Prince Charming

Somewhat unbelievably, Little did indeed join me to watch the Royal Wedding this morning.  She came downstairs and snuggled up with me on the sofa sometime between the arrival of Queen Elizabeth and that of Kate Middleton.kate in car

We agreed that Kate looked beautiful, and that her dress was “a princess dress.”

ss-110429-wedding-ceremony-16.ss_fullI told Little that I was looking forward to seeing Prince William’s face when he saw his bride. 5. prince william and prince harry And that was when Little asked her first slightly surprising question, “Which one is Prince William?”

will and harry

To which I replied, “Prince William is the one in the red.”

And then, “Mama, why did she pick the bald one?  I would’ve taken the one with hair.” 

will and kate ap

All the best to Princess Catherine and the one she chose!

Continental Breakfast

I worked at a camp in the North Carolina mountains the summer Lady Diana Spencer wed Prince Charles.

The entire camp staff shared one television, which had rather spotty reception. To add insult to injury, the television was not located in my dorm, but rather in a mice-ridden frame cottage, euphemistically named the Staff Lounge.  The Lounge, which I seldom frequented, was up a steep hill that I opted not to climb at 4:30 in the mountain dark morning.  

Okay, it wasn't quite this bad, but it wasn't much better, either!

Besides it was Prince Charles.  (Really, hasn't he aged much better than we'd thought?!)

I do plan to wake up and tiptoe downstairs to watch Kate Middleton and Prince William tie the knot.  I have tea to brew and scones to nibble.  Best of all, I have a companion who wants to watch with me.  The Mister and Middle have been rolling their eyes at Little and me all week, and they will not rise early.  Honestly, I might not either, so I'm setting the dvr, just in case.  But something in me wants to see this wedding. At first, I thought it was just that I needed a diversion from the news cycle of war and high gas prices and mocking Presidential candidates and devastating natural disasters. And I do need a diversion from all that, but, honestly, I think it's something more.  It may seem corny and naive to some, but I'm delighted that Kate and William are getting married, that despite their own tragedies, they are still willingly to stand before God and ask for His blessing. Willing to make a commitment.  Amid all the pomp and hype, it seems almost humble.  And hopeful.  I'm grateful for that.

The Mister has been nosing around the scones this evening, so I promised a rather British dessert to celebrate.   This recipe, which allegedly was invented in that most revered of English boarding schools, is adapted from those of Ina Garten and Jamie Oliver.

Eton Mess

2 (6-ounce) packages fresh raspberries, divided
1/2 cups plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 to 6 (2-inch) bakery meringue shells, broken in pieces
fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries chopped coarsely (optional)

Pour 1 package of the raspberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice into a 10-inch saute pan. Crush the berries lightly with a fork and bring the mixture to a full boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is syrupy. Fold the remaining package of raspberries (and other fresh berries, if desired) into the hot mixture and refrigerate until very cold.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and the vanilla together on medium-high speed until it forms firm peaks.

In decorative glasses, layer a spoonful of the whipped cream, a spoonful of the raspberry mixture, and then a few meringue pieces. Repeat once or twice, depending on the size of the glasses, until the glasses are full, ending with berries and a dollop of cream. Serve immediately or chill for an hour, until ready to serve.

May the marriage be as grand as the wedding!

First Flight

We had a lovely Easter at the T&C House. 
On Saturday, there was limited interest in coloring eggs, but Little helped me set up the dye.  Middle joined in, and wowed us with his egg-dying skills.IMG_3819
In the T&C House, the Easter Bunny not only hides eggs, he also hides the baskets.  In fact, this year that was all he hid!  He is pretty clever in his hiding places as Middle discovered.
After attending church for a wonderful time of worship, we returned home and were joined by a few family and friends for a traditional Southern Easter meal of ham, sweet potato souffle, deviled eggs, roasted asparagus, sweet and sour green beans,scratch macaroni and cheese, and Sister Schubert’s rolls.  We washed it down with sweet tea, and then we brewed some coffee and indulged in homemade butter cream eggs.IMG_3836
After such a meal, some of us napped, but at all times we had a sentinel posted on the side porch, keeping an eye on these guys.IMG_3821 Orville, Wilbur, and Amelia—our feathered friends
They’ve kept us entertained all spring, and we eagerly await first flight!

