I was invited back to my Tasmanian friend Phyllis’s condo for a game of dominoes with Stephen and Martha. We sat around a table playing Mexican tiles, which Phyllis calls dominoes, while laughing and telling stories. We had a ball. Phyllis makes me miss my Tassie friends and my time over there.
However, I just found out one of my best friend’s from Oz, who lives in London is coming to Cincy to cover the Cincy tennis tournament so we will have loads of time together. I can’t wait!
The diet continues. I have been finding recipes in old cookbooks, Saveur, and my neighbors Tom & Linda are sharing their Bon Appetit with me. So, I am experimenting and I am falling in love with all these yummy new dishes.
Bok Choy and Sugar Snap Peas sautéed in Peanut and Sesame Oils and then Soy Vay Very Very Teriyaki Sauce. I have now made it twice and both times I think there is enough to last me for 3-4 meals, but nope I got two meals out of it and it is because it is so darn tootin’ good!
I went up to visit my friends Karen & Bill and Karen served apple slices with lemon slices because I love a Granny Smith apple with lemon juice on it, but this time, she also had lime and the combo of lime and lemon on the apple slices was divine. I loved it! I am really weird, though. I tend to only eat apples from October to May and then switch to Nectarines and Peaches in the summer, so I hope I remember that great combo in the Fall.
I was taking a walk in Spring Grove and felt something looming over me. I looked up and there was a blimp over my head. It was beyond shocking. I was not near the Reds baseball stadium and it was so low, but it was cool.
Viv and I went to check the pool prior to it opening. She tried to push me in the deep end but I wouldn’t let her. She asked if we could dip our toes in the water. The guys said we could. So, she dipped her toes in the water and then looked at me and said, “You wouldn’t push me would you?” I am thinking, if I push my 85 year-old friend in the water, I am going to hell in a hand basket. I told her of course not! Well, when it was my turn to hold the ladder and dip my toes in the water, she caught me off guard and pushed me. No joke. My friend pushed me in the water. Hence, I am the first one that was in the pool this summer, a day or two before the official opening.
Of course, I instantly forgave her and a few days later we went to Spring Grove to see the gravesites of the famous gypsies that come to pay their respects to their lost loved ones.
When I was a kid, I remember hearing the gypsies are in town lock your doors. I remember hearing stories of them robbing people. My mother only remembers the scams of offering to black top driveways and then just painting them black with paint alone.
Then you think of the movie, CHOCOLAT, and how much you liked those gypsies and you think twice about these people.
Well, I asked the guy at the information tent at Spring Grove about the gypsies, because they go to this particular cemetery and pay a fortune in floral arrangements that are over the top and they are displayed around the grounds. The info guy was not informative at all and I thought ‘DUDE, respect your gypsies more than half of Cincy is coming to this cemetery to see their floral arrangements. Don’t shun them. Don’t pretend they are not here or be disrespectful. Heck, Johnny Depp was a gypsy in Chocolat it is not always a bad thing!
Well, we found the flowers. You can’t miss them. Here are examples below…
What I later learned is they prefer to be called travelers and they are of Irish & Scottish descent. Of course, I think of Johnny Depp and the gal who was in the movie so I think dark hair, eyes, Spanish and exotic looking and the Spring Grover’s don’t say anything about them out of respect to them, their privacy and the fact that they have spent so much money on stones for loved ones that they want to respect them and their privacy. So, I did feel better after hearing that, but you can see where I thought they weren’t respecting them, and where they saw me as not respecting them either. Oh what a sticky wicket!
On Memorial Day, I went to my friend Stacey’s for a BBQ. Her hubby grilled burgers and chicken kebabs on the grill. She had yummy side salads that I have since replicated and doctored to my liking.
