Friday, July 31, 2009
FGT is the artist who made the "RELAX" piece of artwork and it hangs in one of her bathrooms. She made it! We all want one too. So the plan is to go to the art studio called "A Fine Mess" and make one for ourselves to take home. I am all over this idea and can't wait to get started. PRC is a little hesitant but too bad! She's going! (And as it turned out.....PRC's piece ended up being the best and most "artsy" one in my opinion.) So all the sweaty runners showered and off we went to "Michael's" for us each to pick out a canvas. Next stop was the art studio. We walk into a cute art shop with lots of tables covered in colorful paint tarps in the back where we will create our masterpieces. Of course I walk in dressed in white from head to toe but no worries they had lots of big shirts to wear as painting smocks to protect our clothes.
Armed with our Naked Pita Chips, guacamole, and red licorice we are ready for the first layer and start painting the entire surface of our canvases. Next comes decorative paper that we can cut or tear anyway we want. We decoupage these onto the surface. We add more color with a dry brush. Swirls and stripes get added. Gold paint to write with. We are pressed for time and the studio is closing but we all finished somehow (everyone except FGT but she lives there and come back to finish) and voila.....we all have our own art souvenir to take home. They are beautiful!
The plan now calls for us to go to the market and get what we need to make dinner. We are staying at the house and going to make a fabulous meal with great wine and appetizers. I am in charge of making Bruchetta and find a nice hunk of Parmesan Reggiano. The tomatoes at the market are a bit anemic looking so we decide to doctor up the Costco Bruchetta at the house. DME gets all of the "fixin's" (I've been living in the South way too long and words like "fixin's" keep creeping into my vocabulary) to make a Greek Salad. We find some crusty bread and FGT picks up a box of "Goodies" (which are like Good and Plenty's) candy for our dessert.
Back at the house we poured a glass of wine and began the preparation of our feast. DME's Greek salad tasted as wonderful as it looked, the bruchetta was delicious and the "Goodies" made me kind of sick because I ate too many. Something about wine and licorice don't really work well together. I need to remember this for the future. FGT's wonderful husband (who set the bar unbelievably high for husband behavior because he basically checked into a hotel along with their boys for the weekend so that we could have the house to ourselves!) gave us each a huge bottle of Maple Syrup to take home. THANK YOU! Oh and don't let me forget the bottle of Sterling Cabernet he provided us! So after high levels of laughing, eating and drinking it was soon after midnight and we all had to get to bed because we had to be up at 4:00 AM to get to the airport for our early morning flight back home and back to reality. Au revoir Ottawa. A bientot.....we only scratched the surface and want to go back!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Our dinner reservations were for 6:00pm at the "Oldest Inn in Montreal". That is all I know. I lost the brochure that I was going to reference for my blog post today. I am so ashamed. What kind of blogger am I? (If I had to guess and with a little help from Google....I think we were at the Aberge Saint Gabriel but don't hold me to that.) Anyway, we arrived at the Inn's restaurant and the door is locked. We had to ring a door bell but someone came to let us in and as it turned out, he ended up being our waiter, our bartender and our somalier. He was young, and very polite and had a cute french accent. Cocktails were ordered right away. The building we were in was incredibly quaint and old. Very old in fact. I think it was built in the 1600's but since I can't find my brochure you'll have to take my word for it.
After the cocktails they brought us out a little something that had a wedge of chicken liver pate on it. Pretty to look at but that was not going in my mouth! (I am not a very good Foodie.) Everyone else said it was tasty. PRC (Public Relations Consultant) had a calamari appetizer that looked like a flower to me and DME (Digital Marketing Expert) had a plate of yellow beets with goat cheese. I thought beets only came in Scarlet red? FGT (First Grade Teacher) and I each had a salad. Our Doorman/Waiter/Bartender/Somalier recommended a bottle of wine for us and we ordered our dinner. We were in our own private dinning room with stone walls and a fireplace with no fire in it because, well it's July. Did I say this place was old yet?
