Monday, September 29, 2014

The leaves are starting to change. Last Saturday night I was delighted to share a great meal in Charlotte with friends. We dined out as the weather was cool enough. Fall, I was excited to see Mother Nature appear in her most beautiful finery. Scarlet, crimson, gold, and pea green fill our heart with memories of childhood trick or treating, visits to the fair, and Thanksgiving with our beloved grandparents. I get excited by fall. It is fun and it gives us a time to slow down before the holiday rush...well, one might think.

We all know about Spring cleaning, but it is just as important to have a great session of Fall cleaning. I know, it is exhausting, but this will help prepare you for the upcoming holiday rush. What should you do? Follow these quick tips to get you set.

1. Straighten up your kitchen cabinets. This may seem simple or if you're like me, it can be arduous; however, it is well worth the work. Get rid of mismatched pots and lids, assess your bakeware, and tidy up your organization. As turkey time approaches, this clean up can only help you get ready for a festive and enjoyable holiday season. Make sure you inventory staples for that Thanksgiving meal...you never want to find you have no vanilla extract when preparing that sweet potato casserole.
2. Double check the linen situation. Once again this goes back to the holiday season, be prepared for company and overnight guest. During the season, you never know when one of your siblings may stay for a weekend, friends may stop by from out of town, or you could become the family's Marriott. Either way, making sure you have fresh towels is important. Equally important is the bedding. Make sure fluffy hasn't nibbled on the sheets or pillow cases. Change out the linens on unused beds. Finally, how are you for placemates and tableclothes? These exciting pieces are an important part of any holiday look and should not be ignored. If you are currently without table linens, begin your collection at a local antique store. Nothing adds dignity to your dining table like fine linens and cloth napkins!
3. Deep Dustin'.... This is a must. During the summer you brought a ton of material in from the lawn. Exciting, huh? As if that was not enough, your pets have gone through a shedding cycle, you brought some delightful mud in from a trip to the mailbox in the rain. All of the material has gone airborn and has been landing in great places. Hit all the important spots as you dust, table tops are just the beginning. Don't forget to check the legs and sides of furniture, lower side of furniture detailing ( spiders love to build webs on these), and picture frames and light fixtures.

You can continue to clean in your normal way, but just remember these tips before the Wednesday before turkey day!

Monday, August 11, 2014

FOOTBALL PARTY...A KEY TO GREAT FOOTBALL ENTERTAINING

As the smell of Scotch tape begins to fill the air of Wal-Mart, the fifth season is at hand... Back to School. It is a short season when children have organized notebooks, every parent has pinned 7,123 healthy school lunches to their boards, and I even get up in the morning to make breakfast instead of grabbing something in a foil wrapper on my way to work. It is a time of renewal...then something happens, air horns scream, face paint appears, and Saturdays become a time of celebration....

FOOTBALL SEASON has begun!

What do you need to make your Saturday Football Party great? Here are a few exciting dips and sundries to get your party going.

Revolutionary Dip

This delicious dip has Bunker Hill canned chili as its secret ingredient. Serve it hot with tortilla chips or pita chips.

1 can Bunker Hill Chili
2 packages cream cheese
1 8 oz bag of  shredded cheddar (divided)

Heat the first two ingredients in a microwave safe dish; I generally use a glass Pyrex dish. Heat in intervals of 45 seconds. When the mixture is combined well, add 4 oz of cheddar to the mixture. Stir the mixture well. Top the dip with the remaining cheddar. Place under a broiler until to cheese on top is melted...ENJOY!

You can also mix things up a bit with South of the Border Dip. Served with tortillas, it is amazing...

South of The Border Dip

1 small package of velveta cubed into 1inch pieces
1 jar of your favorite salsa
1can refried beans

Start by spreading refried beans on the bottom of a Pyrex baking dish. In a separate microwave proof dish combine velveta and salsa. Reserve some velveta to top the dip. Microwave the mixture  in 30 second intervals, stirring frequently, until cheese begins to melt. Pour mixture over refried beans. Top with velveta, I generally flatten out the cubes slightly to cover the surface evenly.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

More great ideas to come!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Outdoors-Indoors or Somthing Like That

I am the worse blogger that the internet has ever seen. My apologies for my lack of communication during these long months, I hope you will accept them. If you were lost without my ideas, don’t worry, you’ve been found. Never read my post, well, you weren’t lost, but this is a little map to help you navigate the world of entertaining, food, and general good taste.


