Archive for the ‘saving money’ Category

A southern Christmas, a little bit early…
December 13, 2012

 

A picture I love of my sisters and me, from when Mom was alive.

Thanksgiving found me once again in Alabama with my sisters…I’m so sorry we did not do this while my Mom was alive…but it would have been difficult. And I know she would love the fact that we’re all together. And this year, we celebrated Christmas early, while we would all be together! We cut down a tree by the side of the road…

All the decorations(sans lights) had to be found on the property…

You know you’re almost there when you see this….

I love, love, love all these property signs…and wow have they grown over the years!

My daughter and Tommy…she loves being with her cousins. And the pets aren’t bad either!

My sister’s Thanksgiving table…again, mostly things from the property!

For game day(Auburn-Alabama game)…we made a big pot of gumbo…omg it was so good. Lots of chicken and sausage..added shrimp right at the end. Made for great leftovers too…

The pre-game spread…lots of Gulf shrimp my sis brought from Gulf Shores…my bro-in-law is in charge of those…he’s quite particular about how they’re cooked!

We did a pool so the game would be at least somewhat interesting. (Bama beat Auburn 49-0….ouch)….I won nothing of course.

The multi colored eggs my niece brought from her very own chickens at home….Martha Stewart would be so proud!!

Went shopping in Cullman one day…thought it was amusing this particular store was NOT open. Hey, we tried.

My Grand-niece Piper…how cute is she??!!

We played a mean game of Take-away Santa….I ended up with the Kapoosh knife holder…which Cowboy found quite cozy for a post game nap….

Last but not least: No trip to the south is complete without a stop at Krystal. Just can’t be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sista-hood..and making the gumbo….
August 14, 2012

This was the 3 sistas in Uganda this spring….we look a little tired, and I think we were!

When my sisters and I get together…even if we haven’t seen each other for months…it’s like we were together yesterday. I know those who don’t get along with their sisters…it’s more like they’re competitors, who just happen to have grown up together and share the same parents. I can never understand that, just because I are so close, and we always have been really. I can’t even remember being in a real argument with them…maybe a little tiff when we were younger, but today…never.

This crew is familiar with seafood, but not cracking crabs, Maryland
style…

So when the sisters, my niece and her daughter came for a visit, it was a whole houseload of female…plus my daughter came over to spend a couple of nights with us too….yeah…girls. Lots. We had an amazing crab feast on the back patio, with corn, wine(no beer, sorry)…a lovely, …girlie evening.

I did a pretty good job on these but we had 6 leftover crabs.
They were not wasted…

And some of the leftover crabs came in handy….But that leads me to a cookbook my sister brought me…

Crazy Sista Cooking….great gumbo recipe inside!!

My older sister Audrey(she hates it when I call her that…older sister) brought me Lucy Buffett’s new book…Lulu, as she is known, is the sister of the famous Margaritaville singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet…she has a well-known seafood restaurant in Gulf Shores. First stop at the stove: gumbo!!

Lucy’s Summer Gumbo…

Lulu says it takes courage to take the roux to the color of mahogany, and yet not burn it(’cause if you do you just have to start over)….no likee.

Just keep stirring until your arm falls off….

Honestly I didn’t get there. I chickened out right at the end, and figured  it was dark enough, at least a light mahogany.

Add the chopped onions(and later the green and red peppers) and
saute in the roux. MORE stirring.

The recipe doesn’t call for chicken…but gumbo is what you make of it…

these are chopped chicken pieces….

And to me, it’s not gumbo without some sausage…andouille or kielbasa…

Note the queen made vegetables underneath the sausage!

Fat and Juicy…good stuff….

One does need some refreshment during the day long process of gumbo…Lulu suggest bloodies…I concur. And Fat and Juicy-here…is amazing…smokey, horseradish…yum.

Getting ready to add the chicken and sausage….the shrimp
right at the end….And

And…the finished product.

Sorry this isn’t my picture, but I forgot! (bloody Mary’s??)

