Apr 30, 2013

Out Of Pocket

Construction has begun on our house, so Miss Priss and I decided to escape for a couple weeks and headed down to the Gulf Coast.  We're soaking up the sun poolside, and getting used to the beach- a minor wave that splashed Miss Priss' calves was a setback this morning.  I even managed to read a few pages of my new Julia Reed book purchased from my favorite bookstore, Sundog Books, while Dell Harper had her snack break sitting on a lounge chair like her mama.

Well, I'm back to document review, as this is a working vacation, but I wanted to let y'all know about some chicken before I sign off.  My favorite Highway 331 dining establishment, "It Don't Matter", is currently under construction after a fire, so Mama and I were at a bit of a loss as to where to eat supper on the way down here.  Based on the number of cars in the parking lot, we stopped at the Chicken Shack in Luverne, Alabama.  We each had a couple pieces of fried chicken, slaw and fries.  It was delicious, and Miss Priss enjoyed smiling and waving at all the other patrons.

She then got to run around in the grass behind the place, and had her diaper changed in said grass in view of a couple of trailers.  Apparently, Mama and I are determined to ensure that girl does not forget her East Tennessee roots while on vacation.

Apr 25, 2013

Furriness and Flowers

Well, I made hay while the sun was shining today, and planted my containers full of red geraniums, sweet potato vine, and various other pretties I picked up at my favorite nursery.  Dell Harper played happily while I dug and watered.   I decided to just do containers this year, as my beds' soil is absolutely terrible, even after tilling and changing out the soil last year.  Also, portability is nice when trying to plant with a toddler going here, there and everywhere.

Buddy happily supervised, until I got to the watering part.  He is a weirdo golden retriever, as he will not get near water of any sort, other  than his bowl.  Good thing Dell Harper feels differently, as she goes under in her final swim lesson Saturday.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend, full of flowers and sunshine.  Hurrah for spring!

Apr 23, 2013

Blood, Snot and Tears

When I was down in Atlanta this past weekend, I was visiting with Kingsley and her mom.  I casually remarked that I do not care about having expensive clothes anymore.  She looked at me rather incredulously, which is not altogether unwarranted.  I have always loved clothes.  New clothes.  Pretty ones.  Expensive ones.

This lack of interest in a new Milly or Trina Turk or Nanette Lepore dress exemplifies for me how I have changed since becoming a mother.  Sure, I like to look cute still- I haven't completely lost my mind.  However, function comes first now.  Also, it probably helps that I go out a lot less, so I can wear the same thing over and over and over.

This is who gets the expensive clothes now.

The thing is- I spend my days chasing after this bundle of cuteness.  Clothing budget?  It goes to Miss Priss. She looks darling in everything she puts on, naturally.

The primary requirements for myself?  Machine washable and inexpensive.  Miss Priss is precious, but, law, is she is a mess!  Her nose is always running, she is drooling with molars coming in, and she has an affinity for digging in any sort of dirt.

My daily uniform of Target and Old Navy.  I always thought being a Lululemon mom would be cool.  Now I think $80 dollar yoga pants are insanity- that's 4 smocked dresses at the consignment sale, folks!

The thing is, I never want to recoil from my daughter to save my silk blouse or pricey dress, as she hurtles towards me smeared with yogurt, or needs a cuddle and a kiss on her snotty face after a bloody scraped knee.

I still love to admire beautiful clothes, but my sweet girl and said snotty nose are far more fun to admire.

And as much as I love those all white interiors I see in shelter magazines, this is what my house looks like right now after Hurricane Toddler hit (can you tell I'm procrastinating cleaning right now?).  I don't think I could handle even white walls- they would have hand prints on them immediately!  Those of you with those beautiful, calming white-filled houses must have magic toddlers.  Please share your secrets!

I really don't mind though.  Nothing should be to precious to prevent play in my house right now.  That doesn't mean I have tossed my objets d'art or thrown out the good china.  They're just on high shelves.

I want my child to be able to come sit on the sofa with her daddy and read a book.  I want her to climb up into the big leather chair and bounce with glee clutching her favorite stuffed animal.  Push the furniture around and open the cabinets.  It brings me such joy to watch Miss Priss explore and play- I don't want to stop her because the sofa is too expensive to touch, or she might spit up on the rug.

There is so much stress and worry that comes with parenthood.  Plus it's gross sometimes a lot of the time.  Why would I want to add to that stress by worrying over a rogue goldfish that was crumbled into the couch?  Or a bloody knee that was rubbed into the rug?  Milk spilled onto the nursery curtains?  (This was all just this past week, by the way).  Clean it up, and move on.  I will have pristine, light colored,  high-end furnishings when children are grown.  Right now I want a warm, welcoming house, where no one is afraid to mess something up or feels the need to remove their shoes.

