Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts About...

...cutting broccoli.

Last Saturday, I went to the grocery store and offered to pick up groceries for Stephanie too. I decided to mirror her list. Whatever they were eating for the week, we were going to eat for the week.

She bought some ready made---just heat in the microwave---rice. Now, I'm not much of a rice lover unless it's flavored (like Rice a Roni) or in something like a casserole or gumbo. Anyway, she had the basmati rice on her list. I opted for the jasmine rice because that "sounded" like it might have some sort of flavor. I was wrong! I didn't like it at all. We topped it with our bourbon glazed salmon, so that helped some. I ended up throwing most of it away.

She also had Teddy Graham 100 calorie packs on the list. I was shocked to see that they were $5.00 for a box of 10 packs. A regular box is about 2 bucks. I got that. I was almost going to package the "teddy's" for her (you get 24 for 120 calories), but decided that I would just get what she put on the list. Later, she said that she would have opted for the box and bag her own too when she saw the price. Next time.

Now we move on to broccoli. She had a "bag" of the florets on her list. Again---5 bucks! A bunch of broccoli was around 2. I got the $5.00 bag for her and the $2.00 bunch for us. She said that she's all about convenience. I get that, but cutting broccoli is about the easiest thing in the world. I told her that I bet I could cut up the broccoli in the time it takes her to open the bag. Mindy said she didn't really know how to cut broccoli either.

Sooooo, this is for Stephanie and Mindy (and anyone else who doesn't know how to cut broccoli):
This batch of broccoli had 3 large stalks. I don't even wash it since it's going to be boiled. If I was roasting it or steaming it, I might---but I don't usually cook it that way.
I cut about a half inch off the bottom and then hold the top and cut straight down the middle of the stem. I do not cut in to the floret parts.
 Then I turn it 90 degrees and cut the stem again.
At that point it's really easy to just pull it apart. If you prefer chopped broccoli, just start at the bottom of the stem and cut up to the florets.
Simple! My favorite way to cook it for just about zero calories is to drop a few beef or chicken bouillon cubes in the water. Afterwards, you do not have to add anything else---no butter or anything. Last night, I made a white sauce because I wanted the sauce to go with the Omaha Steaks country fried steaks that I was making. They are good, but the first time I made them, I felt like they needed gravy. Butch agreed. The white sauce worked just fine.

So there you have my thoughts about broccoli---so easy. Steph, give it a try and let me know how it turned out! Love, mom!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

This is One Lucky Girl!

And I'm not referring to her choice of husband (although in the husband lottery, she hit the jackpot!). I'm talking about actually winning contests!

Here's the story. A couple months ago, Mindy entered a contest to win $300 worth of food from Ship'd---one of those food delivery services. To her surprise and delight, she WON!! Then, Ship'd announced that Lance Bass of NYSNC acclaim was going to be their celebrity chef. He has started a new charity for the victims of the night club shooting in Orlando. Mindy made a donation. Everyone that made a donation was automatically entered in to a contest to be Lance's guest on his new cooking show sponsored by Ship'd. Surprise, surprise, she WON again!!!

The prize included an all expense paid trip for two to Los Angeles. Of course, she was a little skeptical at the "too good to be true" aspect of the winnings. Good girl, Mindy---you're dad was so proud! She put him on to checking it out to make sure it was legit! It was.

Of course, Justin was her first choice of companions, but since the trip was the week right after our family vacation, he wasn't able to go. That made me the alternate "winner!" I was happy to be invited!

In addition to airfare and 3 nights at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, Mindy was to appear as Lance's sous chef on the televised cooking show. She was so excited.

While we were on vacation, she got a phone call from a guy saying that as of the coming Monday, Ship'd was going to be out of business. The guy said that Lance still wanted Mindy to have the trip and a good experience. So he went out of his way to make it happen.

Still skeptical, Mindy double-checked to make sure the airline tickets and hotel was paid for. All seemed to be in order.

We arrived on Wednesday morning. By the time we got to the hotel, it was nearly lunchtime. Our hotel was attached to a large mall and a block from Hollywood Blvd.'s walk of fame---14 blocks of stars---2000 in total.
We went to a Mexican restaurant/bar and had our first drinks---sangria for me---margarita for her.

After lunch, we went on an open air stars tour. It was so much fun. We already can't remember all of the stars homes we saw---Beyonce and Jayzee, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brittany Spears, Aaron Spelling, Cary Grant, Reba McEntyre, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Johnny Weismiller (totally in disrepair) and I can't remember who else.

After the tour, we had about an hour to get ready for this:
We met Lance and his husband at "Sweet"---a specialty candy store right there in the mall. We got to make our own candy bars.
 While the candy was setting, we browsed the store with Lance and Michael. They were very nice and easy to talk to.
Lance introduced us to his own personal candy bar. Michael is an artist and did the candy bar box. Lance autographed the ones we bought.

