Archive for December, 2011

Crazy Time….
December 23, 2011

It’s that time of year when we have so much on our collective minds, that our collective heads want to spin off of our collective shoulders…I gave my husband a list (he’s off today-I’m working) that made him turn a little pale. But he shook it off and sailed off into the early morning hours to: pick up wine across town, pick up a gift (that I would tell you about but my daughter reads my blog) on the other side of town, get a rib roast for Christmas dinner(should have done this myself), get a special kind of bread at Eddie’s, pick up the dry cleaning, find fresh coconut, recycle an old non-working piece of electronica…you know the drill.

But while it’s a crazy day, it’s also a day I think many of us are taking an inner collective sigh, that this weekend, will bring the holiday.  My son and the lovely Jennifer get in tonight(she also has to work today)…but we’re all thankful we have jobs, that we’re all healthy, that we all love each other, and that …well, life is good, I suppose. Very good.

 I think about this being the second Christmas without my sweet Momma…she loved Christmas, and worried extraordinary amounts about what she was getting everyone…I hated that she worried about it, but nothing would stop her. She has, of course, passed that perfectionist trait along to her daughter….alas. But I don’t worry about things as much as she did.  Really, I don’t.

So let’s all take a collective sigh, screw our heads back on…and get on with the day. And the holiday. Keep it safe…keep it peaceful…keep it kind…keep calm and carry on. Wishing all of you the best time with friends and family. And I’ll see you next week. Oh, and come home safe, ’cause we miss you!

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Sunday Pot Roast…and ‘bama cheese…
December 19, 2011

What a treasure trove of cheese....

OK, my sisters and I have gotten to the point that instead of us buying individual gifts for siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, etc., we give a family gift…usually of food. Which, as you know…I love. Audrey, who lives in Gulf Shores.. came across a little fromagerie(tho they don’t call it that)…called Sweet Home Farm in Elberta. An homage to Sweet Home Alabama, I’m sure.

Perdido Pass is water passage that separates Florida and Alabama

And all the cheeses are named for places in LA(lower Alabama)….like Perdido(as in Perdido Pass), Montevallo, Bayside Blue….and they are soooo good!

Made an old-fashioned pot roast this weekend…though with an Italian twist….Strocotto…

Giada's Pot Roast....with red wine and beef broth...

Pot Roast with Porcini mushrooms by Giada di Laurentiis-here.Not difficult at all, just don’t get started too late…it takes about 4 hours to prep, cook and puree the veges into a sauce.

Sunday lunch for 7....

We had a few friends over for Sunday lunch…which seemed perfect for pot roast..here’s what the table looked like. And see that little feather wreath around the flower base?

LIttle feathery napkin holders(she found them at Pier One)

A friend brought me these napkin holders….that are so much fun….and look like they were madefor the feather wreath.

Used Magnolia leaves for place cards....free!

It's alive!! (SO far....)

And I love this “living wreath” I found this year on One King’s Lane….It likes the cold weather on the door….all you have to do is water it once a week or so. Think it will survive the winter? We’ll see, won’t we….And last but not least…finally… a server for sea salt.

Got this from The Salt Works....

One of my guests this Sunday really loved this….she has sea salts from different places, but thought….how do you serve them? I found this at a really amazing website(if you like salt!)…The Salt Works-here. These people are serious about salt…whether it’s in your food or your bath.

Their collections are 25% off right now....

And they have “salt collections” like you see above, some of which are flavored…Spanish Rosemary, Thai Ginger, Lime Fresco …and they all come with the little glass tray and 3 wee, tiny spoons…free shipping(you know I love that), and 25 % off right now. Great gift!

 

Gift List II…here we go!
December 15, 2011

My gift wrapping station, that now consumes the dining room....

I was talking to Jennifer Franciotti today…she said she had mostly finished her holiday shopping…but had to “fill in the gaps“. I know exactly what she means. While I have a pile of stuff in my house(some of which still needs wrapping), I haven’t really taken a count. Which means, do I have too much for some and not enough for others? I think I got this “super-equal” mindset from my parents… who were always overly conscious about how many presents each of 3 daughters had, and how much money had been spent on each. I mean, they were religious about it. So some of that has kinda slopped over onto me…you know?

