19 08 2009

snflwrWhen we were in Nashville two weeks ago, there were three pretty sunflowers standing tall in a white vase on the dining room table.  Somewhere in the boxes and boxes of old slides that I have that are waiting to be digitized (yeah, right!) there is a great picture that I took in a huge field of sunflowers in Spain.  August – was their month to stand tall and shine.

Heliotropism is the word that describes how in a certain stage of their growth, the heads follow the sun from east to west each day – sun up and sun down…until a certain point in their maturing process when they “freeze” in the easterly direction.  In Spanish – they are called girasoles.  To girar is to turn around, to revolve, to spin – and sol means sun.  They turn to the sun.

I was running through the grocery store yesterday afternoon doing a final prep for a very special meal and grabbed a bunch.  I don’t normally buy flowers or plant for that matter because our stupid mouser seems to like to nibble on all things living – thus ruining arrangements, knocking over vases and generally wrecking havoc to beautiful split leaf philodendrons I bought to make my living room look exotic.  So much for that.

Yesterday there was a feast of Spanish tapas.  Membrillo (quince paste) and manchego cheese.  Tortilla.  Roasted red peppers in vinagrette.  Albondigas caseras (meatballs).  Two kinds of olives.  Paté.  A big fresh romaine salad with roma tomatoes.  Croquetas (little chicken and serrano ham fried nuggets of pure goodness).

It wasn’t what was ON the table that was so good.  It was WHO was around the table that made it such an occasion.  Six chairs were pulled up close.  Best Boy’s Mimi was finally here to experience what we call home.  Our table was complete with the exception of the awaited one in October.  Our hearts are full even as we enter into the week of memories of a year ago.  My head has been there most of the month as I remember the journey.

But the lovely little girasoles reminded me to keep looking at the Sun.  If my head is going to freeze – I want it to be head up and facing THAT direction.  Even after darkness – years and years of darkness and waiting – things can bloom.  There is life even after death.  Another August…another year…a new journey.


21 06 2009


It started all quite innocently…Shop Girl had come to Indiana with me for a visit with the Mrs.  On our way out of town she wanted to find a little “something something” to celebrate School Boy’s first unofficial Father’s Day.


Since we are all about shopping local – we headed to the downtown’s quaint re-purposed storefronts.  Funny, this one sits just a door or two away from where the 1893 City Directory lists LeClair & McNiece had their grocery store at 8 South Washington.  Obviously, Shop Girl has it coursing through her veins.


Peering down the street to where the Premier Theater used to stand and over my shoulder into the recesses of my memory,  I was transported to a Saturday matinee  in 1971 – having imbibed some magical candy – friends and I entered the fantastical world of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Now on this unseasonably hot day, almost 4 decades later I step inside this virtual Turkish Delight.


Much wiser now, I realize that eye-candy is just as rich if not richer than the stuff I could be melting on my tongue.  We tried to take it all in…perusing and pressing close to the glass cases in search of that special something.


It was the kind of place that had every kind of penny candy – reminding me that I used to tight-fist some of the change Billy would give me for the Sunday School offering…surreptitiously stealing down the alley to a corner store, I could be licking my lips and standing at the car looking innocent enough by the time the rest of the family got there.

Protestant Guilt would have me wondering why I never choked to death on that candy purchased with monies intended for the hand of  missionary Edith Witherspoon somewhere deep in the Congo.  I stole from the Lord’s work.  Karma came ’round as I dug my way through missionary closets and spent countless Sunday mornings with the Children’s Church set.


Shop Girl carefully examined each nook and cranny in search of the perfect token.  None was to be found that would express what she was trying to convey.  But, alas, she realized that “we” (she and baby? she and I?? all three of us perhaps???) needed a “little goodie” for ourselves.


Nothing but the warmed lava cake would do.  Taken back to the fact that I wasn’t shopping for Father’s Day…I missed Billy something awful.

He never was much of a cake or cookie eater.  When he DID eat chocolate cake – it was first sprinkled with salt.  Apple pie wasn’t complete without cheese.  He liked his vanilla ice cream plain and simple – like spoonful by spoonful right out of the freezer.  One of the biggest surprises in hospice was when he asked for chocolate ice cream – a sure sign there was a major shift in the universe happening.

If I had been looking to buy him something in this sweet shoppe – I would have had to ask for the jar of anise candies.  On their first visit to Spain back in 1986 or ’87, he found a hard candy that tickled his fancy.  I remember him taking all the black jelly beans when we were kids.  He loved liquorice.  Did he really  – or was it just that he learned to take what everyone else turned their noses up at?  Liquorice and anise aren’t the same thing – but they fall in that family of distinctive tastes.

In tiny corner stores all over Spain, anise candies come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  He found one he really got enthusiastic about and for the dozen or so years that followed, I would never head Stateside for a visit without a kilo or more in tow – just for him.  He kept a secret stash all these years and every time my kids would walk into his house – they would be presented with a few pieces to put in their pockets before we left.

A few weeks ago, before Shop Girl and I left for LA, some friends were over for a tapas feast.  As I reached my hand in the antique Spanish alacena (breakfront / hutch) to retreive a half a dozen espresso cups, I found where I had been stashing away some of the candies Billy would give me on my weekly visits in the last few years.  I had entirely forgotten that they were there – and it was if an invisible arm extended from behind the glass door had grabbed me by my throat and started strangling me.  I quickly recovered so as not to ruin the evening with my personal drama and set the cup aside.  I decided to leave the candy out where I could see it during the following days – and to eat one every time I felt like it.  I ate the last one the other day.

Life goes on…even when I momentarily choke on the memories.  Billy never made a big deal about days like Father’s Day.  He was hard, in my opinion, to buy for.  So there were more Father’s Days than NOT, that a card was all he got from me.  I want to wallow a bit today.  I don’t want to move on.  There have been lots of days in the last month – with my voice strong and clear – I’ve chirped out, “My Dad passed away last August and I…” without missing a beat.

The sweet side of yesterday’s bitterness was being able to hug my best friend’s dad and to wish him a Happy Father’s Day.  Seeing her – visiting for an hour with her folks and her husband – made Father’s Day for me.  I miss my Daddy.

p.s. Thanks Designer Desserts…it was a trip!dd8

BTW check this place out if you are looking for a place that does the kind of thing you see on Ace of Cakes but for a fraction of the price.

Go Valpo!