an early thanksgiving…

(Written yesterday…)

I’m celebrating a couple of days before everyone else, as my daughter makes her way home from Pittsburgh, and before that Houston.

Hubby and I finished off decorating her bedroom after having it recently remodeled…stripped the 70s “popcorn” from the ceiling…replaced that yucky white-turned-dirty-beige carpet

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…relocated  the closet across the room, and enlarged it. Before, the side of it greeted you as you entered the room. It was difficult getting large furniture in and out.

Now I’m in the kitchen cooking up a pot of stew. Portuguese bean soup to be exact. 

My daughter’s looking forward to returning to hearth and home after a couple of months of…eating on the run in Houston…and bunking on an air mattress in Pittsburgh. Mind you, she loved it since she got to do what she loves best…dance!

However, my daughter’s no shrinking violet when it comes to mom’s good-old-fashioned, home cooked meals. She gobbles them right up. (Holiday pun.)

The other thing she’ll be doing is catching up on some much needed shut-eye. Rehearsing and performing for shows, not to mention the daily dance classes to warm up, are wearing on the body. 

Eat. Sleep. Watch old movies on TV with mom. And play Bananagrams with her old fogey parents, will fill my daughter’s calendar…at least for a few days. After that, back to exercise and keeping in tip top shape in order to dance.IMG_4296

And who knows where the wind will blow her next. My daughter plans to audition for contemporary dance companies here and abroad. 

So as long as we’re blest to have her in our midst, her dad and I will make the most of the time we have with the daughter who is…

…our sunshine…and our moon...

………hugmamma.IMG_5171

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP…yummy in your tummy! (ham hocks, short ribs, smoked sausage, kidney beans, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, watercress, onions, and papaya)

weekly photo challenge: hot

When this was done it was still toooo hot to eat………………….         

…but sooooo delicious when it cooled down…………………………………

You might want to save the following recipe for a wintry day. I don’t think there’ll be too many takers in the sweltering temps that had the south, and now the midwest, in a stranglehold. But the seasons change in the blink of an eye, so keep it handy. 

Click on Portuguese Bean Soup, recipe and enjoy a hearty, flavorful meal with your favorite bread. And when you dine, imagine that you’re in Hawaii, where I learned to make it as a young bride, or Seattle, where I’m still making it after 41 years of wedded bliss.

from our home to yours…with hugs……………..hugmamma.

an “international destination,” crossroads mall

Saw friends Sylvia and Jim at Crossroads Mall last night, a favorite hang-out for ethnicities of all creeds and colors. Weekend entertainment draws crowds. A Big Bands group brought back reminiscences of bygone days, not only for our friends, but for many other retirees sitting on metal, folding chairs. They seemed to be smiling, as though deep in thought and a million miles away.

Over the years, the mall has evolved into a true “melting pot” of cultures, including dialects, and products. The food court says it all. There are counters serving up Greek, Italian, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, BBQ, American, Mexican, and Russian. My choices when dining there are the won ton soup at the Vietnamese stand, the spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and Mediterranean chop salad at the Italian stand, and the bento box with teriyaki salmon and tempura at the Japanese stand. There are other outstanding dishes, but these are my favorites. I’ve gotten my friend Cindy hooked on the won ton soup. We both love the broth, especially on a cold, rainy day, which is most days, here in the Pacific Northwest.

The stores I frequent are Half-Price Books, where I can buy out-of-print books, and Silver  Platters, which has a great inventory of old movies. The mall welcomed a new restaurant recently, Crossroads Bar and Grill. The food is delicious and the service is quite good. When sharing meals, the wait staff will halve the portions, plating them up in  the kitchen before bringing them out. I’ve shared the Western burger and Mediterranean salad with my daughter on one occasion, and friend Sylvia, on another. Both times the extra service of splitting dishes beforehand made a huge impression. I’ve never experienced this anywhere, especially in view of the fact that the waiters seem only too happy to accommodate. It’s so much better than dealing with the mess, when attempting to split the dishes ourselves.

Anchoring Crossroads Mall are large stores like Sports Authority, Barnes and Noble, PetcoQFC Supermarket, Pier OneBed, Bath and Beyond, and Old Navy. Of course there’s a Starbucks, not a surprise since it’s headquartered here in Seattle. Rounding out the shopping options are Hallmark’s, Party Center, JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s crafts. A variety of smaller stores fill in the mall’s nooks and crannies.