The other day I made an effort to get out of my exercise/play clothes rut.  I put on a nice hand-wash only oatmeal-colored sweater, black pants, and snakeskin loafers.  I was looking good.  Then I picked up DH, her diaper leaked, and I was covered in poop.  There was nothing to do but laugh.

I'm back to the Old Navy workout gear, and I've never felt as beautiful.  A laughing, dirty toddler embracing my $20 pant clad leg is more flattering to me than any designer dress ever could be.  I guess that is what the change is- your life is no longer your own.  However, it is such an indescribable joy to be a fundamental part of your child's life that you simply don't mind very much.

Even when you are covered in disgusting substances.

Apr 22, 2013

Plump and Sassy

That's how Martha Hall Foose describes this chicken dish.  An excellent descriptor, and one I have used to describe myself on occasion.

This excellent late spring supper comes from her cookbook, A Southerly Course, which of course, I highly recommend, if solely for reading purposes.  It is always nice to make something sophisticated and fresh, that uses readily available ingredients and the omnipresent boneless skinless chicken breast.

Butter Breast of Chicken

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 (5) ounce chicken breasts
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
2 cups panko crumbs

  • In a small bowl, combine the butter, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Spoon the butter onto a piece of plastic wrap, and shape into a log.  Wrap tightly in the wrap, and place in the freezer until firm- about five minutes.
  • Put a chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap, and pound to an even thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.  Place a quarter of the butter in the center of each breast and roll the chicken around the butter  Secure each roll with a couple of toothpicks.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Set up three shallow dishes- one with flour, one with egg, and one with panko.  Dredge each piece of chicken in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in the panko- pat the panko crumbs in tot he chicken.  Place the chicken in a large baking dish- taking care not to crowd.
  • Okay, here Martha Hall Foose says to bake it for 15 minutes.  I have never met a chicken breast who will bake in 15 minutes, but maybe that is just me.  I say give it about 30 minutes, and check for doneness.

The lemony chicken is perfectly paired with a quick and garlicky side of spaghetti squash tossed with fresh homemade pesto.  Especially since the whole thing takes 10-12 minutes.  I have never loved spaghetti squash as much as I did prepared like this.

Summertime Spaghetti Squash:

1 spaghetti squash
1/2 tightly packed cup of fresh basil leaves
2 heaping tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (plus more to top)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cups toasted pecans
1 minced garlic clove
salt and pepper

Prick the squash in 3-4 places with a fork, place on a plate, and cover loosely with saran wrap.  Microwave at full blast for 9 minutes, and let stand covered for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pesto.  Put the basil, cheese, oil, garlics, nuts, salt and pepper to taste in a food processor and pulse until well combined.  (I used my mini- processor and it worked just fine).

Once the squash is cool enough to touch, halve it and scrape out the seeds.  Using a fork, scrape the pulp into a large bowl.  Add the pesto and toss to combine.

Writing this post is going to send me straight to the fridge to eat the leftovers.  I finished off dinner with a brown rice medley cooked in chicken broth, tossed with toasted pecans and the last of my green onions (sob!).

This was extra delicious as it met my needs of reasonably fresh and healthy, and Morgan's need of not overtly "healthy" and super tasty.  Thanks Martha Hall Foose!

Apr 18, 2013

Little Happies, Part 2

 I got home from an event tonight to find this treasure trove in my mailbox.  The HGTV and Food Network ones were a wonderful happy prize from a friend who works at Scripps.  It just made my day!  I am dashing off this post in order to get reading.

My favorite stationery store has a Scottie dog named Alice as its mascot/store dog/owner's pup.  Dell Harper is obsessed.  These pictures are from this winter, but you get the gist.
 These are separate occasions, mind you.  My dad offered several times to get Dell Harper a Scottie for her birthday, but I did not want Morgan to leave me, so he refrained.
 Anyway, Wednesday was Alice's birthday, so we just had to pop in for some cookies and champagne.

While there, I could not resist this wrapping paper.

And these recipe cards.

On the glum side of things, my favorite road/main thoroughfare/road I drive a million times a day because it has no lights is closed until November.  This is awful, and traffic is terrible.  However, sitting in said traffic, I glanced out the window to spy these tables at a junkstore/antique market.  I liked them.  Then I was sitting in front of the store in traffic again a couple hours later, and thought about them some more.  I finally bought them today, after a couple more traffic contemplations. The lady gave me some money off the marked price, which I used to promptly purchase some more antique cookbooks.