She had green beans in an Asian dressing, which is always a yummy treat, but then she had this salad that I loved which was feta, avocado, cilantro (which I hate) and chickpeas. I could barely taste the cilantro, but when I made it at home I made it with: chickpeas, avocado, mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper and loved it. When I made it a second time, I threw in pomegranate seeds and I think it added a sweet tart flavor to the mixture that I truly adored.
My friend Stephen invited me to dinner at his home with his brother John, our friend Phyllis and another friend of his named Nancy. Nancy was talking about her travel plans to Europe this summer and it allowed us all to escape there with her even if only for an hour or so. Stephen’s brother is amazing, and quite frankly, incredibly sexy. He attended Princeton, and then went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. He returned to the States to go to Harvard and landed in North Carolina. Sexiness is so in the brain for me. I love a smart man. But he does remind me of an old boyfriend twenty years from now and that is more than I can bear.
Trouble and I went to see a play at the Cincinnati Playhouse. My friend Becky, who has moved to Asheville refuses to part with her theater tickets, and so thankfully she frequently offers them to me. I took my friend Shirley to see The North Pool. I loved it. Heavy, yes. Intense, yes, but so good. So worth seeing if you have the opportunity. It is one of those plays that makes you think about the topic at hand.
I came home and made some baba ghanouj for the next day and I am not good at making it. I have tried a few times and mine is never as good as I have had it elsewhere. And then I oversalted it. I did google how to handle that or remedy it. The answer was to add vinegar to my concoction and damn if it didn’t work. Science. Gotta love it. I then roasted cauliflower in olive oil, salt, pepper, and capers in the oven at 400 for 25 minutes and the next day for lunch and dinner, I spread some baba ghanouj on the bottom of a bowl and then tossed the cauliflower onto it. It was different, but good.
As you know, I am a volunteer over at WCET (Cincy Public TV station) and they did their live auction where people buy tickets, come eat dinner and bid on interesting items from vacations, to Oscar Robertson basketballs, to who knows what! The first pic below is how beautiful they made the Music Hall Ballroom. The second is a pic of me with my dad’s old college buddy and the basketball star of Cincy….The Big O. Oscar Robertson!
Well, there was an Indian Hill Ranger at the event. I was registering people and I kept seeing this man pacing near the door and I thought he was waiting for someone or had been stood up. Finally, he came over and said I guess I should introduce myself to you. I am a Ranger and I am here tonight keeping an eye on one of your guests. My response was, “An Indian Hill Ranger?”
“Yes,” he replied.
Indian Hill is one of the wealthiest (most people think the wealthiest) neighborhood in Cincy. Rangers are what they call their cops! Of course, I looked around trying to figure out who from Indian Hill was at this function that demanded a bodyguard. I was clueless! I was also determined to figure it out. The only one that made sense to me was Carl Lindner who owned Chiquita bananas & Great American Insurance, but he was dead, so it certainly wasn’t him. Maybe Peter Frampton the musician? You gotta admit, it piques your interest.
A friend approached me that night about the possibility of ghostwriting his book. He has a great story, but do I want to work for someone else? I can’t listen to dictation and type it out. I can interview him and take notes and go from there, but I wonder is he going to be easy to work with, difficult, picky, fun, and easy. There are so many questions you want answered before you start THAT kind of a business relationship. I am in the running for the position. There are other candidates. I will keep you posted if I get it. Sadly, I can’t tell you the name yet.
I went to dinner at Frisch’s with my friends Carolyn, Roy and Lynn. It is the first time in maybe 20 years that I have not ordered a Big Boy. A Cincy tradition. It is a double decker burger with tartar sauce. Don’t make the scrunched up face look till you try it. It is YUM-MY!
Then we went to Final Friday at the Pendleton, which is 8 floors of artist studios.
We went to see our friend, Bill Feinberg’s sculpture. I have spoken about Bill before now. He is incredibly talented.
We didn’t get through the entire place, but vowed to come back and try it.
