NOSTALGIA and me.

I was born nostalgic for things I could not have a memory of ~ I just came out that way.  For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in old things, old MUSICA, old movies, old houses and gardens, and especially stories of how people lived in the olden days.  I’ve always loved history, I think because it’s nostalgia sanctified.  So I belonged to Martha’s Vineyard the first moment I saw it because nostalgia is a way of life here so much so that it’s called “tradition.”  People return to the island summer after summer looking for a connection to the past and they find it, alive and well.

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nostalgia

You see it pretty much everywhere you go, the narrow streets, the fireworks in August, the ferry as it comes and goes,  the meadows and fields, the view over Nashaquitsa Pond from South Road.  Here we are at Nip and Tuck Farm (now a farmstand called Ghost Island Farm).

everything old

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For years it was a dairy farm (famously owned by Fred Fisher) as you can see by the bottles decorating the back wall of the store.  I used to go there for ice cold milk from their fridge and drink it in the car as I drove to the beach.  It was the most delicious milk in the world.

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When you go there now, they are playing music the old-fashioned way . . . our MUSICA today is what was playing while we were there . . .♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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Look at those beautiful beets!  I couldn’t help but take a picture.

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flat leaf parsley

We were there to pick up fresh veggies, arugula, green onions, and parsley so I could make one of our favorite Summer Traditions, something no summer of ours would be complete without, homemade Crab Cakes.  I thought it would be fun to take you into the kitchen while I do it . . . because it’s easier than you would ever imagine and makes the restaurant-made ones pale in sad comparison. 

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canned crab

We bought this canned crab meat at our fish market here on the island and you should be able to find it at your supermarket. If not, The Net Result (freshest most wonderful fish, they have lobsters too) will ship it to you.  It’s pricey, around $25 a pound, but it’s all pure meat.  And this recipe serves eight.  And btw, a 3 oz. serving of this crab meat has 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, and no carbs.  ’Course that all changes by the time I’m finished with it!

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“Lump crab” is what you need ~ but they’ve gone a little nuts with that “lump” and now you can be totally confused because there’s “colossal lump,” “super lump,” and “jumbo lump.”  Ridiculous crab namers.  You don’t want claw meat, because crab cakes should look like crab, so the lump you want is the one just above claw, which in our case was “Super.”  That’s plenty big enough.  You drain it, rinse it, and then break it up a little bit.  You have to do that so the pieces will be small enough to stick together, but big enough to say I’M A CRAB when someone cuts into it. I really don’t like it when I cut into a Crab Cake and say, “Where’s the crab?”  That won’t happen with this recipe.

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From then on it’s a piece of cake.  Two egg whites go into a large bowl . . .

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then 2/3 c. of mayonnaiseborder

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some Dijon mustard

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worcestershire sauce

and Worcestershire sauce

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A couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice . . .

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which you’ll need to strain so you don’t get any seeds

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chopped fresh parsley

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a half-cup of minced green onion . . .

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Here we stop: This is where I may have gone a little bit wrong. And you know Girlfriends, I am not here to lead you astray.  girlartThis Crab Cake recipe (on page 86 of my Summer Book) calls for 1 and 1/4 tsp. of cayenne.  The quote on the bottom of that page says, “Woe to the cook whose sauce has no sting.” (Chaucer)  Well, no woe to any cook around here, because sting is what there is plenty of.  I will say that there was not a crumb left on anyone’s plate, they were DELICIOUS.  But if you make this, I suggest you put in only one teaspoon of cayenne.  That’s all the woelessness you really need — go change it in your book as soon as you’re done here.  Thank you.

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Then add a bit of salt, a half-cup of fresh bread crumbs (you make yourself in a food processor)  ~  Stir it together well, then gently fold in the crab meat.

Crab cakes

This makes either eight large cakes or sixteen small cakes (about 3″ in diameter for the small ones), however you choose to do it.  Form the little cakes, pat more fresh breadcrumbs on each side, put them on a flat surface and into the fridge for at least an hour before cooking them.

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While I was making the crab cakes, Joe’s niece Arabella stopped by for a surprise visit from Oregon with her daughter Ava.  Arabella is Joe’s brother’s daughter and she, along with her husband Blair, make their most delicious Trathen Hall wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Joe’s family is all beautiful like this:

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Family faces

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Here are the present and the future, and we who know them can definitely see the past.  You can see between the first photo and this one, Ava is warming to the camera.  And in the next one, she is her normal natural self, along with her beautiful mom.

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Exhaust the little moment

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We had to stop everything to enjoy this precious moment. I knew you would like it.  But too soon they were on their way again. As you can imagine, they are a very popular pair and had rounds to make, friends and family to see and not ever enough time.

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And I was back to the Crab Cake project, making up a batch of homemade Tartar Sauce to go along with.  Another easy, fast recipe (both recipes with all the correct measurements will be at the bottom of this post) ~ a quick stir of mayonnaise, minced parsley, capers, minced green onion, minced sweet pickle (or relish), and cider vinegar produces the most fabulous concoction, fantastic with fish, amazing with French fries.

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And VOILA if I do say so myself.  The Crab Cakes are broiled, four minutes on each side until toasty brown.  See all the chunks of crab meat in there?  Serve them with a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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I put the cakes on a bed of arugula along with the lemon and the Tartar Sauce for the first course of our dinner with friends.

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Here’s what the cakes look like inside.  They actually taste BETTER than this picture looks.  I hope you try them.

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Mas MUSICA?  Oui?  And now, speaking of Traditions, how about Library Days? First off, this was the pretty article that ran in the Sunday Cape Cod Times the day before I was to appear at the West Falmouth Library.  I didn’t see it myself, but one of our Girlfriends was kind enough to send it to me (Thank you Pennie!).

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The event was perfect, sold out with seventy-five people in attendance and all the proceeds went to support the Library.  It could not have been nicer.

books

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This library has been around for a hundred and fifty years. It was started by five young women in the mid 1870′s in the quiet farming village of Falmouth.  From the start, as you can imagine, it was a focal point for the community.  It’s still in the same building where it’s been since 1896 and has evolved beautifully to the information age, as a library (and all of us) should do, in keeping with tradition and a nostalgic eye on the future.

West Falmouth Library

I talked about my inspiration for A FINE ROMANCE, how I got the idea to do a diary of our trip through the English Countryside and how all of you came along as stowaways and how much fun that was.  There were lots of questions.  Here I am, trying to explain how we felt while Joe drove the narrow back roads, squished between hedgerows and cottage walls on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road.  Do I look scared?  I should!

my paintbrush, doing what comes naturally

learning to paint

I’m immersed in nostalgia these days, because we are going waaaay back in time with my newest book and it could not be more fun to paint and write. I’ve been looking through lots of old diaries and photos . . . here’s a photo when I’m just teaching myself to paint, about five years before moving to Martha’s Vineyard.  I’m in Hawaii, but I’m so excited about my new hobby, I had to bring that metal box full of my art things on vacation with me.

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I’ll leave you with this, one more little step back in time, because despite the crazy wildness of the days in which we live, this is who we are and who we will always be.  We just have to remember that and make it come alive in our own lives.  For balance.

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quote

Byee, love you  have a wonderful time wherever you are! XOXO

C R A B    C A K E S

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. minced parsley
  • 1/2 c. minced green onion
  • 1 tsp. cayenne (don’t be afraid, this is perfect)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 lbs. lump crab meat, drained and rinsed (“Super lump” I would say)
  • 2 c. fresh bread crumbs (I make mine from sour dough bread and don’t let them get too fine)
  • lemon wedges

Drain and rinse the crab meat.  Make sure there’s no shell in it while breaking it up a bit.  If the pieces are really big, it will be hard for the cake to hold together, but you still want them big enough to show .  Stir together first nine ingredients, then gently fold in the crab meat and 1/2 c. of bread crumbs.  Form the mixture either into 8 large patties or 16 small ones (small ones would be a little under 3″ in diameter); press bread crumbs into each side, place them on a flat surface and refrigerate them for an hour or more.  This helps them hold together when they cook, which they do, perfectly.  TO COOK: preheat the broiler, put the rack four inches from the heat source.  Put the cakes on a lightly oiled sheet pan and broil them 4″ from the heat for 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Serve on a bed of arugula with lemon wedges and Tartar Sauce.

T A R T A R   S A U C E

  • 1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. capers
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. minced parsley
  • 3 tsp. minced green onion
  • 3 tsp. minced sweet pickle (or sweet pickle relish)
  • 2 1/4 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Blend ingredients and chill.

hearts and flowers

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It’s Quiet on our Street this Morning . . .

It’s so quiet on our street this morning. MUSICA.  All the windows in our house are open, it’s a beautiful dry day.  I’m writing this letter (’cause it does seem a lot more like a letter than a “blog post”) standing at my computer (standing! no more sitting for me, computer is perched on a box on my work-counter) across from an open window to the street. I just looked up because I heard the gravely footsteps of a runner going by, other than that, it’s all birds.

T  R  A  N  Q  U  I  L  I  T  Y 

painting rosehips

 Yesterday Joe was gone all day, he took part in a sailboat race with friends.  I took advantage of it, stayed home and had the whole house to myself.  It was another gorgeous day just like today, I left all noises off, no musica, no radio, no TV ~ I just listened to the sounds of summer while I painted for my new book.  

rosehips I wanted to show the rose hips that come from the wild roses that grow next to the dirt road where we go on our walk, because, aren’t they beautiful?

painting rosehips

Painting and writing this book is a true joy for me.  I don’t know what I will do after it’s done because it’s so much fun ~ well, that’s kinda not true, I do have a little idea for what we’ll do after it’s done . . .

painting rosehips

I think maybe I’ll have all the writing done by the end of August.  Maybe the whole thing will be done by next spring, God willing and the creek don’t go dry, or whatever that is.  And then maybe we’ll (Joe and me) take us all on another vacation, since we’ve been so good!  What do you think of that?  Do you feel like making another “crossing?”

