entertaining · Family · Gift Giving · Home

The Perfect Gift

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This post is credited to my sister from another mother also known as my cousin who is inspired as well as this amazing, cool, wonderful, person.

This past weekend I  enjoyed a long overdue girls weekend with my cousin.  We both have fall birthdays and decided it was time to catch up, lounge around, and play some tennis.  She arrived at my house with  a lovely birthday gift.  As she explained “her madness” behind the gift, I started smiling.  Per her usual brilliance, she hit this one out of the park.

My gift was a basket of her favorite things.  Absolutely brilliant!  She was sharing something of herself with me.  That alone brought this huge smile to my face.  She lives too far away and we keep up via text and phone and visits but this basket brought things into my everyday life that I will use after she’s gone home.  She is leaving something of herself behind and every time I pick up  something from the basket I’ll think of her and feel her with me.

I always struggle with gift giving.  I spend hours thinking of what that perfect gift is.  Cous knocked it out of the park making the answer to that question so simple.  Give something of yourself!  What a wonderful life lesson.

So the next time you need to find that special birthday, hostess, Christmas, house-warming or other gift, ask yourself – what are my favorite things?

So what was in the basket?  First, the basket itself is simply beautiful.  I’m filling it with reading material and it will sit beside my favorite chair.  Cousin’s favorite candle with the scent of dessert.  Books on Charleston!  Our common ancestors are from the Holy City and we’ve spent much time visiting there over the years.  The beach, the market, the food and fun.  What a wonderful addition and it will fit in with my reading basket.  Lotion and material for my pamper Sundays and last but not least, the purse light she knew I coveted!

P.S.  Everyone who has a tote or hobo bag should have one of the purse lights.  They are amazing and you can find stuff that otherwise hides from you in your bag.

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entertaining · Family · Home

Do you binge watch?

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So I will admit that I am a binge watcher.  It seems like my nights are crazy and I always miss whatever popular show is on that night or I’m too tired to enjoy what is on or I’m multi-tasking which means I’m really not enjoying or paying attention to what is on the tube.  I think I just confessed that multi-tasking is a bad idea.  So given that I fail at multi-tasking or miss the best part  because I’m falling asleep, I’ve come up with my own coping mechanism.  You will be familiar with it as I confess that it is not original – I DVR and Netflix.  Yeah for lack of originality, but if a solution works, it works and these days I’ll take all the help I can get.

My DVR and Netflix lists probably need some updating.  Right now lists are programmed to include:

  1. Blue Bloods;
  2. Madam Secretary;
  3. Masterpiece theater;
  4. Miss Fisher mysteries; and
  5. Perry Mason, I know it is ancient but I have fond memories of watching re-runs of it with my Mom.

My list is not long and doubtlessly needs something fresh.  I’m thinking the new PBS movie on Vietnam is up for addition but what else?  Suggestions are welcome!  What is on your Netflix list?

entertaining · Family · Food

Taco Soup

I’m a soup girl.  There is nothing I enjoy more for dinner after a hard day at work than a bowl of homemade soup.  I enjoy cooking and I find it is better for me generally than fast food. I’ve also received a push in that direction from my doctor who encourages me to avoid the center of the grocery store and opt for fresh foods on the exterior of the market.  Of course if I want homemade soup, this means I have to make the soup to have it for dinner.  I have a number of “go to” recipes for soup and in the fall and winter, I tend to make a large pot of something on Sunday, sometimes Saturday, to have for the week ahead or to stock the freezer.

IMG_8926One of my “go to” soups is taco soup.  It is on the low-calorie side of things, tastes, and so simple to make.  I put it in the dump and run category of recipes.

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Three chicken breasts

Two large cans diced tomatoes

Two small cans of black beans

Package of frozen corn, preferably white or silver queen or two small cans corn drained

Half a cup taco seasoning

Half a cup ranch dressing mix, dry

Two cartons chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste.

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I use a La Creuset stock pot to cook my soup. Poach the chicken breasts in half a carton of chicken stock.  Remove the breasts and let cool.  Shred the chicken and set to the side.  In the stock pot, add the tomatoes and remaining chicken stock, the taco seasoning and dry ranch dressing mix, stir and let simmer for two hours.  Drain one can of black beans and add to the pot.  Add the remaining can of beans with juice and the corn.  If you elected to use canned corn, drain and rinse the corn before adding to the pot.  Add in the chicken and bring to a boil.  After reaching a boil, reduce to low and let cook at least another hour, preferably two.  Then enjoy!  I enjoy it “plain” but you can also top with shredded cheese, sour cream or tortilla strips.

Post Script:  This soup freezes well.  I divide it into small quantities and freeze it for lunch when I want to take something for those busy days at work or for dinner after one of those days.

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entertaining · Food

Spaghetti Squash – a preview of fall

Squash is a favorite of mine, zucchini, yellow, and spaghetti routinely make their way into my kitchen.  Spaghetti squash is a fall favorite.  I usually serve the “noodles” from the squash with marinara or spaghetti sauce and, on occasion, I whip up a cream sauce and make an alfredo type of squash with cream, garlic, and Parmesan cheese.

