Archives for category: Mother’s Day

The winner of the eclectic table setting from the Mother’s Day contest is Sandy Farrell. When you read her “recipe” below, you will know why.

Ahead of our “judges conclave,” as we called it, Heather of, and brainchild of the contest, sent me all of the entries so that we would enter into the decision making process well read. While we were arranging the meeting to pick the winner, we confessed that we each had a clear favorite. We decided not to reveal our individual choices to each other until our conclave. Within less than five minutes after sitting down with all of the printed entries, we realized that we had both picked the same entry. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did.

We had some other terrific entries. Watch Heather’s site for a dozen or so of our favorites picked from the pile.

Recipe for Life: What to Teach Your Children

Sandy Farrell

The gifts from my mother remain as intangibles — no recipe box, no heirloom dish set for the holidays, no special linens rich with memory and smell- but a different treasury that is very special to me. My mother died when I was 10, she was smiling at lunchtime and gone by the time I returned home from grammar school at 3 pm. Met by my father, silent and in shock, sitting on the stairs bracing himself for the task of telling his three young daughters that their mother was gone forever.

We didn’t live with dad, my parents were separated and lived as polar opposites in their own Cold War of the 1950s. Belonging to that 25% of New England, the Anglo-Irish mix had torn apart their marriage from the start. We lived with an aunt and cooked out of her borrowed kitchen. It was the Mamie Eisenhower era, years before Jackie Kennedy and Julia Child would give us a different view on the world. This may sound bleak, but what I inherited was an appreciation that came only much later in life: the innovative spirit my mother possessed.

And in order to feel that appreciation I had to first distance myself with all of the hurt and anger that a ten year old girl could muster up to protect herself from such a loss. My mother had wanted to be an artist — and indeed was an artist. I have a beautiful charcoal she did at 14, and pastels done on the back of leftover wallpaper, weekly trips to the art museum on free Saturday mornings, and walks to the park for concerts. The local librarian told me they gave her an adult library card because she had read so much of the children’s library. She had trained as a nurse but the hours were too long for a mom with three little girls so she took a job as a waitress at a small neighborhood restaurant.

Never one to get caught up in recipes, or own many cookbooks, she would scan the fridge for content and swiftly make a decisive move, gather up an armful of ingredients and proceed to the counter. Tasks that took longer got started earlier, missing ingredients were replaced by substitutes, efficient peeling and chopping began, each of us assigned a specific job, taught the basic skills, not a moment or veg wasted, no tears, perseveration, hesitation, or remorse. Supper, plain and simple, quickly executed like a Zen master. First thought, best thought. Never the same river nor stew twice.


use what was on hand don’t let it be a chore keep it simple
use basic kitchen utensils plan ahead

substitute freely and often don’t waste a thing
serve it up hot and fresh

Even today, some fifty-plus years later these basic ingredients and recipe for life bless our kitchen. Cooking is fun, it’s relaxing and creative. I still come home from work and have supper on the table in less than thirty minutes. Repeat last weeks dish? Never. No need, mom taught me more than how to cook up supper.


In honor of mother’s day, a look at my mother’s house in Del Mar, California felt fitting. The house is a modern architectural gem, full of angles, patios off every room, walls of plate glass and vistas of the California coastline.

When my parents retired and began looking at places to build their dream house, they settled upon Del Mar after exploring Austin, Texas and Carmel, California. As my mother recounts, Austin was too hot, Carmel too cold, but Del Mar was just right. The lot they found was a very steep one graced with a massive old Torrey pine tree at the top with swoopingly dramatic branches like a piece of sculpture. Views abound of the Pacific Ocean below and the town of La Jolla across the Los Penasquitos lagoon.

My father’s room mate at West Point, Herbert Turner, became a designer of buildings instead of pursuing a career in the military. He studied architecture with John Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son. Herb’s houses are decidedly California modern in style and incorporate many Wrightian features. Dentil molding, using outside siding materials inside, and bringing the outside in are all features of Wright’s style that Herb Turner re-tooled for the California coast. Once the empty lot was found, a scarcity in the area, Herb Turner drew up plans for the challenging steep hillside lot. The garage was placed on the lower level and the house situated above and behind it. A challenge was, how to get from the garage up into the house without climbing many steps? As my parents planned to live in this house for the remainder of their lives, an elevator was placed at the back end of the garage, which carries you up to the living room, two stories above. Ground was broken for the construction just as my father discovered that he had cancer.  Unfortunately, he never saw his dream house completed. Single handedly, my mother moved forward with the project. Although I lived three thousand miles away, I helped as much as I could.

The end result is a stunner of a house which fits the lot and is in perfect scale with its surroundings, which so few new homes are these days. Designed for just the two of them, it is not large but has a spacious feel when inside. The living, dining and kitchen areas take up one side of the house. The ceilings there are two stories and give the spaces a sense of drama. The bedrooms, baths and laundry room are on the other side of the house with lower ceilings for a more intimate feel. These two spaces feel separate and are divided by a wide galleria which runs the entire depth of the house. It also doubles as a large, high ceilinged entry hall. The walls of the galleria are hung with artwork collected over the years, including a painting by Herb Turner.

My mother Wootsie (nicknames abound in my family), proper name Margaret, has happily lived in this house for over twenty years now. The house has been featured in newspaper articles and is featured prominently in the book Art and Architecture of Herbert B. Turner.  While my father Tom never saw his dream realized, this house above the Pacific serves as a fitting capstone to the adventurous years of my parents’ life together.     

Who doesn’t love dessert?

Mother’s Day is on the horizon. Friend and fellow blogger Heather Atwood and I were brainstorming about a creative way to honor all mothers. Our answer was a knock out table setting, whipped up by me, and an equally tantalizing dessert recipe suggested by Heather. Heather is the food writer extraordinaire behind the food column Food for Thought and blog By submitting a favorite memory and recipe of your own mother, you can win this table setting. For contest details and lots more photos of the setting, check out Heather’s website at

The dessert table setting for four has a lofty set of three candlesticks which I crafted from vintage Victorian ballustrades. Combined with a mid-century modern vase and a white/creme/grey color palate for the accessories, this highly eclectic mis en scene will fill the eye. Save room for dessert.