Mama’s Fish House

There’s a funny story here. Patrick, my husband, has a friend named Jim who has an assortment of jobs, most frequently as a writer. Jim got the rather plum assignment a few years ago of reviewing various restaurants and other tourist destinations in Maui. I’m sure he did it enthusiastically. So, when he heard we were going to Maui for a short vacation, he had quite a few suggestions, including a visit to Mama’s Fish House. We planned to be in that area a couple days ago, and thought it would be fun to have lunch there.

http://www.mamasfishhouse.com/

We missed a few clues. We’re very early risers, and are ready for lunch by 10 A.M.(Or maybe we’re Hobbits looking for Second Breakfast.) So we arrived at the parking lot around 10:30, and talked to some nice guys in polo shirts who were parking cars. It seemed a little much to have valets at a funky restaurant, but they were friendly and helpful, and suggested what we could do until we returned at 11 A.M. when they opened. We figured they were there to keep the surfers from filling up the parking lot with their cars.  So off we went to the little town of Paia, and poked around for a bit, then returned, ravenous, around 11:15, and the same nice guys parked our car for us and sent us to the concierge to see about getting seated. The concierge had a stand in the parking garage, which seemed odd, and she implied that we probably should have had a reservation (for 11:30 on a Thursday? What is going on?) But she made an instant reservation for us, and sent us downstairs. I spent a minute looking at the menu near her desk, and was puzzled by the total lack of prices on the menu.  So off we went downstairs, still without a clue. This was what greeted us:p1020384

And this was the restaurant from the inside; remember,it’s a Thursday morning:

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We were warmly welcomed and seated, and offered drinks. The tiny bell is starting to ring that just because Jim, who must know that my husband is a total tightwad, recommended it, and the sign directing us here was very funky, perhaps this is not a low-budget operation. We took a look at the drinks menu and were totally shell-shocked by the prices. What to do? We’d already parked the car and been seated. We hadn’t found any place to eat that looked promising in Paia. oh no! So we gave the server the drinks menu back, with a “No, thanks” and she gave us the lunch menu. Here the sticker shock was even worse. This was very much a high-end restaurant, something we never visit. Speaking of visiting, the birds were totally part of the charm, and wanted to help with the meal. Some even flew in to a table after a diner left to scavenge some crumbs before the waiters cleaned up. Here was one trying to persuade me to feed her:p1020383

We dithered a couple minutes, and then decided to just go for it. Our wedding anniversary is next week, and we would celebrate it at lunch. Today. So we did. I ordered coffee (which wasn’t cheap either, though they kept the refills coming), we listened to the specials, and ordered. Okay. Let’s see what happened next.

What happened was they brought us a little amuse bouche that we hadn’t ordered, and I had to ask the server what it was. It was our bread for the meal, and some mushroom soup.p1020382

It was good. Holy smokes, it’s how the gods would make mushroom soup. I might have tried to fit my tongue in to get the last drops of soup.

I had ordered two appetizers, a crab aloha soup and some crab cakes. Here they were, and possibly even more delicious than the mushroom soup.That’s a sweet potato chip in the soup. I didn’t even offer a bite of it to my husband. See the orange roe on the crab cakes. And dream.

Thp1020386The crab cakes deserve their own photo, so you can appreciate the plating of the food.

When the server described the daily specials, they sounded totally scrumptious.  The bouillabaisse, especially, though I think the most expensive item on the menu, called to my husband, and he responded. Here’s the bowl that he was served. p1020385

I tasted the broth, and it was nectar. And he ate every bite. Look at that amazing slice of bread to mop up the broth.

The place was doing a bustling business, and diners walked through the open courtyard to the doorway, carrying umbrellas provided by the valets to protect them from the light rain. Servers bustled back and forth, filling my coffee, bringing us more bread, checking to see if we needed anything. They were cheerful, helpful, and very professional.

So, dessert. Surely we wouldn’t have dessert? No way! But we watched the two women celebrate a birthday at the next table, and the birthday girl got a cupcake, and each woman had a dessert, and a drink, and the birthday girl had some wine. So, surely that meant we should have dessert. And we did. It was SO HARD to figure out what to get. And we settled on this. It’s a chocolate mousse pearl, with some amazing flavors around the mousse. It was hard keeping our forks away from it long enough to get a photo.

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It was almost impossible not to lick the plate afterwards, and some spoon wars erupted over the final bites. There was  comfort in knowing I could never make this in my kitchen, so I could just eat it up and enjoy it.

When we finished the dessert, surely, that was all? Mais non! Here comes another little amuse bouche for dessert, and hot damp washcloths. The washcloths were scented with the same wonderful soap that I had enjoyed in the ladies’ restroom. I wanted to wash my face with the cloth.p1020392

It seemed a perfect way to end what is surely one of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever eaten. I also got a photo of the bill, but won’t be sharing that with you. We sent that photo to Jim, who wants more details about the meal.  On the way out, I grabbed the rest of the bread from the plate, and scattered the crumbs outside for the birds. It was good to share the blessings.