I have a friend from many years ago who is a dear. Sally is 100% girl, or woman as the case may now be. Recently she spoke to me about an incident which occurred on her front porch. As the story unfolds, it seems that Sally, fearless mother of four, began watching her dog eyeing something in the yard. If you are a dog owner, this will come as no shock. Many times I wonder what Jax or Bianca is examining. All too often I discover it something I don’t want them to eat. Having indoor pets outside is like putting your children outside. With that simple mathematics in mind, Sally had gone from mother of four to mother seven when you add the three dogs. As she observed the dogs observing an unidentified fascinating object, UFO for short in the dog word, Sally’s curiosity was peaked. She began to move across the yard toward Rufus, Spot, or Rex as the case may have been. She discovered a lizard. This was not any lizard, it was a 5 lined skink. Although these are perfectly cute lizards, as reptiles go, one must be aware that a skink is a skink and it will bite the *@#! (insert your favorite four letter word) out of you). Poor Sally, no one had ever taken the time to educate her on the finer nuances of herpetology. This is why our phone conversation ended with, “I saved his life, and he bit me. Thank goodness I had on my gloves for gardening; he could have caused real problems.” I waited for the “bless his soul/heart,” yet for Sally charity had stopped when he bit her.

Scratching your head yet? Wondering why I am having a lizard forum in this blog? It appears that two cultures in our world can coexist peacefully. Outdoors can meet indoors in a lively and beautiful marriage that makes those of us who live in bricks and mortar more amenable to the four legged creatures who call a pile of pine straw home.

This spring I began the chore of getting the yard ready. I was very excited about what I was going to do. I had read numerous articles over the years about making outdoor rooms. I had tried this with my patio and side porch. Unfortunately, I created an outdoor shanty closely akin to the turn of the century outhouse. When you read an article about creating these sanctuaries of the southern outdoors, some lady with a typical name like Mary-Julia Margret Jones describes the task of maintaining the garden while overseeing the fundraiser at the local hospital, chairing the bizarre for the local Episcopal parish, and serving on the scholarship committee of the Junior Ladies of Philanthropy Club. “I just have to take time to work the garden into my daily schedule.” She will purport. Come off it lady, you have a staff that maintains that garden, and they even deliver a Seabreeze when you wag your overly polished nails at them.

Personally, I do not have gardeners. I do have two dogs. One dog likes to dig. He does not dig in the right locations. For this reason, I do not feel it would be fair to term him as staff. How do we, the normal people of the world, located miles from the nearest GardenRidge, World Market, and Pier One make the idea of outdoor rooms work?

Step One- make some decisions about what you want. When I began on my front porch, I knew I wanted something I termed, Southern with a Splash of Mediterranean. Confused? I was too. I decided that reds, olives, and yellows would make my vision come to fruition. I began looking for ideas in those colors. I found curtains on close-out three years ago at a big box store. I paid $4 for pair. While snagging this “whattadeal!” as my friend Connie calls it, I also spied a lovely red table cloth, $2.50. I had curtains and a tablecloth. Yippie! What about furniture.

At the end of the summer in 2008 I found pile of summer remnant furniture in local grocery store. A single glass topped table for $10. “Yes, thank you. Put it in the car.” Two chairs at $6 each also traveled home with me that afternoon. I was set. I ran a cheap curtain rod through two ring hooks, wow those cheap curtains looked nice! I tossed the red table cloth on the table which had two mismatched chairs, and I sat back and smiled. Southern Living did not call for a photo shoot. I wondered why. I examined the porch. It had issues. Over the winter, I encountered a wooden church pew, and placed it on the porch. The dark wood added a great deal of depth, but it was missing something. As the spring of 2009 approached, I knew what was needed, flower pots. This idea was nice, but I also had to put out the right flowers. The plants that year were dead before Mother’s Day. I did have nice pots though, even if it did look like a necropolis for plant life. That summer I had the idea of adding a water feature, just something small. I still looked at the front porch and wondered how those people in the magazines made it look so put together.

