Friday, July 31, 2009

"A Fine Mess"

So it is our last day of our trip to Ottawa/Montreal Canada and this is the piece of artwork that inspired our day. After squeezing as much fun as possible out of the day before in Montreal, we decided to sleep late and stay in Ottawa. DME (Digital Marketing Expert), FGT (First Grade Teacher), and PRC (Public Relations Consultant) all decide to go for a run. Me.....I am on vacation people! So I stay behind for a long shower and lots of coffee and magazines. I hear they ran all the way to Starbucks and I secretly hope that the Barrister at Starbucks forgot that they said "skinny" and made their lattes with lots of sugar and whipped creme. :) And when they got back they announced their idea on how to spend the day.

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

Old Montreal and the 4 Hour Dinner

After we left the shopping district on St. Catherine's Street in Montreal and the parking meters from hell, "Pierre" the voice from the GPS system guided us through a couple of underground tunnels and we found ourselves in Old Montreal. As soon as the car hit the cobblestones I knew we were someplace special. After parking the car in a lot with a very ornery parking attendant, across from the Marche Bonsecours Building in the picture below (I don't know what this building is but it sure was pretty.), we started to walk down the cobblestone street. It was so quaint and so French looking. Restaurants, lots of art shops, out door cafes and artists were set up on the sidewalks everywhere and I felt like I was in Europe.

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

Parking Meters, Loonies and Twoonies

All the road signs in Quebec are in French and "Pierre" the GPS Navigation voice was trying to keep up in a hybrid form of English and French with a lot of spelling thrown in. Yes, "Pierre" was spelling some of the street names to us and I don't really know why but it worked because we found ourselves in downtown Montreal and parked the car. The new parking meter system there made me feel like a country bumpkin. They don't have the traditional looking independent parking meters at each spot but instead each spot has a letter/number designation. Let's say our's was C 345. We had to take that letter/number combo to a central parking meter box for that block and enter in our space number along with the money. A man who saw us all staring at the meter box blankly stopped and tried to explain to us how it worked. All I remember is that he kept saying over and over to "Pay attention to the letter". Okay, so we needed to pay attention to the letter "C" in our combo. Not sure why but "Thanks Mr. Stranger Man. We will!"

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


Day 2 of our Canadian adventure took us to Montreal. We piled into the First Grade Teacher's Hyundai SUV and off we went for a two hour drive from Ottawa to Montreal in Quebec. I like to sit in the back seat and doing so gave me a direct view of the dashboard. I noticed after we left the city traffic and started driving through the countryside that the gas needle is at less than a quarter of a tank. But I keep this to myself because we have all been alternating between laughing at funny stories about living in the dorm and concentrating on what "Pierre" the GPS Navigation System's voice is trying to tell us. The needle keeps dropping and I am noticing that there are almost no gas stations at any of the exits. I alert our driver that we might need to get some gas soon and my backseat mate announces that she needs to stop to pee soon. Great, surely we'll stop soon now for both gas and a pee break.

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've gotta go. So we filled up one tank and emptied four others.

The FGT (First Grade Teacher) announces that while we are here in this extremely small and extremely French Canadian town that we have to stop and get some Poutine. Careful how you pronounce that ladies and gentlemen. :) She tells us that it is a traditional food in Canada, especially Quebec and that we must "experience" it. That is what I love to do.....experience what is unique and local to the spot I am visiting so I am excited. The gas station attendant tells us that the best Poutine in town is across the street and so that is where we go. I wish I had taken a photo of the restaurant but I didn't. FGT decides to order us the "Family Size"with four forks and we take it to a table to eat it outside in front of the restaurant.

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

Oh Canada

I am back from Canada and had a wonderful trip. And I laughed and laughed. There were four of us who are friends from our days in college at CMU. (I am talking Central Michigan University...not Carnegie Mellon.) Our group consisted of a First Grade Teacher, ( but in Canada they call it "Grade 1" and and they don't say "when I was in college" instead they say " when I was at University".), a Digital Marketing Expert, a Public Relations Consultant, and me the Cheese Specialist/Homemaker/Novice Blogger.

