Archive for December, 2007

Highlights and lowlights of a Christmas holiday….
December 31, 2007

Wow, it’s almost 2008….and I have been a very bad blogger….very bad indeed (though not as bad as blogger.com itself because it is not publishing all the pictures I so painstakingly took…all I get is a little red x in a little box like you see below, but I digress.). Now I will endeavor to catch you up on what’s been happening….no worries…not everything , just the best and the worst. Let’s get going.

Highlights

1. No traveling. We did not throw ourselves onto a godawful early flight to Alabama this year. No standing in long security lines, no delayed flights, no pretending you’re all ready to go when you really want a nap. We were at home, the best place for Christmas, all together. That has to be number one. (Though let me say, it’s double edged sword…you do miss seeing the folks.)
2. My son and his lovely girlfriend Jennifer preparing Christmas eve dinner….all by themselves.
Now, it must be said, this happened because of lowlight number 1 (see below). They prepared a shrimp and butternut squash risotto from this cookbook that Lisa Robinson gave me, after the author had been on the weekend news…Impress for Less by Hope Fox. TIt’s full of recipes from famous restaurants…this ne from Restaurant August in New Orleans. These great kids cooked and chopped and laughed, and prepared a fantastic feast. I wish I had a picture of the table my daughter set for us….so pretty, and I am utterly grateful to have found out my kids could do it all and make a perfect evening, when I was out of commission. Talk about loss of control.
0109080923.jpg3. I got the new nano!! My very own!
My daughter gave me her old ipod when she got a new one, and the old one promptly quit working. I love this little gadget….and I’m loading tons of music on it, and podcasts.

4. I love these little cashmere gloves I received from Jennifer…but it was funny…as I went to wear them one day, I discovered I had two left hand gloves, though it took me a few minutes to figure this out. A right handed one is on its way from Pittsburgh.
5. BSO Christmas Spectacular. If you have never been to this, make plans to go next year. It was simply fabulous….dancing Santas and all….funny, fun, entertaining, fast moving, it was the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit.
6. Charlie Wilson’s War. What a great film. Funny, informative, great performances by Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman. Just terrific.

7. Juno. What a delight! Hilarious and touching, utterly original, great characters. I would happily see it again.

8. Dinner at Jack’s Bistro in Canton. My son had been saying we should go there, and I finally made it. Terrific funky place, with one of the most unusual menus I’ve seen in a while. Next time I’m getting the chocolate mac and cheese. Really.(I felt like I’d made a discovery but when I told a friend about it, they were like “Ok yeah Jack’s Bistro, we’ve been there several times. Zing.)

LOWLIGHTS:
1. Being flat on my back on Christmas eve….I was doing some unknown task and felt my back go into a spasm.Ouch. I mean really, really ouch. So I actually couldn’t do anything…at all. And for those of you who like to control how things go on a holiday, you know it feels to be totally out of control. I mean, no one will do it just like I do. But I found out that Christmas goes on just the same, and while things weren’t just like I would do them, they were just fine.



2.The Dewey Cox Story: Walk Hard. Can I just say this? This film is not funny. It is silly. A got a couple of chuckles, but I also fell asleep during it…and felt a nap was a better use of my time than watching the movie. That’s not good.
3. ..

Baby girl getting a bit of diahrrhea and stepping in it. Yeah. Ugh. That led to her first bath, which she did not like at all…but it must be said, BABY GIRL made my daughter’s holiday. They are in love!!

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The little things that try one’s soul…
December 21, 2007

Four days ’til Christmas, and when I walk into my house, I want it be resplendent in its neatness, tree sparkling, presents wrapped and in place, surface that tend to be the catchall…with nothing on them except what’s supposed to be there.
But my dining room table has mail, a book a neighbor wants, wrapping paper, and just…stuff!

At one end of the sofa is a list my daughter has made, counting everyone’s gifts…I know, I know…and a cute little ornament that every year has to have its skis glued back on. And so far, no one has stepped up to the plate. He’s still there waiting, right now.(oh-oh, I just remembered I left that glue gun on…better call the daughter with an s.o.s.)
There’s a trash bag that says trees…what’s in it? And why is a string of lights sitting around. What are they waiting for?