I was ready to write a very stern letter to my American Idol and let her know that her magazine was a pack of lies. I would get in bed at night and think of the phone call she give me. “Martha” I would say, “I need to let you know that that the March issue if totally unachievable. Someone working for you is a liar! No one can make these blasted outdoor rooms.” Martha would sigh and say, “You know last night I was making some buckwheat pillows while I garnished a leg of lamb. That issue was on my mind too. I will send a crew out to fix things right away.” Yet, Martha and I did not have a tete a tete. I struggled that winter thinking of how to make the porch right. I started the spring with a rug. I was on fire. I also purchased two tulip chairs and a decoratively painted ladder. I shoved all of my new treasures on the porch. What did I have? No seriously, besides the birth of a junk yard? Nothing.

All winter I tossed and turned during the night. How do I make this work? Where are the instructions? I toyed with hanging basket ideas, and then figured the birds would move into hanging ferns and it would just be one more disaster. This week I reached the point of trashing all of my treasures. I pulled everything of the porch. As I examined the individual pieces, artifacts of my last four summers, I laughed at some things. I cried as I looked at other items. I realized that each component of the porch was a piece of me, just like the pieces in my home. I had created a room. I had not created a room in which I was comfortable. What was I to do?

If you actually know me, the answer is simple. REARRANGE. I have friends and colleagues who laugh incessantly at my need to rearrange items both big and small until they are just right. I began moving things around on the porch. I did not go for the staged look, I went for function. I worked to make a den for myself. See what you think…


...and yes, I know some of the pots are empty looking. I am waiting for seeds to germinate!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Revolutionary Chilli Dip

I like things to be easy.

Recently, my good friend Alex and I went to eat in a small North Carolina town that had a "great I-talian" place. Being unafraid of a small town dive, Alex and I braved the trip and went to eat. I ordered a salad, Chicken Piccata (which gave me confindence in the establishment since they had more than just lasagna and spaghetti). The salad arrived and then the Chicken Piccata was brought out. It looked lovely, and it was served with a side of...you guessed it, spaghetti. I began eating my chicken which was excellent save for the overly crisp artichokes which were somehow introduced to the dish. I then thought, I should try the spaghetti, after all they were nice enough to serve it. MISTAKE! I used my spoon, and twirled those noodles around my fork expecting a nice sauce. Instead I was introduced to Dollar Store spaghetti sauce infused with canned chilli. For crying ourt loud people, it does not take that much time to brown meat to add to spaghetti sauce! So, why am I talking about my trip to North Carolina for Italian while sharing a dip recipe? It turns out that canned chilli is suitable for the base of a wonderful dip.

If you are from the South and many of you are, you will know that we like a good battle. So why not use some darn good shooting dip the next time you do battle with a stack of chips! The basic idea in this dip is simple, chilli and cream cheese. Immediately, you may think, I don't keep spare chilli just hanging around the house. Well, I don't either...kinda. As I grew up in some of the finest school cafeterias South Carolina had to offer in the late seventies and eighties, one thing was always readily availible, Bunker Hill Chilli. When the FDA approved ketup as a vegatable, the brave ladies of the cafeteria fought for the right to open a can of Bunker Hill and make, as some have often told me, "Them kids some chilli for the hotdogs! We gotta keep 'em happy"

As a child, and even as an adult, I am picky about my hot dogs, I do not want one of those bright red ones like I had in school(and how did they make them so BRIGHT RED? I DO NOT want Bunker Hill Chilli on my hotdog; I want my mama's chilli (recipe to come later if she will share). Yet, Bunker Hill is good for something, this dip. Why call it Revolutionary, simple enough, Bunker Hill, before it went into the chilli canning business, was known as a famous battle site of the American Revolution. This recipe also also uses Philli Cream Cheese, yet another food based site that holds important historical importance as it was the birthplace of the United States Constitution. Who knew my recipes would now have a history lesson embedded?

