Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Angels

I'm not sure how this got started, but some how, over the years, I acquired quite a collection of angels.  I think the terra cotta pair near the middle are the oldest...maybe 30 years old now.  I bought them at a gift shop in the neighborhood.  My latest acquisition is the little guy sitting down behind them.  He's just a handmade ceramic thing that I found at the antique & craft market in Blackstone, VA.  I few were gifts...and almost all of them are packed up after Christmas.

I found the metal one at the Really Really Free Market in Greensboro a few years ago.

This trio is made of beeswax.

The four on the left are all bells.

I made the two felt angels on the right last year.

They even hang from the door knobs and the windows.

And a few double as napkin rings.

It all makes for easy holiday decorating...especially for one who is really bad at arrangements and things like that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December in Richmond

Today is December week until Christmas...
.the first day of winter is in 4 days. 
And this is on my front porch.

Yes, we have had frost, but it probably has not been below 30 or 31 degrees and the plants on the porch are somewhat protected.  But this is pretty unusual.  I can remember them hanging around through Thanksgiving but this was on December 16...and they look just like that today.  If they can survive tonight it looks like they may make it until Christmas.

And just in case you think I'm pulling your leg....the date imprint is on this one.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Song for the Season

Christmas in St. Paul by Eric Brace, performed by his band Last Train Home.

Brownie & Cookie Success

A couple of weeks ago I offered to make cookies...or cupcakes or muffins or something....for a friend who was hosting a college women's rugby team for dinner.  After I offered I found out that several members of the team ate vegan and/or gluten-free.  Challenge!!!!!

 I remembered the black bean brownies from 101 Cookbooks that I had attempted a year or so ago.  I didn't have enough sweetener (agave nectar) to make the recipe properly....but I just made it.  Of course, they weren't sweet enough but I thought then that they did have potential.  So I tried them again.  And I am so glad that I did.  They are definitely amazing (gluten-free but not vegan)!

But then I wanted to make something that was vegan...or maybe gluten-free AND vegan.  At  101 Cookbooks I found these peanut butter cookies.  If made with spelt flout...and I did...they are both....a very good peanut butter cookie.

So sometime soon...probably after the holidays (any baking plans I had for the holidays are fast falling apart...although I am kind of anxious to make the rum raisin shortbread cookies that I made years ago)....I will experiment a little more with this vegan/gluten-free couldn't be a bad idea.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another Tuesday Tune

BJ Barham of American Aquarium...the song is Reidsville, about the town he grew up in.  I lived in that town the first 5 years of my life and it is a lot like the other small towns I grew up in.  By the way, this song is on the CD, Small Town Hymns.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Redux

Yeah, it's only been 4 seems like an eternity.  But it was great fun...and a lot of work!  I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

We started the afternoon with these...and some others.

They are jello shooters and they are amazing!  Karen makes them.

There were 14 of us for 4 p.m.  Our family...4...the first time Jo has been here since 2008.  She was living in Cleveland in 2009 and 2010 and was discouraged from attempting the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes AND I95...she had family there too.  There were the Bott's...4..Victoria & Alex have been best friends with Cara & Joanna for 23 years...we have spent a lot of time together but only started this Thanksgiving tradition in 2004.  Cara brought two friends from Greensboro...Paula & Mike.  My brother, Dick, and my niece, Rachel, were here...along with Rachel's boyfriend, Randy...we like him.  And Bill invited his hair stylist too....isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about...including our friends who may want a place to hang out...her name is Kara and she fit right in.

I missed this part of the day...I thought I was really prepared but......

But never fear....the festivities went on into the wee hours....after my brother and crew left, they were replaced by about half dozen or more high school friends.

I think dinner was pretty good.  There was a lot of it.  Besides the jello shooters, Karen and Vic made dessert...pumpkin pie and flan cake...yum!  My brother cooked a pork roast and I did the other stuff.

Notice the cranberry sauce.  That was probably Victoria's plate....we have the canned stuff for her...not that anybody eats that much cranberry sauce.  But I do make homemade cranberry sauce..
.my mother-in-law's recipe...Candy Brandy Cranberries.

I think they are pretty awesome...and I will share. 

1 lb. fresh cranberries (but they never come that way in the store so I just use the 12 oz. bag)
2 c. sugar...or a little less
4 T. brandy
lemon or orange zest

Remove stems from cranberries. Cover a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  put fruit on pan.  Sprinkle with sugar.  cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  Cool.  Add brandy.  Garnish with zest.  Store in refrigerator.  And a big hint from my MIL....we add orange liquer too...or more brandy. 

Happy Week After Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Song on Sunday

A great song to start off Thanksgiving week!!!
Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pimento Cheese!!!

I have been eating pimento cheese all my life...but I have lived in North Carolina & Virginia all my life.  Pimento cheese is a Southern least until recently.

 A few weeks ago I read an article in our local weekly...aptly named Style Weekly...about a documentary on pimento cheese that would be shown at the newly renovated Hippodrome Theater in Richmond.  Not only was this a chance to see a movie about one of my favorite things to eat in a newly renovated historic theater...but 8 local restaurants would be serving samples of their take on pimento cheese.

So on Wednesday night four of us enjoyed the event.  The theater is lovely, the film was at least amusing (you can watch it online now at the Southern Foodways Alliance blog), but the highlight of the evening was the pimento cheese....served in oh so many ways.  The real winners were the recipes that started off with cheddar, mayo, and pimentos (or roasted red peppers.)  I am not a fan of cream cheese in my pimento cheese...and I swear that one of the samples had sour cream in it....yuk!!  My favorites?  From The Roosevelt...pimento cheese on homemade pork rinds.  And from the Black Sheep...pimento cheese and Doritos on white bread.  Seriously, don't knock it until you've tried it.

But I am still happiest with the pimento cheese that I make in my own kitchen.  It has strong cheddar, roasted red peppers, homemade mayo, and a little cayenne and black pepper.  That's it.  I use the mayo recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis & Scott Peacock....and the pimento cheese recipe (as a guide) from the same book.

I made a batch yesterday.  And last night we made pimento cheese, bacon, and tomato paninis!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Another Song on a Sunday Night

Gillian...written by Josh Cunningham and performed by The Waifs.  I first heard this song on my Pandora station....darn can't play repeat.  The live versions are the best.  Enjoy!

Toll House Cupcakes

I have made these yummy cupcakes twice in the last two months.  But when I made them at the end of August to take to a friend who was leaving for college, I hadn't made them in over 25 years.  I'm not sure why...I do bake cookies, cakes, and such often so it isn't because of the calories.  And these are sooo good.  My young friend's dad, who was able to steal one before they were gobbled down by the young folks, wondered why I had waited so long to make them again.  So I made another batch for thank him for a favor.  We did save a few for ourselves though :).

The recipe is everywhere on the internet....except on the Nestle site.  Don't understand that one.  It was given to me in the summer of 1976 by one of my roommates in Williamsburg.  We had all stayed in the historic city to reap the benefits of employment during the bicentennial summer.  There was so much hype about the big summer that all the tourists stayed away and we ended up having a lot of time on our hands....hence baking Toll House cupcakes.

So if you don't want to go searching for the recipe, here it is.  Enjoy!!!

Toll House Cupcakes

Combine & beat until creamy:
1/2 c. butter
6 T. sugar
6 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 egg

Stir in:
1 c. & 2 T. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Spoon mixture into cupcake pans.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. 

1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/8 t. salt

Stir in:
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts (I sometimes use pecans)
1/2 t. vanilla

Spoon over each partially cooked cupcake.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Song on a Sunday Night

My friend, Greg Trooper, singing Ireland for all my girls...past, present, future, and visiting.... in Brooklyn.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spinach Feta Peppadew Muffins

Do you like savory muffins?  These muffins are awesome!  You could have them for breakfast, you could have them for lunch, and you could have them for dinner.  You can even have them for a snack.  I found the recipe in Bon Appetit last fall.  I think that I have made them three times, most recently for a family celebration in Northern Virginia.

Don't be scared away by the peppadew peppers.  They are similar to roasted red peppers...but sweeter.  These were actually made with roasted red peppers.  I have tried both and both are pretty darn good.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Nine days ago we were without power....listening to the wind and the rain whip around outside...thanks to Hurricane Irene.  It wasn't as bad as Hurricane Isabel 8 years ago...and certainly wasn't as bad as hurricanes are for so many people, but for folks in Richmond, VA it was a pretty big deal.  About 83% of Dominion Virgina Power's customers in the Richmond region were without power after the storm...that is 408,000 of 491,000 customers.  And we were one of them.  We weren't quite expecting this.  Having been through this before we prepared....bottled water, plenty of batteries...we moved the cars out of the reach of falling trees and we took in all the outdoor furniture, plants, etc.  But one is never happy to be without power...especially for days...and in our case this time it was only 4.  And we forgot to get ice!!!

I was a little ahead of the game....I made soup and beer bread before the power went out.....gruyere and rosemary beer bread and green chili and pepper jack beer bread.

And as soon as the power went 3:05 p.m. we made Hurricanes...with little ice :(

Before it got dark I watched my bottle tree gasp its last breath.

This is what it looked like in its healthier days.

Sunday morning we woke up to no power but no real damage at our house.  Some of our neighbors were not as lucky.  We lost some branches and there were a lot of leaves and twigs to be cleaned up but nothing fell on the house or the fence.  We were lucky.

We made breakfast on the grill.

And then we waited...until Wednesday.  The best part of a long-term power outage is this.

An awesomely clean refrigerator!!!! 

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Squirrels annoy me!!!  They really do!  They dig in my potted plants...throwing dirt on my porches and digging up newly planted flowers.  They aren't even that cute...they sort of look like a rat if you get right down to it.  They also eat my tomatoes...not that I grow that many tomatoes...maybe the squirrels are part of the problem.

Here he is...enjoying a cherry tomato.

