Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mare's Meatballs

Last night, I finished my 5th batch of meatballs and sauce for the upcoming retirement party for Gene's Judge (another act of volunteerism by my bleeding heart husband). During our evening of stirring sauce, rolling balls and sipping red vino, Gene informed me there may be more than the original 225 people. My weekends between now and August 22nd are suddenly starting to smell very tomatoey. Then it dawned on me… this is probably how Mrs. Fields started her cookie enterprise! And, I remember seeing a talk show episode not too long ago about some celebrity (escapes me) who started a pie business by selling them in her neighborhood. The phenomena took off from there!

Am I crazy, or do I have a future in meatball making?!! Is it time for Mare Mare to commercialize her until now philanthropic work of meatball cooking? I also wonder if I have made enough meatballs for my friends to qualify in the Guiness Book of World Records. To that end, is there a Nobel Peace Prize for feeding fortunate people thousands of meatballs in a lifetime? 

I've had to track the cost of my meatball making for this event. I have calculated that the huge package of meat from Costco and all the ingredients to make the balls and homemade sauce (including the bottle of wine that goes partly in it, and partly in me) yields 65 balls and comes out to about a buck a ball (of course, these are all premium ingredients). From there, my marketing meatball-making mind started conceptualizing packaging Sketty & Meatball Dinners. You get meatballs for 4 (3 each), a jar of sauce and a pound of pasta. All you have to do is boil the pasta and heat the other stuff. I think Ronzoni would partner with me on this with their pasta, don't you? This is huge! 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cross Country Travel Conundrum

I know it's only been a week or so since my summer trip, but with 25 hours in the car we needed something to do. So, my family began discussing the cross country trip Gene has been dreaming of taking Taryn on before she goes off to college. Next summer is the year. So I pulled out my handy Atlas (as us Yankees are intimately familiar with the eastern seaboard, but west of Ohio and it gets pretty fuzzy). The places Gene started spouting to visit: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, St. Louis. Then Taryn lit into: Four Corners, San Francisco, Los Angeles! There was even a mention of a stop off in San Antonio to see my cousin. Okay folks, remember, this was many hours into the drive home, so my mind started calculating the hours in the car! Eeee gads! The ache in my back sharpened!

What we finally agreed on - we are NOT driving all the way from Florida, especially since my friend in Corpus told me how long and boring the drive from eastern to western Texas really is.We will have to save TX for another trip (sorry Donna and Jenn!). Next thing to consider is Gene and Taryn will have about 3 to 3 and a half weeks. I will have 2 weeks. So, we discussed flying into Denver or Salt Lake and renting a car from there. We don't have to fly into the same place. Next issue, the vehicle. Do we rent a car and stay in hotels/motels or spring for the expensive RV? (flashes of Robin Williams here)

The point of this post… to get your advice. Suggested routes, accommodations, sites worth seeing, sites worth skipping, how much time to spend in each place, should I begin the trip with them or end with them, where to pick up with them, etc. I personally am okay with skipping Chicago and St Louis and spending more time concentrated around CO, AZ, UT, CA. Chicago isn't even a requirement (I was looking for affordable cities to fly into) My hot spots: Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, San Fran and maybe Denver or Salt Lake. Or, perhaps there are some places I haven't considered in my western ignorance. I also don't want to buzz through each place so that I'm in the car all the time, or so I don't get to feel that "connection" that only comes with spending time there. I have a vague thought of them flying into Chicago, heading to St Louis, Kansas City and heading towards Denver. I meet up with them in Denver after a week and we do the western thing. But is 2 weeks enough to see all those spots mentioned? Or do they do Mount Rushmore without me, as its in SD?