So before I turn over this recipe, I must give a warning. When melting Cream Cheese in the microwave, be aware that it gets hot and will explode when removed from the microwave if you try to melt it too quickly. I know this from an ugly Christmas incident back in 2005, and still have the burn scar on the side of my nose. I will also offer some variation below the main recipe.

REVOLUTIONARY CHILLI DIP

1 8 oz block Cream Cheese (Philli is my favorite)
1 can of chilli (Bunker Hill would be my recommendation)
1 tsp garlic powder

Place cream cheese in a microwave safe container. Cook on high for 2 minutes. Remove and stir. Repeat until cream cheese is melted, normally after the third time. Place chilli and garlic powder into cream cheese. Mix well and heat on high one final time for two minutes. Serve while hot. Great with tortilla chips!

VARIATION

In the variation, you will need Velveeta Cheese as well. Once the chilli and cream cheese are well mixed, place thin slices of Velveeta over the chilli   andcream cheese mixture. Place under a hot broiler until Velveeta becomes bubblely and starts to brown.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Leave the Luggage Behind…

Planning a great get away? Gonna head to the hills? Maybe you are following the advance of that old Sheryl Crowe song and you're Leaving Las Vegas. Whatever your reason, there may be luggage and packing in your future; especially as it is summer vacation. Many people get excited over the prospect of packing a suitcase. One good friend, let's call him Swain (to protect the guilty) packs for a trip like nothing I've ever seen. In fact, the last time I took him to the airport, another friend, Gill rode with us. As we pulled up to the departure gate, I got out of the car to help with the luggage. Upon returning to the car, Gill innocently inquired, "How long is he going away? Doesn't he know all that cost money?" I had to admit, as I pulled each bag out the car I kept thinking, "fifty dollars, fifty dollars, fifty dollars….. " Swain could have traveled cheaper by renting a U-haul and driving his luggage as opposed to the fees he incurred due to his packing and need to take more items than Diana Ross takes on an 82 city concert tour- he was only traveling for six days. I digress.

The fundamental problem in this story is Swain not knowing what to take, and what to leave behind. In another instance, I traveled with Paul. Paul packs the minimum of what is needed; laptop, toiletries, a pair of pants and shirt for each day and some clean underwear. Enough said. You would think. However, Paul goes to great pain to iron his clothes before packing them, and then as he unpacks at the destination, he is appalled to find that his clothing looks like a Shar-Pei. "This will never do, people will think I have never met an iron."I don't understanding ironing to do more iron when you arrive.

Let's solve a couple of problems in what I like to call, Packing for Travel 101.

  1. You are not moving to the new destination. Repeat it with me. This is aimed at so many people I know. I am ridiculed for a laptop bag, a carry-on bag with a week's supply of clothing, and a tote bag with a few books etc. Yes, I want to have options in my clothing, but for goodness sake, who are you trying to impress on vacation?
  2. If traveling on vacation, roll your clothing or buy some space bags. You will be shocked at the amount of space you save when you pack this way. I began rolling my clothing when I was sixteen years old. I was headed to the middle of nowhere Georgia for Drum Major Camp; I rolled my undergarments and made nice balls out of my socks. This worked rather nicely, before I knew it, was rolling t-shirts, shorts, you name it. The habit even took over in my home life. I challenge you to examine the chest of drawers in my home and find something not rolled. I believe this is a key to saving space when traveling. I also believe I support this method as everything you roll begins looking a Little Debbie Swiss Cake, one of my favorites from childhood.
  3. When traveling and not flying, DO NOT PACK A SUITCASE! I am not saying roam Myrtle Beach baring all. I am simply offering an alternative. Use a plastic storage bin. My friend, Boy Scout Max, has shown me the light in this area. Max does not pack a suitcase for a week at the beach; instead he packs a plastic bin. Sounds strange, but I assure you it works. Let's dissect this idea. If you pack your clothing in bin, you have more room and you do not have to struggle with zippers catching your clothing. Second, when you arrive at the destination, you will unpack. No big deal. Here is the beauty in Max's plan. Use the bin as a laundry hamper. I hate nothing more than having to fold dirty clothes so they can be packed for the return trip only to arrive home, throw them in the washing machine, and inevitably, folding them yet again. Life is too short, sling the clothes in the bin and move on with vacation.
  4. In The South, yes it is capitalized in our part of the world; we like to take food products on vacation. For instance, all of my childhood beach memories involve getting up early in the morning, say 4:00 am, to load the car with luggage and groceries which were purchased the night before, that now need to be bagged again for the trip. Let me assure the bread was always a mess by the time we reached Horry County. Why bother with paper or those pesky white plastic bags? Take Max's advice and use a storage bin. For non-perishable items, the plastic bin works well too. It is a miracle of modern science.

