Archive for November, 2010

A New York Thanksgiving….
November 30, 2010

Doughboy, doughboy, doughboy, doughboy.....

I must first apologize for no blogs last week…it’s just that my kitchen was gutted on Wednesday…what a word, gutted…but it perfectly captures the scene. I was attempting to get things at home ready for the carnage, though as it turns out, I didn’t do such a good job…and trying to go to New York for Thanksgiving and working. Just…too much. You know?

Spidey from my vantage point...

My son and lovely Jennifer declared this Thanksgiving a travel free(for them) holiday, but any and all were welcome to come to NYC to celebrate. So via Megabus, we made the trek and created our own little Miracle on 34th Street, starting with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade….something my husband has ALWAYS wanted to see in person.

Argh, hurry...there goes Kermit!

Two of us(my daughter had a sleep-in) got a cab to deposit us on the East side of Central Park and then followed the crowd to the west side…where the parade was just kicking off by the time we arrived. Wait, Kermit…don’t go! But the balloons just came and came and came….and we didn’t have a problem finding a good place along the route….not where the bands performed but we got to see the cantankerous but talented  Kanye West and the much maligned Jessica Simpson on their respective floats as they rolled by. Great fun…

Cheese and chive biscuits anyone?

And of course we had some fabulous food….New York is chock-a-block( is that you spell that?)with wonderful little eateries and bakeries and cheese shops. And we stayed in a VRBO apartment-click here in Grammercy, about 15 minute walk from the west village. It was small for 3 people(which we knew) but just fine as we didn’t spend tons of time there…comfy mattress, tiny well equipped kitchenette(though we always had breakfast at the Moonstruck diner down the block). The apartment was clean, and adequate for us(and $200 a night).  Funny story…the first night we were there(exhausted)…the windows of this first floor apartment(with bars so no worries) were open because the heat was POURING in and you couldn’t stop it. Three guys decide to stop right outside our window about 3:30 am and argue in Spanish for about 20 minutes…and then they light up a couple of joints. So we can’t sleep, and the smoke is floating in and no one wants to say anything because hey, we don’t know these guys aren’t packing heat, but we do know they’re high. Just before we think about calling the cops, they leave. Best Thanksgiving Ever!! More of my special kitchen hell tomorrow. Did I mention we are covered in dust?

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Doing business in my pjs….Life as we know it online…
November 19, 2010

Mark, in the corner, is the guide...

It’s true…I had on my Ugg boots(of course), my favorite( and truly ancient) flannel, bright Hawaiian print pj bottoms(from Delia’s-remember them?), a sweater…and a cup of coffee in hand and a bowl of oatmeal at my side, as I sat down to close on a refinance of our houseonline.

This all started a couple of months ago…like many people…with a 6% interest rate, I was thinking, I can do a heck of a lot better. And as I am already an ING customer….I get their emails…one of them talked about a refinance with incredibly low interest rates. Hmmmmm…why would I NOT do that? And as it turned out, the interest rate we got(2.99%-I know, unreal, right?), was the best anywhere…a fixed  5 year loan. In 5 years….that mortgage is finished, kaput, put a fork in it, sister.

 

Coffee, oatmeal, online closing...check.

I haven’t seen one person…in person anyway…I’ve spoken to a couple via phone over a couple of minor snafus, which were fixed pretty easily. And this morning,  guy named Mark from Iclose, who couldn’t see me(thank goodness-I was pretty rugged), but we could see him, talking us thru the closing “papers” which you saw on your computer screen, asking the questions that needed to be asked, and explaining things along the way. We can download the final documents on paper, or to a disc. All you needed was computer access, high speed internet, and a phone. Seriously, people have been as amazed as I’ve been, that you can close on a house…in your pajamas. I  love 2010!

Grey flannel sneakers, anyone? Anyone??

Ok, here’s something weird that happened yesterday….I received a  big box of shoes (that I did not order) and no one seems to have a record of this order either. They’re grey flannel sneakers(pretty sharp looking actually) from some company in California. I have no idea why they were shipped to me…about 6 or 7 pair, $320 worth, in all different sizes. ????????????????????? My first task is to find out if I was charged for the mystery order(hello), and then figure out what to do with it. I’ll let you know if I have shoes to give away. In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend, get the house all ready for Thanksgiving, and don’t throw rocks…at anyone…no matter how much you feel like it. And come home safe, ’cause we miss you.