My grandmother had the most unbelievable book collection. In it was a set of Life books about cooking in different countries or regions of the world. I was particularly intrigued with Latin America’s food, the Middle East, Chinese and Japanese cuisines. In it it broke down the regions within the countries and the foods they ate and gave recipes.
There is a fair in Cincy every summer called The Greek Festival and I go for the food, but in particular the Baklava and the Moussaka. I have never tried to make Moussaka, but today was the day. I knew it had a gazillion calories and filled with things I should not eat. I tweaked it for my diet and I devoured it.
I am not going to give you measurements because I didn’t measure it.
- Olive oil
- Fresh parsley
- Dried oregano
- 1 eggplant
- can of diced tomatoes
- can of chickpeas
- Parm cheese
I sautéed the onions in olive oil and then added the eggplant and the spices and then the tomatoes and chickpeas and let it simmer covered for at least 20 minutes. Then before I pulled it off the heat, I added the Parmesan cheese. I have made it twice since then! I took the unhealthy stuff out: beef (which I may add in another time), butter, flour, and eggs. Usually, there is a béchamel like sauce on top and lots, scratch that LOADS of cheese and I took the really fattening stuff out and still loved it.
My friend Eric and I ate in a Middle Eastern restaurant in NY in the last year or so and they had a dish that I loved that caused me to try this idea.
I put the moussaka I made in a skillet and shaped it like a donut and then put butter in the center and cracked an egg into it. So basically frying an egg in the center. I plated it and then stuck my fork in the egg so the yolk would run and mixed it into the moussaka. It was really good.
June 1, four years ago today, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am four years out! I sometimes forget, but it is always there in the back of my mind. I feel like five years is the first real marker.
I went on this diet to lose weight, but I wanted to lessen my odds of reoccurrence and I have heard so many arguments for cancer loving sugar and do you blame it? I LOVE sugar!
The scale is not moving, which is horribly depressing, but the clothes are fitting better so pardon my French screw the scale.
Now, I am not supposed to eat or drink anything sugar free. I know this and I don’t do sugar free things, EXCEPT recently. Two things in maybe five years. They both tasted so bad that I had to come home and consume food to get rid of that horrible after taste on the sugar free products. I will not be doing that again. So, I have trained my body to detest sugar free anything, but I can’t teach it to have an aversion to expensive stinky cheeses and chocolate anything, or Graeter’s ice cream? It is a cruel, cruel world.
I went for a walk with my amazing friend Mare, who is such a trooper. I have to share this with you because I find it fascinating and it goes to show how amazing science can be.
Sadly, very sadly, Mare was diagnosed with colon cancer. It spread to the lung and liver. They were able to take it out of the colon and lung but not the liver and she was given 2 years to live as of last June. I tell you this because maybe you know of someone in a similar situation and this information can help that friend.
Mare did chemo every other week for the past year and Dr. Gloom and Doom was not hopeful. This has thankfully changed! They are going to radiate the hell out of her liver where the tumors are a plenty and hope to kill that portion of the liver. In doing this, the blood will hopefully flow to the good portion and your liver can regenerate itself. So, they will give it 4-6 months to do just that! THEN, they will take out the portion they killed and hopefully the regenerated portion will survive. They will chemo the heck out of her as an insurance policy to make sure the cancer is gone and she will be cancer free and hopefully get another 10 years!!! A-MAZING!!!! I just love science. Glad I didn’t have to take a lot of it, but I love it!
So, my friend with Stage 4 cancer, is in such good shape that she wants to walk 3 miles along the Ohio River from one end to the other! She is going to beat this thing!
We hit the new section called Smale Park and there are these swings that face the river. I can sit on a swing and swing and look at the Ohio River. It is so well done.
I was in NY for a lot of the park renovation along the Hudson River and no one does renovations like NY, but this is impressive.
Mare said we needed to walk to her garden where she bought a brick when she thought she was dying. She took me to her garden in Central Park toward the edge of the park on the East side. It was beautiful. A best kept secret section of Central Park. This was ALMOST as beautiful!
