Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welcome to the Third Annual Willow Manor Ball ~!

Welcome to the Willow Manor Ball!  The cyber event of the season is finally here. We have rolled back the carpets of the main hall. Valentino said there's nothing like tile for dancing the tango, but hardwood floors are the next best thing. The manor is bathed in romantic candlelight and the side tables are smothered in my favorite yellow roses.

Please check into the comment section and let us know you've arrived, and who might be accompanying you.  If you would like us to visit your blog, to fully appreciate your lovely attire and date, make sure you sign into the Mr. Linky widget provided at the end of this post.

Thank you so much for coming. I do hope you enjoy the evening, which is miraculously lasting all day long. Remember, everyone who leaves a comment today will be considered a guest and included in the drawing for one of two elegant door prizes. So, please come in and enjoy the manor magic!

On with the dance! let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.
George Gordon, Lord Byron

The ball is scheduled to start tonight at 12:00 midnight sharp, but my dearest friends, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Eugen Jan Boissevain drove all the way from Steepletop in their open Cadillac roadster, arriving scandalously early.  Fresh from the bath, I greet them in my white fluffy terrycloth robe, hair towel wrapped.  

I invite them to make them selves comfortable by the fire, while I attend to making myself glamorous.  Edna looks fabulous in a smart black cashmere coat and Russian style Persian lamb hat.  I'm so envious.  Wonder if she'll consider a swap for my Doctor Zhivago hat?

My escort for the evening is the charming George Sanders, who arrives, back from the other side, arm in arm with his cast from All About Eve, a delightful surprise, since I've always wanted to meet the formidable Bette Davis. As I take her hand, she promptly announces, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."  She obviously knows something is up, because the minute she steps aside to chat with Cro Magnon and Lesley Hornby, Zsa Zsa Gabor appears out of nowhere and takes the arm of her former third husband, who happens to be my date. 

Feeling completely jilted, Sir Anthony Hopkins arrives and gives me that killer gaze with those blue-blue eyes. He is such a dear and never misses a manor ball. I made sure we have plenty of his favorite liver, with some fava beans and a nice chianti. As he comes in close for a quick hug, I "accidentally" spill my glass of red wine on Zsa Zsa's white silk gown. Oopsies!  I whisk her off to the powder room for a tidy up. 

No sooner than I lose Ms. Gabor, a sultry Marilyn Monroe has taken her place. It seems my dear Mr. Sanders is in high demand this evening.  I smile wryly in their direction, with small eyes, and head toward the dance floor to find one solace in of my favorite crushes, the dashing Charles Simic. Maybe I can coax him into reciting some of his fabulous poetry while we take a spin on the dance floor? It's sure to make me weak in the knees and possibly catch the attention of my distracted date. Perhaps if I swoon, George will forget that pesky Marilyn and rush to catch me. It's worth a try.

Not only does Charles whisper enchanting words in my ear, he has me locked in quite a firm grip. You know that "thing" I have for hands, and this particular poet wins the Nobel Prize for Manly Hands this evening. Oh, look, he's wearing a pinkie ring. Love that. Not only are his hand nice, his feet are as light as his words. I so adore the dance of words on a page.  After I disengage my self from Mr. Simic's lusty hold, and steady myself enough to walk across the floor, I am thrilled to spot my good friend, the amazingly spry George Bernard Shaw, waltzing with a striking woman.  Could it be Vita Sackville-West?  Oh, Vita, daaaling! Or might it be the beautiful, enigmatic Virginia Woolf?

Please excuse me for a moment, and make yourself comfortable on this divan, while Alan Rickman recites Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene V, one of my particular favorites. 

Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out 'Olivia!' O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth,
But you should pity me!

Don't forget Annie Leibovitz is here, wearing her trademark basic black, armed with her personal digital camera, taking candid shots for the December issue of Vogue, so make sure you and your guest find her and pose extra dramatically. After hearing the history of the manor ghosts, she is concentrating on the front stairway, hoping to get a rare shot of our whispy lady in white. It's highly improbable, though, since she only makes her ghostly appearances between 3:00 and 4:30 a. m.