I hope these tips will enlighten and make travel easier. Enjoy the summer and vacation…don't stress over the luggage!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sleepy +Poet = Bargain Fun



Do you love antiques, vintage, or just fun Junque? I do…in fact I thrive on it. You never know when you will need an additional punch bowl, a new set of Fire King Bowls, or even some new plates, silver or what have you. If you read this blog, then you already know I love linens and many other things from the past. Where do you find such great items? Well, let me personally endorse the Sleepy Poet in Charlotte, NC. The shop is located at 4450 South Blvd, opened late Friday and Saturday, for those of you who hate to stop antique shopping at 5 o’clock - (704) 529-6369 for more details. This 55,000 square foot store offers anything you could possibly need, want, or purchase. This mega mart of antiques boasts some of the most unique items you will find in the Upstate/Metrolina area.
So, what have I picked up there? Over the years numerous items for home and office have come from the “Poet.” One of my favorite finds was a steal of a deal – a bridge table with inlaid wood, a shocking $45. You just can’t find deals like that anywhere else, I know, trust me, I’ve done the leg work in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and even a few peeks into Tennessee.
So large furniture is not your thing due to limited room in the house? Well, I believe one can rearrange the house to squeeze one more thing in the rooms. Recently, I have come to the realization that I need to build-on to the house to accommodate more furniture. As I shared this with one vendor in the “Poet,” she told me she used to supply extra rooms on homes, but due to the recent swing in the economy, home construction for items was no longer a service. This is an example of what make the “Poet” a great place to shop. You see vendors in the shop all the time and get to know many of them personally as they strike up conversations with those wide-eyed shoppers.
In The Sleepy Poet, you will also find a wide variety of glassware and silver (sterling and plate). I enjoy looking at each piece, and I even have my eye locked in on a beautiful item to hold my decanters, I would love to tell you about its location, but then you might think it would look beautiful in your home too. I purchased 6 embroidered linen napkins on my last visit for $6. Vintage linens for such a price, unheard of! Now, I just have to find somewhere to store them as my linens will soon need a room of their own; maybe if I write her, Martha Stewart will take pity on me and build a linen room for my house. I also procured a tiled tray from the 1960’s, several ramekins for a future dinner party, and a Forest Green Vase.
As you can tell, the shopping at the “Poet” is addictive and easy. A special service unique to the poet is the roving staff. Yes, most antique stores have someone walking around with a sour look on their face waiting for you to drop a piece Fenton; not the staff at The Sleepy Poet, they are there for you. As you pile your treasures in your arms and begin to struggle with them as you walk around the store, a friendly face often pops up to say, “Can take this up front to start of stack for you while you finish shopping? “ What a welcomed relief, as I am extremely clumsy and have single handedly destroyed a display in the local Stein Mart while walking around. I swear I did not touch it ;my sister disputes this statement to this day… If the guys and gals of the “Poet” will walk my finds to the front of the store, who am I to complain? It is just less risk of me dropping something or being accused of such.
Did I mention the clothes? So, Vintage dressing fits you like a pair of strappy sandals fits Carrie Bradshaw? You can’t beat the “Poet.” I will admit, several winter coats in my closet were adopted at The Sleepy Poet. I would recommend shopping here for those readers who attend Retro-Fest in Spartanburg each year. You will out shine everyone.
I encourage you to walk around The Sleepy Poet soon. As you explore the store, be sure to ask for a map, yes you may get lost, but if you are as Obsessive-Compulsive as I am, then you need have a plan of attack for the shop. The map helps in this plan. As you enter listen to the music, I don’t know whose playlist this is, but it is the best music of any antique store I’ve ever entered; Vanilla Ice, to the Beatles, The Eagles to ABBA. In fact I would love to get many of the songs for myself. There are so many different items, I feel like every little treasure I find was personally put there for me; kind of like an Island of Misfit Toys for a Adults, but even better no misfits here it’s an Island of Antique Finds!



