Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pomander Balls: An Easy To Make Holiday Gift

For generations pomanders were given as a New Year’s gift. When I was young my grandmother and mother made them as Christmas gifts, and I have continued with that tradition, but I have also discovered, whatever time of year you choose to create a pomander, they are easy to make and appropriate gifts for any reason, holiday, or season. So, if you are looking for something to keep the children busy have them make this unique gift.

Original pomanders were cases of gold, silver, ivory or china often encrusted with precious jewels and packed with aromatic herbal mixtures whose scents wafted through openings to permeate the air and ward off disease, as it was originally believed, as well as to mask the foul odors arising from unsanitary living conditions. These cases were hung from a chain around the neck or the waist and many were extraordinarily beautiful. Queen Elizabeth I was reported to have worn a girdle with a pomander, and Cardinal Wolsey is said to have carried a hollowed apple or orange filled with spices on his person. Of course not everyone could afford elaborately decorated cases so many folks had pomanders made out of more common materials, which the wearers hoped would be equally effective in keeping the wearer healthy.

My family has always made pomanders using citrus fruits: oranges, lemons, or limes. For a long lasting, fragrant, and beautiful pomander the fruit should be unblemished, nicely shaped, and fairly thick skinned. You will also need whole cloves, powdered orris root, available on-line or through your local health food store, and cinnamon or allspice, depending on your preference.  Dried or powdered orris root smells like violets and has traditionally been used to lend a pleasant scent to freshly laundered linens and to potpourri; but all these spices are quite fragrant lending the pomander its lovely aromatic quality.

For convenience sake, find a large plate or bowl to empty your whole cloves into. Working with the fruit over the bowl makes the process less messy. You will be working with citrus and will get sticky fingers, so keep some hand wipes nearby. Stud the surface of your chosen fruit evenly and closely with the whole cloves producing a tight “coat of mail” effect over the entire body of the fruit. To prevent your whole cloves from breaking off use a stiff toothpick to first pierce the skin of the fruit, then inset the clove into this pre-punctured hole . Once you start making your pomander it is important to finish the clove embedding process as soon as possible, otherwise the fruit will begin to dry making it difficult to work with.

When the fruit has been completely studded with cloves lay it in a bowl with the pomander spice mixture made up of equal parts orris root and cinnamon or allspice. Each piece of fruit will require about two tablespoons of the spice mixture. Turn the fruit daily in the spice mixture until completely cured. The length of time required to completely cure will depend on the size of the fruit; be patient. The pulp will dry slowly, the juices will seep out mingling with the spices, and the skin will slowly shrink. When the process is completed the pomander will be light, dry, and quite fragrant. A plus to the curing process is as your new holiday gift cures it emits a beautiful, spicy fragrance, a sort of holiday essence for the household.

Tie the completed pomander with a decorative ribbon for hanging in closets or bathrooms, or place in a drawer to keep your linens or delicates smelling sweet. Wherever you decide to use them their fragarence will last for years and can often be recharged simply by placing them back into the spice mixture for several days. What better way to keep the children busy, create lasting memories, and wonderful gifts all at the same time.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, July 31, 2009

I Love Books

When I was very young my paternal grandmother, Grammie Conn, would sit me on the footstool in front of her chair, brush my hair, then for what seemed like hours on end she would recite poems and nursery rhymes to me. A shy child, as I grew I preferred to spend my free time with my nose buried in a book. I loved the way I could get lost in another world when reading, literally transported; books became my own little time machine through which I explored a world much larger and – I believed - more interesting than my own.

My mother was an avid reader herself and did not discourage me from reading, but sometimes I had to bend her rules a little - like hiding under the bedcovers after lights out with a flashlight reading until I fell asleep, when I woke I would continue on and be late getting ready for the school. I would try to read at the dinner table, I read when I was suppose to be doing chores, I would even hide books within my text books at school, pretending I was studying while really I walking through the Amazon, slaying dragons, or falling through a rabbit hole to another world . As my family life became more chaotic and unstable books became my anchor and my escape.