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

Fire Drills and Smoke Detector Madness

Let me start by saying that there was no fire. But the fire alarms went off shortly after 4:00 AM this morning and scared the bejeezus out of us. This is not the first time this has happened and there has never been a fire. They just like to go off every now and then and nobody can tell us why. When the batteries need changing they will "chirp" which always happens in the middle of the night and never during the day. But last night was a full blown fire drill. We tried changing out batteries and the fire detectors continued alternating between chirping and full blown alarm mode. I finally called the local fire department on a non-emergency call to ask for some advice. He recommended an electrician. Not at that hour of the night! Then we figured out how to get the housing cover off and disconnect them at the connection in the ceiling. But we still had chirping and then one of them started with a high pitch steady tone. So I ran down to the garage with a flashlight looking in the fuse box for which switch to throw when I hear..."Got it!"

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

Gardens and Guns

So I sat in the Dentist's waiting room for two hours today waiting for my kids who were in to get their teeth cleaned. I read every magazine they had and I have to say I was not impressed with the selection. There were lots of copies of "Parents" and "Family Fun" which ten years ago I would have been thrilled to find but I have since moved on and now I want tabloids and trash. Where were the "People" and "US" magazines with cover shots of Jon and Kate or Tom and Katie?

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

Pimp My Wagon

The truth came out the other night while we were eating dinner on the deck outside with the kids. They started giggling when I mentioned something about our little red wagon. All these years we had been blaming the neighbor kid for defacing the wagon when all along he was a somewhat innocent bystander.

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 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.
Well one thing let to another and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves as they removed the wood sides and freestyle painted my treasured wagon. When they were done it looked like the graffiti filled wall in a NYC subway station. No part was left untouched. They even painted over the white wheels.
I loved that wagon. We used it to pull our two adorable towheaded children around in it. Santa delivered that wagon and we took it to the zoo. They pulled their dolls and stuffed animals around in it. We decorated and pulled them in it for the Fourth of July parade. Lately, I had been using it to help me in the garden to haul around dirt and shovels and such. I even think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I was going to use to pull around my grand children in someday. But, that was not to be.

"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.

Making Naan Bread

I have never eaten Indian Food in my life. And now I am not sure why. I saw a package of Naan Bread at Harris Tetter the other day and it looked really good. I guess that stuck in my mind until sometime this weekend when I happened across a blog called "Gori Rajkumari " that is written by an American woman who is in love with an Indian man and they are planning their wedding. It is to be from what I can tell a traditional Indian Wedding and she is blogging about it. It is fascinating and her fiance's Indian family are not too pleased with the situation. They wanted him to marry to marry not for love but to be the groom in an arranged marriage.

Indian weddings are big huge affairs and can be incredibly expensive. A friend of mine's son married an Indian girl and I loved hearing about every tradition and custom they participated in from the stories she told when they came back from their 3 week trip to India. My entire knowledge of Indian culture is from her stories and watching movies like"Bend It Like Beckham" and "Monsoon Wedding". Both great movies. I couldn't watch "Slum Dog Millionaire". The poverty and brutality early in the movie were too much for me. No Thank You.

Anyway, back to the Naan..... I got the bug to make something new that I have never tried before and wanted to see if I could find a recipe for the Naan I had seen at the grocery store. I found this recipe submitted by Mic who posted it on This recipe has over 600 reviews and is rated just shy of 5 stars. The recipe was not too difficult and these turned out great and really delicious. I grilled them on the BBQ grill outside with no trouble. Be sure to spray the grate with Pam so they don't stick. The only changes I made to the recipe was that I added the sugar to the yeast as it was proofing, I only used 4 cups of flour, and I did not mix the raw garlic into the dough. I instead added the garlic to the melted butter that I brushed the flatbreads with as I grilled them. I might try adding some garlic powder to the dough next time for a bit more garlic flavor. They are good! My batch made 12 pieces of bread.

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons milk
egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the Naan has been prepared.

