Monday, November 30, 2015

No longer Rhode Islanders

Effective as of 10:12 this morning Susan and I are no longer Rhode Islanders.

Even though we lost money, after months of persistence and perseverance John Chapski of Coldwell Banker sold our condo; one chapter in our life closed just as we open a new one here in Michigan.

We're not suffering from any sense of loss -- except for the cash we had to pay out -- and are happy to be rid of what had become a serious millstone around our necks. There are a handful of people we will certainly miss and we did have some wonderful experiences in New England to be sure. Susie found her way in the wide world of pastry beginning at Gracie's and ending with her own pastry studio in Hope Artiste Village. And me? Well, I continue to manage Johnson & Wales' image library at least for the time being.

Life is good, short but good.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hint of winter and Thanksgiving at the Ten Have-Chapman home, a day for smiling

It was just a week ago that we saw our first serious hint of winter here in western Michigan. Two to three inches of wet snow fell in Grand Rapids and made for some tricky driving. But within a couple of days the temperatures rose back into the 50s and with the benefit of rain showers the snow was gone by Thanksgiving Day.

Last Thursday afternoon -- Uncle Frank's birthday by the way which was roundly celebrated in Douglas, MA at Dick and Dorothy's home -- Susie and I drove across the street,  200 feet or so to her mother's home. We picked Bernice up and the three of us drove north to the greater Rockford area to enjoy Thanksgiving with the Ten Have-Chapman family.

Bernice's sister Marian Van Halsema, our aunt, married John Ten Have and it was the home of their son Garrett and his wife Laurie Ten Have-Chapman that a dozen people gathered to share stories, laughter and good food: turkey (both roasted and fried), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, stuffing, cranberry salads, all the traditional food and all tasty.

Given the name of the holiday the meal ended with each person sharing what they were most thankful for in their life.

Berenice, from Normandy


Maria and Berenice

Joe and his mother

Uncle John Ten Have

John, Karen and Susie

Berenice and Bernice

Laurie and Garrett

Maria, Susie and Bernice

After a leisurely meal -- with plenty of second and third helpings -- the group moved into the living room. After several rounds of word games we all returned to the dining room for dessert: Susie's citrus tart, Laurie's pecan pie, pumpkin pie  and Marian's apple crisp.


Karen and her husband Joe, neighbors from Giddings Street

Joe and Berenice

the Bernice game

Susie's citrus tart

pecan pie, citrus tart and pumpkin pie (the crisp was still in the oven)
A wonderful afternoon sharing food and fun soon turned into a lovely evening and it was nearly 9 pm by the time we grabbed our coats and packed up to say adieu.

A bientot!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

11 13 15 - time for an Update from Grand Rapids

The weather has certainly turned toward winter at long last and away from that gorgeous Indian Summer we've been experiencing here in the Western side of the Wolverine State. Yesterday there were tremendous winds coming off of Lake Michigan, which accompanied the occasional rain squall here in Grand Rapids. Temperatures have also fallen with a few snow squalls this Friday the 13th; Persephone has most definitely returned to Hades.

Oh, and the date 11 13 15 (November 13, 2015) must be driving the numerologists crazy.

Anyway, my work is going well -- it appears I'll be working for the next few months helping Johnson & Wales develop a transition plan for managing their image library. I have to say that I have had the good fortune to work with some truly smart people, people driven to create and eager to do the best job they can.

When I'm done with this phase of my life, I intend to name those people right here on this blog. They have made my life much easier, my work better, and have just been a pleasure to know. I also want to say here that I already miss a few of them more than just a little.

Life has been good here in Kent County. Bernice is in the peak of health -- she and Susie drove up to the old family haunts in Fremont to visit friends yesterday and they had a grand time. But the French Tarte is keeping busy, of that you can be sure.

Susie is working with the folks at Nonna’s Cafe in Ada, helping them put together a special offering of Italian cookies for the holidays. A couple of those are represented here: a perfectly crispy  chocolate biscotti and a real surprise, the Brutti ma buoni ("ugly but good") cookie, a hazelnut confection that is lip-smackin’ good, if you'll pardon the expression. She's also doing both a semolina cookie and my favorite, Ricciarelli.

What with Susie’s teaching, baking and the occasional special order (a brace of Pavlovas for friends last Sunday), and our constantly looking for the cozy, friendly place to grab a bite to eat, food has pretty much defined our world of late.

A week or so ago we drove out to Grand Haven to see the village's new chocolate shop, Patricia's Chocolates. Walking inside is like you've walked into a small confection shop in Paris. Patty Christopher and husband Paul have created a place not just to savor remarkable chocolates, but they also want you experience a slice of Paris. And so you shall; just go.

After they closed up for the night, the four of us strolled two blocks to the Kirby Grill where we enjoyed good company, lots of stories, and lackluster food.

We've also eaten at the Heritage Restaurant, the teaching property for Grand Rapids Community College's culinary program, and pizza from Field and Fire served to us at Aperitivo's bar, both in the Downtown Market.

parasurfing (?) on Grand Haven State Beach

one of Susie's renowned shortbread gift boxes

Gateau Breton with Bonne Maman Four Fruits jam and almond cream topping

puff pastries which Susie topped with apples

"Patricia's Chocolates"

Moelleux chocolat dipped in ganache and pistachios

Another version of the Gateau Breton

Apple-pear feuilletée

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015, flashback to Vietnam 1968 and 1969

Even though most of the photos from 1968 and 1969 are in color, life in Vietnam was pretty much black-and-white. You knew who your friends were and were not and there was no in-between. That revelation did not come easy, though, nor did it last once I returned home. Where things had been crystal clear, the world quickly became fuzzy and, with the rare exception, people ambiguous, relationships blurred, tentative.

"Home" is where the heart is, of course, but where was that now?

Hill 552 outside of Khe Sanh, 1968:

l-r: Spinelli, me and Picarilli

Inside Khe Sanh, 1968:

Piccarilli, one helluva brave guy

The "Triangle," home of the 1st Bn, 2nd Marines, south of Danang and Marble Mountain, 1968:

Second Combined Action Group HQ, Hoi An, 1969: