Honey, it’s Hot: Fun Things to Try

Sharing some “hot” ideas — things I’d like to try this spring, because why not round up the days to March 21 — the first day of spring.  Food, flowers, gardening, and travel — something for everyone!

I love spring.  To me, it’s a time of new beginnings.  Tender bulbs we planted in the fall are starting to pop their heads up in our garden. The phlox are blooming bright purple right now.  I missed my window of time to plant pansies like I usually do in the fall, and since it looks like we are going to skip winter all together here, I may just wait and plant my usual burst of color from zinnias.

If you’ve never tried to plant zinnias, give it a try this spring.  They are hearty, heat and drought tolerant and make the perfect cutting flowers.

I have been saving up photos to my gardening Pinterest board to show Mr. Bee for a spring project…a container vegetable/herb garden in a galvanized water trough.

Two things I like about this, is it’s higher up from the ground so it will be easier to access for watering, weeding and harvesting.  And, it will be up off the ground so our pets cannot get into it.  This DIY article from Apartment Therapy walks you through how to create your own.  I want to plant cooking herbs like rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley and cilantro.  And a few vegetables we enjoy like cucumbers, zucchini and peppers.  I wish I could grow tomatoes, but I leave that up to my farmer’s market because tomatoes are so persnickety.

Next, before it gets too hot outside I want to perfect a recipe for fried chicken.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Baked garlic cilantro fries

I eat fried chicken once about every 5 years, but it’s just so nostalgic like Sunday suppers after church.

And I want to host a party just so I can put hot french fries in a mason jar lined with parchment paper. Recipe here.

My grandmother used to make the best french fries when I would go and spend the weekend at her house.  She’d cut big steak fry slices from Idaho potatoes and toss them into a cast iron skillet of hot Crisco oil.  Once they were golden brown, she’d remove them to a paper towel lined pan and take her big, metal silver salt shaker and drench the fries in salt.  Add a side of ketchup and I was a happy camper.  She’d also pan-fry hamburger patties in Worcestershire sauce.  This is why I liked spending weekends at her house.

And, while we are on the subject of food, I can’t leave out something related to cake.  That was the other thing we always made at my grandmother’s house – a cake.  Grandmother wasn’t a baker.  She was more of an entree kinda cook.  So, my mother would always supply me with a box of cake mix and the add-ins.  When this story appeared on my Facebook timeline today, again courtesy of Country Living, it shared the simple trick to make boxed cake mix taste 1,000 times better. Butter. Replace the oil in the mix with almost the same amount of butter. I feel it is my duty to research this and report back this week.  Miss Bee is totally on board.

Next, if you want to plan a long weekend trip this spring, two fun places to try are Waco, Texas and Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

72 hours in Waco

This fun article from Country Living shares a 72-hour itinerary in Waco and includes “the nitty-gritty on the city, a mix of both editor picks and the requisite “Chip & Jo Were Here” attractions for true devotees.” It’s a great how-to including wine, coffee, antiquing, eating and site-seeing.  I have been to Waco many times, and have spent an evening with the Gaines (which you can read about here), but the itinerary is something I would really like to try.

Then, there’s Pawhuska, Oklahoma — the land of the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  Again, Country Living shares the details on her fab new venture here.

The Mercantile is a 25,000 square foot space that includes a restaurant, retail store, deli, coffee bar and bakery.  The town only has 3,500 residents, yet sees 6,000 people A DAY to the town to get a taste of her great frontier.  Here are two snaps I found on Instagram…

My own cast iron skillet of sticky buns. Heaven.
You can never have too many bowls.

So, this is my “Honey, it’s Hot” list.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Let me know if there is something new you’d like to try and I will check it out. I’d love to hear your suggestions, too.

Five Things I Like About Me

Love is all you need. Especially love of yourself.

