Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith!

We got our first Hello Fresh box since the beginning of summer. With all of our travel plans and out-of-towners we just needed to put it on hold. While we were in New York last week, Butch forgot to make our dinner selections. He called and picked our meals. I had no input this week.

So, last night, we had cranberry turkey burgers. Ordinarily, I would not have picked that. That sounds weird to me. But on the other hand, we had Hawaiian burgers once that had a pineapple and onion topping that were delicious. I was skeptical making them, but they really were good. I had every intention of making them again, but I never did. Anyway, the cranberry turkey burgers were delicious too. They were full of sage and onions that along with the cranberry topping, made you think of Thanksgiving. I guess it's not much different than what my mother used to do. She put dressing and cranberries on her turkey sandwich. I never did that because it seemed gross to me. Maybe I should give it a try this year.

That leads me to tonight. We had cod and potato cakes with a salad. I had to make mashed potatoes with green onion and garlic. Then I mixed the cod, cajun spices and lemon juice in with the mashed potatoes. I made them in to patties and coated them with panko bread crumbs with additional spices, then fried in a little oil. There was a lemon aiola that I made to put on top. OMGosh! They were delicious! I never would have thought it!

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

You've got to be kidding me!

Seriously, who falls for this crap? I got this email yesterday. There are so many things wrong with it:

Good Day My Beloved (I've never been called beloved in my entire life!)

I am Mrs. Aziz Alwan , I am ill and might not survive according to my doctor as a result of cancer. (If she's so ill, how does she have access to a computer and the internet? How does she even have the energy to type?)

I want to distribute my $5.5 Million USD  to you to be able to help the less privileged ones in your country, am dying please contact me now via  .
(Come on there are so many organizations that she could contact if this were real--not some random "beloved"!)
Regards ,
Mrs. Aziz Alwan .. 

PS I guess I don't need to warn you NOT to click on that link! 

This stuff must work on some people or they wouldn't keep doing it. But not this cookie---do they think I was born yesterday? Oh wait, I actually was! It'll take something better than this to pull the wool over my eyes.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Start Spreadin' the News...

...okay, so it really isn't news. Everyone knows I love New York! The girls and I went in April and had a great time. I was so excited to get to go again this past week with Butch.

We went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum as soon as we arrived. We dropped our bags at the hotel and got on the subway.
 I took this picture outside of the memorial. Just being in New York is such an incredible experience.
We enjoyed the tour. They have fountains where the original towers stood. Butch said that he thought everyone should go and see this. But, we both agreed, the Oklahoma City Bombing Museum was the best!! You really felt like you were there experiencing the day. That and our private Gettysburg tour are the best tours we've ever had in the US. Considering I didn't even want to do the OK tour, that's saying a lot!

We also went to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
I didn't really care about the Statue of Liberty---I already knew the story. Still, we were there, so why not? Butch took a selfie while I parked it with my book.
We got back on the ferry to Ellis Island. I was really excited about this.  I was very interested to see where my ancestors came in to the US and experience what they did.
These are the steps that the immigrants had to climb when they entered Ellis Island. 
The old building is so beautiful.
This is the hospital and quarantine area. I was able to find my grandmother and her family when they arrived in 1911. She was a baby. I don't know the reason, but they were held here for nearly 2 weeks. The night before they were to leave, my great-great grandmother (my grandma's grandmother) died while rocking her. Most likely it was a heart attack. But can you imagine, my great grandmother has just arrived in a new country. She doesn't speak English, only Italian and has three young children---3, 2 and a 9 month old? Losing her mother at this time had to be the worst!

The only records I could find for my great grandfather was that he arrived in 1927. All I can think of is that he somehow came illegally ahead of the family. Later he returned to Italy and came back---then through Ellis Island. I'm going to ask my aunt if she knows anything about it. It's times like this that I wished I'd asked more questions of my mom and grandmother.

Another thing Butch does for me when we travel is go out of his way to get me a Starbucks tea. I love that! He doesn't even like Starbucks and never buys anything for himself. One afternoon, he even made a special trip out (unbeknownst to me) to find me some Equal for my tea as the maid had taken mine from the nightstand.

I guess it's only fair that he does that for me, because I do this for him! Ride the subway! I hate it! It's never as convenient as you think, it's hot and very smelly! But it is cheap. I'll admit that. Still, Butch is the only one I do the subway with. I do it for love! It makes him happy. The girls and I are happy to use the car services. Besides, when you multiply the subway fee by 4, it is probably about the same anyway!
 For once, the subway was fun since I got to experience these performers! I've always wanted to see something like this.
We got to see them not once, but twice! Same guys, but on different days and different lines. I wished they would perform longer, but they literally sing as they walk through and collect donations. I was tempted to say, "I'll give you 20 bucks if you sing two songs right here!" I didn't. That would defeat the purpose of taking the subway in the first place!
The day that Butch had a business meeting, I "Lyfted" it to the Conservatory Garden in Central Park (just because I don't like the subway and I can). What I really wanted to see were these gates that originally came from the entrance to the now torn down Vanderbilt  mansion. They are the only things remaining from the "gilded age." If you want to learn more about that, read the book: Fortune's Children: the Rise and Fall of the Vanderbilts. It's such an interesting book. It's unbelievable how the rich lived. You will really understand about this era in our history and the differences between the rich and poor.
 Through the gates, this was the view. I'm not going to waste too much time showing garden pictures---just a few.

I love gardens. Butch is always good about going with me, but I was glad to be alone this day. I spent three hours here. I would not have expected him to do that. I had a lot of fun talking to different gardeners and asking tons of questions. I try to limit my questions to two each. Luckily for me, there was a gardener around every turn. This garden has so many beautiful walkways and antique benches. The weather couldn't have been more perfect---not hot and NO humidity! I spent time just relaxing and contemplating life. Just kidding, I don't even know what that means. I don't think I've ever "contemplated" in my life!
After dinner at our new favorite place---Tony di Napoli's---we saw Beautiful, the story of Carole King. I had to give my ticket away when it was  in Nashville as I was out-of-town. It was sooo good! I'm glad I got to see it in NYC. Everything is better on stage there!
 I got this picture on our walk home from the play.

And then there was this:
I always say, I don't understand art. This was in our hotel. It looks like it's been defaced, right? Well, it was under glass, so I guess it's supposed to be this way. I don't get it. Maybe that's the problem. I don't know how to contemplate. If I did, maybe I could figure it out. Nah, I really don't want to waste the time trying to figure out those butterfly things in her hair either.

This was a first for us.
We've never seen anyone vacuuming a sidewalk! Really? Only in New York!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Everyone's had about enough of the eclipse...

..but I had to post these last pictures---even if I'm a little late.

We had a great time celebrating our 46th anniversary in the pool.

The eclipse was pretty amazing. It was dark, yet light at the same time. So strange. I couldn't believe how the house seemed to light up.

 We spent 3 hours in the pool. Butch doesn't really like the pool. It's more about he can't just relax and sit still. After 3 hours---which flew by, he admitted that just floating was pretty darn relaxing!

I'd love to say this was our picture, but it isn't. When everything went dark, I didn't see anything. No one told me that I could take off the glasses. I missed the whole darn thing! 

We're in New York now. More about that later.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Total Eclipse

So, today is our 46th anniversary. The universe could not be giving us a better gift---a total eclipse. We happen to be some of the lucky ones who will be in the path to experience the total eclipse. Looks like it's starting around noon with the total happening at 1:28 p.m. We looked at many options about where to go and what to do. We've decided to just stay home and experience the eclipse while floating in the pool with a bottle of wine to celebrate our anniversary. We have the proper eyewear, so we're all set. It surely will be a lot easier than what we had to wear in the 1960's!
The girls laughed when I told them about doing this. We did it. You were to poke a pin prick of a hole in the box and look through that. I don't remember seeing a darn thing. Anyway, this is how we did it back then. Does anyone else remember? It does seem pretty silly, but at least our eyes weren't damaged!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I Thought I Was Dreaming!

I went to the grocery store last week. As I was passing by the deli meats and specialty cheeses, I did a double-take. I wheeled my cart backwards. I couldn't believe my eyes! There above the cheeses was a row of meats.
 Volpi Salame---although I never have seen it spelled this way--seriously, this is just wrong. I looked it up. Salami is spelled S*A*L*A*M*I! There's no "E". That made me think it must be fraudulent. Plus, this is not the packaging for Volpi salami that comes from St. Louis. It doesn't come in packages at all---or at least it didn't used to. It's been awhile since I've bought it. You just went up to the meat case and requested a pound of Volpi salami and they cut it for you. Still the coincidence was too big to ignore. I turned the package over.
Yep, Volpe salami from St. Louis! I couldn't believe it. Of course, I had to buy some. I haven't tried it yet, but I know it's going to be good! Still, the misspelling of it bothers me. Just like this...
I'm thrilled that the grocery stores are now carrying Louisa's toasted ravioli---but beef AND cheese? That's not right! Just plain beef--that's what it should be. You might think that adding cheese could only make it better. WRONG! You can hardly taste the beef. Our opinion is this. If beef and cheese is all we can get, it's better than nothing.

What's next? Italian bread from Valenti's bakery without sesame seeds?

Come on St. Louis. If you're going to sell your products to Nashville, keep it real. We can handle it!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Mystery Trip

Well, it's been tough keeping up with my blog this summer. It's definitely been a busy one---as they all are.

Anyway, last weekend Walt, Chris, Sara and her kids were here for the weekend. Butch left Sunday morning for a golf trip before they did. I left Sunday afternoon for Charlotte. Several months ago, I planned a mystery trip for Victoria and Elizabeth. I did that a few years ago for Jordan and Morgan. I decided to do it this year because Victoria will have a job next summer---making it harder to get away.

The plan was this---the girls new I was coming in town, but that was it. I invited Sandy to go since I needed her car! When I arrived Sunday night, I told the girls that they needed to be packed and ready to leave at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. They needed a bathing suit, towel and one nice outfit.

The whole idea of a mystery trip is that I would not tell what we were doing until right before each thing. Butch does this for me and I love it!

We left the house promptly at 9 a.m. Our first stop was Thomasville, NC to see the world's largest Duncan Phyfe chair!

 I just love "kitschie" stuff like this! My grandmother had a Duncan Phyfe dining room set that I had for many years. My sister, Jennifer still has it. The chairs are not exactly like this, but the style is the same.
Next we stopped at the T-Ville Diner for breakfast. This is what I had for $3.30!
 Our next stop was in High Point, NC to see the world's largest chest of drawers. It's for sale! They put the sign right over the socks hanging out of a drawer!

We continued on to our destination---Durham, NC. We stayed at the Hilton Home Suites. The hotel was so nice----very new. We spent the afternoon hanging out at the pool ALL. BY. OURSELVES! I love that! Games and a little nap before dinner at Freddy's. My cousin, Chris introduced me to Freddy's in St. Louis when I told her I wanted to go to Steak n' Shake for lunch. I always have to have Steak n' Shake when I go to St. Louis. She said that Freddy's is just like that only better. It is really good. The best part---they have frozen custard!

We spent the evening playing games. I went to bed early as I was so tired. Turns out, I can never get this timing thing right when I'm traveling. Charlotte is on Easter time. When I woke up, my phone said 5:30. I figured it was 6:30, so I got up and started getting ready. Only later did I realize that my phone had switched to Eastern time---which meant, I really got up at 4:30 central time! No wonder I was tired!

Tuesday started with a lackluster breakfast at the hotel. Actually, it was terrible. We had a trolley tour at 10 a.m. at the Sarah Duke Gardens on the Duke University campus (so beautiful).

The tour was an hour long. It was hot and  muggy, so we were glad we took the trolley tour. Plus there's no way we could have seen everything if we hadn't. 

After the garden tour, we headed to the Southpoint Mall where we had a quick lunch at the food court. I told the girls that they could have a shopping spree! They were excited, but then couldn't find anything! Who gets to go on a "all expense paid" shopping spree and can't find anything to buy? Instead, we stopped for manicures and pedicures. Back to the hotel for games and naps before dinner.

I was really excited about dinner because I had made reservations at one of the girls favorite places---The Melting Pot! Despite a traffic jam on the way there, we had a delicious meal---and for once, did it like we always said we were going to do it---just the cheese fondue, salads and then chocolate fondu for dessert. We were all stuffed, so it was plenty of food. I was a little disappointed in my salad. They no longer serve what was my favorite. It was called the "mushroom mushroom" salad. The plate came heaped with mushrooms!
Anyway, we had a great time. When we got back to the hotel, we played more games and stayed up pretty late.

On Wednesday, we checked out of the hotel around 10 a.m. Our first stop was DSW Shoes. Finally, the girls found shoes they wanted!! Another stop at Starbucks before leaving town. We stopped at the Carolina Diner about an hour down the road for breakfast.

When we got back to Charlotte, we stopped at everyone's favorite store---Target! We got several things there then hit Charming Charlie's. The girls scored a few jewelry items. It wasn't exactly the shopping spree that I imagined, but the girls were happy!

We had happy hour where we filled Greg in on all of our antics. We had reservations at their favorite (and mine) sushi restaurant.
The sushi didn't disappoint. It truly looks like a work of art. It was all delicious!

I feel so fortunate that we had so many visits this summer. It will be October before I see them again. I miss them already!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jordan's New Apartment

Earlier this summer, we committed to helping Jordan move in to her new apartment. She lives in the same complex as Morgan---a few doors down. It's a newer place, very spacious and nice. We've been storing things for her in the garage and closets for months now. It was nice to get it all out.
 A couple years ago, Connie had given me these shelves. Up until now, Jordan was only able to use one. The other has been in the garage all that time. We were so happy to be able to use them both. As you can see, there is plenty of room for them.Above the television are signed CD's by Reba. When we re-did our rec room, I no longer had room for it. Glad she wanted them. We paid a pretty penny for them at a silent auction.
 I love this kitchen set. Stephanie and Nicky had it in their house until their remodel a few years ago. As it turns out, Jordan has plenty of room for it. I was planning on keeping it and eventually taking it to the beach. The artwork has been on her walls since her first apartment. The ones on the right are her own original art.
 We have a couple of area rugs that she'll be able to use. They just need a good cleaning.
 The kitchen is a good size with lots of cabinets. The door to the rear is the laundry room.
 This door is actually the front door off the hallway. But, since her back porch and door is right near the parking lot, I'm pretty sure that will be her front door.
 We're not planning to do any window treatments. I have a red rug that will work perfect in here.

 The mirror is from Jordan's great grandmother. I love it when you can find generations in "things"!

We were in a hurry to leave, so I didn't get pictures of the bedroom and bathroom. There's a nice linen closet and a large master closet. I wonder what we're paying for this? She's starting graduate school, so her living arrangements are still on our tab!! Nine more months!

Friday, August 11, 2017

I'm All About Loyalty!

When I find something I like---a store, restaurant, line of products or even my car---I'm loyal! About a year ago, I bought some new tires from this place:
Honestly, I'm never going anyplace else! About 6 months ago I had to go back about an issue with a tire. They took care of it at no charge. Okay, so I get that---under warranty and all that. But last week, I took my car in because I had 2 tires losing air. I love making my appointments online. I took it in early and they took me early. They are so nice and friendly too.