We ended up having dinner at the hotel that evening because the steak house we wanted to go to was closed. I had peeked in the window and the tables were all set. We were within the hours of operation, so we had no idea why they weren't open. Maybe there was a private party or something. Anyway, it looked really good and had been open since 1919. Oh well, our hotel food was good too.

On Thursday, we had a Warner Brothers Studio tour. It was awesome. Turns out every thing about tv shows and movies is fake! It was so interesting as to how they film.
There are only 3 streets that are used for ALL the tv shows and movies you see. It's amazing how they accomplish that by changing the props and signs, then shooting from all different angles.
 Mindy was thrilled to be able to be on the set of one of her favorite shows. The line was too long to get a shot on the couch!
 And then I got to see the set of one of my favorites. I knew the show wasn't taping, but I wish I'd gotten glimpse of Ellen!
 If your show is on for 10 years you get a bronze plaque. Friends has one too!
Here's a list of the movies and shows that were filmed on the same stage as Ellen.

After our studio tour, we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Then it was on to the Hollywood Wax Museum.

The wax figures were pretty good. I was surprised at the people who were touching and rubbing the figures. There were no ropes or anything to keep people from getting up close.

We had time to rest in the afternoon. Then there's this:
I don't iron at home. I'm not about to iron in a hotel room! Mindy doesn't get her clothes out of the dryer soon enough!

We had cocktails in our hotel before leaving for our pre-arranged dinner at PUMP--a restaurant owned by Lisa Vanderpump of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills television show (I've never seen it).

Anyway, when we got there, nothing was said about our meal being paid for. We just rolled with it and ordered like we normally would. We LOVED everything about this place.
 There were all kinds of glittery, jewelry, crystal things hanging from the trees. The main restaurant is a large courtyard. We were out here.
 In fact, just about the entire restaurant is outside.
 It was so unusual. But it wasn't only the decor that we were impressed by.
We really enjoyed the waiters!! Think "Hooters" but with men! They were really buffed and wore pink shirts (the shade of the tree above) that were unbuttoned more than halfway down. They wore thin black ties loosely tied.
Rather than make you use your imagination, I pulled this photo off the internet. Yeah. Okay, who am I kidding? Really, for me, it was about the food!! OMGosh y'all! Not only was it delicious---it was so much food!

Mindy and I started with a glass of wine. She didn't tell me there was the PUMP rose---I ordered a white. We shared a Caesar salad that was so huge---there was as much left as we actually ate! Mindy got the pasta bolognese and I got the lobster pene in a cream sauce. We also ordered the bread board. We shared our entrees, but there was so much left over. It made me sick to know we wouldn't be able to take it with us and get another shot at it later! There was so much lobster in my dish---it was the claws---about two inches long and an inch thick---I had to cut each piece in half---there were 5---yes, FIVE of them left that neither of us could finish!! It was so good! We ordered the carrot cake for dessert. That was okay, seemed a little dry to me.

Notice I didn't mention the prices? Well, we couldn't believe it. The food was so inexpensive compared to what we're used to in Nashville!! Here goes: wine $12.00; bread board $3.00; Caesar salad with anchovies $12.00; pasta bolognese $19.00 and my lobster pasta $26.00! The carrot cake was $7.00 for a huge slice.

When I requested the bill, our waiter said that our dinner was comped! We were pretty sure that it was supposed to be, but since no one said anything, we didn't know for sure. I asked about the gratuity and he said that it was included. Mindy said I should go ahead and give him an additional tip, so I left him $20.00. It was totally worth it. Such a fun night at a place that felt like Beverly Hills---lots of beautiful people---even if they were a little over-done---if you know what I mean.

We ended our trip with a nightcap at our hotel. We crammed as much as we could in 2 days and it was totally worth it! We had a great time!

So now for reality. Although it was an all expense paid trip, it wasn't totally free! Our suitcases on Delta cost $100. Drinks at our hotel---3 of them---2 manhattans and 1 cosmopolitan were $62.00. Transportation to and from the airport was $125.00. Various tickets to tours, lunch, Starbucks, breakfast, dinner the first night---well, let's just say it adds up! Mindy picked up everything at our hotel. Still, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I'm so glad I was able to share it with her. To be able to meet one of your childhood idols is just an unbelievable experience. I imagine she felt as I would had I ever had the chance to meet David Cassidy!

Oh, and to add insult to injury---Mindy had to provide information so they can issue her a W-9 form for her taxes. Yep, she's gotta pay taxes on all that "free" stuff! Sheesh! Nothin' is ever really free!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What I Buy Wednesdays

Well, I did pretty good this week. We were on vacation and I didn't succumb to temptation! The only thing I bought was this:
So last summer when we were at Ellis Island, I discovered the Passport to your National Parks. I bought the book then and have added stamps from all over the country ever since. You would be surprised at how many places are run by the parks department---like the Statue of Liberty, Alcatraz and Appomatox. That's where I bought this darling ornament. We've always collected ornaments from wherever we travel. A couple years ago, we quit doing that because we have so many ornaments now---boxes that don't even make it on the tree. Well, I just couldn't pass up the replica park passport. Actually, that was a good buy since that one ornament represents so many places we've been to this year already--Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Yosemite, Shiloh, Trail of Tears, Williamsburg and Yorktown. That's just in the past 6 weeks! Many more to come.
And then there's this. I didn't even have to buy it! Starbucks gives away their used coffee grounds to use in the garden. Who knew? Coffee grounds are good as fertilizer and especially good to keep slugs away from hostas. It's kind of a messy job but should be worth it!