Wow.  That’s a hard topic — things you like about yourself.  First, to find five things, then to be bold enough to say them out loud without seeming bragadocious (it’s a real word but it sounds less brag-gy).  But, I think every once in while we need to take the opportunity to identify things we like about ourselves and embrace the positive, rather than the negative. So, here goes:

  1.  I’m funny.  I have a good sense of humor.  I get that from my parents.  I like to make people laugh.  I have been entertaining the world since I was old enough to realize I could get a response –isn’t that at about 6 weeks old?
  2. I love to talk to people.  I like to find out what makes them tick.  I always leave a store or restaurant with a new friend (I get this from Daddy).   My profession requires me to be a good conversationalist.  As a result, it’s also exhausting which means sometimes I need alone time to recharge, kind of like you recharge your phone.
  3. I am a good listener.  I can really empathize with how people feel.  It’s not something I have always been good at.  In fact, I think before I suffered from the major loss of losing a child, I didn’t take the time to listen to what people are really saying.  Now, I understand that feeling of emptiness and hurt. Sometimes it makes my heart ache.
  4. I’m creative.  I’m really good at conceptualizing how something should look and feel. I love to think of and try ways to put a new “spin” on ideas. This has proved useful in both my personal and professional life.
  5. I’m passionate.  About a lot of things that are important to me — from how God has played such an important role in my life, to my pets and love of animals, to surrounding myself with things that are beautiful and make me feel happy, to searching for the best place for bakery cake, to organizing my pencil drawer, to being the best wife, mother, sister, aunt, and friend I can possibly be.

I am not perfect and I have more faults I could probably list than successes.  But, I like myself and the person I hope to grow into for the next 40+ years.

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

P.S.  I asked Miss Bee what are the five things she liked about me.  In her words:  1. I’m funny 2.  I cook good 3.  I like to go shopping 4.  I’m a good listener and 5.  I am smart.  Wow.  I guess she is paying attention after all.

14 Gift Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Fellas, if you happen to read my blog (hopefully on your own or because your gal says “oh, this? Mrs. Twist told me about it.”) I am sharing some deliciousness to make you look like a King gifting the Queen on Valentine’s Day.  Fourteen ideas…

One:  Sur la Table Cooking Class. She can pick her own class — maybe for a GNO, or baking, or perhaps she will book a couple’s night out class with you!

 

Two:  A limited edition Le Creuset pink heart shaped Dutch oven.  A splurge, but what a way to show her you love her not only on Valentine’s Day, but also when she makes Aunt Helen’s pot roast!

Three:  This is an easy one — Trader Joe’s Chocolate heart-shaped cookies.  They are a shortbread cookie dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles.  I took one of my Ikea jars (from this post) and filled it with a box of these cookies.  Such a pretty, inexpensive gift.  Add a gift card to Starbucks and it will be a perfect girlfriend gift.

 

Four:  Hurley House Cupid Corn. Katherine posted this beautiful pic on Instagram today and I knew it would be perfect for my list.  “Candy covered popcorn with sprinkles, packaged in a sweet single-served box.”  Call (817) 349-8934 to place an order for everyone in your office!

 

Five:  Mix Tape.  Kickin’ it old school.  If you have no clue what a “mix tape” is you are probably too young to be interested in Mrs. Twist.  Popular in the 80s and 90s before you could easily download music, you’d make a mix tape (i.e. the dinosaur cassette tape — or as Mother used to refer as Kay-sette) to give to someone you were crushing on.  But, now you could put it on a thumb drive.  Load it with classic love songs and you are good as gold.

Six:  Fizzing Bath Bombs from Whole Foods.  I love to go to their beauty aisle, it smells amazing. Lidded jars full of bath bombs and salts.  They come in six amazing scents — my favorites are Rose Petal and Muscle Soak. And you can package them in cute brown paper sacks.

Seven:  Microwave Popcorn Maker from Uncommon Goods. This little teapot shaped popcorn maker has a port in the top for a pat of butter to melt right onto your corn!  Combine with a good bottle of wine and a Redbox movie and you have a fun date night.

