Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire, Or In A Toaster Oven

One of the treats I enjoy eating around the holidays is roasted chestnuts.  Like many of you, I associate them with the Christmas season.  But they remind me of a time when my father brought a bag home, and I put some in our toaster oven.  Since they take about 15 minutes to roast, I went back into my bedroom and was resting on my bed reading my homework.  

Meanwhile, my mother walked into the kitchen and sat at the table to do some bookkeeping -- when all of a sudden one of the chestnuts exploded, blowing open the toaster oven door.  It nearly frightened my poor mother to death.  She must have thought she'd been shot!  And in the heat of the moment, she was furious!  

She ran into my room with the rest of the hot chestnuts and told me to make sure to "fresse" every last one of them up!  In her native tongue, you say "essen" for "eat" when talking about a person and "fressen,” to describe the intake of food by a beast.  

I thought the whole thing was so hysterical.  All I could do was laugh, right in her face! -- which only made her madder.  She ended up giving me a REally dirty look before heading back into the kitchen.  

People get angry; animals go mad.  Was my mother angry?  Nah, she was mad!  And I was in stitches!  Accidents are funny when nobody gets hurt, but an unsuspecting person becomes unhinged.
Today ... here I sit eating chestnuts, and they are delicious.  And when I ask my mam'ma Call me, she doesn't remember the family drama.  But, I'll never forget it. 

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Secret Sisters - The One I Love Is Gone (Live)

You may not have heard of Laura and Lydia Rogers, The Secret Sisters, but you will.  Their new, self-titled album is executive produced by T Bone Burnett. Here they sing a Bill Monroe song.  The duo hail from Muscle Shoals, Alabama and are singer-songwriters. They may be a secret now, but I bet they begin winning artists-of-the-year awards and pop up on televised awards shows in the next year, or two.  Listen to the definition of gorgeous.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Decorating Your Home With Art

When I decorate a room, I choose art that makes me happy.  My only criteria is, I have to love it.  Whether or not the piece is of great monetary value isn't really a consideration.  An example: For the wall above my computer desk, I didn't look for a certain artist, era, or necessarily, an original.  I remembered a museum painting by a French artist I spotted a few years ago, and I knew I'd enjoy looking at it everyday.  The painting was the right combination of colors and size for my space.  It complemented the area.  So up on the wall it went.  But instead of ordering a poster, then framing it, I ordered an ink “print on canvas.”  It's a more vibrant and dimensional format  -- one that arrives ready to hang.  Guests are always admiring my reproduction, and I never get tired of looking at it.  You can get almost any well-known painting printed on canvas.  And no framing required.  Just pick your favorite, nail it up there and enjoy.  Costs: About $100.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Leather Up To Look Casual Chic

Leather is a hot trend and an old classic.  With the right leather jacket, you look polished and pulled together, and it's so versatile, taking you from the office to a night out and through the weekend.  Forever stylish and age appropriate, leather dresses up just about everything in your closet from blue jeans to the little black dress.

And now more than ever, leather is an affordable luxury.  Not only can you find it in the perennial, popular black; but it comes in a full array of new colors, styles and lengths.

Two retailers offering lots of adorable options at a steal are Newport News and Sears.  How do they do it?

Newport News has taken the details of its charming boyfriend blazer and given it a more fitted, feminine silhouette.  The result is beyond cute.  Wear it to either dress up or down.  You can even roll up the sleeves.  The new "girlfriend blazer" sells for $139, but with coupon codes, you can get it for under $100.

But that's not all.  Newport News has other leather wear, including ¾ length trenches, shorter jackets with scalloped necklines or ruffles, blazers with a cascade of pleats down the front, plus diamond-quilted patterns.  You will find suede, fringed and metallic blouson leather jackets also.

And if that's not enough of a selection, Sear'sLeather Connection has more than 75 new styles for men and women.  From the smoothest nappa leather jackets to the rich look of ¾ length shearling coats, get the ultimate in quality and cool design at very affordable prices.