Recently, I began looking for new recipes.  I wanted something different and new from my standard dinners.  I eat a lot of chicken, so I began to experiment with the concept of chicken and squash.  I ended up with this variation on chicken and spaghetti squash.

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Two chicken breasts diced in bite sized pieces

Half an onion diced

One carrot shredded

One medium tomato diced

One bell pepper diced

Fresh basil chopped

Parmesan cheese to taste

tomato pesto sauce, half a cup

Small spaghetti squash

Olive oil, salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning all to taste.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, length wise.  Sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper over each half.  Place the halves open side down in a baking or oven proof dish and cook at 350 for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, remove and permit to cool.  Once cool, remove seeds with a grapefruit spoon then, still using the grapefruit spoon, remove the squash in long noodle like strings to a bowl.

Next, in a skillet, add more olive oil, onion, chicken, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and shredded carrot.  Sauté until chicken is almost done.  Toss in the tomato and bell pepper and sauté another three minutes.  Next add in the Parmesan cheese and spaghetti squash.  Remove entire mixture to a baking dish and place in the oven on 350 for thirty minutes.

Enjoy!

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entertaining · Food

Chicken Chorizo Tomato Soup

 

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One of my tips for managing my time is to make a large pot of soup on Saturday or Sunday.  I have several favorites that I tend to make in rotation.  I freeze some of the pot and eat off the remainder during the week.  It makes for an easy home cooked supper during the week when I’m running late or have something after work.

This weekend I opted to make a new favorite – chicken chorizo tomato soup.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large chicken breasts cut into bite size chunks

3 links chicken chorizo sausage removed from the skin

1 large onion chopped

1 red bell pepper chopped

2 quarts chicken stock

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 large can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

3 cloves minced garlic cloves

cilantro, salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté for five minutes or until the sausage cooked done and the chicken is cooked to a light brown, the olive oil, chicken, chorizo, onion, pepper, and garlic.  Add the salt, pepper, and cilantro and sauté for an additional two minutes.  Add the tomatoes and stir into the pot.  Let cook about two minutes.  Finally, add the chicken stock and cook on low heat for four hours.

Yum!

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Decorating · entertaining · Home · interior design · Travel

Inspiration

I’m always looking for inspiration for a flower arrangement.  I’m constantly snapping pictures of flowers and arrangements that I like with my iPhone.  My new favorite flower is the ginger blossom, the blossom on the ginger plant is so fragrant and wonderful – I can’t get enough of them. I first saw it in the flower market in Hong Kong.  Now the question is where do I find ginger blossoms in the States?  Hum, a challenge!

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I thought I would share some of my favorite arrangements!  I find them everywhere – hotels, airports, shopping centers, anywhere there are flowers I find inspiration!

 

The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

 

The Four Seasons Hotel (Hong Kong, Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas, Nevada)

 

The Ritz Carlton, Atlanta, GA

 

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The Winter Antique Show, NY, NY

Frederick Fekkai Salon, 5th Avenue, NY, NY

The Blue Ridge Ball, NY, NY (The Univeristy Club and the Cosmoplitian Club)

Ljubljana, Slovenia –  Saturday Market

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Charleston Symphony House, Society Street, Charleston, SC

Colonial Williamsburg, The Inn – Williamsburg, VA

 

The Greenbrier- White Sulpher Springs, W. VA

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The inspiration sometimes shows up in my home, in this case, my dining room!

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entertaining · Home

The Art of the Bloom

There is nothing better to brighten up a room than a vase of fresh flowers.  Since the florist does not make regular appearances at my door, I’ve taken to the flower aisle at the local grocery store.  As a child I remember sitting at a table in the garage that my grandfather set up for my grandmother.  She loved making flower arrangements.  She had a box of “frogs”, flower tape, ribbon and wire, and – beautiful flowers.  She would set out everything she needed and a bit later a work of art would sit on the table.  I’m not certain if this was a southern thing or a Charleston thing, but she could work magic with whatever was at hand.

My grandmother’s arrangements were complicated with a variety of different flowers, greens, tall, short- all mixed together depending upon what was in season.  When she had a hole to fill you would find her out in the garden with a pair of clippers and her imagination.

Where  grandmom’s arrangements were complex, I opt for simple.  In the summer, I tend towards sunflowers.  They are happy and make me smile.  I have a couple of go to vases but my favorite vase is one a bit on the modern side that works with my eclectic sense of style.  In the flower aisle I look for one flower that is fresh and crisp.  I then buy enough of that one flower to fill my vase.  At the grocery, flowers are usually sold in a bunch of three or four so I need multiple bunches to fill my vase.  The end result I want is a very full vase so I always add one bunch over what I think it will take to fill the vase.

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At home, I cut the stems at an angle to three or four inches above the top of my vase and remove all the leaves that are “inside” the vase.  I then add the flowers one stem at a time turning the vase as I go.  I start along the outside of my vase with the shorter stems and move to the inside with the stems cut slightly taller.  Then, my secret ingredient, a shot of vodka.  Be careful with the vodka, it serves to extend the life of the flowers but, if you add too much, you can get a drunken flower arrangement.  Finally, add clean water.  My arrangements tend to last a week so long as I remember to change the water.

 

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