Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Go-To Dip

Lawwwd have mercy! (As my Richmond aunts say) What a busy and FUN time of year! Whew!

Our annual Cookie and Ornament Exchange was lots of fun! Sunday was pretty stressful getting everything together... and the kids and husbands organized... but a tequila shot for the hostesses before everyone arrived really helped settle the nerves!

As is becoming tradition, I gave my ornament number to a friend who forgot her ornament so I don't have one to show... yet...

The dip I brought which I have taken the liberty of naming Kirsten's Dip was a big hit and she was bombarded by people asking her for the recipe. I thought I would share since it is so easy and yummy! I was planning on making another appetizer but when I found myself at the market without my list and very close to (stressful) tears, I pulled this one from memory and it all worked out!

Kirsten's Dip

1 can black eye peas (drained)
1 can white corn (drained)
4 stalks green onion
1 box (square not round) crumbled feta

Mix dressing together and pour over before serving
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup oil

Serve with white corn chips.

Saturday we put the tree up which is such a relief. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't the perfect-family-tree-trimming-party-in-my-head but it got done so I guess it was a success. 

Tonight I am hoping to finish my Christmas cards while watching either a fun movie or show and doing laundry.  Sad that this really IS my idea of a fun night!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cheesy Sweaters and Cooky Cookies

Why did they spell "Cookie" that way?? This book has a history! My mom has a really old copy and when I was pregnant with Mary Fowler, her sister gave her this new reprint of the exact same book- complete with '70s photos. It just seems to be the only Christmas cookie book we use!
Last night I attended a Wine and Cheesy holiday sweater party. I had a great time! My mom was kind enough to lend a friend and I her very beautiful (and not at all cheesy- she's a reader) sweaters. And she'll be happy to know that most everyone commented that the one I was wearing was adorable! Pink and green, no doubt!  

I was greeted with a yummy cordial of Bailey's and Butterscotch schnapps which I haven't had since the night of my 21st birthday... the night my sorority girlfriends almost killed me with their kindness of buying me too many shots at our favorite college bar. 

I am not normally into dressing up but it was so funny seeing my normally so fashion-conscience girlfriends in some real BEAUTIES! I also liked the mix of girls- I thought conversation was great- we had a lot of laughs!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Old Women

I forgot to post this month's book selection. Two Old Women was chosen by a sweet lady in our group who I admire. Before she met her husband, a physician, and had three children, she lived in China. She moved there not knowing the language and within three months became fluent (in a country that has a whole different alphabet!!). Not sure I could do that!

She is modest and says that the secret is living there- you have no choice but to communicate!

Now, this book was actually one I would recommend. No need to buy it... I just checked it out from the library. I plan to read it to my kids. It is very short (less than 200 pages) and took only about 2 hours to read. This is a story the author was told by way of oral history and I loved its message and how I could relate it to so many facets of life: socialization, politics, aging population, etc. It is timeless.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fun Journaling

I bought this in my friend's shop the other day and it is so quick and so much fun! I have always HAD to journal, write things down.  But I don't think everyone is that way.  This would be a great gift for family members who don't necessarily like to journal or write letters.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Love Morrie

A friend loaned this little book to us (yes, I think we're the last two in America to read it) so I just happened to pick it up last night while I was waiting for some laundry to finish.

It is a wonderful and quick read (like 2 hours) and oh how I laughed and cried! I LOVE this man!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

The whole family made a trek to Barnes and Noble yesterday because Adam had a few books to pick up and I needed to buy my latest book group read. 

The lady who chose it is the oldest member in our group and my favorite:)  She is probably around 70 years old, and she is a chaplain for the jail system. I remember reading Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean in college and this lady reminds me of her.

My personal feelings about capital punishment wax and wane, but Helen Prejean's belief, "A person should not be judged by his or her worst action" has really stuck with me.

Well, that's enough deep thinking for today...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff for Women

I was at a small bookstore looking for a couple of books they didn't have but as I waited I flipped through this little gem!  I love it!  