Phantom Tollbooth was published in 1961, the year I was born. I discovered Norton Juster’s novel through the school’s library sale when I was in Fourth or Fifth grade. It was not the first book I had ever read, but it was so different that I remember it to this day. The tale begins with the protagonist, Milo, returning home from school to find an anonymous package containing a miniature tollbooth and a map of Lands Beyond. He puts the tollbooth together, gets the map, drives through the tollbooth in his toy car and finds himself driving on a road in a place called Expectations. Thoroughly enjoying the ride, he pays no attention to the map and gets lost in the Doldrums, a grey place where thinking and laughing are not allowed. However, he is found there and rescued by Tock, a watchdog with the body of an alarm clock, and together they continue their travels.

While Phantom Tollbooth is far from being in the literary fiction category, the writing inspired me. Many literary novels were once simply popular writings that collected admirers and stood the test of time. Writings that begin as popular with the masses are often skewered by critics. Conversely authors declared literary geniuses by modern critics may really prove to be no better than a middle-brow wordsmith.

I read somewhere that literary fiction can be described as well-written with distinctive characters that grow and change, rich dialogue, and interesting story lines, but doesn’t that describe every good tale? Is it not possible that a story categorized as “popular fiction” eventually become recognized as literary fiction if it stands the test of time by exhibiting a well crafted phrasing in a style that is vivid, original, and paints a lasting picture in the reader’s mind?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Which Do You Prefer?

From This:

“Come back to me, come back to me”, you imagine a voice calling while you watch the setting sun.

As the light fades, night comes courting. His siren song is enthralling coaxing you from the comfort and safety of your kitchen, to the soft glow of the dooryard, and onward into the still of the night.

Gunmetal clouds paint the hills in dancing moon shadows; sky and mill pond dress in flannel grays forever reflecting their kinship. Leafy boughs beckon, caress, and enfold you in their warm embrace. Fireflies dance over the swaying grass accompanied by bullfrog’s bassoon, chirping peepers, owl’s throaty woodwind, and coyotes’ chorus.

Dreams pour out of your eyes, your ears, your mouth and float just out of reach on the dark night air. You grasp at their wisps, chasing after them as they flee into the morning. Shimmering like diamonds in the dew, they evaporate in the light.

So you shade your eyes against the brightness of the day. Brush your teeth and wash your face, and dress to go to work and as you’re getting ready to get into the car and drive to the office you think you hear a voice call.

"Come back to me and remember. I’ll wait for you. Do not forget from where you came. Eden is under your feet.”

To This:

The light fades, night comes courting, coaxing you from the comfort and safety of your house to the soft glow of the dooryard, and onward into the night.

Gunmetal clouds paint the hills with moon shadows. The night sky and mill pond dress in flannel greys forever reflecting their kinship. Swaying boughs beckon. Fireflies dance over the grass to a bullfrog's basso profondo and a chorus of peep frogs.

Dreams flow from your eyes, your ears, your mouth and float away on the dark night air. Grasping at their wisps you chase after them as they flee toward morning; like diamonds in the dew they evaporate with the dawn.

So you wake and shade your eyes against the brightness of day. Brush your teeth, wash your face, and dress to go to work. As you open the front door you hear voices in the wind:" "Come back, come back and remember me. Do not forget from where you came. Eden is under your feet."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thank You E.B. White

I consider myself a writer. I’ve been writing for years and I don’t mean just e-mails. I’ve written articles for magazines, journals, and websites, I’ve written press releases and marketing pieces, but I haven’t yet accomplished publishing what I really want to: something considered creative. Although I’ve practiced my imagery, produced great opening lines, established interesting beginnings, I seem to have trouble with getting through the middle and working to a satisfying end, except with poems; children’s poems are really hard to get published, never mind paid for, and a novel…well, I can’t even get through a short story.

I’ve taken courses at numerous colleges, subscribed to magazines, studied authors I admire, and still I can’t seem to come up with even a short story that is complete and I’m satisfied with. Does that mean I’m not a writer? Pondering this fact led to a bout of depression. I needed a jumpstart to kick my creative energies back into gear. I went back to reading as much as possible and listening to NPR, usually surefire methods for stirring my creative juices. I read "Mr. Be Gone" by Clive Barker, "This I Know is True" by Wally Lamb, and "Cottonwood" by Scott Phillips in rapid succession. All really great books, all very different. But still I had no light bulb moments, the quill remained still, no clicking keyboard keys, not one original thought popped into my head for all my efforts.