And since you may also be “filling in the gaps“…I’m here to help with some things I am giving… or have received, that I very much love…in several price ranges.

Love, love, love my Jambox!!

First, the Jambox. My son gave me this Bluetooth wireless speaker(it’s about 6 x 2′)…so tiny, but so portable and has AMAZING sound. It’s on the expensive side, but if you know someone who loves music and is a techno geek…they will adore this. I use mine constantly(I can even have music on the iPad downstairs and take the Jawbone upstairs-still plays). Found it online for $159.00.

The Euca-mint is my fav scent....

Ok Eco-Armour-here,  is the bomb. Add to that it’s locally made, and smells divine, and will save you money-a no-brainer. “Virtually eliminate ingrown hairs, red bumps, razor burn, nicks, cuts and dull blades“…I will tell you that for women(or men) who shave in more, ummmm, delicate areas….this product makes it a breeze. Seriously. Around $24 for the large bottle…and it lasts a long time.

Cheese, nuts, spreads, crackers...how can you go wrong?

Food. We all eat it. We all love it. A basket of goodies from Whole Foodswould make anyone smile(and can be any price range), but they also have these super-cute gift cards, that could be a nice stocking stuffer, or be tucked in a basket of cheeses and crackers. My favorite: “Hugs and Quiches“…or maybe “Dough“. As a rule, I hate gift cards(I know, I know…everyone else loves them-whatever, not me…) but these are too cute to dislike.

Just for the Halibut.....that's funny....

Fresh Pasta ...what's not to love??

Or put together some fresh pastas, sauces and olive oils from Casa di Pasta in Little Italy. I would so dig a present like that….and the shop is run by a wonderful father-son team. Just a great place.

Monograms...on your phone!

Ok, I cannot imagine a girl(or woman) who wouldn’t love this(if they’re into monograms like my daughter)…a monogrammed iPhone case from Neiman Marcus….it’s $56…very chic. Though monograms I know, are one of those preppy, certainly southern things that are not for everyone. But I like them.

Jonathan Adler...very popular home designer...

OK, here’s a way to have some designer style with none of the cost….the Jonathan Adler coffee mug-here. Porcelain with silicone lid and sleeve, it comes in lots of designs…for a measly $13.95. Please, it may be the buy of the year.

Wouldn't Fido look so dashing in this???

And speaking of Jonathan Adler….he even makes something smart for your puppy…a dashing scarf-here (that also comes in  pink and orange), for $14.95. It makes me want a dog.

Gummys in a paint can....

Last but not least…sweets for the sweet….a paint can filled with gummy bears!! And the paint can, can be used later for snacks or cookies or on your desk(you can also get them filled with gum balls and other treats)…$15.

So get busy…fill in those gaps! Have a great weekend everyone(I’m off tomorrow)…it’s the last weekend to make it count before Hanukhah and Christmas. But I hope it’s relatively peaceful for you as well. Yeah, I know. Come home safe, ’cause we miss you!

 

 

What’s in a week? The most appalling secrets of Donna’s week off!.
December 13, 2011

OK, here’s the thing…I’m not used to having a week off with no plans. As in….I’m not traveling. I’m not sick. I’m just…not working. SO, I had planned to do all sorts of crazy productive things…things that really needed to be done(clean out closet/basement/litter box/car), but in reality… I only did a smattering of them. Oh well. Here’s what I did on my vacation, in pictures.

Put up Xmas lights, while listening to Chris Botti, drinking red wine!

Made this from things I had IN MY BASEMENT!!

The container is from Pottery Barn(and I have more downstairs from my son’s “Maine wedding” that ended up in NYC….so the birch, not quite the thing), the twigs I got at Nettleton Hollow-here…great source for all things twiggy….and the moss from..somewhere.

Here's a closeup...

It’s not the sturdiest creation I’ve ever put together, but as long as the wind doesn’t blow hard, and Baby Girl doesn’t get rambunctious…it should be fine, and I do love the way it looks!

