Lucky, Lady

As usual, I wake before the alarm goes off at 6am.  Half asleep I dress myself; bra, tshirt, shorts, socks, before bumbling around half trying to find the dog’s lead, half not quite knowing what I’m doing yet.  As I sit down to tie my shoes the dog plonks itself right in front of me, just in case I forget what I’m doing.

We walk and I slowly wake up. The air is fresh and cool, our shadows are stretched out long before us like the promise of a never-ending summer.  I breathe deeply.  The dog sniffs in the long, dewy grass and chases rabbits, it’s our favourite time of day.

I get home, eat my muesli while reading the news, then brush my teeth. Like clockwork I feed the dog and pack by bag for work. Lunch – double-bagged in its tupperware container to prevent leakage, macbook, keys, phone.

Donning my backpack, I head to the garage where I clip on my helmet, slide on my gloves and wheel my bike outside. The sound of my wheels crunching on the gravel driveway cuts through the sleepy morning air soothed by the steady buzz and hum of cars and trucks in the distance.

 

One moment you’re asleep the next you’re awake.  But as usual, you’re wide awake before your eyes flicker open. And in those few wakeful moments before opening your eyes, you mentally chalk up a to-do list on the back of your eyelids.

Dress.  Put a load of washing on.  Feed the cat.  Feed the dog.  Put out the recycling.  Water the basil.  Eat breakfast. Brew coffee. Brush teeth. With your typical efficiency there’s even time to hang out the washing before leaving for work.

You use the 12-minute drive to think about the day ahead.  The radio blares loudly, Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB, chewing gum for the ears.  You drive on auto-pilot in a steel cage of air-conditioned introspection.

 

Outside, the temperature is already rising, I’m sweating before I hit the Woodbourne airbase, about five kms into my 12km trip.  The road is busy with commuters, I try to breathe deeply and calmly when trucks barrel past, leaving me wobbling in their wake.

You pull up in your little car at the intersection of Jacksons Road and Middle Renwick Road.  I see you sitting there waiting for a gap in the traffic to turn right.  You look right, left, right.  Right past me, I’m sure of it, despite my bright fuschia singlet.  I draw nearer, I can see your blonde hair and your made up face.

There you are again, glancing right, left, right.  Surely you’ve seen me, I’m right there I could call out to you, but your window is up, you’re in your own little bubble. I’m crossing the intersection now, and I hesitate, you’re still not looking at me, I brake slightly, I’m about to bike past you when you pull out.

Everything slows down, I hit the brakes hard, yelling out in fear, my face is right outside your window when you finally look at me.  Your expression mirrors mine, mouth forming a perfect O, eyes wide in alarm, and then a blur of white as time speeds up again, and you stomp on the gas as I steer the handlebars to swerve around the back of your departing vehicle.

Trembling with fright I continue pedaling.  Glancing behind me, I see you hesitate for a moment before driving off smoothly as if with a flick of your hair you shrug off that moment we shared, when our worlds almost collided.

You, protected entirely in your bubble of steel and glass.  Me, utterly vulnerable, exposed and yet completely invisible. Lucky, lady.

Perfectly Adequate Pavlova

I’ll be honest, my goal to pull off the classic Kiwi dessert actually started out in my head as – dramatic pause –                                                                                           *** The Perfect Pavlova Mission ***

pav1Of course, Perfect Pavlova makes a far better headline than Adequate Pavlova (I have an unfortunate penchant for alliteration.) But after coming to the realisation recently that striving for perfection is a complete waste of time, have been making a conscious effort to put this mantra into practice.

Perfectionism and my tendency to over-complicate things is not only a big time waster, it’s causing me unnecessary stress, eroding my self-esteem, my sense of humor and basically doing my head in, one tiny failure at a time.

Failure is a harsh word.  Like loser.  No one strives to lose.  We go out of our way to avoid failure. Because it hurts.

And these perceived failures and shortcomings are of no consequence in the grand scheme of things.

In striving for perfectionism, I’m actually setting myself up to fail.

So those chocolate pastries I baked didn’t live up to my oh-so-high expectations – oh well, I’m no pastry chef, live and learn and do it better next time.

My hair is fly away and frizzy – But my friends and family still love me in spite of it and my dog Bonnie certainly doesn’t care.

Here’s a biggie: Sometimes I make spelling mistakes/grammatical errors at work. (These are the WORST feels.)

Amend it.  Figure out why I missed it.  Revise my editing methods. Move on.

Life is full of delicious failures, quirky flaws, laughable mistakes and awkward squirm-fests.  But if you really think about it, our fallibility is what makes us so delightfully human.  The key is perspective.

Back to the Pavlova.  The origin and technique for mastering this classic Kiwi (or Australian, depending on where you’re from) dessert is shrouded in mystery.

Regardless of where it comes from, I think we can all agree that scoffing huge drifts of this melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, soft and chewy dessert is an actual birth right for all Kiwis.  Also, its fluffy lightness won’t weigh you down: hence it’s the perfect dessert for summer and after big meals. There’s always room for pav.

I’ve attempted this elusive holy grail of Kiwi cookery several times over the past five years with dismal results ranging from delicious fiascos to inedible.  So, before we get started, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  • pav2Follow the directions, and use the exact ingredients and equipment listed. (The egg whites and sugar will not reach their essential pillowy, tacky, glossy state if you use a blender or a food processor. Trust me.)
  • As in most recipes, eggs should be room temperature and fresh as possible.
  • Pour the sugar into the egg whites S-L-O-W-L-Y.  If you dump it all in at once, it won’t work.

I used the recipe from my good old Edmonds Cook Book:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbs cornflour
imperfect circle dammit!

imperfect circle dammit!

Preheat oven to 180C.  Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and add caster sugar one tbs at a time for 10-15 minutes, or until thick and glossy.

Mix vinegar, essence and cornflour together.  Add to meringue.  Beat the shit out of it for another 5 minutes.

Line an oven tray with baking paper and draw a 22cm diameter circle on the paper.  pav5Spread the pavlova to within 2cm of the circle, keeping it as round and even and smooth as possible.

Place pav in the preheated oven and turn temperature down to 100C.  Bake for one hour, turn off the oven, open oven door slightly and leave pavlova to cool.

While it’s doing its thing, you can work on the topping.

The recipe called for fresh berries and mint to slather all over the pav, but we all know we can decorate them with whatever’s on hand, such as Laura Vincent’s Smartie Pavlova from her blog Hungry and Frozen, or Jamie Oliver’s Meringue with Pears, Cream, Toasted Hazelnuts and Chocolate Sauce.

Berries are in season at the moment, but I wanted to use the fresh apricots I’d picked up from the road side stall in Rapaura at the weekend.

So I went with a luscious citrus cream, tangy poached apricots and ginger syrup:

  • six fresh apricots, halved and stones removed
  • One inch piece of ginger, shaved
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of caster sugar
  • 330ml pouring cream
  • 2-3 tbs lemon curd
  • mint leaves

pav6Bring water, sugar and ginger to boil and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add apricots and simmer for 8-10 minutes (depending on how ripe they are).

Remove the apricots, reserving the ginger syrup.  IMG_1253Once they are cool, slice each half into 3 or 4 crescents.

For the citrus cream: Beat the cream, adding 2-3 tbs lemon curd (or to taste) when it’s almost fully whipped.

IMG_1263Once the pavlova has cooled, now’s your chance to disguise any imperfections or mishaps you may have had (such as inadvertently pulling the entire outer layer off while trying to transfer it from the baking tray to a plate.) by artfully decorating it with your chosen toppings.

IMG_1268Now serve it up and eat it all! xx Hope you enjoyed.

Writing To Make Sense

Since my time off over the Christmas break, I’ve been having a good hard think about why I write.

Reflecting on what compels me to sit down and write, has also turned my thoughts to who I’m writing for and the time and effort I intend to commit to it.

One of the most valuable benefits of writing, is it helps me clarify my thoughts, make important decisions and lends a sense of direction and purpose.

It’s no surprise then, that reflecting on why I write has given me a new feeling of proprietorship towards my wee project here, and I’m pretty excited to see what the year brings and watching my blog develop and grow.

Why I Write

  1. Express myself eloquently.  Some people are born story tellers with an intrinsic sense of timing, razor-sharp wit and the ability to seamlessly sort their thoughts into informed, interesting and persuasive arguments.  While I can have moments of brilliance, (at least I think so anyway) my phonetic abilities are much more placid, and with a tendency to go off on tangents I’m far more comfortable with editorial’s fact-checking process to filter my chronic foot-in-mouth condition.
  2. Hone the craft.  I’ve always enjoyed writing, but writing is work. There’s lots of guidance out there for budding writers, but the one invariable piece of advice from writers (apart from being widely read, which really isn’t work at all) is to write.  Write, write, write.  So, here I am.
  3. Hashing it out.  There’s a bewildering amount of information out there and frankly I’m disturbed by peoples’ proclivity to get caught up in the hype with little or no information.  Hey I love a good bandwagon as much as the next clown, but in many cases I’m reluctant to form an opinion about something I don’t know anything about. Writing gives me the opportunity to do my own research, thrash out my thoughts and feels and draw my own conclusions.
  4. Encourage discussion, harvest ideas.  As much as I enjoy chilling at home and tapping away at the key board on my lonesome, discussion is what really gets the ideas flowing.  When other people share their thoughts, experiences and feels in response to my writing, it often sheds light on another angle or idea that hadn’t crossed my mind, and an opportunity to hear opinions different to my own.
  5. To inspire others:  I gain inspiration from all around me, and if I can inspire and entertain my readers, well that’s the cherry on top.

So how about the rest of you?  Why do you write?  Who are you writing for?

Writing Well: Magical Modifiers

Re-blogging this piece so I can read and re-read it time and again

Live to Write - Write to Live

road hell adverbsEvery once in a while, you come across a discovery that gives you the opportunity to transform your writing. This post is about just such a discovery.

The road to hell is paved with adverbs, so says Stephen King. And, who am I to argue with Mr. King.

In Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams’ character, John Keating, forbids his students to use the word very (the most heinously bland and meaningless modifier of them all), “… because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose.”

The case against adverbs is a strong one, with revered authors from every era and genre giving impassioned testimony against this eternal enemy of good writing:

  • “Adverbs are another indication of writing failure. Exactly the right verb can eliminate the need for the adverb.” William Sloane
  • “Omit needless words. Watch for adverbs that merely repeat…

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Top And Tailing The Old Ghost Road

Wild, challenging, awe-inspiring with spectacular views – the Old Ghost Road has all the hallmarks of an epic mountain bike ride.

Mike biking through the historic site of the Eight Mile gold mine

Mike biking through the historic site of the Eight Mile gold mine

The 80 kilometre track links the long-forgotten old dray road from the Lyell in the Upper Buller Gorge which serviced the gold mining towns of the 1870s, with the isolated Mohikinui River on the West Coast.

Winding through native podocarp forest, exposed mountain ridges, wide river valleys and narrow gorges susceptible to heavy rain, floods, slips and year-round snow, the track lends a sense of the tough conditions gold miners and early farmers lived and worked in.

Hundred-year-plus hob nail boots, one of many relics harking back to the 1870s gold rush in the area.

Hundred-year-plus hob nail boots, one of many relics harking back to the 1870s gold rush in the area.

The track starts at the Lyell car park, a two-and-a-half hour drive west from Blenheim, or two hours from Nelson, and ends at Seddonville, 45 minutes north of Westport.

While the track is fully open to trampers, at time of writing, the 24km section between Ghost Lake Hut and Goat Creek Hut is closed to cyclists, and expected to be completed in June 2015.

Exposed mountain tops.

Exposed mountain tops.

A helicopter can be commissioned to transport bikes and/or riders over this section, but Mike and I decided to do two separate there-and-back-again missions at both ends of the track.

With plans to stay overnight at Ghost Lake Hut, we camped the night at the Lyell DOC campground ($6 per person per night) allowing us to get a decent sleep and an early start for the 30km ride.

The track climbs gently and persistently for the first 14kms, on a well-graded surface with several creek crossings, before flattening out for easy riding to the Lyell Saddle Hut, just before the 18km marker.

Under clear blue skies it took us about three-and-a-half hours to reach the 11-bunk hut and the large, sunny deck provided a charming spot for lunch.