My memory might be fuzzy because of all the wine we were drinking and all the laughing we were doing but I think I had a filet mignon with the most wonderful stuffed portabello mushroom and asparagus. FGT and PRC had the same and DME had a grilled smoked salmon. All delicious. More laughing and more wine and the hours were passing. Time for dessert. FGT insisted we try Sugar Pie which is unique to Quebec and so we did; along with a Creme Brulee and a Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream. The Sugar Pie reminded us all of a Pecan Pie without the Pecans. It was very good. With each dessert we would each take a bite and pass the plate to next person so we got to enjoy a taste or two or three of all of them. Coffee? Oh I couldn't! Well maybe just one cup. Decaf s'il vous plait.
Four hours and over $400 dollars later it was time to call it a night. It was truly an experience. Au Revoir Oldest Inn in Montreal. Our Designated Driver and "Pierre" somehow got us out of the city and it was not the way we came in but that was okay. We were home some two hours later. A perfectly jammed packed, Poutine and Sugar Pie kind of day.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
We go on our merry way and know that in about 45 minutes we have to put more money in the computerized meter but the beauty of this new system is that we can enter in the money from any of the parking meter boxes anywhere in the city. So we don't have to go back to where our car is parked. We can just continue to walk and use a box along the way. So shopping we go. We are on St. Catherine's street in the heart of Montreal's shopping district and there are lots of trendy shops and restaurants and people everywhere. Time to put more money in the meter so FGT (First Grade Teacher) leaves the store we are in and goes out to do just that. No problem. We love this system. She comes back and we continue to walk and shop along St. Catherines. So many fun looking places to stop for lunch but we are all still trying to work off the Poutine from earlier in the day and nobody is hungry.
A couple of hours later and it is time to feed the meter again and we are very close to our time limit and because it is all computerized the city can then dispatch a meter maid/attendant directly to the offending vehicle with a ticket instead of them wandering up and down the street looking for expired meters. It is a very efficient system. So we are cutting it close and start moving up the street looking for the Parking Meter boxes. The first box only has letters for D, E, F, and G. We go to the next one and it's the same thing. The next one is A, B, D, and E. WTF??? They skipped our letter C! We run to the next one and it's the same thing. We split up with FGT on one side of the street and me on the other side of the street running from one meter box to the next calling out and using hand signals looking for the "C". DME (Digital Marketing Expert) and PRC (Public Relations Consultant) are following us and trying to keep up until PRC sees a shop with handbags, purses, and totes that she wants to stop in. NO STOPPING! We must find the letter "C"!!!
After scampering up at least five more blocks I hit a box and alleluia it has our letter "C". Of course by now we are a good 20 minutes late and we have visions of a Parking Meter Attendant with an evil laugh putting tickets under the windshield wiper blade but FGT goes ahead and puts in more "loonies" and "twoonies" (which are the Canadian coins worth $1.00 and $2.00 each) and we breathe a sigh of relief. At this point we are so close to our car and a bit shopped out so we decide it's time to head to Old Montreal to check it out before our dinner reservations. So that is what we did. If Mr. Stranger Man ever offers you parking meter advice, you need to take it. "Thanks Mr. Stranger Man! Next time we will pay attention to the letter". Oh and just so you know...there was no ticket waiting on the windshield when we got there. "Thanks Mr. Computerized Futuristic Parking Meter Guy!"
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Next exit....nothing but countryside. Exit after exit and no gas stations. We hear a "ding" and the little icon of a gas pump appears on the dashboard. And did I mention that we have been driving through rain off and on? Our chauffeur decides that the next exit has to have a gas station and so we take it. We are somewhere in Quebec at this point. We see a cute little "town" ahead and start looking for a gas station. We pull up next to a pick up truck and ask him where a gas station might be and he asks us in French if we speak French. Pas de tout....Not at all! Then he points and not 100 feet ahead of us is one old and decrepit looking gas station. But they have gas and a toilet! As far as gas station bathrooms go....this one was well, kind of gross. But when you've gotta go...you've gotta go. So we filled up one tank and emptied four others.