Just in case you want to make this amazing gumbo for yourself…here’s the recipe from Alabama food. Really, I think it was the best gumbo I’ve ever made…and that’s saying something. Piece of advice…get a couple of sous chefs(husbands, daughters, friends) to help do the chopping and sauteeing…makes it so much easier.

Fifty Shades of Gray…..and more.
August 1, 2012

Here it is before…Chinese red…with dove grey fixtures….

OK, I have a small powder room on the first floor of my house(I say small, it’s actually tiny-there is only room for one person at a time in there, but then when are there ever 2 people in a powder room, right?)….and years ago I painted it a Chinese red. And while I’ve loved the red, it really needed  repainting and I decided to shake it up a little and use a shade of gray. I’m kind of obsessed with gray.

Holy Gray cow….that’s a lot of choices(and there were many, many more)

But I quickly realized at Lowe’s how many shades of gray there are….many more than fifty, ok? Stone Harbor, Coastal Fog, Silver Fox, Smoke Embers….all so…evocative…so gray. But I knew I wanted something on the lighter side….and many grays are have quite a bit of blue in them. Coastal Fog was the final choice.

Thrifty, no??

At first I thought….hey, why not take all the sample cans I paid a dear $5.99 for when I was picking a gray for the kitchen, and mix them all togetherand voila, free paint! But after I painstakingly mixed them …and they were pretty…..

Truly a customized shade of gray….that could never be recreated.
Hmmmmm.

I decided to save that gray for a smaller, specialized project…maybe a piece of furniture… or something. And I grabbed a gallon of Coastal Fog.  Enter Mr Lawson, my painter, who I’ve discovered is….wait for it…. 87 years old.  I know. I flt so guilty hiring someone who is 87 years old!!!!!! I said,”Are you sure you want to do this? Please don’t feel like you have to.”  He assured me he did still do small jobs like this one(tiny bathroom, remember?). But I’ve got to get that man’s youth potion. You’d swear he was …maybe 65?

Anyway, he did a lovely job, as always…and here is the finished result…

Tah-dah!!! I love it.

The room is definitely brighter, and I love the monochromatic look of the gray walls and fixtures. Only Baby Girl is unimpressed by all the hubbub…

Baby Girl hates change….loves life just the way it is. All about her.

Sputnik, Clafoutis, and watermelon salad….that’s what been happening in my world!
July 16, 2012

Softshell crabs Linwoods style on creamed corn bed, with béarnaise sauce….

Ok,….I ate this weekend at a restaurant I haven’t been to in several years. Not for any particular reason, but Linwoods just isn’t on my beaten path…and I just haven’t thought about it. How sad for me…had the most amazing meal there Saturday evening…my first soft shell crabs of the year, served on a creamed corn puddle, with pickled green beans.

Watermelon salad…love the composition of it, hated to mess it
up, but I did!!

And a watermelon salad with feta cheese and little scoops of cucumber sorbet on the top. So pretty…so delicious.

It’s a French classic….for a reason.

But you can’t always eat out, and I had a big bowl of fresh cherries from Whole Foods at half price that needed a home….so I made a cherry clafoutis(pronounced kla-foo-tee’). The recipe I use is from an old French cookbook I’ve had for probably 25 years, but there are plenty of other versions around….one of which I will provide below. But it’s a delicious eggy dessert that can accommodate almost any fruit…I added blueberries to the one above. And dead easy. This recipe from Williams-Sonoma is pretty close to mine…

Saved from the trash….now to be recycled. Sigh.

OK, I know some consider me a recycling freak…and maybe that’s true, because I spend part of my time here at work saving bottles and cans from the trash bins, and walking them over to the recycling bins. You know who you are, people.

I know, I know…what was I thinking???

And this Sputnik looking light fixture I won at an auction two years ago at Center Stage…it’s been sitting in their development office ever since. I went down last week, to finally take it home(and do what with it I still don’t know)….but I forgotten how big the damn thing really is. Probably 40-50 inches in diameter. So there I was on a super hot day, struggling with this thing on Calvert Street, trying to get it in the car without damaging it. Guess where it is now? That’s right, back in the development office. I’m coming up with plan B.

