Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Grey Gardens.

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One of my very favorite blogs is Cote de Texas by Houston designer Joni Webb. Joni has a tremendous following, yet she remains very warm and approachable, frequently leaving me encouraging and personal comments.

The amount of time and research that Joni puts into her posts is staggering. Her most recent entry on Grey Gardens is no exception.

Grey Gardens is a beautiful old home in East Hampton, New York that dates back to 1897. It was the subject of a 1975
documentary when it was occupied by Jackie Kennedy's aunt and cousin who lived quite reclusively and had allowed the home to fall into unimaginable squalor. Grey Gardens is now owned by Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee, and the house and gardens have been beautifully and elegantly restored.

HBO has recently released a film recounting the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter "Little Edie" and their time at Grey Gardens. We don't have HBO, but I may have to subscribe for a month so I can watch this special because Joni has really piqued my interest in the house and its occupants.

Here is a link to Joni's fabulous post: A Pictorial History of Gray Gardens. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A tale of two dances.

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Last night the girls service organization at our high school sponsored a "Buddy Dance" for the high school students in Life Skills and their peer tutors. They thoughtfully invited the Life Skills class from the middle school to attend as well.

Dots and I accompanied Vivian to the dance. The gym was all decorated and they had a disc jockey playing fun music. There were lots of really cute students there (I was so impressed that these kids would give up part of their Friday evening), and the party was already in full swing when we arrived.

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Vivian, however, wanted no part of the Buddy Dance.

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She screamed and threw a fit and didn't even want to go into the building. I finally resorted to picking her up and carrying her in while she sobbed and protested. (I should note that at this point I was ready just to leave since this was supposed to be a fun activity for Vivian and it clearly was anything but that, but I've been told that to grant her wishes when she acts that way rewards that behavior, so we pressed on...)

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Here she is in full-fledged meltdown mode. I'm trying to stop her from kicking me!

Both of Vivian's teachers and one of her aides were there, and they were so helpful in trying to calm her down and engage her.

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Vivian's teacher, her daughter and Dots talk to Vivian

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Vivian, accompanied by both her Life Skills teachers, begins to settle down

Finally Vivian was calm enough to walk over and say "goodbye" to her peer tutors and classmates who were at the dance.

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Vivian loves her teacher's daughter, Emma

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Dots, in the meantime, had a great time dancing, taking pictures for me and playing with Emma

On a happier dance note, tonight Hockey Boy had the Junior/Senior Prom.

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Enlisting his sister's help to wash and vacuum his car

He took a sweet girl who's a friend from his school choir. After a brief motherly review of gentlemanly manners, Hockey Boy left to pick up his date, and then all the kids and parents from his group met at one house to take pictures.

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The parents could have passed for the paparazzi

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Will and his friend Katie - don't they look nice?!

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His prom group

I hope they have a good time, though I don't expect to hear many details about the evening from him (Hockey Boy is a guy of very few words).

It's a pretty safe bet, however, that he will enjoy his dance more than Vivian did hers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My amazing dad.

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I received this email from my dad yesterday:

I was checking out Twitter, because I didn’t understand how it worked. I came across a gymnastics site that was asking for Handstand pictures, so I sent one. I received a reply from Amy van Deusen saying she wanted to feature it on her site. The result http://gymnastics.about.com/ scroll down a bit.

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The article on about.com features the picture of my dad in Peru last December.

Photo of the Week: One of the Highest Handstands in the World
Wednesday April 22, 2009

Above, Jon Parker, 72, does a handstand on the Inca Trail at 13,800 feet.

Parker started gymnastics in 1949, and did all-around (including a rope climb) for Georgia Tech. He sometimes competed on a hardwood or even concrete floor, "which sounds awful," he says, "[but] the skills done were not up to the level of today." Parker took the all-around gold in the Southern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League in 1957, and became the first gymnast to be inducted into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame.

Though Parker retired from competition after college, he continued to work out, and now goes to the Houston Gymnastics Academy. His goal? To do giants, "in spite of somewhat painful shoulders."

Parker has hiked coast to coast across England, the Milford Track in New Zealand, the Grand Canyon, the Teton and Wind River Mountains, and many other trails. He jokes, "Don’t be too hard on the big arch [in my handstand]. My arms will not go straight over my head, and the straight body handstand was not critical in my era."


Note from Eloise: My dad's athletic ability and love for hiking are, sadly, completely missing from my genetic code.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lost my hall pass.

I had a great time in Gatlinburg. Our team won our "knock-out" final on Friday morning, so we were happy to leave on a high note.

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My college roommate Mary drove back down to pick me up Friday, and we spent another lovely afternoon together. On our way back to Knoxville we took the road through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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We stopped for lunch at a wonderful little brasserie and then went by Mary's house for a little while before she took me to the airport. We thoroughly enjoyed our opportunity to be together and visit, and I loved spending a little more time with her children, too, after they got home from school.

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Mary's kids checking out my new iPhone

The only damper on my fun week, however, came early Friday morning. My phone rang as I was getting dressed. I saw it was Robert calling and knew that at home it was time for him to be getting Vivian up and off to school. I greeted him with a cheery "good morning" and could sense his distress when he did not return the greeting. Bless his heart. Vivian's "monthly visitor" had come calling for the very first time that morning. What are the odds that I leave home with Robert in charge for only a few days and this happens?!

Sweet Vivian is doing fine and seems, thankfully, nonplussed by this turn of events. Robert, on the other hand, may never recover, and I certainly don't expect to be allowed to leave home again any time soon!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Greetings from Gatlinburg.

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We are having a great time at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Bridge Tournament in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The Smoky Mountains are beautiful, especially with the dogwoods in bloom, and we've met a lot of nice (and also a few interesting!) people.

Our team of four has played three matches a day with each match lasting about three-and-a-half hours. Tomorrow morning we will compete in the finals of a "knock-out" session and then head home. Wish us luck!

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My roommate from SMU (and one of my favorite people in the entire world!) lives in Knoxville. Mary picked me up at the airport, and we spent the afternoon at her house. I was able to meet her children before she drove me to Gatlinburg. We had such a nice time catching up!

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Gatlinburg is extremely touristy, but the scenery is beautiful

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At dinner with my bridge friends Leslie, Marj and Louise

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Inside the convention center. The room is huge and packed with tables. This shows about a quarter of the space

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Getting ready for a match

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With my bridge partner, Leslie

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Don't laugh...

I am off to Gatlinburg, Tennessee this morning for a bridge tournament. It's the largest regional bridge tournament in the world with over 10,000 tables played during the course of the week. I'm going with three other ladies from Dallas. Robert is holding down the home fires in my absence. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A happy Easter.

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The Easter Bunny has been here!

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Easter nests at my mother-in-law's

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Easter luncheon (I brought Spinach Potato Salad (recipe below) and Coconut Cake)

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At the dinner table: Robert, Will, Charles, Hollis, Patti and Owen

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Patti, Dorothy (Mimi) and Owen

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Vivian makes a brief appearance to enlist her daddyman and his twin brother's help with a picture...

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...before deciding she's had enough of the crowd and retreating upstairs to a quiet room

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Cousins Matt, Annie, Jack, Dots and Hollis are ready for the Easter Egg hunting to begin

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Dots and her cousin Hollis assist with the little kids' egg hunt in the backyard...

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...and then get into the action at the big kids' hunt in the front yard!

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Dots finds the golden egg!

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Cousin Annie watches from the front porch

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After everyone has gone home, Vivian emerges and is thoroughly entertained with a container of beads from her Mimi


Inez's Spinach Potato Salad
from Gourmet May 2006
Serves 8

1½ lb white potatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
½ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup bottled mayonnaise
¼ cup beef consomm√© (from a 10½-oz. can; not beef broth)
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 (10-oz) bunch of spinach, torn into 1-inch pieces (coarse stems discarded)

Cover potatoes with salted cold water by 1 inch in a 4-quart pot and boil until just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 25 minutes. Drain in a colander. When potatoes are just cool enough to handle, peel and cut into ½-inch cubes. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in eggs and onion.

Bring mayonnaise, consomm√©, vinegar and salt just to a boil in a 1- to 1½-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, whisking until smooth.

Pour hot dressing over potatoes while they are still warm and stir to combine, then stir in spinach.

Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

**Can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Stir before serving.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Special guests.

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Our dear friends from Germany are visiting this week.

On Wednesday I took their daughter Hanna up to Dots's school to have lunch with her and see some of Hanna's friends from the time she lived here. It has been three years since Hanna returned to Germany, but her English is still incredibly good and her old friends remembered and greeted her fondly. It was a beautiful day, so the girls sat outside. They enjoyed asking Hanna about the differences between school in Germany and the U.S.

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Can you see the brown speckled eggs in the flower arrangement?

Thursday evening we hosted their family for dinner at our house. We had such a lovely visit and could have talked forever! I always enjoy hearing a European perspective on American politics; even their 13-year-old daughter was quite well-versed on current events and participated in our discussion.

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Robert, Rosie, Will and Sophie

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Jogi and me

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Hanna and Dots

Not pictured: Vivian, who was in her room after attempting to throw a plate at our lovely guests. Luckily I saw it coming and thwarted her plans! What happened to the sweet girl from yesterday's post?!


I was very pleased with how my meal turned out. I served slow-roasted tomatoes, olives and a spread of breads and cheeses for our hors d'oeuvres. Mexican Seafood Cocktail was our first course; it was so delicious that I think I may use it for my main course at my Valentine luncheon next year. For our main course I prepared my foolproof Beef Tenderloin, which is always a hit with adults and children, and accompanied it with Sweet Potato Gratin and Haricots Verts with Feta and Pecans. For dessert I made a Coconut Cake. I will include the recipes at the end of this post.

