Scenes from my Christmas vacation

Our family tradition has always been to spend Christmas at home.  When Daddy passed away in 2011, we knew it would be hard for Earnie to wake up and not have him there with us so we all went to Ruidoso, New Mexico for a little getaway.  Daddy loved the mountains.  And, the best part of the trip, it snowed!  As if he ordered the snow just for us.  It was really special being there with my sister and brother-in-law and my family.

So this year, with it being our first Christmas without Earnie, we went to her favorite place — the beach.  I put Mr. Bee in charge of finding us a spot.  My criteria was that it needed to be a beach front property within just a few feet from the water.  It had to be private with no chatty Kathy’s on the porch asking me where I was from, etc…  And we needed a place that was dog-friendly so we could take Ruthie, the wienerful.  Mr. Bee scored on all points.

We traveled to Gulf Shores, Alabama (just a ten hour drive) and stayed in a private community called Martinique on the Gulf.

Our place was in a gated community with homes and condos nestled among the Bon Secour Wildlife Sanctuary.  Our unit was on the bottom floor and had a perfect view of the water.  The short boardwalk in the pic was right by our patio.  It was private and very quiet almost like we had the entire property to ourselves.  We were told that if you want quiet this was the best time to stay there because starting in March it stays crowded and loud until October.

We went for long walks on the beach looking for sea shells. This was Ruthie’s first time at the beach and she loved it.  She wasn’t interested in the water, but loved running up and down the beach.  I think the sand felt good on her feet.

I sat out on the porch and read and sipped spirits.  The owner of the property was an avid reader so it was filled with all kinds of books.  I read two of his mysteries while I was there. Under the book are two layers of blankets…and Ruthie.

I sipped mimosas.  The Champagne was a gift from a neighbor for house sitting over the summer. He brought it back from France.  I saved it for just this occasion.

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I napped with the windows open to hear the sounds of the ocean.  I stared for hours at the horizon thanking God for the miracles of the sea.  I marveled at how a whole seashell could make it to the shore unbroken from it’s journey among the waves crashing into the sands.  I watched the seagulls and sandpipers soar and look for food.

We ate some really good seafood, this was on Mr. Bee’s wish list.

Gator bites from Crawfish Town.  I had never had alligator and I thought what better place to try it.  It tasted just like chicken.  Honest, it did.

Fried shrimp and hush puppies at Tacky Jack’s right on the bay.  It was a dive, but had really cold beer and even better fresh fish.  We found a fish market near us where you could purchase fresh fish to take home.  We peeled several pounds of fresh steamed shrimp and Mr. Bee ate his weight in fresh oysters.

On Christmas Eve we had pizza, Miss Bee’s pick, and I made a pumpkin pie.  On Christmas morning I made monkey bread, biscuits, eggs and bacon.  Every morning started with coffee on the patio.

It was perfect.  Until some kind of flu bug invaded my body and for two days I had 101 fever.  But, at least I was convalescing someplace pretty.

I’ll post the recipe for the monkey bread next week. I hope all your Christmas dreams came true.

Vintage Memories of Christmas

This morning, as I was laying in bed, I was thinking if I could go back to any point in time at Christmas when would it be?  I decided it would be during the “wonder” years, when you are little and you know for sure there is a giant, fatherly man coming down the chimney after midnight.  That time period would have been in the late ’60s, early ’70s.

Here are the top things I remember:

Tons of Friends Coming Over for Parties:

People like Mary and Rhoda were always at our house. Earnie had such great friends (just like me) who never had to come up with a reason to throw a party.    Earnie and Ray would have parties for their employees, a Christmas Eve party for close friends, neighbors and family, then get together for Christmas day with family for an entire day of eating, playing, and celebrating.  Not to mention the luncheons and coffees with close friends she’d host mid-week.  I remember going with Earnie to the Winn-Dixie to load up carts of jams and jellies so she could make gift baskets for people who dropped by.

Perry Como:

Move over Michael Buble’ the hottie of my time was Mr. Perry Como.  This might have been what started my love of older men.  His smooth musical stylings and TV Christmas specials, along with Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams, were the best way to spend an evening.
Christmas Decor:

Earnie decorated every room in the house.  She had a storage area in a bathroom that housed all of her decor.  She’d get up on the ladder and hand me things telling me the room they were to be delivered to.  By the end of the day our house was transformed into magic with Perry playing on the HiFi.

Cheese Grits:

This was a Christmas brunch staple in our house.  She’d serve her grits in a lovely copper chafing dish on her beautifully decorated buffet table complete with a long centerpiece of greenery and candles down the middle of the table.

