This is Your Life!

I’ve been wanting to do a post about my sister and her twin boys and today is the day!   First, MUSICA!  The picture below on flowerthe right, is my sister as a baby. I was fourteen when she was born (she’s the youngest of eight and I’m the oldest) so my mother let me name her — I chose Michelle after the most popular girl in my Junior High School (whose name was Shelly Stewart).  Most of us call her Shelly, some say Shelly Belly, and I call her Belle, as in Mee-shell, ma belle, somblay mon kee bon tre bien on somble . . . (my “French” is phonetic in case you can’t tell!).

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That is Belle just after giving birth to the loves of her life in 2003.  Two little boys, Mason and Paden Stewart.

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My sister was forty-one when the boys were born . . . she had suffered with breast cancer a short time before she became pregnant, so these little dolls were and are her little miracles.  Mason is in Green and Paden is in red.  Not that you will ever be able to tell them apart.

Happy babies from the beginning. I have no idea which one this is.

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But here’s the other one.  If I was forced to guess . . . (I can’t).  Sometimes I call them and ask who’s who in a photo and the boys don’t know either, which makes me feel better.

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They have been such good friends from the very beginning,  We would come in when they were infants and they’d be in their crib holding hands.

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They’ve been in it together from the start.

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Shelly and the boys used to live in Durango, Colorado. Unfortunately, their dad wasn’t well and so went MIA early on; that’s what happens sometimes . . . my brave sister has done it all herself. 

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Maybe with a little help from this guy.  The twins are very much loved by my brother Jim who lived right next door to them in Durango for the first seven years of their lives.

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They used to go on the job with him . . .

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My mom came to visit and the boys are doing what they do all the time, making art . . . paper, pens, pencils, brushes and paint, they love it and they’re good at it. That’s Mason in the Martha’s Vineyard lobster jammies.  You might wonder why the one on the right (Paden) has a beard and those amazing eyebrows.  That’s because this was November first . . . think about it.

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Here’s Mason on October 31st, doesn’t he look happy?  He’s getting ready to go trick-or-treating.  Shelly is a wonderful costumer . . . look at these boys 

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So darling!!!!  She made their swords with cardboard and aluminum foil.  On the left, if I have this correctly, is Mason, on the right is Paden.  Or it could be the other way around. Either way, they could not have had any more fun going trick-or-treating that night than we did, going along and watching them.

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I’m pretty sure this is Paden with the beautiful eyes.  But it’s hard to tell because Mason’s eyes look just like Paden’s!

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I can almost hear Shelly going Arrrgh.

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See what I mean about the eyes?  Holy Smokes as my dad would say.  Here we are in Las Vegas at the Shark Tank (celebrating my Mom’s 80th birthday), and these are stuffed toy sharks.  The one on the right is the Hammerhead shark.  They will know who they are based on who had the Hammerhead.

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Mason, Brianna (their next door neighbor) and Paden, Adorable children, and beautiful eyes on all of them.

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One way you can tell who they are (which doesn’t always work):  Paden is usually in the green shirt, Mason wears blue.  

Paden is not happy because he is having his picture taken under the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch called “Forever Marilyn” and he would just rather not.  I really don’t blame him.

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These may be the only two pictures I have of them where they aren’t smiling.

They take paper and crayons or pens everywhere they go. They have sent us their art for years.

Here are a couple of samples of their wonderful work ~ Paden’s snowman, and . . .

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Mason’s fish that looks like he might have a bit of chicken in him (I mean the fish — around the mouth). (Ooops, just got a call from Mason, this is an Angry Bird, of course, what was I thinking!)  The colors in both of them are wonderful . . .

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They send me their art and I send them mine . . . these are the two tickets to paradise I made for them for their seventh birthday.

They are very proud of their Lego creations.  They put these things together, look close, there are like five of them on the table . . . 

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This is another of their passions.  Minecraft. It’s a really popular video game and they LOVE it ~ at least they did last October when I took these pictures, by now I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have a whole new passion.

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Joined at the hip, they have magnificent obsessions ~ they know every species of shark (and draw great pictures of them); they also know the scientific name for all dinosaurs and whether they eat carnivores or herbivores (and draw great pictures of them).  When they were around seven, their school quit teaching cursive, so they asked Shelly for books with cursive writing and they taught themselves.   Boys after my own heart.  Here boys . . . Here’s some sharks for you:

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Click HERE for Fun Facts about Dinosaurs.  I bet you know all this stuff already!

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So these are their own home-made Minecraft characters. (His name is Enderman.) 

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They make these little box creatures out of paper.(He’s a zombie.)

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This one is like a snowman-pumpkinhead. (Actually to be exact, he is a “snow golem.”)  I know this may not be the most interesting thing to the Girlfriends, but for sure the TWINS will love it.  Right guys?  I thought the characters you made were wonderful . . . really creative . . . I liked them all but the craziest one was the tarantula! I don’t know how you did that!

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These are their friends . . . from the left is Michael, then Seth, Mason, Ryan, and Paden ~ you can tell by their pinkies that they have decided to drink “elegantly!”  That’s what I heard.   You might note that perhaps the twins could be actors, they have very interesting facial expressions! :-)

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Shelly and the boys are HUGE animal lovers. MAS MUSICA?  This is Gracie who is no longer with us, except in this beautiful frame, which she deserves because she was a doll of a love bird. She stood on Shelly’s shoulder while she put on her make up, and took seeds out of her mouth.  Adorable birdlet we all loved.

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From the left, starting with Shelly’s dog Elsie ~ then my brother Brad’s two Jack Russells, Samantha and Orbit ~ and then Shelly’s Pepper, Chica, and at the top right, that’s Schmoopy . . . and that really cute little hairless dog over there with the red car is Paden.

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This is Jack.

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Unfortunately Jack didn’t make it which was a very sad day for everyone. But he was given the BEST funeral with full honors. No fish was ever loved so much.  Look at the lemon/rock circle of love, plus the little cross . . . Boys, you did an amazing job with this . . . 

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IMG_1223. . . brilliantly constructed from highlighter-enhanced ice cream sticks and a pipe cleaner. Rest in Peace pobrecito.

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Elsie has also gone to heaven too, and one of the boys made this as part of their memorial.  The hearts!  ohhhh. xoxo

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And now, Chica, on the right, my personal favorite because of her adorable winning smile and because she never forgot me, passed on only a week ago.  She’s in heaven now and only Pepper is left to carry on.  Everyone is being very brave and so happy they were able to have their petty-pets for so long.♥

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So when Aunt Sue and Uncle Joe come to visit . . . what do they bring?

Something orange . . . hmmmm, it’s Halloween . . . so maybe . . . .

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Ah yes, just a little something for the yard.

Shelly loved it too.

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lunch

Belle is a great cook ~ she fixed us this most wonderful lunch of spinach salad with toasted pecans and strawberries.  To pastabalance out all that health, she made her favorite recipe for “Macaroni and Cheese.”  Here’s the recipe . . .  she changed the elbow macaroni for “shell” pasta (of course she did)  ~ this has four different cheeses and is OUTRAGEOUSLY delicious. She served it all on our great grandma’s Haviland China. (Alice Carpenter, was the boys great-great-grandma.  That’s pretty good boys!)

Course we all had to go to the giant flea market.

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And now it’s time to say goodbye.  We always kiss goodbye. We are sisters for life. ♥

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Bye Mason, Bye Paden, I hope you enjoyed these pictures!  You live a magical life boys, mostly because of how you are. Give your mom a hug for me.  Now look away because I’m going to say something nice about you . . . These boys are fun, funny, smart, and creative, such good artists ~ they’re really great as a pair, good to each other, good to their mom, and just the best to be around.  On top of that, for the last three years they have made the principal’s honor roll at school.  I hope they keep doing that forever.  And never change and stay just the way they are (inside anyway — they are allowed to grow up,if  they  insist).

AND JACKSON BROWNE?  If you’re out there somewhere, you should let my sister make some macaroni and cheese for you.  

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BYEEEEE, XOXO 

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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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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).

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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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.

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