Speaking of ghosts, Mae West is holding a seance in the candlelit library, in case you're interested. She is set on conjuring Rudlph Valentino back for the evening, rose firmly planted in her teeth, her ample cleavage powdered.

What am I wearing tonight?  Well, I found the most lovely white vintage organdy gown in Paris last week, but it is as stiff as Miss Havisham's wedding cake.  After a dance or two, I find I can't get nearly as close to my partner as required.  I slip upstairs and make a quick change into this fabulous strapless dress worn by Linda Christian on the cover of Vogue in January of 1949. Amazing how much I favor her in the dress. Accordion pleats are perfect for twirling. Now, I can tango the night away in sheer bliss. Shh!  Don't tell, but I have my beloved woolly socks underneath.

You've probably heard by now, that our Master of Ceremonies is once again the indomitable Leonard Cohen, who arrived a little while ago by helicopter on the front lawn, with a bevy of swinging backup babes. I requested "Dance Me to the End of Love", for openers. Stand back ladies, I have reserved his first dance. What's this in his hand? Oh my, dearest Lenny, you shouldn't have! I do believe he has brought me some kind of sparkly gift. He's so sweet, he know's what a magpie I am.

There are crates of marvelous vintage champagne in the cellar, I've been saving for this special occasion, as well as a bar set up with all kinds of goodies.  I've instructed the bar tenders to make delicious and very old fashioned "Last Word" cocktails.  (2 oz gin, 1oz green chartreuse, 1/2 oz maraschino, and 1/2 fresh cut squeezed lime, shake, add a fresh bing cherry for cuteness)  Cheers!  Feel free to throw your glasses and crash them into the fireplace, since they are cyber glasses, after all.

I don't know about you, but all this twirling around the dance floor has made me ravenous. Please help yourself to some of this decadent food.  We've once again spared no expense in hiring the most exquisite caterers in town. Scottish quail eggs are on the menu this year in honor of my Scorbie ancestors. My DNA is definitely tingling. If you see Tom Hanks anywhere near that caviar garnish, shoo him away. He scrapes the entire thing onto his plate every year. Gosh, he just can't get over that You've Got Mail thing. Thank goodness he's no longer sporting that stringy Da Vinci Code hair.  Save room for my favorite part, dessert!  Please don't be shy. Cyber desserts are completely calorie free, remember? Yes, it's that same lethal chocolate mousse we served last year, only this time, it's without that strange Drambuie and mustard concoction, that made everyone grab the nearest partner and head for the privacy of a potted palm.

It's a gorgeous, balmy evening. Let's take a stroll out to the gazebo, shall we? Maybe I can find Mr. Sanders and Ms. Monroe out here amount the shrubberies. Wait, isn't this her shoe? No, it's Mrs. Manion's panties. Near the tennis court, I see an amazon of a woman emerging from the darkness. Oh my gosh, George, is that you?  Sanders strolls up, hides the blonde wig behind his back and quickly attempts to remove the bright red lipstick with his breast pocket hankie. Oh well, I'm certainly not disappointed, since my dance card was filled with all my charming bloggy friends, as well as the dreamy Mr. Simic. After dancing until the wee hours this morning, it's time now for my beauty sleep. Sigh. It's been a magical evening. Please do stop in around noon tomorrow  for brunch, daalings, and we'll catch up on all the delicious ball scuttlebutt.

Ta-ta, my friends! 
Sweet dreams!
Thank you for making 
The Manor Ball a smashing success!


Leave a comment and you'll be included 
in the drawing for two elegant door prizes...

these lovely little enamel bird boxes.

Don't forget to sign into the Mr. Linky below if you would like us to visit your blog, to see what glamorous clothes you might be wearing, or who your lovely date might be!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

he makes words dance

Words make love on the page
like flies in the summer heat
and the poet is only the bemused spectator.
Charles Simic

Newsflash! I just got word this morning that the handsome and talented Charles Simic will be attending the Willow Manor Ball! If you remember, he was invited, along with George Sanders, Trevor Howard and Robert Osborne. Since Mr. Sanders responded first, I chose him as my date for the evening. Now, I will be forced to split my attention between the two. Oh, what vile torture. I hope Mr. Simic is as light on his feet, as he is with his words.

