Monday, January 30, 2012

Treasure Hunt!

It started with a great idea: let's put some extra storage in the kitchen! I've been piecing together a nice collection of cooking items over the last few years, and as my collection grows, my storage space shrinks. I've weeded out old, seldom-used stuff, but some of my new pots & pans are quite large and take up major room. I know what I have in actual cupboard. But Jack suggested I rethink a fixed-to-the-wall type, so that we can take it with us when we move. (I know it's a few years away, but still) Now to find it! No, not a baker's rack. Not a hutch or china closet. An island on wheels? Naw. Hmmm... I started by looking online, but scratch that. (Too much subjectivity involved in "mocha finish" "chocolate finish", etc...always looks different in real life.) I don't wanna spend too much, either. HEY! Garage sales! Maybe I'll get lucky!
So, Debbie (literally the Queen of All Garage/Yard/Moving/Estate Sales) and I took off at 8 am. Saturday morning to find me a cupboard! No planning, no maps, not even a newspaper in hand (just coffee and a donut), and off we set!

No cupboard, but look! New lamps, $5 each, with shades still in their wrappers! They even match the other three lamps in the dining/living room area : )

Cool, huh?

No cupboard at this sale either. But this mirror was only $3! The guy who sold them to us was really fun (Deb and I each got one). The original price sticker was still on the back, so he let us know what a bargain we got! As a bonus, it covers a lumpy spot where some "floating" shelves were hanging. What a deal!

Nope, no umm...oh yeah! Cupboard! But the lizards got a new porch plant for just $3 (the bean pot is mine). It's missing a leaf or four, but the lizards don't care.

Oooh, these were a great find! What was I looking for again? I don't remember, but these wrought iron look candle holders were a mere $3 for the set! Love them!

Since I got new lamps for the living room, I moved the tall lamp to its partner in the office. They're very happy now. The nifty striped pillows and gyroscope were purchased earlier this week at the local home store's "yard sale". Pillows, $3 each & gyroscope, $8. Man, what a banner week!

Did I find the cupboard I was looking for? Nope, but I found the one I want on Pinterest. It's a DIY project from This Old House, and Jack said we can tackle it! Yay, it really was a great week! : )

My dream cupboard! Stay tuned for project updates! (I hope!)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chocolate Goodness via Pinterest

Again, I obsess (I'm working on that). Both days this weekend I was up early, even though I could've slept in. A nagging, sinusey cough prodded me into rising earlier than usual, and the first thing I grab after a hot coffee is my laptop. Scrabble with Laurie. Check Facebook and see what the world was up to while I was sleeping (not much, other than my college girl & gal pals staying up wayyy too late). Pinterest. Yesss! Always something new to see! Whether it's recipes, craft ideas, home decor from dream homes (some of them are doable!) or beautiful travel pics, I scour the site and start "pinning" away. I read a blog today where the author was complaining that she spent too much time pinning and not enough time putting into action the ideas that she found. Well, then, get busy! I've tackled quite a few; in the short time since I've discovered this social/sharing site, I've made a fun decorative wine bottle, scrumptious candies, numerous meals, and DIY gifts. It's not for everyone, but it's definitely for ME! : )
Today, Debbie and I went to visit a fellow Dolce Girl in need of chocolate and a hug. I've made a ton (really!) of these chocolate marshmallow candies for the holidays, so I figured they'd speed up post-op recovery, too!

Strawberry and dark chocolate mallow pops.

The box is full of  mallows to float on her hot chocolate. Or wine. Wine and chocolate go hand in hand, so natch I thought of that. ; )

Milk chocolate covered strawberries! Some were drizzled with pink vanilla, some were dipped in graham cracker dust, and some were dipped in crushed pretzels and nuts (Food Network). The fresh berries at Publix have been very good, and these were no exception. 

All gift-boxed and ready to go.
I need to find more non-food crafts...hanging out on the web is fattening!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Charleston: A First Time Visitor's Review

Jack and I took advantage of the long weekend, and headed north for the first of many (whether they like it or not) trips to see the Bakers in Charleston. Let's get this party started!

We stayed at the Goose Creek Inn, a quaint B & B in an up-and-coming neighborhood, with a lovely view of the countryside and local wildlife. Fresh coffee is served with a smile by 8 am, along with a hot breakfast on the weekend. The proprietors exude southern charm and hospitality (which we found literally everywhere in Charleston!), and made us feel right at home. Amenities also include free tours of downtown Charleston! We couldn't beat the price, and when the heat was out for a short time on the last morning of our stay, we were given a free night to use on a future visit! Now that's what I call customer service! ; )

These are geese. In Goose Creek! On the pond, looking out the back door; it was all we could do to keep the guys from breakin' out the shotguns! After coffee on the porch with Laura, Mitch got home and we took off to see downtown, and, man, was it chilly!

We ended a windy walk at the pier on the Cooper River, followed by dinner at Fleet Landing; a cool, eclectic, "maritime chic" (per their website) dining experience, with a fun happy hour and the friendliest bartenders. On to dinner...

We were lucky enough to catch Restaurant Week in Charleston! Fleet Landing participated with a "prix fixe" (pronounced "pree feeks" (don't worry, I had to google the pronunciation) menu of 3 courses for $30. This was my appetizer of stuffed hushpuppies, filled with lobster, rock shrimp, leeks and corn. Yum! I took this photo with my phone since I forgot my camera (horrors!), and doctored it up. Our waiter was Darlin. Yep, Darlin. And his mama done named him right ; )  My main course was...shrimp and grits, of course! Jack had a huge filet that he could have cut with a fork; it looked fantastic! Now back to the Inn to rest our bellies! Up for tomorrow: Patriot's Point to see Fort Sumter!

On Saturday, we boarded the Spirit of Charleston for a 30 minute ferry ride to the fort, and got this amazing view of the USS Yorktown. We'll definitely be touring the ship next visit, as we'll need a whole day!

Fort Sumter. I love history, really I do. I just can't retain the info. So I sheepishly asked Foozer (that's Laura), "Is this really the actual beginning of the Civil War?" She very patiently replied yes, that this was the real beginning. Thanks, Foozer, for not making me feel dumb : ) The head wear came from the local Walmart; that wind was nothing to mess around with! Brrrr!

On the Cooper River. Cool.

A view of the city from Battery Huger, inside the fort. The "self guided tour" (you walk around on your own) is only about 45 minutes, then back to the ferry. We were hungry (again), so it was off to a late lunch!

A popular restaurant on the outskirts of town, with ice cold craft beers, pan fried chicken, and lots o' other gravy smothered southern cookin'! I think my jeans are getting snug...oh well, back to the Inn to warm up!

After mass on Sunday, Laura and I left the guys behind with football and wings, and went to explore some landmarks and architecture in the city. Magnolia's Restaurant caught our eye on Friday, so we figured Sunday was a great day for their brunch. And were we ever right! 

Apple fritter poppers, shellfish over grits with fried spinach (above), and their famous why-doesn't-an-egg-sandwich-taste-this-good-when-I-make-it-at-home with sweet potato fries later, my jeans were in tatters. I looked like the Incredible Hulk. *sigh* Back to the gym...

Ok, let's walk this foodie weekend off. Down Bay Street to see...Rainbow Row! Another "Graceland moment" for me!

A beautiful Bay Street home. There'll be lots of sighing from me till the end of the blog...can you hear me?!

I hereby solemnly swear that I'm making a photo collage of the beautiful doors, gates and porches of Charleston. *sigh*

1 E. Bay Street. *sigh*

Laura's favorite water fountain in the park on the point of the rivers. She actually had a lot of favorite things. We decided they would probably multiply the more she gets around town. The inscription on this says, "Given to the children of Charleston by a friend" : )

More Rainbow Row. Did ya hear it? *sigh*

Dunno if these are garage doors, or a front door. Either way, super cool.

Church Street, St. Philip's (Episcopal) Church cemetery. "Episcopal" was a running joke; it was in parenthesis on every sign that pertained to the church. In case you forgot the from the first 37 signs you saw it on.

Front door at St. Philip's (Episcopal) church. You knew that was coming, didn't you? It houses the oldest congregation in SC.

Now THIS is funny! Those Episcopals!

A bank/church, closed for renovations. Not sure what it will actually be, but it was stunning. Enough of that walking, let's get back to the house so we can have dinner! LOL! Yep, it was definitely a foodie weekend! Mitch bought steaks at the local meat store, and they were super. We talked, ate chocolate covered marshmallows (yep, took my chocolate melter along), and flipped around the tube...oh no, it can't be this late... I don't wanna go to bed! It only means we have to get up and leave tomorrow! *sigh*

The view out the back window on our last morning. Frost! Which apparently caused a power failure as everyone cranked their heat up to get ready for work! We didn't care, it got us a free night! ; )

Within a few minutes, it was already warming up. We said our goodbyes, loaded the car with the 7 coats that we brought between us, and were on our way. Bye, guys, see ya next week!!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rock, Rock, Rock Lobster!

I would've posted these pictures on New Year's Day, since this was our New Year's Eve celebration, but I left my camera at Annie's. By accident. Not because I had too much to drink. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. What a great evening; low key and lots of fun! We ate, gabbed and played the fun Foodie game that the Dolce Girls poo-poo'd (it was really fun, and Nancy won!). Here's how the night went:

The lobsters are supposed to "race"...they were totally uncooperative, realllly sleepy, and weren't up to the task. Good thing, too, since Annie's barefooted! There's no way I could pick mine up put it in the pot; I am definitely a "gatherer", not a "hunter"!

Ok, this is better, this is how I'm used to seeing my food! Annie did a fabulous job, steaming them (in the pot of my dreams) for 12 minutes. Perfection!

The Caesar salad was very unique: Romaine leaves, a dollop of Caesar dressing, and a parmesan "crisp". Yummo! (the crisp was simply a little pile of parm, baked in the oven for around 3 minutes; cool!)

The lobster. Was. Amazing! Annie was impressed with my lobster eatin' skills. I don't think I've ever had a whole lobster, but it wasn't too hard, since ya only eat the tail and claws! No cleaning the body like crabs.

See these? Aren't they pretty? They're Appletinis with fresh cranberry. They are THE most dangerous drink I've ever had. Don't ask.
On Sunday we by-passed traditional pork and saurkraut, black eyed peas, etc. Jack made smoked chicken, and I fixed garlic mashed potatoes. Fingers crossed for good luck!
Hope you're having a luck-filled New Year!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cajun Chicken Pasta

Happy New Year!

"2012" has a really nice ring to, "2012 is going to be such a great year!" and "So and so's getting married in 2012!" Or my personal favorite, "2012 is the year I lose 20 pounds!" So even though I've committed once again to eating healthier and losing weight, here's one last yummy chicken and pasta recipe! (I'll make it again for a special dinner) On a side note: one of the most-used casserole dishes in my kitchen is a Princess House "Miracle Chicken" dish (pricey, but well worth the money). I make a whole chicken every one to two weeks (only takes 30 minutes!), pull the meat off & freeze it in small bags to add to meals like this. No muss, no fuss!

Mmmmm! (in this photo, the pasta should be speckled with spices; add more to yours!)

Cajun Chicken Pasta

1 large (each) red & green pepper, cleaned and sliced
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
4-5 cloves freshly pressed garlic
4 plum tomatoes, wedged and seeded (I forgot to add these!) 
1-3 tsp Cajun spice (I only use 1 tsf because of Mr. Sensitive Lips)
1/2 cup dry white wine
14-oz low sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup regular cream
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 lb hot, cooked linguine
fresh chopped parsley
coarsely grated parmesan cheese

Shake seasoning over peppers, onion & garlic, and cook over medium-high heat in 2 tbls olive oil for 4-5 minutes, until veggies are tender to your liking (we like ours crisp-tender; I also would have added the tomatoes for the last 2 minutes with the pepper and onion...ooops). Remove to plate; add wine & chicken broth to pan, scraping up bits in pan as liquids heat. Reduce heat to low and add cream, slowly bringing to a boil and until slightly thickened (here's where my sauce never thickens, so I add a tbls of flour to 1/4 cup cold water, shake well, and add a little at a time to thicken). Add veggies and chicken to sauce to coat. Add all to warm pasta, cover, and let sit for a few minutes, allowing pasta to absorb some of the cream sauce. Top with parsley and cheese. Wow!
Adapted from Pioneer Woman. Apparently her family loves spicy foods, but one member of our tribe requires very mildly spiced foods ; ) 

From now on, in 2012, you won't see any more of these rich, creamy dishes. Nope. Just healthy vegetable and salad meals. Hahahaha, just kiddin'. I give myself and my willpower at least two weeks. Again.
Here's hoping you stick to YOUR resolutions!

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