Archive for October, 2009

Ebay Bounty…you really can sell anything…
October 30, 2009

Carefully hot-glued wine corks....

A shoebox came in the mail the other day, wrapped in brown paper…my daughter eyes lit up when she saw it and said, excitedly, “New shoes?”, naturally  thinking they MIGHT  be for her.  Ah, disappointment…. we meet again.

Inside the shoebox was about 50 used wine corks. She looked at me with the most peculiar look that implied Mommy has gone around the bend, and said, “Old wine corks? Wow…you really can sell any kind of crap on Ebay.”  I suppose that’s true. Sure, you can put anything on the market, but it takes a special buyer like myself to actually make it a sale.

But I needed more corks…(and still need more if you have any to send my way…especially fancy wine corks-amazingly I have very few of those) I’ve been saving them up for some time to cover part of  a wall over the door in the kitchen. And clearly, I needed to be drinking faster and more often to complete such a cork-thirsty project. After hot-glueing every cork I had, I was only about two-thirds of the way. Sooooooo,  I went on Ebay.

Wine Store in NYC with a total wine cork wall....

I was soon the proud owner of not one but two lots of various, wine corks( the first batch has way too much Woodbridge in it)…corks worthless to someone else of course, but not to me.  And this is also very green…these corks did not end up in the trash…reuse is the ultimate recycling…and if you don’t send your corks to me, save them up and send them to this Planet Green website….Corks for Kids is a non-profit organized through Recycle Cork U.S.A.

A wider view….

 I kinda like the look of the wall….and it’s fun to arrange the patterns. And if I get tired of it, I can pull them all down and sell them…on Ebay. Oh, and I also bought some pine cones on Ebay. yes, I know I can walk under any pine tree and find pine cones…but these are special! Huge pine cones that only grow out west!  Wonder no more about who is the grease that makes the Ebay wheel turn….it is I.

Happy Halloween everyone..have a great weekend, be nice and come home safe.

A Grits Thanksgiving??
October 28, 2009

Glorious Grits yes...but dressing??OK, I told you yesterday about how my Mom had saved two things from the Birmingham News….the first was about my childhood pediatrician having hosted the illustrious Julia Child for a week…and the second was all about grits.

It/s true, you know....

Glorious, glorious grits…I always feel sorry for people who say they don’t like grits…and always feel that if they had good grits, prepared and served the right way(mainly with butter, salt and pepper and never with sugar)…they would understand this basic, economical food of the south. Just think polenta. And I’ve carried grits way beyond the breakfast table, as most of you know. Grits cooked with chicken broth and finished with a little heavy cream and parmesan cheese are  worthy of any dinner table. My sister in Gulf Shores got a tip from a chef about the cream part…he suggests pouring cream over the top of grits after they cook, and let it sit there while you finish everything else, and then just stir it in when you’re ready to serve. It works.

But grits dressing for Thanksgiving?? (And for those of you who call it stuffing, let me tell you, in the south, it’s called dressing) This I have never heard of, but a new cookbook called…..that’s right…”Glorious Grits” says it’s not only possible but desirable. Yes,  all the recipes are about grits, including one for Sausage and Grits Dressing-here’s a link to the recipe.  My first thought…how can you take some gloppy grits and turn it into dressing? How?

The answer: cook grits and chill them. If you’ve ever put leftover grits in the frig, you know they turn into something akin to rubbery hockey pucks. Very firm. In this recipe you cut chilled grits into cubes and then roast those cubes until they are crisp and browned. So I’m thinking it’s kind of like a cornbread dressing? I may try it.

Nothin' better than hot grits

And there some other good recipes to try on the link…Shrimp and Grits with Succotash, Coconut-Crusted Polenta Cakes with Triple Berry Sauce, and Grits Bruschetta with Tomato Salsa. So get your grits on this weekend…and do yourself a favor one morning.  Cook a bowl of grits…NOT INSTANT…although quick grits are ok…add salt and pepper, and plop a pat of yellow butter on top. Sigh as it melts into golden rivulets. Enjoy.

Alabama Memories of Julia Child
October 27, 2009

Hughes Kennedy and Julia, 1973I’m freshly back from ‘bama, where I had a great visit with my Mom, one of my sisters, one nephew, one brother-in-law, two sisters-in law, and my Father-in-law and his new love. It was one of those somewhat hectic visits where there is sooooo much more that you’d like to do and see, but there are lots of people to get to and only so many hours in the day. You know what I mean…

And my Mother is still an avid reader of the Birmingham News…wouldn’t go a day without reading it cover to cover, though as with many newspapers these days (including the venerable Baltimore Sun) it doesn’t take as long as it used to. But she had saved a couple of things she thought I’d like…and she was dead on, both times.

