MUSICA! As many of you know, Joe and I are on a five-week road trip! On February 23 we left Martha’s Vineyard by 8:15 am ferry (our last slightly-foggy view from the boat, above) to go to Boston to catch the train for the cross-country trip (we love to take, and you’ll soon see some of reasons why) out to California to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and to see family and friends. We’ve been driving hill and dale, playing the wonderful MUSICA of Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire, and seat bopping as we go along . . .❤️
Here we are, just starting off on the train, flying across snowy New England in our Room with a View . . . I’m working on my iPhotos (see the photos I took for Marmalade Cake? That recipe is coming up as you scroll down this post!)
As always, we had the most beautiful views, which changed as we moved through the states, and through each day . . . it’s difficult to tear your eyes from the window. Totally mesmerizing as it all goes by . . .
One of my favorite train things are the sunsets and sunrises. All different, depending on what part of the country you’re in, from the snowy pink-lit meadows in the Adirondacks, to the yellowed windswept plains, to the red rocks of New Mexico.
And all of it, while we’re cozy in our room, wearing slippers, wrapped in a shawl. We bring our electric tea kettle so we can make tea in our room . . . I was trying a new tea here that CarrieInOxford🇬🇧 @holywellbnb (on Twitter) gave me . . . but of course I brought along my tin of Fine Romance Tea. Since that book came out, I’m like my kitty, set in my ways, I have my favorite tea every single day. Maybe I will suddenly change someday like he does, but probably not! But, it’s always fun to try something new from a friend!
We went past farms, towns, and the widest open spaces you can imagine . . . with views from backyards and small streets, all the way out to forever . . .
Until we came to Chicago, that toddlin’ town we love SO much. This is truly a wonderful city. People on the streets here smile all the time!! And the food! Yum! We love it that there is usually a 3 to 6 hour layover in Chicago, so over the years we’ve gotten to know it a little bit. The train station is right downtown, we hop into a taxi and go to Michigan Avenue where we are never ever bored! From Boston to Chicago by train is an overnight, just 24 hours.
Then back on a connecting train we go, ever westward . . . This is one of the dining cars where we are served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all much better tasting than expected! And mealtimes on the train also come with a wonderful view . . .
And after two more, rather-too-short days, we slowly (in a civilized way, no jet engines, no wheel-not-coming-down or any sort of nonsense like that) lumbered into the train station at about 6:30 am on a drizzly, cool Southern California day. Place of my birth. The palm trees, the smell of wet pavement (not a lot of dirt in the city), all so familiar and wonderful. Alfredo, one of the dear people who work for me (and our friend), brought our good old Toyota to meet us ~ we keep it at the Studio … then he hopped on the train to go back to Arroyo Grande. And we drove over to have breakfast with my mom! Clockwork like buttah.
And there she was. As totally happy as always, both of my parents had or have the happy gene. Never complaining, children of the Great Depression and of WWII, knowing value when they see it, in friends and family, and hard work, always accepting, and always trying their best to do “the right thing.” My mom is losing her memory, but not when it comes to me and Joe or the rest of her children. She knows us, which is such a blessing, and was as happy as we were to be together. We sang together, Playmate, Come Out and Play with Me, 🎵and some Shirley Temple songs. (Myself, along with my siblings and family friends made her a “This is Your Life” photo album for her 80th birthday, and this photo, above, was part of it. She was only 15 in that picture.) I have to tell you, we are having an absolutely wonderful time. We’ve taken her to a few Dr. appointments, but nothing has been hurried. We had hot fudge sundaes on her birthday, she got lots of phone calls, visitors and cards, and she loved our presents, loved the wrapping paper, loved it all, and especially the plaid cashmere shawl we brought her from Scotland. My mom is in assisted living where she gets care, and meals and so forth. And we are staying nearby, in her old house.
I love staying in the house where she lived for so many years, because it is so “Mom.” Inside every cupboard, including the bathroom, is something she’s taped there, for inspiration, cut from a magazine or newspaper. Ten Best Foods for Energy. Or Fifteen Ways to Challenge Your Mind. Or, Five Books you Have To Read. She has notes on her fridge too . . . including this post-it note, written in her own handwriting. She has taken this adage to heart, and never complains. She is all about gratitude. I wob her very much. She turned 87 on February 27.
We visited with my mom for a few days, then we drove over to Palm Desert (73 degrees, soft breeze) to see my sisters, Mary and Shelly and Shelly’s twins. We had dinner with them, took the boys bowling, had a wonderful time! The twins are almost 14 now! (Time! I am not thrilled with you! You are going too fast!)
