accessorize merrily with a splash of tomato sauce

I thought you might be curious about what one wears for an extravagant summer event in the "Hamptons," which is what the collection of once charming small villages on the eastern end of Long Island's South Fork is called by people who didn't grow up here or didn't grow up summering here.

We are in fact preparing for an extravagant event here at Flintstone Manor: I drive up to my favorite farm stand, the one that's sent 3 or 4 generations of its children to college and is still staffed by nice young nieces and cousins, and I purchase a box of 25 pounds of Plum Tomatoes and two very large bunches of basil.

The extravagant part is that I buy the Number One tomatoes, the good ones that don't have to be trimmed before cooking. No wormholes or bird pecks in my kitchen. Also, it speeds things up if I don’t have to barber the tomatoes.

Then I pop into a supermarket for little freezer containers. I've learned the hard way that if I want just a cup or half a cup of sauce for, say, a sausage sandwich or two, having a few quart containers in the freezer is not helpful. And ultimately you will have a tomato-colored iceberg or two in the freezer,  which will have to be thrown out. This is one of those times when "spending to save" works.
 There is no recipe. Crucial first step:  I remind Himself that the great big lobster pot is already booked for the weekend, so he shouldn't show up with lobsters. 

Then I rinse the tomatoes very thoroughly and get going cutting them up. I quarter them and cut them in half again, trim off the remains of any stem parts, and just keep going. About 1/3 of the way through the tomatoes, I put 3 or 4 very very very thinly sliced onions and some sliced garlic and olive oil into the lobster pot, put it over very low heat and cover it and let everything cook without browning until the onions are melted. Meanwhile I finish cutting the tomatoes. Although if the onions look like they're ready, I'll add whatever tomatoes are cut and let them start becoming sauce.
The basil gets a thorough rinsing, and the bunch is held over the pot and hacked up with a kitchen scissors. The rest of the tomatoes and more cut up basil go in. When the whole thing comes to a boil, stir madly for a minute or two, turn the heat down and stir some more. I want the tomatoes to break down and the sauce to reduce by about 1/3.

Sooo - when the pot's ready for a long, traditional simmering, I put it into a slow oven, say about 250' F. That way, the heat is all around the pot and it only needs an occasional stir. If the pot and cover are too tall for the oven, even on the lowest shelf, try turning the cover upside down.

I don't peel the tomatoes, because the peel adds color and flavor. So does the gloop around the seeds.  When it looks to me like all the tomatoes are cooked through - a few hours of cooking, say 4 or 5 - I lift the pot out of the oven to the top of the stove and have at it with a stick blender. Goodbye, peel and seeds. If it looks pale, I plop in a 6-ounce can of tomato paste, imported if available.

Then, back into the oven to reduce - to cook it down so that it gets thicker by itself and isn't watery. If I happen to come across more basil I add it here. I leave it partly covered, overnight, in a very low oven, say 175 or 200.

In the morning, there is sauce. Let it cool while you stoke yourself with coffee, decide if it needs another buzz with the stick blender, and then begin the transfer into the freezer containers.

And then find space for all the containers into the freezer.

Fashion note: This is not a dressy event, but you should see how cute I look with dabs of tomato sauce all over my arms and nose and oldest jeans and tee. Not.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Fine fabrics and craftsmanship are disappearing faster than glacier ice.

I’ve tried but I can no longer even think about spending a whole day “tidying,” let along a whole week, or more likely a month, which is what it would take. At a minimum. And to what end? I like having more than one top per jacket. I like not having to worry about things coming back from the cleaner in time. I like not worrying about what’s taking the hand laundry so long to dry. I like being able to change socks in the middle of a hot day. I like knowing that I have a closet full of things made of fabrics and minerals to which I am not allergic. And - oh, the shame - I like knowing that if the black pants I bought last year have mysteriously become too tight, there will be a pair of black pants purchased 4 years ago when my weight ballooned after a trip to France, still there, still well tailored, still coordinated with other items I own...

