Tonight granddaughter Kira dropped by with a Shepherds Pie made by daughter-in-law Tonya. It was the best Shepherds Pie I’ve ever had, every bite flavorful and satisfying. The food equivalent of a warm hug.
Spence never met Tonya, they would have loved each other. Shepherds Pie – if on a menu he’d order it every time. Seriously every time. I sat in his chair while enjoying this meal and thought, “yup this is a sign”
Mom is joining me for today’s Easter dinner and for the last week I was on the fence about what I’d fix. Mom is easy as she loves everything I cook – and tells me I should be on Chopped (home chef edition), with my inevitable win launching my own Food Network show but I digress.
A few days ago I saw rack of lamb and the decision was made. Mom and I both love lamb chops and I’ve made those many times. I’ve cooked rack of lamb only once and grilled it. It was delicious though my friend Terry had to start my grill as the one time prior that I’d lit it, I blew the lid back and lost all my arm hair. Spence was always my grill master and though Mom would (and could) light my grill I had decided to go a different way.
After scanning cookbooks and Pinterest for ideas I quickly realized that I hadn’t picked up fresh herbs – never a problem from May-October when my herb garden provides more than I need. What’s a girl to do? It was noon, my homemade croutons were done and cooling, our favorite Rhubarb Custard pie is in its final 20 minutes of cook time, sweet potatoes poked and ready for baking, my dijon vinaigrette prepared. I’m still in my jammies and not enough time to shower and run out for fresh herbs before mom arrives. Though dried herbs might work, I knew I could do better.
Then it hit me – make a crust using pesto with its lovely green color and fresh herb flavors mixed with Panko breadcrumbs, both of which were in my gourmet pantry! Brilliant kitchen hack if I don’t say so.
Pesto Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb – serves 2-4
1 rack of lamb
1 c Panko breadcrumbs
2 T pesto
salt & pepper
Several hours before dinner mix together the breadcrumbs and pesto. Score the fat side of the rack, salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the bones in foil to prevent burning. Cover all sides of the rack with the breadcrumb mixture using more on the fat side which will be face up when cooking. Pat it down to make the crust. Refrigerate for several hours.
Two hours before you’d like to serve dinner, remove the rack from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and place the rack into the pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the rack.
Cook time will depend on how rare you like your chops – check at 15-18 minutes for rare to medium rare (my preference) by inserting a meat thermometer look for the internal temp of 120 degrees. Remove from oven and tent, the temperature will increase to 125-130 degrees; allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
Remove the foil. To preserve the crust for serving and presentation, I cut them 2 bones per chop. I served these with a nice bottle of red wine, spinach salad with homemade croutons and Dijon vinaigrette, the aforementioned baked sweet potatoes with butter and fresh grated nutmeg – and of course the pie.
Fifty fifth thing: It seems fitting that today’s Post in this series featuring 59 Things that make me happy should include……my Mom. After all, today is Mother’s Day and my Mom makes me happy!
In 1956, I was born on Mother’s Day (falling on the 12th that year) so this day bears special significance.
As a baby, she sang songs while rocking me. After my sister was born, she would read us wonderful children’s stories while sitting on the hall floor between our bedrooms. She taught us card games and made delicious meals. I have vivid memories of coming home after school to the aroma of fried chicken or cookies baking.
As I grew, she encouraged me to stand up straight and “own” my tallness. “Miss Americas are all tall” she pointed out. She began teaching me to cook launching my passion for it at a young age. Our family recipes are among my favorites and still make me nostalgic.
The lessons she taught my sister and I about honesty, friendship, kindness and being trustworthy became integral parts of us. She truly taught by example, my first strong female role model.
As an adult, she remained Mom (of course) but also became a best friend. Always supportive of my independence, forgiving my missteps, she encouraged me and was my sounding board. Plus she’s fun to hang out with to this day and my friends adore her.
Last year, I spent several weeks with her as she packed up her home in Florida and we drove back to Michigan, where she now resides only a few miles away from my sister and I. (This was chronicled in my “Moving Mom” series). It was an amazing experience to share that time together, something I’m grateful to have done for her – and myself.
To meet my Mom, you’d be struck be her enthusiasm, energy and positivity. She is vibrant, fun and loved by all lucky enough to know her. And her beautiful smile can light up a room.
So on this Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to the best Mom ever. I love her dearly and am beyond grateful to be her daughter.
Thirty seventh thing: My next entry in the 59 Candles series (of things that make me happy) is my maternal Grandma’s china, which I inherited when she moved into a small apartment years prior to her passing.
As a child, I fell in love with this lovely set of china as much for it’s beauty as for the many delicious family meals enjoyed at my grandparent’s table. She’d purchased this set as a young woman, prior to her marriage to Grandpa. With twelve place settings and multiple serving pieces, these dishes were packed up and moved countless times over the course of Grandpa’s career. When she offered them to me, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Her only request – could she keep two cups and saucers? Of course.
She lived in Florida and wasn’t up to travelling to Michigan but I would write her, describing meals I served to family and friends using these special dishes. She always told me how happy this made her and that I likely used her china more than she had over the years.
When Mom sold her home in Florida and moved to Michigan last year, she downsized. A few months ago, she asked me if she might borrow a few cups and saucers from Grandma’s china. She’d met new friends and wanted to be able to offer a lovely cup of tea when they visited.
“Of course” I said with a smile, reminding her that Grandma had once made the same request. Grandma would be happy.
“59 Candles, 59 Things” is a series I began last May to commemorate my 59th birthday celebrating things that make me happy. If you’re interested in this series, check out “59 Things” under Categories. There is also a series I did last year called “Moving Mom” detailing the weeks spent helping Mom pack up her home in Florida and our road trip back to Michigan, one of the best experiences of my life.
“Our very first proper English Tea, will consist of a delightful array of tea, and three traditional courses for our afternoon party! You’ll drink your tea from beautiful antique china tea cups and enjoy the socializing with other guests as we take you back to a long forgotten tradition. Yummy finger sandwiches, English scones served with butter, clotted cream, and strawberry jam. The light meal is finished with sweet cakes, tarts, and other pastries.”
My guests and I enjoyed an Afternoon Tea earlier today at the country club where Spence and I have a social membership. On this gorgeous fall day, my Mom, sister, daughter-in-law and one of my two BFF’s (the other is visiting her son in Denver) joined me for fun, spirited conversation and delightful tea service.
Four years ago yesterday, I lost my Dad. We have longevity in our family. I expected he’d live well into his nineties. He was 79, just a few weeks shy of his eightieth birthday.
My Dad was smart, savvy, well-traveled and seemed invincible, larger than life.
If I could change one thing, it would be to have one more conversation with Dad, albeit a long one. I’d let him know I was proud to be his daughter and though we were sometimes at odds, I always knew he loved me – and that I loved him.
I’d thank him for being a good provider, for having so much to do with sparking my love of travel from a young age and for singlehandedly getting me to see the wisdom of starting a 401k.
I’d tell him how much I admired his leadership of our family business and those jobs he created and kept in our community.
I’d let him know that his approval of my choices and when he told me he was proud of me, meant the world.
I live in the home that was built by my grandparents when my Dad was a boy. He has everything to do with my moving into this home 30 years ago. He was so happy knowing that I love living here with a passion. I wouldn’t have to tell him that, it was something we spoke of often.
I still have talks with my Dad and feel his presence, though I no longer can hear his voice.
If you still have your Dad, have the conversation now while you can, leave nothing unsaid.
Thirty-first thing: The next thing that makes me happy is glass. “Glass?” you may be saying.
Why yes. I have had a fascination with art glass for as long as I have memories. The first piece I remember being fascinated by belonged to my Grandma Fox. There is a picture somewhere (probably in black and white) showing a tiny version of me pointing to this piece, just shy of touching it. I couldn’t imagine as a child that I would inherit it one day.
Spence shares my fascination and enthusiasm for art glass. Years ago, we met a glass blower by the name of Mark Haller at our Michigan Renaissance Festival. Over a number of years, we began acquiring the majority of our pieces from him. Some we watched him create, some already blown, we saw and fell in love with and at least two were commissioned by Spence. They catch the light at different times of day and hold a type of magic for us, adding beauty to the home we share. And of course, each piece holds a memory of a fun day spent together.