Pray that the creek don’t go dry.

L a m b s !  O M G.

Oh Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes are callin’ me, from glen to glen . . . and down the mountain side . . .

making gazpacho

I also made delicious Gazpacho (click for recipe) yesterday, some for us and some for my girlfriend Martha because it’s Gerry’s (her husband) favorite . . . If you feel like tasting pure sunshine and health, make this.  Try to find organic tomato juice and organic vegetables ~ it makes you feel so good that afterwards, and I know this for a fact, you will lay down with your book and take a wonderful little nap.

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I put shrimp in it too, the giant ones.  I went to the fish market to get them, and this is what’s growing in the parking lot.  Just your basic parking lot display.

So, when Joe got home, we decided we really need to be there when the “Super Moon” came up at 8:14 pm so we got dressed up (a little, by that I mean I put on perfume (Chanel #5) and he put on my favorite, Old Spice) and took ourselves out for a wonderful dinner with a view of the pond at a restaurant called Saltwater.  Then we went looking for the moon.

zee super moon

I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this.  We’re out at our best viewing position, on East Chop with the most unobstructed views.  Although I’m sure it was gorgeous no matter where you were ~ right?

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One of these days we should plan to be out there in a boat for one of these big moons.

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There were a few little clouds, but that only made the colors and shapes more interesting.  See the little airplane up there?

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We had the telephoto lens on one of our cameras, but this is how it looked when we pulled back. I have to say, it’s much prettier when you can smell the water and hear it ripple and feel the breeze and see the colors without a lens between it and you.  But this is pretty nice too.

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I tried so hard to get the moon in the same photo as the ferry, but that ferry was going too fast!

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The light on the water.  This is summer on the island . . . these little pink sparkles.

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So we hopped into the Fine Romance Van (oh yes, we still have her) and followed the moon into Oak Bluffs to take pictures on the harbor.  

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I moved! This one is out of focus, but I thought you’d like the little dog in the boat.

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Here we go.  Much better.  Those little close-together cottages you see straight ahead ~ just under the moon ~ are the outer edge of the Methodist Campground where they have Illumination night in August.

Beatrix Potter and her pet rabbit

This is Beatrix Potter with her pet bunny, what do you think?  See any resemblance to our wild bunny below?

Bun-bun in the garden

Same ears, same alert eyes, same nose!  Two days ago Joe was working out back and this little guy came bounding right past him and settled in the nearby shade of a weeping cherry tree to cool his belly in the grass, waiting patiently for Joe to move the sprinkler away from the choice new grass he had just planted.

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He is our in-house lawn mower.  Lunching on our baby greens.  Isn’t he beautiful?  I love how the light shines through his ear.

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Love how his legs are all stretched out in the shade, just a lazy bunny day.  See the carrot?

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I’m taking pictures and Joe is throwing carrots.  I got this one in mid-air! The bunny did not seem impressed. I began to wonder if the whole rabbit-carrot thing was just some made up fairy tale, maybe bunnies laugh at us behind our back “what’s with them and the carrots?” . . . but when we went out later, bunny gone, carrots gone, but grass was still there.

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Jack just saw something out the front window, peeled out of the studio, tore into the front hall and up the stairs, toenails clicking the wood, to follow whatever it is he saw from window-to-window.  He makes me laugh.  My job is to make sure all the windows are open.  Anyway, our bunny ~ he was a very nice model.

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So that’s about it around here at old Branch Ranch. Things are good. Sheets are on the line, moving gently in the breeze, sprinkler is throwing sparkles in the air across the garden, robins are grazing on the lawn, a little old model T just turned the corner outside the window . . . and now I get to go back to my writing. I wrote the ending to the book the other day, and of course I cried.  Happy-joy tears and sad ones too, from feeling so lucky and then the part where life happens when you least expect it.  You’ll understand when you read it. I’m still adding details, some menus and recipes, some dialogue, mining my diaries for the juicy bits. (which of course then I leave out :-) )

Speaking of writing, I’ve had several people ask me recently if there’s anywhere they can get the original snail mail Willards I sent out years back.  And yes, they’ve been bound into a book, I keep meaning to mention it although we’ve had this book in our webstore for a while ~ if you’d like to read them you can go HERE.

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Also, the new Blotter Calendars have finally arrived.  Kellee announced it on Facebook a couple of days ago, so probably some of you know already, but I promised to mention here, so here they are.  New year, new format. Yay.  Let me know what you think!

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You’re probably wondering where Jack is right now.  There he is.  I said, “Jack?” He looked at me, those eyes say, “What??? Is it time yet?  Do we get to go shoot the rubber band?”  

“Yes, Jack, it’s time.”

He’s out of here like a shot, I better go catch up!

Bye Girls and Boys, have a wonderful day! Here’s some “Goodbye MUSICA” to send you on your way. XOXO

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