July 28, 2011

Little Things: Cupa Coffee

I am a very ‘scheduled’ person and enjoy following routines daily.  One of my most treasured routines is a morning cup of coffee.  

I joke that I am a "coffee snob" and not just any brand will do--I love coffee from Starbucks, Fresh Market and Godiva.  Another "little part" to my morning includes enjoying my coffee out of a cup I love.  I used my "snuggle" mug every day at work because it is the perfect size--a little smaller than an average mug--and it has a thin "lip" which makes it easy for me to sip.



Do you have a morning routine?  What "little things" do you do to make it more enjoyable or relaxing?

July 27, 2011

Marcia's Table: Tapas Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe hails from the kitchen and the imagination of my mother, Marcia.  Often the best meals are created when one is trying to use items that are on hand--which is exactly how "Tapas Stuffed Mushrooms" was created!  In just a few easy steps, you can enjoy this delicious treat!  Happy Cooking!

Ingredients


6 mushrooms
1 heaping cup cornbread, crumbled

1/3 cup sour cream (or non-dairy substitute)
2 T. salted butter (additional amounts as needed)
2-3 T. each, diced red onion and red bell pepper
         (*or other vegetables, as desired)

1 t. olive juice (from jar of green olives)
1 T. Herbs of Provence (*substitutions allowed)
6 green olives for garnish

*You can experiment with your favorite vegetables and herbs or even add crab meat with Old Bay seasoning for a change!


Prep Time:  20 minutes     Cook Time:  30 minutes     Oven: 350 degrees


Step 1: Combine cornbread and sour cream in medium bowl.  Set aside.


Step 2: Prepare mushrooms by removing small amount of white around the hole of the stem (which has been removed)
Step 3: Chop onion and pepper to desired size and sauté in skillet until tender.  Turn heat off and allow to cool slightly.
Step 4: Using a small pastry brush, lightly coat tops and sides of mushrooms with the flavored butter from the skillet. Place mushrooms upside down in greased baking dish.
Step 5: Choose herbs.   (Herbs of Provence are a combination of thyme, basil, savory, fennel seeds and lavender flowers)

Step 6: Add herbs, sautéed vegetables, and olive juice to cornbread mixture.  If it seems too dry, add additional amount of melted butter, 1teaspoon at a time until you reach desired consistency (thick but not stiff)
Step 7: Stuff each mushroom with an equal portion of the filling.  Press down lightly with spoon to assure that the filling stays in place.
Step 8: Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove baking dish and garnish with a stuffed olive.
Return to oven for the additional 10 minutes or finish baking closer to the time needed for serving.
Last but most important: Cool five minutes.  Enjoy as an appetizer, side dish or entrée!

July 26, 2011

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Kern and I went to New Orleans this past weekend to celebrate Cayce and Blythe's wedding!  When you live 1,000 miles away from home and you get within driving distance...your family comes to see you.  My parents drove down on Friday with Gran Fran and made it a weekend trip.

Gran Fran and me at Mahony's
Dessert at Sucre on Magazine Street.  They had such an enchanting window display!
Inside there were tons of colorful (and delicious) gelato flavors...macaroons and cupcakes!
Kern liked his gelato...can you tell?
Ready for the wedding!
CAKE: Yep, the groom's cake was made of chocolate filled beignets.
The bride's cake was almond flavored.
Enjoying the reception at Antoine's in the French Quarter.
The favors included Mardi Gras medallions with the couples' initials and wedding date and handkerchief's inscribed with their names.  We wished the couple well by parading up and down Bourbon Street waving handkerchiefs and cheering.
On Sunday, the Hoffs drove down to meet us for brunch.
Enjoying a smoothie from the Organic Banana after a weekend of Nawlins' eatin'
Fresh not fried :)
It was hothothot on Sunday.  We all felt dog tired!

July 25, 2011

ginger soda

LOVE: Project Pockets

Have you ever found an office supply that you love?  Whenever you use the product, it just makes your life easier?  I recently found a NEW item that I am obsessed with…and…bonus: it comes in multiple colors!

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you: the Pendaflex CopySafe © Project Pocket.


I love it because I can categorize notes of all shapes and sizes in one place—but I don’t have to three hole punch all the pages and lug a heavy three ring binder around.  It’s also better than jamming everything into a spiral binder or file folder because it will inevitably slide out and get mangled in my tote bag.  Because they come in multiple lovely colors, I can categorize one broad topic, but sub divide the topic into multiple folders that are the same color…and because I can see through to the top page, I know exactly what is in my Project Pocket.  They even have an awesome name.  Try to say “Project Pocket” five times fast. 

For all you organizational junkies out there…I recommend giving these a whirl.  I hope you love them as much as I do!