Just after the hut a sign marked the end of the historic old dray road, and conditions became noticeably more rough.  After our long, lazy lunch in the sun, it was a bit of an ask to get the legs pumping sufficiently to propel us up and over the skull-sized granite rocks that shaped the track for the next 5kms.  Fitter riders with more experience have no problem negotiating this section, but we were definitely feeling the burn after several hours of ascent with overnight packs.

Just after the 25km mark and a couple of hours of solid uphill climbing, (with some carrying in especially tight pinches) we suddenly popped out of the bush line and were greeted with magnificent views of sweeping granite mountain faces, characteristic of Kahurangi National Park.

Mike refuels and soaks up the view - note the track behind.

Mike refuels and soaks up the view – note the track behind.

After the tough slog, we gratefully dropped our packs to soak up the views and re-fuel, before following the track along exposed tussock tops, in full sun.

We made good progress along the flat tops, and it wasn’t long before we reached the 800 metre section of particularly narrow, rocky track rendered unrideable due to the rugged track conditions and steep drop offs.

One of our group who was riding the 60km round-trip in one day biffed in a particularly hairy spot, landing six metres down a rocky gut.  Apart from a nasty fright and a few bumps and grazes he was lucky to avoid major damage to himself and his bike.

Trust member Paul and newly minted master blaster (me) on the 800m section of unfinished track.

Trust member Paul and newly minted master blaster (me) on the 800m section of unfinished track.

One of the original members of the Mohikinui-Lyle Backcountry Trust which was established in 2008 with the goal of building the Old Ghost Road, was working on this section of track when we passed through, in hopes of having it completed in January, in time for the inaugural Ghost Road Enduro event on January 31.

We helped him wire up the cordite to dozens of “bombs” packed into the granite along the 10m section of track he was working on, before retreating to a safe spot, connecting the charge box and pushing the Big Red Button. With a crump and a resounding boom, tonnes of rock disintegrated in a cloud of dust, and we picked our way through the rubble before continuing to the high point of the track (1340m) and breakneck descent down the other side.

Helping out for that hour, really brought home to us the incredible vision of the people driving this initiative, and the seemingly insurmountable scale of their task.  Volunteers and paid workers have worked for many years in difficult and remote areas, funded by various trusts to get the track to where it is today.  It’s humbling to see the results of their efforts and their 100-year legacy, which will be enjoyed by generations of outdoor enthusiasts.

Sunrise at Ghost Lake Hut

Sunrise at Ghost Lake Hut

We arrived at Ghost Lake Hut eight hours after starting out; dusty, tired and in my case a bit battered and bruised.  (The day riders in our group took five-and-a-half hours to cover the same distance, and two-and-a-half hours to get back down again.)

It was a golden evening and we and three guys from Nelson had a fine time eating and sharing gossip and tales from our adventures.

Apart from the one km ascent (300m) back up to the track the following morning, our efforts from the previous day were rewarded with an exhilarating downhill run and we were back at the Lyell car park in time for lunch, in half the time it took us to get up there.

Track start/end at Seddonville

Track start/end at Seddonville

After a few days rest, we decided to chance the weather and tackle the 30km of track up the Mokihinui River from the Seddonville end and stay the night at Goat Creek Hut.

Luckily for us the 40mm of rain forecast didn’t eventuate, and we set of in a mist of warm rain, just wet enough to pull our pack covers out.

The undulating track flows alongside the mighty Mohikinui River, with several river crossings, some of which would be dangerous in heavy rain.  Like any New Zealand river valley, we found ourselves winding through podocarp forest, grinding up short sharp inclines, navigating rivers, waterfalls, bogs and sandy flats, bouncing over football-sized boulders and sidling rocky outcrops.

The curious and cute South Island bush robin - my fave little guy.

The curious and cute South Island bush robin – my fave little guy.

For the most part, the track was easy going, and despite the low cloud there was plenty of opportunity to take in the achingly beautiful lush green bush, narrow river gorges, and towering mountains.

One of the highlights included the three swing bridges connecting rocky outcrops with sheer drops into the river far below.  While no fun at all for acrophobics, the impressive infrastructure is again indicative of the cost and scale of the project.

Plenty of hairy drop offs if you care to look down.

Plenty of hairy drop offs if you care to look down.

Of particular interest was the regenerating podocarp forest and the site of the historic town of Seatonville – it’s just so hard to imagine towns thriving in such a remote and wild area.

After two-and-a-half hours riding, we reached Speciman Hut, just shy of the 16km mark, which provided some shelter from the rain for lunch.

Continuing on, the river valley widened, the track flattened and the sun came out, making for a pleasant half hour ride to Forks Hut, and two hours to Goat Creek Hut.

4-bunk Goat Creek Hut was the first NZ back country hut to be dropped in by fixed wing aircraft

4-bunk Goat Creek Hut was the first NZ back country hut to be dropped in by fixed wing aircraft

The trip wasn’t completely without mishap.  We missed the turn off to Goat Creek Hut shortly after crossing the South Mohikinui River and soon found ourselves carrying our bikes through a muddy, incomplete section of track.  We didn’t have trip counters or a topo map with us and (while we had our suspicions) had no way of knowing we’d overshot the turn off and traveled a good three or four kms before deciding to retreat to Forks Hut.

Needless to say the turn off stood out like dog’s bollocks on the way back, but with the sign on the ground and another group overlooking the turn off the next day, I thought a word of warning wouldn’t go amiss.

After a hot and restless night in the rather cramped Goat Creek Hut (four bunks), plagued by mosquitoes and woken at first light by countless sand flies, we were only too happy to pack up and make our way back the following morning.

The return journey with its sweeping corners and banked trail was a dream to ride and despite the rain closing in on us again, comfortably made it to the end in five hours.

  • If it’s your first bike-packing trip, I’d recommend practising biking with a full pack.  While it didn’t take long to adjust to the extra weight on my back, I did find myself a little off-balance to begin with.
  • There are plenty of places to collect water from Lyell – Lyell Saddle Hut and from Seddonville to Goat Creek Hut.
  • The Old Ghost Road topo map is available for $20 incl postage here.
  • There are a number of huts to choose from, depending on how far you wish to ride – if staying in the huts managed by the trust, be sure to book in advance here.
  • The Old Ghost Road has relied heavily on volunteers.  The trust has just released another volunteer campaign, so if you want to volunteer be quick, spaces are limited.
  • Alternatively you can donate some money to the cause here.

 

Some words about books and reading

Book love

I know, it’s been a long while since my last entry, but there are always so many other things I could be doing.

While the subject of procrastination is earmarked for a blog at some point, it is also relevant to this story – that which is singularly responsible for the dark circles under my eyes, my tardiness, those crumbs on the bench from breakfast and the mouse-grey dust balls lurking furtively behind the doors and under my bed.

My best friend and confidante, my ally in all occasions whose well worn pages never fail to bring me comfort, joy, lust, enlightenment, anguish, heart ache and excitement.

The book.

Reading is a pass time I’ve cultivated from an early age, with seeds sewn by my dad, who taught me to read and write before I could tie my shoe laces.

As a kid, I read hundreds of books; in the car, on family holidays, on the four kilometre walk to school and back, after dark by the light of my torch.

I look back at that nerdy knobbly-kneed girl, walking to school in West Auckland with her nose buried in a book and marvel at how I was never run over, or teased mercilessly by my peers.

As one of my teachers once put it, I’m a voracious reader. I devour books like food and wine. In great big gulps and swallows, snatching bitefuls at any opportunity.

Like any addiction, I’m always squeezing in “one more chapter” or “five more minutes”, and forever making up for lost time or sleep.

Appreciator of the haphazard book stack

Appreciator of the haphazard book stack

“No reading tonight” Mikey says every night when we go to bed, in hopes he might be able to drift off to sleep without being jolted awake as I surreptitiously turn a page.

And when I reluctantly fold the page to mark my spot for later, I experience an immediate sense of loss as I wonder when I’ll next get a chance to return.

I read and re-read everything.  The labels on shampoo and conditioner bottles in the shower, number plates, the engraving on the cutlery at cafes, the signs at look outs and on nature trails, and the advertisements on the back of receipts.

At some point though, I realised not all books are equal, and there are way too many books in the world than I’ll have time to read in my little life. Consequently, I’ve become a lot more discerning about what I read. If I can’t get into it within the first few pages or chapters, I have no qualms about turfing it out and starting the next book on the haphazard stack on my bedside table.

