The Mural

The mural joined us in the fall of 2006. It was painted in acrylics over the space of a few weeks. The finishing touches emerged, swirling into corners and bleeding occasionally onto the ceiling and spattering, no matter how much I scolded, onto the floor tiles we had chosen deliberately for our oldest child’s room.

He was the firstborn of five offspring and it took us that many attempts at reproduction before it was apparent that none of the little versions of ourselves in any way resembled each other or danced to any drum but their own. He drew his first lizard at two years old, with a crayon, on the back of his granddad’s giant sheet of unwanted street plans; a purple curvy amphibian basking across the black and white, straight and narrow, professionally engineered road map.

During grade school, what began with a proper mother’s encouragement grew into a secret mother’s certainty that her eldest child was a creative genius. It was as quickly quenched when all parties concerned were summoned into the middle school office. No one could understand how a sullen, doodling pre-teen could sit in the back row ignoring the teacher until called out for it; said pre-teen answered the questions correctly, aced the test, and doodled his way back out the door. No one could decide whether this was an academic or an attitude problem.

But my son’s art got better.

In high school, he enrolled in an art class and dropped it again after one week. It took three more semesters before he came to an understanding with the teacher and stayed in the class to play with different mediums. One day I went to pick him up from water polo practice and found the team huddled around a player, intently watching my eldest. He had dared the player to shave his head and in return, my son, using a black sharpie, drew an intricate Maori design on it that completely covered the scalp. With neither a beginning nor an ending, the design was both a prank and a masterpiece.

And my son’s art got better.

Meanwhile, our small home underwent a third and final renovation. The baby was almost ready for kindergarten, and bursting the seams, we added a new garage, den, laundry room, bedroom, and bathroom. While it was under construction, our eldest decided to live in the rafters of the new garage. He laid a plywood floor, moved crates of clothes up to it and wired some lights. He had no use for a ladder. He swung himself up like a gymnast and enjoyed his privacy. In this aerie, his art advanced to include nudes, interlaced fingers, fantasy-scapes, cyclops.

And during the last semesters of high school, he graced his brand new bedroom with a singular mural. It developed like a polaroid, integrating shapes from his night terrors, from our garden, from a place deep in his mind that sparked colors and vivid imagery that he interpreted in paint.

Always spontaneous, always unexpected, his art got better.

After he graduated and moved out, when it was time to repurpose his room, the mural was painted over in comforting soft pale green. A cover that, in hindsight, I think I wanted to caress the mural with, and preserve it along with the painful period of growth it represented. To plant it, perhaps, beneath moss and clover and allow it to become humus – eventually, fertile ground that attracts roots.

I mothered the mural because I could not mother the man-child.

His art is always getting better. No matter the medium, his signature style is stamped into it. He wanders the world, collecting no moss, pushing straight lines into flowing curves and painting them brilliant purple.

Toot-in-Common’s Curse

Many know the legend of the curse that follows those who dare disturb the sarcophagus of Toot-in-Common. Few have dared to approach it. None have dared to open it.

For many years, people circled the area, knowing that foul deeds and fouler air were contained in the bowels of the ancient tomb. What treasures must be locked away in there? What mysteries hidden in the depths of the forbidden zone?

One intrepid archeologist risked her reputation and her life by venturing where no man had gone before. Well. A man or two had obviously gone before her to build the thing. And yes, what they buried involved another man who should have died for the plan to work. Somebody somewhere had to curse the thing.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

There were strange markings in the walls that she couldn’t decipher. Patterns in the tiles plastered above the cavernous entry. Mold grew in the corners in a black spidery gesture that unmistakably beckoned the wary explorer to come closer. She looked carefully for a trap. There was nothing here that could sustain life. The smell was a mixture of damp clay, stale air, and sewer slime. The floor shifted with her weight and creaked. The wind outside moaned in warning. In the dim light, she stepped closer. The sarcophagus was buried here in the dry rot. She could feel it.

Waving to her team of hired thugs, she moved into position. She put on gloves, a mask, and protective eye shields. On her signal, hammers fell against the stone that encased her prize. She reached for ear plugs. Shrapnel flew through the chamber, filling the air with dusty debris. “Stop!” she cried, lifting a fist. “Time to use the chisels.” With detailed precision, the last of the stone was chipped away, revealing the edges and smoothly polished target of her ambition.

“Yes,” she said, running her gloved hand over its alabaster surface. “You’re mine.”

She turned to look behind her. There were three intricately carved storage chests. Taking up a mallet, she smashed through the front panel of the one on the left. “Empty!” she cried in frustration. She broke open the one on the right. There was nothing inside but a cracked cistern, oozing thick, black offal. She backed away quickly, signaling to the minions to cover it up. With one last desperate swing, she cracked open the central box. She moved her boots out of the way just as odd shapes and parcels began spilling at her feet.

“Bag it,” she said. Time to sort her treasures later.

Circling slowly, she knew what she had to do. Others would hear about this as soon as she left. They would follow, curse or no. The credit was hers and hers alone. She would remove her prize and destroy the place behind her. She took photos first. Proof for those who might scoff later. A tease for those who hadn’t been brave enough to go after it themselves. Cowards.

Workers lifted the huge sarcophagus from the bowels of its encasement and gingerly moved it towards the entry as others took up hammers again. “Level it,” she said, and took the first swing. The cavern wall opened immediately, gaping wide as huge chunks fell away on their own. Through the rubble, black slime began crawling from hidden recesses above the ceiling and down into the room. It percolated from the holes in the floor, bubbling up in anger. The alluvium of a thousand years rose to challenge the intruders and surrounded them in stench.

There, in the wall, was the source of the curse. It pulsed with the remains of a thousand human hands, dripping with stripes of brown, green, and yellow stalactites. A sulfurous decaying mass began to slide towards her. It was offended by the carrion birds who had entered with irreverence to pillage and destroy. The curse had been released and she felt the air hum with its static. They stampeded for the exit. “Bleach bombs!” she cried, staggering towards the fresh air.

Hubby was waiting outside. “I almost died in there!” she said.

“I told you so. You had to do it, didn’t you?”

“I still might die. What happens when you breathe all that?”

“Leave it alone, I said. We can hire a professional, I said.”

“A professional is who built that bathroom in the first place. A man who did a lazy job with the plumbing and left it dripping for the last 30 years in the wall.”

“Where did you find my hammers? I hid the hammers.”

“At least I got the tub out in one piece.” Kid #5 stood there and pointed to the dings in it. She tried not to feel defeated.

“I hope you’re happy. The bathroom’s destroyed. Now we have to rip out the mold and it goes in every direction.”

“Yes, I’m happy. The place is like death in there.”

“Please don’t touch the toilet. What did the toilet ever do to you?”

“Toot-in-Common can stay. It’s the only thing that worked right anyway.”

“Thank goodness for small blessings. I’m not good with rivers running through the house.”

“Well,” she said, “at least I can find out what’s been falling behind the cupboards for the last million years.”

Someone’s retainer. Someone else’s diaphragm. An enema. Floss. Meds. Qtips. My sanity.

I might just light the thing on fire and rebuild from scratch. I mean. She might. She’s a crazy archeologist with a torch, you know.

 

Hot Diggity

TMI

Don’t open this. You were warned.

Almondines – A Classic

Good morning my fellow quarantinettes!

I imagine that you’ve cleaned the pantry, weeded the garden, binge-watched your shows and taken the kids on maybe a million walks around the block by now. How about a change of scenery? My girlfriend and blogging-buddy, Mary Knight, offered a peek into her world of food and fancies and agreed to share the following recipe with us! Mary travels the world, making friends, creating recipes, and curating mouth watering photos. She’s interviewed Julia Child herself and that will get a girl inspired, wouldn’t you agree?

Mary’s blog is a cornucopia of glorious photos of recipes and travel. SpoonAndSuitcase.com will take you on a tour of Portugal, Sicily, or Santa Fe without leaving the living room and is a breath of fresh air in a world afraid to inhale. Let’s take some time to relax.

Grab some almond paste from Amazon and clear the kitchen, because we’re going to make Almondines!

While cleaning out an upper cupboard in my closet last week, I discovered a forgotten box. A treasure full of old recipes I had created when I taught cooking classes, as well as letters and postcards I’d sent my parents from La Varenne in Paris, France. It was like opening a present on Christmas day. The “missing pieces” from my life suddenly inspired me to go back to the recipes I’d embraced many years ago. Early in my cooking career, ideas for recipes came like lightning strikes, unexpected but exhilarating, followed by cloud bursts of extended creations. It all seemed so easy. I almost couldn’t get the ideas down fast enough, not to mention implement them.

Here is one of those recipes for Almondines that I’ve adapted. The results impressed me more than I’d expected. The tart is made delectable by the inclusion of almond paste. Rich and tender, the almond filling almost melts on the tongue and the unifying light almond crust is the accent mark. Divine. It’s been a hit with all my taste testers. The best part is you can fill the tarts with the almond creme, sprinkle on the sliced almonds and freeze for an impromptu breakfast or tea time. They only take about 18 minutes to bake or about 25 if frozen. I’m making a batch to freeze for weekend guests and neighbor thank you’s. Enjoy!