Daily NPR reports focused around the downward spiral of our economy. One day while listening to the radio, hoping for inspiration, I received a call from my mother. She said one of my siblings was being forced into bankruptcy. I turned off the radio deciding some mindless internet time might be a better way to go for the time being. I learned all about AIG paying out enormous bonuses with tax payers rescue money. It all certainly wasn’t good for my peace of mind. Some people may become creative under duress, I discovered depression wasn’t working as a creative stimulant for me. “Maybe I’m just not trying hard enough”, I thought. Maybe I was “half-assing” it, as my father would say.

In the spirit of not being a half-ass I got serious about my drinking and smoking. “Maybe this will do it”, I thought morosely. After all some of the most famous writers were drunks, drug addicts or suicidal: Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Carson McCullers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edgar Allen Poe to name a few. Unfortunately walking around with stained lips from the wine and a headache from too much smoke was making me feel like a bad clown. Besides, I discovered how messy it can get trying to type while holding a wine glass and a cigarette. I did spend quite a bit of time pondering just how in the hell Hunter Thompson did it. I also spent a goodly amount of time trying to look pouty, sexy, mysterious. I thought I might as well look like a 1940’s Movie Star, I mean image matters, right? If you are trying to be a writer you should look good doing it.

All that really happened was that I couldn’t think straight, I kept getting smoke in my eye and wine stains on my words making everything illegible, and that really wasn’t what I was going for. If I couldn’t make sense of it how would anybody else? Wandering aimlessly around the house waiting for inspiration to knock me in the head I noticed things had gotten kind of disorderly. It dawned on me that all I really needed was to get organized. I thought it was might be like the way I cook, if there are dirty dishes in the sink and the counter is cluttered nothing comes out properly. I end up with Hungarian Goulash when I was going for Beef Bourguignon.

I walked upstairs to my desk and looked at piles of papers, notebooks, and drawing pads. Sticky notes, most of them indecipherable, were stuck on walls, lampshades, empty wine bottles and dirty wine glasses. Pens, pencils, and boxes of books were scattered and stacked everywhere. A damp towel hung over the back of my chair, stray papers covered the floor. Quite frankly it was disgusting. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could be creative amongst such squalor. What in the world had I been thinking? I threw open the windows, took a deep breath and dove in.

It took twice as long to clean up the mess as it had taken to create it. I got so busy cleaning and organizing that I didn’t write a thing. I have to admit that I got a bit annoyed when the family wanted me to cook dinner and do some laundry. They had been tip-toeing around for days. Did they not know how to push the buttons on the microwave? Pull the dial on the washing machine? How is a woman supposed to get anything done? I was beginning to empathize with Sylvia Plath and that scared me. I decided I needed to take a break and sat down to watch some DVDs.

I watched "Sideways", "Bottle Shocked" and "Stranger Than Fiction". Wonder of wonders, my thoughts were stirring, fingers twitching. I uncorked a bottle of Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon, what I felt would be a really inspiring California wine, lit a cigarette, settled down in my uncluttered workspace and began banging on the keyboard. I reminded myself to just let it flow, don’t edit, don’t over analyze, just write and go back to re-work it later. I stuck to it, smoked a few more cigarettes, sipped from the bottle of wine. You’d have thought I’d learned my lesson on the wine/smoke front. I smelled really awful - booze, smoke, sweat from the exertion – but other than that I was feeling pretty good. I was hopeful, encouraged, actually I was damn proud of myself. “It’s gonna be all right”, I thought happily.” A good night’s sleep and I’ll take a look at it again in the morning. Maybe I’ll have something worthwhile.”

I kissed the children on the head, let the dog out for his evening constitutional and headed for the shower. I wanted to be relaxed, reinvigorated, and once more sweet smelling when my man came home. He was usually quite patient with me, but I didn’t want to end up depressed AND alone. I grabbed a book from one of the now neatly ordered shelves and slipped between the sheets. The volume was a compilation of essays by E.B. White, one of my favorite authors.

“The essayist is a self liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest”, wrote E.B. in the forward. “He is a fellow who thoroughly enjoys his work, just as people who take bird walks enjoy theirs. Each new excursion of the essayist, each new “attempt”, differs from the last and takes him into new country. This delights him. Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.”

“Now that kind of sounds like me”, I thought, “except for the man part.” Then I realized I was thinking of myself as “congenially self-centered”, but there you have it, that is basically who I am. I thought about the words I’d just written and I thought about what E.B. had written, then I thought it might just work for me. As my family will attest I’m stubborn as a bull and tenacious as a bear with a honey jar, so I was thinking I probably had the effrontery and stamina part covered. E.B. was saying that I could write about what I see, how it relates to me, what I find interesting. After all it worked for him.

