Morning Echoes.

imageCOLD Weather, it seems, cloaks so much of our Country in wet, icy mists, snow, and plump downpours. Here in Sonoma, windy rains woke me early.  Streaming water down windows somehow still aglow by an almost-full moon.  Our vineyards (in barren-winter garb) presenting rippled puddles of blue rain water. And little else. While rose fields — soon to be replanted as Pinot Noir — looked on silently.

On this Farm, sometimes the loudest, most unconscious thoughts happen when there is no noise at all.  Waking your soul, and heart, but not your mind. When you only got up intending to pee.

The Mind? Takes Coffee.

I crept downstairs avoiding that creaky step.  Lit my tea pot. Pet our happily fat Lab. Flipped on my pretty lights over the sink and started another load of laundry. (We have little children.) Three scoops of coffee went into the French Press…I lit the fireplace. And chose my grandmother’s mug…

It’s now Noon. Much has happened since easing into this morning’s caffeine ritual.  Breakfast, more laundry, marketing, wrangling wee hellions into proper clothes… But here I sit once more. Slightly ignoring my children.  Sipping hot tea. In the same kitchen chair, out of the same mug, with rains still streaming.  Thinking of family, kitchens, and morning rituals past.  Of my Mima sipping Folgers Crystals instant coffee.  Dad Richard brewing drip.  Mom preferring tea at the time.  My father’s parents cooking thick ham. Dad reheating coffee brewed day before to pair with fresh baked pastry…  All with eggs on the horizon.

And all gone now.  “Into the Sunset” as we explain to the kids…

How tender and most intimate these early kitchen rituals.  How they linger. Surprising we the Living even from the lull of raindrops and starkly rich vineyards… An agrarian Life that only Mom got to see.  That only Mom got to become a “LaLa” and make new memories for my children here in this most bucolic of Wine Country.  For now, Anni with her eggs and Coltrane with his toast.image

… And I’m sure in time, Coffee.

 

Taking Up the Mantle of Our Mothers

Dawn of a New Chapter. For this old Winery Farm. And for our Family.

Dawn of a New Chapter. For this old Winery Farm. And for our Family.

This Holiday season was a first in many ways… The first Annual Holiday Tea Party. The first passing of family china to me. Complete with my grandmother’s jade dinner ring. The first antique “new” heirloom meant for Anni to inherit — a 19th century Samovar Tea Urn. The first Christmas without my Grandmother.

We haven't held a Tea in 14 years. This first year, my Mom "LaLa " helmed the Tea Urn for the Party.

We haven’t held a Tea in 14 years. This first year, my Mom “LaLa ” helmed the Tea Urn for the Party.  Urn found by Gryphon Estate Silver

“Taking Up the Mantle of our Mothers.”  That passing of torch from one generation to the next.  The gradual shift of mother to elder. Mother to grandmother. Daughter to Mom.  Five years old to Tea Hostess.  Deployed brother a planet away from his newborn and newlywed. Another on the way. Grandmother passing into the Sunset. Grandfather following a season and a half later. Living now in Memory only.

We are the three living generations now taking up the mantle of family traditions. For the “LaLa Branch” of the Palmer clan (buttermilk waffles, Global Travel, the perfect martini, collections in fine Art).  Blending in Dean’s Italian heritage (Sunday dinners, robust family gatherings — usually with an entire animal on a spit somewhere in the yard, Winemaking).  Seasoned with Richard’s Salmon dip and avocados.  Dad’s baked beans and margaritas.  All rooted in love and in family.  Raising two little people to embrace and cherish these traditions, these foods and our wines from past loved ones forward.

Passing Things Forward.

Passing Things Forward.

Reflecting back over the Holidays and in this changing of years, I realize I’ve neglected my root purpose in starting my blog and media presence… albeit what presence one can have as a winemaking mom cooking and painting away in some old farmhouse.  It is all too easy to lose focus in our collective daily fun and shared inspirations, especially on Instagram. To not find time to record the reasons behind my table’s foods and glasses of Wines.  Important perhaps only to me or the family, but important nonetheless.  For raising a family and building a winery (construction starts early 2016!) here in Sonoma is no small task.  Ripe  with fun vignettes and reasons that layer up and up into new traditions.  Things my kids might want to know one day.  Stories I don’t want to forget.

IMG_5760What’s Coming: A Cookbook (of sorts)

  • FOOD — our Family Recipes
  • This gathering and “putting pen to paper” while bringing this old Farm into restored brilliance.
  • My learning to cook once preggers.
  • Our healthy, clean approach to making Wine… The kind that doesn’t give you “fat-face,” headaches, or cancer.
  • Raising of children to grow not just food but also grapes for wine.  And to remember as much of it as possible.

Because Time stands still for no one.  One day? I too will die. Heading up into moonlit stars.  Leaving behind children with memories, recipes, paintings, and wine.  (God willing.) Because what remains behind with living generations should be Love, Traditions, and FOOD.

Pledging to write recipes and memories for our children.

Pledging to write recipes and memories for our children.