On my way home, I stopped at the store to buy ingredients I had never bought and experiment with things to cook.
I had a strawberry rhubarb pie in NY years ago that I found ambrosial and never had since. I discovered a recipe for Strawberry-Rhubarb compote and I thought I would give it a try.
In a saucepan, I took the rhubarb that I cut like I would cut celery. Same consistency, but red instead of green. I put it with three tablespoons of water and a ¼ cup of sugar and you cook it till it becomes soft and it also begins to froth.
I then pulled it aside and added ½ t. nutmeg and ½ t. vanilla and then stirred and tossed it in a bowl and added the sliced strawberries into it and tossed again. Holy moly it was good!
I ended up putting it in the refrigerator and adding it to my homemade yogurt, and I used it to sweeten up my fruit smoothies.
I really wanted to try Swiss chard. I have probably had it before, but I had never bought it and cooked with it and since I am on a diet where I must get my carbs through veggies…this is the time. And those leaves are so big and beautiful with their shocking red stems.
This recipe was so easy! Olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions and the garlic then cut Swiss chard leaves and toss them into the pan and continue to sauté. It all turns bright vibrant colors. When it is cooked to your desire toss it in a bowl and add a dollop of horseradish and mix it together and eat it. I must confess. I really liked it. So much so, that I made it again last evening for dinner.
I have this cousin named Lynnie who lives in the Keys of Florida. She is always hell bent on finding me a man. She said she was always like me and not looking for it, but then she met her hubby and she adores him! So, she wants me to have the same thing.
Well, she invited me to Indy to hangout with her and meet her hubby and experience Vintage Car Racing. I was excited to go, but after ten minutes of sitting around, I thought I wanted to leave. This quickly changed.
Now, let me tell you about the race! I had never ever been to the Indy 500, but now I am curious. My friend Jared went when we were in college. He said he went in a helicopter that dropped him off in the field. He saw the race, got back on the helicopter and left and that was the way to go!
Well, I thought it was going to be like a horse track and that you could see the entire track in front of you, but you just see the portion of the track in front of you. The track goes on forever and is mammoth! Actually, quite brilliant how they set it up. It offers a spectacular view for all spectators.
And my cousin Lynnie’s husband, I instantly liked him. What a nice guy and so passionate about the racing and I asked him why he got into it and listening to him talk about the race, he just lit up!
He got into his fire retard clothes, shoes, earplugs, neck brace (key element after the Earnhardt crash) it was invented. He left and we raced to something called the “False Grid”. This is where all the cars line up in a row and then when they are ready, they fall into line one after the other to enter the stadium and take off.
We watched them go one after another into the stadium and then the first race I went up into the stands with Audrey and her son, Evan, who are fans and friends of Lynnie and Tom.
The second race, I went into the pit.
I stood on what is hollowed ground for many famed racecar drivers and I watched these guys go racing by at top speeds. The sounds and the energy were great! It was really cool and I was so glad I had a chance to do this once in my life!
Tom’s car didn’t come around after a few rounds and we all turned purple. Why weren’t we seeing his car? Then the radio was with Dan, Audrey’s hubby. No Tom. After the race, we went back to the trailer and shortly thereafter we got word that he ran out of gas. Scary! I don’t think I could have the stomach for letting my hubby do that! Kudos to Lynnie! He loves it and she embraces it!
Here’s Tom and his baby!
And a little later, she and I took a walk around the grounds. I saw some really cool old, antique, vintage cars. I just love old cars like that. My old boyfriend Ian loved cars and used to tease me that no car affected me like an old car or a new mini cooper. And, Lynnie’s friend Karen, who was a neat lady, her husband owns and races in Paul Newman’s first race car and I have a pic of me sitting in it.