Maybe, just maybe I am a writer after all.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Last Night I Had A Dream...

Last night, in my dreams, I was trying to ride a pure white, double-humped camel. He was covered in a soft, white saddle-blanket and he wasn’t exactly cooperative. I had wanted to ride the beautiful black horse that had stood beside him and was dressed in fine Arabian or Turkish style elaborate, beautiful blankets, leathers, bangles and baubles, but someone else grabbed him and rode off.

I was trying to escape from murderers who were killing people all around where I was hidden. The people who rode in on the black stallion and white camel had fallen under their sword. I scrambled from my hiding spot and headed for the horse who I knew would be swifter, but as I said, another leg swung over the saddle and he was gone. Someone else was with me, but I only knew this from feeling, I did not see my companion. The camel’s halter was too large for him making it difficult to control him, hold him still so we could mount and escape. He moved in circles and I could not mount to sit between the two humps which is where I felt I should be to ride the beast properly. I was frantically looking for lead ropes to tie to either side of the halter that I could use as reins.

I remember finally pulling the halter tight and tying a knot up behind his ears to make it fit properly. Then my invisible companion handed me a rope. The camel was amazingly clean, his whiteness and his brown eyes looking right at me struck me deeply; the image stuck with me for some reason as I frantically wretched his head and neck to one side, so that I could tie on the rope and escape the madness.

Then things became very confused. I believe I had reins and was finally mounted, though I know not how. I was frantically trying to make the camel run away, arms waving, heels kicking, but we moved at a painfully slow pace. Again, I had the sense that I was not alone but never saw who was with me. Then I woke up.

I don’t know if I escaped the danger or if I was brutally murdered as the other unfortunate, unsuspecting people had been. What could this mean?

Monday, March 2, 2009


I yearn for a house in the country,
wild, dancing fields of grass,
full moon darkness of a pine forest at noon,
scent of dampness from the laughing brook's bank.

I yearn for the big dog
silently shadowing, pacing through fields of horses, my children waiting on the other side;
where I can be naked, my hair bathed in starshine,
feet anointed with the morning mist.

I yearn for a home in the depths of the country.
Hush listen:
twittering birds, rutling leaves,
kissing of wind on gentle, smooth skin,
happy in nature's household.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

To Horses

To horses, to horses, to horses,
Of course.
I know the joy of horses,
of course.
Trot through my dreams,
Dance in my eyes,
Over the wall to the other side.
They carry us all, they do not deny;
My horses, my horses, my horses,
Of course.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Winter is a reminder to humankind
what a cold place this world can be.
Without the fertileness of the Earth,
the warmth of the Sun,
we are all but frozen souls
in a barren land.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are your deepest desires, your unspoken wishes merely selfish sentiment ?

What happens when you listen to your heart of hearts? Are your deepest desires, your unspoken wishes merely selfish sentiment, or is fate directing you along the way? The emotion that motivates us, lurking in our subconscious, sometimes controlled, sometimes uncontrollable, often questioned, ever-present: if that desire is followed, whatever the final outcome, was it just a series of emotional choices or could it mean something more?

Call me romantic, call me foolish, I choose to believe that we are all just part of a great big tapestry, individual threads plied, dyed, racked and spindled, intricately woven together, designed by a swell of emotion, a turn of circumstance, a reaction to our surroundings, all for a purpose we cannot understand.

Your thread sometimes intertwines with darkness, sometimes with light, it may become enmeshed in an endless circle of night then further along slide into a moment of blue skies or bump down a rocky road, your thread will run through many different pictures; each thread has its path, each is an integral part of the tapestry, each thread is bound by many others.

Who is in charge of the weaving? That is an age old question.

Does anyone know what the final picture will be? Maybe we can catch glimpses but its entire breadth and scope seems beyond our perception.

Can we change the pattern? Possibly. Great artists are often directed by the color, the feel of their material. We may be able to influence the overall design to some degree; but then there are so many threads, so many desires, ultimately the final creation will be a joining of all the threads into a brilliant design. The individual thread is nothing much, nothing but an essential part of the whole.