The program from Julia's program in B'ham.....The first was an article about Julia Child, and a visit she made to Birmingham 36 years ago to give a series of cooking demonstrations at the Civic Center. She stayed with a Dr. Hughes Kennedy (seen with Julia in the top photo)at his home. My Mom asked, “Do you recognize him?”…and both my sister and I were clueless….”Nope…who is he?” She replied, almost scandalized that we didn’t know, “But he was your pediatrician!” Seriously, I don’t remember him at all, but she does.

And he must have done pretty darn well in the kid doctor business, because he had not one, but three kitchens in his home, and a dining room that would seat 100 guests. Good Lord. Dr. Kennedy hosted a dinner party for Julia while she was his guest, for about 125 people… he said he was too naive to be intimidated by cooking for the great Julia Child…they just dove in.

7 easy is that??He made his signature dish, a pretty simple chicken casserole with celery, onion, cheddar cheese and slivered almonds called Chicken Riggins. And even though it calls for only seven ingredients, Julia was impressed by it, so much so that she later requested the recipe for her garden club and named the dish, after Dr. Kennedy’s partner Wendell Riggins

My Mom said a group at church years ago saw the recipe long ago and made it for a Christmas party…it was such a hit  that they served the same thing year after year. And I plan to give it a try, though my mind reader Mother(who knows me well) said, “And don’t change any of the ingredients!” I was secretly  thinking…TWO CUPS of mayonnaise?? I can only imagine Dr. Kennedy didn’t eat this too often, as he’s now 85 and still kicking it. But I’ve provided the recipe below…and it does sound sinfully delicious. Let me know if you make it and how it was. Just loosen the belt buckle.


3 cups diced chicken

2 cups diced celery

1 cup diced onions

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese

1 can slivered almonds

2 cups mayonnaise

Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook 4 chicken breasts and 4 thighs with salt, pepper and celery tops until tender, about 20 minutes. Cool and dice. Dice 2 cups celery. Saute onions and cube 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese. Mix above with 2 cups mayonnaise and almonds. Place in 3-quart casserole, sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and golden on top (approximately 20 minutes).

I got an A!! The all important boarding pass….
October 22, 2009

I got and A, I got an A!!!

I got and A, I got an A!!!

I’m headed to the heart of Dixie this weekend…that’s right, Buhminham, Alabama honey. I never got down this summer as I thought I would, and I need to spend some time with my little 89 year old Mommy, while I still have her. Bless her heart, she is starting to have trouble talking,. as there is something going on with her vocal cords, so that it’s really difficult to understand what she’s saying over the phone. And if she loses her voice…it’s her last lifeline to the outside world. We’re hoping a specialist can help her.

But when you fly on Southwest Airlines, as I do 100 % of the time when I go to B’ham….as it is the only airlineto go there nonstop. And for those of you who also are Southwestaphiles….you know getting the all important A boarding pass, has become more of a contest than ever. Nowadays, most people are computer literate, and plugged into how the system works…you can go online 24 hours before your flight leaves, and not one second before. Now, it used to be that if you got online within a couple of hours, it was all good….but no longer.

Today I tried to log in, got there a couple of minutes early, (you get a message-sorry you’re too early, idiot) went to get something, came back I swear, two minutes later…and bang. Yes, you’re in the A group, but at the back of the pack with 59. 59!! That means that 58 other people cleverer than I, quicker than I am, maybe smarter than I am will board before me….possibly filling all the overhead compartments with their junk, this creating a problem for my junk

Whatever….I’ll make it. But I always feel sorry for people with truly lousy C boarding passes…then you really have no chance at any overhead space at all. Don’t they know the system? Don’t they care? No computer? Not as competitive as me? Sometimes I want to whisper to them the secret of the A boarding pass, but that would only add to the onslaught when the witching hour comes….24 hours to the second before your flight leaves. Oh, Southwest will take care of it for you….for $10. No thanks….I can do it my self. For free. I’ll say hi to Mommy for you!