Okay, so what exactly is Poutine anyway? Well, let me start by saying it is delicious in a kind of artery clogging way. They took a foil pan and heaped in some french fries. The fries are then topped with cheese curds. Yes, cheese curds like in cottage cheese only these "curds" are gigantic and bit on the rubbery side. Then the whole thing is covered in a brown gravy. This is stick to your ribs kind of stuff and not very pretty to look at but it is really, really good! So the four of us dug in. Mmmmmmm.....Poutine......Mmmmmm. Bellies full and with a full tank of gasoline we continued on to Montreal.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Day 1: I was the last to be picked up at the airport and from there we headed directly into downtown Ottawa. What a gorgeous city! The Rideau Canal winds through the city and the buildings are beautiful. The downtown area is lined with restaurants, shops, and outdoor cafes and so our first stop was to have a cocktail outdoors at The Aulde Dubliner.
Dinner was next and the reservations were at the Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro and I have to admit the menu made me a little nervous. It is was a quaint restaurant and the menu choices were rabbit, duck, wild boar, bison, buffalo, venison, and trout. Ok, there was some salmon too. But not being a big fish eater and not too fond of any form of "game" I was feeling a bit anxious. I tried to hide my desperation and asked the waiter what kind of soup they had that night and was happy when told it was Potato Leek with Fennel. That soup was heavenly good. All of our food was heavenly good. The Public Relations Consultant's "Gathering Nations Salad" was fabulous. The First Grade Teacher's buffalo was delicious. We all had a bite. Yes, I am proud to say I ate buffalo. The Digital Marketing Expert and I shared a stuffed carrot. And it was the best stuffed carrot I ever ate! It was incredible. Stuffed with quinoa and lentils and a reduction sauce of maple syrup and some other unidentifiable flavors and it turned out to be a party in my mouth! So the Cheese Specialist/Homemaker/Blogging Novice stepped outside of her box and enjoyed her stuffed carrot and a taste of buffalo all in the same night. It was a fabulous restaurant and evening.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
We have 7 fire detectors hard wired in the house. One in every bedroom, two in the hallway outside the bedrooms and one downstairs near the kitchen. We ended up disabling 3 of them after almost a full hour of intermittent alarms and chirping. So now we have to do some shopping for replacements. I say rip every @#!%&*@ one of them out and let's start new. As far as bad nights go...I don't think anyone can top it.
I am leaving for Canada tomorrow morning...hopefully, I can get some sleep there! See you when I get back!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I would never subscribe or even buy a "People" because number one, I am too cheap and number two, that is what waiting rooms are for...catching up on my pop culture. So today, my choices were the "AARP magazine", "Working Mother", a old copy of "Newsweek", and a copy of "Veranda" (which I liked but I couldn't make it last for the whole two hours). And then I saw a new one I had never seen before called "Gardens & Guns". Who is this magazine's audience??? I think it was trying to be a Southern "Town & Country".....lots of photos of estate like homes and men walking up the winding driveway of a country estate with a hunting dog and a gun slung over their shoulder. Hmm....looked like old Southern money to me. Wish I had me some.
Monday, July 20, 2009
It seems my husband and I were at a neighbor's house having dinner or drinks one night and left the kids at home unsupervised...well they were supposed to be supervising each other. Boredom set in after playing their nightly game of Manhunt....in my day we played Kick the Can and Hide and Go Seek but today they play Manhunt and they played that game almost everynight that summer. Hormones were kicking in and suddenly the girls hanging out with the boys and so we always made sure our daughter included her brother as a buffer. Surely, nobody could get in trouble if little brother was tagging along right? Anyway, someone spied a couple of cans of black and green spray paint in our garage and they started laughing about the show on MTV called "Pimp My Ride". Ahh MTV, the quality entertainment provider to our teens. "Pimp My Ride" seems tame compared to what they are showing today but that is another subject for another day.
