Archive for April, 2010

Got Shade?? Grow Moss!!
April 30, 2010

Famous moss garden at Saiho-ji in Kyoto, Japan

OK, I saw a commercial from Valley View Farms the other day…and those guys know what they’re talking about when it comes to plants…and Carrie Engel, who’s truly one of my fave people, was touting the benefits of a product called Moss-Out. It went something like”If you want to get rid of unsightly moss growing around your house, use Moss-Out and it will be gone!” I actually gasped…because at my house, we adore moss and baby it along trying to create a moss front yard.

I know, I know, some of you will think that’s insane, but moss is not only a lovely, soft green carpet year round…it will grow where grass REFUSES to flourish, no matter how much you try and how many dollars you spend replanting it. Forget it. Moss is your plant. You don’t have to water it, or fertilize it, or do anything to it really….it just does its lovely, green mossy thing. That’s what you call a sustainable lawn, people.

 

Seriously, why fight nature??

Moss Acres..here’s a link….is a company that sells all kinds of moss and helps people grow it…. they even have a moss milkshake…..no you don’t drink it….it’s some kind of stuff you mix with bits of moss to help in making moss grow more quickly…because as hardy as moss is, it is a  slow grower. Moss Acres is having a workshop(see, I’m not alone) in northeast PA  in May to teach people about identifying and growing moss…they say it should be “fun, informative and visually soothing“. And I get that…moss IS visually soothing, like a velvety carpet…ever walk across it with bare feet? Heaven.  I think the tv shirt says it all. Got shade ..grow moss. Seriously.

So if you’re thinking about killing your moss…just stop, and contact me here on this blog, and I will possibly come remove the moss from your house(if it’s good enough) and move it to my house. That will save your putting some kind of weed killer on your lawn, and I get something that I want! And isn’t that we’re all about? Saving Mother Earth and making Donna happy? All it takes is a little moss. Think about it. OH, and happy Friday.

A Tale of Pimento Cheese and Biscuits….
April 28, 2010

Hands in motion, mixing a huge batch of pimento cheese...yummy...

There are as many ways to make a batch of pimento cheese as there are crackers to spread it on….but there are some rules that should be obeyed….using sharp cheddar cheese, using a good mayonnaise like Hellman’s, add a touch of Tabasco….but there are also some rules that can be broken….such as, never buying pimento cheese at the grocery store. As I’ve stated before, grocery store pimento cheese is just awful. So let me qualify that. If you’re a store that carries Callie’s Biscuits  pimento cheese, then by all means, grab hold and don’t let go.

Callie's employee mixing butter into the flour for biscuits...

Pimento cheese is a new product for Callie’s…a Southern Staple, as they call it. And I guess that’s true…growing up in Alabama there was often a pie plate of pimento cheese in the frig that would make its way into lunchtime sandwiches. A Pyrex pie dish because my Father, who often made it, found it easier to mash the pimentos that way…now you can buy pimentos already chopped. He always let my Mother add the mayo though…he was afraid she’d complain he put in too much.

Anyway, there probably lots of people now, who simply don’t want to take the time to grate the cheese, and add pimentos, Worcestershire, Tobasco, and Helman’s mayo…so maybe many of you have never tasted real pimento cheese….and Callie’s is like homemade…ok, better. When I was in Charleston last week, I called and asked if I could stop by where the magic happens, on famous Meeting Street….the dodgy end says Callie’s daughter Carrie, and they said sure..come on by.

Carrie filling biscuit bags with luscious biscuits.....

It’s a lovely little bakery, with hardwood floors and a big freezer to stock all the different flavors of biscuits. Carrie was up to her neck in alligators as they say, because Piggly Wiggly(love the Pig) had called and said,”It’s Friday and we need more biscuits pronto!” So Carrie was loading packs of Callie’s cinnamon biscuits, ham biscuits, cheese-chive biscuits and buttermilk of course, into bags as fast as she could while we talked. Carrie’s Mother Callie was the originator of the biscuit, and Callie is pretty much retired, though still doing a little catering here and there. And this is her biscuit recipe, that her business minded daughter made into a product…she told her Mom that people all over would want to buy them, and Callie never thought it would amount to much. “Oh, who would want to buy my biscuits?”  But lots of people do, because they are so luscious….as far away as Dean and DeLuca in St. Helena, California. These women know their biscuits.