Missing the opening curtain….
October 21, 2009

Topol....shouting at latecomers(just kidding)

Topol....shouting at latecomers(just kidding)

I did something I have never done before last night….and not in a good way. I was so excited to see Topol’s farewell tour of  Fiddler on the Roof ,now at the Hippodrome ….it is one of my…no, make that my favorite…musical. I have seen it many times, and the story never grows old. And while I saw Topol in the movie version, when he was about 38 years younger and easily 20 pounds heavier(how does one do that…LOSE weight as they get older), I had never seen the maestro of Fiddler,  live on stage. You might think he’s too old to play the part of Tevye, and let’s face it, in reality he is…but somehow he pulls it off. His voice is deeper and richer than ever…hats off to man who is still doing it.

But alas, I got there late, late, late. We were meeting another couple for a “quick” dinner at Lucy’s across the street from The Hippodrome….and just in case you think about doing the same thing…it’s closed. Sad but true…shut tight. Their website says they are closed for the “summer months” and will post their new hours in due course. Since it’s now October 21st….that doesn’t bode well for the future.

So we went down the street to the little Indian place in Lexington market…I’ve eaten there several times and the food is quite good, but on this night, they were totally overwhelmed(perhaps by others who did not know Lucy’s was closed). We were seated about 6:45….and by 7, we still had ordered nothing and had no drinks..tick tock tick tock. Finally we accomplish the order, another 30 minutes goes by and our samosa appetizers(included with entree)finally arrive….and thank God for those samosas. They turned out to be dinner because we never got to the main courses….at five of eight, two of us set off to get the tickets, while the other two remained to effort getting the food wrapped to go. But by the time we walked there, and rushed to the theatre, the usher looked at me with a pitying look and said, “Sorry, there’s an 8 minute delay for seating. Topol doesn’t like people coming in in the first 8 minutes“.  And you know what? I don’t blame him! I have never, ever been one of those people who come in late to a live performance, but I was one last night….one of what seemed like a small herd of people who had to be seated. We all skulked into our seats, feeling the harsh looks of  others no doubt thinking, “If you can’t get here on time, just come when you can, idiot” …and immediately fell under the charm of that marvelous production.  If you get a chance, do yourself a favor and see Fiddler with Topol…you won’t regret it. But make plans for dinner…remember the 8 minute delay.

The Kitchen Cure….I’m taking it!
October 19, 2009

Refrigerator stuff: bits of butter, yes, perfume, anchovy paste, curry sauce

Refrigerator stuff: bits of butter, yes, perfume, anchovy paste, curry sauce

Ok, if you’re anything like me at all, in spite of your good intentions, your kitchen counter/shelves/refrigerator get cluttered. All the stuff that you don’t really want to throw away…hey, I might need that 3-year-old half  jar of red curry paste…but you really don’t know what to do with it either. So, it ALL…ADDS…UP.

Last week, I was sent an email from Apartment Therapy…which is a website that caters to people who live in small spaces…how to expand your storage, decorating issues, 8 top stylists tricks, etc…..and regarding the kitchen cure, which they actually did this past spring, this is the challenge: “Welcome to our second annual Kitchen Cure! This is a series of posts, reader interaction, and assignments designed to help get your kitchen in shape. The goal, in four fast weeks, is for your kitchen to be clean, healthy and organized, and your cooking more nourishing and delicious than ever.” And while I don’t live in an apartment, my kitchen is small….organization is key.

Well, at least I have 4 weeks…that’s something. So this weekend, as assigned,  I tackled the frig, and a lazy susan cabinet in the corner that tends to be the place I put the kitchen flotsam and jetsam.  And the refrigerator’s need goes without saying. Full of stuff …how old is that jar of spaghetti sauce in the back anyway? And three jars of opened picked okra? Really?  I mean, I love pickled okra, but let’s combine and recycle. And why does my daughter buy those little container so flavored yogurts and then never touch them again? Bye-Bye. And yes, I keep my cologne in the frig, especially in the summer after I read somewhere that it stays nice longer. For sure, it stays cooler.

I know...thats nasty....

I know...that's nasty....

And uh-oh. Something really sticky on the bottom of one shelf…soap and hot water required….So I invested a couple of hours to this project, reorganizing, combining, cleaning, polishing, (I think that mozzarella stick might be the oldest think in the frig….date unknown), but you put back the pared down items, into the newly cleaned spaces, and….sigh, happiness.

That same shelf, clean and freshly arranged...

That same shelf, clean and freshly arranged...

