Lunch for 12 and other insane tasks….
October 3, 2011

Even tho Harry is 84, he still walks several miles a day.....

I think I mentioned I was expecting houseguests in this past weekend who will be with us through Friday…The Shelleys took us under their wing when we moved to Balaltimore long ago, and while they moved back to their native England some years back….they still come to visit “across the pond” as they say. They were  like a wonderful aunt and uncle…my kids adored them.

Tick tock, tick tock guys....

I was worried a bathroom being redone wouldn’t be ready in time….and while it was functional(you could use the toilet, shower and sink…there  was still plenty of work to do..shelves not installed, no place to hang towels)..etc…it was “kinda” finished. I was NOT happy about it, but there it is. The best laid plans….

Setting the scene for a party!! Love the different chairs(tho was from necessity!

But we had a great lunch party Sunday afternoon, for 12 people. I just love long Sunday afternoon lunches, where people can talk and hang out at the table, for several hours. We had shrimp and grits…one of my fav dishes for lunch(or dinner or breakfast for that matter)….

Oh, and a little Tobasco or Crystal sauce, touch of Worchestershire

It starts with a base of red and green peppers, some tomatoes, butter, and kielbasa…shrimp added at the last.

Twelve plates, check.

Wine(of course), check.

Flowers(unlike Madonna, I love hydrangeas), check.

Table set, check(ordered these killer pine cones on Ebay!)

marinated olives and pistachios for nibbles, check.

But let me be honest, I often order desserts to take some of the stress off of having a dinner party.

Coconut cake with lime curd filling...yummo...

I love to cook, but baking anything more serious than brownies or the NY Times plum torte, is too much for this girl. A former neighbor started a company called Butter Catering(everything is better with butter, right?)….and she made for me the most luscious coconut cake with lime curd inside…and a a very dense chocolate flourless torte. They were just AMAZING. Thanks Mary Gill! You’re a lifesaver!

This is serious chocolate....


Dreamin’ of spring…Pay a visit to my dream porch!
February 18, 2011

Where is my white wine?????

I was looking out over my back porch this morning, which to be honest, looks a little skanky. Yes, that’s word, because I just used it in a sentence. By skanky, I mean kinda bad. Patches of snow here and there(still), a dead tree in a pot that is actually turned over on its side, lawn chairs all akimbo, because we were using them to keep an ugly sheet of plastic over the fountain so it wouldn’t freeze, flotsam and jetsam all around….just skanky. The picture above is what my dream porch would look like(thanks Frontgate)…and here are some more….enjoy.

Also from Frontgate...very moderne....

This one is probably too sleek for me, but it has a look….

Love, love love the Provence-Restoration Hardware

This one I adore. No skank here at all. Restoration Hardware…..

Leagrave from Restoration Hardware....mmmmmmmm

All I want to know is…who’s gonna clip the hedges? I’ll light the candles.

Catalina Deep could sink right in...

How fabulous is this look? It’s from Great Gatherings in Annapolis! They have some great stuff(thus the name fits.)

time to read a book....

And this look is a little more formal, but soooo lovely…and solid. From Bazensky’s Furniture in Middle River…note the LIVE tree in the background, and it’s pot is not overturned. Skank-free zone.

Wow...just wow...

From Brown Jordan…just so clean and sleek, but inviting too…It’s called Canyon.The Palmetto. I could hang out here for a while....

And as usual, Pottery Barn  has it goin’ on…they just get it. Always have.

The Faraday, also from PB....

Another one from Pottery Barn…love the carved look…and while it looks like a living room piece, it’s from Eucalyptus wood, that is meant for outdoors. Love it.  In the meantime, I will try to clean up my scene outdoors…neaten it up…and think about getting something new for outside this spring. Keep dreaming of spring, get a little bouquet of flowers for yourself, and be extra nice to someone this weekend…and come home safe, ’cause we miss you.

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 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!!

A Mac & Cheese Osculator Party??
February 20, 2009

Earlier this week, I received the lovely Jennifer’s Excel Rainman newsletter ( which kept her up until the wee hours putting together)…and it has a great idea for your Academy Awards party, if you’re having one, or just a way to play a pool….either way, fun. Plus she sent me a great recipe for mac and cheese you could serve(which I made last night….fabulous)….a recession Oscar party!! It’s down below. Don’t say I never gave you anything .  

Dear Donna,


Whether you have seen all of the movies nominated for Best Picture or not… it is more fun to get involved when there are stakes!
Help jump start your OSCAR party with The ExcelRainMan OSCulator (Get it? OSCAR + Calculator… OSCulator!).  This tricked out spreadsheet will allow you to host your very own OSCAR Pool… well virtually at least. Send out The ExcelRainMan OSCulator Ballots to your competitive crew and then use the OSCulator to keep track of their selections.  Let our OSCulator do the work of tallying up the results on OSCAR night so you can get back to enjoying the crudite and long-winded accptance speeches!   
The ExcelRainMan OSCulator can be downloaded for FREE from the Tips & Tricks section at  Instructions are also provided to help you dominate this terrific tool!
Check out the latest free tips, tricks and goodies from the ExcelRainMan team and improve your spreadsheeting skillz today!!  All goodies (templates) are free for the 1st month after release, after which they will be available for the modest price of $5.00 each.

 Ok, here’s the recipe for Mike Malin’s mac and Cheese….(as given to me)

3 normal size bags shredded sharp cheddar, 1 bag shredded mozzarella, 1 big container cottage cheese, 1 regular size sour cream, 1 box macaroni, 1 egg(optional)

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees. Cook Macaroni as per instructions and drain. Mix 2 bags of the cheddar, the mozzarella, cottage cheese, sour cream (low cal this dish!), and raw egg, if you use it, then mix macaroni with cheese mix.. put in cassarole and sprinkle the other cheddar over the top (as much as you can)….bake in oven with NO cover for 25-30 minutes. You want the top to be browning….so it has a little crispy top. You know what I mean.

Mike says you really can’t go wrong with this one. Jennifer seconds that thought…I third it!! I thought about suggesting you add some lobster if you’re feeling really flush, but our chief photog just passed by and said, “Hey…that’s just ruining a good lobster, or a good mac and cheese. That’s taking comfort food and making it Phooffy food…” While there is no definition for phooffy food, I catch his drift. Dump the lobster idea. Stick with the mac and cheese.