Decorating · entertaining · Holiday · Uncategorized

The Christmas Tree

My tree is a book of memories.  The ornaments are from multiple generations.  I’ve purchased some, some my mother made or bought, some are from my grandparents and a few from the great grands.  Each Christmas as I open the boxes of carefully packed ornaments I am reminded of the many Christmases past, those special family moments, trips I’ve taken, special friends, and anticipation of what this Christmas will bring.

 

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Acquiring the tree is the first step.  My family always has a live tree and acquiring the tree was always an adventure.  One of the first Christmas trees I remember involved a trip to the family farm to cut our own tree.  The following year the farm was gone so we were off to the tree lot.  Drama ensued when Snowball, my puppy, escaped from the station wagon only to be found curled up by the heater in the cashier’s hut after much drama and tears.  That year was somewhat cursed.  My Dad cut off too many branches from the bottom of the tree as he put the tree in the stand and had to wire them back on to please my Mother.  Once the tree was set up, lights added and fully decorated, my Dad climbed the ladder to carefully place the china angle on the top of the tree.  This angel was cherished and beautiful and a wedding gift.  Yes, you can guess, disaster ensued as the ladder collapsed resulting in Dad on the floor, tree on top of him, and broken glass ornaments scattered across the living room floor.  I still recall my Mother’s cries of my angel, my angle as my father was trapped on the floor under the tree.   Dad was rescued, the tree put back up, new ornaments purchased, and a new tree topper located.

 

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The one thing I never got was why my Mother refused tinsel on the tree.  Her Mother’s tree was a work of art with icicle tinsel perfectly draped.  Her trees were the most gorgeous one’s I’ve ever seen.  She would begin the weekend after Thanksgivingworking diligently up to Christmas Eve on her tree and emptying cases of icicles in the process.   My Mother hated icicles and they were banned from our house.  Then again she decorated three live trees., a small formal one for the living room, the large one in the family room and a white flocked tree in the foyer

I decorate a large tree for the living room and a small tree for the TV room.  They make my Christmas special.

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Family · Food · Home · Uncategorized

The cheese soufflé

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As Thanksgiving approaches I have food on the mind. Food, friends, family and memories all neatly come together for me recalling wonderful times in the kitchen and around the table.   The other night I was thinking about comfort food.  That favorite dish that you love no matter the calorie count.  I noticed that my comfort foods all seem to be cheese related.  Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and a side of chips were a classic Mother/Daughter lunch growing up.  I don’t think I will ever forget watching Perry Mason re-runs on the tv with Mom while eating a grilled cheese.  To this day I love Perry Mason and tend to flash back on those wonderful lunches with her.  Her vegetable soup and homemade chili are on the list and tended to have grilled cheese sandwiches served with the soup.  To my list I’d also add mac-N-cheese, deviled eggs, egg salad sandwiches, the potato chip, Granddad’s cheese straws and, last but not least a cheese soufflé.

My grandmother made this wonderful cheddar cheese soufflé for “ladies lunch”.  Where my Mom related comfort food is soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, with Grandmom, it is a cheese soufflé.  At my request, she dutifully passed along the recipe.  As a novice cook in my first year of law school, I attempted to prepare my first  soufflé.  It was a disaster.  I needed to back up and learn some cooking basics, like making a white sauce.  My next attempt was slightly more successful thanks to coaching by Mom on some of the finer points of cooking.  Over the years I’ve mastered my soufflé recipe and even branched out to include variations on the original recipe.  I can now do a Roquefort cheese variation that is to die for.

Yesterday, I decided to treat myself to a cheese soufflé that was on the menu at Cognac in the City.  Wow, it was beautiful as well as delicious.  I think the bar has been set again.  Their soufflé was poofy and airy and delicious.  Taller than any I’ve ever coaxed out of the oven.  I’m not certain what the secret is but I’m going back to the kitchen and I may see if I can find a re-run of Perry to keep me company.  Grandmom has been gone since I graduated from law school but there are moments I feel her around and she may even decide to pop in to keep me company.  Back to that food, family, and friends theme!

 

 

Home · Organization · Travel · Uncategorized

Organizing my makeup drawer

I’m on an organizing mission these days.  The back to school, end of summer, beginning of fall is propelling me to get done those things that have languished on my to do list far too long. On top of that list is cleaning out my makeup drawer.  Makeup has a shelf life, especially mascara and eye liner.  One guideline for mascara and liquid eye liner is three to six months once opened.  Lip gloss has a similar time line.  Lipstick is a bit longer at six months.  The danger here is bacteria which may cause infection.  Since I wear contact lens, I’m very careful about my eye health and don’t care to take chances with my makeup.  So, about every four months, I do a thorough clean out of my makeup drawer.  The best part of this exercise is that everything is organized for ease of use and I have a clean space.  This cuts down on my searching for something when I’m getting ready for work in the morning.  Since I’m a night owl and not a morning person, this is a direct benefit to me.

 

The before:

 

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Not only do I throw away products near their expiration dates, I also clean out the clutter.  This means that eyeshadow that I thought I’d love but really don’t gets thrown out as clutter.  I also wash my brushes.  In the end I make a list of the things I need to replace.  I generally buy my products from Carmen at the Chanel counter at Bergdorf Goodman.  She is absolutely wonderful.  She lets me know when there is a gift card event and is wonderful to send samples for travel.

 

The after:

 

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Books · Uncategorized

Books, Books, and More Books!

I love curling up on the lounge on the patio or under a beach or pool umbrella with a good book.  This summer I’ve put a large dent in the books I downloaded to my Kindle and/or the audiobooks I downloaded to my iPod.  One of my first blog posts was on my beach reading list.  Now, several flights and weekends later, I’ve more to add to my summer reading recommendations.

On a side note, someone asked me about my reviews, each book I write about I’ve read (or, if it’s an audiobook, listened to) and enjoyed enough to share with you!

 

As a child I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Dana Girls, Vicki Barr, or Hardy Boys book.  There is just something about the next adventure, the next chapter in the life’s of a favorite character that I can’t wait to enjoy.  In library speak, these books are referred to as series books.  The modern equivalent is the Harry Potter series – yet another I devoured – this time as an adult!

Recently, I discovered two new series that I love.  Both are mystery series with an intrepid female lead playing the part of detective.  Shades of Nancy?  I’ll have to consider further the impact Carolyn Keene has had on my lifetime reading habits.  But I digress, the two new favorite series are Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie  Dobbs and Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness.  Both also have a historical fiction element in common as both are set in the period between WWI and WWII.

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The Maisie Dobbs series is a bit bleaker in that it tackles the hard truths associated with WWI. The initial book in the series is the story of Marie’s childhood, including her time as a nurse in France and the horrors of the battlefield.  Later titles tackle the associated horrors of war in a post war environment.  The most recent title is set in the lead up to WWII.  They are delightful books that hold your attention and yet have an educational side.  Also deftly folded into the story is the story of the women’s movement in England and the corresponding societial changes prodded along by the First World War.

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Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series is simply a delight.  I love them.  They are like chocolate covered Oreos.  One is simply not sufficient.  Let’s be simple, this series is just FUN!  The lead character, Georgianna Rannoch, is Queen Victoria’s great granddaughter and thirty-fourth in line to the English throne.  Just to make things interesting, she is on the poor relations side of the royal family and is constantly seeking a solution to her money challenges.  While she is financially challenged, she has a warm relationship with Queen Mary and her children and grandchildren that include a very young Elizabeth.   Georgie is also charmed by a delicious and dashing noble, heir to an Irish title – Darcy O’Mara, also monetarily challenged, Catholic, and whose occupation is something of a secret agent man kind of thing.  But, oh my,  is he delish!

Georgie constantly finds herself on an adventure and in the middle of a murder investigation in varying parts of the British Empire (Scotland, Ireland, Balmoral), Europe (think Transylvania and the south of France), and even California.  Along the way she encounters historical figures like Wallace Simpson and Coco Chanel!   Light, and completely entertaining, the books also offer a commentary on the changes in society post WWI and the obstacles  for the modern woman in the 1930s.  The series is a must read!

Post script – both series are available as audiobooks from audible and are well done.

Uncategorized

Heirloom Cooking and Miss Mamie’s Chocolate Chess Pie

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Growing up some of my favorite memories are spending time in the kitchen with Miss Mamie, my great-grandmother. She was beloved by all and she was an excellent cook. When the kitchen garden came in during the summer everyone spent time picking and processing. Tomatoes, strawberries, butter beans, corn, string beans, squash, cucumber,and cantaloupe, all went through her kitchen and came out on the table for a wonderful dinner.

Everything she cooked was wonderful but her desserts were something special. Her pie crusts were flakey and scrumptious. Cobblers – blackberry was my favorite – but strawberry, peach, and apple found their way to the table all summer long. When we were not scarfing down fruit cobblers we begged from her chess pies – plain, lemon, or chocolate also graced our table. My favorite and the first thing I ever learned to cook was her chocolate chess pie.

Miss Mamie died when I was twelve but she frequently graces my kitchen as I cook. I’ve never mastered her pie crust but I’ve served her chocolate chess pie to many who, like me, find it a favorite.

 

 

Chocolate Chess Pie

1 large egg
1 stick of butter
1 square unsweetened baking chocolate – she used Hershey’s
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar.

Melt the chocolate and butter over a low flame on the stove. In a bowl combine egg, sugar, milk and vanilla and slowly add the melted chocolate and butter. Pour into pie crust (I use a prepared one from the freezer section of the grocery store). Cook for 30 minutes at 350.

Let cool and place in refrigerator. The pie is great alone or top with whipped creme or add a scoop of ice cream on the side.

 

Fashion · Uncategorized

What’s in my beach bag?

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I love WIMB posts. The feature of what’s in my bag from purse blog at purseblog.com and sharing on purseforum.com. got me hooked. I’m not certain if it is my inner organizer seeking that elusive greater knowledge of a better way to organize my stuff or if I’m just a snoop at heart. Either way, I love seeing what and how people organize what is in their bag. Now is my turn to share what is in my beach bag!

My beach bag must hold everything I need for a day at the beach or the pool.  I constantly try to edit what I carry but that is something of a lost cause.  In addition to those items pictured here I often add a collapsible dog bowl and Swell bottle of water if the quadruped is along for the day.

My beach bag is from Rae Feather customized with painted stripes and my initials. It is roomy and holds everything I need for a day at the beach.

 

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My iPod and ear buds in a waterproof bag, since music and audiobooks are a must.  Yes, I still have a small iPod that I use on the beach and when I exercise. It is smaller than my phone and great for the audiobooks and music I love to listen to while walking or sitting on the beach.

My kindle full of great books to while away the time while I’m soaking up the sun. I prefer my kindle over my iPad when I’m outside. My iPad tends to over-heat after a few minutes in the sun and the kindle’s liquid paper and lighting makes it easier to read in full sunlight.

Sunny the goldfish full of original recipe fish to munch on during the day.

My towel is a monogrammed bath sheet from Neiman Marcus bought during their white sale. The bath sheet is monogrammed with my initials using Neiman’s in-house service. My preference is white for the ability to spot clean but they have many colors and patterns.

I always wear a hat to block sun from my face. I’m a firm believer in sunscreen and cover ups. I have quite the collection of Master’s baseball style caps and large floppy sun hats.

Evian mist! For those of you who’ve spent any amount of time in the low country you know how hot it can get. My trick is to keep spray bottles of Evian in my refrigerator. When I leave the house, I grab a cold can of Evian and I have a cool spray of water to cool off.

I carry baby wipes for cleaning hands and sunnies and anything else that gets sandy.

Towel clips to keep my towel in place are necessary.   It can get windy on the beach! These are part of a set of eight I found on Amazon. I also have a whimsical set that look like whales.

I keep lots of sunscreen in my bag. At the start of the summer I lather on nothing less than 50!

Filling up the rest of my bag is a koozie for my drink of choice, sunnies, Tory Burch swimsuit and flip flops, and a J. McLaughlin tunic as my coverup.

I keep a zip pouch that was a gift from my cousin in my bag that holds the smaller pieces and my keys.

What’s in your beach bag?