Yummy cocktail evokes memories of summer

Hi there on hump day.  Are you ready for a yummy mid-week cocktail? Many of you know that Sweet Shark loves to bartend.  While one of my passions is finding, adapting, and recreating fabulous recipes, he loves to do the same with cocktails.  He tears out recipes from magazines and I’ll share ones I find on Pinterest or in magazines with him.  He keeps them on file, testing and tweaking them as he sees fit.  Guess who is lucky enough to be his guinea pig? I never know what kind of concoction I’ll be tasting.  This past Saturday night, after we had waited all day for the HVAC repairman to replace our downstairs air-conditioning unit, we were hot and ready to have something refreshing, icy, and cold.  This is the drink he made and it was perfect.  The inspiration came from the August, 2011 issue of Bon Appetit, described as “summer air scented with honeysuckle and lemon balm.”  That’s a fitting description. I remember as a young girl sipping out the nectar from the honeysuckle flowers that grew along one fence in our backyard.  This drink evokes all those memories.  I hope this cocktail will do the same for you.
Hugs,
Carol

Lemon Balm Honeysuckle

Serves 1
6 lemon balm leaves*
6 mint leaves
2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
1/2 lemon, juiced (about 3/4 ounce)
1 1/2 ounces lemon flavored vodka (Citron Absolut)
1.  Place the lemon balm, mint, honey and lemon juice in an small cocktail shaker and muddle.
2.  Add the vodka and ice and shake until chilled.  Strain and pour into your prettiest Old-Fashion glass.
3.  Garnish with lemon balm or mint leaves and add a lemon slice or twist.
*We have lemon balm in our garden.  If you don’t have any, substitute more mint.

 

Where do you shop when you’re out of town?

Hi there. I’m back home in Dallas after a week in Atlanta, first at the Haven Conference and then a few extra days visiting with family. The conference was an eye-opening experience and I can’t wait to return next year; and what can I say about spending a few days with two of the sweetest, cutest little girls ever.

Anyway, I have a question.  When you are out of town, if you shop, where do you go? Tourist shops? Boutiques you don’t have at home? Antique stores? Flea markets? Book stores? Do you shop for clothes? An item for your home? A book from the place you are visiting? The malls? I can yes to all of the above except for going to a mall. I don’t like to shop them at home and definitely not on vacation. So, on this trip to Atlanta, I went where all lovers of home decor go – the real stores of my favorite catalogs: Frontgate, Ballard Designs, and Grandinroad. I’ve ordered items from all three, so it was fun to visit their outlets, even if I didn’t buy anything. Prices are reduced since the items are either returns, damaged or overruns. But if you find the piece you’ve been eyeing, it’s a smart move to check them out. Since there is no shipping, it helps if you live close or have a big truck.

The Grandinroad Outlet and Frontgate Outlet are right next to each other so we went there first. I almost bought this in a chaise last year, but  opted for a different one.

Grandinroad

Grandinroad

If you need outdoor furniture, Grandinroad was the place to find it.

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Lots of food stuff here too.

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I actually bought this small ceramic vase with French writing on it (I have a weakness for anything with French writing on it.), “Le Bain”, which means Bath in French.  It will look pretty on my bathroom vanity.  I shipped it home with a bunch of my other freebies from the conference.Le Bain

Sunbrella Resort Air Blue Pillows

I did see the cushions that I ordered last summer.  I didn’t look at the price, just in case I might scream at the amount of money I could have saved.

You have to walk across the street to get to the Ballard Outlet.  It actually was our favorite, in terms of inventory and selection.

Ballard Outlet

Buyer beware: check out the “All Sales Final” sign.

Frontgate

I love the mirror and metal oval coffee table.  Sort of reminds me of my living room coffee table which is rectangular and glass and metal.

The next morning my daughter took me to At Home, which used to be Garden Ridge.  I loved this store, for its great style, prices, and inventory. They have a website, but it’s only for viewing their products, not selling.

At Home

 

At Home

You could practically furnish an entire house here. Rugs, ligthing, furniture, accessories, pillows, cushions, party decorations – all at very reasonable prices.  I saw this versatile piece, which I want to buy.

Versatile basket

This could be a seat – I sat on it and it is very sturdy.  I think with some white spray paint and a little cushion, it would be really cute on the patio.  But maybe I would put a top of some kind on it and it would make a nifty side table.  Or turn it upside down and line it with moss and it could be a planter.  Or a basket for toys or a waste paper basket.  Possibilities are endless.  I’ll let you know if I get it.

cushions

I really, really want new cushions for our love seat and two chairs on the patio.  Ten years ago, I was into browns and dark greens. Today, not at all.  I’ve told Sweet Shark that we can have new cushions made (doesn’t want to spend the money) or I could chalk paint them (he doesn’t quite believe that is possible).  Maybe these cushions would be an affordable choice.  I think the blue would be great with my solid Sunbrella Air Blue.

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I love these lanterns.  I think the French vintage style would be so chic in so many places.

Our closest At Home is located about 30 minutes from my house so I think a trip out there is definitely on the schedule this week.

You may ask yourself, “What is a girl who loves to find vintage furniture at flea markets to re-purpose and re-love doing in a big box store?” Because the possibilities are endless.  Just a few items can fill in the gaps, perk up a corner, or complete a room.  I love the mix between old and new, precious and affordable.  It makes life and home interesting.  Hope you like it too.

Carol

 

Are you a DIYer at heart?

Hi everyone. I’m still trying to recover from three days at the Haven Conference in Atlanta. I mean that in a good way – a very good way. If you have ever been to a seminar, convention or conference – I think they are all the same thing  – you know what I mean. Fabulous speakers sharing their incredible know-how, great give-aways – I had to ship home my goodies, and making friendships with amazing other attendees who share your love of whatever the subject matter may be. In this case, 400 women (there were a few guys) who love home decor, do it yourself projects, entertaining tips, recipes, and best of all, sharing that love and knowledge with others on their blogs like me.  I can’t wait to get home and start putting into practice what I learned. Since I’m still in Atlanta, that will have to wait a couple more days.

This morning I read an article in the Fall 2015 Do It Yourself magazine entitled “Thrill of the Hunt”.  It was a questionnaire to determine if you are truly a DIYer. I’m thrilled to report I passed with flying colors. So here are the questions posed, my answers, plus some more thoughts in a “If you________, you must be a redneck” format.

1. Do you visit thrift stores , garage sales, and antiques shops more than malls?  ABSOLUTELY!

Flea market shopper

 

2. Do you own any of the following: drill, sander, staple gun, router or glue gun? Yes to the drill, staple gun and glue gun. In fact, my drill is one of most prized possessions.

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I also own a sewing machine, a level, various paint brushes, paint drop cloth, stacks of fabric and paper, screw drivers, a hammer, sanding paper, buffing brushes, and enough Do it yourself magazines for a craft library. Do I get extra points for all those?

3. Does Craigslist appear more frequently than any other website in your browsing history? O. K., I failed this. I’ve never visited or shopped on Craigslist, but I shopped and bought on Etsy and other websites.

4. Have you ever defended a piece of recently acquired, unfortunately patterned furniture to your partner, citing its “amazing bones”? Yes, many times. I’m happy to report that Sweet Shark has gotten used to seeing something new sitting in the garage when he gets home. Once I wrote “I’m married to the best husband in the world” on my chalk board. Since he knew that I had been to a flea market that morning, he asked, “What did you buy?”  He’s learning.

Do over chair

So here are some more thoughts:

1. If you discuss colors with fellow painters, instead of describing blue, green, grey, pink, or white, do you say “Wouldn’t that look beautiful in Duck Egg Blue, Antibes, French Linen, Antoinette or Old White and they know exactly what you mean? (For the uninitiated, those are Annie Sloan Chalk Paint colors. I now see everything, including clothes, in those colors.)

2. If your favorite phrase, “Is that the best you can do on that price?”  I learned from my friend and antique dealer Susie to always ask on anything over $15. Usually you’ll get at least a 10% discount and often more.

3.  If you see something in an old vase, frame, lamp or jar that no one else can?  Dead give away that you are in the DIY club.

