Last Minute Dinner Party

I’ve never cooked beef short ribs before, but I have Pinterest and I have a crockpot, and we have plenty of wine.

This morning, after bidding adieu to houseguests and loading the guest room linens into the washing machine, I made a quick trip to the grocery store. It was there, just before 10am, I decided we would have company for dinner. I texted the invitation as I wheeled my cart to the cash register; our guests accepted before I left the parking lot. Continue reading “Last Minute Dinner Party”

Planning for Fun in Centerville

What I really wanted to tell you about is the upcoming National Banana Pudding Festival, held the first week of October in Centerville, TN.

Sometimes, planning and preparing for an event is as much fun as the event itself. Continue reading “Planning for Fun in Centerville”

Holiday Savings Time and the Hunt for Christmas Spirit

I’ve finally mastered the fact that Daylight Savings Time has been expanded (it only took me 8 years to adapt!) – but I’m struggling to embrace that the holiday season now starts well before Thanksgiving, and extends into mid-January.

14 – Boxing Day

I recall that Boxing Day had its origins in England, as a day when the household staff could take a day off to spend with their families. For the occasion, they would carry boxes of leftovers from the fancy Christmas meal.

For me, Boxing Day has another meaning – putting away Christmas decor into boxes for storage. It’s a dreaded, but necessary task – and I find that it’s best tackled straight away after Christmas. I put some bluegrass music on the stereo and managed to get almost everything put away in three hours.

As I worked, I munched on the last of our Moravian Cookies and looked back on this year’s collection of holiday memories. My heart is filled with Christmas Spirit. Continue reading “Holiday Savings Time and the Hunt for Christmas Spirit”

Preserving Summer in Middle Tennessee

For those of us who are not quite ready to declare summer over, this weekend offers some good entertainment options.

Although daily temperatures are still topping 90 degrees here in Nashville, this wonderful summer is winding down fast. Kids are back in school, and college campuses will soon be bustling again. For those of us who are not quite ready to declare summer over, this weekend (August 15-16) offers some good entertainment options.

When it comes to county fairs, the Wilson County Fair is widely accepted as the biggest and best in Middle Tennessee. In

A proud moment for me - my homemade salsa won a blue ribbon in the Wilson County Fair!
My homemade salsa won a blue ribbon in the Wilson County Fair!

fact, in some important aspects (like attendance), it’s even bigger than the upcoming Tennessee State Fair. Whether you enjoy rides on the midway, or admiring the talents of local artisans and gardeners, or marveling at the variety of livestock and poultry – this is a county fair for you. The Wilson County Fair swings into full gear on Friday, August 14 and will continue through August 22 with a variety of activities and events each day. Gates open at 5pm on weeknights, at 10am on Saturdays, and at noon on Sundays. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children aged 6-12. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. If you don’t mind staying at the fair until 9pm, there is also a unique opportunity on Saturdays to ride the Music City Star train round trip from Nashville to the fairgrounds for $21 adults/$16 children 6-12.

Seeing all the lovely home canned goods at the fair may put you in the mood to do some preserving of your own. On Saturday afternoon (3-5pm) at the Nashville Farmers Market, you can sign up for a home canning “immersion workshop” to learn the basics of preserving fruits and vegetables. The class costs $45 – all supplies are provided, and you will go home with a couple of jars of canned goods.

Sunday, then, is the day to put your new canning and preservation skills to work. Head back to the Nashville Farmers Market, or your favorite local produce stand, to pick up the ingredients you’ll need to make delicious and lovely jars to enjoy or share through the seasons ahead. I’m thinking that pickled peaches (or possibly habanero pickled peaches) will be my focus this weekend!

Celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend With Strawberries!

The annual Strawberry Festival in Portland, TN, is timed to (usually) coincide with that magical moment when local berries are at their peak.

May 9-10, 2015

Saturday, May 9 is the day of the Iroquois Steeplechase at Warner Park in Belle Meade. Once upon a time, I would have heartily endorsed attendance at this annual event. It seems, however, that what used to be “Nashville casual” event where you would fit right wearing jeans, eating KFC and drinking Budweiser has turned into a pseudo-social event where hapless, tipsy women negotiate muddy terrain in designer heels and Pinterest-inspired headgear. Throw a nasty snarl of pre- and post-race traffic into the mix, and you will understand why I am keen on finding a reason to get out of town!

Fortunately, Saturday May 9 is also the day of the annual Middle Tennessee Strawberry Festival in Portland, Tennessee – less than an hour north of Nashville on I-65. The annual Strawberry Festival is timed to (usually) coincide with that magical moment when local berries are at their peak, and I’m here to tell you that there is no tastier strawberry than a perfectly ripe one from the farms in Portland! This is a small town festival, with the usual complement of activities (pancake breakfast, 5k run, berry eating contest, live music, kids’ play area, food and merchandise vendors, parade, fireworks), so you can spend couple of hours drinking in the local flavor before finalizing your purchase of berries. The “Strawberry Lane” market will be open from 9am to 4pm. I recommend picking up at least one flat (12 pints) of berries.

Then, hightail it home because you’ve got to do something with all those strawberries!  Here are 6 good ideas for you to consider:

  1. Take a pint of strawberries to the neighbors who check your mail when you’re out of town.
  2. Freeze a couple pints of berries. (Hint: to prevent the berries from becoming waterlogged, leave the hulls/crowns on as you give them a quick wash, then set them in single layers on cookie sheets lined with paper towels to dry. When dry, remove the hulls. You can then place the berries – whole or sliced – into freezer bags or vacuum bags, taking care to remove as much air as possible – and pop into the freezer! (Don’t forget to mark your bags with the date so you will know which batch of strawberries to use first!) Thaw by placing the bag in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Have Strawberry Shortcake for dinner! When I was a child, every so often we would have fresh strawberries and biscuit-like shortcake (i.e. not very sweet), served with milk and a little sugar, as our dinner entree – what a treat for the kids! Sometimes, we’d even have a couple strips of crispy bacon to complete the meal. YOLO! This recipe for Almond-Oat Strawberry Shortcakes from the Bon Appetit test kitchen isn’t exactly like Mom made, but it looks great and I think it will be the recipe I use this year.
  4. Make a strawberry-themed cocktail. Of course, the Strawberry Daquiri springs to mind as the obvious choice, but why limit yourself? A few years ago, Imbibe Magazine published an intriguing collection of strawberry-themed cocktails using a variety of spirits. The Bourbon Street cocktail looks delicious to me!
  5. Bake a delicious Tres Leches Cake to serve with sliced, fresh strawberries. Take the cake to your mother’s (or mother-in-law’s) house to enjoy after church. (You were planning to attend services with your mom on Mother’s Day, right?) Offer only the slightest resistance before agreeing to take the leftover cake back home with you.
  6. Eat fresh berries! According to the Medical News Today website, a WHOLE CUP of unsweetened strawberries has just 50 calories. Also, strawberries are among the foods highest in antioxidants, which means they fight the free radicals that promote blood clots, inflammation and tumor growth. Strawberries have a low glycemic index, making them a smart choice for persons with diabetes. Strawberries may even fight depression, because they contain folate, which prevents excess build-up of homocysteine (which blocks production of serotonin). Plus, they’re delicious – so there’s that!

I’m feeling a bit remorseful regarding the snarky comments I made about the Iroquois Steeplechase. Perhaps in the future I  fall back in love with this event. But for now, I’m thinking that my Mother’s Day weekend will be filled with strawberries – doesn’t that Sound Like Fun?

Icepocalypse in Nashville – 5 things to do when the Mayor says “stay put!”

This week, Nashville got a good layer of ice, followed by an inch or two of snow, followed by bitterly cold temperatures and biting winds. Our mayor cautioned everyone to stay home if possible. Here are five fresh suggestions for sheltering-in-place during Nashville’s 2015 Icepocalypse!

It’s no joke that Nashville doesn’t excel at Winter. Each year around November, when the night time temperatures dip slightly below freezing, the local news airs warnings on how to keep pipes from freezing and protect your pets in cold weather. With the slightest hint of oncoming winter weather, schools close and grocery stores supplies of milk and bread are depleted. But Nashville hasn’t really had any measurable snowfall for four years. Until this week. This week, Nashville got a good layer of ice, followed by an inch or two of snow, followed by bitterly cold temperatures and biting winds. Our mayor cautioned everyone to stay home if possible…and, since many events are canceled and schools are closed, a lot of people are heeding that advice! Here are five fresh suggestions for sheltering-in-place during Nashville’s 2015 Icepocalypse!

  1. READ BOOKS – On days like these, I’m especially grateful for my Kindle. As long as my WiFi is working, I can get new books without ever leaving the house! Here are three books about (or set in) Nashville that you can find on Amazon.com. Hidden History of Nashville by George R. Zepp  (2007) In this unique collection of columns, longtime journalist and Tennessee native George Zepp illuminates a less familiar side of the city. Learn the secrets of Timothy Demonbreun, one of the city’s first residents, who lived with his family in a cliff-top cave; Cortelia Clark, the blind bluesman who continued to perform on street corners after winning a Grammy award; and Nashville’s own Cinderella story, which involved legendary radio personality Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist protegee. Cleverly rendered, using questions from readers across the nation, these little-known tales abound with Music City mystery and charm. All the Pretty Girls by J.T. Ellison (2012)  When a local girl falls prey to a sadistic serial killer, Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her lover, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, find themselves in a joint investigation pursuing a vicious murderer. The Southern Strangler is slaughtering his way through the Southeast, leaving a gruesome memento at each crime scene–the prior victim’s severed hand. Ambitious TV reporter Whitney Connolly is certain the Southern Strangler is her ticket out of Nashville; she’s got a scoop that could break the case. She has no idea how close to this story she really is–or what it will cost her. Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne (2012) Welcome to 603 Bowling Avenue, a lush, empty Colonial Revival house tucked away in a leafy Nashville neighborhood. Who’s that in the ratty attic bedroom, holed up like a squirrel, writing real estate ads as fast as she can? Delia Ballenger, former Nashvillian. She’s back in town to sell the house that her tender-hearted big sister inexplicably left her after dying in a car crash. Delia needs to get back to Chicago as fast as possible. But uninvited people keep showing up at the front door. Delia finds herself up to her eyeballs in a flood of mysteries, secrets, and the sort of love that sneaks up on you. For everyone who has muttered “You can’t go home again,” here’s what happens when you go anyway.
  2. WATCH MOVIES – Whether you have a Netflix account or some other way to download, here are a couple of Nashville-centric movies you might enjoy. Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE (R rated – 1975) is a seriously-good movie with a star-studded cast and a story that remains relevant 40 years after its release date. If you’re in the mood for something more contemporary, and you enjoy the Nashville TV show, you might like Country Strong (PG-13 rated – 2010), starring Garrett Hedlund, Gwynneth Paltrow and Tim McGuire. This drama is centered on a rising country-music songwriter (Hedlund) who sparks with a fallen star (Paltrow). Together, they mount his ascent and her comeback, which leads to romantic complications involving her husband/manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer.
  3. LISTEN TO OLD MUSIC – My appreciation of Nashville music doesn’t date back to my collection of vinyl records, but I do have some pretty old CDs that date back to the Columbia Record Club days, and I’ll bet you do, too! As I write this, I’m listening to Randy Travis‘s “old 8 x 10” CD, and I’ve got K.T. Oslin‘s “80’s Ladies” and Clint Black‘s “Killin’ Time” up next. It’s surprising how much I enjoy these old albums that I haven’t listened to in at least 20 years!
  4. COOK HOT CHICKEN – Sooner or later, I will write a critique of the Nashville Hot Chicken Joints. I have tried most, but don’t feel qualified to give my opinion until I have tried the hot chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack…which is just far enough out of my way that I still haven’t been there. (Speaking of old country music and hot chicken – anyone else remember when Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw had that restaurant hotchickens.com on Old Hickory Blvd. off of I-24 West? It was my first exquisitely painful taste of a now-favorite treat!) I always have chicken in the freezer, and I found the Hattie B’s recipe this morning on epicurious.com. So, I’m thinking that I’ll just work on my own Nashville Hot Chicken recipe.
  5. TRY SOME THE THINGS YOU’VE PINNED ON PINTEREST – This doesn’t necessarily relate to Nashville, but it certainly could. You know all those neat ideas on Pinterest that you’ve wanted to try? Mine include recipes, ways to get stains out of (whatever) and craft projects. I think that, in honor of the Icepocalypse, I am going to rid my white shirts of underarm yellowing, and create a unique hairpin out of playing cards. (Neither of these projects requires a trip to the store!)

Sooner or later, you’re going to have to escape the house and risk a trip to the store. It’s supposed to get above freezing and rain on Saturday – a combination which will make leaving the house safe again. Until then – enjoy!