Almondines

Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine French
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 18 minutes
Servings 11

Equipment

  • small tart tins
  • food processor (optional)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz butter (this is equal to 1 stick or 100 grams of butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 100 grams
  • 7 oz almond paste or 198 grams
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour or 65 grams
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Pastry Dough)

  • cup flour
  • tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 oz unsalted, cold, cubed, butter (this is equal to 1 stick or 100 grams of butter)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 3 Tbsp ice water
  • ½ cup sliced almonds

Pate Sucree

(This is my favorite from A French Chef Cooks at Home by Jacques Pepin) I added the almond extract. Feel free to use your favorite crust recipe too.

Instructions

  • Combine the flour, salt and sugar.
  • Cut in the butter pieces until size of small peas.
  • Combine the egg yolk, almond extract and water.
  • Drizzle into the flour mixture and combine gently.
  • If the pastry feels too dry, add a bit more water.
  • Knead lightly to form a ball. Pat the ball into a 6” round, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour.

Notes

I use a food processor to make my crusts.

Almondine Filling

Instructions

  • Cream the butter, sugar and almond paste together.
  • Beat in the eggs one by one.
  • Beat until light in color and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes.
  • Slowly add the flour and salt. Stir in almond extract. Mix just until combined.
  • You can refrigerate the filling at this time or use immediately.

Notes

  1. I made this recipe using organic sugar with crystals much larger than the white C&H variety. The crystals melted into the butter and did not whip up into a fluffy mass. The filling was much denser than I like. I prefer using regular white sugar for the filling for a lighter crumb.
  2. I prefer to weigh my ingredients. There is a tiny bit of discrepancy in the measurements when you use Standard vs Metric measuring. This is not enough to alter the recipe.

Create Almondines Like A Rock Star

Instructions

  • Roll the dough out to ⅛”-1/4” thick. Cut into rounds appropriate for your tart tins. I used 4” tart tins and the recipe made 11 tarts. You can also make one large tart using a 9” quiche tin. If the dough seems too sticky, you can pinch off pieces of dough and fit them into the tart molds.
  • Pat the dough into the tins and put in freezer to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • When the pastry crusts are cold, fill with almond mixture and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Pat the almonds down slightly to help them adhere to the filling.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes. They are done when deep brown on top.
  • Brush with strained apricot jam when warm to create a beautiful glaze.

Notes

These can also be frozen after they are baked.

Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Caio for now,

Feeding Spam to My Ferrets

I love my job. I mean LOVE. I snack on words at tea time. I shake them in a bag like dice and see what they form when they roll out. People send me words and I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas to read them. My collection of greeting cards fills more than one box and when I’m down I pull one out at random and feel the love.

Words. The gift that keeps on giving.

But when I want a laugh, a good deep belly laugh, I pull up my spam emails and feed them to my ferrets.

It is my pleasure to communicate with you via this platform. Your positive regards towards this very message will be appreciated, please do not regard this email as one of the common unsolicited email or false business invitation in the world today. I am fully convinced that you will really be of help as a new friend and business partner. I hope my message to you will be given proper attention despite the fact we have not seen or even meet each other before. knowing fully well it takes a minute, an hour or even a day to know somebody and also establish an everlasting relationship with truth and honesty between you and I without cheat, lie or sabotage the business project. My lawyer will prepare a good memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the success of this project in-line with law of your country of origin. I can assure you the success of the business transaction if you can keep it top secret. Humbly indicate your full name, Contact address and contact number while replying my proposal.

Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this post is amazing, nice written and include approximately all significant infos. I would like to see more posts like this.

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It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

Thanks for the tips you discuss through this blog. In addition, several young women who become pregnant don’t even try and get health insurance because they dread they probably would not qualify. Although some states right now require that insurers supply coverage no matter what about the pre-existing conditions.

We are approaching a future of a one-world cashless society in which they will mandate us to have an RFID microchip implanted in our body. This chip will contain all our personal information and we will lose much more of our privacy because of the tracking capabilities. More importantly, did you know that this was all prophesied almost 2000 years ago by a man named Jesus? Don’t believe me? Keep reading…This may be the most important thing you will ever read.

Was it ever. Went on for pages and repeated in several languages. But he could have spared the space and just beeped the info via satellite into my microchip.

Knowing fully well it takes a minute, an hour or even a day to know somebody and also establish an everlasting relationship with truth and honesty, I know I can count on you to stick around when I do a bunch of whining about one thing that I might repair if I weren’t so busy looking for attention.

You’re the best.

And it is my pleasure to communicate with you via this platform.