...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


Sonnenberg Gardens

A fun day trip if you're near Canandaigua, NY is a visit to the Sonnenberg Gardens.

My favorite gardens were the rock gardens, the "old-fashioned," and the Japanese.

I'd also love to see the rose garden when it's in bloom
and the moonlight garden 
(all silver or white foliage and flowers, 
which they say show beautifully in the moonlight) 

Another visit, another time...
Here are some pictures from our strolls around the grounds:

We started at the rock garden.
If I remember correctly,
 that's a massive hydrangea vine growing up the side of the stairs!

And then suddenly, it was like we were at Hogwarts:

Apparently Mary Clark Thompson loved birds and had many types...

Onto the old-fashioned garden:

the osage oranges were incredible!

The entrance to the rose garden... not much to see in late August.

The side entrance to the mansion...

Visitors can go in the mansion and talk to any number of very knowledgeable volunteers...
Learning about Fred and Mary Thompson and taking in all of the architecture and decor and thinking about what life was like, was all very interesting,
 I just didn't take any pictures of the interior!

And last, but certainly not least,
the Japanese Garden:

I love how these tree roots found their way around the stone steps...
All in all, a lovely way to spend an afternoon if you're in the Finger Lakes!


pesto pasta

I managed to catch up on reading my backlog of food magazines this summer...
The recipe that captivated me more than any other was this pesto alla genovese recipe 
from La Cucina Italiana.
I have never seen a pesto that was so silky or so... verdant... so... light green.
 Apparently Paola Laboa, the creator of this recipe, 
has won top honors at the Genova World Pesto Competition.

So, if I did nothing else this summer I knew I had to try making it...!

Luckily my friend Sarah called me up and offered me some basil from her garden,
just as I had decided it was time to make it. (thanks again, Sarah!)

This is how:
First you pop your blender in the freezer.
(the recipe calls for glass, which luckily we have).

Prep 6 loosely packed cups of basil leaves.
(preferably Sweet Genovese)
While your blender is chilling out in the freezer, this is the deal with the basil:
You soak it in cold water. 
You do this 3x for 5 minutes each time, changing the water and rinsing the bowl each time 
and lifting the basil up gently by hand at each change-out.
Then you soak the basil the last time for 15 minutes in cold water.
(the idea behind this is not just to clean the leaves, but to pull out any bitterness, etc.)
 get your chilly blender out
 add 1/3 cup of pine nuts 
(go for real Italian for authenticity and health reasons... 
NOT the Chinese ones... read up on "pine nut mouth" and "pine nut syndrome" 
and you'll be happy to pay more per pound).
and 1/3 of a clove of garlic
cover with 1/3 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil
then puree
and then add 1 teaspoon of flakey salt
beautiful flakes

Lucky us, we even have a local salt around here...!
This is mined from salt veins deep beneath Seneca Lake.

Now, the basil:
Lift a handful of basil, shake off excess water and place it in your blender.
The directions call for a few short pulses to puree, 
but I found that my blender just didn't cut it for this.
It wasn't incorporating the basil well at all, so I had to blend much longer. 
After you've incorporated all of the basil, then it's time for the cheese.
 The recipe calls for 1/3 cup each 
(have you noticed a theme here, most things are in thirds...)
of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
AND fiore sardo OR pecorino toscano
(It cautions against pecorino romano, which is too salty.)
I couldn't find any fiore sardo or pecorino toscano, 
so I went with a nice grana padano from our local Wegmans.
Puree just enough to combine.
Making the pesto made me want pasta right away.
I had never had chitarra, and it really turned out to be a GREAT companion to the pesto.  
Not too big, not too small.  Just right.
It's a Goldilocks moment. 
Love it.
Chitarra is sort of like a square spaghetti.  It's got a bit more substance.  
It's made on a beautiful wooden board with so many strings 
that it looks like an heirloom musical instrument.

This chitarra had great mouth feel and 
al dente, it was gorgeously chewy and a total pleasure to eat.  
Super satisfying.
Music in the mouth.
 I was stumped about how to get it to be so silky like in the photo from the magazine
and the key seems to be at least somewhat in the pasta process.

 When you're boiling your pasta, take out a little bit of the hot water and put it in the bowl
you will toss your pasta in.  Whisk it with your pesto and it becomes really luscious.
 Then marry the two.

 When it was all said and done,
my pesto pasta did not come out anywhere nearly as silky 
as it looked in the magazine photo,
maybe it was because my blender didn't quite do the job 
but whatever, I'm not complaining.  
Delicious is delicious!


my favorite day

A.A. Milne got it.  
Pooh got it. 
I think I get it, too.

But I don't think that what they're expressing is about being Pollyanna.
It's not that everything is beautiful and fun and great,
or that we should pretend that it is.

Even Pooh is known to fret
and say "oh bother"
whenever anything isn't going as he'd like it to.  

It's that whole "when life give you lemons, make lemonade" business.
 Some days might not feel like a gift,
but it's what we've got.
Maybe on some days something happens that makes it feel anything but a gift...
I've been there.  I certainly won't argue with that.  

Maybe we have to do something we've been dreading.

Or something might happen 
somewhere on the broad spectrum of 
things that don't feel good or make us happy


absolutely unthinkable.
Some days all you can do is survive, 
get through the day, and maybe that is the gift.

I suspect for many of us, though,
most days have a whole lot of good
and a whole lot of things to be grateful about.

If we shifted our attitudes a bit,
took some deep breaths, reflected on the bigger picture,
we could have a lot more days
when we could say what Pooh is saying
and feel it to be true.

Some days we could probably also do some things
to make it be true. 

A positive self-fulfilling prophecy.
Manifesting the good.

So, without yacking on any longer,
I will simply say that I hope today is your favorite day.
And the next today and the next one after that, too.