And here is an unfinished present/project still in progress. I’ve had a little piece of the Berlin Wall that was brought back for my son in 1989, when the wall fell. It’s been sitting in a little box since then. So I found a Shadow Box at Pottery Barn, and have ordered a little commemorative nameplate saying “Berlin, 1989, “Ich bin ein Berliner“, the famous JFK quote, and will, ONCE I have all the pieces, will assemble them into hopefully, an awesome gift. I hope.
And I’ve pulled some terrible muscle in my back…the worst time in the world for this to happen, just when I need to be a whirling dervish, I’m somewhat sidelined to asking others to do things, get things for me.
But the tree is finished…my sweet daughter did it for me, and bought groceries, and ironed napkins, and there will be more she’ll be asked to do…thanks sweetie.
But Christmas comes just the same….some things will remain undone, and the world won’t come to an end. Have a good weekend everyone, and try to find some of the joy of the season…that’s what I’m doing!

It’s Christmas, hon….
December 19, 2007

OK this time of year….lots of us start to feel a little out of sync with the holiday at hand. You’ve been planning, working, ordering, wrapping, cooking, buying….AND still carrying on the rest of your life and well, you’re just a little pooped out a week before the real thing. Here’s a fix.
Go to Hampden hon. Seriously. For those of you who know Hampden, you don’t have to read any further (unless you want to), but I know there are lots of you who have never been there. What a pity, especially at Christmas.

Start out on 34th Street. This street has been doing it up for years, and it is a big tourist attraction, but if you’ve never seen it, by all means check it out. You won’t believe your eyes.

Lots of restaurants…Suzie’s Soba, Dogwood Deli(which is not a deli btw, but a fine restaurant), Golden West Cafe, and of course, the classic Cafe Hon This picture shows how the Hon does Christmas.

You can wander down the Avenue…check out all the cute shops….don’t miss Watermelon Sugar at the end of the Avenue on Chestnut…so cute. Antiques, trendy boutiques, and because it’s Hampden, always the off beat and unusual….

I’m not sure what the sign means, but you can find out for me….OK?

Cookie Exchange….crazy or cool?
December 18, 2007

Alright, I’ve already blown off one “cookie exchange” this December, with the excuse…I don’t bake cookies…I’m NOT a cookie baker…I’m a cookie buyer, blah, blah, blah. And hey, I was pretty happy with my decision.

But when a group of neighbors held a cookie exchange, which is what you see here…women grabbing for cookies…I decided that I would make an effort. One thing I knew I could do is what my Mom calls Hello Dolly bars(recipe below)…others refer to them as 7-layer bars. All I know is they are sin in a 13 X 9 pan. Graham cracker crumbs and butter for the crust, topped with coconut, chocolate chips, walnuts and sweetened condensed milk. Bake and voila…deliciousity. Yes, I know that’s not a word.

The idea of the cookie exchange for those of you like me who have never attended on….you make, let’s say 36 cookies(this if for 12 participants), and so does everyone else.

You bring an extra tray or platter, and go around the table and get 3 of each cookie, so you take home a delightful(presumably) assortment of cookies for the holidays.
I have to say…it was fun. OK, there was also soup eating and wine drinking, but even without this, it would have been fun. And the cookies are good, at least the ones I’ve tried.

Some are fancier than others, true….like the little decorated gingerbread stockings….they must have taken some serious time. Here’s A recipe for Hello Dolly bars…though there are quite a few variations….

Hello Dolly Bars
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
2 cups of chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts or pecans
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of butter

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter in a saucepan.
Pour melted butter into an 11×7 or 8×8 cake pan.
Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs into pan, and mix well with melted butter to form a crust.
Layer on top of graham-cracker crust chocolate chips, coconut and walnuts.
Evenly pour sweetened condensed milk over everything.
Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes, top should be light brown.
Let cool in pan for at least half an hour, cut into bars and serve to delighted fans.

Make sure you use sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated milk-totally different!

A New Fuzzy Family Member
December 17, 2007

It was only a matter of time, after we lost Wild Kitty….and she has arrived and is scampering around my feet even as I write.

Her name is Baby Girl….after trying several monikers that just didn’t seem to fit. And I think we’ve lucked out…not only is Baby just as cute as pie, she is also just as sweet. She is a cuddler….absolutely adores a Barefoot Dreams throw I have …must remind her of her Mama.
She has a huge purr for such a little body, and already love chasing a paper ball around the kitchen floor.