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

French Bag and Jewelry

I am going to Canada for a Girl's weekend and leaving on Thursday. I was shopping with my daughter yesterday and look what I found at Stein Mart for a mere $69.99! It is carry on size and I am determined to fit everything I need for my trip in it. I do not want to have to check any luggage. This could be a difficult task.
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 Looks Like Dippin' Dots

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


Before the deer herd moved through my garden and destroyed everything in their path, I had visions of making and canning salsa with my own garden tomatoes. My plan has been altered and once again it will be the Farmer's Market to the rescue. This recipe is from my roomate "C" from college and it is easy and delicious. We like our salsa on the "thin" side. Seems like everything you can get in the supermarket is "thick and chunky"....well, we don't like "thick and chunky" thank you very much! I will warn you now that this can be a lot of work. BUT it is worth it when you can open a jar of it any time of year and totally bypass the salsa section in you local grocery store. This recipe is meant to be "canned" using the water bath method of canning. You can also make this and put it in your refrigerator but you have to eat it right away. It doubles and triples easily.


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 . 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

8 things I am irrationally afraid of or simply do not like:

My blog is all over the map...I realize this. The best blogs have a more narrowed approach. I need to work on this and decide what I really want mine to be when it (and me) grow up. So in the meantime, here is some more randomness....Lot's of other blogs do this sort of thing so why can't I?

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 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

The Bishop's Cut

I am new to the cheese world. I am a novice. I knew next to nothing about cheese when I started working for a Food Broker last year merchandising cheese. This little part time job of mine has opened up my eyes to a whole new world in the land of dairy. My learning curve has been steep because as I said I knew almost nothing and was not brave enough to try out new cheeses unless someone served it at a party. But I figure there are lots of people out there like me who like cheese but at the same time are intimidated by it. Cheese doesn't scare me anymore!

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

Deer Like Tomatoes? Really???

My garden is decimated!! The deer are having a nightly banquet at my expense. I have had a garden here for going on 6 years now and have never had problems with animals eating my vegetables. This year our yard is suddenly a wildlife refuge. We had a nesting Robin in the eaves of the roof of our house. The empty nest is still there. I think we need a cherry picker to lift us high enough to get it down. In the Spring we had several Mocking Birds nesting in our Arizona Cypress trees. These trees are huge and bushy and bought for the sole purpose of blocking out an annoying neighbor. They were not meant to harbor a bird that liked to swoop down off of the roof of our house and drop a load of you know what on my minivan repeatedly for 5 weeks straight. Each morning my van looked like it had lumpy white polka dots. Some mornings I actually had to get out the hose and blast that nastiness off before I left for work. I could have gotten a ticket for driving with an obstructed view!

After the birds came the rabbits which I think are cute and so does my dog. They are smart those rabbits. They seem to know right where our dog's Invisible Fence line is and they let her chase them and then stop just past that line. I grew lettuce and spinach in the Spring time and didn't get a single salad out of the lettuce and only 1 salad out of the spinach. The rabbits nibbled them down to the nub. We have a chipmunk living in our garage. No complaints. He's cute and I haven't discovered any damage yet that he might be responsible for. There is a toad in the front bushes driving the dog crazy because she is too big to get to it. And now I have deer.

The deer have trampled my tomatoes and have eaten all the green ones. And I had lots of green ones that I was planning to make salsa out of when they turned red. All gone. Deer like tomatoes?????? Seriously, this is news to me! My cucumbers plants have all but shriveled up and died. And my collard greens look like green lace on a stump. Oh, I guess I have an insect problem as well.

So, it looks like it is back to the Farmer's Market for me. But, that's okay...... I was sick of weeding anyway.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Laundry Room: Almost Done!

The Laundry Room is almost done! We spent the day today working on finishing the trim moldings. We cut and measured, and got everything painted. We used Liquid Nails to glue the trim to the outside of the cabinets. Now let me explain how gross these cabinets were to start out with. They were the lowest end laminate cabinet you can get. I wanted to remove them completely and put them out in the garage for storage and then have new cabinets installed in the laundry. But then I remembered.....oh yeah, we have a daughter leaving for college in 4 weeks! New cabinets were never going to happen.

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: 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!

Dewey's Bakery

I found a real bakery yesterday! My daughter was with me and when we walked in I told her to take a deep breath. Now this is what a REAL bakery smells like and looks like! I've only lived here in Greensboro, NC for about 10 years and this is the first time I've been to Dewey's Bakery on Stratford Road in Winston- Salem. So if you are reading this and you are from this area and you say "big deal". I say "YES! It is a BIG DEAL!!" It is the real thing. My kids only know the bakery at the local Harris Teeter or Food Lion. And I don't consider Krispy Kreme a bakery either. I am not disrespecting KK and I love them. They have their time and their place especially when they are "hot now", but they are not a "real" bakery just like Dunkin Donuts is not a "real" bakery!