Happy organizing!

July 22, 2011

Crisis Averted

Last week I was trying to avoid hitting an electric blue mini cooper...and I hit a tree instead!  Patty, my 1999 Honda Accord that has been with me faithfully since high school graduation was bruised.  She was cut.  She hurt.  She needed help.

I am sad with Patty.

Fortunately, there was an experienced mechanic who had an IDEA! (hint: light bulb!)

Kern helped me order a new light  from a wholesale auto parts store.

Then, within a matter of minutes, he had opened up part of my car, unscrewed this, detached some cords, pulled something back...and...

AMAZING!  Just like that, Patty's little light started to shine again!

I'm headed to New Orleans this weekend.  I hope you all have a relaxing/exciting/productive and fantastic weekend.

Let your light shine!

July 21, 2011

Side Table, Part 2

After I came back from my trip to the Shore, it was time to finish the side table!



After two coats of paint, I sanded the entire piece again.  I pressed down harder and rubbed faster on the spots that I wanted to look distressed.

Now the fun part: waxing!  I used Briwax on the top to darken the white paint and  contrast the top with the rest of the piece.  You can see how it turns the part that was white an old lovely brown color while making the parts where the wood was showing through completely even darker.
I dipped my cloth into the can of wax (using a
tiny bit) and worked it into the wood, rubbing back and forth several times.

So this is where I started to freak out.  I switched to Annie Sloan's dark wax for the body of the side table and used my Italian wax brush to apply.  As you can see, in the beginning I used too much.  As scared as I was, all I had to do to remove the wax/tone it down to a shade I liked was to go back over it with a dry cloth.

Whew, see?  MUCH BETTER!
In the meantime, I also added a touch of wax to the hardware to bring out its dark tones.  Can you see the little bit of Louis Blue?
Painting the hardware is a big money saver--it looks totally different, but it's the same "old" piece.

I sealed her with another coat of clear wax, sanded with steel wool...and voila!
I didn't know what the finish would look like, but it has an almost "linen" look to it.

I lovelovelove how the top turned out.  The contrast makes the piece look interesting and unique.

The Louis Blue drawer adds an exciting element!

July 20, 2011

Side Table, Part I

This side table is the perfect size to fit in between two chairs in my living room.  I've had it since I moved into my apartment 3 years ago...and I'm tired of the boring brown wood!  I decided it was the perfect piece to spruce up and to practice my Chalk Paint technique.  It was also small enough to be portable...yes...I took it (and all my supplies) with me to the Eastern Shore and started the process.  The side table then took a staycation in Olde Town (Virginia) while I house sat and I finished it there.

I invite you to watch her transformation today and tomorrow!

BEFORE: plain jane brown wood and a matching piece of hardware

View from the above: you can see her top is already slightly distressed

Coat one of Annie Sloan's "Old White" chalk paint.  I'm still using the same can I  opened for the dry bar.  It lasts!
Don't fret if the first coat looks splotchy.  Once it dries, sand it down, and paint the second coat.  Remember: no priming!
The streaks will disappear once it's dry and give the object a smooth look.

Still the first coat.  I decided to make the drawer POP and painted the inside and sides "Louis Blue."
Louis has a lavender tint to it--gorgeous.

Best.furniture.paint.ever.

On to the second coat!  Side Table is really enjoying her vacation at  the Eastern Shore.  Nothing like painting in your bathing suit and enjoying some sunshine!
Note: Keep in mind that chalk paint is meant to give a natural and hand painted finish, not a perfectly store bought and lacquered look.  I think the finish is charming!

I did one coat of Old White on the top and used sandpaper to take off most of the paint.  I decided I wanted the top to look "natural." I also used sandpaper to distress the hardware (which I had painted--remember chalk paint does metal!) and the sides and legs of the piece to give it a "loved" look.

July 19, 2011

The Help

By now, Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help, has become a household read for many Americans—and many southerners.  Stockett tells the (fictional but based on reality) story of black maids living and working in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s.  While reading the book I felt a wide range of emotions from anger to happiness to sadness to guilt to hope.  Some of the scenes were hard to swallow.  I could hardly bear to read accounts of the way that some of the maids were treated.  Since I am from Jackson and recognized many of the street names and places of businesses throughout the book, it left me wondering: what would I have been like in 1960?  Would I have floated along with the “mainstream” (wrong) thinking of the day like Mrs. Lefoldt or would I have had the courage like Skeeter to stand up for what I believed was right?

I had the privilege of being invited to an early screening of the Dreamworks movie.  Without giving away any details, I can assure you that the movie is worth seeing.  Everything from the town and home scenes to the actors’ accents are realistic (it was filmed in Mississippi!) .  After the movie, Director Tate Taylor (a Jackson, Miss native, Prep and Ole Miss grad) and actress Octavia Spencer, held a panel discussion where they talked about their experiences in the movie and took questions from the audience.