And so it begins…me and my energy makeover….
November 17, 2010

The old ductwork, ready for recycling...yes I'm that green...

Well, this is the beginning of Le Grand Métamorphose de L’énergie(the big energy makeover). You may remember BGE conducted an energy audit that took hours, and which found(wait for it) all sorts of  l’energie violations…not enough insulation, gaps in this and that, that’s leaking, this is wrong…you know, the usual. So we are endeavoring to do something about this desperate situation.

What you see above is step one….tearing out the OLD ac ductwork in attic…it’s been there, oh I don’t know, maybe 45 years? I didn’t put it in so, that’s undeterminded. But as you  can see it is just bare metal…some of the insulation had come off, some of them were crushed(who would have stepped on them..hmmmmm), so replacement with energy-efficient, already insulated flex duct was overdue.

Oooooh, already insulated!!

 $1300 later(chi-ching)…we have installed the energy efficient flex duct, that will hopefully be the answer to some of our energy woes. Next, comes installing insulation in the crawl space(sounds like a chilly, cramped operation), and sealing over the rim joists(whatever that is-I just nodded in a knowing fashion) and sealing all the rest of the little places we’re losing hot and cold air in dribs and drabs. Step one, check. I’ll let you know how the rest go….

Wine bars and wags….the weekend lowdown…
November 15, 2010

Grano II wine bar...very cozy...

If you eat out in Baltimore, you probably are familiar with Grano in Hampden….it started out as a miniscule corner place on 36th Street, with great pastas and sauces(and that tiny Grano is still there, dishing the pasta), but Grano also expanded into a new larger space on Chestnut, right off 36th.  My daughter met us for dinner there Friday night at the new space…and wow, has it changed. They now have a tiny wine bar in the back….so wine is now available..you won’t have to bring in your own. Lots more seating, but still warm and cozy feeling, and while the menu is more expensive…you can still get the pastas and not spend a bundle.

Lovely antipasto platter....

We had the most amazing plate of Italian meats and cheeses to start…almost a meal, really, especially with the plate of artisanal bread and roasted garlic olive oil dipping sauce…. some really interesting, unusual cheeses too…that I’d never had. Loved one with little flecks of red pepper. And the expanded menu there-see here-is different from baby Grano….much expanded with seafood and meat, and of course, you can still have pasta. Great place, and a great dinner…

Time with girlfriends was so good(and amazing weather). We see each other at other times, but there’s never really a good chance to catch up…and and that’s just what we did. Talked and talked and talked…and laughed a lot.

apple crisp, made with fresh apples....and a stick of butter..

And ate some pretty fantastic food…everyone brought a little  something…and we made the most lovely apple crisp I’ve ever eaten. My job? Blending a cold stick of butter into flour, oatmeal, and sugar until the butter was the size of peas…but I did it the slow painstaking way with two knives, not a pastry blender. I told our hostess Crissie I was gonna give her one, because it’s too darn hard using two knives…to which she replied, “That’s the way my Mother always did it, and I don’t want one more implement in my kitchen.That I get…I too am trying to pare down all the little tiny “thingies” in my kitchen drawers that I never use…but the pastry blender I’m keeping.

My baby girl petting Asta, the star of the night...

Back home Sunday night, we all trooped off to a dinner for the Baltimore Humane Society …at the Dogwood Restaurant in Hampden. Hands down, the star of the evening was Asta, one of the Dogwood’s owners’ rescue dogs. This cute pooch’s  story is pretty amazing, like all rescue pets I guess…he was found in a sleazy motel tied to a bed post, but now lives with plenty of food and plenty of love. He trotted around like he owned the place and knew it was his night, and accepted everyone’s petting graciously.

Asta's portrait on his wine label.....

There was even a selection of wines with his portrait on it(by artist Mark Adams), compliments of Mutt Lynch Winery, I love their motto…Bark Less, Wag More . They provided the wines for the evening, and while all their labels have dogs on them(which I love)…I like Asta’s private label too….so chi-chi! They do have some of the wines leftover for sale(though Asta’s label is sold out)….they were were $11 a bottle. If you’re interested…bridget@dogwoodbaltimore.com.