In case you're unfamiliar with my particular crush, Charles Simic was born May 9, 1938, in Belgrade. He is a Serbian-American poet and co-Poetry Editor of the Paris Review. He was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2007.

After surviving the German bombing and occupation of Belgrade, he escaped Yugoslavia with his mother in 1948 into Austria and France, arriving in the United States in 1954 when he was sixteen. He grew up in Chicago and received his B.A. from New York University. He is professor emeritus of American literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire.

Simic brilliantly weaves his brutal childhood experience, twisted with wordplays and a comical sense of humor in his work. Not only is he a profound poet, but a thoughtful essayist on the topics of jazz, art and philosophy.

Classic Ballroom Dances

Grandmothers who wring the necks
Of chickens; old nuns
With names like Theresa, Marianne,
Who pull schoolboys by the ear;

The intricate steps of pickpockets
Working the crowd of the curious
At the scene of an accident; the slow shuffle
Of the evangelist with a sandwich board;

The hesitation of the early-morning customer
Peeking through the window grille
Of a pawnshop; the weave of a little kid
Who is walking to school with eyes closed;

And the ancient lovers, cheek to cheek,
On the dance floor of the Union Hall,
Where they also hold charity raffles
On rainy Monday nights of an eternal November.

Charles Simic

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Third Annual Willow Manor Ball! The festivities will begin at 12:00 a.m. EST, this Thursday, September 30. Everyone who leaves a comment on Thursday, will be included in the drawing for two elegant door prizes. A Mr. Linky widget will be provided if you would like others to visit your blog, to see your special date and elegant attire. I can't wait to see what you creative bloggers do with this!

Monday, September 27, 2010

pencil me in

I hope you are getting your dance cards ready, my friends, for this week's big cyber event, here at the Willow Manor. The dance card, also known by its German name, Ballspende, or plural Ballspenden, is used to record the names of those with whom are intended to dance each successive dance at a formal ball. They appear to have originated in 18th century, but their use first became widespread in 19th century Vienna.

An actual dance card is typically a booklet with a decorative cover, listing dance titles, composers, and the person with whom a woman intended to dance. Typically, it would have a cover indicating the sponsoring organization of the ball and a decorative cord by which it could be attached to her wrist or ball gown. From the 19th century until World War I, dance cards for the elite of Austria-Hungary were often very elaborate, with some even incorporating precious metal and jewels.

In modern times the expression "dance card" is often used metaphorically, as when someone says "pencil me into your dance card", meaning "find some time to spend with me". When someone's "dance card is full" it implies they have no time for, or interest in another person. So, I do hope your dance cards are not completely full this Thursday, September 30th.

It's going to be a magical evening. Pencil me in!

photos borrowed from google images

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Things are heating up at the manor for the big night.
Just in case you haven't caught the fever, here's a little teaser...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

wilson and sausage

sausage and chard saute with polenta

As promised, this is the second in a series of recipes using Italian sausage. It's very simple and the flavors are exquisite together. This one came together in 20 minutes flat, I kid you not. I loved last weeks variation, but I liked this one even better. My Native American DNA tingled over the creamy polenta.

Cook 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage (I used turkey sausages) in olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, 10 to 12 minutes, remove and slice. Add 4 cloves sliced garlic to the skillet, sizzle over medium heat for a few seconds, add 1 bunch Swiss chard (leaves cut into strips), salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, cook until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Fold in sausage. Serve over polenta. (I used the quick-cook variety). This dish is both earthy and elegant.