Callie's...made from White Lily flour, of course....

And the rest is history…Carrie is still growing the business and getting them into more stores…the only place I can find them in Maryland right now, is Graul’s Market in St. Michaels and Annapolis. But I’m hoping that Graul’s here in Baltimore, or maybe Eddie’s in Roland Park would stock them. And the pimento cheese, of course. No shipping fees!  And while I carted down a couple of blocks of cheddar to Charleston with big plans to make pimento cheese….did I? Not once I spotted Callie’s in the Piggly-Wiggly. I’m gonna go spread some on a cracker right now.

Back from Chucktown….re-entry day….
April 26, 2010

Dinner on the Porch, Charleston style...

Yes, we arrived fresh from a warm and altogether fabulous week  in Charleston…to a rainy and chilly welcome home in Baltimore….not the greeting I was hoping for, but perhaps apropos of saying goodbye to vaca. I always call today….your first day back at work…re-entry, as in re-entry to real life. It can be a little tough, I won’t lie to you, and a little sad. Laundry that needs to be done, grocery shopping list waiting, an email box at work that I still haven’t finished clearing out…you know the drill.

But, it was a wonderful week in Charleston…which I noticed the NY Times touted this past Sunday as a great place to go in April and May. Well, duh, and I’d add March to the list. Spring there is splendid…not humid or hot, just sunny and so, so pretty. The house we stayed in this year was dubbed by the lovely Jennifer, as…”our rock star pad“.   And I can’t disagree. You can check it out on VRBO right here.  The picture above was taken one night before dinner, out on the porch overlooking the Isle of Palms marsh. While we ate dinner out several nights, we found we were happiest cooking and eating at home….so relaxed, and such a gorgeous view. We cooked shrimp and grits(of course), had delish carry out pork carnitas from Caviar and Bananas(a Dean and Deluca like food emporium), made shrimp risotto another night….the local shrimp are so good. And we loved just hanging out….we don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like.

view from loft bedroom window seat...

Hey, who would not be happy here? And you know I’m a VRBO girl all the way, when it comes to family travel. To have an actual house to stay in…where everyone has their own bedroom and bath, but we have a communal gathering space for tv, or games or dinner…is perfect. And we love to cook on holiday. And this house had a great kitchen in which to prepare meals, and had the most wonderful selection of pots and pans, utensils and dishes…seriously, it had everything. And nice stuff too.

boardwalk over the marsh leads to the beach!

Great  living room with comfy seating for all five of us, a huge projection screen tv that came down from the ceiling, glass all around, porches with dinner seating and getaway spots for reading, beautiful bedrooms with pretty views….it had it all. It was designed by Peter Bohlin, who is (evidently) a famous architect who designed part of the Bill Gates house. Pete…good job.  Best vacation house ever.

It’s vaca time!!!!!!!!
April 19, 2010

Yes, dear readers….I will be off from work this week, yes all this week…..I’ll miss you too. But know that I’m relaxing and practicing on posting some video blogs….oh so 2010 of me…when I return to this space next week. I’ll tell you all about what I’ve been doing and seeing and thinking…even my most appalling thoughts. All spilled for your consumption. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a bowl of granola and greek yogurt and blueberries and chillin’. Peace out y’all….see you in a week!

Your new look for spring….hotter hot pants…
April 15, 2010

The look we've all been waiting for...boy short bikini bottoms!

Ok, I was in the salon this week, getting  re-blonded(a little lighter for spring, like it?)and was thumbing through a fashion magazine as usual, and, shazam…discovered what is sure to be THE hot look for spring and summer. Uh-huh…that’s it in the picture above….and I feel confidant that we will all look super in it…can’t wait to wear it to work!  “Boy-short bikini bottoms with prim tops“…Perhaps they assume that putting on a nice jacket, gorgeous necklace and kickin’ heels will make everyone forget/accept that you’re practically nude from the waist down. This is being referred to in fashion speak, as “negative hemlines“. True dat.