This post is part of a series, 59 Candles, 59 Things to commemorate my 59th birthday back in May. Click on 59 Things in Categories if you’d enjoy reading more!
After strolling through the gardens at the Japanese Cultural Center yesterday, my Mom, sister and I proceeded to the Tea House to take part in the Tea Ceremony.
Awa SaginawAn was designed by renowned architect Mr. Tsutomu Takenaka and constructed in 1985 as a collaborative effort between the City of Saginaw and its sister city Tokushima, Japan. Its foundation rests part on American soil and part on Japanese soil. It is treasured as one of the most authentic tea houses in North America.
Designed by a Japanese architect, the exterior was built by a local contractor. The interior was finished by four Japanese contractors working directly with the architect. A few interesting facts:
There were no nails used anywhere in the interior. Everything was planed and fitted.
No paint was used. The material of the walls is natural and has a sandy, stucco type feel to the surface.
The ceiling of the Tea House is hand-woven cedar.
All the wood is natural and unfinished and includes trees that were fitted into the walls, brought from Japan.
We took our seats shortly before the ceremony was to begin after first being encouraged to take photos, that included a few selfies. (Girl’s Day Out documentation)
Our hostess came in at 2:00 beginning with a brief yet fascinating history of Tea Houses (this one and Tea Houses in Japan) and Tea Ceremonies. The type of Tea Ceremony we were attending was established only 400 years ago by the 11th Grand Tea Master in 1872 for the World Fair in Kyoto Japan. To introduce the world to Tea Ceremonies, it was determined that the traditional kneeling on Tatami Mats would be too painful and awkward so they provided benches. This is how we were seated. Traditional Tea Ceremonies in Japan, in Tea Houses or Tea Huts, go back many years and the number of Tatami Mats are descriptive of the size of the Tea House (2 Tatami Mats, by example would be a small Tea Hut) and participants would kneel throughout the duration of the ceremony.
The Tea Ceremony is based on four principles, Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility. Tea leaves are picked by hand in May, steamed, dried and ground into powder for Tea Ceremonies (not brewed as the type of tea you’d drink daily).
There is a hot water pot with a bamboo ladle and a cold water pot should the temperature of the water need to be adjusted. There is a lovely process of cleaning and preparing the tea bowl before the guests. Then using a long implement, tea is measured into the tea bowl and whisked into the steaming water. The whisk is fashioned from a single piece of bamboo.
Each movement was slow, deliberate, silent and reverent. Our hostess was assisted in the ceremony by two ladies in Kimonos, one who served the other. The Tea Bowl in which the tea is prepared is highly prized. With a lovely design on one side only, the bowl is turned as it is served so that the guest may admire the design. The guest then turns the bowl and slurps the tea from the plain side of the bowl. The “slurping” is considered a sign appreciation indicating “it was good to the last drop”.
Historically, Tea Bowls were so revered that a Shogun was known to take it as his only possession upon retirement and the value was such that often a Tea Bowl was given in place of land.
The ladies served each of us, delivering the sweets first, one person at a time. Then bringing our tea, one at a time.
For more information about the Japanese Cultural Center, visit their website at:
The Japanese Cultural Center in Saginaw Michigan is less than an hour’s drive from home. There are gardens and by reservation they do a Tea Ceremony one Saturday per month.
My sister called. “Girl’s Day Out?” Absolutely.
Mom, my sister and I drove north, arriving at 1:00. The Tea Ceremony commences at 2:00 giving us time to enjoy the gardens which border water across from Ojibway Island along Lake Linton.
The Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House, and Gardens resides within the town of Saginaw, MI to promote intercultural understanding and peace through a bowl of tea.
It was a most enjoyable day, mid 80’s and a soft breeze. First we strolled through the “strolling garden”.
“It is a quiet, safe haven to view weeping cherry trees, authentic stone lanterns, hand crafted bamboo gates, an Asian-inspired gazebo, and an arching vermilion bridge over a winding stream.
Its gate opened in 1971 as designed by Mr. Yataro Suzue and Lori Barber. He stated then: “beauty is not trickery, not illusion … but arranging elements like trees, water and rocks in a way that there is no crowding, no competition for attention.
All italicized quotes are directly from the Japanese Cultural Center’s website: