Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sweet Southern hospitality

It could have easily stayed within the confines of a professional 

relationship.  One where you greet each other with a pleasant smile

but not one that feels entirely comfortable.  One where you exchange

bits and pieces of your life but not the whole story.  One where, at the

end of the day, you express how you look forward to getting together

again but once out of sight the thought slowly slips from mind.  How 

easy that could have been!  But as I was being driven around Old

Charleston, South Carolina looking at available properties with the 

intention to buy, conversation with my realtor transformed from a

professional demeanor to one of comfort and ease.  We bonded

over design features our eyes lighted upon that either charmed us or

those features that left us looking at each other with thoughts of "this 

will not do".  Through conversation, we found we both adored things

mismatched and vintage in style.  We discovered that our love of

design extended into fashion and sewing.  While she digs through

bundles of fabrics and notions in HER studio, I rustle through vintage

papers, flea market trims, and hoarded found objects in MINE.  It's 

the creative process that fuels us until the wee hours of the morning!
                                    ***     ***
While exchanging our commonalities, she took me by surprise with some

sweet, southern hospitality!  "Why don't you come to my wedding 

since you will be in town at that time?"  What???? Seriously??? Knowing 

her creative bent for chic, vintage style, with an added pinch of funk, I 

knew I would be in for a treat! I was honored that she thought so much 

of me. Come hell or high water I would be there!!  

This intimate wedding was not held at some country club or posh

hotel.  It took place outdoors at the home she shared with her future

husband.  They had created a chic, comfortable atmosphere with

charming personal touches, such as the chandelier festooned

between the trees.....

... mismatched glass tumblers, with a votive candle placed inside, hanging 

from the branches of the magnolia trees.

... a trendy lounge area for guests to sip cocktails before and after 

the service.

.... guests sat in gilded chairs while the mother of the bride and family

were given a vintage, oyster-colored linen, upholstered settee to sit upon.

.... music came from the simple strands of a solo violinist. 

... and the bride??  A beautiful and radiant young woman who created

her own wedding dress.  The bouquet was garden-fresh wisteria tied with 

a simple silk ribbon.  Its simplicity was offset by the gorgeous, elaborate

rhinestone necklace that emphasized the delicate features of her neckline.

Vows were exchanged in a brief but meaningful ceremony and the JOY.... 

OH! the JOY that radiated from their faces!  It says it all, doesn't it??!!

As the bride and groom retired inside their home for more photos to be 

snapped by their wedding photographer, the guests migrated to the

other side of the yard.  Strings of globe lights intertwined amongst the

trees creating the ambiance of a european piazza. I adore this look!  And 

remember I said that she loves to add an element of surprise to vintage

style by mixing in a touch of funk?  That revealed itself with this man..

the bartender, who could not only make a mean drink by day but as night 

fell, he exhibited his talent for juggling fire-lit torches.  Who knew?!

                                    ***   ***

Arriving at the airport with only 40 minutes to retrieve our luggage

and get our rental car.... changing in the airport bathroom

(I would have mowed down any elderly woman or young mother who

needed the large handicapped stall !!) ... rifling through my carry-on in

search of the printed directions to her house and guiding my husband

through streets and highways that were unfamiliar ... just small 

challenges that were nothing compared to my desire to experience a 

true southern wedding.  I will always cherish this memory.. and feel

blessed that our names were part of the family and friends guest list!

                          Cheers to the bride and groom!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Breakfast Spot in Chicago

Sunday morning and eating breakfast out, somewhere in Chicago, seem

to go hand in hand for us.  It's a spontaneous event ... not a scheduled

date which makes it all the more special.  And it doesn't entail the usual

conversation of.... "Where do you want to eat?"  "I don't know ~ where

would YOU like to eat?" "Well.... what are you up for?"  "Hmmmm....

not sure.  Do you have any ideas?"  Seriously!  This can go on and on

and ON for some time.  And I know we aren't the only couple that has

mastered the art of talking in circles and detours!  But I think we would

reign supreme in a national championship if there was one!!

So, this morning, my dear husband suggested we drive to one of our 

favorite spots for breakfast.... Milk & Honey in Bucktown.

What??  No traffic driving in to Chicago?

What??? No driving around and around the block to find a spot to park?

What????  No line to get a table???

This was all too good to be true!  But we grabbed onto our good fortune 

with both hands and held on tight.  Breakfast and no stress... can't be 


So what makes this restaurant so special?  Well, for one I love a place

where you aren't handed a "book" of menu items to peruse.  Too much

for a perfectionist like me.  Give me a limited selection and I can order

within five minutes.  I like a "help yourself" to your beverages where 

it's not dispensed out of a standard fountain machine.  Fresh ice.

Freshly sliced lemons for water.  And fresh coffee served in coffee CUPS,

not mugs.

And what entices us to return time and time again are two menu items

that we have not yet deviated from.  The Huevos Rancheros...... a

casserole only served on Saturdays and Sundays.  Served in individual

cassolet dishes, it is a mix of black beans, chopped fresh tomatoes, 

sweet onion, green peppers and scrambled eggs enhanced with herbs and

spices.  A tortilla blankets this melange and is then smothered with 

melted cheese.

To die for!!!  Oh... and I failed to mention that there is lovely sauce

served on the side that I could not even begin to describe other than

to say ~ just slap your momma!!! 

The other menu item that lands on our table every time is Orange Brioche

French Toast.  With a subtle hint of orange flavoring, the brioche is grilled, 

then smothered in real syrup and butter. A sprinkling of slivered almonds..

a dusting of powdered sugar.. and perfection has been created!  As the 

waiter slips this in front of you, you are instantly squealing with delight, 

knowing that each morsel will melt in your mouth.  Diet? That word is

temporarily eliminated from your vocabulary!