Bangles, grits, and groundwork…..
April 30, 2012

I got my baby back this past week….I had missed her soooo much. Here she is arriving in the mail, from where I left her in Charleston.

Mommy, where are you???

So I immediately put her back to work….Twitter and Facebook, and blogging.

Good morning....got my tea, ready to go...

And I took a picture of this ’cause I thought it was pretty…I gathered up all my many  bracelets(actually there are more), and arranged them in a pretty antiqued bowl that had no other seeming use…now it has something to do.

Hmmm, who gets to go to work today?

Had some friends over for dinner Saturday night…did pan-fried catfish with remoulade sauce…amazing…and did creamy grits in the slow cooker. I had never tried this before, and it worked! Took about 2-ish hours.

And we started with oysters on the half shell…some Choptank sweets from Whole Foods….not inexpensive, but soooooo clean! These babies had been scrubbed…

Cleanest oysters in the world!! (and delicious)

So clean, that I took some of them and used them for other things…like salt, and vitamins!(Yes I washed them first!) But as Nate Berkus says, using designs from nature you can never go wrong.

Nature's salt cellar...

Planted a new succulent garden…I adore the way these look, all the different textures and shades of green. They just look to chic to me, especially when they fill in a little.

Pretty, oui?

And here’s the topiary I dragged home from a Charleston Piggly-Wiggly…I had to have it, and now it’s in its new pot, outside. It would have been sad if it had died after all that….

From a Charleston Piggly-Wiggly parking lot, to Maryland...

Bacon and chocolate, beef belly, and gardens…did I leave anything out?
April 23, 2012

Project side garden....underway. I need more rocks!

OK, let’s see what’s been going on….I’ve been working on a little garden on the side of my house. It doesn’t get seen much really, so I’ve never given it much love. But when a huge Black Walnut tree came down last summer there, the area was just… so…nude, really. SO I bought a tall crepe myrtle that I intended to get in the ground last year. Ok, let’s make it THIS year. And once that was done( I hired someone to dig the hole for me) I was inspired to create a stone border and get some other things in the ground. Almost there, but still need more rocks!! But one of my neighbors has this garden thing down to a science.

I love the rhubarb in the pot...such a nice contrast....

And this morning, I paid a visit to the courthouse, where my daughter was determined to fight a “turning right on red without making a complete stop” camera ticket. “

I know I stopped before I turned. I’m fighting that ticket!”…..Oh my little activist. But what she(and probably others) didn’t know…is that the police don’t just have still pictures of your offense. They have actual moving video. So when she’s called up, and presented with video evidence of her heinous crime(in which she clearly doesn’t come to a complete stop)…really, what can you say? But just for her taking the trouble of showing up, the judge cut her fine from $75 to $35. I guess that’s worth a visit.

The charcuterie is housemade, and freaking fabulous....

Ok, best new restaurant find. I’m really psyched about this place, because I went there on a Groupon(which has fooled Donna a few times)….But the Blue Grass Tavern in Federal Hill, is the real foodie deal. It’s on the corner of Fort Ave. and Hanover…nice atmosphere, and the food was just sooooo good. And they had something on the menu I’ve never seen before. Beef belly. Pork belly…plenty…but never beef belly. The waitress  described it as a cross between pork belly and a pastrami(she had me at pork belly). I’ll just say this…if you go, order it if it’s on the menu. Just stop deliberating and get it. And I noticed at the end of the meal, they also have pimiento cheese, which was too late to order, but next time…next time.

Just plain yum.

Best new guilty treat: Vosges Haut Chocolate “Mo’s Dark Bar“….62% dark chocolate with hickory smoked uncured bacon and smoked sea salt. The guilt is on two levels. 1. That I just paid $7 for a chocolate bar. and 2. That there is something so amazing and I get to eat it! I allow my self a square or two after salad at my desk. It makes the evening at work, just a little smoother. Trust me on this.