Girls’ getaway…..what REALLY goes on…
November 12, 2010

The view for the weekend....nice, yes?

Ok, this weekend I’m headed down to the Magothy River….that’s where my friend Crissie lives. Her husband is headed to Australia for a business trip, and her youngest son went off to college this fall…..so it’s a perfect time and place for a girl’s retreat. And yes, we still call ourselves girls. A woman’s retreat sounds so….stiff, doesn’t it?

A true chick flick...and I never saw it!!

Anyway, I will drive a few people from Baltimore to her house  tomorrow morning….I’m packing comfy clothes(heavy on lounging), my walking shoes( I know they’ll want to go for an exercise walk), a bottle of wine(come on, it is the weekend), a tub of homemade pimento cheese that I prepared this week(love it on crackers with wine), salad greens(I’m in charge of salad-does that mean they don’t trust me?), and a Netflix movie I’ve been saving(Letters to Juliet – doesn’t get any more chick flick than that).  Nook optional, for the occasional quiet reading time….which I doubt comes.

We have a lot to talk about…..kids at college, kids at their first job, kids getting divorced, kids hoping to have kids….and our respective husbands of course. There’s a lot that goes on in our lives….like yours. And the hubbies always wonder what we say about them behind their backs. That reminds me of a line from the Winona Ryder version of Little Women spoken in response to a question by their male neighbor  Laurie, who wondered what the March sisters do over in that house all day. His tutor replies…..”Over the mysteries  of female life, there is drawn a veil , best left undisturbed.” You said it, brother. You said it.

A glass of wine? I think I will....

But it will be good to relax, kick back, and catch up with some old friends(not that they’re old…we’ve been friends a long time…ok, we’re pretty old). We’ll laugh, make hurts all better or try, and attempt to solve all the various problems of our offspring . Lofty goals, I know. But it will be good. I hope you have as lovely a weekend….play nice, don’t throw rocks, call an old friend, and come home safe…’cause we miss you!

2010 Holiday Gift Guide Part II…keep on giving…
November 11, 2010

 

  
 

Behind the Wheel....for all automobile lovers...

ANOTHER great book…..Behind the Wheel…evidentally the pictures of James Dean, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen alone are worth the price…it’s available on Amazon for $32-click here…for the all the cool dudes out there….there are so many of you.

T

 

Jerboa Speakers...one of them anyway...

Everyone is always looking for sleek looking, tiny portable speakers that give great sound..and don’t cost a gazillion dollars…enter Jerboa speakers, compatible with iPods, computers, Blackberries, and named after a tiny little marsupial with giant ears-click here to see a picture …all the better to hear you with! They really are portable, pretty, come in brilliant colors…the classic is $49.99, and for the holidays they’re offering a bundle package for $129…that includes two speakers, a dual speaker connection cable, and and free shipping. You know I love free shipping. 

 

Autobiography of Mark Twain...100 years later...

And the who wouldn’t want to read a book that couldn’t be published for 100 years after your death? What did Mark Twain have to say that was sooooo terrible? Fascinating, like reaching out from the grave.  Give this and look so  smart, so literary, so….cognescenti. Look it up

 
 

 

Fallingwater...in Legos. Just completely clever.

 

his Lego Architecture series may be my favorite find this year….

Build the Sears Tower...in Legos!!

Who hasn’t spent hours on the floor playing with Legos….only the Lego Architecture-link here takes it to a whooooooole new level. You can build the White House for $49.99 or the Seattle Space Needle….for $19.99…or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater…naturally a bit more…$99.99…but come on…it’s Frank Lloyd Wright. So cool.

 

 
 

  

How about these antique railroad map cufflinks made with your choice of towns(I’d pick Birmingham and Baltimore)… Very personalized. They’re sterling silver…$125.(I never said they were cheap..). Cuffart usually has a 25% promotion going on too, so that’s something. Enjoy, and I’ll pass along other ideas as I stumble across them….