My thread has run through the darkness and into light. Thinking of you now being woven next to me has caused this realization. Knowing that to reach you I first had to go somewhere that I didn't want to be gives me great strength and purpose, it enables me to recognize the good and true; for that I am grateful. Now my part of the weave will be tighter, stronger, more supportive.

Our threads have crossed before in a pattern I can't quite discern. I want to believe that was part of the bigger picture; that we were meant to touch and become aware of each other so that the next time we met it would mean something more.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rice in America - A Brief History

Rice is an amazing grain. Throughout history, it has been one of man’s most important foods. Archeological evidence suggests rice has been feeding mankind for more than 5,000 years. The first documented account is found in a decree on rice planting authorized by a Chinese emperor about 2,800 BC, yet little is known about the origins of rice cultivation, although there is no doubt that rice first appeared in East Asia, India, China and Vietnam. Today, this unique grain helps sustain two-thirds of the world’s population. Click on the title to read more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells and Perhaps Some Sad Looking Cucumbers?

Spring is just around the corner and I’m dreaming about the pleasures of digging in the dirt and watching green shoots sprout from the ground. What will I grow for vegetables this year: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and squash? Will sweet corn or pumpkins grow in my garden? Is there a clear path to the ultimate vegetable garden?

A few years ago, when we moved, a plot was tilled up to become my "new garden". Since then I've expanded the fencing, continually added organic material to the soil, built a raised bed for the garlic, tried to learn the pattern of the sun and the shading of the trees to maximize my planting potential, removed buckets of rocks and pebbles, done my best to discourage the weeds, and had good crops and bad, just like my old garden.

My garden is partly shady, has what feels to be miles of leaky hose so I can water every corner, placed on a fairly steep hillside, shaded by several large trees, and has a clay base that is hard as a rock ledge, actually a rock ledge resides under the clay base; in other words, everything my garden is suppose to be for maximum production, mine is not. If I counted up all the ways my garden shouldn't grow I'd just lay down my hoe and cry. I certainly failed at planning the ultimate vegetable garden lay-out, but does that mean my garden can’t be productive? All I know is, whether or not I have bumper crops, my garden always grows something and brings me hours of pleasure.

Here in New England my garden planning starts at the end of the season. The plants have hopefully grown, blossomed, and produced some sort of vegetables. As the days shorten and the temperature drops I plant my
garlic for the next year and put the rest of the garden to bed.

Tools are oiled and stored away, garden gloves and hats are set to rest on closet shelves or in the garage area that serves as my "potting shed". The paths that delineated the tomatoes from the basil, the cucumbers from the squash, the corn from the over-grown weeds, rest under a blanket of whiteness temporarily leveling the planting grounds, and making the fenced in garden area look pristine.

After the busy holiday season has passed and the days begin to lengthen a minute at a time, I continually make mental notes as to what grew well, what faltered, what tasted as good as it looked, and what looked better than it tasted. Then suddenly I realize now is the time to begin to plan again in earnest. How do I know this? Seed catalogs have begun to arrive in the mail. I've been perusing my two favorites: The Natural Gardening Company and Seeds of Change.

The Natural Gardening Company ( is the oldest certified organic nursery in the United States, and Seeds of Change (, also offers 100% certified organic seed. Both can be visited online but to me it is quite not the same as being able to flip through the catalogs.

Because I like to cook as much as I like to garden it is usually herbs and vegetables that I dream about the most. Last season I attempted to grow sweet corn, a dismal failure because of lack of a proper amount of sun, and broccoli rabe, also a failure I believe because of my dense soil, but my tomatoes did well, I'm still pulling from my cache of butternut squash, and the hot Italian peppers were a smashing success, as was the garlic.

So during my lunch break at work, or when dinner is done and the dishes put away, I pick up my seed catalogs and try to decide if I'm going to once again choose the Brandywine for a beefsteak tomato or if I want to try the Big Boy. I read about tomato trusses and lever loops. I worry over what variety of marigolds I'll place in between them to keep away the bugs and I promise myself I'll stake them better so the heavy boughs don't end up on the ground.

I dig for secrets in the description of sweet corn looking for the answer to last year's failed crop. I remind myself to get building that worm farm to be fed with my kitchen scraps, dryer dust, and the ripped up cardboard from toilet paper rolls. Hopefully those red wrigglers will help break up the clay I'm trying to grow on. I wonder if the cucumbers should go next to the squash or should I leave them on the opposite side of the green beans? Do I really want to grow chard or sow some chervil in the herbal area?