When I moved to Maryland for a brief stint in my early young life, I made these and the east coast people thought they tasted like barf (that’s probably why my first marriage ended).  Here’s Earnie’s recipe from Jane Justin’s cookbook “Prescriptions for Hunger” copyright 1968:

Preheat Oven to 350
Put 8 cups of water in a large saucepan and add 1 TBL of salt.
When water starts to boil add 2 cups of grits
Cook slowly until grits are thick
Pour grits into a large bowl and add:
1 TBL Worcestershire sauce
1 Cup of whole milk
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp black pepper
3 TBL melted butter
1 Cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Mix well and put into a greased casserole.
Sprinkle with more grated cheese and a few dashes of paprika
Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

Have a fantastic Friday!

A New Tradition

The day after Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law hosted a cookie decorating party.  It was so fun.  The night before I assembled all the ingredients from the Pioneer Woman’s My Favorite Sugar Cookie recipe and then the morning of Miss Bee and my soon-to-be new niece (my nephew popped the question to his sweet girlfriend while he was here) made the cookies.

Auntie M had royal icing and sprinkles galore ready for us to decorate.  We listened to Christmas music and ate bowls of taco soup during decorating breaks.  We finished the afternoon off by watching the movie Elf.  It was a great way to spend time with family creating a new tradition we can look forward to next year.

Here’s the recipe for the cookies:

1 1/3 cups of softened butter or butter flavored shortening
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp of grated orange zest (I used lemon because Lolly gave me lemons from Mississippi the size of my head)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBL, plus two tsp of whole milk

Mix butter, sugar and zet till smooth, add eggs then vanilla.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, add in batches to butter mixture.  Add milk and mix.  Then roll out onto a floured surface and cut with your cookie cutters.

Valentine’s Day — The Dish on Candy


Behind Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day is my second most favorite holiday.  I love red, pink and white.  I love valentine cards.  The last tip I suggested was on how to make your lips pretty for kissing.

Tip #2 is to always have a dish of Valentine’s candy out for guest enjoyment.   Last year I found Gimbal’s Cherry Lovers candy at CVS.

 They are just like sour cherries only in heart shapes with flavors like cherry vanilla, black cherry, cherry cheesecake, cherry cola, cherry daiquiri and cherry cola.  They look so pretty in my milk glass candy dish. Buzz over to Eighteen 25 for their free, down loadable subway art.  I purchased a frame for my desk at work specifically to interchange their subway art to celebrate the seasons.

 

Christmas Day Scavenger Hunt — A Visit from the Past

I had one of the most restful Christmas seasons I can recall in a long time.  I cut way back on commitments and running around.  I only spent $50 on new Christmas decor — a doormat and a cute Santa for the front porch table.  I re purposed the decor I already had and even took some to Goodwill.  I made most of our gifts and cut way back on Miss Bee’s gifts.  I don’t think she believes in Santa anymore, but for fear he may not visit our home if she reveals her disbelief, we stay silent on the subject.  But, I think since this was the first time in 12 years we haven’t left cookies and milk for him, I think that speaks volumes.

What I did do instead was focus more on spending quality time with the hive residents.  I was able to focus on baking, which I love to do, without feeling hurried and exhausted.  I made cinnamon rolls from scratch, which I have never done.  I made coffee cakes and chocolate cakes.  I made a box of cookies and candy to send to my nephew and his girlfriend.  Miss Bee and I had such fun delivering all our goodies the Saturday before Christmas.

The other fun thing we did was a Christmas day scavenger hunt.  This was a tradition when I was growing up.  After we performed the Christmas pageants Earnie used to write for all four kids complete with speaking parts and costumes, she’d give us each clues as to the location of our gifts.  Oh, and she hosted a Christmas Eve party for family and their employees, a Christmas morning brunch for family.  And, after we all left for an afternoon at the movie, whip up a Christmas dinner.  She did all of this and keep an immaculate beehive hairdo and hostess skirt in pristine condition.

This year Miss Bee asked for only one thing:  A phone.  We strung her along telling her we weren’t ready for her to have one, or that we had already maxed out on our phone plan.   Meanwhile, I made up clues for her to find her Christmas bounty…

Clue One in her stocking — We discovered these in Ruidoso last summer.  To not have these frozen treats would be a real bummer.  (in the freezer we put a box of Magnum Caramel bars with Clue 2).

Clue Two — A chore you have to do everyday, the cats and we say hip hip hooray!  (clue three in the kitty litter bag).

Clue Three  — American Girls galore, in Julie’s locker there’s Clue Four.