I'm putting this out to my blogosphere for feedback. I look forward to your comments!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mama Mia Night

Even though this evening occurred in my hometown, it still qualifies as travel in mind mind because the reason for this gathering was initiated by a previous trip to NYC. In case I haven't mentioned it, it's my favorite city to visit. I posted about my last NYC girls trip back on May 28th, when I was discussing the healing benefits of Girlie Girl travel. During the combo Girls/Business trip (I like to piggy-back), I went to see Mama Mia on Broadway as part of my daughter's 16th birthday weekend. Soooo... when it came out on the big screen - voila! another excuse to go out with the girls. So the ladies of NYC and I made the trek down to the new Coconut Point Mall in Bonita for a little din-din at Ruth's Chris followed by the movie.

Now the Ruth's Chris portion of the evening was a bonus (not your everyday girls night out eating establishment). Turns out I have had these gift cards burning a hole in my wallet for about 6 months now. My dear hubby was not all that impressed the last time we went to Ruth's Chris for the 25 year anniversary of our first date back in January. He felt he could do a better steak (which I can't argue with), and didn't find the prices justified. Of course, his choice for a night out is usually the Ale House for nachos. Therefore, he had no need for these gift cards. I knew my trusted NY travelers on the other hand would put them to good use.

Making good use of our money-saving skills, we brought along a postcard we had received for a free Little Bite appetizer and enjoyed it in the bar with a round of Happy Hour Cabernets. There were five of us, so the two mom and daughter combos order the Summer Special of Dinner for Two for $89. It included a salad each, an entreé each, 2 side dishes and a dessert to share. The fifth wheel (and I say that lovingly because she only has boys, so can't bring any daughters along) ordered an entreé a la carte and we all shared the sides and salads. The choice of petite filet was unanimous, and other than a couple of them leaning heavily from medium rare to rare, they were very good. All in all, a good meal, but still doesn't hold a candle to the steak at Andre's in Naples or Mark Joseph's in NYC. Sorry Ruth.

On to the reason for the post… Mama Mia! "Mama Mia, here I go again, my my, how can I resist you? Mama Mia, does it show again, my my, just how much I've missed you?" Can you hear the tune in your head? Because I can't get it out of mine! And it's true, I can't tell you how much I miss that feeling of watching a musical. In the movie, I had the desire to stand up and belt out the tunes with Meryl and her friends, Christine and Julie. My daughter actually reached out and patted my hands down a couple times when my body lost control of itself and began to wave its arms. She also hushed at me when a couple strained sounds escaped my lip sinking face. Oh the embarassment. I thought Meryl was awesome, truly loved to watch her sing (especially my favorite song, Winner Takes It All). Pierce is piercingly endearing, but sorry to say, not a singer. My opinion of the movie is that you really have to have the experience of the play in order to truly enjoy the movie, because it brings back the excitement of a live performance while you are watching it. Something the movie had that the play didn't - spectacular scenery of Greece. And finally, a question - because I can't remember, was Stellan's character gay in the play? Don't seem to recall that. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back Post - Summer Trip Tik Day #3

Seeing my favorite roommate of all-time (my grandmother) and going to a game during the final season at the old Yankee Stadium... who could ask for a better day?

Tradition has it that I take my Nan to the 84 Diner for lunch every time I visit Fishkill. I have been going to this diner since the days of night club dancing with my cousin Donna, when we would dance until the clubs closed at 4 am, go to the diner for breakfast, go home to shower to be to work on time. That was a loooonnnnng time ago. But the diner is still cookin, with about a million items on the menu and every single one of them oversized and done just right. We had a great time with Nan and my Aunt Ann, and after we ate, hung out at Wingate where my Nan resides. Just hanging out for an hour in a nursing home lobby is pure entertainment in and of itself. Ann is my grandmother's sister-in-law and best friend and visits multiple times per week, so she has the low-down on all the residents... and might I say, the patience of a saint. The big event that day - an ice cream social with music by Tito in the big dining room. And, the conversion went like this, "What's going on in there?" My aunt, "An ice cream social." "What time?" "2:30pm". Same resident, "Do you know what's going on in there?" My aunt, "Yes, an ice cream social" "What Time?" "2:30pm" Again, "What are they doing in there?" My aunt, "Getting ready for an ice cream social." "Oh, what time?" "2:30" and so on and so on. My dear aunt just smiled and answered the same question (to the same people) about every 5  minutes. God Bless her. I was reminded of 10 second Tom in the movie 50 First Dates. My grandmother just mumbled under her breath about the other residents (okay maybe not so under her breathe) until my aunt would gently hit her leg and tell her to hush. They were so cute together I couldn't stand it. I won't even mention how hard it was to leave her at the end of our visit. Brutal.