Right now as I am typing, I am enjoying a Cinnamon Stick from Dewy's with my many cups of morning coffee. I think it's made with a puff pastry and twisted with cinnamon and sugar and is very flaky. Simple and so good. It was hard deciding what to buy from the beautiful glass cases of bakery goods and because we were there late in the day they were getting low on a few things. The employees all wear crisp uniforms with a collar and the women wore half aprons. So traditional. Kind of like the way I remember Sander's in Detroit. You can see the bakery kitchen behind a glass wall behind the display cases. We settled on bringing home some Cinnamon Buns for my son and picked up a package of dinner rolls that are so soft you want to squeeze them but was careful not to. They are going to be part of our dinner tonight. I love finding the real deal!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Asian Cucumber Salad

This is so cool and refreshing and I made it with cucumbers from my garden. My cucumbers are pitiful this year. They have a disease....the leaves are turning yellow and are brittle. Lots of blossoms and not many cukes ( I hope that is not from a lack of bees) and the cukes I do get are chubby and round. Still taste good but I am going to have to start buying them from the Farmers' Market. I have a date to make pickles with a friend later this week and so I will need a big bushel full. Anyway, here is the recipe: (Thanks to a tennis friend Deana for this one.)

Asian Cucumber Salad
3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp lite soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

Stir together first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Add cucumbers, tossing to coat. Cover and chill 1 hour. Add sesame seeds, and toss; serve immediately.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Opus # 5: I Love Learning New Words

I learned a new word today and I love that! I think I have my high school English teacher to thank for that. Her name was Mrs. Lonteen but she liked to go by "Moms". She was probably one of the best teachers I ever had but looking back I didn't think so at the time. She was exhausting. She was demanding. She made us call our essays an "Opus" and we had to number them. She had a baby son Jacob and if you ever wanted to suck up and get on her good side all you had to do was ask her about little Jacob. Of course I never did that.

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

Basil Pesto

I love Basil Pesto. And I am growing 4 very healthy bushes of it in my garden this summer. I've been keeping it well watered and I have been pinching off the flowers so that it does not go to seed and stop branching out. So far this approach is working. My plants are big and healthy. Next summer I plan to expand my basil production mostly because it is fun to give away and the pesto I make with it freezes so nicely. I made a batch a week or so ago and ended up with about 4 small containers of it and tucked 3 of them into the freezer after I used one of them to put on our dinner. I made penne pasta dressed with the pesto and topped it off with some chicken that I pulled off of a rotisserie chicken. I sauteed up a small yellow squash and a zucchini from the garden and added that as well. Topped it all off with some Parmesan Reggiano and it was good!
Here is my recipe for pesto and the amounts are approximate but don't 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.

Basil Pesto

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
salt and pepper

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

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.
In the meantime, here is a great recipe from the Southern Living All New Ultimate Recipe Cookbook that is very good. It has a lot of ingredients but is worth the time and effort. Make it even better and use a better quality Cheddar cheese and Parmesan Reggiano...not the stuff in the green can!
Shrimp and Grits
Prep: 18 minutes Cook: 28 minutes
2 cups water
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
3/4 cup half and half
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked regular grits
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp hot sauce
4 bacon slices
1 pound unpeeled, medium size fresh shrimp
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 (8ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp hot sauce
Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or till thickened. Add Cheddar cheese and next 3 ingredients. Keep warm.
Cook bacon i large skillet until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings to skillet. Crumble bacon.
Peel and devein shrimp. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper, dredge in flour.
Saute mushrooms in hot drippings in skillet for 5 minutes or until tender. Add 1/2 cup green onions and saute 2 minutes or until shrimp are lightly browned. Stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp hot sauce; cook 2 more minutes stirring to loosen particles from the bottom of the skillet. Serve shrimp mixture over hot cheese grits. Top with crumbled bacon. Yield: 4 servings.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Laundry Room Day 2

