Wednesday, July 20, 2011


One of my favorite signs of mid-summer has revealed its plummage.

Beautiful and sweet smelling Stargazer Lily.

The whole yard looks best in mid-summer splendor.

I am so happy that when my hard-working husband, Tim, pulls his truck up to the back garage, he gets to see these beautiful plantings.  On a rare day off, Tim fabricated and trowel finished these pots to accent the man-door to the garage.

The planters contain lantana in the middle and red geraniums on the sides.

The large pot contains a climbing mandevilla with red petunias around it.  It has really grown in its mostly sunny spot between the garage doors.

Our favorite afternoon/evening spot to enjoy a glass of wine and conversation is the back patio adjacent to the garage.

Come on and set a spell.

On hot lazy summer days I love relaxing in the pool.

It's these relaxing moments that bring me calmness in the craziness of the school year.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hey Sweet Pea, It's Low Country Night

Inspired by a delicious, seasonally offered dish at our favorite restaurant in Nags Head, (The Red Drum), my choice for a theme night was Low Country food.  Low country is the bayous and coastal regions of North/South Carolina and below, like the loving cookin' of Paula Deen.

My first quest was for Andouille sausage which I purchased in the supermarket in Nags Head last visit there.  Next I needed to find a large pot to steam everything in.  After getting sticker shock at the restaurant supply and wishing I had brought ours home from NC last time, I borrowed Judy Bodine's 16 quart  pasta/gravy pot.  I rigged up a steamer basket and some wire catering supports.

The vessel

Ingredients for the Low Country Boil are small red potatoes, fresh corn halved or thirded (?), sliced-on-an-angle Andouille sausage, shrimp, and clams.

  After the seasoned water boils, each ingredient is layered in the pot for a precise amount of time before the next ingredients are added, which integrates the flavors as it cooks.  Yum.  "After the water boils" is the operative phrase here and the boiling took way longer than I thought, and I have to admit caused some snarkiness on my part, watching a big pot come to a boil. 

The kids watching me watching the big pot.

 Thank goodness, for Aunt Tracy's calmness and humor.  It was finally done, almost 1 1/2 hours start to finish, twice as long as I had anticipated, but

Ta Da

Awesome additions were cheese grits, corn puddin', macaroni and cheese, pulled barbecue chicken, and biscuits and sausage gravy. 

The cheesiest grits

Corn Puddin'
Pulled chicken with homemade bbq sauce
Aunt Marie's Macaroni and Cheese
Biscuits and sausage gravy

 Sweet tea vodka and lemonade, garnished with mint and several delicious desserts completed the theme.
The libation

Homemade peach cobbler served with ice cream

Key Lime Dessert

We are GRiTS (Girls Raised in the South) by association.  I am Val-Ray, and there's Breenus, Tater, Aunt Tray-tray and Boopers.

Best line by Nanny, "It's a great night for skinny dipping."

Next theme night is Becky's and we're going out to dinner to a Brazilian Steak House for Rodizio.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Visit to Laurita Winery

Last Friday, Lisa, Theresa and I met at Laurita Winery.  Set in rolling hills about 25 miles from home, is a lovely local winery named for the two owners' mothers.  It was a hot, humid day.  Difficult for hiking up and down stone pathways but wonderful weather for growing delicious grapes.  And we all know, delicious grapes means delicious wine.

Beautiful landscapes surround the building.

We entered the cooled building, into a large banquet room, looking out over the vineyards with lots of places to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers or some sandwich offerings from the small deli inside the main building.  The large wine tasting room was dimly lit for a lovely ambience. 
Wine tasting display.

  We tasted several offerings, reds, whites, drys and sweets and we all purchased a bottle or two of our favorite.

I enjoy dryish reds, everyday table wines.

We completed our day with a gourmet sandwich in the banquet room, watching the rain pour over the grounds, relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere and the conversation.

I love these friendship quotes:

"Turns out not where but who you're with that really matters."- Dave Matthews Band

 and from Les Miserables (the play):  "Let the wine of friendship never run dry."

Happy Birthday, Lisa.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Club

I hosted this month's book club.  We read The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty.
It is a memior style novel from the prespective of a young girl coming of age with major obstacles to her emotional development.  Through her eyes, we see the progress of her friend, her mother, her brother and the other people in her life.  She learns to rely on herself and her intelligence. 

Typically, we have a gastro-session and then discuss the book.  I have been watching the Food Network a bit too much this summer.  Among other things, I served

White Sangria
Watermelon with Feta and snipped mint from the garden.