Bordering the mall’s perimeter is a very special gift shop, Common Folk. It sports a vintage feel, selling both antiques and reproductions. The owner, Kathryn, artfully melds both for a seamless blend of shabby chic, industrial, and pretty, pretty princess! More shops should follow suit. Next door is New York Cupcakes which sells  “fantasy,” and “sin” in  paper cups. And they’re worth the calories, any time of day. I know, I’ve sinned! When I do, I bask in the immorality of a red velvet, or strawberry cream, or key lime pie cupcake. Yummy! Yummy! They’re irresistible. Good thing the store was closed when we left the mall. I’ll have to make a special trip soon. By the way, I tried cupcakes from QFC’s bakery recently and couldn’t eat more than a few bites. More often than not, I’ve been disappointed by desserts that look like they’re “to die for,” only to find out that, in fact, appearances are not always what they seem. Funny, I’ve not learned that lesson yet. I continue to make the same mistake.

Across the parking lot on the other side of the mall is Crossroads Theatre, where the seats are huge, soft, comfy, and they rock, literally. If the show is boring, the seat will help lull you to sleep. Just don’t snore, and remember to wake up when everyone’s leaving. 

Crossroads Mall offers comfort food for one’s physical being, as well as one’s inner spirit.

 

i smile every time i walk through the doors…hugmamma.

peanut butter and co., “small town” and out-of-this-world!

On a lighter note, much lighter to be sure, “Are you happy with your brand of peanut butter?” Yes, you heard me right. Many, many things catch, and hold, my attention. The Wall Street Journal and its treasure trove of meaty reading is but one. Food, as you’ve already surmised is another. Of course not being the young chickadee of yesteryear, I’m not so gluttonous anymore, by choice, but not by choice. So of late, I’ve satisfied my sweet tooth with a slice or two of fibrous bread, and “to-die-for” peanut butter. Strange how the older we get, we seem to revert back to childhood habits, childhood passions. Again, I’m not sure if it’s our decision, or Mother Nature’s. In my case, it’s a little bit of both. I like peanuts, a lot, so I like peanut butter, by default. But if it weren’t for my “plumbing” concern, I would probably be gorging on chocolate covered nuts, salty potato chips, and peppermint ice cream leftover from the holidays! Oh, and I’d throw in some white rice and teriyaki chicken for good measure! But already down 6 pounds, give or take depending upon the time of day, I’m more than fine with the new “object of my desire.”

“All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO. No-Stir Natural” peanut butter is the “cat’s meow.” My felines would say so, if they ate peanut butter. There are no trans fats, no cholesterol, and no high fructose corn syrup. Two tablespoons equals 180 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar. With a concern for high cholesterol, I have to watch my intake of saturated fat, so I try to ingest the least possible amount I can, and at 2.5 grams, I opt to “pig out” on one serving, sometimes less, of this heavenly peanut butter. These stats are for CRUNCH TIME; they vary with the other flavors, but not by much. 

I’ve sampled 4 distinct flavors, there are others:

  • CRUNCH TIME – natural peanut butter with great big pieces of chopped peanuts (was my all-time favorite, but has temporarily taken a back seat)
  • WHITE CHOCOLATE WONDERFUL – peanut butter blended with sweet white chocolate (now one of my favorites)
  • DARK CHOCOLATE DREAMS – peanut butter blended with rich dark chocolate (tied for current favorite)
  • CINNAMON RAISIN SWIRL – peanut butter blended with cinnamon and raisins (least favorite, too healthy, still better than other brands)

Besides its best selling feature, the fact that it tastes fantastic, “All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO.” is a small town product, just like me. Of course, I’m really small town, having been raised in Maui in the 50s and 60s. By contrast, this peanut butter hails from The Big Apple, where it was “born” in 1998. My daughter, sister-in-law, niece and I visited its charming digs in NYC’s small, but famous, Greenwich Village, quite a few years ago. We might’ve even been witness to its humble beginnings, now that I think about it.

Having wend our way through Little Italy and Chinatown, where we lunched on so-so food, my niece expressed a fervent wish to find a shop she’d read about. Until then, I’d not known Jennifer was such a huge fan of peanut butter. A taxi ride later, we found ourselves in front of a quaint-looking shop which only sold peanut butter related items. There was a menu board listing sandwiches of every imagineable combination. I seem to remember that there was one in honor of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. It probably included bananas and bacon. My niece might have bought a sandwich “for later.” I know I was too overwhelmed by the whole peanut butter thing, to take it too seriously. Until now, that is.

Who would’ve thought I’d find jars of a Greenwich Village, specialty peanut butter sitting on the shelf at my local grocer’s? Needless to say I tried it, and it’s been our family’s choice ever since. I hesitate to say that I found about 10 jars of it in my cabinet just now. Several were hidden in a corner, so I thought we had none and decided to stock up. With threat of snow days, peanut butter is a nutritious, tasty food to have at hand. It’s a comfort food, I can still turn to…for comfort.