I haven't read the other Don't Sweat books so I don't know how it compares but I've enjoyed this one so much, I'd like to buy one and wrap it up real pretty for every one of my girlfriends. Not that they need it, it's just really a joy to read.  The short page or two chapters are quick reads and I'm sure when I'm done I'll keep it on my bedside table.

I think it would be fun to start a monthly lunch group where we'd take a chapter and have it be the discussion topic.  I am just always wanting to learn what works for other people.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Strawberry Basil Martini

Since several asked, here is my new favorite cocktail. I ordered this at a restaurant and this recipe is the best I've found. It's a few more steps than I usually like but it is oh-so-worth it especially since most restaurants don't offer it. 

First, make the simple syrup because you'll want it ready to go for your second drink! And I just used a wooden spoon for the "muddling."
2 parts sugar
1 part water

Bring the water to a boil.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water.
Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat.
Allow to cool completely.

3 Strawberries
3 Basil leaves
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce gin
1 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberries with the basil leaves and Simple Syrup. Add ice and the remaining ingredients and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the strawberry slice.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God

This evening I am sitting in a comfy chair reading this yummy book (finally a good book club book!) with my new favorite strawberry basil martini.  Adam has his extra dirty martini so we are happy campers!

Sunday night I played host to our book group. I am still trying to figure out why I was asked to be a part of this motley crew almost a year ago but I am flattered, I think. This is no chick-lit, fun book club. We read textbooks... textbooks, people! Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but suffice it to say that a couple of times, I didn't waste my time reading the book. I watched the movie. There, I said it. That's right, my version of cliffnotes... I watched the movie. 

Good thing, too, because that Piano Teacher was some crazy sh*t! I would have been very upset if I'd wasted several nights reading that book! (And, technically, I did read it! The movie was subtitled... subtitled, people!) Take it from me, don't waste your time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Champagne Punch

My sister is having a party and asked for this 'in'famous recipe.  I planned a surprise party for Adam's 21st birthday and this Martha Stewart punch was the star!  While we went out to dinner with his parents, my family and sorority sisters set up the party.  Little did I know that dinner would take 3 hours!  

Suffice it to say, by the time we arrived, the party was started!  The girls loved the punch and most were 'punch-drunk.'  Adam was very surprised and probably still considers this one of the highlights of his college career.  One birthday boy and all those pretty Phi Mu girls!  

Martha Stewart's Champagne Punch

Makes 2
(Me thinks this is perhaps where the potency came from- converting this recipe into punch bowl size!)

3 tablespoons grenadine
3 tablespoons Cointreau
2 tablespoons brandy
1 3/4 cups champagne
Raspberries, apples, or other seasonal fruit

Fill a small ice bucket halfway with ice. Pour grenadine, Cointreau, brandy, and champagne over ice. Stir gently, and ladle punch into 2 wide-mouthed stemmed glasses. Garnish punch with raspberries, apples, or any other fruit in season.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fun Friday Night

Friday we attended a Book and Author dinner.  We had a great time!  It honestly was one of my favorite nights this year.  There were three speakers including Cokie Roberts.  We sat with three other great couples and the conversation and wine flowed!  The tables were set for 8 instead of 10 and I think that makes conversation much easier and more intimate.  I wore this Lilly dress again which made getting ready a snap!  Love dresses that multi-task!

Because the authors were there to sign their books, I just HAD to buy all 7 of them.  My girlfriend had the good idea to have Cokie Roberts' book signed to my daughter so I sent Adam on his mission.  He said she had quite the attitude.  

He asked her if she could sign it to Mary Fowler and she said, "No, I cannot.  I don't write last names because it would hurt my hand."  He said, "Well, okay, but Mary Fowler is her first name" (Cokie is supposedly from the South, ya'll!).  So, she gave a tired sigh and did it.

Since Adam and I have been watching the John Adams series on HBO, I do think I will enjoy reading about the women behind the founders of our country.  As a matter of fact, one of my girlfriends at the dinner compared me to Dolly Madison which I think is quite a compliment, although I do need to refresh my history lessons.  

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Book Club

This month is my turn to host Book club and I chose Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures. Autism is certainly in the news a lot now and while I have friends with autistic children, I actually know very little about it.

