It’s Spring, so that means Ramps!

RWhat is a ramp you ask?  Well, ramps are a spring vegetable, from the onion family, kind of like a cross between a leek, a scallion and a small spring onion.  The flavor is milder than a leek, but much more garlicy than a scallion.  Unique, tasty and très gourmet.

The best thing about these little guys is that they can usually only be found at farmer’s markets, usually the first thing they sell out of. Adding to their gourmet appeal is the fact that they are only available for a brief period in the springtime.  You snooze, you lose… the thrill of the chase… and excitement when you are able to procure a little bunch.   I like to chop them up and sauté them with olive oil, salt, a dash of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar.


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QYears ago, I did a production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, playing the part of Lucy.  This is my favorite monologue from that production.

“Do you know what I intend, Linus? I intend to be a queen. When I grow up I’m going to be the biggest queen there ever was, and I’ll live in a big palace and when I go out in my coach, all the people will wave and I will shout at them, and…and…in the summertime I will go to my summer palace and I’ll wear my crown in swimming and everything, and all the people will cheer and I will shout at them… What do you mean I can’t be queen? Nobody should be kept from being a queen if she wants to be one. It’s usually just a matter of knowing the right people…well…. if I can’t be a queen, then I’ll be very rich and then I will BUY myself a queendom. Yes, I will buy myself a queendom and then I’ll kick out the old queen and take over the whole operation myself. I will be head queen.”charlie brown

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Playing Piano

PI love to play the piano.  I will be forever grateful to my parents for giving me lessons.  When I was about 9 or 10, my grandfather bought me a Wurlitzer and used to drive me to my piano lessons in Portchester, NY.  My teacher was my grandfather’s cousin, who was a graduate of Julliard.   Lessons were held the living room of a beautiful, old Tudor-styled house, on a grand piano that took up most of the space.  She was a wonderful teacher, and I studied with her until I was 12.

We moved upstate and I continued with my piano lessons with various teachers until I was in my early 20’s.  I learned to play pretty well.  I will always be forever grateful for those lessons, they taught me to appreciate all kinds of music and to be able to read music and sight sing.  To this day, I can still sit down at the keyboard and play “Fur Elise”.  Not something to take for granted.

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OWhen I was a kid, I fell totally in love with the movie musical Oliver!  My girlfriend Karen and I spent many a weekend in the movie theater, watching this film and singing along to the score.  This was before VCRs or DVDs so seeing a movie in the theater over 7 times constituted an obsession.  We loved all the characters, could quote practically the whole script and acted out scenes in her basement.  Her parents were so patient- they watched our reenactment over and over without a complaint.

This was also the first time Karen and I had boy-crushes on the actors.  Karen loved Oliver, played by Mark Lester and I loved Dodger, played by Jack Wild.  Like most impressionable kids, we copied their English accents and pretended to be from the UK whenever we were out together in public.  We both also had a girl-crush on Nancy, played by Shani Wallace.  We would stand on a big rock and take turns belting out “As Long as He Needs Me” in our most emotionally tortured voices.  We longed to be part of Fagan’s band of pick pocketing boys and knew all the choreography to “Be Back Soon”.

oliver!Oliver! Is a very sweet childhood memory for me.  Once in a while they’ll show the movie on TMC and no matter what I’m doing I’ll just stop, pause and watch some of it, remembering that whole episode in my life… and smile.

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Nature Walk

N While living in Florida, there was plenty of nature to enjoy.  Palm trees, blue skies, ocean, beaches, tropical plants and bugs.  Although this was all around me, I spent most of my time indoors to get away from the heat.  I went from one air-conditioned space to the next, from my car to my home then back to the car to the store and back to my home.  Unless you’re around or in water, it’s just too hot in months between April and November.  We did get relief from the heat, but only during the short “winter” time frame of December through March.  The beauty of nature was all around- but only through the glass of the 2 bat cave

When we moved to the mountains of NC, suddenly I found myself outside all the time.  The beautiful weather, sometimes a bit warm but mostly comfortable, inspired me to spend hours walking.  I admired the spring flowers, the beauty of the rolling grass hills, the farm with cows and donkeys adjacent to our apartments, the wonderful fresh air and breezes.  Connected with nature once again.

A welcome change.

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MMUSICAL noun  A play or movie in which singing and dancing play an essential part.

How could I not use “Musicals” for my letter M topic?  I’ve been performing in, directing and choreographing them since I was a child.  Nothing cheers me up like listening to my favorite soundtrack, singing along with abandon and playing all the parts.  I heartily recommend doing this if you are depressed or in need of happiness.  That is all.