So, Lynnie who hates, detests that I am not smitten and in love. She had a man she wanted me to meet. Blue eyes and gray hair. My thought was been there; done that don’t need to repeat. She pointed him out to me and I said, No. She said come meet him. Shocking, I know, I became PAINFULLY shy! No, I don’t want to go! She made me!
I like my men with big, puppy dog brown eyes, but his eyes were lovely. They were big and blue! Then he told me he retired at 43 and I thought, oh great another one, just like the last ole’ blue eyes. Nope, this one had figured it out and like me, was a mediator, and then got into rental properties and Laundromats and is in the process of opening a bier garden and coffee shop and is successful, but that was not what was nice about him. He was so wonderfully down-to-earth, fun and funny. Nice, nice guy and the best way to describe him was that he was adorable!
There was a dinner after the races, which consisted of fried chicken, pulled pork and salad or those were the things I opted to eat. I do NOT turn down fried chicken and that pulled pork was the best I have had in a long time! There was also corn on the cob soaking in a bath of beautiful BUTTER. La beurre! Then mac and cheese, and cookies and brownies. I am ashamed to confess this to you. Don’t tell anyone. I had to have two bites of a brownie. I needed a bite of sweet and that turned to two bites of sweet. Then I had to throw the rest away or I would have finished it.
Then we went to dance to the band. Grand Funk Railroad. Blue eyes was there and we talked, danced, sang. It was a lot of fun!
I decided that I was not going to crash at my friend’s condo and instead I wanted to come home, sleep in my own bed, but I had to wait to see the fireworks. They were good and never ending which is awesome.
My cousin, Lynnie’s cousin and his girlfriend and I were heading to the car when it started to rain. I said we should get blue eyes to take us in the golf cart. He said he would and then they were gone. We drove around looking for them to find them back at the trailer. Silly kids. We all got onto the golf cart and were deposited at the parking lot.
Fifteen minutes later, I get a phone call. What mile marker are you at? I told him, he said, I am behind you but catching up! I’ll call you back in a bit. Sure enough, “where are you now?” I told him. “I am five miles behind you. Wait, I just passed you.” Of course you are going to pass me when you are in a Porsche and I am in a HONDA Civic! We chatted and then before we hung up, he said he was going to slow down, get in front of me and he drove with me all the way to my exit to make sure I made it home safely. I am telling you the guy was adorable!
So for someone, who wanted to leave after the first ten minutes, I ended up having a ball!
I woke up the next morning at 7:08am. It seems to be the time I wake up these days! I don’t get out of bed, but that is the witching hour. My sister Dulce has trained me well.
I was craving sugar. Okay, not sugar, more specifically French toast. I have been craving it for weeks!!! I think I needed to have it, go for a long run and it would be a wash!
I have this amazing cinnamon bread with coffee cake crumble crust that I bought a Jerry’s on Sanibel. I needed to use it. It is in the freezer and will last, but this is my rationale.
I put butter in the pan. I put the toast in till it is toasted on both sides and then I realize that it has been SO LONG since I made French toast that I completely forgot to dip it into egg first! Yes, I went to Harvard! I bet most four year olds remember that part of the recipe. Not me.
So, I dip it after the fact. Place it back in the skillet and cook it. It is now dark brown and I am scared I ruined it and wasted precious Jerry’s cinnamon bread. I plate it and sprinkle sea salt on it and then confectioner’s sugar and then maple syrup. It was almost crunchy. Every bite like a symphony on my tongue. I was in heaven. Absolute heaven. I made a Dean and Deluca cappuccino. I was in bliss! I didn’t photograph it for you because it looked like burnt toast with powdered sugar. Like most things I cook, it wasn’t pretty but it sure tasted great!
I then went for a run in hopes of using my carb intake to propel me to run well. It did help, but I was sore because I had not run in awhile, so I pushed myself to get rid of that French toast. My body would later punish me for pushing it too hard!
That night, Shirley (aka Trouble) and I went to the Opera in Washington Park. I sat on a chair staring at Music Hall (which is majestic and beautiful) and listening to Opera.