Someone had mentioned this author to me and since this book club is a bit more serious, I thought it was a happy medium between what I like (learning about people) and what they want to read (textbooks). I am enjoying it very much and I definitely recommend it!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Aloha to Spring Cocktail Club

the guests could help themselves to a lai... it dresses up any outfit!

Well, I had high hopes of taking lots of pictures to document the party but, as always, it just seemed weird to have a camera out once people arrived so here are the few shots I was able to snap.

Our cocktail club was formed in 2000 and my husband and I are among the original members. Over the years, people have moved and we have replaced them with other great people! We had 12 couples for years and now we have 13. Each couple takes a month and the hosts may invite additional friends if they want. The hosts provide the libations and the cocktail club members bring an appetizer. (Most hosts prepare a couple of appetizers, too) Most of us like to offer a special cocktail and my favorite are the ones that do because I love trying new drinks!

the color scheme

My Contributions to the Menu

Aloha Mai Tais
4oz pineapple juice
4oz orange juice
1oz dark rum
1oz light rum
1oz triple sec
1oz lime juice
1/2 oz grenadine

Coconut Shrimp (from Sam's)

Fresh Fruit

Polynesian Dumplings (from Sam's)

Tequila Lime Chicken Wings (from Sam's)

Sweet & Sour Meatballs 

12oz apricot preserves
1/2 cup hoison sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar

Pinapple Upside-Down Cupcakes
(I just followed the directions on the side of the box of Duncan Hines Pineapple Supreme cake mix)

Thank you Pioneer Woman! The guys (and I) LOVED these!

A very early shot of my centerpiece which is SO not my specialty (thank goodness a friend me flowers that afternoon)

the light stuff

the hard stuff

This was probably the most relaxed I've been at one of my own (non-family) parties and I think these are the reasons:
  1. Good number of people- about 30

  2. I took a friend's advice and hired a lady to help with the bartending and keeping things clean during the party

  3. Started heating the food earlier, rather than waiting until the very last minute

    4. Made sure I was ready by 2pm

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good Refresher

It's always fun to flip through this book before having people over. I like how down to earth the author Deborah Ford seems to be. She says some of the best parties serve only sweet tea and a sleeve of Ritz crackers!  I also think she clears up some common 'Southern' misconceptions: it's not all about debutantes and passed-down silver.

The most important things are family, friends, and kindness. And the most important rule of etiquette- making others feel special, welcome, and comfortable.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

1. "When it comes right down to it, Southern hospitality is born of a unique lifestyle, one of grace and style faced with a deep appreciation for leisure and laughter... it is a blend of many honorable virtues passed down through generations- gentleness, kindness, and the receiving of strangers and friends alike with openness, selflessness, and caring." -Emyl Jenkins

2. Southern girls want to welcome friends and neighbors into their homes because they want to share the love that they have there. We are homebodies at heart. That doesn't mean that we're wallflowers, but it does mean that our hospitality comes from wanting to share our homes, and ourselves, with others.

3. Just remember: It's all about having fun. If the flowers are a little droopy or the potatoes are a little burnt, it really doesn't matter. Like life, no party is ever perfect, and those little problems are just part of the fun.

This last part reminds me of one time when I had a girlfriend and her daughter over for lunch. She was pretty late arriving so it gave me extra time to make sure everything was 'just so.' We had a nice time and she invited us over a few days later. I arrived only about 5 minutes late and I could tell she was flustered. I was so excited to have the company that I was more than happy to help out in the kitchen- informal chit chat while doing an activity (like chopping) is always my preference! But, I could quickly sense that she was nervous.

At one point she dropped a glass and it shattered on the floor. I started cleaning it up and I noticed she was crying! I felt AWFUL. I was worried maybe she had received some bad news earlier or something but it turned out she was just feeling rushed.  She told me that when I had her over everything was so perfect that she felt inept. Never have I felt so badly.

I quickly explained that if it seemed that way, it was a one-time thing... and actually, it felt a little 'staged' to me (when I had her over). Now I almost intentionally try to keep things 'im'perfect? (I don't have to try too hard!) I don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is the poor guest who has to ask for more toilet paper from the potty seat, but guests can help out with some things... I love to!