Cold cucumber soup

Savory tomato tart on puff pastry

 We are seven college graduates in the 50+ age range who enjoy getting together.  I am the newbie in the group, I joined two years ago. The majority of the members have known each other for years, attending college together.  We have teachers, a doctor of physical therapy, an insurance associate, a retired state police officer, and domestic engineers.  

 We discuss the book along with everything else that happens in our lives.  I once read a T-shirt that said, "Our wine club has a book problem."  While this readily applies to our group, I can also paraphrase additionally, - "Our food club has a book problem" or "Our therapy club has a book problem."  I am happy to say I am defined by the company I keep.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reflections - A Lovely Day

"The contemplation of beauty causes the soul to grow wings."  Plato

My dear friend, Cheryl, and I spent a lovely day at New York Botanical Garden, around the world and  back in history in one beautiful place. 

Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra stimulates the senses, with texture, sound and glorious sight.

 Spanish guitar music played as we strolled through the Conservatory.
I especially loved the many citrus and flowering trees.  The air was perfumed with the smell of orchids, gardenias and lemon and lime.

The gardenias and other specimens were planted in large pots for the exhibit.

We toured the desert habitat and the outdoor lily ponds. 

This spot is particularly inspiring in August.

My favorite venue was the rainforest.  Lush greenery, ferns, mossy  rocks and the beautiful and colorful flora.

Colorful plants indicative of the rainforest.

Bird of Paradise

Despite the traffic crossing the George Washington Bridge, the NYBG is easy to reach from our area and a wonderful day trip.  So many beautiful gardens and photos. 

The Conservatory.
Promenade to the fountain in front of the library.

A small portion of the herb garden

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Aloha From the Kitchen

Sabrina's island theme night was a great success and quite delicious.  The girls worked all afternoon in the kitchen and created some spectacular offerings.  And they dressed for the occasion.

Proof that cooking is a glamourous event.

Some of the glamourous dishes included these:

Meredith tried her hand at an edible arrangement - spectacular!
Sabrina' strawberry margarita jello shots.

Aloha girls.

I knew the evening was going to be a great success when Nanny showed up in her Hawaiian muumuu purchased on her trip there with Tracy almost 35 years ago.

Another glamourous dish.

There was food galore as usual, including aloha chicken kebabs, island rice, sweet and sour chicken, sausage and peppers, my own girlie salad with mandarin oranges and toasted almonds, and a real appetizer treat - Sabrina's chicken and jalapeno bacon wrapped bundles.

We decided to move the party outside for dessert.  

The girls

The desserts were fabulous.

Now I know why islanders wear that drapped fabric-to hide their bellies.

Looking forward to next month's theme.  My own - Low Country dishes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sharing A Home With Adult Children

Tim and I are happy we are able to continue to house our young adult children, as they build their professional/financial lives.  I can't say we haven't mentally redecorated at least one of their bedrooms in anticipation of the empty nest, but generally it is a happy situation.  Sometimes we don't actually see our adult children for days at a time.  One might be working nights and one might be visiting his girlfriend, our sometimes third adult child.  But we do always see their shoes, lined up by the couch awaiting a fast getaway. 

Sometimes we know they have been home; we find hints and clues they they have been around.  Kind of like a cat who might bring a dead bird home, we found this on our kitchen counter one day. 

 We didn't see our banker son for days afterward, but he did leave this present.  Just to let us know he still loves us, I suppose.

I know our children love living home, too.  Whenever we take a weekend away, they invite all of their friends over to enjoy their living arrangements.  How do we know?  Well, we might find photos of our kitchen filled with other adult children on facebook, some we've never met.  Or when we get home we notice the house is sparking clean - better than we left it.  Once I inquired, "what went on here this weekend?"  The response -  "Why?  What did you hear?"

The only thing that gets me a little snarky is who's cleaning the upstairs  bathroom this week.

Are we ready for the empty nest?  Not sure.  But I do know that one of the first times we had dinner alone (Meredith was away at school and Timmy was out for the evening) I could hear Tim chewing.  Not that he is a loud chewer, but that's how quiet it was.  So we turned on the music and shared a bottle of wine.  We'll adapt.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

It has been awhile since I posted the latest and greatest.  In fact, Tim completed the annual planting several weeks ago and the flowers are on their way to becoming beautiful blooms.  Rain, then sunshine, have been extremely beneficial this year. 

My ingenious husband figured out a way to save his knees when planting by using a long, wide drill bit to dig the holes for planting.

We decided on a red/white color scheme signifying good fortune and purity.

Some added bonuses are the perennial color accents near the mailbox, between the white pines and beside the clothesline.

Stella Doro lilies

Knock Out Roses