My daughter came home from college Saturday, and called me to have me meet her at Petsmart in Catonsville….word of the street had it they had some kittens in from Last Chance Rescue…they’re a group that cares for abandoned pets in Maryland, northern Virginia and D.C., and they will bring cats to various Petsmarts around the state for adoption. All the animals are spayed or neutered, and have been tested for AIDS and Feline Leukemia, and have all their shots. The adoption fee(which covers those costs) is $135.00.
Baby will need to go to our vet today though, just to be checked out again.

The only family member not happy about Baby Girl’s arrival is Muffy…she had quite taken to being an only child. And while I’m sure she will adjust and perhaps one day, even enjoy baby’s company, right now she is thoroughly disgusted by the whole thing. Her face says it all. She just hangs out upstairs where Baby is not yet allowed. She just getting used to her space.
But we’re all happy for Baby Girl joining the fam….even when she starts climbing the Christmas tree. Welcome to our world, Baby Girl!

Some gifts I’m giving this year!
December 14, 2007

I’m always on the prowl for something new, something different, something a little unique for gifts….these are a few of the things I’ve giving to different folks this year…..

I don’t know if you caught The Bronx is Burning this summer on ESPN….I stumbled into it mid season and thought it was one of the best series I’ve seen in a long time, about the New York Yankees unforgettable summer of 1977. The DVD box set (5 discs) is out this December. It not only has all the shows but has highlights from that world series, including the entire game 6, plus interviews with the real Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Lou Pinella and more. John Turturo as Billy Martin is inspired, as is Oliver Platt as Georgie boy. It’s just terrific. My Father-in-law, who didn’t see it, is getting this.

For my son’s girlfriend Jennifer, OLAVIE Chardonnay Wine Therapy . Not that she needs it, but it supposed to full of skin-saving antioxidants from wine and olive oil, and they have a whole line of stuff (that is used by several stars if you like to give it some extra panache).

Have you ever seen the TeaForte line? Beautiful tea bags…silk tea pyramids really…and come in some luscious flavors and are just so pretty. But I really fell in love with this little teardrop shaped sugar and creamer….so cute, and $12.95. I found this(and the tea bags) at Gundy’s Gift Shop around the corner from Eddie’s in Roland Park. Oh, and they wrap for free…love it!! Several friends are getting this….

Maybe you already have digital picture frames loaded with tons of pictures, but I don’t (actually still don’t as the two I have I’m giving as gifts)…. one to my Mom who will love it, and one to my Father-in-law, who will at least think it is interesting…I hope.

Found some really unique business card cases on a website called CuffArt…I’m giving one to my son who doesn’t have one, and a pair of cuff links I found there made from seats from Memorial Stadium!

And here’s a look at my “Ribbon Box“…I really don’t have to buy ribbon every year, because when gifts are unwrapped at my house, I coil it up neatly and reuse it the next year. My kids know to just hand it over. Saves a ton of money and less trash. So green, so green. I even try to reuse paper, though even I admit, that’s tough. Oh, and it has to be real ribbon, not the paper stuff. That is just not reusable.

Decorating for the Holidays….
December 13, 2007

Decorating for the holidays can be lots of fun…or a drag, depending on how much pressure you put on yourself. I thought I’d give you a little mini tour of some things I’ve done at my home this year, and with little trouble, and no great expense.

This is something I did last year that I’m doing again…a big white bowl filled with inexpensive ornaments…matte silver, bright silver, a few clear balls, frosted pine cones…the bright orange thing in the middle is a ball light that is rechargeable, a gift from a few years ago, that honestly until now, wasn’t sure what to do with!

This is an arrangement I have in the kitchen…just a vase filled with different fresh greens, some red berry boughs that are faux(sorry), and I may add a few flowers as I go along…the greens will last and I love having something pretty in the kitchen.

This Chinese bowl which I have had for years, I planted this year. Found some white Amaryllis already sprouted at Superfresh for $9.99, and planted then and topped with some moss I found, scavenged from the ground pine cones(little ones) and even a piece of lichen I found. Think it will be really nice when they open.

I have several of these sprays, pine flocked with snow and pine cones…not real of course, but they look good, and I have used them all over the place. This year they are topping pictures in the hall. Just gives a simple little winter holiday feeling to a place that usually doesn’t get any.

These white branches are perfect for winter I think…from a Japanese tree called Mitsumato, bleached white, not painted….. I ordered them from Nettleton Hollow, which I’ve mentioned before.

