Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sorbet Anyone? A Royal Dessert

In January my husband reminded me that an exhibit at the High Museum of Art would soon be closing and he wanted to have the chance to see it.  It was such an odd thing for him to mention. He generally does not enjoy museums and in fact when we travel together I carefully plan our itinerary to include museum visits in small doses.  So what was the exhibit?  Habsburg Splendor, a collection of masterpieces, costumes and objet d’art from the Habsburg dynasty.  I love the High Museum of Art and I maintain a membership there so of course I jumped at the opportunity to enjoy a night at the museum.

What an interesting exhibit and there were several items of interest but the one item that captivated me and my husband was a centerpiece for sorbets.  Various sea shells including bonnet snail shells were made into cameo serving pieces. The piece was in a case but I did my best to get photos. Can you imagine what it took to make this item?  I wonder how many shells were broken in the process.  

Official photo from the High Museum

I was on the floor looking up to capture the cameo on the underneath part of the shell. 
Nearly everyone was captivated by this item.
Just a few weeks after our trip to the museum my husband and I visited Versailles.  It was our first time to visit and in some ways I was disappointed.  It seemed so plain and I couldn’t figure out if it seemed plain because Hollywood has glamourized the life and times of Marie Antoinette or had my visit to Peterhof Palace minimized my view?  I’m not really sure but I’m happy that we finally had a chance visit Versailles. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Do you like saffron?   The only saffron I’d ever had before going to Morocco was saffron rice which I’m sure I enjoyed but I had no knowledge about the harvesting or value of saffron until our trip.  
The farmer's field. Saffron (crocuses) grow underneath the almond trees.
During part of our travels we drove through an area where the argon trees grow. (And then you start seeing goats in the trees but that’s another story)!  Eventually we entered an area where there were also a lot of almond trees growing. Our guide asked us if we were interested in stopping for a cup of tea. 
A typical pouring of the tea - with showmanship
We stopped in a tiny farming community at a country store and our guide explained to us that we were in a farming community where they grow saffron.  We missed the harvest season by a week. At this small farm a group of seven women had already picked the flowers and harvested the saffron. When the flowers are ready to be picked they only have a couple of days to remove the saffron threads from the blossoms.
Can you see the small threads?

I love the purple color of the blossoms
Saffron is expensive.  In fact it is the world's most expensive spice.  One pound of saffron can cost as much as $5000 and tt takes approximately 150,000 flowers to yield a pound of saffron.  That is a lot of flowers! The little roadside store where we stopped for tea employees 7 neighbors to come help with the picking and harvesting of the spice so this is big business and an important part of this community's local economy.
Saffron for purchase
In addition to learning about the process of growing saffron the local farmer’s wife offered us saffron tea.  It was delicious and sweetened with local honey. 

I’m sure I enjoy many foods with a limited understanding of the efforts of farmers but in the future I’ll be a lot more excited about saffron when I see it on the menu. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Perfect Gift

Have you ever received the perfect gift? I have. This Christmas my niece gave me a gift that nearly took my breath away.  I wasn't expecting anything which made this present even more touching but it was also perfect and here's why.

When I was in high school I selected my china pattern. I fell in love with Autumn by Lenox and I remained determined that one day I would own some place settings of this china.  Eventually my dream came true and I have I to say that I love this pattern as much today as I did when I first spotted the pattern back in 1973 when I was working part-time at Belk Matthews in Warner Robins, Georgia. 

This Christmas my niece gave me a small package and as I mentioned, I really wasn't expecting anything but when I opened the wrappings I was amazed when I realized what she'd given me.  It was a beautiful necklace that was made from a broken piece of china. But not just any piece of china. It was piece of Autumn by Lenox.  
I love this necklace
Notice the fruits are raised
This gift is a treasure and it has reminded me of the importance of listening and observing during the year. A real gift isn't something we rush out to buy. Instead it is a gift that is well thought out. It is something that touches the heart.

This necklace serves as a reminder to listen and observe friends and family more closely so that I can also give the perfect gift.  And you know what, it's never to early to start planning for Christmas!