"Ugly" doesn't begin to describe it. It was embarrassing hauling around my "Miracle Grow Potting Mix" and red geraniums around in my new ghetto wagon and because they removed a couple of the wood sides, my stuff kept falling out the back as I pulled it across the grass. The wagon was a sore subject around our house for a long time. "It wasn't us who did it" they insisted. "We tried to stop "him" but he wouldn't listen" they would whine together. And so all this time we thought it was the neighbor kid when all along it was my own two cherub faced children.
Guilt must have got the best of my daughter because she tried to make it up to me a couple of years ago with one of the nicest Mother's Day gifts she ever gave me. At night when I wasn't paying attention, she attempted to restore it back to it's original red state with white wheels...although in her minds eye she must have thought they were black because that is the color she painted them. She scrubbed it clean and painted it and got it as close to the original as she could. The back wood panel is still missing and the sides are rickety but it doesn't burn your eyeballs to look at as it once did. It would never pass a safety inspection and I wouldn't dare put a child in it but it still works well for the garden and it still makes me smile whenever I look it. I wish I had a before, during, and after photo to show you but my anger prohibited me at the time from documenting their vandalism. Kind of wish I had a picture of it now. But you get the idea and the dog doesn't seem to mind.
These would be great served with shish kabobs or a greek salad which is what I will do until someone gives me a crash course in Indian cooking.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Since I love all things French I had to take a photo of it next to the french rooster pillow. While I am strolling down the streets of Ottawa and Montreal and sipping wine at quaint outdoor cafes (I really need to learn how to type an accent mark), my carry-on sized bag with wheels will force me to make small sized purchases of things to remember my trip by. Jewelry is my only option. I love shopping with a purpose.
Friday, July 17, 2009
My cottage cheese (and I am not talking about my cellulite) looks like Dippin' Dots. I wash my cottage cheese and yes I know that is strange but I just don't like all that white and creamy stuff on my curds. I like it "dry". So I carefully wash or rinse all the white goo off in a strainer under cold water. Most times I am happy with the store brand of cottage cheese but they were out so I went with the higher priced Daisy container. As I was rinsing my cottage cheese this morning I noticed how incredibly uniform all the curds were. They were all exactly the same size not the usual assortment of different sized nuggets. Very odd indeed! No problem...just an observation and I shook on some Texas Pete and they were delicious.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 banana pepper
1 hot pepper or Jalepeno pepper
1 small to medium sized onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. canning salt or coarse Kosher salt
black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
Peel tomatoes by placing them in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove them and place in a large bowl of cold water. The skins should then slip off easily. Core tomatoes and cut into small to medium pieces. Core and chop the peppers. Chop onions. Combine the tomatoes, peppers , onions, and garlic in a large pot. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper, stir and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
Fill clean canning jars with salsa mixture. Secure with new lids, and rings. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. If you have never canned before it is a good idea to check out the tips offered at www.freshpreserving.com . They can teach you everything you need to know to make it easy and to do it safely. Set hot jars gently on kitchen towel to cool. Yield: approximately 2 pint jars.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
1. Mayonnaise...I don't allow it in the house. sometimes if I am in a good mood at Thanksgiving I let my husband buy the smallest jar possible to use on his leftover Turkey sandwiches and then two days later it is out the door and in the trash. We are a mustard family!
2. earth worms...eeeeeeewwwwww
3. talking on the phone..I have the world's lowest phone bills.
4. clowns- common I know but true for me.
5. Doberman Pinchers....one latched on to my rear end and didn't let go for 10 minutes.
6. elevators...I use them but I don't have to like it.