Aren't they pretty?  I am going to chalk paint them, because the finish is actually in pretty bad shape.  I am thinking a soft warm yellow- Annie Sloan's Arles.  If I don't like it, I can always paint over it, right?

Speaking of chalk paint, Mama and I are collaborating on a painted piece of furniture for a local charity auction.

Please ignore the iPhone pictures of an unfinished project- I still have to sand and wax the red coat, which is still wet.  Mama made the animals, which we are going to glue on top.  I have a feeling this might have to return to my house after the auction.  It has Dell Harper written all over it!

Okay, off to read my magazines and relax!

Apr 17, 2013

Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch

So back to my normal inanity.  I tried a recipe out of "How to Cook With One Ear", and those Atlanta realtor ladies are not messing around.  This took about five minutes to make, was delicious, and even better the next day, after chilling in the refrigerator overnight.

Click the picture to enlarge to see the entire recipe.

I doubled the vanilla, because I love vanilla and had just about 2 teaspoons left on my bottle, but stuck to the recipe otherwise.

I almost had the same problem of a story I heard my mom tell once about one of my grandmother's friends, if I recall correctly.

She made a big pie while her husband was at work, and while it cooled, set about doing her household chores.  While she was ironing, she decided she just had to have a little sliver of the pie, so she cut herself a small slice, then got back to work.  Well, we all know that ironing is not the most exciting of occupations, so she was compelled to have another teeny piece, then another.

Next thing you know, she looks down and half of that pie is gone!  She was terribly embarrassed for her husband to get home and see that she had eaten half the pie, so she was left with no alternative.  She just had to eat the whole darn thing before he got home from work.

It's a good thing I made this one after supper when Morgan was home, or else it might have met the same fate!

Apr 16, 2013

How Green is My Valley

Like most Americans, my heart is heavy for the people of Boston, and for those affected by the bombs. I lack the insight or understanding to shed any new light or comfort on the situation, beyond the trite sayings all over Facebook.   I'm also saddened by how desensitized I've become to bombs and terrorist acts.

I dashed down to Atlanta on Sunday to see a darling baby, two new mamas, and  two soon to be mamas.   I took the old highway down, in order to prevent highway hypnosis, since I was driving to and thro in the same day. A friend in high school actually got highway hypnosis, as warned about in Driver's Ed.  She missed her exit, and we had to go all the way to the next county to turn around at the next exit.  A major incident, obviously, resulting in a great fear of highway hypnosis.

Anyway, it was so lovely to drive down through teeny little towns, checking out dilapidated old gas stations and watching the leaves bud out, and slowly become greener and greener, as I headed south and to lower elevations.  The highway follows a ridge down through the last bit of the Appalachians into Georgia, and the fields were verdant and lush after the recent rains.  It was so much more enjoyable that the illuminated billboarded monotony of 75 South.

I packed up Dell Harper's wardrobe from her first year of life to take down to little Miss Lucy, who is almost exactly a year younger than Miss Priss.
I held up one of these teeny swimsuits and coo-ed over it to Morgan.  He rather incredulously replied, "What is that?!?"  He was shocked when I told him that it was Dell Harper's swimsuit from last year.  I am so glad that another adorable little baby girl will wear all of my favorite of Dell Harper's outfits.  Annie- I will need lots of pictures of that darling girl!!

I zipped around Atlanta, visiting, laughing, and just loving seeing some of my dearest friends on the planet.  It's amazing how the smiles of good friends can quiet an unsettled soul. Then I had a quiet dinner with the new Vanity Fair at my favorite Whole Foods, right next to my old nanny cottage, and drove home to crawl into bed, as it was far past my bedtime.  However, six hours of uninterrupted alone time as I drove there and back was absolute bliss, to be frank.  Combined with the aforementioned joy, I came home a rejuvenated woman.

This was needed, as a nagging sense of unquiet or discontent has been buzzing in the background of my mind lately.  One of those sad feelings in the pit of your stomach that you just can't quite shake, and I fear I am passing this feeling to those around me, by being snappish or grumpy.

The teeny church on my parents' road had a wonderful reminder for me tonight- "Be as patient with others as God is with you."  What a wonderful ideal to reach for!  Patience is not one of my virtues- I am quick to decisions, to move, and to judge.  I think of the old highway to Atlanta, which is a bit slower, but a far more enjoyable road to travel than the buzzing interstate- I want to try to enjoy the green valleys instead of jumping to the blurred white lines interrupted only by fast food signs.  It is a constant battle, but one I will fight with renewed force!