What you see in the bottom of the vase are little fake pears that I got from Target last year. I’d use real ones but when they go bad….ummmm….not good.

An unusual gift place….
December 11, 2007

This is my haul from Great Stuff by Paul this past weekend….what you see there are several red antique Chinese “document boxes”…great for storing all your remotes, in style I might add….$29 each-great gifts. And the long paint-brushy looking thingie is an antique caligraphy brush, with a jade handle!! Beautiful…$38.00.
OK, Great Stuff by Paul is not new to me…I stumbled across it several years ago in Frederick….but it’s worth pointing out for those of you who do not know about it.
If you’re looking for that certain something…something unique…as a gift or for your home…here’s your place.

How about a champagne rack from France circa 1930….holds over 100 bottles of…whatever you like!

Or for 10 bucks, an old primitive well bucket from India….would make an interesting flower arrangement…

This is what it looks like in the warehouse from above in the balcony…stuffed with Chinese noodle boxes, carved fish, beautiful red trays, baskets, chests crates….old Chinese school desks, wooden coal arts on wheels….seriously, stuff you cannot imagine until you see it. It’s like going through your grandma’s attic, if it had 52-thousand square feet of stuff. Things from all over the world…not repro either.

How beatiful would a Tibetan bowl be to hold keys or arrange several on the wall??

Say it with me now…..Ahhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmm..

A perfect holi-day!!
December 10, 2007

This has been one of my traditions since the early 90s…..taking a day, whether in the middle of the week, or the weekend, in Frederick Maryland. For me, it began when one holiday season I felt just….low…you know? Certainly not festive.
I love Frederick because it’s a real town…not a mall. You must venture forth into the weather, whenever you leave one of the charming shops or restaurants. And there are plenty of those….and Frederick knows how to do it up at Christmas.
You can do this day depending on your wallet…low budget or higher…and I’ve done it both ways over the years. They’re both fun.
Let’s say, you’re a little flush….then have lunch at The Tasting Room…or “the Le Cirque of Frederick”, as one townsperson described it. And it is wonderful. Not cheap, but wonderful…..

If you miss the lobster chowder, don’t say I didn’t tell you about it.

And the crantinis…tasty, very tasty. (Hey this is a holiday lunch..)

On the other end of the dining spectrum, but equally good in a more casual way, is That Cuban Place, just down the street and only open a year. So cute, so friendly, and the Cuban Sandwich(pork marinated 24 hours in mojo, cheese, ham and pickles on homemade bread), 7 bucks…and the cafe Cubano was fabulous…and they gave me a piece of the Tres Leche cake. Yummo.
If you like to shop….trust me there is plenty…one of my favorite stores(if you want to spend some money) is The Velvet Lounge…trendy clothes, and on occasions, they have big sales that start at 8 PM….I’d tell you when the next one is but then I’d have to kill you.
Loads of antique and home decor shops, and museums….

like The National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Who knew there was such a place?
Frederick has it all, and tomorrow I am gonna tell you about a place where you can find a unique gift for someone who has just about everything.

Cool (and affordable) website gift suggestions!
December 8, 2007

OK, who doesn’t love a real summer tomato in the middle of winter…if you could get one, that is. And now you can. My Momma likes to send me clippings from the Birmingham News, and while I get an awful lot of comics she thinks are funny(and they are Momma, they are), this one I really like…just as she thought. Blackjack Gardens in Birmingham is offering Their greenhouse tomatoes for sale and shipping this year. They are greenhouse grown, not hydroponically, but in an “organically rich medium of topsoil, leaf mold, compost and sand”. And without pesticides, natch. $45 for 5 lbs, plus 9 bucks shipping. Not a cheap gift certainly, but if you know a foodie, maybe a memorable one.

Ok, and I feel like I’m cheating on this one…the Today Show had the lego IPOD dock/speaker yesterday, but I did a little further legwork for you on this website….called The Sarut Group…and they have some really wonderful smaller gifts, or maybe stocking stuffers..though I’m not sure they’re cheap enough for that, but that depends on the wallet of the giver. You know.

Check out this cute little doggie leash…one of many patterns, and they a couple of eat dog collars for the dog lover…or a doggie cake server.

And I ordered one of these hairbrushes for my niece for Christmas. I love it!!