Bunkbeds, mosquito netting, and lots of kids….
March 28, 2012

Our deluxe accommodations at Sozo...no screens on windows
but we did have mosquito netting. That's my nephew in the orange shirt...

I’m not sure what I was expecting from Uganda looks wise…but I didn’t think the countryside would be as lush and gorgeous as it is. We arrived around 1:30 am at Sozo…I wish you could have seen the van after it picked us up, in a pitch black parking lot at Entebbe airport. Seriously, no lighting at all , except the headlights of other cars pulling out…9 people getting off flights with mountains of luggage…trying to squeeze all of us and our stuff in and on top of the car(well, the luggage on top, us inside!). I would have taken a pic but…..Our dorm room was spartan but clean, and the mattress were super comfy(thanks Allen for buying Eurofoam!)…and it was all strangely comforting. at night..the sounds of crickets, and occasional barking fits from the dogs that are let loose only at night in the compound(more on how animals are seen in Uganda later), and the whirr of the fans.

From the top floor of the orphanage, which is really a big house which Sozo now rents, there is a great balcony…from which I shot this:View from Sozo

Laundry day(which is almost every day) at Sozo. They now
have a washing machine(which they adore)...it used to be done
by hand, but drying is still sunshine.

But it’s a really happy atmosphere inside the walls of Sozo Children…kids laughing and yelling, like schoolyard, really. They also do plenty of work here, and help with the laundry, the cooking, cleaning….and there’s always plenty to do. But they LOVE, love, love to play games. Look what happened when I drew a hopscotch board on the patio: Hopscotch Ugandan style!

Two days we went to the Kabalagala slum, to help out at the Rays of Hope school…which is day school for 300 children, who otherwise might never see the inside of a schoolroom.

Three boys share a book at Rays of Hope school...

We handed out breakfast to these kids, who were soooo incredibly patient. Other kids who are not enrolled in school are occasionally dropped by a parent who are just hoping they can get something to eat(and they do)….here’s what it looks like at breakfast time: Breakfast at Rays of Hope

Tons 'o cups to fill with hot milk and sugar...

We took turns getting up at 4 am(yes really) to help get the kids'(who also get up at four) breakfast ready to be served…they leave for school between 5:30 and 6. It’s a pretty simple meal…buttered bread, some fruit or peanuts, hot milk with a spoonful of sugar in it(that’s the way they like it), maybe a boiled egg. And then we would fall back into bed. zzzzzzzzzz…..

Food here was carb loaded…lots of potatoes, rice, bread, cabbage(the only green vege we had)…rarely any meat, and no sweets. For breakfast I would eat a banana(plentiful in Uganda) and almond butter, which I toted from home across the the Atlantic. So when we got the chance to eat pizza one day….

Hello lover...come to mama...

We fell on it like starving dogs…not that we were starving really…just hungry for a taste of home, and something different(spoiled Americans!)….

Uganda
March 26, 2012

That's Allen in the back on the left....he's such a great kid(sorry, man)

3-16-2012 I leave today for Uganda….this is a trip my sisters and I first talked about last Thanksgiving…really at the time we were joking, and now here we are headed for Africa!  My nephew Allen, has been involved with the Methodist missionary group Sozo Children for several years now…..you may remember when I wrote about him being in one of the bombings in Uganda at World Cup time-here. And he was instrumental in beginning the orphanage there. How could he not? Don’t you love those little faces?

Getting on Dulles Airport futuristic trains to who knows where...

So the talk ended with us all deciding we would go on a trip to Sozo Children in March. I admit there has been some waffling since then…my daughter does not want me to go, nor does the lovely Jennifer(I think they worry for me.)…. And there have been a couple of times I thought about not going. But I want to see the work Allen and the group is doing there, and I want to see Uganda. And let’s be honest, I love being with my sisters. Love.

My sister Audrey asked several days prior to leaving(in all seriousness)…”Are you taking heels?” I thought, only a girl raised in the south would ask that. “No, it’s flats, flip-flops, and tennies for me this trip

Lounge for first class passengers at Dulles. You can order an entire, amazing meal before you fly so you can sleep in the air. How civilized.