Other brands cost a few dollars, add another couple for “All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO. No-Stir Natural.” It’s well worth the price, in terms of taste, and your family’s health. In the current economy small companies are struggling to survive. I’m hoping my favorite peanut butter weathers the storm, making it through to sunny days that lie ahead. I’m doing my bit, after all 10 jars for 2 people is a bit much. But they’ll keep. And if it disappears from my grocer’s shelf, I can try ordering my favorite peanut butter online at www.ilovepeanutbutter.com or call 1-866-ILOVEPB. 

If you can’t find “All Natural PEANUT BUTTER & CO No-Stir Natural” where you are, and decide to order online or by phone, tell LEE ZALBEN, THE PEANUT BUTTER GUY, hugmamma sent you. Their website includes youtube videos which you can view, one produced by a travel channel. Your mouth will water just watching shop visitors sink their teeth into thick, flavorful, pb&j sandwiches!!!

gotta have my pb on fibreous toast, now and then…hugmamma.

an uplifting “destination”

I’m certain we all have somewhere that lifts our spirits, whether it’s a physical location, or one that exists within our minds, hearts, or souls. Ever since moving to the Pacific Northwest, my “destination” has always been Molbak’s. When I enter its doors into what is a wonderland of sights and smells, a smile spreads across my lips, and seemingly finds its way down to the very tips of my toes.

Molbak’s is a large nursery where plants, shrubs and trees, notable for their beautiful blooms or lovely foliage, share an equally sizeable, neighboring space with items, including gifts, for the home and garden. Nestled in a cozy corner is a cafe that serves up the most delicious sandwiches, soups, salads and cookies.  Homemade, everything is as delicious as it looks and smells, the tomato basil soup, the smoked turkey with provolone and cranberry-avocado dressing on focaccia, and the caesar with grilled salmon salad, among other yummy menu items. As I sit awaiting the delivery of my order, I always sample dessert, my scrumptious peanut butter cookie. Never as great as my mom’s, it’ll do in a pinch. I savor every morsel. Usually downing it with a glass of water, I sometimes treat myself to a latte, or an Italian raspberry soda blended with cream. Sinful, but oh, so divine.

Overhead sprawls a canopy of limbs from a huge tree growing in the center of the dining area. The branches press up against the nursery’s ceiling. Growing plants and a fountain flank the base of the tree, creating a small, lush forest with “bird of paradise,” anthuriums, and torch gingers, peeking from beneath green fronds, here and there. More plants line the periphery of the cafe, creating a comforting, environment where even a solitary diner can while away the time in peaceful serenity.

Gazing beyond the cafe environs, my senses are aesthetically heightened by the colors, textures, and juxtapositions of real plants and silk arrangements, decorative furnishings and yes, artificial trees festooned with Christmas baubles, ribbons, sprays of berries, crystal twigs, and more, so much more. Leaving behind remnants of my lunch, I wander through the gift shop, admiring everything!

 As an amateur decorator, I’m always aware of store displays, appreciative of those that wow me. Molbak’s displays are like magnets whose “pull” I’m incapable of resisting, especially during the holidays. Every Christmas tree has a theme to its decor, be its focal point a color, like copper, or holiday treats, like cupcakes and wrapped candies, Of course, the surrounding shelves are filled to overflowing with the items displayed upon the trees. Making my way from tree to tree, it’s difficult to decide which is more captivating. Luckily I’m able to refrain from purchasing most of what I see in front of me, because my garage is already overloaded with bins full of Christmas decor. I do not need more, in fact, I need to rid myself of some. The question is always “With what can I part?” Not only regarding holiday stuff, but all my stuff. I’m an antique dealer, you see, and a collector, with all manner of collections.

Of course I couldn’t resist a “small” purchase, artificial evergreen sprays sporting small, red bells scattered intermittently along its length. They’ll hang nicely on the painted, green door nailed to the wall by the front door of our house. Other than its appeal as an architectural piece, the green door is always a handy backdrop for holiday decor, or random items that catch my fancy.

Before exiting Molbak’s, I perused the small, designated area of Halloween items. I love their vintage selection, offerings reminiscent of the Victorian era. Ghoulish, without being garish. My eyes fell upon a black, artificial, 4-foot tree, lit with small, yellowish-white lights. If not for Halloween being within sight, I might have carted that tree home to make it the centerpiece of an elaborate, ghostly scene, in my dining room, or living room. Perhaps if it’s “on sale” after the holiday?

No matter the season, a visit to Molbak’s always warms my heart, and calms my spirit. It’s “comfort food” for my soul.

hoping you’ve “somewhere” that uplifts…hugmamma.