 

 
 

 

 

 

Tale of Two Cities….from antique maps… 

 Some of you love cufflinks as gifts, and for those who collect them, these are differnt…from CuffArt-here.

Gumbo ya-ya, hon….and tales of corned beef hash…
November 8, 2010

Have I ever confessed my love for corned beef hash?

 OK, let’s just  say it out loud….I LOVE corned beef hash…all stemming from a childhood trip I made to California many years ago. My parents threw us three girls into the family Chevy station wagon, and off we went on a road trip see visit relatives in L.A. Oh, the glamour of living in California, to 3 southern girls from ‘bama. One of them even had a pool in their backyard…ourlittle  jaws must have hit the ground. Anyway, as we saw the USA from our Chevrolet… once we entered Oklahoma and parts west, weird things started showing up on breakfast menus, like corned beef hash(and other familiar things, like grits, disappeared). It was shocking to me, having had nothing more adventurous for breakfast than pancakes or scrambled eggs(with cheese when Mom felt like it). Corned beef hash with a crisp hot crust on top, seemed like…a culinary revelation. I ordered in Flagstaff Arizona, and have loved it ever since.

And since Cafe Hon in Hampden makes their own corned beef hash(though it must be said, I’d still order it if it came from a can)…I enjoyed the real deal this weekend for breakfast, with two gloriously poached eggs on top. Simply delicious. I want some right now.

It was a little chillier than this, on Sunday...

Hadn’t been down to the farmer’s market under the JFX for a month or so, and was surprised to see that lots of veges and fruits are still available..even tomatoes. I went down to score 5 jars of Maryland honey for a friend( I still don’t know why she needs 5 jars of honey but hey, who am I to judge)…which we found, no problem. One loaf of French bread, 5 tomatoes, a bunch of tiny potatoes, one blooming Amaryllis, and 3 pounds of shelled fresh black beans and field peas later…we left.

Classic gumbo, a la Emeril....

My afternoon project was sausage and shrimp gumbo….with a homemade roux, which I’ve never done before.  I used an Emeril Lagasse recipe-here, for classic seafood gumbo and proceeded to change it, of course. But making  the roux is a labor of love…and one involving a couple of burns on your hands if you aren’t careful….which I was, but still.

The roux is a pale tan...still has a way to go...

A roux is oil and flour, mixed and then cooked until it reaches the desired color…in this case, a milk chocolate color. It gives the gumbo body and consistancy…and flavor. Some people use okra instead….I actually use both. I love okra in almost anything(except my corned beef hash, and actually it might be pretty good in that). But you have to stir the stuff, and it’s thin and splashy, for about 25 minutes…easy does it.

A little Dixie chic....grilled pimento cheese...

But the gumbo kicked off a little cooking frenzy…I made a big batch of  pimento cheese, and a pot of black bean soup. The pimento cheese was inspired by a recipe I saw from a high falutin’ restaurant in Atlanta, where they make grilled pimento cheese sandwiches-recipe here. That sounds amazing…I have the pimento cheese made(complete with smoked Spanish paprika-my new fave spice), can the grilled cheese be far behind? Doubtful….

The Cat Warmer….or, heating a cold stone floor….
November 5, 2010

Damn papparazzi...stop bugging me...

OK, I told you we had the BGE energy audit done a month ago….with all kinds of recommendations for sealing and covering and insulating and thus and such…sigh. But we did ask. And we’re doing quite a few of those things, especially the sealing and the insulation.

One problem area we have is the family room, which is built over an uninsulated crawl space off the basement. That room, which is so lovely much of the year, is co-o-o-old in the winter, because the space underneath the floor is uninsulated. I wish we had radiant heat under the slate floors..but… we don’t. End of story. Enter the cat warmer…I mean, the Rug Buddy-here.

We bought ours for about $275....

The Rug Buddy goes underneath any area rug, (on top of a rug pad), and you just… plug it in. It’s like a safe, silent, invisible portable heater….and can be used on top of any surface…stone, carpet, vinyl, etc. And I have to tell you, it has really taken the chill off that room. Will it save on our energy costs? That remains to be seen, I hope so….but Baby Girl, my little  furry heat seeking missile adores it. Where do I find her stretched almost any time? That’s right, on the Rug Buddy. They might market even more of these items if they sold an alternative version called the Cat Warmer…just a suggestion.