But the Yankees were waiting for me. My first and last time at the old stadium (yes, I'm a New Yorker who has never been to a Yankee game). A big beer for me, my sister-in-law Lynne, and niece Angela and we were ready to hit the nose-bleed section. Really it wasn't bad. Being there, getting a hot dog from a vendor passing by, and watching A-Rod hit a homer. What else could you ask for? Okay, maybe if they won it could have been a tad bit better. But it doesn't matter, Yankee fans are not fair weather friends. Another highlight, when the wave made it ALL the way around the stadium and back.

Back Post - Summer Trip Tik Day #4

Admittedly, I did not keep up on my daily trip tik posts, especially during the transition from Nueva York to Wicked Good Maine. On Day #4, we said good-bye to the familia in Dutchess County and headed for a stop off in Connecticut. On the way, I got to see some of my oldest and dearest friends. Dragging her out of summertime bliss in bed, childhood friend Dawn R and I coerced fellow school chum Mella A into coffee at Dunkin's at 8:30am before Dawn went to work. We even had an unexpected run in with Mella's parents, who I haven't seen since I was a kid.

After breakfast, we got on our way to Connecticut via Poughkeepsie to see Gene's childhood friend Nick, his daughter Shea and his new infant girl, Jamie (we missed you Francine!). As usual, even with his hands full with a 6 year old, 2 nieces, an infant and recovering from a recent surgery, Nick made us an incredible creamy penne pasta dish with chicken and bacon. I love that man! The next door neighbor came over to fix the roof, and it turned out to be a middle school friend of mine, Fran Addeo. Six degrees.

After lunch, Jane (the ignorant slut of a GPS unit) led us the scenic route to northern Connecticut. We passed through the sprawling farmlands of Amenia NY and into the rolling roads of CT. Destination North Granby, a suburban leaning towards rural town, where my longest (not oldest) friend Christine Peaslee and her hubby Jeff Somers (pronounced with a short u, not long o) reside. We played wiffle ball, hung with the kids Haley and Con-man, and drank wine and filled up on Chris' chili and cornbread to the point of not caring about grilling the steaks. I love visiting with them, we usually end up laughing till we cry. Balderdash did not let us down in that category. I only know one human whose fake definitions are more recognizable than Gene's, and that is Christine's son Connor, who connected everything to a bodily function.

My next missing post - Day #3, with my beloved Nanny and my beloved Yankees. What a day!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

5 out of 6 Bravo's for Primo

Thursday, July 10th was the much anticipated dinner at Primo in Rockland, Maine, the 100 year old house turned restaurant belonging to chef Melissa Kelly and her husband. We all dressed for the occasion, and Miss Hannah and I took turns snapping photos of the other’s family before entering. We requested the second floor, as recommended to us by Max, the lovely artist and owner of the cutest greenhouse and gift shop in Owl’s Head, The Golden Owl. Max told us she had become friendly with the Primo owners and found the upper floor to be her favorite.

It didn’t take long for us to make friends with the ladies group dining in the partitioned center room, separated by strand of silk cords. The lively ladies had driven over an hour from near Augusta to dine here. After introductions, both Anne Marie and I were invited to join the group, as the only requirement (other than a love for monthly culinary events) was that your name had to begin with “Mar…” or you had to be a redhead. The only exception was Elizabeth, grandfathered in because she formed the group. Of course, Dan and Gene tried to rename themselves Marty and Marcel.