7. Doctors...always looking for something wrong.
8. mountains...I think they are creepy.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
One of the first stories about cheese I was told at my first cheese seminar was the story of "The Bishop's Cut". Lots of cheeses are made in the shape of a wheel. When the cheese is ripe and ready cut, there is a usually a common way for that particular cheese to be cut. The first cheese I learned how to cut was a wheel of Jarlsburg which is a mild Norwegian cheese. The wheel of Jarlsberg is cut in half and then each half is cut in half again so that you end with 4 quarters. Now for the history lesson and back to the 4 quarters in a minute. Hundreds of years ago and even in some places today, cheese was often made in monasteries as food for the monks and sometimes it was sold as a way to help support the monastery. When the Bishop would come to visit the best cheeses would be brought out and served to him. The "Bishop's Cut" was the triangular piece of cheese that was cut off of the point part of any of those 4 quarters pieces I mentioned above. By cutting off the tip section of the quarters you can then cut what is left into 4 very nice and evenly shaped pieces. The "Bishop's Cut" is that triangular piece and when you think about it is from the very center of the cheese. It is the best part of the cheese with very little rind and so the best cut was served to the Bishop.
I follow a few really great cheese blogs and I am amazed at how much these people know and how much I have to learn. Sorry if my little cheese story seems a bit elementary to you but I figure if I didn't know what a "Bishop's Cut" was then there are plenty of others out there who might enjoy an explanation like I did. In my pre-cheese days I would not have picked out the odd triangular shape package over the more uniform wedge shape when buying a piece of Jarlsburg. Now I look for that special oddball shaped piece and so should you!
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
If you want to see a "Before" photo of my Laundry Room I just added one to my Laundry Room Day 2 post.
I can't tell you how much adding the wood trim to the outside of these cabinet changed their appearance! My favorite part has to be my new cookbook shelf area. Remember from an earlier post of mine that the center area had laminate doors that we removed. We then added the wider trim with the etched leaves and beaded edge and painted it black. Gorgeous! The photo does not do it justice. We also added the wood scroll piece below the sink and painted it black as well.
It is bright and cheery now with the "Grasscloth" green color walls. ALMOST DONE! I still need to find a valance and if forced I will sew one. But I am hopeful that somewhere I can find one ready made. Any ideas where I can find a ready made valance? All advice would be appreciated! I also need a long framed picture to hang on the small piece of wall next to the dryer. I saw a black metal Eiffle Tower at Target that might work but I think a black framed print might be better. Still shopping for something to go there.
The black and white floor that is so beautiful in my inspiration photo from Rhoda's blogsite: http://southernhospitality-rhoda.blogspot.com/2008/07/happy-green-laundry-room.html is on hold for now until we find a source for the peel and stick tiles and if I can keep my husband interested in the Laundry Room Home Improvement Project long enough till we find the tiles. I will keep you posted. Many thanks to Rhoda for getting me excited and inspired by the photos and advice on her blog!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Mrs. Lonteen would write a "Word of the Day" in the corner of her blackboard and we had to remember to write it and it's definition down so that we had something to study twenty days later when we would be tested on them. These were hard words. These were SAT worthy words. Words like "temerity", "nepotism, and supercilious". I am more of a big word dropper than a name dropper and I have her to thank for my vocabulary today. I can only hope my kids get a teacher as great as she was. That would be auspicious indeed!
Word of the Day:
turophile - cheese expert or connoisseur
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Here is my recipe for pesto and the amounts are approximate but don't worry....you cannot make this wrong. If it is too chunky just add more olive oil. If it is too thin just add more Parmesan cheese. Real Parmesan Reggiano is best so use it if possible! This is also good on bruschetta. Spread some on the bread before adding the tomato mixture or place a small dollop on top.