 

 

Eight:  Bird Feeder.  It’s that time of year when birds will need access to food because winter has arrived and soon springtime will mean nesting. This adorable birdfeeder how-to video would be a fun project to do with the kids.  Don’t want to make one, Wild Bird Center has a wide variety of feeders and seed to get her started with bird watching.

Nine:  Diffuser with Essential Oils.  I have practically one diffuser for every room in the house and I take one with me when I travel.  There are all sorts of oils available out there.   I prefer Young Living Essential Oils.  They are a bit more expensive, but they are pharmaceutical grade and the company really does set the highest standard possible with their Seed to Seal promise.

My favorite relaxing scents are lavender and jasmine.  I love Purification and Thieves, but that doesn’t really say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to me.

Ten: Sees Candy.  This “BigAss Elegant Heart.”  I mean I would fly to the moon if Mr. Bee gave me this.

Hello, lover.  I can do serious damage to my hips on this one, but I don’t care.

Eleven:  Professional Organizer Services.  I know this isn’t really romantic, but maybe after you present her with the BigASS Elegant Heart candy box you could say something heartfelt like “I thought it would be nice for you to have someone help you organize the pantry like you’ve been talking about doing.”  Men don’t get how organizing makes a woman’s heart sing.   My friend, Elizabeth, gets it done.  She’s helped me transform most every room in my nest.

Twelve:  Fun house slippers with a pedicure gift card tucked inside. If I could click around the house in these, I might never leave.  I mean one can never have too many mink, turquoise lucite slippers.

 

Thirteen:  Farmgirl Flowers.  They ship nationwide and only use locally sourced farms, not greenhouses, to create a unique bouquet.  Their signature burlap, hand-tied wrapped posies look hand-picked from the garden. Use code SWEETS for 10% off your order.

Fourteen:  Jesus Calling.  I saved the best for last.  Mother had a copy of this book in her room when I was going through her things after she died.  Mother attended church all her life, but I honestly didn’t know she was as faithful to God until after her death.  It’s something I regret not sharing with her.

This beautiful daily devotional lays out words and scripture that Jesus laid on Sarah Young’s heart. It’s no accident when you read your daily passage, that you will say to yourself, “How did He know I was feeling this way today?”  Ask someone who owns a copy of Jesus Calling and they will tell you the same thing.  Since Valentine’s Day is a day of love — why not give her a gift that she can use every single day from the person who loves her the most (behind you, of course).

So, there you are.  Now, go forth and get it done.  You have two weeks and no excuses.  Mrs. Twist saves the day.

End of an Era: My Memories of the Zodiac Room

This week the Ridgmar Neiman Marcus department store will close and move to their new location in Clearfork off the Chisholm Trail Parkway.  It will be a truly beautiful store and I am thrilled they will be closer to my house.  With growth comes change and their Zodiac Tea Room, an iconic place to lunch since the 1950s, will close as well. The new store will feature a cafe with a modified menu, bar and fresh, modern interiors so I know it will be a fabulous twist on the traditional.

Neiman Marcus Clearfork

I took this opportunity to take my friend Cindy with me for lunch to celebrate her birthday.  As we were seated I shared with her and our server my history with the Zodiac Room.  Mother loved to shop at Neimans.  From the time I can remember (probably five years old), she would take me shopping there and we’d have lunch in the tearoom.  It was such a treat.   I loved the hot popovers served with pink strawberry butter and tiny mugs of chicken consomme´ (they promise to serve these must-haves in the new space) and watched anxiously for the statuesque models that would go from table to table wearing the latest fashions available for purchase in the boutique.

The children’s lunch menu included a white casserole dish in the shape of a chicken and when you lifted the lid it was filled with a yummy chicken and rice casserole.  And, for dessert, children were served a round scoop of ice cream with a sugar cone on top decorated with icing and meringue to look like a clown.  I was always so excited when the server would place it before me.  It was such a great distraction, allowing Mother the chance to enjoy her lunch or visit with a friend we might have brought along on our shopping trip.  As I got older, she would take me shopping before school started for a new wardrobe — including shoes and handbag.  Our sales person would bring a tray of lemonade and cookies to the dressing room and I remember feeling like such a lady.