So tonight I’m off…after totally raiding my AMEX travel points account to upgrade my ticket(I mean, it’s a loooooong trip), and the only flight I never wanted to end, was one where I flew from London to Baltimore in British Airfirst class. I mean…They. Do. It. Freakin’. Right. Seriously, I didn’t want it to end. And now they have “pod” beds, whatever that means. That in itself is an adventure.

Here's the pod...it's like your own little room....at the end of the pod you can see the pajamas they gave me to sleep in. To this, my sister said, "I hate you." And the bed is flat so you can actually sleep!!

Breakfast at 40,000 feet...almost to London...

Next stop, Entebbe(yes, as in THe Raid on Entebbe)...Uganda, almost there!

More tomorrow!

 

When I saw this…
March 5, 2012

ImageWhen I saw this picture of those swirl vases on the dining table at the HGTV Dream Home 2012, it was love. And when I saw they are from Ethan Allen, and knew I had an unused  Groupon to Ethan Allen…it was happiness. Here’s what I did with mine….

Curly willow in my swirl vase.....

The thing weighs a ton….seriously, it’s a hunk of glass, but I love it…and roots from the curly willow are growing…not sure why I’m happy about that but I am…

Curly willow roots growing...can I plant it outside this spring??

My daughter gave her first big girl dinner party….she called, to talk it over, and I asked if she needed anything. Yes, as it turns out…plates, cutlery, wine glasses, a table cloth(for the floor-no dining table), candles, etc. Sooooooooo…

Salad servers, check...big serving bowl, check....

I loaded it all up and drove over Saturday afternoon…and while I left the final setup to her… I love the result of her dresser turned bar.

This piece belonged to my Grandmother...I painted it red when I was a teenager, but I love the color!

Adiosing all the makeup and hair stuff, and putting the wine glasses and wine and flowers there…is just beautiful. I wish she would keep it like that, but I know.. life intervenes.(And a girl needs a place to do her makeup!!)

And this I show you just because I thought it was such a great looking way to deal with the litter box issue, when you don’t have a basement in which to keep it….a litter box with classic French style, made with wooden wine crates…hinged on the back. You can find out more about in on Apartment Therapy…love it!

Chat boîtes!!

 

P.S. If This Is Austin…..
January 30, 2012

Oh, Willie....

I’m listening to the song by Blake Shelton as I write this little love letter to AustinTexas, where I visited for several days last week. What a great town….the capital city of Texas…the MO of Austinites being “Keep Austin Weird”…..and I think they’ve succeeded…in a good way.

A walk thru Austin will make you hungry...guaranteed...

The most amazing sushi I've ever had...at Uchi...

I wish I could say I took the picture above….my phone ran our of power right after I took a pic of our sake…below…but Mike Sutter of the American Statesman felt as strongly as I did about the sea-bass crudo with golden roe, orange oil, citrus vinaigrette and black pepper.

Cold sake with roasted cauliflower nibbles at Uchi...AMEX ready to rock...

I don’t know how to tell you how amazing this place is…but absorb this.  In the middle of dinner, who walks in for dinner at Uchi, but Matthew McConaugheyand his lady love/baby mama. That’s how good Uchi is. Hat’s off to Chef Tyson Cole, who won the James Beard award for Best Chef SW last year.

Jerky with no additives at Whittington's ...

Lobby of the historic Driskell Hotel....wow...

The people of Austin were so happy for visitors…I gathered the economy has hit them pretty hard. Everywhere you went, residents said, “Thanks for visiting Austin“…and “Thanks for spending your dollars in Austin“…which of course, I did.

Keepin' it real in Austin...what you don't see is the herd of goats...

Lunch at the Roaring Fork....kettle of green chili pork and tortillas..

Samsung Lounge in Dallas airport....why aren't they everywhere???

More this week on a side trip I made that was my best day there. Hint: LBJ.