Leather is truly a wardrobe essential that won't go out-of-style.  At these values -- whether it's edgy and modern, or feminine and classic -- everyone can find a flattering look.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What We Watch On TV

With escalating ticket prices, unemployment and bed bugs! can you blame a person for staying in to watch television in the comfort of home?  As it turns out, the shows people frequent may hold the clues to their character.  So says The New York Post, citing a new study conducted by Mindset, an ad agency, which links shows with personality traits.  The information is used to predict which products viewers of shows are likely to buy.   After analyzing 25,000 TV viewers, the ad agency only released its findings for some of the shows.  The rest of the data went to an unnamed client, who paid for the study.  Here is what was published in the Post:

Mad Men: If you like “Mad Men,” then you are creative ―meaning 'emotionally sensitive and intellectually curious types [who] tend to be dreamers rather than realists' ― and liberal.
Family Guy: If you like “Family Guy,” you are a rebel ― someone who 'doesn’t like authority, rules or structure [you] deem unfair, and usually won’t hesitate to make [your] feelings known with anger or sarcasm' ― and a rule breaker.
Glee: If you like "Glee" you are what ad people call an 'experientialist' ― meaning someone who believes that 'imagination and intellectual pursuits contribute to a good life, and goes out in search of unique and varied experiences' ― and creative (see “Mad Men”).
Dancing With the Stars: If you watch “Dancing With the Stars,” you are a traditionalist ... the opposite of the "Glee" 'experimentalist' ... preferring 'stability and the tried and true' ... someone who doesn’t rock the boat and gets along with others.
The Office: If you watch “The Office,” you are ... a lot like the show’s main character, Michael: someone who believes [he is] 'superior to others. ' You 'prefer to be in charge, directing others rather than being directed.'
Real Housewives of Orange County: If you watch “Real Housewives of Orange County,” you are 'pugnacious' ― described as 'unafraid to tell others what [you] think and value honesty over keeping the peace' ― and probably a leader.
The Biggest Loser: If you watch “The Biggest Loser,” you are a realist who lives 'in the present and works with what [you] have been given.' "

I don't take these studies too seriously, but they're fun.  Three of the shows listed are favorites of mine: Mad Men, Glee and Dancing With the Stars.  So, I'm both an experientialist and a traditionalist.  Can that be?  It sounds verrry tiring.  Oh, marketers of the world, you have your work cut out for you: I also like The Middle, Parenthood, Desperate Housewives and Modern Family. Weeds is interesting.  (Everybody Loves Raymond, I miss you!)  Explain that.

So what do your favorite shows say about you?

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chili, Mmm, Mmm, Good!

Three summers ago, I had lunch at the White Horse Tavern in Nashville, Tennessee where I ate the best bowl of chili in my life.  Ever since, I've tried to find the recipe, without success, though other chili recipes have come mighty close.  Usually chili is prepared Cincinnati-style -- with ground beef, which is certainly tasty and convenient, but what I consumed down in the Music City had succulent chunks of tender beef that had fallen off the bone.  In fact, it was a medley of all kinds of colorful, tender ingredients, including fresh peppers, onions, kidney beans, cilantro, tomatoes and other flavorful sensations.  The finished dish was hearty, spicy and so mouthwatering.  Ahhhh, the memory … I must take another trip down to Honky Tonk Land real soon.  Great city! people! and food!

The chili I made last weekend is also a keeper.  The recipe comes from Meghan M., who won first place in a chili cook off, hosted by the staff at People Magazine:

Meghan's Chili
2 pounds london broil
2 tablespoons Frank's Hot Sauce [or Louisiana Hot Sauce]
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
½ cup chopped green peppers
½ cup chopped red peppers
2 large garlic cloves, minced  [I mince 3 - 4.]
2 16 ounces, canned tomatoes, or 4 cups fresh peeled tomatoes
1/4 to 1/3 cup chili powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 16 ounces can kidney beans
1 16 ounces can black beans

1} Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.  Put the london broil in a dutch oven with water so that the water is ½ way up the meat.  Add 2 tablespoons hot sauce and 1 tablespoon Tabasco.  Cover and cook in the oven for about 5 hours at 250 degrees.
2} When the beef is tender, remove from the liquid and pull the meat apart with a fork.
3} In a dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil, add the onions, peppers and garlic, and stir until tender; about 10 minutes.
4} Add the tomatoes (with liquid), chili powder, salt. Heat to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
5} Stir in the beans and pulled meat. Heat and serve. Leftovers are delicious!

Alternatives:  At times, I substitute 2 pounds of lean, beef round cuts, first browning them in a pan, then simmering all the ingredients on the stovetop (low flame) for 2-3 hours.  Sometimes I add a teaspoon of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to enhance a BBQ flavor.  Add 1/2 teaspoons of mustard and cumin seeds for extra zest. [You can adopt the recipe for a crock pot also.]

Thanks for sharing your winning recipe, Meghan!  Chili is a real stick-to-your-ribs meal and so perfect for Autumn's nippy evenings.

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