She was Nearly Born in a Volkswagen Bug

Happy Birthday, to Molly-Erin Marie Furner Gickling. 

Yes, indeed she was almost born in the back of our Red Volkswagen Bug.  Her soon-to-be-new-daddy didn't want to pay an additional day stay in the hospital, so there I sat, birth imminent, legs crossed, fingers crossed, almost everything crossed, counting the hour, minutes and finally seconds to be WHEELED into the hospital. And out she came, the biggest of clan.

I was dancing in my head I was so relieved to give birth NOT in a CAR!!!!  And Molly has been dancing ever since.  She truly has been our ballerina!  And today she adds another fantastic year to her life's calendar.

We celebrated at Kaiwah Beach, a few days early. Secrets very hard to keep...but we did a pretty good job.

For one scary moment we thought we would have to cook the pancakes in olive oil, but Molly had come to the rescue and put a tub of butter in her bag of home brought groceries. 

Hunter was a masterful chef, working with three non stick pans at ONE TIME: sausage, scrambled eggs and pancakes. It all turned out beautifully.

Harder than keeping the surprise party a surprise was hiding the birthday cake and raspberries. NOTHING in the world tastes better to Molly than raspberries

After breakfast we settled down to presents.....did you know that Trader Joe's Market has several cookbooks? That is what she is reading.

Plum full of pancakes and raspberries, presents and cards, we headed to the beach.
Yes, it was rather nippy out. But little can stop crashing ocean waves, swooping birds and playful dolphin watching.

Kayla had the best surprise of all....her very own birthday cake for her mommy.
Rather than "eat" it all in one sitting, we left some for the Mermaids to nibble on.  The next morning a few shells were left where the cake once should always believe in mermaids.

Happy Birthday, Molly..........

At One with Sand and Surf

At one with the sand and surf, early morning. 
Water-globes of sun send shards of brilliance to my eyes
diamond bright, facets in a single moment.

At one with the sand and surf, early morning.
Families gather, hugging close, their morning ritual,
breakfast is served.

             At one with sand and surf, early morning.
Dancing silhouettes pirouette with abandon
time stands still, my heart opens wide.

At one with sand and surf, early morning.
A time to ponder the unanswerable questions

s.furner fine art: Addendum: Eat Pray Love Part IIA

s.furner fine art: Addendum: Eat Pray Love Part IIA: "Seems like yesterday I posted the second 'installment' in Eat Pray Love Part II. Even then I knew that I hadn't really shared all that I wan..."

Addendum: Eat Pray Love Part IIA

Seems like yesterday I posted the second 'installment' in Eat Pray Love Part II. Even then I knew that I hadn't really shared all that I wanted to say... Anyway, last night I made the most delicious Butternut Squash soup. ( Which I will share at the end.) Scooping the baked squash into a red plastic bowl, my mind wandered back to eating in Asia....AGAIN! Thus this addendum: only this time we visit a special cooking school in Singapore.  There will be some cooking tips along the way, so if you like to eat, cook or just see photos of food follow along.

This is Samia Ahad owner of the Coriander Leaf restaurant and cooking school in Singapore. Sarah (my adventuresome daughter-in-law) arranged for us to take a one day cooking class. Samia's classes fill quickly, but there were two spots left. So LUCKY!! The classroom is set up adjacent to the restaurant and is perfect for watching Samia and her chefs prepare one amazing dish after another.

Students are seated at a large table attached to the cooking station. We are served beautifully presented dishes immediately after food is prepared. Looking back at this photo, I don't recall everyone BEING so SERIOUS!  Hey, cooking and eating are FUN FUN FUN , especially when someone else does it for you! 

This is the cooking station that has EVERYTHING any cook could wish for, including prepped ingredients. (You know like Martha Stewart.)  A fortunate woman  from our group was invited to participate, she is wearing  the plastic apron.  I preferred to eat and watch, thank you.  I would probably drop my knife on the floor, or worse yet, by virtue of habit, stick my finger into something yummy and tasted it!  GROSS!!

Talk about GROSS. My seat was directly adjacent to the cooking counter and this valiant crab. Poor creature was being prepared for Singapore's very famous dish,  Singapore Chili Crab.  It was for sure a CHILLY day when it was plucked from an aquarium of frantic fish.

Cooking tip:  to have succulent, shredded or diced chicken for a dish, first rub the chicken with salt and soy sauce and marinate for 30 minutes. Stuff the body cavity with garlic and ginger. Fold the legs in so the garlic and ginger do not tumble out. In a DEEP pot bring water to a boil over high heat.  Place the chicken into the pot, then immediately reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Weigh down the chicken so it is completely immersed in the water. Poach for one hour, turning chicken to cook evenly.  Carefully remove cooked chicken and dunk into ice bath, transfer to a dish. To keep the skin moist, rub with canola oil.

Want to cook a chicken breast, do the same thing, put into the boiling water/weigh down. Turn heat off and let stand in the hot water for 8 minutes with no additional heat. 

Cooking tip: Do you ever question when your pan, wok or grill is hot enough to put food in?  Turn heat to high, add oil wait a few minutes. The temperature is perfect if you can hold your hand above the hot oil for ten seconds.  My tip: You can also hold a wooden chop stick in the oil and when lots of little bubbles form around the chop stick it is hot enough to saute/fry.

Six dishes were prepared in front of our wondering eyes. All of our senses were totally rived up!  Asian food cooks quickly, it is the preparation that takes the time. Samia, like Martha or Rachel, has lots of help in the prep department.

A few photos of the food that was prepared and consumed with gusto by class participants. Presentation, serving plates, garnishes are part of the total Asian eating experience.

And after all the tasting during class,  we had a sit down meal......roll us home after this show of gluttony!  for the curious epicure.  Look for their class schedule, choose a class, book a flight and have an adventure of a life time!!

At the start of this writing, I mentioned that squash soup is what started me thinking about this Singaporean cooking adventure. Seems so ordinary now, but nevertheless best Sharon's Butternut soup yet!! 

GENERAL DIRECTIONS: (I don't write cookbooks, sorry.)

1 medium  butternut squash.  Wash well, cut into pieces. Line baking sheet with tinfoil. Lay the squash cut side up. Sprinkle liberally with salt, ground pepper and nutmeg.  Bake until very tender, this takes awhile. When cooled scoop the soft squash into a bowl (no squash skin please) and mash slightly. Meanwhile, saute a chopped small/medium onion until caramelized and sweet. To the cooked squash add the sweet onions, about 10 ounces of chicken broth and 1/2 can of well shaken coconut milk.  Puree in batches until very smooth. Adjust thickness and sweetness with more or less broth/coconut milk.  Heat gently. The thicker the soup, the more flavorful, no thin canned soup texture. Place in bowls, dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of nutmeg or your favorite fall spice. Yum this is delicious with crusty hot bread.



Seems like ages ago and I was all excited about the book Eat, Pray and Love and seeing the Julia Robert's movie with countryside scenes of Bali. Having spent time in Ubud, Bali at the time the movie was filmed, it seemed fun and appropriate to share photos. I started with concept of Pray.

It is early morning here in NC, still dark, and I am craving Peanut M&M's!!! For some reason my craving for something crunchy and chocolate brought back memories of EATING in Bali.

You are welcome to join me in a culinary extravaganza !!!

Where it starts is really in the fields, where the produce is grown, but just as fascinating are the street food vendors.  They spend very long days in cramped quarters chatting, smiling, probably gossiping the latest news, while hoping someone will purchase their produce.  It is its own little microcosm.  


In our family we all LOVE to take photos of food before it is consumed with great gusto! (Someone in our family should be a food photographer, it is that big a deal.)

Everything is delicious and beautifully presented. Children are loved and welcomed in the restaurants no matter how messy they are. That is a plus when traveling with Four Little Muggers.

But to move the story along, there was much more than eating Balinese food in a restaurant. When dining at Cafe Wayan we learned that they sponsored COOKING CLASSES out in the countryside no less.  Mateo, our son, and I signed up for a day of cooking authentic Balinese food in plein other words, outdoor cooking. This was no American BBQ!! 

Mateo and I met at the cafe, were escorted to a large car and driven WAY OUT into the countryside...sparsely populated and a long enough drive, that I actually wondered if we were being kidnapped. That is the truth. I started to get rather suspicious.

Eventually we arrived at a beautiful complex of Balinese architecture, lotus ponds, fields of various crops....but NO people around. A gentleman dressed in white appeared and escorted us to an open air pavilion and left us there. I looked around at the beautiful landscape but could see NO ONE.  I have a great imagination and now and then it gets me in trouble.  I was really starting to freak out and conjured all sorts of scenarios in my head. And this paranoia I was passing on to Mateo.

Eventually the gentleman brought us beautiful drinks with flowers attached. Okay, my mind wandered again, is there a drug in this beautiful drink? You know like the brilliant red apple in Snow White? I decided to let Mateo drink and I would make sure I was "drinkless" in case I had to get us out!  (You didn't know this would be a mystery did you?)  SIGH SIGH SIGH, foolish, over wrought woman!!  Eventually we were escorted to an outdoor/plein air cooking kitchen equipped with everything beyond IMAGINATION, including two very pleasant, nice looking men.

Embarrassed by my lack of good judgment and paranoia, I finally relaxed and the day was splendid, magnificent, educational and we made two Balinese friends.  I will let the photos speak for our Balinese Culinary Adventure.  Maybe if you have an over active imagination like mine you will be able to smell the delicious aromas of fresh EVERYTHING!! and this includes all spices and condiments freshly ground in an old stone mortar.

The 'notorious' drink I pretended to drink!

Mateo should be a chef, he has the right pose don't you think? Believe me those knives were sharp!

All spices are hand ground. It was really hard work. Such wimps, Mateo and I  took turns grinding the spices into a paste.

Our delightful host and instructor....preparing everything to our own taste.

And that my dear friends is a photographic journey into Balinese cooking!
Now I am pretty sure my husband has HIDDEN a sack of Peanut M&M's somewhere...