Ohio Museums, August 2016

Ann and I had two other delightful outings. They were both return trips, but we still found many news exhibits to enjoy.

The first was the Kent State University Costume Museum.

https://www.kent.edu/museum

The special exhibit featured dresses from the 1920s. It was fascinating to notice how very simple and unconfining the dresses (and even some trousers!) were for women, compared to what they were wearing even ten years earlier. But I was pleasantly surprised that the workmanship on the dresses was still fabulous–these were not hastily tossed-together frocks. Here’s some photos of my favorites: (Enlarge to see more details)

And here’s a photo of the type of dress they replaced:P1020324

Really: which would you prefer to wear? I noticed that the “flapper dresses” as they were called at the time (flapper had been a term used for British girls growing up–pre-teens, and they were still called that as young adults) were very tiny–slim and athletic was fashionable–even some team sports clothing was on display. Also, most of these dresses just slipped over the head. No buttons, no zippers, no closures of any kind. They were like the shifts from the 60’s that we just tugged over our heads, mussing our hair (but the dresses were much better made than our little cotton shifts.) P1020322

This was a certainly unanticipated treasure. It’s a copy of “La Belle Assemblee,” a very fashionable ladies’ magazine from the Regency era. I frequently recommended that my authors provide their characters with a copy. I hope you can enlarge the photo enough to read the print. I think it’s from 1818, or 1813, and I’m totally at a loss how something this old, and aimed at a contemporary audience,  ended up in Ohio 200 years later. Go figure. And they had TWO copies! Here’s a photo of the other:P1020323

For my last treat at the fashion museum, I found a genuine reticule, which is a corruption of “ridiculous” as these purses were so tiny as to be almost useless. So I had to get a photo of that, too. Too bad I didn’t have a ruler to show the scale.P1020325

Our next outing was to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

http://www.clevelandart.org/

We’ve gone there every visit, and this was our second trip this visit. Bob and Ann and I had gone to see a special display, “Art and Stories from Mughal India.” I know nothing about that area or era, so it was very interesting to learn about this restless land, which has seen so many political and military upheavals, and still is anything but serene today. It was all overwhelming, so I simply photographed some textiles that I found enchanting, and can share them with you. The exhibit ends in late October, so  you’d better get there soon.

On our next visit, I wanted to see the really, really old stuff. That and visit my favorite St. Gaudens. Here’s his “Amor Caritas” and a photo of his signature.

Then I took random photos of pre-Christian art that caught my eye. That was my only specification, and there was very much to enjoy. I’ll just plug them in here, and you can enjoy them as well. It led me to speculate about the societies that fostered such art, and perhaps if these societies hadn’t been overtaken by events and other armies…

So that was my annual trip to Cleveland. I’ll end with what was the featured image, which might not show up. These are the Smooch Brothers, Felix (pink nose) and Ivan, Ann’s kitties, who invariably are gracious, welcoming, and very patient with my continual assaults on their persons, caused by my prolonged cat-deprivation prior to landing in Cleveland.P1020288

Sir Paul!

Yes! Paul McCartney and his band were performing in Cleveland while I was visiting my good friends Ann and Bob after the Road Scholar adventure. We had already found a musical event for Thursday–some German exchange students were giving a free concert at a local church, which sounded like an excellent outing. But Bob had a different plan. We call him “The Concierge” for good reason–that man, armed with just his iPhone, can get a ticket for anything or to anywhere–a few years ago he scored tickets on his lunch hour for an NBA playoff game, featuring LeBron. Yes, indeed. So I guess Paul was scheduled to perform on Wednesday at the Quicken Loans Arena (removing the bad cess from the Republican convention there,) but tickets sold so well they added a Thursday concert. And Bob got tickets at a very good price.  We could see well enough, the sound was excellent, and the jumbo-tron screen was helpful.P1020317

You’ll notice that Paul still has that cello-shaped bass guitar. I wonder how many he’s had over the past sixty years. I’m putting up more photos individually, as I want them to be really big! P1020319

He played old songs–pre-Beatle songs, lots of favorite Beatle songs, some Wings songs, and some newer things. He organized a singalong with some songs, as everyone, but everyone, knew all the lyrics, and was happy to join in. He bounced around, played the piano, and put on an excellent show. He did some solos, just, I think playing the piano, and he had the entire audience, all thousands of us, in the palm of his hand. And it was obvious how much he appreciated the attention and adulation. He was just soaking it up. P1020316

When he sang “Let It Be,” it was as hushed and reverential as a high mass at a cathedral. The audience waved whatever sources of light they had, and we all worshiped together.P1020318

