26 November 2016

OUTTAKES FROM TGV WEEK

What's wrong with this picture?
That arc of knockout roses has been cut back to the ground.
The !@#$%^&* drought has caused this.
They had gotten so scraggly that they were truly deplorable.
We have been promised some rain next week,
so do let's hope it comes.

The same thing happened here where there used to be azaleas.
We had been planning to get rid of these anyway,
so it was not a sad thing to see these go.

The geranium just keeps on going, however.

The Great Chestnut Roasting Debacle.
I had never tried roasting chestnuts before, but I figured if they are sung about-- "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack frost nipping at your nose" --  well then, they could jolly well roast in the oven just as well.
I didn't know it, but I was already behind the 8-ball on this one.
I bought them at least six weeks ago at the farmer's market,
but little did I know they sort of have an expiration date.
At least, according to Big Martha.
She says if you can hear them rattle in the shell, get rid of those.
Well, I didn't know that, but they did rattle at bit.
I popped them into a 350 degree oven, but it seems you are supposed to use 450.
Oops.
Also, I used an open pan lacking an open fire, but Martha's suggested foil packet would have prevented what happened next.
When they got hot -
"pop! pop! pop!"
just like the song says.
They made a COLOSSAL mess in the oven, and
when I retrieved them all (carefully),
they were like little hard-fired ceramic balls.
After first sweeping and then vacuuming out the oven with the dust buster,
I tried a nutcracker on those which hadn't exploded, you know, just to see.
No luck, so next I located the metal meat mallet.
Yay!  Success! That cracked the suckers!
Same story.
Thoroughly disgruntled, I walked out into No Man's Land East in our back yard and threw them out.
I doubt any squirrels have teeth sharp enough to cut through these things.
I wasn't about to put them in the garbage disposal.
Maybe they will ward off evil spirits or raccoons or something.
Of course, after I made this mess,
I Googled it to see what I should have done.
Now I know.

Ever roasted any chestnuts?
We used to roast pecans and peanuts in our fireplace
when I was a kid.  I don't think I ever actually saw a chestnut till I bought these.






This is the place setting I devised for our Mexican Thanksgiving dinner served (partly) on my new Chinese dinnerware.

My clearance Fall wreath from Pier 1.

My turkey S&P shakers are my only nod to the ceremonial turkey.


That GOBBLE thing is supposed to be a trivet.

Some candlelight photos of the table when all the food and the pitcher of margaritas were laid out.  We only had half that pitcher of margaritas, saving the rest for the next day, just so you know.


The menu consisted of Calabacita, black beans and corn, Mexican rice, chicken enchiladas and beef nachos.
We never got to the pie -- too stuffed!
I made all this the day before, and reheated it all SLOWLY at the same time in a very low oven which worked out very well.

It was fun, combining my Chinese dishes with Ralph Lauren china plates, Pier 1 margarita glasses and the drink in a martini pitcher.  You might notice I used the soup spoons as little condiment serving spoons.
Hey -- it worked!



P.S.  Done any cybershopping this weekend?  I bought a stencil on sale.  That's all!  More on what I will do with that later.  I agree with the designer James Swan (Million Dollar Decorating) who opened his post Friday with the statement that "wild horses could not drag me into the stores today."  I did do some cyber-looking, but I just couldn't get excited about anything there either.  As Maxine says:





Brendan, this one is for you.
Love,
Mom






23 November 2016

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Shopping is good for then soul (and for sadness when your only kid goes back to his home on the other side of the world), so I hit an estate sale on Sunday afternoon and discovered this beautiful view out the kitchen family room window on the back side of the house -- Fall in all her glory!  There was a fabulous art collection and many Asian artifacts in the house, but I did not get there on Saturday because I was busy getting the big boy ready to leave that afternoon.  I did make it over there for the half-price remainders on Sunday, but there was not a lot left.  Truthfully, the art was all way out of my price range anyway, but I did get a couple of cool things.


...at an estate sale on Sunday afternoon...



One of my finds --
a charger plate.

I don't know if this is Chinese or Japanese,
but it is definitely authentic Asian by the markings on the back.


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I saw a few things around the web this week that tickled me, this among them:


Gee, I wonder who this was referring to?
How appropriate!

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We already had our TGV dinner early last Friday.   I went traditional this year for my son's visit:  Chicken and dressing, sweet potato casserole, green chili corn casserole, sautéed brussel sprouts, cranberry orange relish, chocolate pecan pie.  Here at Chez Scribbler, we are having Mexican food on actual Turkey Day.  You all know what I am thankful for this year --  my heart is truly grateful for the visit with my son for five days.  He made it back home to China safe and sound in case you might like to know.  He said the flight was very smooth and uneventful.  That's what I like to hear.  