Island of Antique Finds…to the tune of Island of Misfit Toys…Just for Fun!



We're at the Sleepy Poet
Here we’re on display
We want to travel with you today
In your car far away!

A pack full of silver
Means a fun time to polish
For millions of girls
And for millions of boys
When you buy something here
The most wonderful day of the year.

A Fenton Compote waits for collectors to shout
"Wake up! Don't you know that it's time to take me out!"
When you buy something here
The most wonderful day of the year.



Finds galore, Greet you at the door
There's no room for more
And it's the cause of joyful calls.

A rocker for Jimmy
A dolly for Sue
The kind that will even say, "How do you do?"
When buy something here
The most wonderful day of the year.

--(this part is spoken)--
How would you like to find a Depression glass bowl?
Or a Vintage bowtie with polka dots and stripes?
Or a punch bowl that still has glasses?
They're all antiques!
How would you like to find a crystal vase? It’s Waterford!
Or a carnival glass flower frog?
Or a gravy boat that’s Sterling Silver?
They're all antiques.

If we're at The Sleepy Poet
We'll miss all the fun with the girls and the boys
When you decorate your house
The most wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful day of the year!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Flashback Party

As summer is getting into full swing, entertainment is flourishing. Backyard cookouts are the order of the day, but how do you make your gathering stand out? BBQ Chicken or maybe corn roasted on the grill would set your party apart. So what do you do? Here are two ideas to help make you shine in front of your guest.
Plan One- Simple enough, have a television themed party. I know what you are thinking, cook and watch television, where is the fun in that? Actually, you make it retro. Use an online movie service to rent a classic television show. You will want to theme the menu for the event around the television show. For example, you could watch Barnaby Jones, the first episode in season one, shows that the great detective loves milk and ribs. So serve up some ribs with milk and homemade cookies for dessert. You could also create a great meal based on Wonder Woman, with Paradise Island Fruit Salad (a nod to Diana Prince’s homeland)…. However you decide to do it, it is an extraordinary opportunity to flashback to the great by gone days of television, image The Facts of Life with Toottie Fruiti desert and Polniaczek Pierogies (for those fans of Jo).
Plan Two- You can have Drive-In Movie night to entertain the masses. This is a great theme idea that is sure to please. First acquire a movie projector. I found mine at a local department store for less than $75. Use the sde of the house, a fence panel, or even a whit sheet hanging from the clothesline. Decide on a movie which is family friendly, remember you are turning the backyard into a movie theatre, don’t have a movie with a lot of swearing, as the neighbors will not approve. Theme the meal to coordinate with a drive in menu, hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, even an assortment of candy bars and other candies for dessert. Don’t forget the popcorn for an appetizer.
Below are some ideas for television shows and movies… Share your ideas and menus with others when you host your flashback party.

Classic Television Ideas (In no particular order)
1. Wonder Woman
2. Barnaby Jones
3. Hawaii Five-O (which returns to television this fall)
4. I Love Lucy
5. My Three Sons
6. Mister Ed
7. Mary Tyler Moore Show
8. The Munsters
9. Gilligan’s Island
10. Charlie’s Angels
Movie Ideas (Friendly for all ages- In no particular order)
1. Watcher in the Woods
2. North Avenue Irregulars
3. The Trouble with Angles
4. The Ghost and Minster Chicken
5. The Great Muppet Caper
6. Desk Set
7. Bell, Book, and Candle
8. Seems Like Old Times
9. Arsenic and Old Lace
10. Harvey