Our table was a bit tightly fitted into one of the would be ex-bedrooms I would guess and our waiter was a bit aloof at first. A round of perfectly poured pomegranate cosmos warmed us up to the young Ben. Hannah, age 11, had the toughest meal decision, as the menu was clearly adult-intended, including items such as Duck and Wild Boar. I started with a bread and fish soup, a spicy red chowder that was deliciously tangy. My daughter Taryn enjoyed her Farmer’s Salad, with pig’s jaw bacon (they raised), a soft boiled egg, olive oil croutons and a lemon parmesan vinaigrette. Hubby Gene (and Anne Marie) were both quite pleased with their choice of Foie Gras, which I cannot speak toward, as I am not a fan of any sort of liver.

My dinner choice was the New York Strip (my favorite cut to order while dining out). It had an organic vegetable medley with a potato-mushroom hash. The sauce was so yummy not one morsel met my mouth without being dragged across the plate. Taryn had homemade raviolini with sheep ricotta cheese, covered with chicken, peas and carrots in a tomato sauteé with bacon. Gene said the veal saltibocca over mashed potatoes and spinach with a brown gravy was the best he’s ever had. After a couple of glasses of wine recommended by Ben (and enjoyed), we ordered coffee and Scotch around the table while desserts were being made. Taryn chose a Belgian chocolate cake paired with a cookie crisp topped with a scoop of cherry gelato, surrounded by cherries and a thick sauce on the plate. To die for. Sans the cherry accompaniment, it reminded me of my favorite chocolate lava cake at Roy’s Restaurant.

On the other end of the table, Dan did a seafood night, with oysters followed by a scallop dish. Hannah had a salad for her meal, along with a few bites of my steak (which she usually doesn’t like). At that point in the meal, we had a solid 5 out of 6 Bravo’s for Primo. Unfortunately, Anne Marie wasn’t as pleased with her meal, which was a lasagna-style pasta dish with veal, beef and lamb. It wasn’t fabulous, she explained, and we certainly all expected fabulous. I do believe that in the hopes of visiting Primo again, Ms. Kelly would surely make this up to us, because from what I've read about her, she wouldn't want any one of us to not get fabulous. Of course, that did not prevent the ever charming and classy A.M. to enjoy the evening, or our company. And, it gave us the opportunity to pick on her in the car, and donne her the “anti-preemite” (sorry for the cheesy Seinfeld reference – but it doesn’t take much to amuse this crowd).

Our evening culminated with a playful walk down the beach, led by moi in the dorky yet highly useful headlight (I’m getting one!). The girls searched for sea glass, the dogs ran a bit and we all noticed the spectacular show of thousands of bright sparkling stars in the sky. Little did we know, it would be our last night in Owl’s Head, as an unfortunate and very sad passing of a friend of Anne Marie’s prompted a day-early departure from the cottage. I can only assume that we saw Anne's friend in the sky that night, another angel watching over us.

Reading Takes You Away

I may have been on vacation in Maine, but through the transporting pages of four novels, I’ve also recently traveled to Newport, Manhattan, Philadelphia, Paris and Spain. In the first book of my trip, Sail, James Patterson takes me to Rhode Island with the Dunne family for a treacherous two-month sail that tests by ability to survive on a deserted island and reaffirms my love for my family. In Sundays at Tiffany’s, the same author takes me along an imaginary ride through the life of a Manhattan playwright, Jane, who I watch as she finds true love and happiness after decades of fantasy, self doubt and loneliness. Next, in Lovely Bones, I spend over a dozen years in a familiar 70’s suburb (similar to my Dutchess County NY childhood) looking down from heaven with Susie as her family overcomes her devastating murder and learns to create a new life without her. In the last “trip” of my trip, I eat, drink, eat, drink, and drink some more, with Jack Barnes and his flamboyant writer friends in post-war Paris and Spain, thanks to the spare yet powerful writing style of Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises. I wonder, where will I go next?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Salvaged Photos from Monroe Island

I was able to retrieve the photos off the memory card from the unforgettable kayak trip described in "Summer Trip Tik Day #12". Unfortunately I can't say the same for the camera.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Trip Tik Day #12