They checked out my car and said the problem was not the tires, but the "valve sensors." Whatever. They replaced them for free! I was shocked. Totally free! Gotta' love that. When I told them how happy I was, they said, "tell your friends." I am.

So there. If you need tires---this is the place to go! In the Cool Springs area. You're welcome!

Out-of-towners rolling in tonight for the weekend. Another busy one!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Upon Trying New Things

So, last fall, I convinced Connie to try Duplicate Bridge. She didn't want to do it. But after some consideration, she said that she would give it a chance. People tend to be intimidated by Duplicate Bridge. Yes, it's more serious than "party" bridge. But it's also waaaayyy more fun! I promised Connie that if she didn't like it, I would let her off the hook.

We only play once a month. The first couple of months were tricky. Connie said that she had trouble sleeping the night before and was nervous to play. Things have settled down for her. She's not nervous any more. She thought that having the director called on you was a terrible thing. He's there to act as a referee of sorts. Our director, Jerry, is very nice. I told him of Connie's nervous disposition and he has been extra nice to put her at ease.

Anyway, it has been 8 months now. She likes it. She doesn't know all of the crazy conventions, but then, she makes up for it with great card sense. For the most part, we've been holding our own. That changed today. We were "ON" it!! ALL DAY! We still might not always understand each other, but we're learning how to make it work.

Today was a great day! Even our mistakes turned out to be "good!" We started the day with me taking a chance and bidding a slam. Connie was none too happy since she was the one who had to play it. And play it she did! I knew that it might be a long shot. When she made it, I told her that no one else would bid it. And no one did! It happened again, a little later in the day. I took a chance another time and she MADE it AGAIN!! I felt pretty sure no one else would bid it, but one other couple did. It didn't matter.

We came in FIRST---by a long shot! We had a 66% game. To most who have no idea what this means--that's fantastic!

I hope we can keep it up. We're learning. But at least Connie is more relaxed now. Hopefully, we have a long duplicate future ahead of us!

Congrats girl!! Just goes to show---you never know if you'll like something until you give it a try! Here's to trying new things!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Organized Chaos

Okay, that's a stretch. There's nothing organized about the chaos around here when the whole gang is in  house. Truly, they all take up residence. This past weekend, there were 18 people at one time. A few friends came and went, but for the most part, the average was 16.

16 people eat and drink a LOT!! I can handle that. Butch is always surprised at the amount of food we go through. I decided to keep it simple. The truth is, there's really nothing simple about feeding that many people! Everyone pitches in---okay, well maybe not the "grands"---but that's okay. My kitchen's not really big enough for everybody. Butch, who always does his share around here, really kicks it up when the whole family is in residence. There's nothing he likes more than having everyone here. I agree---even though it's wild and very loud! And the recyclables are out of control. He actually makes a run to the recycle center at least once rather than think our one bin can handle it. A lot, I tell you!