Took my daughter to lunch at American Can Company(love the tree)!

I also needed a pedi badly(really they were awful), and I had a Groupon for one at Juste B-here…..on Fort Avenue in  Locust Point.

Hot stones between my toesies!!

When you walk in you immediately notice a difference at Juste B…no chemical smell. That’s because they use only water based polishes and removers…no bad chemical odors….much better for you and them. Loved the place!

Ingredients for Chicken Marbella...from Silver Palate's 1st book

Had some longtime friends over for dinner one Saturday night, and feeling a little nostalgic, made one of my old fav recipes….Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella-recipe here. The first time I made it was back in the 80s…and I felt so chic taking Chicken Marbella to a party….until a big pan of it spilled an oily, garlicy mess into the back seat of my Volvo…the car reeked of garlic for weeks. But I still love the dish…it’s amazing how simple ingredients like chicken, olives, prunes, garlic, wine and brown sugar can combine in the most delightful way.

Ready to pop in the oven...but wait, something is missing!

Something is missing all right…I forgot to put on the cup of brown sugar right before baking…and I will tell you-that is a key ingredient. It was pretty good anyway, but ain’t Chicken Marbella without the brown sugar. Made me sad.

Redeemed a Groupon at Casa di Pasta in Little Italy....

Their lasagna is the bomb….and the fresh pasta…is molto delizioso. Great little shop on Albemarle Street that is sooooo worth a visit!! Frank Vellegia’s Casa di Pasta-here.

Had an amazing dinner at Sotto Sopra on Charles Street....

And then headed over to see The Lion King at the Hippodrome Theatre-here…if you haven’t…it’s a must see.

Amazing costumes...

I HAVE seen the show before, but I love it enought to see it again….wonderful production! The show is in town through New Year’s Eve, and the week after Christmas….they also have a matinee every day. What a treat for the kids to see this performance(the night we were there, there were LOTS of young children in the audience which frankly worried me, but the show is so mesmerizing-they were actually quiet!).

OK, the things I didn’t get done😦and this is just a sampling-there are more)…

Didn't giftwrap these shirts for my son....sigh...

Didn't take clothes to the cleaners, or mail these cd's to my sister!

So plenty remains on my to-do list…just like yours, I suspect. But there’s still time…a little, right?

Christmas Shopping 2011….here’s what I’m giving this year…
December 5, 2011

Ok, we’re all on the lookout for gifts that people will love, and yet not send your charge card into paralysis…you know what I mean. And I’m not of the school of buying one or two BIG things for the kids…I’d rather have more gifts under the tree than fewer, so I’m always on the lookout for little, less expensive presents. Here are a few ideas in a lot of price ranges..

Stila...and so many of them!

I love Stila lip glosses, and I found this set at South Moon Under-here, in Canton for $25 bucks….loves. it. (Online, SMU offers 20% off on orders over $150!)

Love these....and a great buy...

These earrings, also at South Moon Under, could be $200, but they’re $24. That’s it. And so pretty. Done.

A-gloves...a must have for winter iPhone users...

OK, these I had on the list last year, but I think even more people now have iPhones and iPads…and these are the only gloves I know of that can operate them(around $18), without having a weird little patch on the finger tip. There are silver threads woven in the fabric, so ALL your fingers can text their little hearts out. And they’re soft and warm…the white ones are made from bamboo! Agloves-here.

These are at Urban Chic...shop small and local!!

The Hunter rainboots are such a classic…not inexpensive…this is a bigger gift(around $125), but think about this. They. Last. For-Ev-Er. I have had the same Classic green pair for, well, a reeeaaally long time. And they still look great. And you can get liners for them to wear in colder weather. I saw these at Urban Chic in Canton..and dig the purple ones!!

Isn’t this so cute? Flannel and reversible pocket squares, and they come in lots of different colors and styles, along with ties that are actually reasonably priced(I mean really reasonable….around $20 each)….and cool looking! Found tons of stuff at The Tie Bar. Can we all just say it  out loud…”It is ridiculous to pay $100 plus for a darn piece of silk.”  I mean, really people. Lots of facrics..cotton and wool, skinny ties and regular, and extra length…great looks.   Check out the Tie Bar…. 