4. If you save cardboard, boxes, bags, pieces of ribbon or pieces of wood in the hope that you will be able to repurpose them?  This practice is not only O. K. in the DIY world, it’s encouraged and celebrated.

5. If you have sworn to never buy a new piece of furniture again? I have. After looking at our receipts from when we built and decorated our big house 17 years ago, I almost choked. Yes, today I have some beautiful antiques and artwork, but I get so much more satisfaction from finding that diamond in the rough and making it shine – and for a fraction of the cost.

Whether you qualify or not as a DIYer, I hope you’ll visit me here to share my adventures.

Hugs,

Carol

How to give a bench the cushion it deserves

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I bought this bench about 15 years ago in Fredericksburg, Texas on a girls road trip.  If you have never been to Fredericksburg, it’s a must-go-to town in the middle of the beautiful Texas hill country. Great shops, great restaurants, a couple of dance halls and enough bed and breakfasts to accommodate thousands of visitors to the almost weekly events (art shows, food and wine festivals). Since Fredricksburg is located in the center of one of the best Texas wine regions, you can definitely make a day of visiting several wineries. (You can hire a driver to take you around.) This bustling country-sophisticated destination should definitely be on your country town bucket list. My favorite place to stay is Hoffman Haus owned by Leslie and Hugh Washburn.  It’s one of the prettiest sites in town with each room beautifully appointed.  On that particular trip my car was so full, I almost bought my friend a bus ticket home so I could fit in a few more treasures (just kidding – sort of). At our previous home, the bench sat on some flagstones in a flower bed by our front sidewalk. Unfortunately, within a few years the salvia grew up around the bench and it was partially hidden; not to mention, as pretty as it is, this bench isn’t the most comfortable thing to sit on.  At our new house, I was determined not to squander its great looks.  We don’t have a front porch, so for now the bench is my front porch, sitting in the grass with the stone wall separating our yard from our neighbor’s as a back drop. Since I wanted a place to plop down in the front yard,  this bench definitely needed to have a cushion.

The bench was originally a rusted-colored metal.  So, to get the French garden look I wanted, I painted it with my favorite Annie Sloan Old White; no wax or sealer is required for outside pieces. Now on to the cushion.  I showed you this cushion in an earlier post last week.

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This bench sits right beside our pool in the backyard.  I had the cushion professionally made the summer of 2014.  I ordered the fabric, Sunbrella in Air Stripe Blue, from Frontgate for $99/yard.  Yikes!  Then the labor and the white piping was about $139.  Double yikes. So now I have a $200+ cushion.  I love it, but I knew this time, I would not spend that much money.  In June, I found the fabric at Childress Fabric and ordered one yard for $44.  I am a pretty good seamstress – I’ve made curtains, comforters, dust ruffles, valances, pillows, and kids’ clothes, so I knew this would be an easy project.  First, I had to find a source for the cushion foam, the kind specifically made for outdoor cushions.  After researching online, I chose Foam Factory.  I gave them the exact measurements (38.75 X 16.5 X 3-inches thick) and I opted for extra dacron wrapping.  The total, including shipping, was $56.25.  A week later my foam arrived. Now I was ready to make the cushion.

First I laid the cushion form on the RIGHT side of the fabric and pulled the fabric around the form.

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Although I did not plan to make piping for this cushion, I did want it to look like it had an inset band across the front.  So, with the fabric around the form, on the front of the cushion I pinched a 1/4-inch seam and pinned it. Then I flipped the cushion over and did the same thing on the other side. Then I sewed the seams on my machine.

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After sewing the seams, I ironed the seams flat on the WRONG side of the fabric. On the RIGHT side, you can see my faux band.

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Then I put the fabric back around the cushion foam WRONG side out, aligning the band evenly across the front of the form.  I pulled the fabric together on one short side of the form and pinned it half way between top and bottom.

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After sewing that seam, I cut off the excess fabric.

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The next step is to put the fabric back around the form and measure for the second side seam.  After penciling where the seam would go, I cut off the excess fabric.

 

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Then I pinned the fabric, pulling tightly, and stitched the second side seam.

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At this point, allowing for extra fabric to cover the cushion, I measured and cut off the excess fabric from what would be the back of the cushion. Now I had the cushion formed, but I needed to create a tight fit at the corners. With RIGHT sides together and the top and bottom front band seams aligned, I pinned and then stitched the seam.

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I cut off the excess and turn the fabric RIGHT side out.  You will have created a vertical seam which forms a nice, tight corner.  Now put the fabric back on the cushion form and align the band across the front.  On the back of the cushion fold up the bottom fabric, turn in the side fabric, as if you were wrapping a present, and then fold down the top fabric, turning that under 1/2-inch to form a straight edge.  Pin all sides and slip stitch.

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And there you have a really nice cushion.  I was so pleased how this turned out.  It only took me a couple of hours and cost half of what I spent last year.  The front faux band gives the cushion an extra professional look. The cushion is really firm and fits the bench perfectly.  I hope that you can follow my little tutorial.  It was really easy.

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I bought six large pieces of flagstone at Lowe’s, so hopefully we will get those set underneath the bench to support the four legs plus a couple in front.  Right now the yard guys move the bench every week when they mow.  The bench is under a tree, but it’s so hot right now that I don’t know how much time I will spend out there – maybe not until October – but I love the look of my bench; it adds just the right amount of garden vibe and color to this side of the yard and offers great views of the front flower bed that Sweet Shark and I worked so hard on clearing of river rocks and roots before we could even prep the soil and plant.  It was definitely a labor of love.  I hope my bench loves its cushion.

My views from my bench.

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garden flower bed

Hope you liked my project.  Thanks for visiting.

Carol

 

 

 

 

A room with a view

This post is not about a group of British travelers in Italy.  It’s  just a quick hi as I’m in Atlanta, off to the first full day of the Haven Conference.  I just wanted to share my beautiful morning yesterday before Uber came to pick me up.  The first thing I saw was my brand new suitcase, one I’d seen at Container Store months ago and couldn’t quit thinking about. Since I knew that my son-in-law wasn’t here in Atlanta to carry my big Tumi duffle bag up two flights of stairs, I decided it was time to purchase another carry-on size bag. (Although I hate to carry luggage on the plane and I get two free bags with American.)  It’s easier to deal with two small bags rather than one big one.  I don’t think I’ll miss this one as it comes off the carousel.

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The first thing I do in the morning is open the shutters to look out on our backyard.  I love the views to our back yard.  And it wasn’t even quite 80° outside, and wonders of wonders, a nice little breeze was providing a cool morning vibe.  I just had to share it.

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Backyard

Our backyard is really a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city; all we saw are plants, trees and sky. See those little French bistro chairs?  That’s another story for another day.

I’m having a blast.  Hope you are too.

Carol

The easiest French dessert you will ever make

Right now I am so excited because on Thursday I leave for Atlanta for the Haven Conference, a lifestyle blogger conference.  I’ve been wanting to go to blogger meeting for a few years, but the timing wasn’t right.  One early morning in mid-June, while reading a post from Christy over at 11 Magnolia Lane, I read about the conference.  By 8:30 a.m., I had registered for the conference and booked my flight.  Lucky for me, Sweet Shark said to go for it.  What made this conference perfect (not to mention the fabulous speakers and getting to hob-nob with other bloggers) is my older daughter lives in Atlanta and will be at the beach with her family during the weekend of the conference; so I have the house to myself and the use of my son-in-law’s car.  They don’t have to board their dog and Tide (named after can you guess what SEC school?) can stay at home with me.  Great trade-off

Today, I want to share with you one of my favorite desserts:  clafouti, pronounced kla-foo-TEE, is a classic French dessert that is so easy to make and so impressive, it should be your new go-to dessert for company.   Originally from the Limousin region of France, it consists of seasonal fruit and a pancake-like batter. Traditionally, clafouti is made with cherries, but plums, pears (Ina Garten has one in her Barefoot in Paris), figs, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries may be used.  Just let the season be your guide.

Here’s one I made with cherries:

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And here’s another one with figs and raspberries from one of my favorite instructors from my days working at Sur la Table, Joanne Weir.  It’s in her book, Joanne Weir’s More Cooking in the Wine Country. This version uses fresh and dried figs.

making fig and raspberry clafouti

Last week I taught a  private birthday class with a French theme for 5 lovely ladies. To take advantage of the season, I chose peaches since they are so iconic in Texas this time of year.  I actually used white nectarines, but any variety of peach will do.  I do recommend using ripe, but firm clingfree peaches.  I combined the nectarines with peaches and it was delicious.

Peaches and Raspberry Clafouti

So this recipe is based on Joanne’s.  What’s great about a clafouti is that it’s quick, easy, and takes only two pieces of equipment, a blender and a deep-dish baking or gratin dish.  It can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature.  Joanne’s version uses whipped cream as a topping, but I just sprinkled confectioner’s sugar on top.

Peach and Raspberry Clafouti

adapted from Joanne Weir
Serves 8

2 ripe, but firm peaches or nectarines, cut into eighths, each eighth halved
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs
pinch salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 – 3 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Butter a 2-quart baking, gratin or deep-dish pie dish.
2. Arrange the peaches and raspberries in the baking dish. Set aside.
3. In a blender, combine the flour, sugar, cream, the eggs ,and salt. Process until well mixed, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the blender and process a second time.
4. Pour the batter over the fruit. Sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds. You will see some of the fruit above the batter. Bake in the middle of the oven until the top is golden, the batter has puffed up and is slightly firm to the touch, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer the dish to a rack and let it cool for 15 minutes.
5. Spoon the clafouti into individual bowls and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Enjoy!  I’ll talk to you from Atlanta.

Carol

 

Some balls, a basket, some burlap and more

Do you have a secret vice? A little something that you are just a bit ashamed of? Well, I do. I hate to admit it, but Sweet Shark and I sometimes eat dinner at our living room coffee table. It hearkens back to the old days of TV trays and frozen TV dinners – none of those for us; I do prepare a delicious meal several times a week.  Our reason for this occasional practice is to watch one of our many-recorded TV shows.  The challenge is moving everything off the table to make room for placemats, silverware, napkins, and glasses. I tried some other ideas – a big pretty candle – too heavy to move. I tried a plant – kind of a hassle. Yes, I have a stack of books – I can slide that off to the side.  So I started looking around for something else to put on the table that was pretty, interesting, lightweight, and easy to move. Finally, inspiration came from an article in a magazine using men’s old dress shirt fabric wrapped around balls, tennis balls, baseballs, etc.  (Sorry I can’t find the magazine anywhere in the house!).  Well, I didn’t have any good tennis balls that I wanted to give up, and Layla, our sweet black lab, gets the dead ones.  And I didn’t have any baseballs laying around.  So I came up with the idea of using different sizes of Styrofoam balls.  So off to Jo-Ann’s for the Styrofoam balls.  I bought three different sizes – 2, 3, and 4-inch diameter.  I also discovered that you can buy rough textured balls or smooth textured balls;  I opted for the smooth – they are cheaper.

Styrofoam ball project 2

 

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When I was in Atlanta in February, I found two spools of linen in an awesome turquoise that I had been saving for something special.

Stryofoam Ball Project 1

I also had on hand twine from Lowe’s and burlap strips from Jo-Ann’s.  Sweet Shark didn’t have any old dress shirts that he wanted to contribute.  But, as a lover of fabric, I have plenty of scraps. I went through my fabric drawers until I found pieces that would compliment our living room colors; our sofa is a soft pale turquoise, and other colors are blue, green, yellow, and cream.

Sofa

Bergere chair

 

Chair

I cut the fabric into strips 1-inch wide. Then it was just a matter of wrapping the fabric, twine, and burlap around the balls.  I found that the thinner the fabric, the easier the wrapping.  I used small dress maker pins to secure the fabric to the Styrofoam balls, covering the pins as I wrapped the next length of fabric.  The burlap strips were 2-inches wide, so I cut them down to 1-inch widths.  I also found that pulling tightly on the fabric as you wrap around the balls makes the process easier, overlapping one strip of fabric over the previous one until the ball is covered.