Laundry Room Day 2
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

Laundry Room: Let's Get Started

We got a good start on the Laundry Room yesterday. I took "before" pictures but have to figure out how to upload them...that's what teenagers are for....but of course I will have to wait till sometime this afternoon when then get their behinds out of bed to ask for help. Trust me, until I post them, it's an ugly room and the re-do is long over due. This photo at the right is my inspiration and what I hope I can come close to accomplishing. There are more beautiful photos to check out at at the website I have highlighted below. We cleared most of the clutter out and cleaned up the lint. My God the lint! It was everywhere. My husband and I hit Home Depot and picked up the paint. It is made by Behr and the color name is "Grasscloth". And I found some very nice oiled bronze door knobs for the cabinets and switch plate and plug covers.

Inspiration hit me as I was staring into my Laundry Room abyss right before I convinced my husband that we had some shopping to do. I have always wanted a place to keep my favorite cookbooks handy. So I thought what if we took the doors off of the middle set of cabinets? Could we do that and not tear them up in the process? Yes! We borrowed a reciprocating saw from a friend and between the screw driver and that saw, my husband was able to remove them with minimal damage. So now we will have two cabinet on each side with the center open with two shelves. A little bit of putty to fill in the holes and a bit of touch up paint is all I need.

Next stop was Lowe's for the moulding for the cabinet doors and a Mitre box. Who knew a Mitre box could be so fun and so easy?!! We came out with three pieces of narrow trim moulding with the plan to paint them white, cut them to frame the inside of each cabinet door, and attach them with "Liquid Nails". We got the pieces cut but need to go back and get two more pieces to finish the cabinet doors under the sink. I sanded the ends before I went to bed last night. Hopefully I can get them painted later today and then start painting the walls.

If you look at the photos of the room that has inspired me at this link: you will see a beautiful black and white floor. I want this floor. Rhoda the decorator who designed this room and shared her photos did it with peel and stick vinyl tiles and put it right over top of her existing vinyl. We shopped at both Home Depot and Lowe's yesterday and neither one had black or white tiles! Seems like such a basic product to have on hand. So anyway, the floor will take a bit more effort but in the meantime we have plenty to keep us busy.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


When it comes to our dog and her affections....there is a pecking order. And I am last on her list and it makes me wonder why? I am the one who gets up early in the morning to let her out to pee. I feed her. I walk her most of the time. I let her stop and smell all the other dog's pee that traveled before her on our walk route. My husband doesn't have as much patience for that as I do. I let her linger. I make her peanut butter Milk Bones as a treat and give them to her when I leave for work. And it is me who gives her the deep tissue massages that make her drool. Still, I am very low on the totem pole.

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


I was late coming to the Sex and the City party. We were too cheap to get HBO and we lived with basic cable until just 3 months ago so I caught up on the show through my Netflix subscription. But that is the show that seems to get all the credit for putting Cosmos on the map...I mean the menu. Not sure where or when I had my first Cosmo but I am hooked and it is a favorite. I am not a huge liquor drinker and have no trouble when it comes to this recipe for a Cosmo. That can be a good thing and a bad thing if you know what I mean. The recipe belongs to my neighbor and he shall remain nameless but he deserves a huge amount of credit for coming up with this drink that is neither too sweet and not too strong. It is tart and refreshing and pretty to look at. I'll admit that it is a bit of a girly drink but I have known some of the men to partake once in a while. These are best made one at a time in a shaker filled with ice but I have made them by the pitcher before as well. Just keep the proportions the same. So if the recipe says 1 shot of vodka, 2 shots of Cranberry, then equate that with 1 cup of vodka and 2 cups of cranberry. Make sure your vodka is ice cold. We like Absolute Mandarin Orange Vodka for these and keep a bottle in our freezer at all times. You never know when you will have to pull it out for a deck or patio emergency and don't forget lots of fresh limes.


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

This is a great marinade recipe that I have used for beef flank steak and pork tenderloin. I usually make the marinade in the morning so the meat has all day to marinate in the refrigerator. I have have left it in the fridge for as long as 24 hours. Last time I made this I made a batch of the marinade in a freezer Zip-Loc Bag, added a flank steak, and put the whole thing in the freezer. Very handy to have on hand. Pull it out, let it thaw, and throw it on the grill!

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