"Vintage" look from Marc Jacobs....

Come on design world!!!!!!!!! Boy shorts as outerwear can be successfully worn by I’m guessing a full 2% of the population, and should be worn by 0%.  And in case you’re thinking they’re inexpensive, think again sweetie. Some of these by Balmain, Blumarine and others are high dollah-pricey. And what, you may ask, is the diff between boy shorts and hot pants? Yes, Virginia, there is a distinction…though subtle except to us fashion cognescetti…hot pants expose a little of your….ummm….derrierre, and boy shorts, dear Virginia, are fitted and do not.   

I showed this picture to several women (and these were women in their 20s and 30s….they got a good laugh out of it. Who knows, maybe this look will catch on….I hae no doubt that the NY Times will this summer have an “On the Street” feature with girls and  women who have stepped outside their comfort zone and donned their boy hot shorts…..maybe with heels and a jacket. I look forward to seeing it.

The Food Revolution Continues….
April 13, 2010

Go green...eat more meat..wheeeeeee!!!

I thought this supermarket ad in the newspaper was amusing…celebrate Earth Day by buying even more meat! Yeah, except that if you really want to do the Earth a favor, it would be consuming LESS meat, not more(a 2006 U.N. report found the meat industry creates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined) . I’ve made efforts in that direction, avoiding meat for a couple of nights a week. I might do black bean soup with avocado on top, or something like that. I really enjoy it, but it’s a whole different mindset not planning a meal around the protein…know what I mean?

Tonight I’m going to hear Michael Pollan speak at Goucher College( full disclosure… I got the invite from my Chesapeake Foodie friend Elise who got the tickets…I didn’t even know he was in town, duh)…He’s written In Defense of Food, and other books, about the science and art of simply eating well…he believes that the health care crisis we have on our hands is due in no small part to what and how we eat. Here, here…so he has now written Food Rules.  It’s a book of simple everyday rules about how to eat better…and it all ties in with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution..(I just signed his petition today, here’s a link! Nothing crazy really….eat  real food, not too much of it, more plants than meat. How hard is that? Hey, it’s not, but it takes thought and planning. Pollan says this about Food Rules…” I set out to collect and formulate some straightforward, memorable, everyday rules for eating, a set of personal policies that would, taken together or even separately, nudge people onto a healthier and happier path.”

I was telling my baby sister about the Jamie Oliver tv show trying to get schools to serve healthier, real food to their kids, and with the resistance he’s met. She is a kindergarten teacher at a rural private school in Alabama….and was surprised that the only milk they offer is whole milk. Not 2%, Not 1% or skim, but good ole full fat milk…which NO kid needs to be drinking, and some kind of sugary fruit drink…ditto. “Oh, that’s all they’ll drink“, or “They don’t like low fat milk“….hogwash, I say. Sure they will, if that’s what you put out. Or start with 2%, and them switch to 1%, and then maybe make the switch to skim. Her pleas fell on deaf ears for a while….then they put out lower fat milk, but have now switched back to whole. Sigh. What is it in this country…such nutritional ignorance… that we poison our kids with foods and drinks they shouldn’t have?? What? Where a serving a French fries count as a vegetable? Laughable. Disgraceful. I like French fries too but they’re a treat, not served on the lunch line every day. This is not new by the way, but much worse today. When I was a kid, I complained to my Mom about not liking the hotdog buns(mmm, healthy) served one day a week at school. She asked why, and I told her they were greasy. So she went to school where the lunch ladies explained they had all this free butter from the government and they had to use to somehow, so they put it on the hotdogs buns. “Hey, lets add a couple of hundred calories to all these kids hotgdogs! Grab the butter, lots of it!” They stopped, btw, afte she complained. And shouldn’t we parents be doing more of that? Finding out what schools serve(like sodas-come on!), and making our voices heard.

So I’ll be anxious to hear what Mr. Pollan has to say tonight…he’ll be preaching to the choir of course. Most of us there are already converts to good eating. Still, I’d like to learn more about the whole issue. And maybe you too will think about removing meat from the table a night or two a week…for your health and for the planet.

