19th Century. As a Docent for several years at  "The Amon Carter Museum" (Ft.Worth,Texas)_the painting of Thomas Cole & Albert Bierstadt graced the walls & were my favorites! These Artist depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill,Adirondack and the White Mountains.Having lived in the area for awhile...I can confirm it is beautiful!

Time to pack the Gladstone,head back in time to 1790  in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown,NY), in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow.Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. The most infamous in the Hollow is the Headless Horseman said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during"some nameless battle"of the American Revolutionary War and who "rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head."

The story written by American author Washington Irving was a collection of 34 essays and short stories entitled  "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon,Gent". Irving was living abroad in Birmingham,England when "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was first published in 1820. Along with Irving's companion piece "Rip Van Winkle"_ examples of American fiction with enduring popularity. 

I  sat around the table at the Tarry Town Tavern with the good ole Boys....The Storyteller commenced_

_while the fire crackled & the Storm brewed outside.Lighting terrified all of the Listeners as we dug in for a frightful night of images of  a headless Horseman trying to find his HEAD!!!... 

The "Legend" relates the tale of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut who competes with Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. Crane, a Yankee and an outsider, sees marriage to Katrina as a means of procuring Van Tassel's extravagant wealth. Bones, the local hero, vies with Ichabod for Katrina's hand, playing a series of pranks on the jittery schoolmaster, and the fate of Sleepy Hollow's fortune weighs in the balance for some time. The tension between the three is soon brought to a head. On a placid autumn night, the ambitious Crane attends a harvest party at the Van Tassels' homestead. He dances, partakes in the feast, and listens to ghostly legends told by Brom and the locals, but his true aim is to propose to Katrina after the guests leave. His intentions, however, are ill-fated........

The BEST movie adaptation I've seen...BAR....NONE is(I scored on Ebay)_

I continued on my journey with the other "Tales"of Washington Irving_with a slow steady pace,anticipating any quick movements of my Cat "Hank" that would scare the-hell-out-of-me.Mission Accomplished!  

I took a short "Respite" for an over -the -top- "Afternoon Tea". Moments later...re-packed my Gladstone,a couple of coats/shawls and my Vintage Wellies...
Next STOP....the "Buckshaw Mansion in the bucolic environment of England _to visit with 11 year old sleuth_
Flavia de Luce who has a "Passion for Poison".....