Until recently, I was concerned that my closet reflected the personality of an over-aged, lazy spoiled brat.

I now know better.

I have been, simply, an early adapter of Self Care. In owning black silk pants in a range of sizes, in a fabric to which I’m not allergic (that would be the silk), I have been proactively preventing skin irritations, that is, practicing full-body skin care. Same for fine wool. Same for navy pants, same for beige, camel, wine, hunter green, military green, tweed and tweed-like patterns. (note to self: find and insert picture of defiant stare) (ok, dear readers, please imagine such a vision - passport picture of someone who would benefit from an expensive blow-out but is going to get on that plane anyway, dammit)

Back to self-care: One can’t achieve a state of calm and mindfulness (formerly referred to as Inner Poise) if the Big Issue at the Forefront of One’s Mind is not Living in Peace and Harmony with One’s Neighbors and Looking Forward to a Bright Tomorrow but Whether The Waist Button Will Hold Till I Get Home, or Is Anyone Looking Because I Itch All Over. 

Same for shirts.

Same for sweaters.

Same for jackets.

and so on.

I even buy dupes. Knowing that I won’t be leaving the house in an uncoordinated outfit gives me the ability to worry about real issues.

Moreover, as a practical matter, should I and my dear ones be trapped in a political or economic crisis, I won’t need clothes to job-hunt, to volunteer, to campaign, to flee, to lend to those who have fled. I’ll be ready, I won’t break out in allergic rashes, and I’ll have plenty left over to share. No matter what time of year, what kind of weather.

um, just noticed, there may be a shortage of lightweight pull on rain boots. Back in a while.

dawn patrol, armed with discount codes, hot coffee, and a dwindling attention span

Within the last 24 hours:
my lavender houndstooth herringbone blazer arrived 
it was a deranged magic hour grab 
during a recent 60% off sale.

It was not lavender.  It was a faded mauve. 
The difference between the website photo (below) and the reality 
was too great to be blamed on screens or pixels.
It was also not houndstooth  herringbone
Here are some pictures of houndstooth herringbone jackets, all J.Crew.

observe the little woven-in chevrons. 
they are what make herringbone, herringbone.  
There were no little “teeth” on the jacket that arrived.
My best guess is that someone mis-set the computer-governed specs in the fabric mills,
and the mill shipped out the resulting bolts to the cut-and-sew operations anyway. 

Nobody's perfect.

so: not lavender, not houndstooth, not herringbone either.
But fortunately, not final sale. 

Among other items, I ordered a 2019 diary very early this morning. 
Used the “flash sale” promo plus the “apology” discount. 
I’d probably get a better price if I waited until this coming November 
but what the #*&$.
I might have to go out to dinner or catch a plane between now and then.

I admired but didn’t order a pair of multi-colored make-believe snakeskin sandals. 
I never know what size J.Crew thinks my feet are, and I still have Christmas stuff to return
so I didn't bite.
Later today, I passed one of the remaining J.Crew stores, 
and there were the sandals, with 25% off. They were sooo cute. 
A favorite look: multi-colored shoes with an otherwise monochrome outfit.

Before I tried them on, I had to remove packing stuff. 
The shoes fit a lot better without all that. 
There are holes on the straps to make adjustments. 
They get lost in the snakeskin - persevere. 

Worst event of the day - 
LinkedIn has found the perfect job for me. 
At Goop.
I’m trying to close my account at LinkedIn - before they send me puppies.
Seems to be the same algorithm that tells me men's hiking boots are in my shopping bag.
Yeah, right.

what did Warren Zevon know and when did he know it?