If Dell Harper could read, I'm sure she would like to point out this post frequently as she has her teething molar toddler moments.  Everyone needs a little God-like patience for those!

Whelp, that's my serious, slightly deep thoughts for the year or perhaps, decade.  I'll be back with custard pie later this week.

Apr 11, 2013

In the Kitchen

 So I learned in this endeavor that it is really hard to take pictures of a galley kitchen.  Here it goes!

This is looking into the mudroom- see how wonderful the dutch door can be.  Buddy is chilling right behind it.

Here is a before picture.

 We traded out the electric stove for gas.  Running a gas line was inexpensive, and I adore my Dacor range top.  It is easy to clean, and boils water in a jiffy.

We also switched out the granite-look lavender laminate countertops for granite.  For me this was about function.  I wanted stone, in order to place hot items on it.  I knew going from stone in the condo to laminate would end up in some melted plastic countertops.  And you can just imagine how beautiful lavender laminate was.

 Another huge change was ditching the fluorescent box light.  Originally we just switched it to some track lighting, then when we redid the family room ceiling, we added can lighting to the kitchen as well.  Once again, this was about function and use. Good lighting in a kitchen that lacks much natural light was a must for me for cooking.

The doorway into the family used to be a wall with a cut out, like the wall above the sink.  Opening it completely up was a revelation!
(Katie, do you spy SS's contribution to the fridge?)

I chose gray cabinets because I was concerned that with the light walls, floor, and countertops, white cabinets would disappear and my kitchen would become a sea of beige.  The gray is River Gorge Gray by Benjamin Moore.  Honestly, at first I was worried about it.  It is very green gray, and changes in different light.  Now?  I love it.  It has totally grown on me, and I love how it changes depending on the time of day.

The below picture is immediately after we moved in, as I tried to unpack.  Ahhh, the old gray porcelain tile.   I miss thee not at all.
 Adding hardware made an incredible difference to the cabinets, which just did not fit the house or my aesthetics at all.  I used hardware from Home Depot's Martha Stewart line.

I love my cheerful little eating area.  Ha, with broken closet door and all.  The closet houses grill stuff, vacuum, and appliance.  A pantry is next to it.

Looking into the den.  Opening this wall up is especially wonderful because I can see straight form the den/family room through the kitchen, into the living room.

Ignore the towel that Buddy dragged into the kitchen from the mudroom, please.
This bookcase?  Used to be the entrance into the family room.  It was a pain- impossible for flow and  table placement.  Now it holds cookbooks, pots, phone, and a basket full of high chair trays and bibs.

 The other door is the aforementioned pantry.  I'm not showing you the inside of either closet because my messiness lurks inside.  Secret shame.
 View from the kitchen table into the living room.

My favorite part of the kitchen is all my artwork.  Dell Harper loves to point at the dog paintings and say "DOG! DOG! DOG!", until I take her over the pet the paintings.  It's very cute, but also a bit nerve inducing depending on what she is eating.  We do a lot of air-petting.

So if I was on Cribs* I would conclude this post by saying "And this is where the magic happens!"  However, I spend a ton of time in this kitchen, and I just love it.  Although, Morgan grumbles because when the dishwasher is open you can't walk past, a galley kitchen is the ideal shape for cooking.  By yourself.

*Is Cribs still on?  I wish it would be.  What an amazing television show.

Little Happies

 Have I told y'all that I collect vintage cookbooks?  Weird hobby, I know.  I just love them- 1940's, 50's and early 1960's are my favorites.

So One King's Lane had a sale of old cookbooks, and I just could not resist.  The children's cookbook from the 40's shown above?  Charming as hell, with the Shirley Temple lookalike model.

1958's Thoughts for Buffets is a dream.  Full of menus- my favorite.  I just love imagining imaginary parties, swishing around in a full skirt, preparing the aspics and rings of vegetables.

 The title of this one created by an Atlanta realty firm in the 1970's is just awesome.  As is the fact that artichoke dip is considered a salad.

My neighbor is a retired agriculture professor with the most amazing vegetable garden.  I got fresh broccoli all winter, and now spring onions are arriving on my back porch.  I am overwhelmed with delight- these things are HUGE and delicious.

Aren't they just gorgeous? I have been eating sliced green onion with everything.  With the latest delivery, I am hauling out my cast iron skillet for a little Spring Onion Pie.

Old cookbooks and green onions- I am a happy lady.  What is floating your boat these days?