Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Non Traditional Thanksgiving

   The week before the actual holiday, we have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the fixings and all the relatives, including grandparents, children, and some neighbors, too.  Since my sister lives basically right around the corner, this is a fun way for us all to get together.   It was especially celebratory this year, as we were celebrating an engagement, the announcement of a pregnancy with twins, and the continued health of the octogenarian and nonagenarian. The adult children are then free to spend their holiday with the divine families of their significant others, and we travel off to Nags Head for a somewhat non-traditional dinner.  My sister, who is a great cook and the major producer of the traditional dinner, joined our excursion and helped enjoy our seaside feast this year.

We always begin with a healthy starter - veggie crudites.

Some toasted flatbread with vegetable tapenade.

The wine of the day.

Favorite cosmo recipe - a real treat.

Steamed (and some grilled) oysters.

Pickled beets.

Main event - cornbread fried oysters and fried scallops, as well.

Locally grown sweet potato.

Steamy sauteed spinach.
I am a big fan of colorful plating.  We had orange, red, green, yellow and brown. 
Fall colors on a plate - yum - a veritable feast for sure.
Dinner always has a dessert to end - Nancy made pumpkin pie without a crust and I made a pumpkin loaf from a Weight Watchers recipe.

Just a dry spice cake mix and a can of pure pumpkin for a healthy alternative.

The crustless pie cracked a little during baking, but a spoon inserted for a taste test made the crack bigger.

Making a new holiday tradition - divine.  And I'm not really sure if eating oysters on Thanksgiving is such a new idea.  I'm pretty sure our Pilgrim forefathers and mothers used the fruits of the sea in that first feast as well as the fruits of the land and the sky.  Most important is the gratitude we feel for the abundance in our lives and the love of our divine family.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sharing Joy With My Friends At Starbucks

Starbucks is the gold standard of coffee.  I am a bit partial, as Meredith is in management at the company, but I recently attended a coffee tasting/pairing and learned lots about coffee.  I was treated to a presentation by two aspiring coffee Masters in a somewhat local Starbucks store.  Did you even know Starbucks has a training  to become a certified Coffee Master?  

Jonathan and Joe presented wonderful information about where specific beans are grown, what flavor notes come from each region and what food pairs well with each.  Both were so knowledgeable.

This fold out chart made it easy to see the different regions of coffee growing.

I have to admit the tasting was the most fun part.  Tasting coffee, I learned, is similar to tasting wine.  There is a protocol for tasting - all coffee is freshly ground and brewed in French press containers, shown above. (I have a French press at home and the coffee is extra delicious when prepared this way).  First, we take in the aroma by covering the small cup with our hand and breathing in.  The taste comes next, and it is not just any taste - A Slurp.  That's right a slurp, to distribute the heat of the coffee as well as the different flavors around the palette.   Next we identified the flavors and located where on the tongue the flavor notes occurred.  Tim, an already certified Coffee Master, was especially adept at identifying and describing citrus notes, peppery notes, chocolate notes, etc. and where they were most prominent in the palette.

These small cups were used for tasting.  I never thought I'd enjoy black coffee, but in the specified manner of tasting, it was wonderful.

We accompanied the different blends with other foods - Evolution Fresh Orange Juice paired with Ethiopia to complement the citrus notes.  By the way, I know I sound like a commercial for Starbucks, but it was delicious orange juice.  Guatemala Antigua from Latin America was my personal favorite.  Was it the lemon, the chocolate or the soft spice?  I don't know.  It tasted very good with apple fritter from the pastry case.  I'm not really a dessert person, but the pairing was lovely.  Finally, we tasted Komodo Dragon Blend - very earthy in flavor and paired with cinnamon roll to complement the herbal notes.

Jonathan prepared these coffee travel tags summarizing each coffee and as a lovely memento of the entire experience.
I can't begin my morning without a cup of coffee.  It helps me wake up.  I have a new appreciation and a new way of tasting my coffee.  Jonathan opened the presentation by saying he loved coffee - it's what brings us together.  And yes, it brought us together that afternoon and I am grateful for the experience.  It was DIVINE!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Meeting of the Moms

Last week we had a lovely theme night at Timmy's house, and this Friday night was a special dinner, too.  Meredith and I got to meet Sabrina's mom, Sandi.  We're Facebook friends, of course,  but this was the real thing.  We both are so happy for the impending marriage of our children, and tonight was a lovely way to meet and get to know each other.