You know how much I love faces, especially in nature. This cute little guy, most appropriately named Wilson, said hello to me this week. (I really didn't add his smiley face.) Don't you love his dapper Scottish tam? He's here on my desk today, keeping me company.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

acqua di parma

She does not like the way it smells
on her wrist, mellow undertones
are not her fresh destination.
It reminds her of me.
Not a lightweight citrus,
this one. It tells pungent tales.
The initial impression is sharp
and new, then gives way
to the riddle of vetiver and cedar,
ancient woody cananga tree, deep
trysts only a Bulgarian rose might know.
She shakes her sandalwood head
and tosses the bottle on the bed.
Between the sheets, my tired skin
no longer diffuses the sweet
young dance of lavender.
You can keep it, Mom.
It’s a little too old for me.

Tess Kincaid
September 2010

To join Magpie Tales creative writing blog, click HERE.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

i bought the flowers myself

Things are all a twitter here at the manor, as we put the finishing touches on the The Third Annual Willow Manor Ball. Like Mrs. Dalloway, I just had to buy the flowers myself. I ordered arm loads of my favorite yellow roses and a few extra potted palms, which have proved in previous years, to be the perfect little trysting spots. Some hunky local guys were hired to handle the valet parking, and the masterful Leonard Cohen has agreed to arrive on the front lawn again this year, via helicopter, just in time to be our traditional MC for the evening. I flew in late last night from Paris, where I found the most fabulous vintage gown. Today the tailor is coming to adjust the size down, since I'm ever-so-cyberliciously thin.

Be sure you've got those bloggy calendars marked. Stop in any time here at Willow Manor Thursday, September 30 and leave a comment to be included in the drawing for the door prizes. There will also be a Mr. Linky widget available, if you would like others to visit your blog to see who your special date might be and what loveliness you are wearing to the ball. And remember....

photo borrowed from google images

Monday, September 20, 2010


I fancy the suicide seat, splendid hazard,
without seat belts. Out of the immensity,
he shifts up, from drive to dance, fast.
Tires squeal. This guy has street smarts
Lee Van Cleef would envy. I've been told
he’s one slim customer, fag intense
in his lips, like holding a gun,
only more powerful.
I contemplate a roulette ride
across the eternal front seat,
tuck the professional virgin
in the glove box. Chance falls to his knees,
pending miracles, as the keynote gallops
a wheel of fire. Second glance speaks,
Only the weak need both belt and suspenders.
Jesus, he can’t even trust his own pants.
Sometimes I pray for love
and laugh when I get it.

Tess Kincaid
September 2010

The Tenth Daughter of Memory prompt "suicide seat"
photo borrowed from google images

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Somewhere along the line,
the big zero of time was twisted
at the waist to become an eight.
An hourglass of days, slipping slow
from the top, then fast below the belt.
Is it providence, or a lemniscate of fate?
I like to think of myself as a verb
and not the object. Chop-chop!
I wait the hours. I empty my head of winter.
I am frightened by other people’s fears,
but not of the eight, not of the hourglass of days.

Tess Kincaid
September 2010

To join in the fun at Magpie Tales creative writing prompt blog click HERE.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

who was Opal Whiteley?

Now comes the days of brown leaves.
They fall from the trees.
They flutter on the ground.
When the leaves flutter,
they are saying little things.
I hear them tell of their borning days
when they did come into the world as leaves.

Today they told me how they were a part
of the earth and air before their tree borning days.
And now, they are going back.
In gray days of winter they go back to the earth.
But they do not die.

Opal Whiteley

Opal Whiteley, age 17

My dear friend, Annell, of Somethings I Think About, happened to come across the book The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow, by Benjamin Hoff, in her local second-hand bookstore and immediately thought of me. It arrived at the manor last week, and although I have not yet finished reading it, I am totally intrigued. It is a biography of Opal Whiteley (1897-1992), an American nature writer and diarist whose childhood journal, published in 1920 as The Story of Opal, in serialized form in the Atlantic Monthly, and later as a book with the title The Story of Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart.