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The next step was to find something lightweight to pile all my balls in.  I had been saving a basket (one that contained cheese and fruit) that we had received as a gift from friends since Christmas   It wasn’t a particularly pretty basket but it had a great shape and it weighed practically nothing.  With a little Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White, it was transformed.  It took so little paint and I had it done in about three minutes.   Then I started piling my balls in, changing them around until I got the look I wanted.  Since I used only one of the fabric spools, I included the empty spool.  I love it.

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Such an easy project that fits all my needs.  The basket of fabric balls gives our table just the right pop of color, fits the elegant, but vintage decor I love, and is so light I can move it off the table for — hate to admit it – placemats and silverware.  I think this project would look great in a guest room or bathroom.  Just your imagination, some fabric (never throw away scraps), and some Styrofoam balls.

I hope you like this project.  Join me for more!

Carol

The real party on the 4th with recipes

Happy after the 4th weekend. I hope you had a safe and fun weekend celebrating our country’s 239th birthday.  Sweet Shark and I had a great time preparing for and cooking for our Saturday evening party. On Friday, Sweet Shark and I divided up the grocery store lists.  Then I finished setting the tables (2 each set for 6), adding decorations (from my stash that you might have seen on my last post) and arranging flowers.

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I found this blue check last week on the remnant table at Childress Fabrics; two yards for $10.  All I did was pink the selvages.

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I added some hanging pin-will fans in the breakfast room and in Sweet Shark’s bar.

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And, of course, you always need fresh flowers.

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And, we had to have a banner. I hung it from the second floor landing.  We put flags in the front yard beds and in the backyard hay racks.

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Now for the food.

Since it was so hot and mucky, we had decided not to fire up the grill (Is that un-American?  I hope not.), but do all the cooking inside. Three friends volunteered to bring appetizers (I’ll share those a bit later.) Here was our menu:

Sweet Shark’s Dad’s Brisket
Baked Beans
Super Slaw
Medley of Grilled Vegetables
Lemon Ice Box Pie

I was in charge of the slaw, the grilled vegetables and the dessert. On Friday night, I made our dessert, Lemon Ice Box Pie.  I wanted something cool and refreshing and thoroughly American.  This is the same recipe that I shared here on January 28th.  Covered and into the fridge and dessert DONE!

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Sweet Shark was in charge of the brisket and the beans; he decided his father’s brisket recipe would be perfect; not only is it a delicious dish, but it is totally cooked in the oven. It first has to marinate overnight.

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Saturday, Sweet Shark let the brisket sit out for 1 hour and then it goes into a 275°F. oven for 5 hours.  Low and slow makes it so tender.  It was smelling so good, I had to take a peek.

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After 5 hours, he adds barbecue sauce and back in it goes for another hour.

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Then he took it out of the oven, covered it with foil, and let it rest until time for dinner. Brisket DONE!

Meanwhile, I was busy, too.  First, for me was the slaw.  I’m not a big Trader Joe’s customer since I am not into prepared or pre-packaged food.  Except for this:

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This stuff is really good.  I use it as the basis for a great slaw:  I combined about 1 – 1 1/2 cups mayo (I use Hellman’s.) and because I wanted to use the rest of a jar, I added about 1/4 cup Miracle Whip.  Then I whisked in about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, the juice of 1 lemon, kosher salt, and pepper.  If you think you need more “sauce” just add more of everything.  I cut about 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes in half and added those and a cup of cubed feta to the slaw mix.  Gently fold in the sauce and taste for seasoning.  I placed the slaw in my blue serving bowl, covered with it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge.  Slaw Done!

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Sweet Shark made his baked beans while the brisket was cooking.  He uses a combination of baked beans and ranch beans, adds diced red bell pepper and onion, seasonings, and tops with bacon.  Cover with foil and set in the fridge until time to put in the oven – which was about the same time our guests arrived.  Beans DONE!

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Last to be prepared were the grilled vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, the last of the spring onions from our garden, corn on the cob, and campari tomatoes.  I used my stove-top grill.   I lightly oiled the grill and tossed the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.  As I finished each type of vegetable, I put them on a foil-lined sheet pan.  As this was the last dish to prepare, I just covered lightly and set aside on the kitchen counter.  Vegetables DONE!

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Our party started at 6:00.  By 4:30 all our dishes were done,  That left me an 1 1/2 hour to shower and get dressed!  What a treat to be completely relaxed before your own party.  Sweet Shark filled a cooler with ice for beer and water, filled our large silver punch bowl with ice for wine, selected his CD’s (Elvis, Jimmy Buffet, Willy Nelson, Toby Keith and the Beach Boys – an All-American playlist.), and then it was his turn to get ready.

When our guests started arriving, Sweet Shark offered the drink of the day – a White Summer Sangria with limes, lemons, oranges, and mango.   So sorry that I didn’t get a picture.  It was so pretty, but I must have had my hands full (with a glass of sangria!) The music was playing, the toasts were made, and our friends’ appetizers were shared.  My friend Jane brought these absolutely delicious chicken and bacon skewers.  You can fine both these recipes on the Recipe Page.

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Amy brought a wonderful Boursin cheese (garlic & herb flavor) topped with Dalmatia Fig spread  and garnished with cranberries and cashews.

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Lindeen brought a luscious artichoke dip, which unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of.  It went too fast.

Dinner was buffet style.  After we said the blessing, everyone got a plate, found a seat and started chowing down.

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Since everyone declared the food was awesome, my night was made.  It was a great evening with great friends celebrating a great occasion.  Although we couldn’t see the fireworks from a country club about 5 miles away, we could hear them. Ba-boom!

I hope you’ll try our recipes. Everything was so good.  Fortunately, we have enough for leftovers!  I hope you will keep following my cooking, painting, and DIY adventures.

Carol

 

 

 

 

 

 

Party on the 4th!

Sweet Shark and I love to host parties; I love the preparation, designing an invitation, visualizing how I want our table to look, what flowers to buy, and of course, what food I want to prepare for our guests. We’ve had Christmas parties, Memorial Day, and Labor Day parties. Our favorite event is our bi-annual Kentucky Derby Party. But we’ve never had a 4th of July party, so we thought, let’s do it this year. As soon as our invitations went out (thanks to Paperless Post), I started searching for great decorations. Stops at Pier 1, Hobby Lobby, Swoozie’s, and Ballard & Blakely (one of my very favorite local design shops) netted me these goodies.

image I’ll use most of these decorations for center pieces for our two tables (to be revealed later).  I’m going to use the blue metal containers that I’ve had forever to hold the center pieces.  I already had the blue pitcher, the burlap ribbon and the twine. We also already had large red napkins,  1 tablecloth, and I’m going to use my large white World Market plates (always good to have on hand).  Another DIY will serve as my second tablecloth.

Today is grocery shopping, setting the tables, gathering serving dishes, and doing my mise place for cooking. Sweet Shark is making his father’s brisket which has to be marinated overnight. The big question is whether to set the tables up outside or inside. Not because it might rain, but because it’s so darn hot. Time will tell!  I’ll share our menu and the complete decorations in my next post. So please come back.

I hope you and you families have a safe and Happy 4th of July. We are so blessed to live in such an exceptional and wonderful country. Let’s never forget why and how our country was founded and honor those who sacrifice to keep us free. God Bless America.

Pot, planters and patio projects

Hi there and welcome to a new week.  We had a busy weekend doing projects for the backyard and I want to share a few of my re-do’s.  Since our backyard is mostly pool, hardscape, and two large flower beds, hanging flower hay racks and potted planters have to take center stage to give us the color that we love in the garden.  When we moved, I either gave away or sold enough pots to open my own garden store.   We have not bought a single planter since we moved to our new house two years ago. (Oops, I just remembered that Sweet Shark did buy a new one when he was moving our lemon tree last winter and it fell over and the pot broke; he bought  an ugly black and brown one.)  Oops again, we did buy a white plastic pot for the peony that we bought in May.  O.K.  that’s really all. So those pots plus some other projects needed some serious attention.

The main color on the patio was inspired by this fabric from Sunbrella that I found in the Frontgate catalogue last summer. It’s called  Resort Air Blue and Resort Air Blue Stripe. I ordered cushions for our two dining chairs (I sold the other 6 when we moved.) and 4 pillows. I also ordered enough fabric to make a cushion for my wrought iron bench.

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This bench outside our bedroom window is about three feet from the swimming pool.  It’s a great place to sit and dream with a glass of wine.