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Some of what's happening today.
Sweet Hubs is at Sprouts with a list for the rest.


The sources


Great veggie dish from the Sunset book.

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Will you be shopping or cybershopping this coming weekend?  I am doing my part (😀).  First up -- a tortoise monogrammed bracelet.  It will be in my Christmas stocking.


The initials will be mine, however!

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My real Christmas came early, though (aside from my son)  -- a humongous box arrived late afternoon the same day my son did.  Talk about great timing!


It's been opened by customs, of course.



Tired son preparing to open box.






Inside the big box and the eighteen miles of foam wrap was this gorgeous big red box, like a suitcase:





Inside was this:

(even the tissue paper was pretty so I saved a few sheets)



 Here is what was in it!

A set of dishes, 
Chinese style!

This was my reaction!

There will be much more to come on this, you can bet!  Like a tablescape?  Maybe we will have our Mexican food in them on TGV?  I don't think there is any law against serving Mexican food in Chinese dinnerware, is there?  At any rate, I am going to rearrange this cabinet and get them set up to best advantage.  


I love the bamboo design!


This...



...becomes this!



The little "bucket" style container holds the soup spoons.



The tureen is the star of the show.

All these pieces are hand-painted, so there are variations in the bamboo design.  I will show you some more information on these when I do a table with them.  

I have a swell idea for that red silk case -- like this!
I saw this photo in the new Coastal Living,
but I have also seen this concept on some of the design sites lately.
Now I just need to find a cool base.
I am thinking an  IKEA hack?

It is here on the stretchers of the iron table in my LR at the moment.


My wine corks moved over here under the book table,
and the green garden stools moved outside the table legs.


Have a great Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and I will see you next week!

With gratitude in my heart for all that is good in my life -- health, family, home,

P.S.  I do promise to share some favorite recipes next week -- I just need to find them again and organize them for you.   You will still have plenty of time to review them and decide if you want to give any of them a try well before Christmas!


20 November 2016

JOY AND SADNESS



JOY

We picked up my son at 9:30 Tuesday morning -- great joy in my heart!  It had been nearly three years since I last saw him.

SADNESS


On the way home from the airport, I received a phone call from 2nd cousin Jon to tell me that my "cousin-in-law" Margaret had died of lung cancer.  She was a childhood friend with whom I had become friends again in our middle age after not seeing her for many years.  When I did my first Decorator Show House, my late cousin Eleen from Montevallo (remember that red and white kitchen?) reconnected us.   Eleen was also her first cousin, but on the other side, so Margaret and I were not blood relatives.

By that time Margaret was a retired elementary school teacher, working as a decorator and antiques dealer herself in Jasper, AL.  She and her business partner Alice helped me with accessorizing the large guestroom en suite I had been assigned.  She was witty, charming and smart.  One of identical twins, she and her sister Melissa were almost like one person.  Of course, her surviving twin is devastated, and she and her family have provided palliative home care to Margaret for the last three months since her diagnosis in late August.  I was thinking about her all day last Sunday, thinking I should call her, and it turned out that is when she passed.  I think from now on, I will not ignore these little niggling thoughts anymore, but rather I will pick up the telephone and call when I get this kind of feeling about someone.  I could not go to the funeral on Wednesday because my time was so limited with my son, but I was certainly thinking of her and her family.
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Brendan arrived in LA about two weeks ago, and spent the first week there doing business.  Then he went up to Seattle and spent one night in a hotel, and visited with the Sperm Donor.  
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JOY

Brendan flew from there to here on the red-eye from Seattle Monday night, and arrived here about 9:30 Tuesday morning.  We had a wonderful visit, but it flew by in a heartbeat.  One of his former film students from Atlanta came over on Thursday and joined us for lunch.  We had our TGV on Friday evening, and it was wonderful.  I made all his traditional favorites.  Soon I will post a few of our favorites that I make when we do a traditional meal.  

He gave me lots of valuable instructions re my iPhone, and computer, etc., so we can keep in closer touch.  I see why he is a good teacher, although he is not teaching presently.

He actually flew out of Birmingham yesterday around 6 p.m. (his connecting flight was delayed) to Atlanta, and left from there last night for LA.  He arrived in LA about midnight where he slept a few hours (I hope) in an airport hotel.  The long flight to Beijing begins Sunday morning.   He will be one tired guy when he gets back!  

He had to work quite a bit while he was here, so still no post written by him.  He promises he will get to it, though.





This Mama did shed some tears when he left, but your children grow up and have lives of their own, that is, if we did our job right.  I am so proud of him I could burst, and we are laying the groundwork for a visit to China in the future.  This will be quite an adventure, as I really, really hate to fly.  Someone will probably have to anesthetize me because I am the original white knuckle flyer.  But we will make it work!



I will probably add some more photos to this post later, but for now, this is all.  