Biographers have confirmed that as early as age five, Whiteley, a brilliant child prodigy was already keeping a journal, as an amateur naturalist. Family members claim that Opal Irene Whiteley was born in Colton, Washington, the first of five children, in an impoverished family who moved frequently among logging camps. Whiteley, however, claimed to be the daughter of Henri, Prince of Orléans, who died unmarried in 1901, was taken to Oregon in 1902, and brought to a lumber camp where she was adopted by Ed and Lizzie Whiteley. While Opal Whiteley used several names during her lifetime, the one she preferred, and was later buried under, was Françoise Marie de Bourbon-Orléans.

Though considered odd by everyone, no one knew she was schizophrenic. Through her heightened senses and a genius for expressing herself, she crafted the most fascinating diary ever written. Opal hid her diary in a hollow log in the woods near her home. But when she was 14, her younger sister found it and tore it to pieces. Heartbroken, Opal kept the pieces at a neighbor's house in a hat box.

At 23, Opal met Ellery Sedgwick, publisher of the Atlantic Monthly who asked if she had kept a diary as a child. She said that she had, and he asked to see it at once. For months, Opal worked to piece her diary back together, and in 1920, The Story of Opal was published. Hailed as a work of genius, it became a national best-seller. But because of its brilliance, people soon began to question if one so young could have written it.

Ten months after its publication, the diary was out of print and Opal was disgraced. People returned their copies and demanded repayment. Accused of literary fraud, Opal left for England. In 1948, she was found rummaging through the rubble of bombed-out buildings during World War II. She was taken to a public mental hospital where she remained until her death on February 16, 1992. She was buried at Highgate Cemetery, where her gravestone bears the inscription "I spake as a child".

Whiteley's true origins and the veracity of her diary are still questioned today. Several plays have been written about her mysterious life, as well as Robert Lindsey Nassif's award winning musical Opal, 1993. Thank you, Annell, for introducing me to this fascinating woman. I've been thoroughly enjoying all things "Opal".

Monday, September 13, 2010

easy early fall supper

I love a great deal. Last week, my local Aldi store had a special on Honeysuckle White sweet Italian turkey sausages. A 20 ounce package was less than three dollars. A steal. Now, my freezer is full of them. So, stay tuned in the coming weeks for new and exciting ways to serve Italian sausage. This first recipe is simple and delicious. Seriously, I threw it together in less than 30 minutes. (eat your heart out Rachel Ray) I served it with some nice crusty Italian bread and the rest of the Chardonnay used in the preparation. Yum-o-yum.

sausage with white beans and tarragon

Cook 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove. Add 2 sliced carrots and 1 chopped onion to the skillet, cook over medium heat until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Add 1 15-ounce can white beans (I used cannellini) drained and rinsed, and 3/4 cup white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes. Fold in sliced sausage and fresh tarragon. (I used 1 1/2 tsp dried) Salt and pepper to taste. (makes 3 piggy-sized portions or 4 regular)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

6 uses for a woolly sock

You know I've been longing for woolly sock season all sweltering summer long. Yesterday, it was actually cool enough to slip my feet into a soft, glorious pair. I was transported immediately to Woolly Socks Heaven. So, to officially kick off the season of woolliness, I thought you might enjoy six new uses for a woolly sock.

Wine Woolly: Slip a (clean) patterned kneesock over the bottom of a bottle, then knot the top to create a decorative carrier. (Better yet, offer your hostess two bottles so she can enjoy a pair of woolly socks.)

Woolly Pad: To soothe an achy neck from over-blogging, fill a sock with rice and a few drops of a relaxing essential oil, like lavender. Tie with ribbon; microwave for one minute.

Woolly Storage: Place a Mason jar into a pretty patterned sock, then tuck excess fabric inside the jar. Fill. (I love this one.)

Woolly Duster: Clean hard to reach places, by attaching a sock to the end of a broom and securing with a rubber band. Lint clings to the sock. (Forget Swiffer.)

Bulb Woolly: If a loose lightbulb has lost its box, slip a sock over the bulb to protect it. (I don't know about you, but we never seem to have any extra bulbs laying around the manor. One's always going out.)

Draft Woolly: Fill a sock with beans or old dish towels and place in front of a drafty window or door. (This will empty my whole sock drawer. The dear old manor is so drafty.)

