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....

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Back from Chucktown….re-entry day….
April 26, 2010

Dinner on the Porch, Charleston style...

Yes, we arrived fresh from a warm and altogether fabulous week  in Charleston…to a rainy and chilly welcome home in Baltimore….not the greeting I was hoping for, but perhaps apropos of saying goodbye to vaca. I always call today….your first day back at work…re-entry, as in re-entry to real life. It can be a little tough, I won’t lie to you, and a little sad. Laundry that needs to be done, grocery shopping list waiting, an email box at work that I still haven’t finished clearing out…you know the drill.

But, it was a wonderful week in Charleston…which I noticed the NY Times touted this past Sunday as a great place to go in April and May. Well, duh, and I’d add March to the list. Spring there is splendid…not humid or hot, just sunny and so, so pretty. The house we stayed in this year was dubbed by the lovely Jennifer, as…”our rock star pad“.   And I can’t disagree. You can check it out on VRBO right here.  The picture above was taken one night before dinner, out on the porch overlooking the Isle of Palms marsh. While we ate dinner out several nights, we found we were happiest cooking and eating at home….so relaxed, and such a gorgeous view. We cooked shrimp and grits(of course), had delish carry out pork carnitas from Caviar and Bananas(a Dean and Deluca like food emporium), made shrimp risotto another night….the local shrimp are so good. And we loved just hanging out….we don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like.

view from loft bedroom window seat...

Hey, who would not be happy here? And you know I’m a VRBO girl all the way, when it comes to family travel. To have an actual house to stay in…where everyone has their own bedroom and bath, but we have a communal gathering space for tv, or games or dinner…is perfect. And we love to cook on holiday. And this house had a great kitchen in which to prepare meals, and had the most wonderful selection of pots and pans, utensils and dishes…seriously, it had everything. And nice stuff too.

boardwalk over the marsh leads to the beach!

Great  living room with comfy seating for all five of us, a huge projection screen tv that came down from the ceiling, glass all around, porches with dinner seating and getaway spots for reading, beautiful bedrooms with pretty views….it had it all. It was designed by Peter Bohlin, who is (evidently) a famous architect who designed part of the Bill Gates house. Pete…good job.  Best vacation house ever.

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 ten....al 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!!

Return from the Redneck Riviera
April 22, 2008

palmOK, the Redneck Riviera was great… again. Oh, we got off to a rough start…at least a little. I had talked my sister  Jan into leaving as soon as I flew in Friday afternoon and got Mom ready …and as soon as she got off work. That way, we’d have all day Saturday and Sunday. It’s a bit of a drive from B’ham. to Gulf Shores…about 5 hours. And we can’t really just get in and drive. My 87 year old Momma HAS to have a bathroom/food break and if you get too far down the road without one, she thinks you’re not gonna stop/ “When are we stopping?”. “Haven’t we passed Montgomery?”

And we actually rate places on the way down on their bathrooms. Places you don’t want to stop with a little old lady in a wheelchair…Dairy Queen in Bay Minette, Alabama. On the other hand, the Arby’s there is quite nice. Bates House of Turkey….could use some work, though Mom loves the turkey.

Anyway we finally arrive around 10 PM…everyone is tired, my other sis Audrey is already at the condo, having enjoyed a quiet relaxing afternoon there…nice, yeah.  The first thing we discover is that Mom’s chair won’t fit through the doorway of one of the bathrooms, and in the other one the “potty bars” she uses cannot be installed. Hmmmm. This is a serious issue. The alternative will be that TWO of us will always have to be present for every trip to the bathroom. Not what we or she had in mind. Baby sister looking frantic, Mom on the verge of tears, Audie and me looking at each other like “What now….”

 Sooooooooo, necessity being the brilliant mommy of invention, a system was rigged using the regular wheelchair(Audrey had rented an electric one there to be delivered and picked up…which gives Mom much freedom-did you know they did stuff like that?) …anyway,  a system was fixed that was usable. Crisis averted. We all fall into bed exhausted, around 1 AM.

viewBut the next morning, here is the view that greeted us off the balcony. The Moorings is on the bay…can you can see all the highrise condos on the beach in the distance?  The apartment is big for two bedrooms two baths…1600 sq. feet…. West Indian decorated, big nice kitchen (except  they need more serving dishes)…all for about 100 bucks a night. And seriously the biggest, coziest sofa any of us had ever seen. Four people could nap on it, no problem. Me likee.

We cooked breakfast every morning..Audrey makes the best bread ever, that makes the best toast you’ll ever eat. I’ll try to get the recipe for the starter she uses…she’s been making it we guessed, for about 20 years. It’s fabulous with flaxseed and all kinds of good stuff…a loaf even made it home in my luggage.

Lunch at the pool usually, in perfect 80 degree weather…my first “zero entry pool”….where walking into the pool is like walking into the ocean….it just  gradually gets deeper. And loads of fountains adding lovely burbling water sounds. Sigh…so nice.

Yes we did cook shrimp and grits, with wild caught shrimp from Bon Secour, a fishing town that was originally settled by the French…means safe harbor…and the quality of the shrimp does make all the difference in the dish. And of course we talked…and talked…and talked. About our kids, our husbands, our childhoods, our lives, our worries, our problems and our joys. It was just….so good.  My Mom loved all of us being together, and she shared a dream she had about two weeks ago, that I hope she wouldn’t mind my sharing with you. But she felt it was a kind of gift or a vision, and she wanted us to know about it. In the dream, she was at a resort on the beach, with people all around. She walked into the water, and started to sing a famous old hymn, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”. But in the dream, she had a beautiful, beautiful voice…and she knew all the words  to all four verses, though she hasn’t sung it in years. As she sang, the fish in the water swam up gathered around her and listened, and someone from behind her started singing  harmony. She turned and looked too see who it was… a choir director from her church who died some years ago. They finished the song, not missing a beat, or a word. She woke up, feeling something very spritual had been shown to her.

And she still remembered the words…and sang them right there on the balcony as we all listened….with tears in our eyes. I’ll never forget it.

I’m home now..Baby Girl looking up at me appreciatively….(“Where have you been?” ) and watching Dancing with the Stars…hey, I thought Jason Taylor danced a lot betterthan those scores.  But it was a wonderful, wonderful weekend in so many ways, and I loved hearing from some of you about the traditions you have with friends and family. It is really what life is all about, oui?

P.S. This morning I thought it’s Earth Day!! I will drive to work today in my hybrid, and shop using my reusable bag, and try not to take too long of a shower, and this evening I will dig up dandelions rather than spray them with weed killer. What are you doing for Momma Earth?