So, I might not have much to show for this week, but by the time you are reading this, I will be off to Los Angeles with Mindy. She won an all expense paid trip for 2!! Since it was so close to our family vacation, Justin was not able to go. Sad for him, but lucky for me. I'll post the story when I get some photos to go with it! I'm pretty sure I'll buy something!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts about...

...my garden. Hmmm, it's still not exactly the way I want it. I visit all of these gorgeous botanical gardens and want mine to look the same. Somehow, it always falls short. I don't really know why. I have ideas and plans for next year. Here's what's going on this year.
I love Japanese painted ferns. I've had this one for about 22 years now.
We went quite awhile without bees. They've been back for a few years now. Butch got this shot.
This bog fern makes me happy. Butch found it at the bottom of the pond at the beginning of the season. It just looked like a pot of mud. He put it back on the ledge and soon it sprouted. Now I love it!
I have a hydrangea bush called either "never-ending" or "everlasting"---I can't remember which. It blooms pink, lavender and blue on the same bush. What you see here is all the blooms I got this year. We had a late freeze that messed up a lot of my plants.
Margarita surprised me by cutting some flowers from the garden. Shasta daisies and purple coneflowers along with Annabelle hydrangeas. They bloom white (see photo above) and turn green when they are past their prime. They actually dry very easily at this stage.
A wider view of the pond.
This is a hibiscus---new this year. Lots of buds.
I also love the purple foliage.
The blooms are pink with hot pink centers---about the size of a dessert plate. I call them one day flowers because you only get the bloom for one day. Luckily there are so many buds---we'll see how long it blooms. I think it's supposed to go until fall.
I'm not gonna' lie. I'd love it if a beautiful bird landed on my shoulder while I'm out in the garden. This was at Bush Gardens in Williamsburg last week on vacation. There were the most beautiful and colorful birds I've ever seen in the aviary. This particular one was trying to get my necklace.
My pots on the front porch have continually been attacked by the chipmunks.
I just love these---what I call---happy little surprises. I knew it wouldn't last long. It sprouted up this spring, but didn't last but about a week before it fried here.
Even in the best tended gardens, you might find poison ivy. We have a lot of poison ivy around here.
I love the Virginia sweetspire beneath the magnolias. It blooms in the spring and doesn't last very long, but I do love the feathery tendrils of the flowers.
As for the hose nozzle embedded in the tree---I have no idea how that happened. I don't think I did it---perhaps a previous owner. I just noticed it a couple years ago. It'll stay there now. I'm sure it would do more damage to remove it at this point.
My shade garden is full of hosts, impatiens, assorted ferns, bloodwort, lily of the valley and various others.
Foxgloves only bloom every other year. This was the year. I have it in my white garden.
Entrance to the shade garden from the front of the house.
I've already forgotten what this is called. Another early bloomer.
About 20 years ago when I planned my roses, I read that clematis was a good paring. I'm so glad I added them. I have another on the back porch that is spectacular when it is in bloom.
Stella d' oro day lilies. They come back in these pots and bloom most of the summer.
I really like sunloving lantana---especially the multi color plants. The plant itself has a terrible odor, so it doesn't make a good cut flower.
Pink tea roses.

Here's the clematis that's on the patio.
When we first moved here, I had lots of cleome in different colors. I lost it during one of our drouts. Next year, I plan to add white.
I've forgotten the name of this one too.
This plant distresses me. I've had it for at least 15 years, but it has never bloomed. It definitely loves the location---it's a climbing white hydrangea on the corner of my white garden. I guess it's a male plant.
Lilies of the valley---the blooms are are so cute, but a bit hard to see. They only bloom in the spring.
 I love white hydrangeas--plus, I read years ago that the white varieties do better in Nashville. This is a tree hydrangea. It is so full of blooms that you almost can't see the trunk at all. This is the prettiest it's ever been---an blooms continuously!
 On the other hand the Annabelle hydrangea here hardly bloomed at all this year.
 You can see the other tree hydrangea on the far side.
 They crepe myrtles are just starting to bloom. They'll go until frost.
 I want the garden behind the pool to be full of flowers. I'll keep adding until it is always full of blooms.
 The ferns are gorgeous. They take over and are good for sun, shade and drought!
 The pots on the patio are doing really well this year. I always fertilize when we plant.
Even though the chipmunks did a number on these planters, they seem to have rebounded pretty well.

So there you have it---a virtual stroll through my garden along with my thoughts on Tuesday!