13 November 2016

HAS THE DUST SETTLED?

What a week right?

SHOPPING:



I like Nutcrackers!
But I didn't buy these.

I did get these little lanterns --
they run on a watch battery.

Pretty -- I didn't buy it.
I might try to copy it though.




Last Sunday, I went to Pier 1's Christmas event where they demonstrated tabletops and mantels with all their swell new seasonal stuff.  They had a cute kid who was so earnest, trying to tell all us older ladies (the audience) how to "set a festive table" that could transition from TGV to XMAS.  We all tried not to snicker!  Then the subject of the next demo by another sweet girl was how to do a mantel.  Ditto.  I put my name in the pot for a drawing -- and I WON!!!  I never win anything, so that made it fun.  The first two names called were not in the store, and you did have to be present to win, so I guess it's true:  third time's a charm!  It was a only $25 gift card which I applied to my purchase, but it was still fun to win something.  Also, just for being there at all, we got an extra 20% off the entire purchase just for the afternoon, even on sale merchandise.  I did quite well!  More later on what I bought (when it is time for Christmas decorations and after it shows up).
Love the top hat!
It reminds me so much of our old friend Pat
of Back Porch Musings.
She used to use a top hat on her tree.

This week I found a pretty red and white striped Kate Spade tablecloth and napkins in HG.  I told that mischievous old devil to get off my shoulder, that I don't need any more dishes!  (Well, maybe only the little 4-pack of tartan plaid snack plates.)  


I really like this brighter red!

Every store this year, it seems, has some really pretty ones that I like so much better than the muted tartan pattern we all bought at PB a few years ago.  We have actually been using those every day since I made a switcheroo with some dishes from the storage cabinets over into the kitchen cabinets.  I am seriously trying to justify getting some of those brighter ones at Pier 1 or HG, but I just can't work out the rationale yet.  


Santa's Belt?
Interesting theme...

I did make a return trip later in the week to pick up the item I had ordered, and of course, that old devil on my shoulder told me I needed a couple more "Clearance" items for Harvest/TGV.  More on that later.
I didn't buy this -- yet!
Pretty cute, but I don't need another cocktail shaker.


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THE DROUGHT:

The Stage 5 critical drought here is wreaking havoc on my yard!  The cars are so dirty!  On Monday, I went to the Dollar Tree and bought four $1 buckets to catch shower water.  We waste a lot of water just waiting for it to get warm because we do not have "instant" hot water from a tankless system.  (Hooray for you if you do!  I am still lobbying for one.)  I assigned each of us two buckets, so we now are catching the shower water as it gets warm enough for a shower.  In the next a.m. these four buckets get poured on a selected bush or plant outside on a rotation basis.  Our poor lilac, the little peach tree and several others are in dire straits.
This one doesn't mind much.

We are under very severe restrictions about water use, and there are stiff (400%!!!) surcharges being applied if you go over the recommended amount for your particular household.  Our water supply, Lake Purdy, is at less than 25% capacity.  Therefore, I decided it was necessary to implement some of the measures the western states routinely use to recycle water.  We do not have any kind of cistern or external system to divert grey water (yet), but at least this thing with the buckets is something.  I only wash a load of clothes if there is a completely full load, and we run our DW only once a day using the Quick and Dry cycle.  Showers are short and sweet, too, so I think we are doing our part.

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ELECTION DAY:

How did you spend your election day?  First up for me was the dentist (all is well), then a late lunch at a new pizza joint,  (really good), then we voted (no long lines), and passed by Publix.  Antsy and agitated about the possible outcome, I tried to relax on the back porch later in the afternoon.  The kid thumping the basketball in his driveway next door, not to mention the jack-butt across the back fence with his constant saws and generator roaring coupled with his braying-donkey laugh did not contribute to the settlement of my nerves.  Thank god for wine and earbuds.  Later we popped over to Sprouts to pickup salad for supper because we had had that heavy but delicious lunch of DEEP DISH PIZZA.  We had a lot of pizza leftover for this week -- a little fact which thrilled you-know-who.   By 7 o'clock Sweet Hubs was glued to the election returns upstairs, but I put on the earbuds again and watched my Aussie Hospital soap opera.  Until about midnight, that is, when I ventured a look and nearly fainted.  We then went to bed and had a restless sleep, wondering if our lives as we know them are over.  


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DECORATING AND THINKING AHEAD TO THE HOLIDAYS:

I moved the peacock chairs out of the LR for the upcoming holidays and rearranged a few things.  Wednesday, the day after "the day which will live in infamy," like a whole lot of other people, I felt like I had been sucker-punched right in the gut, just like somebody had died.  It was the very same feeling I had when 9-11 happened and when my mother died, just completely numb.  I find physical activity helpful in times like this, so I decided to move the furniture around and then made two uninspired Fall arrangements for the mantel that do not thrill me in the least.  I scrubbed my shower and the bathrooms, vacuumed, organized my closet, planned some meals for my son's impending visit, and then  -- I sat and stared into space.