Here we are enjoying a glass of wine and a hug with Cobee before dinner.

Sandy brought some luscious wine for us to try - Chocolate Red Wine.  This wasn't the usual milky Choco-Vine we've had as a cordial, this was a red table wine with a hint of smooth chocolate in the finish.
Here's that bottle. Even Timmy, who usually likes a glass of white, enjoyed this taste.
Timmy and Sabrina were busy in the kitchen preparing a completely lovely dinner to mark the special occasion.
Seeing them happily work together is a good sign their marriage will be a real partnership.

We talked comfortably, exchanging kid stories, and lovingly complimenting their efforts.  We are excited about the planning of the big day and the wonderful things yet to come.  That's what real family is - past, present and future - rolled into memorable moments that touch the emotional heart inside.

 On the menu: salad, steak (chicken for Sabrina and Cobee), spaghetti with scampi sauce, and green beans.  So happy they are eating their veggies (said every Mom everywhere). The dining experience was like a five-star restaurant with the nicest host and hostess.  

The dining room table with lovely place settings.
Perfectly dressed Greek-style salad.  Loved the feta and the kalamata olives.
Filet mignon grilled to perfection on the outdoor barbecue.

Nanny's recipe for apple cake topped with pumpkin ice cream was a delicious ending - so another Mom was there in spirit.

And we all know that Cobee is part of the family.  He has his own chair at the table.
We ended the evening with a few rounds of this game, Spot It!  

A proper dinner, to mark a proper occasion.  Divine!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Theme Night - Engagement Food

Theme Night this month was at Timmy and Sabrina's house in Mays Landing.  We all drove down with our offerings for the theme of -- Engagement Food.  We weren't quite sure what that actually meant, but we put it all together as a cocktail hour/ wedding food sort of a theme.  There were even gifts for the happy couple.  The family is so excited for upcoming nuptials next October.  

Here are some of the awesome appetizers we enjoyed.

 Filled puffed pastry and tomato pie, a local favorite, as well as a goat cheese log encrusted with cinnamon and cranberries (yummy, Becky got it at Costco) and some baked tomatoes.  Not shown is crab dip and an array of bread dippers brought by Aunt Tracy and veggies (of course).

With Nanny's deviled eggs and so many starters that completed the cocktail hour portion of the party, we were very full before we even got to the luscious dinner.  

Louis, Sabrina's Dad, made this chicken escarole soup - so warm and comforting.

Those little white balls are mini-mozzarella to complement the salad bar offerings brought by yours truly.
Even though Meredith and Nick couldn't make it to the event, Meredith's wonderful idea of a mashed potato bar was a fun addition to the meal.

Timmy's specialty is chicken francais and it was absolutely delish.

No theme night is complete without loads of dessert.

Chocolate fondue with a variety of dippers.
Nanny's brownies went great with the two kinds of ice cream - or even dipped in chocolate.
Even Cobee got to enjoy his Frosty Paws.

It was a great time and we were happy to have everyone who hadn't yet met Sabrina's Dad to get to spend some time with him.

My favorite photo of the night.  You can put your own caption on this ha, ha!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fall Decorations

Our home is our castle, whatever that means.  While I don't decorate extensively for any holiday except Christmas, I like to put around a few items, inside and outside the house that acknowledge the season.  Not really Halloween or Thanksgiving - just FALL.

The front door sports this basket of Fall foliage.  The autumn colors stand out against the green door.

There is one decoration I have been putting up for years.  It has even spent some time on my bulletin boards at school.

My mother-in-law made this guy for me and he is so much a part of the seasonal decor.  When you walk into the kitchen at night, he could give you a bit of a startle until you realize it is Mr. Scarecrow, as familiar as an old friend.
I always set the dining room table with seasonal embellishments.
 We add some chrysanthemums and ornamental grass to the large pots outside the garage to complete our decorating.

This always looks like fall.
When it comes to decorating for Fall, mother nature does the best job by painting the leaves on the trees gorgeous colors of red, yellow and orange, and letting them fall to the ground and adorn the yard.   (My husband might not agree with me since he blows the leaves out of the yard).  

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Sewing Project

Retirement Project #1 - Make curtains for the master bedroom and recover the fabric  seats on the vanity chairs.

We inherited a few antique pieces from Tim's aunt.  My favorite is this 40's art deco vanity.  Both chairs were recovered once, but the fabric again needs updating. 
This piece is an eye-catcher between the windows.  I don't spend too much time primping at it but it reminds me of Hollywood and days gone by.  

 My friend, Debe, a would be decorator, who has good taste and a slew of ideas about what looks good, made a few suggestions.

I am not a seamstress, in fact all I ever knew about sewing I learned in seventh grade Home Economics.  We made a felt vest.  In 8th grade we made a lined wool skirt, and when it came to the fashion show, I was kindly asked to be the announcer, instead of a model.  Maybe Miss Janetta was afraid my skirt wouldn't hold up for the show.  Needless to say, that was the end of my Home Economics/Sewing classes.  I opted for more academic pursuits in High School.  

Cheryl helped me find an extreme bargain sewing machine at Tuesday Morning.  A small number which she claims sews like a gem.   I bought some fabric and I thought I'd coordinate everything, stripes and paisley, in my favorite blue/green color palette.   

This is the little baby machine.  It even does zig-zagging.  
  I watched a couple of how-to videos on You Tube.   It's funny how certain terms of vocabulary and parts of the machine remain implanted in your memory.  

I set the machine up in my newly acquired guest room on Tim's blueprint table.  There is great natural light streaming in from the east and south facing windows.

Well, Friday afternoon and part of Saturday morning, produced results, which if I may say so myself, made me proud.  

The valances in blue-green paisley.

Three small throw pillows in opposing prints - love that look!

The next morning I was ready to tackle recovering of the seat cushions.  My husband, Tim, who can do anything, but unfortunately doesn't have time for many small home improvement projects, assisted me in covering the seats and back rests.

Here's Tim using his staple gun and a hammer to tightly cover the chair pads.  

Here's the TA-DA!

I love walking into the bedroom now.  I feel so lighthearted.  That outdated fabric has been bothering me for years.  It never really matched the rest of the room.   I will be looking forward to some additional projects soon.  I don't think I'll be making clothing for the family, but a well-placed pillow cover here or there will look DIVINE.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lunch Bunch

My friend, Cheryl, lives a mile up the road.  I must pass her house and think fondly of her at least twice per day.  Unfortunately, with our busy lives, we go months without catching up or spending any time together.  Last week we got together at my house for a lunch, and today, Halloween, we had an afternoon together at her house.  

Here's Cheryl in her lush backyard.

We started the afternoon off with a sit down in the barn.  Cheryl is a true artist and has produced many creative works.  Evidence of her talents are displayed all over the inside of the rustic barn.  

In fact, today, Cheryl and I named this her Nana cave.  Her office to write and create wonderful pieces.

  We exchange stories about our families, but we also talk about our pasts and influences of experiences on our current situations.  It seems even after months of not speaking, we can immediately pick up where were left off, as if only a day went by.  Today we enjoyed a glass of wine together in the barn and then moved our visit inside to enjoy a farm fresh lunch including lettuces from her garden and a few additions from Delicious Orchards Farm Market.

A nice place setting always makes the ambiance special. 

Strong coffee served in Spode china cups as well as dessert on a festive plate completed the luncheon.

Cheryl's grandson Chris came home from school and dressed in his costume for some Halloween fun with his friends.

He doesn't look much like the baby boy I held in my arms as an infant, but underneath the mask, he still is that sweet child.

Cheryl and I made a plan to meet again next week and visit that wonderful farm market in Colts Neck - Delicious Orchards.  I'll be getting some fresh ingredients for a lunch on Friday with my friend, Susie, and provisions for our next theme night on Saturday.

Every single one of my friends has a special place in my heart.  Cheryl is divine.