Then I discovered that Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Greek Blue was the perfect match.  So this spring I started transforming some patio pots with Greek Blue.

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planter before

I’ve always loved this pot, but I wanted more color on the patio, so you guessed it.  Greek Blue it became.

planter after

This was super easy, no waxing required.  One coat of paint, then a little sanding and it was ready for a plant.

I’ve always wanted a peony.  I think they are the prettiest flowers, and of course, they’re pink – that sweet, pale pink. So when one of our local nurseries, Nicholson-Hardie was advertising them as adapted for North Texas, we picked one up.  Of course it needed a pot.

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I started with a plain white plastic pot from Lowe’s.  Then for some variety, I did this.

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Using Frog Tape, I made a criss-cross design.

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We had four beautiful blooms, which I was told is really good for a first season.

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Peonies make me happy.

And that ugly brown and black pot that Sweet Shark bought for our Meyer Lemon Tree? I first painted it with ASCP in Graphite.  Then stippled over in layers of Louis Blue, Paris Grey, and then a little Old White.  Something different to play with.  The great thing about paint?  If you don’t like it or get tired of it, just paint it over.

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The Lemon Tree must like its prettier new pot because it is loaded with dozens of lemons.  In November, they will start turning yellow.

This past weekend, I continued with the planter projects.  I never want to have another terra cotta-colored pot again – there are just too many prettier colors in the world, and they are all at my fingertips.

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I have loved this planter for years; in fact, at one time, I had two, but the other one fell off a ledge and broke. I love the leaf motif, but you can’t really see it.  I like the areas that have a mossy look.  So I grabbed some ASCP.  First i used ASCP in Florence, a beautiful bright blue-green, to bring out some of the leaf motif.

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Then I lightly brushed on ASCP in Old White.  This color is one of the most versatile whites:  it’s soft and adds a vintage vibe to any piece.

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Just a little of the Florence peaks through.

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I haven’t planted anything in it yet, but I will soon.

One more project from last weekend.  I found this planter at Tuesday Morning, a great place to find decorative items at great prices.  For several weeks, I hung it in our butler’s pantry, thinking it would be a convenient place for Sweet Shark to put my mail when he comes in from the garage.  He was so good about putting my mail in it, but I didn’t notice it for days.  So I decided to use it for its intended purpose as a planter.  I had the perfect place outside our breakfast room window on the fence (hate to see that expanse of brown fence).

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It didn’t look bad as is, but my painting fingers were twitching.  Since I already had my ASCP in Old White out, I used it on this planter.

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A little Old White brushed on brought out the embellishments.  In this photo, the planter is still on my Greek Blue table, but I’ll save that project for another post.  Now to make it suitable for a few plants.  I lined the planter with a new product I found at Lowe’s a few weeks ago.

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I love using Spanish moss to line planters and cover the dirt or plastic pots. It gives any planted pot a natural, organic look. The stuff that I have been buying for several years comes in pieces, is sold by the pound. When I went to buy a few pounds in the spring , I found that the price went from $16 a pound to $20 a pound.  Wow. That’s a bit too much for my pocketbook.  The next day at Lowe’s (in the spring I make more trips to Lowe’s than to the grocery store.), I noticed this package and thought I needed to try it.  This moss comes in one long sheet that you can cut into whatever size you need.  It’s woven with a grid backing so it’s really good for keeping water and dirt in a wire planter.  And it’s inexpensive.  I think it was about $4.00 for the package.   So for my wire planter I cut one piece that would line the inside. I used regular scissors – not my sewing ones.

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I stuffed the lining in the planter, folding the sides to the back to form a pocket.

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I nailed a couple of nails into the fence and hung the planter.  Then I filled it with potting soil.  A trip to Lowe’s today for a couple of plants and it’s done.

These projects just about filled the weekend.  I also started and almost finished a paint project, but that’s for another day to share.  I stopped at a couple of estate sales on Saturday and picked up a few items for DIY projects. This week will be filled with finishing my paint project, starting a few new ones, and getting ready for our 4th of July Party on Saturday, which I’ll share with you.

Have a great week and I hope you come back to see more projects and what I’m cooking.