Monday, August 18, 2014


About three hours north of the US/Canadian border is the most European city this side of the Atlantic: Ville de Quebec. Last week, my husband and I paid a three-day visit to mini-'Pair-ee".

Window boxes overflowing with blossoms

and sidewalk cafes brimming with patrons remind visitors of the city's European cousin.

It's no wonder the city is reminiscent of the old country. Sitting above the St. Lawrence River,

the Chateau Frontenac dominates the horizon.
When you drive into the hotel's courtyard, the bellmen greet you in Quebecois, the Canadian version of French.
With your valise deposited in your room, a walking tour of the hilly city reminds you of the city's European roots. Perhaps it is the tin mosaic roofs between parapet gables...
or the cobbled streets that transport visitors' minds across the Atlantic.

The Old fortified city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Doubtless the new world immigrants brought their love of flowers from the old country.

Canada's history was dominated first by French fur traders,


then by English soldiers.

The result is Canada's version of peaceful coexistence.

Maybe the French nuns taught the children to love their neighbors as themselves,

or maybe it was their Anglican counterparts who reinforced the Lord's love.

Today, conversations in Quebec City flow between French and English without rancor. However, I must hasten to add, their palates have never left Paris.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Last-Minute Dinner & a Movie

I am often a last-minute-Charlie, especially when it comes to entertaining. About Thursday, I think, "Oh, I ought to have some friends over to make the weekend special." It seems most people don't wait so long to make plans, because invariably many opt to "take a rain check". This past weekend was no exception, but thankfully, some of our best friends were available to join us for dinner and a movie.

A Saturday trip to Costco was a life-saver.  As I tasted my way through the aisles, I got menu ideas and scored on a bunch of green spider chrysanthemums.

For an appetizer, I purchased some tasty crackers with a clever brand-name "Food Should Taste Good".  The nutty-a wee-bit-sweet crackers were tasty paired with garlic-flavored humus.

As the foundation of my main course, I chose some pre-rubbed St. Louis spare-ribs. Subsequently, I read on-line that folks have found the Costco pre-rubbed ribs to be too salty. Thankfully, we didn't find them that way. The men especially enjoyed them!

I added Brussel sprouts and fresh corn to the main course. My friend brought a delicious Caesar salad.

As always, the corn was the hit of the night. Lancaster has the best corn in the country, bar none! With cause, our county is dubbed "garden spot of the world". Just up the road from us, a winsome Amish family have a vegetable stand. Their fresh-picked corn is the best of the best. My husband chose several white ears and several bi-colored ears. He also shucked it for me and cut it off the cob! (BTW, Lancaster County cooks swear by the steam-for-three-minute rule. Any less cooking time, the corn isn't hot; any more, the corn is mushy.) 

 I used rolls that I had sampled at Costco. After slicing the rolls and spreading them with butter, we zapped them for less than a minute in the micro-wave. They were perfect.

The grand-finale was some yummy sorbet, also from Costco. The box of Island Way Sorbet contains twelve servings, three of coconut, pineapple, pomegranate and mango flavors.

What I love best is the presentation. You have to agree that coconut sorbet is more tasty served out of a coconut shell...

pineapple sorbet scooped into a tiny pineapple.
The same goes for pomegranate sorbet in a lemon rind...
 and mango sorbet served in the skin of an orange.

 What a simple dessert, light and tasty paired with some delectable fresh sugar cookies available at the corner Amish stand.

To top off the night, we headed to the local movie theatre and caught the spy thriller: A Most Wanted Man. The John Le Carre story is suspenseful and baffling.
This last movie starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman verified the accolades heaped on him after his untimely death. I'd recommend seeing the movie, just to enjoy his disheveled, shuffling personification of a covert German spy.
Vanity Fair photo of Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man

My only word of caution for you: If you decide to repeat my evening, don't wait until the last minute to invite your friends and get tickets. They both might be unavailable.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Salon Design Reflects Service

Customers get a sense of a business by observing the shop. The salon where I get my hair cut illustrates this phenomenon. For nearly a decade I have driven 45 minutes to have a very talented hair designer cut my hair.  His family's salon in York, Pennsylvania illustrates what they market--beauty.
The outside graphics catches your eye before you enter the front door.
The metal artist who created this sculpture shows his work at the Long's Park Arts & Craft Festival.
The interior design also reinforces the shop's youthful image. Maintaining a current face is important in the industry, because clients are buying a fresh, up-to-date look.

It is also important for a place of business to have an up-beat vibe. After all, who wants to frequent a business that is depressing? At Shortino's, the earth-toned color palate--which began with the colorful print on the upholstered seating--is anything but drab.

Even in winter, the happy-orange feature-wall lifts the gloom.

One especially creative element in the shop's design is the free-form painting on the soft blinds. The artist pulled the colors from the chair fabric and let them spill across the accordion window coverings. The results is pure genius.
Leaving the waiting area and front desk, clients are taken to their stylist's chair. The owner's son, Frank Michael Shortino, cuts my hair. He is the third-generation of hair designers in the family. I not only appreciate his amazing ability to get my straight, baby-fine hair to cooperate, but I appreciate his love for literature and travel. We never run out of interesting topics of conversation.
I found Frank-Michael through my daughter who was living in New York City. At one point, Anna had a disastrous result when she had her hair lightened. I never saw it, but apparently, it was so bad she skipped work to have it repaired at another salon. Frank Michael, who still teaches cut and color internationally, worked his magic so no one ever knew of the oops.

Anna's misfortune became my fortune. Sitting in Frank Michael's chair in the trendy lower east side salon, she found out that he also worked part-time in York, Pennsylvania. On her rave review, I tried the salon, and now for nearly a dozen years, I have been the beneficiary of Frank Michael's talent. I have watched him grow from an artistic young stylist to a confident professional who now is married and lives full-time in Central Pennsylvania where he is being groomed to take over the family business.

Shortino's Salon will continue to thrive, because they keep their services and their environment current.
This memorable mural takes the customer's mind off the crick in their neck.
Believe me, a visit to this well-designed salon will leave a lasting and favorable impression.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tureens: for Soup to Flowers

While visiting Winterthur to see the Downton Abbey exhibit, I took a detour to the Dorrance Gallery to see the Campbell Soup Company's collection of tureens. John T. Dorrance, Jr., company chairman, and W.B. Murphy, president of Campbell's, began to collect tureens in 1966. Over the years, they chose tureens based on craftsmanship, form, and history. By the early 1990's they decided to relocate their treasures to Winterthur.

 Below are photos I took of the amazing display.

Many of the tureens on display at Winterthur are silver. Some are very baroque; others are more contemporary. 

The tureen below was the first one acquired by Dorrance. It displays the coat of arms of George Washington's maternal family. 

In addition to embellishing the bowl of the tureen, silversmiths created elaborate lids. The pair below are topped with flora...

others with fauna. (Click on the picture below to see a larger view of this elaborate finial, a bear surrounded by hounds.)

Handles and feet were also part of the design. Dolphins support this silver tureen which was made in Russia in 1766. 

Although the tureen had humble beginnings as a bowl for serving a one-dish meal, during the reign of Louis XIV in France it evolved into an ornate symbol of wealth.
Each foot of this tureen is resting atop a turtle.                          
Some tureens are presented on a matching tray.

while others were made to stand alone.

How fun would it be to ladle turtle soup out of this tureen?

Beside the shiny silver tureens are many lovely porcelain examples. I loved the whimsical reclining fawn finial on this ceramic piece.

This blue and white masterpiece is topped with a perfect pear.

Somehow a frog found his way to the top of this cabbage.

Here a tiny bird is feasting on fruit and vegetables.

According to Patricia Halfpenny, former collections director at Winterthur, before Louis IV's day, soup was often the primary meal served. In that era, it was sipped communally from a simple bowl with handles. As soup gained popularity as a first course in high society, the tureen evolved into something more elaborate. Can't you imagine a hunting party coming into a castle's banquet hall and being served soup from this boar's head tureen?

As ceramic transfer ware manufacturing became popular the tureen began to be used by the growing middle class.  
Blue-printed pattern on tureen attributed to Joseph Stubbs of Staffordshire, England , circa 1825-30. Photo from Antiques and the Arts Weekly.

My personal favorites are the white, tone-on-tone, tureens.

Which would you choose?  And what would you put in your tureen? 

I conjecture that the tureen of Louis IV's day has evolved once again and is most often used today as a centerpiece, rather than for serving soup. Whatever their use, tureens certainly are lovely containers for anything from soup to flowers.