1 large bunch of basil leaves, washed and trimmed from the branches
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 to 1 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Place the basil leaves in a food processor and process till very fine. Add the garlic and nuts and process. Through the feed tube, slowly pour in the olive oil while processing the mixture. Add the Parmesan cheese and process adding more olive oil until you get the consistency you like. Add the salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings to how you like it. That is it. For storage, place in container and pour olive oil over the top to help stop it from turning brown. I keep it in the refrigerator and usually try to use it up in a few days. Place the rest in separate containers and label and freeze.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Shrimp and Grits
Now this is something I thought I would never put in mouth let alone order in a restaurant or even attempt to make myself!Well, that all has changed. Not only do I love Shrimp and Grits, I look for it on the menu's of every restaurant I go....within reason. I don't look for them in the Cook Out or Chick Fil A drive thru but you can be sure that if it has a decent wine list...I at least look for it. That doesn't mean I am always going to order it but I want to read the description on what their take is on it. The first time I bravely ordered shrimp and grits was this past winter at Lucky 32 Restaurant in Greensboro. Their recipe included sausage from Giaciamo's which is an Italian Market here in Greensboro and Giaciamo makes his own fresh authentic sausage, mozarella. and meatballs, among lots of other delicious things. I love to shop at his store! My last memorable shrimp and grits was enjoyed on the rooftop patio at Ganache Restarant also in Greensboro, NC ... Wonderful! This restaurant makes their Shrimp and Grits with smoked Gouda cheese and andouille sausage and the stone ground grits are from the Old Mill of Guilford in Oak Ridge, NC. For the moment, the Ganache Shrimp and Grits are at the top of my list. Now I know there are better Shrimp and Grits out there especially the further south you go and the closer to the ocean you get.... but I only started this quest. Are you a fan of shrimp and grits? So that I can looke for them in my travels, tell me where your favorites are and what makes them special.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I played hookie from work yesterday so that I could get a start on the laundry room. My plan was to paint around the edges of the room but once I got started.......I couldn't stop! I was able to get the whole room painted except behind the washer dryer by the time my husband got home from work. He then moved the appliances away from the wall and finished painting the area behind them. It looks fantastic and very green and I love the way anything in black or white pops against it.
We keep cutting trim pieces with our new mitre box and I keep running back to the store to buy more trim. Hmmm... maybe we should have measured before we got started? The cabinet doors have called for 5 pieces of trim so far. Another light bulb went off as I was looking at the selection of available wood trim. I found the most beautiful piece of wood trim that is 2 1/2 inches wide with leaves carved into the wood and it has a beaded edge. We are going to frame the center area where the cookbooks will be housed with the wider trim and I am going to paint it black! We had a scrap piece that we had cut wrong so I grabbed it and sprayed it black as a test piece and held it up to the cabinet to see how it looked. Gorgeous! So it was back to Lowe's today for another piece of the wider trim.
While wood trim shopping I also spotted a piece of a decorative scroll cut wood. I guess the best word to describe it is "plaque" and it is extremely thin and flat. I plan to paint it black and glue to the face of the cabinet in front of the sink. So....progress is being made.!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Her name is Oakley and she is a 3 and 1/2 year old Golden Retriever. She always looks like she is smiling, hardly ever barks, likes to dance on her back in the grass in the sun, and is infatuated with our son. He is her pack leader, her alpha male, and the object of her affections. I am just the hired help in her world. My husband ranks 2nd on her list with our daughter 3rd and I pull up the rear. I can live with this I guess because I really don't have any choice in the matter now do I? I know that she loves me in her own doggie way but come on Oakley....Throw me a bone!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
1 shot of Absolut Madarin Orange Vodka (from the freezer)
2 shots of cranberry juice
1/4 of a fresh limes
Fresh lime or orange garnish
Fill a shaker with ice. Add the vodka and cranberry. Squeeze the juice of the lime into the shaker. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a small wedge of lime or orange.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
MARINATED FLANK STEAK (OR PORK TENDERLOIN)
1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp. Garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp. Honey
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper