Wednesday, August 31, 2011


As you all probably know, here on the east coast, Mother Nature presented us with a pretty eventful week last week.  

Last Tuesday we had our first relatively strong earthquake in like a hundred years.  We didn't have any damage like areas near the epicenter, but it was a little weird feeling the earth literally ripple beneath your feet.  It was a gorgeous that day, and me and Son No. 3, Owen, were hanging out at the pool.  The pool water was sloshing back in forth, and the umbrellas were swaying.  It was pretty crazy.  

Then along came Irene.  Boy, talk about panicking!  Watching and listening to reports on her progress throughout the week created a bit of concern for those of us here on the east coast.  We actually live about 60 miles from the closest beach, but as you all know by now, the threat of Irene coming so far inland had many worried. 

By the end of last week, I figured I better get a little better prepared.  I made sure I had lots of bags of ice in the both freezers (we have two frigs ~ one in the kitchen, and one in the garage).  I also bagged up ice from the ice maker for clean ice, and filled empty milk jugs and juice bottles with water and put them in freezer.  We weren't so worried about flooding where we are, and not too many large mature trees to worry about with the high winds.  Our main concern was power outages.  The power company even had automated calls go out the Friday before (the storm was set to hit here late Saturday night), alerting their customers to be ready for possible long-term power outages.

I ended up at Costco that Friday, not necessarily to stock up on water like every other person in the state.  Good thing, I guess, cause they ran out.  Or so it seemed.  On my way to the registers, they were just hauling in another pallet.  It was like a free-for-all people grabbing cases.  Anyway . . . it was a regular Costco day for me, and I was dreading going knowing it would be mob scene.  And that it was.   Funny though,  I was in and out quicker that day then I ever have.  Crazy, huh?!  

Then I spent a good portion of the afternoon Friday bringing all the outdoor furniture, pots and planters.  Basically anything that could become a projectile in the high wind. What a job!   

The deck, before, with all the furniture and plants:

And after completely cleared off:

Let me tell you, THAT was a workout!

Having all my pots and planters grouped in one area really made me realize just how many flowers I have. 

They all looked so pretty smooshed together on tables in the garage. 

Saturday morning I started cooking - meatballs and sauce, Sante Fe chicken salad, potato salad.  I chopped and minced veges for pico de gallo and bruschetta.  I figured if we were going to loose power, I had lots of ice for coolers to store cold food, and the grill for cooking up all the stuff in the freezers.  

Son No 2., Colin, and his GF Shannon, stayed over.  We weathered the storm watching movies and munching.  And just in case we lost power, we had board games ready and I put together a basket of candles, a lighter and flashlights.

Well, for us the storm brought lots of rain and some pretty gusty winds.  We fared well by comparison from a lot of reports after the storm.  The worst thing for us was my garden was mowed down by the winds.  I have yet to get out there and clean up and start yanking stuff out, but I did find some sunflowers blooming.  Little survivors they are.  

The day before the storm:

The day after:

I couldn't resist cutting a little bouquet of those last surviving sunflowers, and putting them in salt glaze crock.  I placed them on the table of my new bistro set on the deck.

Isn't it adorable??!!!  

AWalmart deal.  I couldn't resist it the other day when I was there.  On clearance for $198 from $329.  

The back pillows didn't come with the set.  They're ones I bought earlier in the season when I was trying to match the other deck set.  The back pillows for the bistro set were too big and puffy and the same color as the seat cushions.  Kinda boring.

These pillows look so much better, are more comfy when sitting in the chairs.  And see how nicely they coordinate with the pillows from the other lounge set?  

Every time I walk by the door, I have to pause and look at my cute new furniture out there.  The weather's been just fabulous here since Sunday night, which has allowed me to keep all the cushions and pillows out everyday.  Before we know it, though, "deck weather" will be over and everything will be put away.  But I'm going to savor enjoying my outdoor room as long as possible.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No More Summer Slacking!

Around here, you can sense summer's coming to an end.  Hanging on to the last few days of sleeping in, staying up late, no real schedule, and blowing off stagnant home improvement and home dec projects.

About the only things I've kept up with this summer is the basic housework, my exercise routine, a weekly round of golf and some gardening. 

Son No. 1 went back to school in North Carolina last week.  Son No. 2, who lives on campus here in Delaware, and Son No. 3, who'll be starting 8th grade, start back next Monday.  And with only a couple weeks left in August, and the nights getting a bit cooler, you can certainly feel the change in the air.

So, next week I'm vowing to get myself back into . . . well, everything I've been putting off this summer.  

Like, straightening up and deep cleaning my craft room.  It's a mess!

Making a new counter skirt and window treatment in the craft room with this new fabric.  I think it's going to look great with the pink shaggy area rug and the green apple walls!

Cleaning up and sorting through all that stuff under the table in the living room.  What's the deal with all that junk? Well, that's stuff I was using when creating new summertime vignettes here and there around the house, and it just got stuffed under there.  Outta of site, outta of mind, right?!

Our master bathroom.  UGGHHHH!!!  I'm almost embarrassed to show these pics.  

We started this mini-reno almost exactly a year ago.  We had some drywall repair done and that begun the long needed makeover.  Because we honestly can't afford to replace fixtures and completely overhaul the bathroom, we're hoping some updates will help out this tired-looking space.  First of all, fresh paint on the walls.  Since we have to keep the big fixtures like the tub, shower, etc., I can live with their pale grey color, so I'm working with color scheme that compliments.  I tell everyone to think beach glass.  Pale greens, blues, greys and whites.  

A new tile floor and tile around the tub to cover the ugly cedar planking painted grey should help.  And some white bead board paneling on the front.  BTW, I hate that the tub is situated on an angle.  I've never been able to figure out what to do with all the space back there.  Any suggestions/ideas would be greatly appreciate ;o)

I picked out glass tiles for the backsplash around the tub and behind the vanity, below, which will be getting a new coat of heirloom paint and a new vanity top and sinks, and, of course, new vanity hardware.  New light fixtures and new shower doors will give this bathroom the facelift it desperately needs.

This project, primarily the tiling, is Hubby's.  And it's been slow-going, mainly because he's been working tons of overtime, annnddddd playing quite a bit of golf on the weekends this summer. Which I can't complain about.  He's been working so hard, and golf really relaxes him.  He knows he's going to have to get busy back on the project soon, though . . . hint, hint, Hon!

Another project waiting in the wings for way too long is the painting and refinishing of the kitchen table and chairs (this table does have a leaf that's out right now and six chairs altogether).  The chairs are getting a fresh new coat of glazed heirloom white paint, and the table top's getting refinished with a new coat of stain - I think.  

Not sure if I should restain it or paint it.  Suggestions?  

And I haven't decided if I'm going to paint the base glazed heirloom white or black.  Guess it would depend on what I decide to do the top.  Again, suggestions?

So among so many other big projects needing to get down around here, such as; pulling up the carpet in the finished basement and putting down the wood floor we purchased over a year ago; painting and redecorating that space; repainting the third bedroom; restaining the boy's bathroom vanity; painting and organizing our master bedroom closet; etceterAH, etceterAH, etceterAH . . .  (saying that in my head in my best Yul Brenner voice from the King and I).

All these projects, big and small, are gonna require a big swift kick in the butt for me.  Part of the reason, besides just summer slacking for not getting a lot of them done or at least started, is I just think I've lost a bit of my mojo.  I need some real motivation to get these projects going and completed, and some serious inspiration to make some much need decor changes around my home.  

I'm hoping when Son No. 3 gets back into school next week, and I have a few full days at home alone, I can get going on these projects and more.  How are all of you getting back on schedule now that summer's almost over?   It can be a tough transition some years!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

THE Best Lasagna! ~ IMO {and my family's}

My parents came to dinner yesterday for a little farewell dinner for Son No. 1.  He leaves to go back to down to North Carolina Thursday for his last semester of school.  Summer's almost over and Johnny's leaving.  So sad.  I almost hate this time of year most.

Anyway, when I called over the weekend and invited them, my plan was to serve something simple and relatively easy.  A big pan of lasagna, salad and bread.  Easy.  Filling. Satisfying.

Yesterday, Sunday, we awoke to thunder storms that literally lasted hours.  Drenching rain and dreary skies.  A perfect day to spend cooking away in the kitchen.

Instead of throwing together a quick and easy pan of lasagna using a plain old jarred marina sauce ~ good quality, of course! ~ I decided to look through a few of my many recipe books for something a little special or with a twist.  And because it was a stormy, dreary Sunday morning, having some yummy homemade mariana bubbling on the stove for a few hours would be perfect.

Of course, the first book I start with is Giada's book, Everyday Italian.  When I turned to her recipe for Classic Lasagna, I knew right away that was recipe I'd making.  Her recipe incorporates the use of a béchamel sauce.  I don't think I've ever heard of, or consciously knew of eating, lasagna made with béchamel.  In this recipe the béchamel sauce is mixed with the marinara sauce before the assembly process begins.  It creates a rich but subtle-tasting blush-like sauce.

Photo from Food Network
So I got to work making the marina sauce first.  Darn!  The recipe calls for two 32 oz cans of tomatoes, I only had one.  Not to worry!  With my garden spitting out lots of roma, or plum, tomatoes, I starting seeding and dicing away.  I didn't even peel them! Just added them to the other ingredients in the pot, and after a bit I pulled out the potato masher and gave them all a good pulverizing.

This pic was snapped when the lasagna was cold.  If I'd planned better, and taken a picture of it warm, you'd be drooling at the site of the bubbly cheese and rich sauce.  Just try and use your imagination! LOL
While the sauce was simmering away, I started on the other main components.  Browning the ground beef.  Partially boiling the noodles.  Mixing the ricotta and egg and seasonings. Making the béchamel sauce.  The recipe also calls for spinach, but I omitted it this time.

This was THE best lasagna I've ever had.  Everyone raved about it.  Well, about as much as my family "raves" about food.  It was creamy, cheesy, without a strong tomatoey flavor.  It certainly took quite a bit longer than the quick, lazy route I had originally planned to take, but it was sooo worth the time and effort.

In Giada's book, she gives the béchamel, marina and lasagna recipes in separate areas of the book.  That would be an awful lot of typing for me here to share the entire recipe with you all.  I thought it would be easier to try and find the recipes online and refer the links.  However, in the few different places I found her recipe, it was not exactly the same as in her Everyday Italian book.

In her book, she instructs you to make (unless you've made ahead) the béchamel and marina sauces.  Using 2-/12 cups of the béchamel and 1-1/2 cups of marina, combine them, and then use that combined sauce when assembling the lasagna.  As you'll see from the link I provided at Food Network's site, that's not really specified.

I'm sure if you try this recipe, you and your family will not be disappointed.  It was time consuming, but it's such a great make-ahead dish, and we have some yummy leftovers in the frig and freezer.

Click on the link below to go directly to Food Network's site to view Giada's recipe.
Classic Lasagna

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Impromptu Beach Weekend

This past weekend, me and Hubby took a last-minute, impromptu trip down to the beach.  That's one of the reasons I like living in this area of the country.  Within a 2 to 3 hour drive, one can be at the beach;  the mountains; touring, shopping, seeing shows in Philly, NYC; visiting the sites in our nation's capitol in DC; checking out the beautiful nature areas around the great Chesapeake Bay.  So much to do and see.

We drove down and stayed with friends who have a place in Fenwick Island, Delaware, and met up with another couple we've known for over 20 years, but haven't seen, or socialized with in way too long a time.  The couple we haven't seen in forever, graciously invited us all to spend the afternoon Saturday on their new pontoon boat tooling around some of Delaware's back bays.

This row of pastel homes on the bay are landmark of Fenwick Island, DE.

The Ocean City, MD, skyline from the bay side.

What a fun, relaxing afternoon.  Sight-seeing some of the gorgeous homes situated right on the water, pulling up dockside and having lunch at a water-side restaurant, then more exploring around the bays.

Harpoon Hanna's where we had lunch.

We ended the day back in Ocean City, Maryland, dining on pizza and beer at the pontoon boat couple's beautifully decorated condo.  I really wish I would have taken some snaps of their place.  It was decorated just perfect for a beach place.  But, as usual, I'm always finding myself having too much fun to stop and take pics.

The bay view from the OC condo balcony.
On Sunday, before heading home, we drove back down into West Ocean City, Maryland, for lunch in a fabulous restaurant called The Sunset Grille.  With the bevy of palm trees, and the huge, beautiful fishing boats lined up in the marina, you could almost forgot you were in Maryland and might think you're dining somewhere in the Caribbean.  The atmosphere was fun, and the food was delish.

The reason for all those ginormous fishing vessels pictured below was the gearing up for the 38th White Marlin Open, the world's largest Bullfish Tourney.  The tournament lasts from August 8th through 12th, with an estimated payout of over $2 million.

What a nice, relaxing weekend.  You know how sometimes the trips that go off with little or almost no planning seem to be the most fun?  Ya know, ya just throw some stuff in a bag, jump in the car and go.  I'm hoping we can get back down at least one more time this season. I'd like to dine again at The Sunset Grille and be able to experience the sunset in person.

Picture from The Sunset Grille website.

A very sad side note.   
When we returned back to the condo in OC, in the very spot where I snapped the pic below from the balcony, a rescue search ensued.  Coast guard helicopters and vessels starting frantically searching the water and surrounding land areas for four solid hours until 11 p.m.  We later learned a 23 year old man fell from a pontoon boat in the bay and drowned, and was found the next morning.  It was a sad and sobering experience watching the boats and helicopters with search lights combing the water, water's edge and even that dock area below.  It's a reminder that water safety is no joke, even on a relatively slow-moving vessel in the calm waters of the bay.  

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