Time is well spent savoring every morsel along with a splattering of

conversation.  We are not ones to dawdle over the table making

small talk or no talk at all.  Observations of interesting people 

surrounding us, the decor (most places we choose have exposed 

brick walls, original hardwood floors showing the wear of traffic

patterns, and limited seating), and plans of what the rest of the

day will entail... those are the sounds coming from our direction.  

With full stomachs, we head out the door letting someone else

take our table by the window.  And the drive back to the 'burbs?

What??  No traffic AGAIN?? 

What??? No congestion at the Austin Blvd.exit ramp or Harlem exit ramp?? 

Unheard of!!!

We've got some good Karma going on today!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eloise Lives!!!!

                                                                 Eloise by Kay Thompson

She lives.. Eloise is alive and well and I ran into her at the store!

I adored Eloise when I was a little girl.  That very precocious, blond-

headed girl with a delightfully, mischievous edge.  I emulated her as

best I could and became quite successful at stomping my feet and 

scrunching up my face when not pleased with the circumstances

surrounding me.  However, it went no further than that.  I have to 

admit I was terrified of pushing the limits and certainly could not

even begin to come up with devious plots to entertain myself.  Adults?

Big people who were in total control of my destiny!

My morning started out with a list of errands.. not very long... but a

list that needed to be erased by the end of the day.  First?

Hobby Lobby for art supplies to complete a project.  With items in

hand,  I headed to the checkout where I was amazed that there was

only one person ahead of me!  A mom with her little girl standing

beside her.  She seemed like such a sweet child, patiently waiting. Blond 

hair, dressed in a darling skirt, tights, leather shoes, and red jacket.  

I, too, waited patiently while the mother paid for her purchase.

My eyes wandered to the magazines and other goodies that entice a 

shopper to make an impulsive purchase at the last minute. Out of the 

corner of my eye, I could see that the mother was finally placing her  

change in her purse and my turn would be next.

That sweet little girl?  She's now pointing to the sign that says 

"Register Closed". The expression on her face said it all.  With finger 

held firmly in place, she smirks at me with the expression of, "See?  

We were the last ones in line.  You should have seen this before standing 

here all this time!"  Thoughts started racing through my mind of ....

That sign wasn't there when I came up here!
Was I not paying attention?
Did the cashier place it there while my eyes were wandering?
How could this.........

"Oh, she just learned how to read!", said the mom... clearly seeing

my frantic and puzzled expression on my face.  And the little girl?

Gloating that she scored!!  Seriously.  I saw it, the woman behind me

saw it, as well as the cashier.  As the mother and Eloise little girl

disappear out the door, I am left dumbfounded.  On the one hand,

I was feeling... Kid, you rock!!  This is one girl who will grow up 

not letting anyone get ahead of her. On the other hand, I was 

reminded that MY mother would have disciplined me right then and 

there.  Telling me that that wasn't very kind.  And she would have

apologized to the stranger that was duped by her child. I grew up

learning to respect my elders and to not make waves.

Maybe that is why, at the age of 40-something, I started picking

up books such as this. The message is one of Don't be the "good

girl".  Don't be the people pleaser. Don't avoid confrontation.  Don't

worry if people like you or not.  Messages that come from strength 

but not meaness.  

I hope that this little girl retains her gumption.  And becomes the 

successful woman she is meant to be.  As long as it is blended with

kindness, she will be.  And me?  Still scratching my head on how a

five year old little girl scored big-time on this ol' lady!!!!  

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Go-To Recipe

                             Spaghetti Pie ~ Serves 6

My favorite recipes must meet three requirements......

(1) so good that leftovers are eaten right away

(2) few ingredients

(3) pots and pans, used to prepare, are cleaned before we sit down to eat!

So, what recipe did I bring to the Residence Inn when my son was healing?

Spaghetti Pie!  It's been my son's favorite for years so I knew it would 

be a dish he would devour and one where I wouldn't have to go to the

store for a myriad of ingredients.  The recipe is as follows:

                                     ~ Ingredients ~

8 oz. thin spaghetti, cooked and drained
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 lb. ground beef, cooked, and drained
1/2 lg. onion, chopped
1 1/2 - 2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 pkg. (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 - 2 Tbsp. additional parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

Chop the onion and add to the ground beef.  

Brown the mixture and drain. Add the salt and pepper.

Add the spaghetti sauce and simmer.

In the meantime, you have boiled your pasta and drained that.

In a small dish, combine the 1/2 cup parmesan to a slightly

beaten egg. Toss this with the pasta.  Place in a 9~inch  pie

plate sprayed with Pam.  Press along bottom and sides to form

the crust.

Trust me, it takes a bit of maneuvering but the pasta will take shape.  

Spread meat mixture over spaghetti crust.  Sprinkle the mozzarella

cheese and extra parmesan over that.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. 

If you find that the cheese is starting to brown too soon, place a 

piece of aluminum foil lightly over the top.  Continue baking.

Let stand for five minutes before cutting into wedges.

While all this is going on, you get to clean the dishes!!  Clean dishes..

clean kitchen!

Ok... I know.  A little obsessive!  So for those of you rolling your 

eyes, you can skip this step until you feel darn good and ready to

clean up.  Or better still, you can employ the rule I have in my 

house.  The person who cooks, doesn't clean up.  Works for me

every time!

A simple recipe... a simple meal... and the family eating dinner 

together at the table.  And my son at the Residence Inn?  Happy to 

be eating a home cooked meal with his mom's touch.  Leftovers? 

Eaten the next day and that makes me smile.  It takes so little to 

please me, doesn't it?!