And when it was over, I think we were all a little surprised that we were still in Cleveland, and it was already 2016, not fifty years earlier. P1020314

Here’s one more photo. It’s supposed to be the “Featured Image” but they haven’t been showing up, and I really want you to see it. Sorry if it’s a repeat, but you can’t have too many photos of Sir Paul.P1020315

August 19 Stan Hywet

Good morning. This post is the result of two visits to Stan Hywet, near Akron, Ohio, in October of last year and August of this year.

http://www.stanhywet.org/

Most of the interior photos will be from the first visit, and the glorious landscape photos were taken this year. P1020083

Stan Hywet is Old English for “stone quarry” as much of the stone used to construct the house was quarried nearby. The owners were the Seiberling family, who were founders of the Goodrich Rubber Company, and hence, very rich. Mrs. S. was very artistic, and had the idea that she wanted their home to resemble an English Tudor manorhouse, and they took several trips to England to check things out (and bought parts of some houses to install directly in theirs.) Construction began in 1912, and soon ran so over budget that Mr. S. began camping out in the unfinished structure to keep an eye on costs. I never did find out how much it cost, in the end.

The faithful adherence to Tudor architecture is very obvious, and the woodwork is of extraordinary detail. I found I could look at any paneling, and be amazed. Look at these:

Even the kitchen/servants’ areas are beautifully made with lots of natural light:

Most of the many bedrooms have an en suite bathroom, which was an amazingly good idea so early in the 20th Century. There’re big tubs for soaking, and enclosed showers with huge showerheads. I wanted to try one out. Quite of few of the S. children returned with their families to Stan Hywet, as well as indigent elderly relatives, their own parents, and other strays that were welcomed and sheltered in such very nice digs.

They even had a swimming pool in the basement:

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Mrs. S. was also very involved in the gardens, and hired several noted landscape architects to help her out. There was even a young woman landscape architect, Ellen Biddle,  who designed Mrs. S.’s favorite, the English Garden.

After Mr. & Mrs. S. died, their children realized they didn’t have the funds, energy, nor interest in maintaining the huge estate. Arrangements were made, and a non-profit was formed to administer and preserve the estate. This was great because everything was basically left just as it was in the heyday–all the furniture, old telephones, kitchen equipment–visitors now see the house in the same way as when owners had lived in it.

Our visit in August had a lot more foliage than we saw in October. These two plants especially caught my eye:

The scarlet one is the inside of a very complicated blossom. I loved the little trumpet-shaped bits. The green globes looked like almost translucent lanterns–you could see light through the plant fiber; they seemed to glow. They were so amazing that I asked a gardener what they could be, and she, rather abashed, said softly “Hairy balls.” Of course everyone I tell this story to bursts out laughing. We looked up the Latin name, and it’s  so much easier in English. One more photo of the garden: P1020327

I want to grow sunflowers like these. I noticed lots of bees and bugs and winged insects having a wonderful old time with all the blossoms. The gardener told me they’re going to make a pollinator garden for the bees, a ways away from the rest of the garden, so the visitors and bees won’t have unpleasant encounters. There’s a good reason to come back and visit again.P1020095

Here’s a final photo of the estate, the birch allee. Enjoy a walk there.

How to Age Gracefully (video)

I just have to share this wonderful video. I especially like the phrase the 12-year-old used about “narcissistic capitalists.”

And I disagree with the bit about “one cat is enough.”

Enjoy.

Great News about Nina Rowan

View IMG_00421...jpg in slide show

This is Nina Rowan waving to you from her improvised desk. I began working with Nina in the spring of 2009. She asked me to do some very interesting (and challenging) research, then asked me to edit her manuscript. Nina has a smooth, polished writing style that packs a wallop of emotion, and a magical command of  images and metaphors. wow. What a treat it was. We worked on several drafts, did some major changes, and it was so rewarding to watch this wonderful story emerge, like excellent bread dough in the hands of a master baker (Nina’s images are MUCH better than that. ) Nina signed with super-agent Kim Witherspoon in 2010, and Kim arranged a three-book deal with Grand Central Publishing last year. So! Yes! Success

A Study in Seduction is scheduled for publication this September. I couldn’t be more excited. Here’s a wonderful trailer for the piece, which also shows the sexy cover. Wow! And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving book.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0Oc1jr07-U

oh, and even more fun! The hero has four siblings, and Nina plans to give each of them their own book. I can’t wait to see what happens next with this amazing family.

Some Fun in Seattle

When Eloisa James told me she’d be in Seattle in January for a few days, and invited me to join her there, I immediately set about rearranging my schedule. And since I’m retired, that required almost no work at all. I’ve only been with her twice, once at an RWA conference and when I stayed with her in Paris in 2010. So.