Oh, and here are a couple of his rules for you to think about…..#36 Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk. #19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. And here’s my fav: #39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. As he says, once you start cooking those fries yourself….you won’t eat them as often! What used to be treats like pastries and cakes and fries are now cheap, readily available everyday foods….and that’s just not good for us.

It’s Friday , baby….
April 9, 2010

Where are you going this weekend, handsome??

It’s Friday, which means it’s almost time to get the hell out of Dodge…if you know what I mean, and I think you do. This particular weekend has great appeal for me…because…I have nothing planned. Don’t you love weekends where there are really no commitments, like people coming over to your house to have lunch on your porch? I mean, that’s very nice(and I loved seeing anyone reading this who was there last weekend), but the thought that anything is possible this weekend…I can do a lot or a little, is tantalizing.

I think that’s because most of us live our weekday lives so scheduled, that there’s little room for error, much less experimentation, or wandering about. Like an afternoon wandering through the shops of Hampden…you never know what you’re gonna find. Or taking a bike ride somewhere you’ve never been….ditto.

Ok, I have one plan…tonight, to see Phantom of the Opera. It’s at the Hippodrome  downtown through April 25th. I may be one of the last people on earth who has never seen it…onstage or in the movie theatre…so I’m a Phantom newbie.  Everyone tells me this production is “fabulous”, so I’m excited to see it. Though someone who works here (who you would know), said she did not like Phantom.. “It’s just a show about a stalker!” And I guess from what I know of it, that’s true. But the music is lovely, and well…it’s Phantom of the Opera, dammit!

And from this blog to the airwaves….I write about the new Grilled Cheese and Company restaurant in Catonsville, and presto…it’s on our air tonight! 11 News Rob Roblin will be taste testing the goods….and he brought me their menu…does sound killer. Maybe I’ll check it out this weekend…let’s face it, I don’t have anything better to do. Play nice, be kind to others and come safe….and have a great weekend!

Thigh Praise for Chicken and….Grilled Cheese Academy??
April 7, 2010

Ummmm, chicken thighs, my fave part of the chicken...

Ok, I was immediately mesmerized by Mark Bittman on the Today Show this morning….evidentally he loves chicken thighs, Matt Lauer admits it’s his favorite cut of chicken. And I love chicken thighs too….there, I’ve said it.  I’ve always kind of harbored an inferiority complex over my thigh love. I think it started when I read that the Junior League in Birmingham automatically knew  you weren’t member material if you put dark meat in your chicken salad. You simply had no taste, darling. Seriously, I read this and believed it and for all I know it’s  still true, but that didn’t change the fact that I  love chicken thighs best of all….they’re jucier, more flavorful and cheaper that the breast of chicken. Though forever scarred by the Junior League, I still only make chicken salad  with breast meat…some things from our past never leave us. The Today Show had some simple recipes to try with chicken thighs ….here’s a link if you want to watch.

The Bianca...dulce de leche, mascapone, and raspberries...

And I was reading in the Baltimore Sun this morning that a new restaurant has opened in Catonsville not too far from me, all about grilled cheese. Now, if there’s someone out there who doesn’t like grilled cheese sandwiches…seriously…I just feel sorry for you. Grilled Cheese and Co.  on Edmondson Avenue…here’s a link….is basically a sandwich place with lots of fresh ingredients…I haven’t been there yet, but the menu looks delish. And is it a conincidence that on the very day I read this , I also find a spectacular website for grilled cheese lovers like myself and for anyone who wants to kick their grilled cheese up a notch or three….called Grilled Cheese Academy….it’s a site sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese….but you could use cheese from anywhere really….and take a look on the link above  at some of their recipes. Unbelievable, like the Bianca pictured, with mascapone cheese, raspberry jam, and dulce de leche(that you can make yourself), on grilled cinnamon raisin bread. Please. Though in the interest of safety, it tells you to put the can of sweetened condensed milk in water and cook it for 90 minutes….important safety tip: the can should always be covered with water as it simmers, or it could explode. At best, this is messy. But I’ve done it myself several times, and while I am careful to make sure the can is underwater, I’ve never had one bust.  And the stuff inside is sooooo delectable. Added feature on the website: each recipe on Grilled Cheese Academy is described by The Office’s Jenna Fischer,  like this……..”The Brassierie…Wisconsin brie with braised short ribs and picked onions on grilled country French bread…it’s pretty much what heaven tastes like!” That’s what she said. And isn’t grilled cheese what Pam shared with Jim on their first date???