Exhausting little moments, the next day we drove to Arizona to visit my Dad’s darling wife Jeanie, to check on her and make sure that she and her sister, who lives with her, are okay. And they are, we spent all day yesterday catching up on missing hugs … and today we will go visit my dad’s grave. I’ve never seen Arizona so green, have you? When we are here, it’s usually pure, never-ending desert beige, but this time it’s beautiful, there are wildflowers everywhere, and the hillsides are dotted with friendly, waving, welcoming, cacti!
And, just because we’re traveling, does not mean the domestic things come to a halt. We just found a brand new use for the luggage rack in our motel room! Did laundry this morning, and now drying our precious socks (not in the machine, heaven forbid, we want them to last forever!)
So that about covers the today-ness of what’s going on. Now, for what you are all so patiently waiting for . . . Which comes from me to you
It’s time to announce the winners of our three brand new bone china cups! I am so happy we decided to put them up for presale, because if we had just waited until they arrived, we would have been sold out in the first week. 😢 Would have been sad. Now we can add a few more to our order, and everyone will get one on the first go-round!!! Thank you! I am so glad you liked them. I really can’t wait till they arrive. BUT, until then, three of our darling Girlfriends will be lucky winners of these freebies right now. Let me get Vanna . . . she’s sleeping in the car. She said she would rather sleep in the car than in a room where she would have to look at SOCKS drying on a luggage rack. To quote her, “Gross.” The princess doesn’t like our socks. So she has her pillow with the hot pink silk case on it (to keep her hair smooth), and two of my Grandma’s nap blankets, and she is happy as a clam, and quiet as one too, as long as we keep her drugged and asleep. (Do you sometimes wonder if I am actually as totally normal as I tout to you sometimes? Me too. That’s why I have to keep saying it … and include YOU . . .)
Anyway, HERE WE GO. Our first WINNER ~ for In Love With Nature, a 16 oz., bone-china, “Made in England,” thin-lipped cup from heaven IS:
J O A N H A G Y
SO HAPPY for you, Joan!!!
And, I looked and did find a photo of the BACK . . . so this is the back of In Love With Nature. I tried to make it utterly enchanting.💞
I did not have the picture of the FRONT of the Love Cup . . . this is the only one I can find, and it’s of the BACK . . . but all the art, on both sides, is different, it’s not just repeated. I’ll take another photo of the other side to show you when I get back to the Island! And so, here we go: the WINNER of the LOVE Cup, another 16 oz., bone-china, “Made in England,” thin-lipped cup from heaven IS
C O N I O S B O R N
CONGRATULATIONS. LUCKY CONI!!!
AND, last but not least, the WINNER of the LITTLE THINGS cup ~ one more 16 oz., bone-china, “Made in England,” thin-lipped cup, ALSO from heaven IS
C H R I S W E L L S
Another Red Letter Day for Chris!
And yes, I did take a photo of the back of this one . . . Congratulations one and all . . . here’s a little round of applause!BUT, because I love you ALL, and because it’s just not fair that out of over 2,700 comments, there can only be three winners 😩 . . . I still have one more . . .
Tea Tins! I asked Vanna, because she was still sort of deliciously delirious and very malleable (relatively), if she could please pull three MORE names . . . which she did. And SO, Girlfriends REBECCA SULCER, PAULETTE GRIMSBO, and PAT ADDISON (in Cave Junction) will each be receiving one of my Tea Tins, plus a bag of whichever kind of tea she would most like to have ~ right away. I’ll be sending emails to each of our six winners today, to tell them that they won, and to ask for addresses for when the cups arrive (we are shooting for pre Mother’s Day, timing-wise, but please don’t hold me to it!), and also, addresses for the Tea Tins, which will be sent to the LUCKY winners immediately.💞
Our private blends of tea are the prettiest, freshest, and most flavorful if I do say so myself, since I’m the one that gets to choose the ingredients for each of them! And we also carry those little round wire balls you can fill with the loose tea and set into your cup or teapot to steep if you need one.
I have one more great idea for a “sweetener for tea” (besides love and scandal ~~ How Downton Abbey!). . . the recipe for Orange Marmalade Cake! Making this cake, I hope, will make everyone feel like the winner that you actually already ARE!
I’ll put the full recipe at the bottom, so you can print it out. Don’t worry about amounts here, this is just for the basic How To. First you start with a jar of thick-cut orange Marmalade. Luckily we had brought this home from England with us . . . and it was perfect. But you can get the good stuff in any grocery store.
It should be full of rough-cut orange-peel. This is also fabulous on buttered toast, btw. And as many of you know, it makes a delicious jam mixed with my Cranberry Sauce. I know, I digress, but I can’t help it . . . no matter the season, when I think of this easy recipe, my mouth begins to water, and I have to give it!
ORANGE MARMALADE AND CRANBERRY SAUCE JAM
3 c. fresh, washed, cranberries
1 c. sugar
(That’s 3 parts cranberries (frozen are fine) to one part sugar (this recipe serves six, you don’t have to make that much if you don’t need it). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cranberries into an ungreased casserole and pour the sugar over, don’t stir. Put into oven, stirring occasionally as they cook, until the berries just begin to pop, about 35 min. Remove from oven, serve hot or cold with chicken dinners, or even with chocolate cake. Mix the leftover cranberrie sauce half and half with pre-made orange marmalade, pour into jars . . . delicious on scones, toast, Boston Brown Bread, and biscuits, and wonderful as a tea-time gift for your friends.❤️
Okay, back to the cake . . .
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter a loaf pan. Into a med-sized mixing bowl, pour ¾ c. granulated sugar over a stick and a half of room temperature unsalted butter.
Use your nifty microplane zester (or grater) to take the zest from one lime . . . add it to the bowl along with . . .
The zest of a half of an orange.
Pull out your trusty hand mixer, and cream everything together, for maybe five minutes, scraping down the bowl every so often …
Until the batter is light and fluffy and speckled with colorful citrus peel . . .
Beat in three large room-temperature eggs, one at a time,
Then add ⅓c. marmalade, and 2 TB. fresh orange juice from the zested orange . . .
In another bowl, whisk together 1 ½ c. unsifted flour (stir lightly with fork before measuring), 1 ½ tsp. baking powder, and ¾ tsp. salt.
With a spatula, fold dry ingredients into batter until just combined . . .
Put the batter into the buttered loaf pan and into the oven for about 50 min . . .
. . . until lightly brown and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and set the cake upright on a wire rack to cool ten minutes. (Put the rack on a cookie sheet so when you spoon on the glaze (below), the pan will catch the drips).
Make the Marmalade Glaze as the cake bakes . . . Put ⅓c. marmalade into a small saucepan over low heat until melted; stir in ¼ c. powdered sugar, and 1 TB. butter until melted.
Spoon warm glaze over slightly-cooled cake and let some drizzle down the sides. Cool completely (if you can) before slicing.
And voila! Zee Marmalade Cake in all her glory. Good enough, I daresay, for Vanna!
And so, another blog post is coming to an end. I have just a couple more things to show you before I get into the car and resume normal programming with the ever-patient man of my dreams. First off, there is a very famous portrait artist by the name of Sue Shanahan who also, in her spare time, writes for the Huffington Post. (Leave a comment, and make Sue’s day!) She did this painting of me and Jack as a surprise, and sent it to me a couple of days ago. I’m never wild about having my picture taken, but I think she did a wonderful job, catching me on one of my “better” days (actually, not catching me, but “giving” me one of my better days! Jack, as always, is perfect!). Sue interviewed me before we went away to England last year, but I forgot all about it, and suddenly, she sent me this with a link to her post . . . which I wanted to send to you. Go to Sue’s blog to see more of her art and if you enjoy reading her inspirational take on life, you’ll find a link there to sign up for her email list. 💞
And speaking of Jack, it’s check in time! Barbara, Jack’s other kitty mommy, is home with him and phoned in this photo . . . he looks pretty well-loved to me! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite this relaxed!
Last but not least, our Twitter Girlfriend, Karen @ksettel, cut this from the February page of her wall-calendar, and hung it on her wall for a reminder, then she put a picture of it on Twitter and said hello to me! I’m putting it here, hoping all of you have only Red Letter Days! Your 2700+ wonderful comments were, each and every one, amazing, sweet, loving, funny, happy, Everything! ❤️ Thank you for being here! See you soon!
M A R M A L A D E C A K E
- 1 ½ sticks butter (¾c.), room temp.
- ¾c. granulated sugar
- zest of one lime
- zest of ½ orange
- 3 lg. eggs, room temp.
- ⅓ c. rough-cut orange marmalade (and another ⅓ c. below, for Glaze)
- 2 TB. fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour, fluff with fork before measuring
- 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×5 loaf pan. Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer (hand or otherwise), about 5 min, until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl periodically. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in ⅓c. marmalade and the orange juice. In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Fold them gently into the batter until just combined. Put batter into loaf pan and bake 50 min. until golden brown ~ knife into center of cake should come out clean. Remove from oven and cool 10 min. Put a wire rack on a cookie sheet. Turn cake out of pan and place it on rack right-side- up. While cooling, prepare Glaze:
In small saucepan, heat together until melted: ⅓c. marmalade, 1 Tb. butter, ¼c. powdered sugar. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over cake, allowing Glaze to drizzle down sides. Cool completely before serving.💛