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Lovely Lilacs


Nothing is more wistful than the scent of lilac, nor more robust than its woody stalk,  for we must remember that it is a tree as well as a flower…

Lilacs are nowhere to be found in the tropics.  They are the one flower I missed the most when I moved from New England.  Growing up, we had a beautiful Lilac tree growing by the walkway near the kitchen door.  Whenever you went outside that way, you immediately were hit with the scent of the blossoms… and you knew it was spring.  When I bought my first house, I made sure to plant several Lilac trees in my backyard so my baby daughter and I could enjoy them.  Sadly, I had to leave them behind when I moved to Florida.

Now that I live here in the mountains, Lilacs are once again a part of my life.  Refound happiness.lilacs2




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A cup of Kindness

The quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.
Such simple words- clear and concise, uncomplicated.  Something we can all do easily.  No, I’m not going to start to lecture about how we have all become haters and bullies.  You’ve heard all about it, what with the crazy politics and terrible events of the world.  I don’t have to outline any of it. you already know the whole sad story.  Instead, I focus on the simple definition of the word “Kindness”…and ask us all to think about what it means, and to add it to our everyday life.  Positive, uplifting and full of decency.
This brings to mind the lyrics of an old gypsy song a performer used to sing at the Renaissance Faire called Beggars to God:
Be friends to each other…
Forgive one another…
See God in each other…
Be Beggars to God
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Just like Julia

JHow many of us love Julia Child?  How many of us have a worn, dog-eared copy of her famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking?  Mine sits on my baker’s rack, ready to spring into action when needed. Lots of bookmarks and always in sight, an old friend and history of my gourmet attempts- some successful, some not so.  julia book

The book is very worn, though the cover is still intact, but just barely.  Given to me by my parents as a long ago Christmas present, they had written on the inside cover “To the second generation gourmet cook of the Hanson family, Love Mom and Dad”.  Very special and precious and I will save the copy for my newly married daughter, who is just now starting to show an interest in my recipes and cooking.

julia inside coverMany memories are attached to this cookbook.  My father always made her “Pommes de Terre” at every family holiday gathering, and my mother was and still is an expert at making her “Crepes”.  As for me, I have made dozens of meals from this cookbook and learned a great deal about the basis of French cooking.

Since that time, I have added many more French cookbooks to my collection, but this will always be my very favorite.

Thank you Julia~ Bon Appétit!12002448_10207251667317194_2688938439305346659_o

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II love Calligraphy.  When did the art of learning beautiful handwriting start to vanish?  With all the typing, texts and keyboarding handwriting has almost become a thing of the past.  You can pick any font you want on your computer- fancy, scrolled- even one called “Jennifer’s Handwriting”  so why bother hand writing anything?  Why there’s even talk of removing learning “script” from the curriculum of elementary school.  A terrible thing indeed- no more Palmer Method and improving your penmanship.  One word- SAD.

palmer method

My love affair with calligraphy started when I was in high school.  One girl I knew had an aunt who was the art teacher there and this aunt had taught her how to write letters with real ink from an ink pot, and a special calligraphy pen- like in the old days before ballpoints were invented.  I absolutely LOVED the idea of it, and I wanted to learn this special drawn alphabet created with this cool pen and ink.  I stored the idea of doing this for future consideration.

One summer, when I was in Georgia visiting a boyfriend who was studying piano tuning. I had nothing to do during the days while he was in school, so I used to wander downtown and visit the shops.  I found a charming little bookstore and taking my time looking at all the books in every isle, I found a kind of workbook titled “Calligraphy, the Art of Beautiful Handwriting”.  It was filled with calligraphy practice sheets, different kinds of alphabets and detailed instructions on how to hold the pen in just the right way to create the thinness and thickness of the drawn lines.  Thumbing through it I was fascinated, remembering my friend and how I had wanted to learn this art.  I bought it on the spot.  Next stop was the little art supply store on the corner where I purchased an ink pen, a little pot of black ink, a pad of parchment paper and some graph paper to learn to size the letters correctly.

italic alphabetI was hooked.  I did nothing else for a long time, eventually picking up books with new kinds of alphabets to learn and graduating from the little pot of ink to a cartridge type of ink pen.  I made gifts for my friends inscribing poems, songs, prayers and even was hired to create a couple of wedding invitations.  Calligraphy became second nature- I knew dozens of alphabet designs and used them without thinking.

Years later, I was hired to teach calligraphy for a continuing education class and I happily shared my love affair with my adult students.  To this day, I still pull out my pens when to  make greeting cards and address envelopes.  The love affair continues.


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