Clue Four — Just a few more steps if you are able, Santa left a note on Momma’s bedside table

Clue Five — Burgers and steaks we cook on the grill, open the lid but you might get a chill (clue six was in the gas grill on the lanai).

Clue Six — Here’s a key to the neighbors, Mark and Cindy.  Use this bungee it will come in handy (our neighbors graciously agreed to let their kitchen be the site of the treasure.  The bungee was a lame gift exchange gift we passed on to Miss Bee that allows her to connect her phone to her belt loop).

Clue Seven — Once Miss Bee was in the house, on the counter in the kitchen was the wrapped phone box.  She opened the box, but no phone.  Instead was the final clue — One last thing, call his number.  She called the number and behind her on the stairs was the phone ringing in the gift bag!

It was priceless to see her reaction.  Earnie has passed on so many of her gifts.  I’m glad this was one I could pass on to Miss Bee.

Happy New Year!

Need a dessert for a Christmas Party?

The Black Russian Bundt Cake recipe my neighbor shared with me is the bomb.  Easy to make and especially pretty if you have a decorative bundt pan.  Several years ago I purchased this Nordic Bundt pan shaped like Christmas trees:

Be sure to grease and spray it carefully and thoroughly.  I used Baker’s Joy flour/non-stick spray and it worked great.  This cake is moist and transports well.  A few people on my Christmas list are getting these…

Black Russian Bundt Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (without the pudding)
1/2 cup sugar
1 small box of instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1/4 cup Vodka (I used vanilla vodka)
1/4 cup Kahlua (or other coffee-flavored liqueur)
3/4 cup water (or I used left over coffee)

Combine everything in a mixer and beat well.  Pour into well greased pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 60-70 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and glaze.

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup Kahlua
Combine and pour over warm cake.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Dressing – not just for eating

Each year, at Thanksgiving, I plan two things:  First, reading magazines and cookbooks for a new cornbread dressing to make, and the second, how to dress my table for the big day.

In the south we don’t stuff our turkeys, so we call it dressing.   I loved Earnie’s version growing up but she made hers with a little of this, a pinch of that, kind of hard to replicate.  When I lived on the east coast for a stint in my younger days, it was tradition to make oyster stuffing since oysters were plentiful along the shore.  Just give this southern gal cornbread dressing please.

My recent issue of Country Living magazine had a several page spread of traditional Thanksgiving recipes.  The cutie pie Beekman Boys shared their version of the perfect carb loader with your side of roasted turkey…

I think when I make it I will crumble the cornbread rather than keep it in chunks.

As far as dressing the table, I have been saving a few photos I’ve seen on line for ideas.  I have a huge rosemary bush off the lanai.  I think I may tie up the silverware into bundles like this..

You could even add little tags with fun questions for each guest to share over dinner.
I have aged bronze chargers from my Southern Living at Home days that I may paint with chalkboard paint and write each person’s name.

For the beverage station (hopefully my rolling cart will be done by then) I have been hearting these adorable holiday beverage tags from Ballard Designs. 

What will you do this season to make your guests feel special?

“As soon as I get home from a day of work, I bathe, brush my hair,
 put on fresh makeup, and slip into a hostess gown.”  Loretta Young, actress

Frame Your Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love the food (everytime I go to Luby’s I eat turkey and dressing).  I love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  I love it when it’s cold outside, but this year if it’s nice we might sit on the lanai for our meal with the fire going.  If I can talk Mr. Bee into it, I would love to install an outdoor tv monitor on the porch for watching the TCU vs UT game.  Sip cider and cheer on the Frogs.

On my desk I usually try to have a phrase or subway art framed for the season.  This Thanksgiving subway art can be found on Eighteen25.  Click on the link and it will take you directly there.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll.

Scenes from an Easter’s Eve — Caution Peeps and Fire are involved

Family came over tonight to eat an Easter picnic and to dye eggs.  I am going to make an entry another day to share the “heirloom” recipes we had for our picnic today.  But, here are some pics of the eggs we dyed.  See an earlier post about using food coloring for your egg dye.  We also got out the Martha Stewart glitter to bling up Miss Bee’s eggs.

Sister Bee brought each of us a homemade Easter basket made with a plastic drinking cup.  She tucked jelly beans inside with a tiny pink fuzzy chick.  So cute.

Then, we moved into the s’more making station.  I have to admit I took a slight pleasure in roasting my peep over the fire.

I highly recommend peeps on your s’more next time.  The slight crunch of the sugary coating and the hint of yellow made for a very delish dessert.

Happy Easter!