I went home with the waitress the way I always do How was I to know she was with the Russians too? I was gambling in Havana I took a little risk Send lawyers, guns and money Dad, get me out of this, hah! I'm the innocent bystander Somehow I got stuck between the rock and a hard place and I'm down on my luck Yes I'm down on my luck Well I'm down on my luck I'm hiding in Honduras I'm a desperate man Send lawyers, guns and money the shit has hit the fan All right Send lawyers, guns and money Huh! Uhh! Send lawyers, guns and money ....

the meaning of Boxing Day in a post-1776 world

dear readers, I wish all of you 
a Merry Christmas 
and a very happy New Year
and of course a swiftly and efficiently accomplished Boxing Day!
Boxing Day is the day after Christmas
when we put all the mis-presents
back into their boxes
and bring or send them back to the stores
thereby keeping the economy in motion.


another post about scarves

Although our travel has been curtailed recently (stupid health issues), I'm still planning the trips we will take when all this nonsense is settled. Reporting the opinion of Specialist B to Specialist A should not be the task of the patient, because the patient, while intelligent and well-educated, is not a doctor. Most recently I complained about side effects from a particular medication, and Brilliant Specialist suggested "we" try another medication which doesn't have those side effects. Although it has its own. I asked how this med is different from the first one, other than the side effects, which sounded exactly the same to me. I was told, it's not, it's exactly the same. So then, what is the point of trying it, I cheerfully inquired. Because, she said, it’s different. Further discussion was frustrating and pointless - the two meds are made of the same ingredients, but they're different. Like Coke and Pepsi, she said. "Um,"said I, "do you mean one contains more sodium than the other and is more heavily marketed in predominantly minority communities?"

I left shaking my head and on the way home it occurred to me that she might have been trying, in an inarticulate kind of way, to tell me that the two substances were isomers.

I’m all for not waiting for rewards for my infrequent episodes of saintly patience - I feel I am entitled to a trip and I am entitled to another scarf.

At the time Himself and I started traveling together, I knew a lot of people who had collections of memorabilia from their travels, which I considered dust-catchers. I would have liked to load up the car trunk with a complete service for 8 (or even 12, that’s how nice girls once bought dishes) from our spur-of-the-moment visit to the Quimper factory but coming home with with a bunch of chipped and shattered dishes didn't appeal. Nor did the cost of the professional shipping recommended by the nice lady at the factory, nor did buying piece by piece of Quimper at New York prices!

So my entire collection of travel souvenirs from that first starry-eyed trip: one Liberty scarf (London), one Hermès scarf (Paris), one box of lovely chocolates which we ate on the plane (Brussels). I bought no dust-catchers, nothing the shipping costs of which were exponentially greater than the cost of a the purchase, nothing that outweighed the luggage ... and nothing that was going to be charged punitive duty. I've stuck with these principles over time, although in the days before iPhones I was not embarrassed to ask a maître d’ for a menu.

Here are my rules for picking a scarf:

1. You must be able to wear it. Are the colors becoming to you? Will it go with at least a few things you already own?
2.  No matter how tempted I am, I never buy a scarf with a design that will put white or cream silk against my skin (face, front of neck, back of neck). I don't want stains of makeup or sunblock or perspiration on an investment. If I love the design, I ask if I may see it in another colorway.

3.  A scarf is a really good place to express the Inner You without showing too much skin or wearing head to toe black leather. The Inner Me is an obnoxious little girl who had to learn lots of proverbs and phrases and awkward idiomatic expressions in foreign languages because they would be on exams. Now I'm trying to unlearn them, have been for the past several decades, because they are useless in everyday conversation. You try telling a Frenchman who is getting digressive, "let us return to our sheep." ("Revenons à nos moutons.") Apparently the 17th century comedy from which this adorable expression derives is no longer on the national academic syllabus. But a scarf with little chubby sheep wandering up a mountainside? That speaks to my obnoxious teenage self,
 as does a scarf showing a "Roman" mosaic of a cat and the warning "Cave felem" ("Beware of the cat."). So if you have a thing for monkeys or parrots, have a scarf or two depiecting these creatures.

4.  Beware of counterfeiting. You can find wonderful buys on designer scarves on eBay, but examine the pictures carefully, and be very careful to look at all the pictures. If there’s only one picture, think twice. EBay also has some interesting essays on verification.