Chocolate. Nuff said… the toffee bark in the picture below makes me want to cry it looks so good….all handmade in Stephenson MD….Velvet Chocolatier. They are just sooooo good, and come in cute little bags. Ruthie knows her way around the kitchen…delicious.

The Velvet Chocolatier does it all! 

For your fave techie(even if they're not a kid)....

Goodnight iPad“…..I got a copy of this hilarious book for my son for Christmas(they  don’t read my blog, so I’m safe), so the lovely Jenniefer can read to him as a bedtime story…and he probably will ask her to do just that….all the time. I found this at Trohv, in Hampden. They have the mother load of small, fun gift ideas, as well as beautiful furniture and accessories(great stocking stuffers). Amazing place to shop…check it out, and shop local and small this Christmas!!

No caviar in Texas!!
December 2, 2011

Ok, here we go with a couple of ideas for the weekend…..Poached Pears in Red Wine, and Texas Caviar(fabulous for game day). I told you I bought pears for Thanksgiving name tags….here’s what we did with them the next day…

Peeling and core the pears...the cook gets a glass of red wine...

So delicious, and so simple really. All you do is peel and core the pears, leaving the stem intact…and plop them into red wine that has sugar(to taste) and cinnamon and cloves in it. Make sure you turn the pears occasionally so they color evenly.

Just let them simmer away....uncovered

Doesn't that look pretty?

Take the pears out and chill,  put on a platter, reduce the red wine to a more syrupy consistancy….pour over and serve chilled or room temperature. Here’s a recipe….

Texas Caviar....almost finished...

And several people wanted my sister’s recipe for Texas Caviar(she’s famous for it in our family…everyone always requests it)..here goes:(it too is easy, but you chop a lot)…

Audrey’s Texas Caviar

2 CANS YELLOW CORN–DRAINED

2  CANS BEANS–I USE 1 BLACK BEANS AND 1 BLACK-EYED PEAS–DRAIN AND RINSE!!

2-3 TOMATOES–SEEDED AND DICED

2-3  GREEN PEPPERS–DICED(Donna says, a red one would be pretty too)

8-10   GREEN ONIONS–DICED

1-2 JALAPENO PEPPERS–MINCED

1/2 CUP PARSLEY– CHOPPED

1-3 CLOVES GARLIC–MINCED

JUICE OF 1 or 2 LIMES

1 TSP CUMIN

ITALIAN DRESSING–TO TASTE–I USE ABOUT 1/2 A REGULAR SIZED BOTTLE–KRAFT TUSCAN ITALIAN IS GREAT FOR THIS, AND SALT TO TASTE.( Donna- I would add that some people who love things spicy might want some Tobasco or Crystal in it as well)

Serve with plain chips….  Our family loves this –especially in the summer and on any game day! (Thanks sis for sharing this recipe!)

ground chuck, onion and green pepper....

The beginning of Cowboy Dinner....

And here’s Cowboy Dinner, which I offer up only to those who have picky kids or someone who who doesn’t eat everything…it’s an easy meal and pretty healthy…I adored it as a kid, and found it was still pretty darn good as a grownup! I made it over Thanksgiving in Alabama….more as a childhood novelty memory for my sisters.

That's about it...and the black iron skillet is a nice touch...

Brown a pound of hamburger along with an onion and green pepper, when the meat is brown(drain the fat if needed) add, your can of pork and beans(regular size can), some Worchestershire Sauce, a touch of ketchup…let the flavors blend a little, and it’s done, baby. (Someone on Facebook wrote that this was also called Firehouse meal, and was served regularly at the firehouse where he worked.)

Cowboy is tuckered out after all this cooking....

The little Jack Russell dog Cowboy(my niece’s dog) hopes all of you have a great weekend…cook something delish(or non-cook, like Texas Caviar) for yourself or the family, or friends…stay warm, and enjoy the start of the holiday season…but don’t let it get you all crazy. And come home safe, ’cause we miss you!