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Dinner: Sweet Potatoes, Haricots Verts and Beef Tenderloin

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Coconut Cake


Jogi and Rosie invited us to visit them during their annual grape harvest in October. Robert and I think that would be fabulous! I'm not sure that this year is a possibility, but I hope it will work out for us to see them in Germany again one day. We are indeed blessed to have such special friends.

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RECIPES

Scott Peacock's Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
from Gourmet, January 2008

1 T sugar
½ t kosher salt
¼ t black pepper
1 (28-oz.) can Italian plum tomatoes in juice, drained
2 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Lightly butter a small baking dish. Stir together sugar, salt and pepper in small bowl. Place tomatoes in baking dish and sprinkle all over with sugar mixture. Dot tomatoes with butter. Bake at 350° until tomatoes are partially collapsed and deeply caramelized in places, 1 to 2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Mexican Seafood Cocktail
Serves 4 – 6. (as a first course or light main course)

1½ c chilled Clamato Juice
¼ c ketchup
¼ c fresh lime juice
1 t Tabasco
1 t salt
½ c finely chopped yellow onion
¼ c chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, cut into small chunks
⅓ lb. fresh lump crabmeat
⅓ lb. boiled shrimp, shelled, and cut into bite-size pieces

Mix together and spoon into 6- or 8-oz. glasses.


Beef Tenderloin
Serves 8.

Marinate a 3½ lb. whole beef tenderloin for several hours in:
1 c red wine
¼ c salad oil
¼ c soy sauce
¼ c Worcestershire sauce
2 t parsley flakes
2 t black pepper
1 t seasoned salt
1 t sugar
1 clove garlic, minced

Let tenderloin marinate at room temperature for one hour prior to baking.

Preheat oven to 500° F. Place tenderloin on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle to taste with lemon pepper and seasoned salt. Bake at 500° for 15 minutes. Turn off oven but leave tenderloin in the oven for 45 more minutes. Do not open oven door. At the end of 45 minutes remove tenderloin from oven and allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving.

Haricots Verts with Feta and Pecans
Serves 6.

1½ lb. fresh haricots verts (or green beans), trimmed and snapped into 1" pieces
⅔ c olive oil
2 T fresh dill weed, chopped
⅓ c white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 c chopped pecans, lightly toasted
½ c diced red onion
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Blanche green beans in boiling water for 4 minutes. While draining them, run cold water over to stop cooking. Whisk together oil, dill, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and onions. Place beans in serving dish and toss with pecans and feta. Just before serving, pour vinaigrette over top. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Sweet Potato Gratin
Serves 8.

¾ c whipping cream
¾ t salt
¾ t ground white pepper
dash freshly ground nutmeg
1½ lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
1½ lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices
⅓ c snipped fresh chives
½ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Butter baking dish. In a small bowl combine cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cover bottom of pan with a single layer of Russet potatoes, slightly overlapping slices. Drizzle lightly with cream mixture. Cover with a single layer of sweet potatoes, arranged similarly. Drizzle lightly with cream mixture. Sprinkle with chives and Parmesan. Repeat layers, ending with Parmesan. Cover with foil, dull side out. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 30-45 minutes longer, until cheese is browned and potatoes are tender.

Coconut Cake
from my friend Bonnie's Mam-maw

1 c Crisco shortening
2 c sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 c flour
1½ t baking powder
1 t salt
1 c buttermilk
1 T coconut extract
1 3½-oz. can Angel Flake coconut

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk. Stir in extract and coconut. Pour into tube pan that has been greased with shortening (I also line the bottom with parchment paper). Bake at 350° for one hour.

Glaze:
1 c sugar
½ c water
1 t coconut extract

Microwave on high 3 minutes. Punch holes in top of warm cake through to bottom with wooden skewer and pour glaze over top. Allow to cool in pan completely before turning out.

This tastes like coconut cream pie!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pretty girl.

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Vivian's peer tutors fixed her hair and put a little blush on her face at school yesterday. Her sweet teacher emailed me this picture.

Note: Vivian was wearing a really cute shirt with a vintage rabbit on it for her last day of school before Easter; however she insisted on putting her "Peace, Love and Bananas" Curious George shirt on top of it! Choosing my battles... {sigh}

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Stars at night.

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Saturday night one of our neighbors invited ten couples from our block to sit in a box at the Stars hockey game. What a fun night! Lots of good food and good opportunities to visit and laugh. Best of all, when we arrived back home, ten of us retired to one family's back patio and took advantage of a beautiful evening and sat outside, drank margaritas and talked. Good times.

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We had a fabulous view of the game from our box

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The Stars defeated the St. Louis Blues, scoring 16 seconds into overtime to win. It was a great game, with a lot of scoring back and forth

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Capping off a perfect evening