That takes us to the practical things you don't ever think about. Plates? I gave up on that years ago. 8 plates quit being sufficient around 1996. It's been paper plates for years now---well, except for Christmas. I do have 16 Christmas plates.
 Glasses? There's no keeping up with them either. We gave up on that the year I discovered that the "kids" were using my pool glasses at Christmas time. There's just something not quite right about "fishy" glasses amidst santa stuff. Using a marker became a necessity right away. There was no keeping track of whose cup was whose! After a couple days, we start over with fresh cups.
Forks? Fuhgettaboutit! I had to send Butch out for plastic. Somewhere along the line, we ran out of the 300 plastics I got at Sam's a couple years ago.
5 pounds of potatoes EVERY TIME! It doesn't matter how I make them, potato salad, mashed or roasted, it takes a full 5 pounds. I quite peeling them a couple years ago---except at Christmas. But then, it winds up on the job list for two people to do all that peeling.
Here you can see what was left! I did 3 pounds of ground chuck for burgers and an 8 pack of Ball Park franks. We had only 2 hotdogs left. Jordan asked if she could make a plate for Andrew and his friend who were arriving after golf. I said, "sure, if there's anything left!" She ended up making them tuna melts. I had some of that leftover from lunch when there were only 8 of us. I used 4 large cans of albacore tuna for those. Since I forgot to serve the frozen cherry salad with the tuna melts, we had that on Saturday too. I also served cantaloupe, celery, pretzels and 24 oz. of dip. All gone! For dessert, I made a new recipe called "Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake." Sandy had made it and said it was delicious. I was looking for "easy" so decided to try it. Recipe below.
 It was a gorgeous weekend for the pool. Not too hot. In fact, it got chilly in the pool.
 Some family members don't really "do" the pool. Or, I should say, they don't "do" the sun. We have a few fair skins in the family.
Butch isn't a huge water person either. Funny since he's the one who wanted a house with a pool! He is probably regretting that decision---22 years ago. Pools are expensive headaches. Something always seems to be going wrong. But everyone seems to really enjoy it.
 There was quite a discussion about the eclipse and the special glasses you are supposed to wear to view it. Of course, everyone had to try them out.
Mindy asked the question, "I understand that you aren't supposed to look at the eclipse with the naked eye. But what I don't understand is how is that worse than looking at the sun without the glasses. Seems like that would be worse!" I babbled on about how the sun was so much more intense because all of the rays are forced out of the sides. I totally made that up. Science was in no way my forte! It sounded good and most believed me!
Then, of course, with big crowds come big messes. How chocolate got on the side of the stove, I'll never know! The decorative towels get used even though the key here is "decorative!"
Random photo the girls sent me. Andrew and Jordan's apartment. Ash sitting on the floor---a border collie puppy. Above the doorway is a needlepoint picture I made years ago. Jordan was so excited to get it. I'm happy to see that she actually hung it up!
And then, there's the laundry! Every towel in the house is used.We have at least 20 beach towels. Butch and I started on the laundry at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. I did 9 loads! It took me until 2 p.m. to get it all done and put away! We have more out-of-towners arriving Thursday (summers are like that), so had to get it all caught up for the next go round. Actually, when the family has been here, it's always a good motivator for me to get the laundry room back in order. That's an area of my house that I tend to neglect. The clean, folded laundry tends to pile up.
 Lastly, there's this. On Saturday morning, I was starting of the food for the day. I couldn't find my recipes. I asked Morgan. Turns out that during the games the night before, they sent Jordan to find scrap paper. Despite the fact that I have tons of scrap paper where everyone can clearly see it---has been in the same spot for years---she grabbed my recipes and tore them up!!
Morgan dug them out of the trash for me! Sheesh! Nothing is sacred when the gang's all here!

Still, the recipes are worth sharing---easy and great for a crowd.

Bundt Cake Breakfast
1 cup diced ham
2 cups tater tots, frozen
1 dozen whisked eggs
1 can Pillsbury Grands, diced
2 cups cheese
1/4 cup milk
Mix all together and put into a greased bundt pan (I used a 9x13 because it seemed like it might not fit). Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. I think that was too long, so check it. I thought it was a little dry. Everyone else liked it just fine.

Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake
1 box yellow cake mix, prepared according to package instructions.
2 small boxes vanilla instant pudding
4 cups milk
1 container of chocolate frosting
Poke holes in cooled cake. Mix milk and pudding. Pour over. Refrigerate. About a half hour before serving, put the frosting in the microwave to pouring consistency. Pour over cake and put back in the refrigerator. I put saran wrap over it---which was not a good idea as it stuck and pulled the chocolate frosting off the cake. Next time, I'll use my cake pan with a lid---it was in use this time with the frozen cherry salad.

Both recipes are easy and good for a crowd. This next weekend I plan to make my first "low country boil." After our vacation, it seemed really simple and was oh, so delicious! I'll report on that later and let you know how it went!