I actually opened the refrigerator a couple of times this morning, just to look at its gleaming, fresh interior. And the lazy susan( which was known to throw various plastic container tops into its dark corners just to snarl up the works-a pathetic cry for attention) now turns freely….look below, I’m really happy about it. Now if someone wants to reach for something in my cabinet or frig, I won’t have to rush over and say, “Oh, I’ll get it!”…out of cabinet shame. Next weekend , the spice cabinet. Now there’s a challenge.

Much, much better, now I know where my Furi chopper is!

Much, much better, now I know where my Furi chopper is!


A Seafood Pirlau….how to say it, how to cook it….
October 12, 2009

Frank Stitts fabulous cooking.....

Frank Stitt's fabulous cooking.....

Did some cooking over the weekend, and my first ever Low Country Pirlau(some people pronounce it per-loo), from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table Cookbook from Highland’s Bar and Grillin Birmingham(you know you’re somebody when author Pat Conroy writes your foreword). If you’ve never eaten there, let me tell you it’s a culinary kingdom and Stitt holds the keys to the castle. His cookbook came out in 2004 and won several big awards…my late Mother-in law Shirley, bought me a signed edition of the book, for which she probably stood in line. Great lady,  that woman….I miss her all the time, and especially when I use the book. So what is a pirlau? Here is one definition I’ve been able to find on a low country website….

Pirlau (there is no one accepted pronunciation, “pur-loo” being just one variant) is a rice porridge with African roots; the name reflects the dish’s international origins, as it is related to the Middle-Eastern pilaf and the East-Indian pilau. In its essence, it is a thick stew based on chicken (or wild game bird), vegetables and spices with a great deal of long grain rice mixed in. It may contain the mucilaginous vegetable okra as a thickener, in which case it might masquerade as a gumbo.”

red and yellow maters from farmers market

red and yellow 'mater's from farmer's market

Mine did not masquerade at all…I would say a pirlau is kind of like a bouillabaisse, or a paella….though thicker than the former and a bit soupier than the latter. But no saffron. And there aren’t many recipes on line for pirlau…..I found this simplified recipe on the Baltimore Sun’s website….it’s  kinda close one to the one I used, though Stitt’s called for 4 ripe tomatoes, not one, and used chicken broth which you turned into seafood broth by simmering the shrimp shells in the broth for 10 minutes. His also called for a red bell pepper and an onion chopped and sauted(which I think are crucial), and couple of cloves of garlic…and the seagood is key. I found some wild caught Gulf shrimp, which are just soooo  sweet and yummy…It was a fabulous dish. And there was no okra in mine, though I think it might have been nice addition.

The Wine Market....

The Wine Market....

Friday night we ate out at The Wine Market, celebrating a family birthday….remember how  pleasant it was Friday? We dined al fresco on their lovely  patio…may be the last time it’s used this year…though you never know in Maryland…there could still be more Indian Summer days ahead of us.

A Girl Needs Her BeautyFix….
October 9, 2009

My first shipment of products from BeautyFix....and  a gift makeup case...

My first shipment of products from BeautyFix....and a gift makeup case...

I don’t know how many of you like to try new products….of the makeup/skin care/beauty kind…but I love it. There’s nothing I adore more than getting free samples to try, when I buy a product in a store or online….and manufacturers know this. So, they’ve come up with an ingenious way to make you pay for samples!!

It’s a group called, and when you join, you are the member of …yes…an “exclusive” club.  Your membership entitles you to “receive the season’s hottest products , handpicked by a panel of experts“.

SO who are those experts? You can read about them online, but to save you time, I did it for you. Here’s the rundown: 3 plastic surgeons, 2 dermatologists, 1 cellular aging specialist(?), 4 celebrity hair stylists, 4 celebrity makeup artists, 3 beauty editors(though it must be said one if know) and count ’em….7 bloggers.  And it is well known bloggers will do almost anything for free stuff. Except myself, of course. And I am paying full freight for my “beautyfix”….$49.95 quarterly(plus shipping and handling naturally).

My favorites so far.....

My favorites so far.....

You know  what a sucker I am for a pitch like this ….so of course, I joined and anxiously awaited the first of my 4 times yearly shipments. Here’s what I got in the first one: A big ME! bath ice cream bath ball, Decleor Instant Radiance, SpaRitual lotion, SpaRitual nail polish, Pur-lisse lip balm(really like this), IQ Derma Firmaceuticals firming body gel(haven’t tried it yet but have high hopes), Skindinavia makeup finishing spray(keeps your makeup fresh-like it), and Degree(yes the deodorant maker) body mist(not so much likee). And you should know that while some are sample/travel sizes, a few are full size products.