The choices are endless; the path to the “ultimate” garden is often unclear and littered with weeds. So what else is there to do but dream our dreams, plant the seeds, and let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.

Monday, February 2, 2009


A Pungent Scent and Distinctive Taste Make for Strong Opinions on This Ancient Bulb.

Read my previous posts to re-familiarize yourself with garlic's history, health benefits, and a primer on how to grow your own.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How We Got To Harbour Island

This trip we flew from JFK International directly to Nassau, Bahamas. After passing a restful evening at the lovely Hilton we woke early to catch the Fast Ferry directly to Briland.

At the ticket window. Since it was just several days before Christmas there were many local folk getting ready to visit Harbour Island, as well as other tourists.

The cost was reasonable, seating comfortable (inside and out), crew amenable, nice little snack bar. The ferry actually lifts up out of the water. It was amazing to know as we came close to some of the islands and the channels could not have been that deep that such a large boat could actually navigate shallow waters.The Fast Ferry that we were on is the farthest away in this photograph.

First stop was Spanish Wells. Here is their harbor.

Spanish Wells is a commercial fishing community located in the north-central Bahamas, considered to be the fishing capital of the Bahamas, with crawfish (spiny lobster) being the main catch.

But as you can see from by the number of people on the docks, the beautiful blue waters, and the ease of access by Ferry or other boats, Spanish Wells is a great place to visit, too.

As the ferry pulled away I took photograhs of the main street.

Saying good-bye to Spanish Wells and looking forward to docking on Harbour Island.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Doorways of Harbour Island.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to vacation for several years now on beautiful Harbour Island, Bahamas. Sometimes called the "Nantucket of the Caribbean" because of the New England style clapboard houses, different from those here in New England, but strangely related through a common history . The world-famous "Three Mile Beach” or "Pink Sand Beach" attracts a very cosmopolitan crowd, as well as being the site of many model shoots. In fact, there was a recent Sport Illustrated Swimsuit Issue shot there. While on the island I took a few photographs of the doorways. When I return in the future, which I will certainly do as soon as humanly possible, I hope to photograph more doorways to share with you.

Harbour Island is set off the north east coast of Eleuthera. Known locally as “Briland”, the island is just over three miles long by a mile wide and was once the capital of the Bahamas.

Just a little history for you to set the mood: In 1648, Captain William Sayles set sail from Bermuda with a following of English Puritans looking to escape religious oppression. They named the beautiful Bahamian island where they landed “Eleuthra”, the Greek word for freedom. In time the settlers split off and moved to some of the other “Outer Islands”, including Harbour Island, in order to protect themselves from the Spanish.

Dunmore Town is the only town on Briland and one of the oldest settlements in the Bahamas. It is a quaint village with lots of old New England architecture and has preserved more of its old colonial-style architecture than any other island in the Bahamas. Many of the pastel colored, wooden buildings date back to the 1800's. The framework of one building on Bay Street, "The Loyalist Cottage", dates back to 1790.

Many of these old colonial houses were built during the area’s prosperous fruit growing era in the latter part of the 19th century. Some of the homes that remain from this time have preserved the old colonial architecture with balconies, picket fences, lattice work and garrets. Many foreign-going ships picking up fruit and depositing it in foreign parts visited Harbour Island. It was out of this prosperity that Dunmore Town was expanded and eventually grew to what it is today. Known for its pink sand beaches, Harbour Island is one of the most sought after vacation destinations because it is so small and intimate. If you want to visit make sure to book well in advance.

If you really want to get in the island mood, mon, click on Goombay Smash, you’ll have a recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit’s June, 2008 issue courtesy of the Pink Sands Resort. Goombay Smash is a fabulous island drink make with tropical juices and a lot of rum. They are dangerously delicious and trust me you don’t want to drink too many. Most of the island restaurants and hotels make the drink on the rocks, but the first time Paul took me to Harbour Island we went to visit a friend of his who made them slushy – think Margaritaville with rum instead of tequila. I’m partial to slushy Margaritas and now slushy Goombay Smashes.

Whether or not you partake of a Goombay Smash I hope you enjoy a few of my Harbour Island Doorways.


You can't really see this doorway, but you get the idea of the pastel colors in the bright Bahamian sun, the rustling palm trees for a hedge, and the picket fence reminicent of New England, or England, as the case may be.