This is the day I captured the most incredible Maine photos yet. The tragedy – “we” dropped the camera into a puddle of seaweed. Hopefully I can share the imagery in my mind in this post. Gene had found an island the previous day that he wanted to take Taryn and I to. The Danglers went for a family bike ride, so the 3 of us took a 2 person and a single kayak out and headed in the direction of the incoming tide toward a distant island just southeast of the Owl’s Head peninsula (called Monroe Island). Once we passed the dozen or so coastal homes on our right, we turned a corner to see a lone house on the tip that is for sale for $1.5 million. The house sits back from the water about 300 yards on a slight incline, with a sprawling lawn, a border of rocks and a rare sandy beach. The wrap around porch left me day dreaming of adirondack chairs and novels.

To the left and further than I first estimated, the uninhabitated island that was our destination. Scattered about in the deep greenish-blue water, brightly colored lobster buoys. Lemon yellow and magenta, lime green with a purple stripe, classic red and white, sky blue, baby pink. They bobbed and weaved like lonely souls above the choppy water. Gene and Taryn were far ahead, as I was capturing shots I could use later for paintings. The island seemed farther than the mile I swim at home, and the current was giving me and my rocking kayak a workout. At one point, I got a bit spooked, feeling very alone in this huge ocean. The book I read on the trip, Sail by James Patterson, about a stranded family on a boat probably didn’t help the cause.

We first anchored on a shelly beach to rest, planning to go around the island to the right opposite the dream house. The current and wind were so strong, we opted to go left – as Gene promised the other side to be the most beautiful. We paddled along the edge of the island, and weaved in and out of huge rocks arising out of the water. The wooded island had huge, untouched rocks with pine trees older than me showing deep roots where the soil was washed away by the tide. I missed the deer they spotted.

As we rounded the furthest corner, the ringing of a large green bell floating just off in the water rang to warn boaters of rocks. We approached an inlet of the most humungous rocks covered by seagulls, who simultaneously flew away as we made shore. Many of the rocks were covered with layers and layers of live seaweed. We ambitiously made our way onto the high boulders, navigating over extrememly slippery tubes of wet seaweed. The wind, the crashing waves, the light mist of fog, the hovering seagulls and the rhythmically ringing bell were a breathtaking canvas to the bright red and yellow kayaks sitting patiently below us on the shore.

It wasn’t until the treacherous climb down that the moment was slightly interrupted by the falling of a new camera into the seaweed infested water. Better it than us we decided, and the daring crusaders returned home with the wind to our backs for a more peaceful crawl back to the cottage. Worth the camera in my opinion.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Boothbay Harbor Photos

Just a few of my favorite shots from the Argo as we passed through Boothbay Harbour, Maine, on Day 10.

Summer Trip Tik Day #11

While the gang went kayaking, the kid and I headed out for a mommy-daughter day. By the time we got to Camden, we were ready for lunch. Even after the clambake yesterday, I was not finished with my seafood fest. I chose a cup of chowda and a lobsta roll at the harborside restaurant, Waterfront. Taryn had a cup too, but chose the mussels appetizer for her meal, which yielded so many mussels we took a couple dozen home for evening appetizers. The food was delicious and the service friendly. We browsed the few remaining shops we missed the other day and I bought Taryn a dress.

Afterwards, we decided to take the 30 minute drive to Belfast. We passed numerous antique shops and motor inns by the sea and cruised through the small towns of Lincolnville, Northport and Duck Head. Once in Belfast, we were a little surprised at the town. I don’t know exactly how to describe it – with its somewhat run down brick buildings, shipyard, and eclectic artist studios combined with some giftshops and dining establishments. It may have been the 98 degree day that made it less than appealing to me – not sure.

The cure - a deluxe pedicure at the salon we found along the ride back into Rockland. Noone ever said traveling didn’t have its ups and downs! Tonight, dinner was simple but satisfying. Grilled chicken, summer squash, zucchini, and mushrooms with roasted red potatoes, the mussels from lunch and my famous artichoke dip.