Will I continue on with being part of the club? Dunno….I’ll wait on the next shipment to make a judgement…but so far, it was admittedly fun to get a bunch of stuff in the mail to try out. And I guess it is a good deal if you went out to buy these things….the Pur-lisse lip balm is $22, the full size Firmaceuticals body gel(which is what they sent)…is $80! And the Skindinavia get a full size, that sells for $29 online. So there you have it….The scoop on BeautyFix….


Get your talk on…your Yubz Talk…
October 8, 2009

I love my orange Yubz!!

I love my orange Yubz!!

I have a new phone, people…well, really, my phone is not a new phone but a new extension to my phone. I mean…I DO have a new phone but it’s not really new because my daughter used my upgrade and so I upgraded to her old phone, which was way better than mine. With me so far?

But what I wanted to share with you is my new Yubz Talk cellphone handset!! Ever since we did a story a year or so ago about the radiation from  cellphones, that we are constantly pressing to the sides of our heads,  I’ve been trying to keep it at a distance. I use the speaker phone when I can, but there are times when that’s even more annoying for people than hearing just one side of your conversation. So when I stumbled across  the Yubz….I was smitten. You can plug it in to many varieties of cellphones, and my new/old Verizon LG will fit…and just gab away, with no radiation. It’s about 35 bucks, and they also make an online talk version for your computer.

You will get comments. Phil, who works in the newsroom…just walked by and said “Like your phone…that is very Cindy Brady!”  That’s right Phil. And the Yubz comes it lots of cool colors. While mine is Florida Orange, you can get it in Chalk pink, Orchid purple Sky blue, Jet black, and even a limited edition in GOLD!   So if you see me driving along or strolling along with my orange headset, Don’t come to a screeching halt(and cause an accident as one person suggested to me)….just keep on going and get your own. Your head will thank you and you can still talk away. Great gift idea….peace out for today….

Readers share their jury duty doodie…..
October 6, 2009

OK, I know I’m not the first person in the world to have served jury duty and ended up sitting in a room all day..and hey, there are worse fates, I get that. Here’s what some Habitat readers had to say….from Paul…

Hi Donna, The last time I had jury duty, it was a Monday and they said we would be busy all day. Well, not a single person was called all day long !! So I watched two movies in an uncomfortable, crowded and noisy jury waiting room. Then from the heavens above a voice came to say ,’Thank you for jury service you are excused for the day’. ”

And this from Ryan: “Sounds like a long day.”  Well, yes it was Ryan…succinctly put. But I look at it like I’m going on a long flight…You know you’re gonna be there hours and hours in a pretty small seat and in close proximity to others, who may or may not share your delicate sensibilities. So one must go prepared, with books, earphones, music, snacks, and preferably a laptop to which you have the power cord, and a movie that you can watch alone. Well, not alone exactly…but only you can hear it. And before you know it, your flight is over and you’re somewhere else, or in the case of jury duty, you’re in the same place, but it seems somehow better and fresher than when you went in!

This from Debbie: ” I hear you, Donna.  In my last two jury duty experiences, I was involved in a two day voir dire in an unventilated court room with low lighting, hard benches, etc. etc. etc. In the old courthouse, they have turned off the water fountains and have a water cooler — but alas — no cups! And you have to have a bailiff escort you to the restroom, harkening back to kindergarten days when the teacher had to take you. No Qrs, soft sofas, dvd’s or email for me.  And then you get to come back the next day and do it all over again. Sometimes I think the victims are treated better than jurors, and that’s why so many people are AWOL. Time for a WBAL expose!  PS loved Stan’s video. Tee Hee.”

I only have one question Debbie…what the heck is voir dire????  I will assume that it is some “dire” unpleasant, legal-eagle, lawyery kind of thing I shall hope  never to be involved in. Someone has to escort you to the bathroom? Girl, you neededthe QR! And for those who do not know…my co-anchor Stan Stovall did an introductory video for jurors years ago, and it is still played each and every day, I think. But having served jury duty countless times(ok, I could count them but I don’t want to), I kind of zoned out during the introductory things. So I’m not sure if I saw Stan or not. I did however, see him the following Monday on the set, so…it’s all good. And I shall pass you your suggestion along to the I-Team. Voir dire indeed….