Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

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.

Groupon Garden Party…..
June 18, 2012

While I will put REAL blackboard in eventually, I waited too late
for this shindig. Answer: foamboard and chalkboard paint.

OK, I used to be (as many of you have been, don’t deny it) a Groupon addict. But when I found there were too many of these “bargains” that I was allowing to expire unused, I kinda backed off. But I’ve had this one simmering in my hip pocket for almost a year….expiration was I called the folks at The Savory Kitchen in Frederick, and set a date for the “Friends and Family Feast“….a catered dinner for 25.  June 16th…be there.

Don’t have enough matching plates? Party rental…love these
white square ones….20 of each, about $25….

And not doing any of the cooking,  frees one to be a little more creative in other areas(or clean the house as the case may be)….here were some things I tried.

Napkins are Ikea dishclothes…huge so great for a buffet lap napkin.
Only $.79 each…and if they get stained: cleaning cloths. Morandi in
NYC also uses them as napkins..

Yes, more hydrangeas…

Put all the flatware in this little tin container I got from Pottery Barn last year…and used Mason jars as drinking glasses and votive holders. I didn’t have tons of Mason jars, but I ordered them from Ace Hardware for $12 a dozen. And I wish I had gotten all of them the little size…they make perfect size drink containers!

Put all the empty Mason jars in this old strawberry crate,
with some flowers…for guests to grab.

nibbles….the Buffalo Chicken Blue Cheese Dip was to die for,
and so was the black-eyed pea salsa….

A really creative guest brought baby veges from her garden,
that were so pretty, they became a decoration….love the idea.

An equally creative guest brought bundles of lavender from
the Eastern Shore, wrapped with ribbon. Yes, they grow loads
of it…lucky devils. I can’t grow lavender to save my life.

Remember the huge vase from Ethan Allen(yes a Groupon)..
today filled with long-stemmed hydrangeas…..

Used oyster shells(of which I have many) as iced tea
spoon rests.

Ok, this is not my picture, but used a stand just like this one to
Sangria….I forgot to take a picture. Party brain!

I’ve wanted a hanging chandelier over this table for
forever…Found this one at West Elm on sale. And it’s
made for outside use!!

Many, many many thanks for the delicious food from Cheri at The Savory Spoon. I honestly did not know what to expect…I knew absolutely nothing about them, and certainly not how good…no, make that how delicious… their food is. And they bring it right to your door! Best pulled pork I’ve ever had…seriously. Na’an herbed toasts for dips…addictive. Salads and slaw yum, fresh guacamole ditto….and those little cheesecakes with the crunchy crusts I squirreled a few away for Donna… for later… you know what I mean. Sorry 🙂


Au Revoir Gallbladder…
March 13, 2012

My view at Mercy Medical Center for a few hours....

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that my daughter was quite sick last week…she’s been staying at our house since Sunday a week ago….when she became terribly ill after lunch out(the babies always come home when sick). At first we thought food poisoning? But we all ate the same thing so, that couldn’t be it. Virus? Possible, but the throwing up was so unrelenting. And just the week before she’d had an endoscopy, because of several severe, painful attacks of what we thought was GERD… or gastro esophageal reflux disease. The endoscopy did show inflammation of the esophagus, so she was put on Nexium. And now this.

A call to the gastroenterologist …..who said, “I think we may have overlooked a gallbladder problem.” I was floored. So she went in for an ultrasound…and sure enough, her gallbladder was packed with gallstones. Next stop…surgery.

Baby girl, resting after surgery....

So Friday morning very early(we had to be there by 6:30 and after working the 11 pm news-oy vay)…..and the waiting begins….her surgery was laparoscopic, thank goodness. So we called back to get her dressed and take her home a few hours later. My daughter is saucy, it must be said, and to one nurse who was loudly clapping her hands and saying “Let’s move, let’s move, let’s move! “…she stared at her groggy from anesthesia and said, “Go. Just get out of here“, and waved her away. She has no memory of it now…but it was kinda funny.

A good friend delivered homemade matzoh ball's amazing....

She’s been recuperating at our house of course, where the supplies are stocked, the sheets are clean, and there’s always help or soup at hand(or most the time). But she’s getting better every day, and just today commented on how great it is to not feel sick anymore. Sore, yes, but not sick. Big difference.

Hendrick's Gin and Tonic for the nurse,'s Miller time...


Lots of people have asked if it’s common for someone in the 20s to have their gallbladder removed…I don’t think you’d call it common, but it’s not uncommon. Her surgeon at Mercy said it happens a lot more than you’d think. So she’s gonna be fine….and so am I. 🙂

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!!


Monday Catch Up….
February 27, 2012

Love Jean Dejardin!!

OK , I got to see The Artist…the silent film that won Best Picture Oscar last night, just under the wire before Sunday night’s Oscars. It’s still playing at The Charles Theatre downtown.. one of my fav places to see a movie, but it’s a bit more of a challenge to eat dinner, since the Zodiac closed a couple of year ago. Sure, there’s Tapas Teatro which is wonderful…but even though we arrived at 6…were told there was a 40 minute wait for a table(a problem, obvie, when your movie starts at 6:50). Sophie’s Crepes was standing room only(that doesn’t take much of course as it is tiny), and my daughter had told me the Diner on the corner was good. So we traipsed over there…sign on the door says “closed for renovation“. Hmmmm, you never know what that means, except that you’re NOT having dinner there. But the sign also said the Club Charles next door was now serving some of the much missed Zodiac favs.

Let's be honest looks like a dive bar...

So we tentatively open the’s locked…they have to buzz you in, which the girl at the bar does. It’s dark inside, with kind of a 1940-ish, hipster/creepy/cool vibe…..there is one lonely other couple in the room, seated in the corner. And it is silent as…a… tomb. Not a good sound for a bar. But we’re hungry, and thirsty. So after dropping some money in the jukebox so things aren’t so depressing(yes they still have one) , we sit at the bar and ask for menus. Sure enough, the Zodiac pizza is there!!….With smoked mozzarella, chicken and caramelized onions…it’s a no brainer, and a winner. I get a glass of  sauvignon blanc(for $5 believe it or not)…and we chill. Bottom line, the drinks were cold, the music personally chosen, and the pizza fabulous, we made the movie…and we will be back. Don’t let the skeezy looking exterior put you off…push the buzzer..and come on in.

My Big Fat Pork Butt…..Perfected
January 20, 2012

See the raven head?? See it???

Ok, I ran out of purple pretty quickly in my closest…it’s just not a color I seek out, for some reason. So now the Ravens have made it another week in the playoffs, and I wore my best purple dress LAST Friday, sooooo….the bottom half of my dress is purple. I don’t know if anyone can see it on the news, but trust me, it is. And I have on the Ravens earring s you see above…and that’s just gonna have to do it this purple Friday.

All coated in herbs, salt and pepper, ready for searing..

Though for good luck, I think I may again make the pork butt in apple cider….but I did something different last week, that’s worth repeating. Instead of apple cider, I used fresh sqeezed orange juice.

OK, NOW they're ready for the compost pail....

Not that I’m a fresh squeezed snob, but I had some oranges and tangerines that were starting to harden on the outside, but inside, they were perfection. Fished them out of the compost bin(where the hubby had put them), cut them in half and squeezed out the juice. Ta-da!

Pour this in around the roast....or heck, mix with vodka...

A nice comfy bed of veges for the butt to cook in...

And I used a different recipe in the end…(not wildly different)…and this one called for deglazing the pan after searing the meat and the veges, with a little bourbon. That just can’t be wrong. Here is the recipe for My Big Fat Pork Butt Perfected, that I found on a blog called Bootnik.Oh, and it calls for brining the roast(which I did for 12 hours) so start a day ahead….remember you still need a good 4 hours of cooking time.

 I leave you this Friday with some words from the late Ron Smith, whose memorial service knocked me out this week…really, it was amazing.

What is a mere individual to do? Live as sane and decent a life as you can, love your family and friends, and understand that everybody is in this together.”

Here, here. Have a great weekend everyone, do something nice for someone, be sane and decent, and because Ron would want me to say it…Go Ravens!

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?

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) goes:(it too is easy, but you chop a lot)…

Audrey’s Texas Caviar




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







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!

It’s About Making the Effort…not Perfection!
November 21, 2011

It’s always one dilemma we face at Thanksgiving dinner….what to do with the table (besides throw a cloth on it and slap down some plates and silverware). Here are some ideas that may inspire you to try something a little different this year. The one below I adore…bare, blonde table, dark plates and all those clear wine bottles minus their labels… are so elegant looking. All white candles at different heights make it.

SO simple but so lovely...

Again….not complicated or expensive but original..and so personal with the old black and white family photos…brilliant…and what Thanksgiving is all about. Love the pear place card holders….I may copy that this Thanksgiving. Again, bare table.

A few pears, some old photos, and you're in business!

Here’s another one with no cloth…just runners, which you could buy or make in about 5 minutes from a remnant. the roses and the colors...

I like this one too…the green cloth and orange napkins are cheery, and most likely not expensive….pine  you can pick from the yard to give a seasonal touch(and free). It’s just all very soothing and seasonal. I would love to sit down at this table, wouldn’t you?  Notice the candles are lit, even though it’s daytime. I really hate candles on a table that aren’t lit.

Very serene, and contemporary....

And remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about making the effort.

The right thing…..when you do it, just ’cause you should…
November 11, 2011

My Dad in his Ray-Bans....with my Mom

Like many of you, I have pondered the inexplicable goings-on at Penn State…I feel so sad for those kids…that no one stood up for them. So on this Veteran’s Day, I offer you the example of my Dad, who stood up for a child in a similar terrible situation long ago, even when he didn’t have to do so…it was in this previous post. I wonder what happened to that little boy. But it made me think about how we all come to critical choices in our lives, and what we do in those difficult moments….defend those who can’t defend themselves, or protect the establishment…those choices stay with us, always.

The good guys of sports....

Oh, and something else that made me think of how the big money of college athletics was part of that bad decision makingPay a visit to Kurt’s Corner-here…you’ll love his look at a Maryland  D-3 basketball program. As Kurt says, “Nobody is slipping them cash or sliding them a hooker.  A big, fat, endorsement in not headed their way. NBA scouts do not come to the games.” They play for the love of the game….how crazy is that?? It will be a few minutes well spent…and how often can you say that these days??

Happy Veteran’s Day….hope all of you make some good decisions this weekend, do something nice for someone….cook something delicious, and come home safe…’cause we miss you!