Ripping through books at speed was something I used to be proud of, but these days I try to remember to make myself slow down and digest the meanings and ideas beneath the carefully crafted words and paragraphs, probably because I’ve gained an understanding of the amount of time, research and double checking that goes into a seemingly simple sentence.

For all the time I spend reading, until now I’ve spent little time musing about the role it plays in my life.  Like fresh air and water, I’ve taken it for granted my entire life.

The forthcoming Marlborough Book Festival is really what prompted this little journey, because I’m more than a little excited about it.

Confession time: I don’t really know what to expect at a book festival (except we receive a glass of wine on arrival, alright!), because I’ve never been to a book festival before, plus I know precious little about the authors and their works, (I haven’t even read any of their books!!).

Here’s a quick run down of the festival:

There are six New Zealand authors at eight sessions over two days, held at the Blenheim Club and the lofty Cloudy Bay “Tree House”.  And of course no self-respecting festival held in Marlborough would be complete without wine.

The authors cover a wide range of genres and interests and come from all around the country. Most compelling for me was discovering that Marlborough is home to some accomplished writers. Featured authors including romance author Barbara DeLeo and writer of New Zealand history Ron Crosbie live in Marlborough, while award-winning young-adult fiction writer Karen Healey, moved to Blenheim earlier this year,

As a novice writer, I’m looking forward to hearing from the distinguished Dame Fiona Kidman about what inspires her, and hoping to glean some tips on capturing the reader’s attention.

Elizabeth Knox has been on a role this year, winning a string of awards and accolades, including the Best Young Adult fiction for her novel Mortal Fire at the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

And Harry Broad’s session will appeal to hunters, farmers and anyone who has spent any time at Molesworth Station.

As you can see, there’s something for everyone.

Personally, I’m pretty chuffed that Marlborough has it’s very own book festival, kudos to those that have organised it.

It gives us an opportunity to let books be the hero, even if it’s only for one weekend.

It’s not just about celebrating books and their authors, but acknowledging that we live in a society that provides us with the means to learn to read, and the freedom to read whatever we choose.

See you there!

Festival tickets cost about $20 per session.  Click here for all festival and ticket details.

 

Pot luck dinner parties – the stress-free way to entertain

Above all else, dinner parties are my absolute favourite occasion to get together with good friends and meet new people.

Nothing (perhaps apart from a campfire) will draw people together so naturally than the anticipation of a well-cooked meal.

And the warm, convivial, relaxed vibe of potluck dinners, trump even the most well-organised, brilliantly conjured three-course masterpiece.

With minimal organisation and responsibility required of the hosts and the guests, pot lucks are a win-win.

The host’s responsibilities are reduced to providing a few pre-dinner snacks, space in the oven for warming up dishes and ensuring there are enough glasses, plates and cutlery to go around.

There’s no agonising over a suitable menu or catering for everyone’s finicky dietary requirements.  No trying to appear effortlessly organised while juggling cooking with meeting and greeting guests and pouring drinks.

While the host will certainly still be in the kitchen finding space to put everything and directing people to the utensils draw, everyone else naturally pitches in as well, removing that sometimes awkward divide as the harried cook tries to focus on a dozen tasks, and guests mill about uncertainly, feeling powerless to help.

You don’t even have to be a good cook, because everyone has a signature dish they can whip up.  I was at a pot luck a couple of years ago, where someone rocked up with pre-cut vegemite sandwiches, and in a coup de grace pulled out a bag of crunchy potato chips!   Reminiscent of shared lunches at primary school or what?

Instead of the host pulling out all the stops and spending a fortune putting on a mean spread,  the cost and the labour is shared by all.  And there are never any awkward silences at a pot luck dinner because everyone gets to take turns demonstrating their culinary prowess and explaining where they sourced the organic blueberries for their blueberry pie with the handmade pastry.

Only to be outdone at the last minute by the late arrival bearing vegemite and chip sarnies.

And once you’re all wined up, and the last guest has finally arrived, everyone eats.  Standing up, sitting down – anything goes – except for the shuffle around the table trying to find your place, only to find yourself wedged between the two biggest bores for the entire evening.

I hope I’ve made my case for pot luck dinners convincingly enough and in time for a dinner party renaissance this winter.  The first for the season is on Saturday.  I can’t wait for the rest of the invites to come pouring in.