This Cookbook will be a history of Recipes from our family plus dishes we’ve adopted and made “ours.”  Complete with Wine. And why they mean so much.  This is the crux of my to-be “Cookbook.”  A collection of plates and glasses I started a few years ago — with a handful of killer recipes coming soon — even though no one but Anni may want it!  Or my mother, for that matter.  But an endeavor I am nonetheless picking back up to properly write and finish this time, and share with you here. CHEERS.

 

NOTES OF THANKS:

** Big Thanks to Asha from Food Fashion Party for helping to push me into this next chapter.

** “Taking Up the Mantle of Our Mothers” phrase written so beautifully by Sarah McGaugh at Bird in the Hand

#beautymatters

Beauty is everywhere: Wildflowers in the Parking Lot at North Salmon Creek Beach last weekend.

Beauty is everywhere: Wildflowers in the Parking Lot at North Salmon Creek Beach last weekend.

Beauty Matters. It’s a favorite thought these days with Spring riotously awake.  I’ve been happily saying these words on posts and to friends lately because that’s what happens: Seeing something lovely makes you feel Happy. It just does. You can’t argue with Beauty. You’d never win. Beauty is visceral. Intrinsic. Adding wonderful Value to our Lives. I get this from my Mom and grandparents. A Philosophy I hope to give to my children. How “Living Beautifully” is NOT what you’re born with, but what you do with yourself. And I don’t mean some tiny dress size. Beauty is so much more delicious than that. Taking effort, like cooking.

I keep a lipstick or two in the pantry...!

I keep a lipstick or two in the pantry…!

Going to serve beans last night for dinner, I reached for one bowl but chose another. I realized I was picking serving ware like I do my shoes or lipstick to work with my outfit. Matching the Food to the Bowl.

Yummy cheese and fruits from nearby Petaluma look so pretty on a platter from the Pasadena Flea Market purchased at least 10 years ago with my grandmother.

Yummy cheese and fruits from nearby Petaluma look so pretty on a platter from the Pasadena Flea Market purchased at least 10 years ago with my grandmother.  San Marzano Apron by Hedley & Bennett.

Like jewelry, the colors and shape of the platter or bowl enhances the prettiness of the meal I just spent time cooking. I guess I’ve been unconsciously collecting colorful serving ware for some time. “Curating” an assortment of beautiful servers — new and vintage, budget conscious and splurge.

Gorgeous little bowls and salad plates from Cost Plus World Market will double as serving ware. $24 for all four!

Gorgeous little bowls and salad plates purchased individually from Cost Plus World Market (Corsica Collection)will double for me as serving ware. $24 for all four!

Like Art. And Wine. You love what you love. Everyone’s tastes are different. I love happy things. A guest to my home once sniffed “your home has so much COLOR.” Uh…Yeah.

The best cookie jar ever. Vintage find at an Antique Fair. I love color!

The best cookie jar ever. Vintage find at an Antique Fair. I love color!

It started with Art. Slowly buying original Art. Shopping local. Developing my tastes as I matured. I mostly collect living California artists. Some now dear friends. Like Dennis Ziemienski and Robert Townsend.  Meredith Abbott and her daughter Whitney Abbott.  Michelle Hoting or Ashley Morgan Designs. It’s not like I’m some zillionaire either. I often pay on “Lay Away” — there is no shame in that.  Collecting Art takes time to save and also time to wait until you experience that “lightning bolt” of Beauty. Joy! Curating one, maybe two, beautiful pieces each year that mean something special.  Adding color to our walls or my person with feelings of joy.

Beauty does not have to be expensive. A peak at my bedside table: a $50 Pier One table, Pottery Barn bed,linens bought on sale and two worthy splurges: "Apricots" by Meredith Abbott and a $150 lamp from the last Pacific Asa Museum Festival of the Autumn Moon

Living beautifully does not have to be expensive. A peak at my bedside table: a $110 Pier One table, Pottery Barn bed linens (bought on sale) and two worthy splurges: “Apricots” by Meredith Abbott and a $150 lamp from the last Pacific Asa Museum Festival of the Autumn Moon

All 1960s: Costume broach from Sweet and Spark and Mexican blouse. Standing in front of a Robert Townsend painting of old ladies visiting the Grand Canyon circa 1960s.

All 1960s: Costume broach from Sweet and Spark and Mexican blouse. Standing in front of friend Robert Townsend painting of old ladies visiting the Grand Canyon in 1960s.

Now as a Cook, I just love finding beautiful serving ware. Bringing the same feelings of Beauty from our Walls to our Table. Even if I may be the only one who notices some nights with two toddlers! Just like picked wild flowers, prettiness on the table makes me so HAPPY.

Twinkle lights glow over our 1930s kitchen sink + clean kitchen = Happiness.

Twinkle lights glow over our 1930s kitchen sink + clean kitchen = Happiness.

My new favorite is a 1976 Majolica Bowl from the original WILLIAM SONOMA. Makes even the most old school side dishes — Bush’s Baked Beans? — looked too elegant. And worth the splurge last month.