Lunch al fresco……
April 5, 2010

My egg tree...a pear tree that survived the winter...

Like many of you, the glory of the weather yesterday was just so gorgeous.…perfect day for Easter Sunday…perfect. No doubt many egg hunts went better without kids coming back with mud splashed up to their knees or on their butts from falling…or with purple lips from the cold, as has happened many times.

Table for ten....al fresco...

We had a small lunch party yesterday…for the past 7 or 8 years, it has been a much larger gathering…maybe 30 people or so. Which is fun too, in its own way, but this year for some reason… I just wasn’t up to it. So we whittled it down to about 10 including us. That way you can actually sit at table with people to eat, and visit and talk…something that is much more difficult when we’re all just milling about.

No, I no longer iron the napkins...

I put two long wooden tables together, one that is always outside and the other from inside, covered them with two white but non-matching cloths,  put several bunches of tulips down the center, tied the white napkins with different colored ribbons and that was that. And while I used to iron and starch the white  linen napkins…I actually prefer them soft and looser. As long as they come out of the dryer immediately and get smoothed and folded right, they’re not wrinkled…a softer, shabby chic look, I suppose. I do not miss ironing them.  My daughter made lunch at the last minute….not wanting to miss her Easter basket. I have posed the question in the past to you, about when does one give up the Easter basket? What age is too old to be getting a basket?  

A Southern Staple....but you can make it yourself for less...

As my son and the lovely Jennifer stayed in New York this year…that was two less baskets to fix, though I did send them an Easter care package from Callie’s Biscuits as a treat….some cheddar cheese and chive biscuits and two tubs of their very good(and very pricey) pimento cheese. You know how I feel about good pimento cheese…very very fond, indeed.  For lunch we had shrimp and grits, and a salad with roasted vegetables in it….and tiny cheese biscuits stuffed with Smithfield ham. A friend brought the most fabulous tiramisu I’ve ever had…got to get that recipe!!

Getting ready for spring….
April 2, 2010

already planted tulips....

I started my morning on the back porch….the first morning that it has been warm enough to do so, and what a great start to the day…a little yoga, some cereal, a cup of green tea, and check my email…just so nice. But being out there also reminded me of all that remains to be done…you know how it is…..there’s plenty of that.

I’ve pulled out tons of overgrown honeysuckle…omg, what is it with that stuff…it’s all bundled up on the curb where I HOPE the trash guys will pick it up. Please? I’ve cleaned out the gardens pretty much…all the broken and dead stuff gone…all that remains now is….yes,  to mulch. Now there’s a word that strikes fear and dread in the heart of any homeowner….mulching….the most back-breaking, seemingly endless task ever created by some insane gardener. Stan Stovall was describing to me yesterday how some one does his…I allowed myself to drift to the place where you imagine having your mulch done too. So this year…for the very first time…drumroll please…we’re hiring out the mulching. That’s right…actually paying someone to do what we could do for ourselves. I don’t know why this is so hard for me, but it is. Somehow hiring someone to do what you could do,  cuts to the quick of my Protestant work ethic…the sheer decadence of someone else doing what is clearly YOUR work. Am I the only one who suffers from this malady? Was it my upbringing? Probably. My Mother was never one to hire out work…we either did it or it didn’t get done. Period.

Just one bundle of honeysuckle.....

Anyway, cut to the quick or not…I’m doing it(ot not doing it actually) and I’m glad, ok??  In fact, I cannot wait to see the fresh mulch along inside the professionally edged beds…something I never do….or I kinda start it and then decide it’s just too hard…and then later hit the Advil bottle.  I’ve already put in some tulips in the front pots…kinda pretty…and I’m just so doggone ready for spring…and I have a sneakin’ suspicion some of you are too. Have a lovely Easter weekend everyone, play nice with the Easter bunny and come home safe.