But this squirrel is kind of cute.  He is  made from a pattern in this book.  And he is on his way to my favorite 2nd grader at Swansboro Elementary School.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

You Too Can Be A Dinosaur

I think it would probably be much more practical to sew clothes, but I tried that when I was a teenager and it was always a horrible disaster.  And besides it is much more fun to sew things like dolls and dinosaur tails.  I had intended to make this for my favorite 4-year-old's birthday (admittedly, I don't know a lot of 4-year-olds so it is easy to be my favorite).  But, as usual, I didn't get around to it for a couple of months.

I presented it to him yesterday along with a pretty cool little dinosaur book that I picked up at Tuesday Morning (have you ever checked out the books there?).  I think it was a hit!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Beginning

This is what I have been wanting to do....make dolls.  And I have to start somewhere.  This is Emily Martin's Black Apple Doll.  This was the second try.  The first doll had a creepy arm.  But I learned a couple of lessons, salvaged the legs, and moved on.

I can see lots of possibilities, pigtails, dress sleeves...
I think I will try a few more before I move on to something more difficult.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The William H. Johnson Dolls

William H. Johnson (1901-1970) was one America's most important African American painters.  I admire his work immensely.  I have this in my office/upstairs hall.

A number of years ago...maybe a gift shop in the neighborhood, I found these dolls.

I do not know the craftman's name but I do remember that she modeled her dolls after William H. Johnson characters.  They are special.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sewing Project-Part V

Back in the fall I was taking an online sewing class.  I got other projects, by Thanksgiving, by Christmas, by tax returns, by being lazy.  I even got a new sewing machine for Christmas.  It took me three months to even take it out of the box.  And then a few more to try it out.

But Friday I decided to do something.  I cut out 3 projects.  One was a Black Apple Doll.  One was a dinosaur tale, and one was an ironing board cover from the Home Ec sewing class...everybody needs a little variety in their life.

Yesterday afternoon I started the doll...but had to learn how to wind the bobbin, thread the bobbin, thread the machine.  By the time I got through with all that I only had time to sew up the arms and legs before heading out to watch the roller derby bout.

It was a dreary day in Richmond today...a good day for sewing.  I finished the doll but she is not worthy of a picture.  One arm points the wrong way and she has a lump in her body.  I think that I will salvage her legs and start over. 

But the ironing board cover is finished!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Crazy Quilt

A labor of love...and a lot of work.  This quilt was a long time in the making.  My great-grandmother, Mary Allen, pieced it sometime around 1940.  I'm not sure how my mom knew when she made it.  She never shared that.  But somehow it came into her possession and was stored in her cedar chest for as long as I can remember.  We used to take it out and admire it from time to time.  But Mom finally decided to finish it.

It is mostly made from scraps of satin, but evidently Mary ran out of that and finished it with cotton scraps.  Mom embellished it with embroidery and, in some cases, scraps of lace, etc.  I know that she had great fun finding the right patterns to use...and I think she designed some of them herself.

My mom was an amazing seamstress and did beautiful handwork.  This was her last big project.  Soon after she finished it, and probably before that, she started getting pretty forgetful and confused...making it all the more special.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Roller Derby!!

Fifteen months ago my older daughter joined a roller derby team.  To be specific, she joined the Greensboro Roller Derby...which was a new team in Greensboro, NC.  My initial reaction was, oh great, now she will smash an arm, a knee, a leg, or even her face (she did that once on her wasn't pretty).  She doesn't have great health insurance and she has to be physically healthy to do her work...she's a hair stylist.  But so far (cross fingers) she has only suffered a busted lip...and a lot of sore muscles.

But she loved it...even said it saved her life (I won't go into that part of the story). 
Her derby name is Shrimp 'n Grit.

We saw our first bout in October.  I was sure that I wouldn't be able to watch my first-born get jabbed, pushed down, and generally beat up. 
But I loved watching it...mostly because I'm her mom and I love watching her.

But since then I have been to two more bouts and I have become a fan...not just a mom.  I love the game, I love the girls...or should I say women.  I love how they support each other.  I love how they support their community (proceeds from every bout and every fundraiser are shared with a local charity). 

Two weeks ago the Gate City Roller Girls (Greensboro's traveling team) played the Uncivil Warriors of the River City Roller Girls.  That meant that Cara was playing in her hometown and that the team needed a place to stay.  We were volunteered :)  But three of my neighbors helped out too...two hosted roller girls and coaches and one hosted our nephew who came down to see the bout from DC.  Daughter #2 came down from Cleveland.  The grandparents and Uncle Jon came from Charlottesville.  Her best friend came from Brooklyn.  And lots of our friends and her friends came too.  We had a blast!!

They were all here for breakfast on Sunday morning (Happy Mother's Day!)

I suggest that you get to know your local roller derby team.  It's not that cousin to professional wrestling that you used to see on television...if you are old enough to remember that.  You can learn about flat track roller derby here.  It helps to have a sense of what is going on...but it's not really hard to follow.

And wish the Greensboro Roller Girls luck tonight.  They have an intra-league bout...between the Mad Dollies and the Elm Street Nightmares.  And pray that Shrimp 'n Grit comes away with nothing more than a few sore muscles...and a win, of course!