Have a great weekend everyone…cook something delicious, do something fun, play nice and don’t throw rocks. And come home safe…’cause we miss you.

In a touchscreen world, you need touchscreen gloves….
November 4, 2010

Gloves that work on a touchscreen???

Ok, these came in the mail today…and they were such a hit here in the newsroom that I have to pass it along pronto, since cold weather is here. Ever had to take or make a cell phone call in the cold, or use the ATM, and darn those gloves…you bite them off  so you can make the touch screen work? Sure you have, but no more, baby…no more.

See the silver yarn?? That makes them work...

The Aglove-here’s a link… is here…”it’s silver, it’s love, it’s everyday gloves reinvented“. Or that’s what the tag says. The Aglove was invented by a Boulder Colorado entrepreneur, Jennifer Spencer, is one of the 85 million Iphone users and  160,000 new Android users who want gloves that you can use with a touchscreen.

Greg Ng working the Agloves...

These gloves are knitted with silver-nylon yarn conducts bioelectricity from your hand to your fingertips(?), so they allow users to use any touch screen deviceIphones, Androids, Ipads, Samsungs, Blackberry Storm, Zune, Ipods…and while some other gloves have attempted to do the same thing, Agloves give ten finger functionality. And they’re only $17.99…hello stocking stuffer.

Mindy likes they way they feel...

But do they work? Two co-workers in the newsroom…Greg Ng and Stacey Wright…webmaster and executive producer respectively, each tried the Agloves. Verdict…love them. They immediately started ordering some for Christmas gifts, as did Mindy Basara for her hubby. She herself is not in touchscreen land(nor am I)…but her husband Iphones it in.  Soft, warm…you could even wear them in a chilly house or office and do your work. There. I (g)love you.

At my fingertips…what’s on your night stand??
November 3, 2010

I was looking at my night stand the other day…it’s actually an old oak highboy…a small one, but large enough to hold books and lamps and stuff. And I like

 

An eyeshade(Lucy, I'm home!) is hanging on the side...

 This one I got recently at One King’s Lane, which I love…it’s kind of a Rue La La for home stuff. It’s cast concrete, with a brown “suede” shade. My old lamp had kicked the bucket…not cool…and definitely not lit. The eyeshade hanging on the lampshade is for the rare time I want to sleep in a little.

 

 

remotes are a must for a bedside table...

My remotes….one for the television, and one for the Bose Soundwave across the room. It was a birthday gift almost ten years ago, and I still love it, and play the same space music cd every night for sleep…Don Slepian Sea of Bliss…hear some here.  But in the am, I switch on

I love that picture...

A picture of my adorable daughter when she was little bitty….I just love that polka dot bow in her hair,  though I suspect we had a difference of opinion about it on picture day. And my favorite mother of pearl and brass bracelets that I should have put away, but just plunked down.

Smith's Rosebud...began in 1895...sold all over the world

Smith’s Rosebud Salve-here…hands down, the best lip balm in the world….I keep one at work, on the night table, and in the family room. I need it…I gotta-gotta have it. The lovely Jennifer says I’m addicted(this I cannot deny). Love the smell, the price, and it’s made in Woodsboro Maryland!!

My memory box....

This little box Marianne Banister gave me after the death of my Mother…she said to put something of her’s that I had in the box to remember her by. 

So pretty...

I kept Marianne’s really sweet note in the box, and the necklace is a costume piece my Mom had, that I think belonged to her Mother too. This is what it looks like closed. The gift was so thoughtful….and a lovely idea for someone who has lost someone special to them. My Mom would like it, I know.

the cat saucer underneath I love...

And last but not least, I really need a glass of water at night. It is terrible to wake up thirsty and not have anything to drink. The little cap over the glass, I found from a covered candle that I had…and it fit perfectly! Why, you may ask,  do I need a cover over my water? Because one time I found my little cat Muffy dipping her paw in my glass and then daintily licking her paw. I suspect she’s been doing that a long time, unbeknownst to me. Yeah, I know. Ironic, that the saucer underneath has a picture of a cat…..hmmm….