Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Summer cocktails

Pimm's cocktail.

I love cocktails! I usually like basic strong stuff. I grew up with this big family of males and somehow I thought I needed to show them that I could drink too. I will never forget when my oldest brother, John, (12 years older), found out I was going to college in NYC at Parsons, and at the next family party asked me what I was drinking. When I replied, “Rum and Coke,” he spewed out his drink and said, “Kid come over here. Let me pour you a Scotch. You can’t go to NYC and ask for a rum and Coke! They’ll laugh you right out of there!!”

Since then, I learned to love a simple single malt Scotch on the rocks (not too many rocks and not too hard to love) or a super cold straight up martini. I like gin or vodka, depending on how I feel. But as I’ve gotten older, I need things lighter.

So this summer, I’ve discovered Pimm’s! It’s lighter but you can still make a drink with a kick – after all, why do we drink when we drink? And it’s different and refreshing for the summer. Gin based, the recipe is a secret, as it says on the bottle. It’s some kind of berry mixture with a little nice bitterness, but no cough syrup flavor like Campari. It’s nice! Try it and tell me what you think. Now I’m not a sweet person (although many people tell me I’m sweet, ha!), I don’t particularly like sweet things, but if you do, add some simple syrup to this recipe and you’ll be just fine.

With love, enjoy!

Mary’s Pimm’s cocktail

1.5 oz. Pimm’s
1.5 oz. gin – preferably Hendrick’s
1 oz. Pellegrino
I tall sprig of mint
Additional mint for garnish
Squeeze of fresh lime (optional)

Pour the Pimm’s, gin, and Pellegrino over ice in a cocktail shaker. Add in the mint sprig. Cover and shake vigorously, longer than you think you should. Now I realize you’re shaking out all of the carbonation out of the Pellegrino, but I don’t like those bubbles anyway. Pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with additional mint and a squeeze of fresh lime if you like. Sip and relax!

Remembering Harriet

Her outlook on life was always positive. If my kids broke something or something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it too, she’d loudly say, “NEVERMIND, it’ll all work out.” Or, “Nevermind, it’s replaceable.” Her attitude was: move on, no big deal, don’t dwell on it. She was right!

She had a wonderful way of decorating all of her homes, little funny things all over. She always had a small lamp on the kitchen counter with a beautiful simple glass jar full of honey underneath it. First of all, having a low light source in your kitchen is different and provides such warmth. I made sure to have that in my little temporary apartment. And then, having the light above the honey made it absolutely glow. In her den in the large NJ home, she placed a chair and footstool, smack dab in the middle of the room, sideways in front of the fireplace and facing the view of the city. A bold positioning that made perfect sense, but definitely quirky – definitely Harriet!

Dish cloths with clothes hanging scenes, clothespins to close chip bags, stores of tipsy olives for her vodkas, these things completed her kitchen. She drank her vodkas out of Simon Pearce glasses in every house. We liked them so much, we made sure to get some for us for our country house. One burner on her stove would never light the normal way. She’d take a skillet and give it one hard bang and voila, it would light. She loved to put an apron on me and then arrange a dish towel through the waist tie a certain way – her way – which she insisted was best.

And one of the best things she taught me and said over and over again while we were moving back into the city, “Don’t second guess yourself, Mary.” I keep hearing her saying that to me often.

We are in Vermont now, vacationing with my two brothers and their wives. My brother Steve has a beautiful home overlooking Crystal Lake. Harriet loved her big old house in Dorset. We have so many happy memories from there, skiing in the winter and relaxing in the summer.

Love you Harriet and miss you.

Ancram Backyard painting

Harriet’s favorite painting that I did

White boat in Crystal Lake, Vermont

Crystal Lake, VT

Loons in the water on our cocktail cruise.

The loons on our cocktail cruise celebrating Harriet

How do you say good-bye?

Her name is Harriet and I met her at our Unitarian Church in Summit, NJ. She became my piano teacher and really, my second mother. Think of a mother you could choose, and who chose you. Very different. She taught me how to play piano at a very late age, but sometimes our piano lessons involved nothing more about the piano than sitting close to one another in front of it. She would point out life lessons I was learning, listen to my troubles or my triumphs, and give me courage and encouragement to keep on doing what I was doing. At the time we met, our boys were seven and ten. She knew intimately our life, our help, our trials and tribulations. We went through her husband’s passing early on. Her first husband invented Play Dough, her second husband invented the Air Cast. She never lacked money, drove a stick shift 700 series BMW in those days and had two grand pianos, back to back in her living room. She raised seven kids, four of her own and three of her second husband’s.

When you choose someone to be in your life as a second parent, it is so very different. She saw me for what I am – not for what my mother wanted me to be (to stay in St. Louis nearby and have lunch and go shopping with her on Saturdays. Yuck.)

She had a huge home in Summit overlooking NYC, one in Vermont and one in Nantucket. We spent time in all of them – she was so generous. When I told her I was thinking of moving back to the city, she understood ALL that that entailed. In the middle of our move, she came over and insisted that all of our furniture for the yet to be found country house, would not go to storage at Westy’s but would go to her house until we found a place. She kept it for a year and still has a few items, five and a half years later.

She taught me to never throw away a roast duck carcass but to make duck soup (yummy), the benefits of hanging your wash out to dry (her favorite thing to do) and pointed out when I was doing things right by my kids and when I needed to do something different (not pointing out something wrong, as my own mother might do). There was a time when we were in our little temporary apartment, before moving in to NYC, that she was over for dinner every Sunday night. Such fun we had in this little dinky kitchen. She had her chair, watching me cook, and all was well. She loved my food. She once said that she would bet that my boys would always live close to us, partly because of my cooking. I sure hope she’s right.

A mutual friend once remarked that Harriet could party like a high schooler, and she could. She loved Grey Goose on the rocks, several small drinks throughout the evening, and never liked wine. She was a true party girl and full of life wisdom.

We just saw each other in early May, partied like old times, cooked her a big dinner, spent the night, and she was fine. She was 82. In late June she was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, Waldenström Macroglobulinemia, plus leukemia. This was zapping her strength and also affecting her cognitive abilities due to her blood thickening. Her natural children moved her up to a hospice house in Vermont. I had been in touch by phone and we planned to go up there this Sunday. I learned yesterday evening that she passed on Monday morning. I am so very sad. As soon as I heard, I could do nothing but go to the piano and try to play through tears. I’m so very disappointed we did not get to see her one last time.

stairway-to-heaven-cropped

Yesterday morning, while walking to catch a bus on upper Fifth Avenue, I saw this brownstone stoop. I thought it looked like a stairway to heaven for Harriet. I did not know then that she was gone.