Taylor and Stockett were childhood friends.  After Stockett’s manuscript was rejected by 60 potential publishers, Taylor finally agreed to take a look at it and was blown away.  Stockett eventually got published and Taylor was first in line for the movie rights.  When questioned about the lawsuit Stockett is facing, Tate replied with a personal story.  After September 11th, 2001, he and Stockett were roommates in New York.  Reeling from the events that day, Stockett cried to him that she was homesick—not for her family, but for Dimitri, the black maid who raised her.  Realizing her feelings, Stockett began to wonder why she never asked Dimitri about herself—where she worked, where she went to church, about her family.  Since Dimitri had passed away, Kathyrn began writing short stories about Dimitri’s life to console herself.  Eventually…these stories transformed into The Help.

My favorite character in the book and in the movie was Minny—the dynamic and outspoken maid who gets fired for her strong personality and refusal to submit.  I was delighted to meet Octavia Spencer, the actress who plays Minny, and have an opportunity to thank her for her work in the movie.  Octavia was warm, funny and energetic—she made sure the audience knew there was a DESSERT reception at the Ritz Carlton immediately following the panel and that we were all obligated to come.  Of course, the crowd willingly complied.  You don’t tell Octavia (Minny) no.


Kern and me with Octavia

I talked with Taylor before I left the reception and told him that I felt many emotions in a two hour period—from anger to sadness to frustration—but there were also moments of laughter.  He responded, “That is the biggest compliment I could receive, but I wanted people to feel hopeful too.”

On August 10th, the movie comes out in theatres.  Read the book before you see it!

July 18, 2011

The Gift of Rest


“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


I feel like I haven’t stopped this summer!  Between travel, a hectic work schedule, and extracurricular commitments (using the word extracurricular makes me feel young) I have left little time to relax, reflect and recharge.  Sunday’s sermon was on Matthew 11 and the timing could not have been better.  I was working on projects right up until I left for Grace Downtown Sunday evening and admittedly feeling tired as I walked into the service.  Kern and I sat in our pew and as I sang, I gradually began to relax and let my mind focus on JESUS instead of my to-do list.


What drives you to not rest?  I tell myself that I simply do not have the time to rest—I must prove myself by accomplishing a certain amount of tasks in a limited amount of time.  Of course, this is not usually a process I come to consciously—I just keep going!  The rest that Jesus is offering is a gift.  It is not vacation days from work (something we must earn) but a FREE GIFT!  So how do you receive this gift?


Consider this excerpt from July 17thJesus Calling:


Come away with me for a while.  The world, with its nonstop demands, can be put on hold.  Most people put Me on hold, rationalizing that someday they will find time to focus on Me.  But the longer people push Me into the background of their lives, the harder it is for them to find me.


You live among people who glorify busyness; they have made time a tyrant that controls their lives.  Even those who know Me as Savior tend to march to the tempo of the world.  They have bought into the illusion that more is always better: more meetings, more programs, more activity.


I have called you to follow Me on a solitary path, making time alone with Me your highest priority and deepest Joy.  It is a pathway largely unappreciated and often despised.  However, you have chosen the better thing, which will never be taken away from you.  Moreover, as you walk close to Me, I can bless others through you.”


The key the receiving the gift is spending time with Jesus.  You must make an effort—just like you would in any relationship—to get to know him.  Unlike our earthly relationships can be sometimes, spending time with Jesus will rejuvenate you…and (bonus) enable you to be a more loving friend, spouse or coworker. 

Consider re-working your daily and weekly schedule to allow more time with Jesus.  I challenge you to receive the gift of his presence without feeling guilty for “neglecting” other areas of your life. 

Jesus I am resting, resting
In the Joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power
Thou hast made me whole.


- Jean Sophia Pigott, 1876

July 14, 2011

Oklahoma!

 Tonight, Kern and I are going to Arena Stage for the opening of Roger and Hammerstein's  Oklahoma!

This seems like a natural time to recall my acting debut in high school when Jackson Prep put on Oklahoma!  No, I was not Ado Annie...just a "dancer" but my best friend, Mary Jane, was Laurie!  Though Mary Jane's moment in the spotlight as an actress stopped there, she now has a blog where she posts her starlet experiences in the town of Macon, GA.



My Laurie (MJ) centered.  Can you see me?

I hesitated putting this photo up...but my expression is priceless.  You really can't deny my acting ability with my expressions.  Clearly, I should continue to pursue this ability.

A little taste of what we will see tonight!