Beautiful vintage Lettuce Bowl from 1976 found at the William Sonoma Sonoma Store -- the very first one is here in town!

Beautiful vintage Lettuce Bowl from 1976 found at the William Sonoma Sonoma Store — the very first one is here in town!

Did you know our Sonoma store is the ONLY WILLIAM SONOMA in the Country now to sell vintage piece? Some are from founder Chuck William’s personal collection and others are cherry picked by a Buyer traveling for the chain. Isn’t that fantastic? Definitely worth the visit next time you’re in Sonoma.

This may be a First World topic. But I like to think the idea of Beauty — and that it matters — transcends culture and money.  To wild flowers and enjoying a sunset. Or the smile of a little kid. How lucky are we to live and love where Beauty can mean pretty platters? Fine Wine? Fresh vegetables? And Art.  Finding out and more importantly, trusting what you love.  And Cultivating it as much as you can.  For me, it is Food, Wine, and Art.  What is it for you?

Happy eating! And Beautiful Living.

The Perfect Waffle and The Importance of Butter

The Importance of Butter and Buttermilk: Secret 2

The Importance Buttermilk: Secret 1

For weeks, I wondered what to say at Mima’s funeral. I truly thought about just reciting her Buttermilk Waffles recipe. But flying down on Friday, the stewardess gave me a free glass of white wine. Anni played a new Dinosaur game. And inspiration struck:

“The morning after Mima died, I was surprised how much harder her death hit me. I thought I’d feel more relieved. And then Hannah (my cousin) wrote a note to we girls that she wished she had a waffle maker and all of us together. I loved that. I think it speaks to the legacy of our incredible grandmother that thousands of miles apart, four granddaughters — now women — yearned to be together. And I’m betting we all flashed back to the sun-lit kitchen at Linda Ridge (their home) on Sunday morning. Because no matter how epic, talented, beautiful and strong our Mima was… She and Dida helmed one hell of a family. I think we Palmers are so collectively dynamic — each in our own ways — because of the strong, loving examples set for us by Mima and Dida.”

“I couldn’t decide what to say today. There was too much good stuff. Dancing the Charleston in our socks. Sailing to Catalina. Driving to the Ranch in Kansas. Collecting rocks. Learning to curtsy with books on our heads — I can still do this. Museums. Water aerobics. More Museums. Playing dress-up. Collecting ART. Sitting on her Dressing Room floor watching her get glamorous for a Night Out with Dida. Seeing her smile now on my little girl’s face.”

“But it all boils down to waffles on Sunday mornings. With a bunch of us gaggled around kitchen table in our pajamas. Breathing in the sleepy scent of syrup and Folgers Crystals. And love. Always lots and lots of love.”

We four Granddaughters of Mima

Mima’s four Granddaughters.

I wore a mid-century inspired dress in Jade green for Mima and my pearls. All of us girl cousins were wearing some semblance of this combination. Sara and I wore pearls. Hannah and Kate wore Jade necklaces. Mima loved to “look good.” She believed everyone could be beautiful. “It’s not what you’re born with but what you do with it.” And that each woman had her own style to find and cultivate.

Knowing when to Splurge: the Importance of Butter. Secret 1

Knowing when to Splurge: the Importance of Butter. Secret 3

But making Mima’s Waffles is more about Butter than a nipped waistline. Knowing when to splurge. The Joy cooked into family food. And buttermilk. Lots of Buttermilk. I think those flavors are part of our collective family DNA now.

As many Palmers as possible gathered to celebrate Dida's 100th Birthday on Sunday

As many Palmers as possible gathered to celebrate Dida’s 100th Birthday on Sunday.

 

BUTTERMILK WAFFLES RECIPE: Well…I was going to give you her exact recipe that we make most Sunday mornings but reconsidered. I think some family secrets should remain kept. But I will tell you this, no matter how you make your waffles — from scratch or with a mix (we love Bisquick) — Swapping in Buttermilk for regular milk is vital. This is Secret 1. Mix in one and a half to two times the called for amount. So the waffles are thinner, less doughy. Because waffles really are just a vehicle for butter and syrup.  Secret 2: Always give the first waffle to the dog. It takes you and your machine one test-run for subsequent waffles perfection.  Secret 3: Melt 1 stick of butter to every cup to cup and a half of pure maple syrup on your stove top, being careful not to boil too much or reduce.  When you waffle is ready, PING! Go whole-hog and enjoy.

I think families who share at least a handful of beloved dishes — and pass down their recipes to kids and grandkids — strengthen their inter-generational fabric with memories of deliciousness. Waffles is this dish for us. My grandmother may have gone to Army Cooking School in World War II and been a plain cook all her life but I like to think she intuitively knew the French secret that everything tastes better with Butter.  Especially on Sunday mornings.

Off to take Anni Swimming on this last day of our Family Reunion. And maybe some Water Aerobics. For old times sake.

Three Generations missing our Fourth.

Three Generations missing our Fourth.

Happy Memories! And Eating.