Bahama House Inn: Not exactly their door but I love the blue and pink, plus it's a fabulous place to stay. Neighbors to the Rock House, convienent to the harbor area, some of the rooms have kitchenettes, gorgeous deck, very friendly and inviting atmosphere. Tell John Paul and Beth sent you. And click on the link, my photo does not due the Bahama House justice.

This cute little cottage is just down the street from the Bahama House on the opposite side of the street. That's Paul standing to the right. He's talking to a nice gentleman who was white washing the fence. Paul was particularly interested in this house because it was for sale- and a bit rundown - a number of years ago. He was very happy to see that the new owner had restored it quite lovingly in keeping with the colonial period that the island is known for.

This is the doorway to a home called "Blue Ruin". Many of the homes on the island have names: Bloomin' Luck, True Love, Luna Sea. I know we are on a run of blue here but I'm sure it has something to do with the sky and the clear, blue water, don't you? I love the light fixture to the right with the ball of shells on the top. Above the handle is a dolphin door knocker and the juxtaposition of the tile, stucco and wood is soothingly tropical.

This is one of a number of doorways that feature beautiful wrought iron work. A few more appear below. I love the bright pinks, blues, yellows and greens in the tropical sunlight.

The final doorway for now. We visited over the Christmas holidays and I love the sea shell wreath. I collected a bunch of shells and plan to make one myself so I can always have a little bit of sea and sunshine with me.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Baba Ghanoush and Hummus

Baba ghanoush and Hummus are very popular Middle Eastern dishes. Baba ghanoush is a paste made of roast or grilled eggplant and tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, while the main ingredient in hummus is chick peas.

For Baba Ghanoush, traditionally the eggplant is first roasted in an oven for approximately 45 minutes. The softened flesh is scooped out, squeezed to remove excess water, and is then pureed with the tahini.

There are many variants of both recipes, particularly the seasonings, which often include garlic, lemon juice, ground cumin, salt, mint, and parsley. When either is served on a plate or bowl, it is traditional to drizzle the top with olive oil. As an appetizer and dip Hummus is scooped with flatbread (such as pita) but is also served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or, yes, eggplant. Garnishes include chopped tomato, cucumber, cilantro, parsley, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, ful, olives and pickles.

Outside the Middle East it is sometimes served with tortilla chips or crackers. Both are healthy snacks that can be eaten in a variety of ways, including as a dip with whole wheat bread or crackers, spread on pita, or added to other dishes. Many Vegetarians use baba ghanoush or hummus as a spread on sandwiches.

My friend, Manda, and I made batches of Hummus and Baba Ganoush for the holiday gifts. Even though Christmas and New Year’s have passed by already, these are easy appetizers to make for entertaining at home or bringing along to a party.

The following recipes Manda has been using for years personally, and for the catering she does at private parties. As I mention earlier there are many variations for spices and accompaniments, so take the basic recipe and modify it to your taste buds. 


4 or 5 cloves of garlic

4 cans chick peas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup lemon juice2 tbsp.

tahini (sesame paste)

salt & pepper, to taste

pinch of ground cayenne pepper, to taste

a few drops of virgin olive oil

Mince garlic first in the food processor, then add the remaining ingredients and process well. Add a bit of warm water to achieve desired consistency. Taste and add more cayenne if you'd like it hotter, but remember that the taste will intensify after it is refrigerated.

Baba Ghanoush

4 or 5 cloves of garlic

3 large, firm eggplants

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)

salt & pepper, to taste

a few drops of virgin olive oil

Put eggplants on a foil-covered baking sheet, poke them a few times with a fork (to avoid explosion) and char under the broiler, turning them several times, until skin is black and they collapse.While the eggplants char, mince garlic in food processor.When the eggplants are soft, peel the skin off and scrape the meat into the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and whir up until all is well-combined.

Manda also recommends.....

“Although you'll need to refrigerate both of these spreads to keep them, I find that they are more flavorful slightly warmed. Either one can be popped in the microwave briefly to bring them to a more tasty temperature. If you want to get all fancy-dancy, sprinkle a bit of fresh minced parsley and a touch of cayenne over the top before serving.

And, heck Beth, while I'm at it... I usually make my own pita chips to serve with these. No big deal: soften some butter, split the pitas and spread them with the butter before cutting them into triangles, arrange on a cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt, then toast under the broiler. Serve them warm with the dips.”