I caught an Amtrak train at an ungodly early hour–my car was full of young women curled up on the seats, and fast asleep. It was like being in a dorm, dark and quiet, and very nice. I had borrowed my dh’s new MP-3 player, and was tuned in to Il Divo while I watched the soggy gray landscape outside the window.

I arrived around noon on January 7 in cold, cloudy, Seattle, and noticed from my hotel room that I had a wonderful view of the Space Needle. That became my afternoon project. Despite my acrophobia, I ventured on the elevator to the top level, and found the viewing gallery and restaurant very comfortable. Everything was so well enclosed that I couldn’t possibly jump. The view was interesting but not fabulous–see above mention of clouds. And there were  skyscrapers not that far away that were considerably taller than my viewpoint. The Space Needle will be 50 this year, and it’s been well-maintained, but a lot of the area surrounding it needs or is involved in urban renewal projects. But the views of the water were wonderful–soothing and serene.

My evening’s treat was shopping and dinner with one of my authors, Stefanie Sloane, who lives in Seattle. I had requested her to scout out a store where I could purchase some of my beloved Mariage Freres teas, and, voila! she took me to Watson Kennedy in the Pike Street Market. The store was filled with foods, toiletries, and other wonderful gift items, lots of them French. As I was paying for several tins of tea, I remarked that Mariage Freres also sold teabags. The guy at the counter said the teabags were at their OTHER store, and gave Stef directions. So we trooped there, and I bought even more tea. Stef led me through several of the most interesting stores in the market. Wow. If I lived in downtown Seattle, it would be a wonderful place to spend time and money. Even this late in the afternoon, hoards of shoppers were still clogging all the stalls. We finally ended up at Cafe Campagne, and had a lovely dinner. We both ordered the same items–a complicated salad and a tart/pizza-like starter, though we did get different desserts. Stef is one of my favorite people to talk to, and we had much catching up to do in the year since we’ve seen each other. Also, she’s a friend of Julia Quinn, and volunteered to ask Julia if she could drive me to the brunch on Sunday, so I didn’t have to wrestle with public transportation to get to Bellevue. And yes, she came through.

Very early Sunday morning, I looked out my window, and there was a fabulous view–the Space Needle, lit up, elegant and graceful, and right next to it, a huge full moon. Then some clouds drifted by, and the view became even more intriguing. My little point-and-shoot camera couldn’t begin to capture this magical scene, but it was definitely a highlight of the trip.

space needle and full moon

So Sunday morning (yes, I cheated and had the complimentary breakfast at the hotel first) I climbed into Julia’s car, found Eloisa already there, and off we went to Via Vita. More treats awaited us there. Connie Brockway was there, and Christina Dodd, and Lisa Kleypas. Wow. Lotsa heavy hitters in the romance world. I had met Julie briefly, years ago, and worked a bit with Connie, also years ago, but had never met Christina and Lisa. Our hostess, Flora, was there with her son and husband, and a fabulous time was had by all. These are some very delightful, interesting, funny women and I had a wonderful time.  I told Connie about my rescue kittens, talked to the host about artichokes, and explained to Christina how I found my name, Franzeca. And the food was great, too. Much appreciation for the potatoes fried in duck fat.

After brunch, we trooped, well, drove, but half the party became hopelessly lost and arrived via Idaho, methinks, to the University of Washington Bookstore in Bellevue. As a Eugene Duck, I was slightly uneasy surrounded by all the purple Husky gear, but the bookstore staff were welcoming and competent. Folks had already started to arrive before us, and soon there was an appreciative, happy crowd of readers that asked questions, shared laughs, and expressed their enjoyment of these authors and their books. After an hour of Q&A, the book signing began. I, always a bureaucrat, found a job helping Christina’s assistant fill out the tickets for the drawing. It was all so successful that they ran out of books. One sad attendee, driving all the way from Montana, had the wrong time, and arrived at 3:30 for what she thought was a 4 pm. event (actually, that’s when it ended.) The authors fussed over her, and found some extra books for her to take home. whew. Being famous is exhausting. Even being close to someone famous is tiring, and after Christina kindly drove me back to my hotel, I spent the evening watching “The Good Wife” and went to bed. Early.

The next morning was my breakfast date with Eloisa. I arrived at her hotel, bearing a box of her favorite teabags, and over fancy egg dishes we caught up with personal news, future adventures, and The Ugly Duchess, her WIP that I’m having so much fun with right now. Connie joined us, for breakfast and talk, and it was great to reconnect with both of them. Just as we finished breakfast and were heading out to the lobby, Julia Quinn showed up. So those three went upstairs to work on the second book of The Lady Most Likely and I walked down to the water, and back to my hotel, to prepare for my trip home and another lovefest with Il Divo on Amtrak.