Gosh, I love Opera! The first time I went in college, I didn’t care for it. Then after college, in Vienna, I was so incredibly lucky to pay $2.50 as a student and get in and see Pavarotti and I fell in love with it and ever since it has been love for me. I just love it!
Of course, I got the time wrong and thought it started at 8 and it had started at 7! Thankfully, we were early and they played an additional 15 minutes. Then we sat there and people watched, pet passing pooches and enjoyed the perfect weather.
Then we went to Sidewinders for coffee in the back outside by the two bunnies Eppi and Patrick Swayze. Last time we were there, they were humping. I thought…just like rabbits! This time they were cuddling. Cute things. Maybe I should bag the dog and get a rabbit?
Next day, I went to talk to my pool-walking friend, Mary Lou and I took a cup of iced coffee with me. I finished it before I ever got to her place. I suck coffee down so fast!
I saw a new friend Joan and she said if you want a second cup come over! I went to Mary Lou’s. I left and saw my friend Roy in the hall as I was heading to Joan’s and he said come say hi to Carolyn. I went to say hi to Carolyn and then crossed the hall to Joan’s. See why I love it here so much! It is like summer camp for me. I love my friends!!! I think there is such a cool mix of people in this building. It is my Manhattan! It is Brooklyn in a high rise!
At Joan’s, I was in heaven. Why? Because we talked about Venice and she and her boyfriend spend a month at a time in Venice and have found an awesome reasonable place and they love it and so talking to them about Venice, I was back there. I could feel the breeze on my face as the waterbus took me from the train station to the San Marco stop. I could feel the sway in the gondolas. I could taste the pasta with the squid ink from Trattoria Madonna’s. I remember the awesome food market. Getting lost in the tight alleys. And then I remember lying on my bed one night in the summer and the hotel didn’t have air and I was lying there sweating thinking how bloody hot I was! Then I took myself back to Rialto Bridge, San Marco, and really incredible gelato. I didn’t want to leave because I wanted to stay in Venice. But eventually, I went back home! Literally and figuratively.
I poured myself another cup of coffee. I can’t believe how much you crave sugar when you eat it and when you ween yourself off it, you lose the craving or the hunger. I should think about Venice instead of food!
For lunch I made the avocado, chickpeas, and mozzarella chunks with olive oil, salt and pepper. I love that salad! It is so easy, healthy, light and delicious.
That night for dinner, I made a new beet recipe. Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, has a great beets recipe that you use orange and orange juice as key ingredients and it yummy.
This recipe was every bit as good! Beets in a Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing. You make the dressing while you roast the beets for 50 minutes in the oven. Then peel off their skins, mash them, and try to not get beets splashed on you as you do it. Tricky. Then toss the beats in the lemon vinaigrette dressing, which consists of: lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt, pepper and a dollop of Greek yogurt. I loved it.
So much so that I bought more beets to make it again! I am telling you, this is the most fun diet I have ever been on in my life!
I am sitting there gorging myself on beets in lemon vinaigrette and thinking I can’t believe how much I love this recipe when the phone rings and it is Martha who I had called to send my sympathy about her 37 year-old daughter-in-law who had died of breast cancer. She said she had it so much harder than I did. That is a mild understatement! I just don’t get it. She was so young, with a loving husband and a 4-year old child. Heartbreaking! This is why my diet is beets and Swiss chard! Anything to lessen the odds of reoccurrence is a good thing.
I don’t want to leave you on a sad note so I am going to do a non-sequitor and completely change topics. No one has sent title ideas for my latest trashy novel and I have another request for dear friends, who know me well. Tell me your favorite, funniest Erin story. I need to write three super funny monologues and if you remember a story that made you laugh till you cry…I want to know it so I can write it.
In the meantime…
Until we meet again…
Enjoy! Eat, travel, laugh…often….