Meeting Executive Chef Kathryn Johnston

Back to the lunch with Cindy…after I shared the story with our server, Val, she told us the Chef had similar memories to mine coming to eat with her mother and Grandmothers in the tearoom.  I told her I would love to meet the Chef if she wasn’t too busy.  Within minutes, Kathryn Johnston greeted us.  It was lovely that she took time away from the kitchen to visit with me, bringing with her copies of Helen Corbitt cookbooks she uses in the kitchen to prepare all the fabulous food. This was the best day ever holding those books!  It was like a piece of history in my hands.

Miss Helen Corbitt

Miss Helen Corbitt was the Neiman Marcus Director of Food Services for 14 years.  Story has it that Stanley Marcus courted her for eight years to come work for him.

Many of the traditional recipes on the menu were created by her, including the orange souffle, chicken salad medley which I had to order today.  Miss Corbitt was referred to by the Los Angeles Times as the “Julia Child-esque cooking celebrity with a Texas twang.”

Miss Corbitt’s famous Orange Souffle Salad Plate

Kathryn let me look through the cookbooks during lunch.  I felt like I was looking at the Declaration of Independence.  The books were falling apart they were so lovingly used.  I found the recipe for Miss Corbitt’s cold orange souffle!

Miss Corbitt’s slivered almonds are her signature

I snapped a pic of the recipe.  The version in the cookbook is lemon, but on the next page she tells how to adjust the flavor to orange.

I am now on the quest for her cookbook Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company.  I snapped a pic of the table of contents.  Every homemaker today should use this as a reference for entertaining, I mean look at it!  It all still applies today.

If you know how to get your hands on this book — please for the Love of Helen, tell me!

We finished our lunch with taking two Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies to go.

Here is a must read from Texas Monthly about Miss Corbitt — “she delivered us from the canned fruit cocktail and gave us confidence that the civilizing pleasures of the table were within reach.”

If you visit my Pinterest Retro board I have the recipes for the popovers, strawberry butter and chocolate chip cookies pinned there.  If would want the orange souffle gelatin recipe, leave a comment and I will post it on my blog.  I may be inspired to make my own and I’ll be sure to share.  I have tiny, vintage gelatin molds (of course you do) that will be perfect!

Find Your Bliss

It’s important to surround yourself with things that make you feel blissful — by definition: Achieving happiness and great joy.  I’m sharing today simple things that make my heart sing.

Flowers.  Not expensive, grand arrangements.  Sometimes I just pick a few roses from the garden and put them into a juice glass. Yesterday, I stopped into Central Market and bought a few $2 roses in a variety of pinks.  I usually try to keep fresh flowers in my bathroom so I have something pretty to look at while I get ready in the morning or prepare for bedtime.

This image of a peony is so sweet tucked into a retro sherbet dish. I think this glassware was on my Sister Bee’s wedding registry in 1972, but in avocado green.

Candles.  I am burning one right now while I am writing this post. One of my favorites is Eucalyptus Mint from Bath and Body Works. My splurge candle is Orange Blossom Special from Draper James. I also like to diffuse essential oils at night before bed, lavender in particular.  It makes the bedroom smell so clean and fresh and, as you know, lavender is the perfect scent to relax you before bed.

Lotion.  The only lotion I use everyday is Philosophy Amazing Grace Perfumed Firming Body Emulsion.  It has a gentle fragrance that smells clean like soap.  It’s one of my treats to slip on my pjs right after a shower and prop myself up on pillows and read a good magazine.

Magazines.  Speaking of which — I am a sucker for a beautiful magazine like Martha Stewart Living.  This month’s issue is full of ideas for Valentine’s Day…my favorite holiday behind Thanksgiving.

Office supplies and calendars.  I love office supplies like binder clips, file folders and fabric document boxes.  These cute binder clips from See Jane Work are inscribed with To File, To Pay, and To Do.  The perpetual calendar is something fun to change everyday.

And last, a good bowl of candy.  I keep a dish of sour cherries in the powder room as a treat for guests.  My friend Jacqui goes straight to the bowl whenever she comes over to the house.  It’s like her personal bowl of candy…But my other favorite is cinnamon gum drops.  Seriously, if I was a celebrity this candy would be included in my contract…“Mrs. Twist requests a giant crystal bowl of red cinnamon gum drop candy.”

What things would make for the best day ever for you?  Find your bliss.

Conversation Piece: Vintage Hotel Keys

I follow The Wishlist Atlanta Antique store on Instagram.  When Laurie posted a photo of a pile of vintage hotel keys, I messaged her right away and told her I had to have them.  I could imagine a big bowl of keys on the coffee table and the conversations that would ensue of sharing memories of vacations!

When the package arrived I couldn’t wait to look at each one, imagining their story.  Like the kitschy look of this key — meet me for cocktails at the Madhatter Lounge.

 

From Toledo, Ohio to Kailua, Kona, Hawaii to The Royal Caribbean Montego Bay, Jamaica.  The size of some of these keys made me chuckle. To think how now we are mostly issued plastic, disposable key cards.  No story to tell there.

Holiday Inn Town in Lansing, Michigan to the 89er Inn in Oklahoma City to the Hospitality Motor inn in Lansing, Michigan.

There were also a few airport locker keys.  Mystery.

And this one from Kenya.

Fun stories in this pile, and I am sure a few bittersweet ones like perhaps from the Medical Center Motel.  I have something new to search for at antique stores and estate sales.  I love things that tell a story.  These might just be the key…

Heirloom Photo: Always the Center of Attention

Daddy, Mother and me at Julia’s Circa 1970

I treasure this photo of me with Mother and Daddy.  It was taken in front of Julia’s fireplace (get her Spritz cookie recipe here).  Since I was just talking about her yesterday I wanted to follow up with this heirloom. It started out as a pic Julia planned to take of just Mother and Daddy in front of her fireplace.  I love Mother’s nubby zip front pantsuit and Daddy’s button cardigan and his signature cigar.

Backstory:   I saw that I was being left out, ran over just as Julia took the shot. Cut to Mother’s laughing, “Oh, isn’t Melissa precious how she always wants to be the center of attention!”  And, then, look at Daddy. “Just darlin’ (actor note:  say with sarcasm).”  And this is how my childhood and adulthood have always been. #sheneverstops

30 Days of Lists: December Edition

30 days

December kicks off a month of lists from 30 Days of Lists a fun website offering prompts to help inspire journaling.  I did it in September which you can read about here.

December, next to November, is my favorite month for obvious reasons.  I will share with you throughout the month the list ideas and you can do it along with me.

My Favorite Things About December:

  1. Putting up the Christmas tree.  Why I am excited about it this year is because my professional organizer friend, Elizabeth Jones, with Nest and Transformation, helped me to re-organize all my Christmas stuff last year so it’s boxed according to category.  If I want to decorate in phases, I can just go get the box marked “Entry Way” and decorate that area. Life changing!  Doesn’t make me dread decorating.  In fact, I may put up more than one tree this year!  Elizabeth is offering specials to Home with a Twist readers during the month of January.  Contact her at jonezie127@gmail.com for more information.
  2. Listening to Christmas music. This should probably be for a November list because I start listening to CM on November 1.
  3. Making Christmas cookies.  It’s the only month when you kinda HAVE to eat fudge, cookies, and yule logs and not be judged.  Until January comes and your yoga pants are tight.  But, I am getting ahead of that by starting to work with a trainer and dietitian next Tuesday through my local YMCA – their new wellness center is one mile from my house!
  4. Fires in the fireplace.  I love to be cozy by the fire and so does Ruthie, Hazel and cats.  We pile into the family room, put on cheesy, but wonderful, Hallmark Christmas movies and chill.
  5. Church. I love when the church is decorated with greens, wreaths and trees, lighting Advent candles, attending Christmas Eve service, the message of waiting for the expectant birth of baby Jesus, and reflecting on what Mary, the young Mother, must have been feeling knowing she was carrying the King.
  6. Christmas parties. I went to my first one last night.  A sweet, beautiful group of ladies from our grief support group two years ago wanted to gather for dinner to share how they have been doing.  I was so proud of these women — who have all lost their husbands — to hear how much they have grown in their faith and new found roles.  We shared a yummy Italian dinner in Rita’s stunning home filled with 30 years of Nutcracker collecting.  Best way to start December!
  7. Christmas clothes.  Mine don’t light up or have fur on them, but whatever makes you cheerful is what the season is for!  My new top is from Talbots and says “Cheers” in gold and is 30% off right now.  I can’t wait to wear it with jeans and my blue and white polka dot puffer vest.
  8. Christmas dishes.  Mother gave me money one year for Christmas and I decided to purchase a set of dishes to use during the holidays.  Now, every time I use them I will think of her.

What are your favorite things in December?

Wednesday’s Weave: Sugar, please!

Wednesday’s is for short, but sweet, something to share.  Let’s talk about sugar.  Specifically, the sugar you offer your guests for their tea or coffee.

cream-and-sugar-bowlStart with the basics…when was the last time you washed your sugar bowl?  Do you have one? There are so many options in every single store you shop. Look at this precious sugar and creamer set from World Market.

You can even put your sugar in a mason jar to keep it fresh. Mason jars are such a versatile vessel for everything from lemonade to salad.  Why not make it into a sugar jar!

sugar-cube-container
fill a small mason jar with sugar cubes

What sugar do you offer?  Well, you might say just plain white sugar. That’s okay, but how about sugar cubes?  My little niece, Violet, squealed with delight the time she discovered I keep a beehive dish filled with sugar cubes. Sometimes it’s the simple things that delight a person the most.

raw-sugar
raw, turbinado sugar

I use raw, turbinado sugar in my coffee which has a nice, molasses flavor.

If your guests like artificial sweeteners, offer a variety of them in a container, like another mason jar.

Here’s another fun, seasonal touch for adding a little sweetness, flavored syrups.  I really like Torani brand and of course it comes in a pumpkin pie flavor, regular and sugar free.

torani-syrups
Torani syrups — Sugar-free and regular

Keep it sweet, sugar!

Wednesday’s Weave: 30 Days of Lists Progress Report

s16-list-12-header-image

September 1st I started a 30-day journaling challenge.  I have really been enjoying my daily prompt in my inbox for the list of the day.  The questions have been easy, yet thought provoking.  It’s given me a chance to pause, reflect and ponder.  So far, the questions have been:

journal-cover-2September is for..

Don’t Judge me, but…

Reasons to Celebrate…

Recent Impulse Purchases…

Today, you will find me…

My favorite time of the day is…

If I was running for President…

What’s on my camera roll…

This weekend’s plans…

When Things Don’t Go my Way…

On my calendar this year…

Up to #12, things that didn’t seem like a good idea at the time…

Adopting Hazel.  She’s a blessing.  Such a sweet, loving, smart dog.  She loves our family and we love her!

Gauchos — still NOT a good idea.

Asparagus jello — never will be a good idea.  Sister Bee and I made this when I was 11, I think, and we vowed we would never utter the words lime jello and asparagus soup in the same breath.  In case you want to make this hideous, all things green, congealed, mayonnaise “molded” salad, here it is and God speed because I won’t be your friend anymore…

2016-09-13-2

And lastly, something I didn’t think was such a great idea at the time…Mother making me stay out of the sun.  She covered me in sunscreen (Pre-Sun to be exact which burned upon contact so I am not sure how friendly it was to my skin).  I think I went through childhood without a single sunburn.  Thank you Mother!