Fall mode is still the order of the day at our house, and will be till after TGV.  It seems like people are already over it even before Halloween, and the full-on Christmas push has already begun by Labor Day.  At this point in my life, I would like to slow down time and savor each moment, because before you know it, maybe you can't.  




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PHYSICAL LABOR

On Friday, we worked on that cheapo piece of junk (the hutch) that we had such an adventure getting home from the estate sale in Irondale a few weeks ago.   Sweet Hubs cut some shelf inserts from wood that we had on hand.  We cleaned it up and moved it into a spot we cleared out in the garage studio.  For now, I am just going to use it for artsy-artsy storage, and sometime after the holidays, we will pretty it up and decide it's fate.  It has nice lines and will paint up pretty, but really, it is not very well made.  I can still make it look cute, but there is no great hurry.  It will be a swell piece for my longed-for sunroom if that ever happens.  

More pre-holiday food prep got done, too.  Sweet potatoes and corn prepped for the traditional family casseroles, and various other preliminary tasks for the pies.  This will be cooked and prepared, killing the fatted calf, so to speak, for the arrival of the prodigal son (sort of).  Cooking is very therapeutic after the week we have had.

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GETTING READY
Saturday, I worked so hard that I slept 11 hours.  I spent most of the afternoon making up all the components of my lasagne, which my son dearly loves.  It has traditionally been our favorite Christmas Eve dish, but since we are trying to pack it all into four or five days till his next visit which won't be this Christmas,  I am trying to get most of our favorites done up in advance.  Lasagne is a time consuming dish, and I do not use any convenience foods or shortcuts.  You should know that great lasagne also costs a lot of money as well as a lot of time to make it right.  You can imagine my disgruntlement when I discovered that I had bought those !@#$%&* "no-boil" lasagna noodles by mistake, which I despise, as I got to the point of putting it all together.  Assembly of the dish is now on hold till I get back to Publix to find some proper noodles.  

At some point before Christmas, I will give you my recipe as it has evolved over the years.  It is fantastic.  In fact, I am planning to post several of our holiday favorites between now and Christmas for those of you who truly like to cook.  

I assembled a small dish of lasagne with those icky no-boil noodles for our Saturday night supper, and it was half-decent, but I do really, really hate those no-boil things.  The look is weird without the ruffles on the sides, and the taste is basically like an old shoe sole, probably one you bought at some thrift shop at that.   I put away all the moving parts (the tomato sauce which simmered all day, the garlicky spinach meat mixture, the rich creamy besciamela sauce and the cheese mixture) till I get to Publix early in the  morning to buy some proper lasagne noodles.   Then I will assemble a truly great big dish of lasagne! 

Ginger candy!  My latest addiction.
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ON A PERSONAL NOTE:


These candles won't be burned while food is being served,
but they certainly make the front part of the house smell delicious.

My son Brendan will be arriving early in the week for a visit, and I will be pretty much absent from the blogs while he is here.  There is so much to pack into this visit, since he now lives in Beijing, China.  You may know that he is in the film business, and his work keeps him very busy and frequently traveling, not to mention domiciled on the other side of the world.  This time is very precious to me, and I plan to savor every moment of it.


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You can stop reading here unless you want to find out how I really feel about the election.

THE AFTERMATH:

I am supporting the national movement to get rid of the Electoral College.  I am going to write letters, and if it means getting out with my signs and marching, then I will do that, too.  This antiquated institution was set up in 1824, and the states actually have the last word as to how it works in each individual state, so there is no uniform set of rules.  There are great explanations of all the technicalities involved on various websites (I refer you to this one on NPR), but there have been four instances prior to this election when the popular vote and the electoral vote have been at odds.  Now there are five, because Hillary Rodham Clinton WON THE POPULAR VOTE!    
My shirt finally arrived.
A bit late...
This week in the aftermath, there have been many demonstrations, even violence and riots, because we all know that this mess is just plain wrong.   I think most of us have now well and truly had it with this ridiculous Electoral College.  It is just another form of gerrymandering. 

It is time that our individual votes as Americans counted.  Right now, THE POPULAR VOTE DOES NOT ELECT OUR PRESIDENT!!!  People think it matters if you go out and vote.  However, if you live the kind of state like I do, Alabama, where we do not have but 9 electoral votes, if anyone wants to vote for anyone or anything other than a Republican, well then, you are flat out S.O.L.!  Here in Alabama, people will vote for the proverbial "yellow dog" if there is an R after the name.  (Come to think of it, "yellow dog" pretty much sums it up this time.  Let's talk about that hair...)  






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