Thanks to for the woolly inspirations. (my photos)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

it's official

Where on the screen I am invariably a sonofabitch,
in life I am a dear, dear boy.
George Sanders

George Sanders rang me up from the other side, and in that gorgeous velvety voice, graciously agreed to be my date for the Third Annual Willow Manor Ball. I sent invitations to several wonderful men, including Trevor Howard, Charles Simic, and Robert Osborne, but sorry guys, Mr. Sanders, ever the perfect gentleman, was the first to reply.

Did you know that Sanders was actually born in St. Petersburg, Russia, of English parents, and lived there until he and his family were forced to flee to England after the revolution of 1917? Since he is, in fact, a dear, dear boy, maybe he'll bring me a new Zhivago hat, since the season is almost upon us? I hope it's nice and chilly the evening of the ball, so I can wear my favorite woolly socks beneath my gown. Maybe a little fur trimmed number would be nice, in honor of George's birthplace. I'm still undecided on exactly what I'm going to wear, but I've noticed many of you are already busily cyber shopping for that perfect gown and accessories. This week, I met with the same fabulous caterers as last year, and all is set for tons of wonderful food and exotic drinks.

Just in case you haven't heard about the biggest cyber event of the year, make sure you mark your calendars. There will be a Mr. Linky widget provided for all who wish to share their dates and what they're wearing to the ball. And there will be door prizes chosen from everyone who attends (leaves a comment) here at Willow Manor on

One of the most fun things about a cyber ball is that we all dance like gods and goddesses. Make sure you have your dance cards ready, because we are rolling up the carpets at Willow Manor! Just to give you a taste of the festivities, here's a clip of one my favorite tangos.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

birth giver

From a proper distance
I envied your forbidden arms,
right hand open, not in striking,
but in tenderness,
ubiquitous child
snuggled to your cheek.

The silent night
my mother pulled her plug
without remorse,
your surprise arrival,
was ferocious with pity,
a maternal force unfamiliar
to this protestant daughter.

Carefully instructed to point
a condemning finger,
yet I recognize,
Queen of Heaven,
without a doubt,
the swaddling clothes
of my newly orphaned spirit.

Tess Kincaid
September, 2010

To join Magpie Tales creative writing prompt blog click HERE.
Photo entry as "Silence Lies Broken" in The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

butt in the hall of fame

All families have them, don't they? Quirky little words and phrases started by the children, that stuck for the duration. This summer, for instance, we at the manor have been calling cucumbers "cute-cumbers" ever since Jo, from A Nana's Journey, mentioned that's what her grandson calls them. Some of these words have become so commonplace, we don't even notice how strange they might sound to outsiders.

One of our particular family words is "flidge-a-later". When my daughter had her pre-kindergarten interview, one of the questions asked was, "What is the big box in the kitchen that is used to keep food cold?" The school principal later told us he did all he could to keep a straight face, when she looked him square in the eye, and said, "You mean the flidge-a-later?"

Here at the manor, if you happen to do something either outstandingly stupid or mean, not just regular every-day-kind-of-stupid, but something of the brilliantly stupid variety, you are ceremoniously bestowed the prestigious title "Butt in the Hall of Fame". This endearing practice started when the two older kids misunderstood the lyrics of the Munchkin song "Follow the Yellow Brick Road", from The Wizard of Oz, that go something like...

You will be a bust, be a bust, be a bust,
in the Hall of Fame!

At ages three and five, they had no idea what a bust was. It certainly sounded like "butt" to them. Okay, please tell me we're not the only family who has fondly and so willingly adopted silly words into their vocabulary. I would love to know some of yours.

Monday, September 6, 2010

how i celebrated the end of summer

At the suggestion of my friend John Hayes, of Robert Frost's Banjo fame, I added several of pioneer French filmmaker Agnes Varda's films to my Netflix queue. I watched the first, La Pointe Courte, 1954, this weekend and was completely mesmerized. As part of The Criterion Collection, it has been lusciously remastered. The film is a graceful, yet intense, look at a troubled marital relationship, set in a Mediterranean fishing village.

Gorgeously filmed, it plays almost like a documentary, showing a very real slice of culture, and left me feeling as if I had just browsed a wonderful photographic exhibit. In my favorite breathtaking scene, the couple crawl into the shadowy hull of an abandoned boat and share an intimate conversation. In the opening sequence, the camera took me down a lazy walkway in the small village, peering in open windows at families gathered at dinner tables, with hanging laundry scattered among stray cats.

It immediately brought to mind a book I read to my children, in the early 90s, by the wonderful illustrator, Louise Brierley, called The Fisherwoman. The story is about Maud, the fisherwoman, who has worked hard to earn her living from the sea. One evening, when she hauls in her net, she finds an old pink vase among the flapping silver mackerel. The vase, she discovers, has magical properties, but in the end all is not as she hopes. Brierley's character, Maud, with round face and lush full features, looks amazingly like Varda's female character, Elle. And as synchonicity would have it, both Varda's film and Brierly's story are loosely based on feminist themes, exuding beauty, life and power.

Since I couldn't spend the holiday weekend in the Mediterranean, this movie, and the book, which I had to dig out and re-read, certainly hit the spot, celebrating the last days of summer. I'm also looking forward to watching the next few Varda films in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

java chops

Molasses and Coffee Pork Chops

Teri posted this fabulous recipe on her blog Working the Earth a week or two ago. The intriguing coffee- molasses combo was just begging me to give it a whirl. The dark, robust flavor is peaked with the ginger and thyme. Hurry and make this before grilling season is over and the season of woolly-socks-and-crock-pots moves in!

1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
6 oz. molasses (about 1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp apple cidar vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground ginger
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 6-8 oz. bone-in pork chops

Marinate at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat grill to medium. Pour marinade into saucepan, boil gently until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 12-15 min. Remove thyme stems. Grill chops 4-6 minutes per side (internal temperature 145). Rest for 5 min. Serve with glaze. Heaven.

Thanks, Teri, this one is going to be a regular at the manor.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

sean's friend

We woke to the most deliciously cool morning. The first thing I did upon rising, was fling open all the windows, wonderful woolly socks-ish breeze flow through the manor, slowly filling each room with fragrant early fall air. It was the first morning in weeks, we were able to breakfast on the patio, where I relish the bird community.

My favorite plumpish sparrow is dubbed "Joan Plowright" and the more timid of the hummingbirds I call "Sean". Today, Sean's feisty hummer companions, pointy beaks out like sabers, attacked a group of chickadees, chasing them from the area where their feeder hangs. I was amazed at the Nazi-like behavior coming from such innocent looking little guys.

Later, while cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I heard an odd buzzing coming from the dining room. One of those spunky hummingbird friends of Sean, had made his way inside, through the open dutch door at the front of the manor. He worked himself into such a frenzy, determined to force his way through the glass window, that my attempts to shoo him out were useless. The stubborn tiny hummer had to figure it out on his own. Finally, after nearly a half hour of buzzing and crashing his beak into the glass, he discovered the open patio door and flew free.

I like to think birds are often messengers. What was this poor lil' fellah telling me today? Maybe that “stubborn and ardent clinging to one's opinion is the best proof of stupidity”. Michel de Montaigne Yeah, maybe.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Heavily dipped
in sweet warble,
your bored feathers
spread wide as a peacock,
strut upper and outest.

You are blissfully unaware
or perhaps your happy anatomy,
hard-set, craves a sunswept Sunday,
the midnight indigo?

Men scrump fruit below
the bent tree where you perch,
dropping songs,
tokens as innocent
as Mrs. Manion’s panties.

Quick, put on the tight girdle,
play the roll of a caged bird,
before the uptake on
might prove your flutter

Tess Kincaid
September, 2010

Turn your sound way UP and listen for the flirtibird at the end!

Otto Preminger's iconic American court drama, Anatomy of a Murder, 1959, and Duke Ellington's fabulous jazz for the musical score of the film, were also inspirations for this piece.

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