Eggs, Scrambled

When I began planning my Easter dinner table, I decided to deviate from our usual springtime setting.  Most often for Easter, I pull out the Haviland (see it here) and set the table with pale pastels or all in whites and creams.  This year, though, inspired by a 50th birthday brunch I attended a few weeks ago, I decided to scramble (sorry!) it up a bit.  I’m using the trusty Blue Willow, which we eat from most often, and adding some cheerful blue-and-white accessories.  (These photos aren’t the best as it was so gloomy outside this morning that there wasn’t much natural light.)
IMG_3780I started with "Bunzilla" and added a few other moss rabbits, some hydrangea blossoms, and several decoupage eggs.IMG_3787 Then I remembered the giant blue goblets, which we haven’t used since summer. IMG_3779Next came the toile placemats and festive print napkins, and, of course, the old Blue Willow.IMG_3784 The decoupage eggs came in handy for the place cards, which I scratched off quickly with a blue Sharpie.  As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “These are the prototypes.”  Still, you get the idea.IMG_3785
Finally, I placed a few blue chocolates in a sterling mint dish at each setting.  My good friend Nancy gave me this idea years ago, and I have had such fun collecting these little treasures.
Tomorrow I’ll be cooking and entertaining and finishing the incredible butter cream eggs that Miss Summer Is a Verb was kind enough to share.  Although the eggs are absolutely sinful, those little delights will bring even more joy to our Easter table.
Are you hosting family and friends this weekend?

What Language Shall I Borrow?

     O sacred Head, now wounded, 
 with grief and shame weighed down, 
 now scornfully surrounded 
 with thorns, thine only crown: 
 how pale thou art with anguish, 
 with sore abuse and scorn! 
 How does that visage languish 
 which once was bright as morn! 

 What thou, my Lord, has suffered 
 was all for sinners' gain; 
 mine, mine was the transgression, 
 but thine the deadly pain. 
 Lo, here I fall, my Savior! 
 'Tis I deserve thy place; 
 look on me with thy favor, 
 vouchsafe to me thy grace. 

 What language shall I borrow 
 to thank thee, dearest friend, 
 for this thy dying sorrow, 
 thy pity without end? 
 O make me thine forever; 
 and should I fainting be, 
 Lord, let me never, never 
 outlive my love for thee.

Choral music and images, Kings College.  Video courtesy of Youtube.

Spring Green Supper

The weather has been warm and breezy the past few days, and so I decided it was time to have our first spring supper on the deck.  The menu was simple and healthy, and--almost unbelievably--everyone ate everything with no complaints, even though it was a decidedly "green" meal.

The inspiration for our supper came from a birthday brunch buffet I attended earlier in the month.  The hostess served a number of rich and incredibly delicious dishes, but one of my favorites was a humble pasta salad.  The salad was so tasty, full of earthy spring goodness.  Of course, I came home and began searching both online and "on shelf" for a similar recipe.  Not surprisingly, it was Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, who came to my rescue.

Although the recipe calls for two types of pasta, I decided that I'd use a full box, rather than leave two half boxes of noodles on the pantry shelf.  I had whole grain penne on hand, and that worked fine.  Basil pesto is a key ingredient in this dish, and the recipe suggests that commercially prepared pesto is suitable.  Truly, the overall dish was extremely tasty, but I couldn't help thinking how much better it would have been if I'd had fresh, homemade pesto on hand.  I will definitely make this again later in the summer with homemade pesto.  The original recipe also calls for frozen spinach, but I used fresh and found that it worked very well.

Spinach and green peas combine with the pesto and--get this--a dollop of mayonnaise to make a really delicious main dish.  Of course, it would be a great side dish for grilled chicken or fish, too.

I plan to add asparagus when I make this again.  I served it with sliced cantaloupe and strawberries, which everyone loved.

Here's the recipe:
16 oz penne pasta, cooked and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bag fresh spinach, washed and drained
1 1/2 cups pesto, homemade or prepared (I used Stonewall Kitchens brand.)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Duke's mayonnaise (the original recipe calls for a cup and a half!)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until done.  Drain and toss into a large serving bowl with the olive oil.  Add the spinach and stir gently until the spinach is slightly wilted.  Add the pesto, lemon juice, and mayonnaise.  Next add the peas and Parmesan.  Mix well, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.

What's your favorite meal to eat outside?

Eggs, Over Easy

I don't particularly think of myself as the crafty type.  I gave up using a hot glue gun more than 20 years ago.  I needlepoint, but only on car trips or while at the beach.  Still, every now and then--usually around a holiday,  I find myself inspired to make something.  This spring while noodling around at my friend's, acquaintance's, er, design guru Eddie Ross's blog, I found the directions for making some simple, yet elegant, Easter eggs.

The eggs featured on Eddie's blog are lovely green-and-white graphic orbs, reminiscent of a Jonathan Adler print.  Of course, I didn't want to copy Eddie, so since  I collect Blue Willow, Canton, and blue Staffordshire, I decided to make my eggs blue and white.

This project is easy peasy, however, if you are a perfectionist, it can get a bit tedious.  After about the third egg, I decided I was not a perfectionist, and that made the whole project a lot more fun!

You will need some Mod Podge, which is almost as much fun as hot glue but without the pain and cursing, a small soft paintbrush, and some plastic eggs.  I found some white ones at Hobby Lobby, a dozen on sale for 35 cents!  If you can't find white eggs, then I think pale pastels would work fine.

You will also need some sharp scissors and some beautiful paper cocktail napkins.  As I am rather a fiend about cocktail napkins, I found what I needed in my napkin drawer.  (Please, it's not hurting anyone.)

Gather your supplies and cover your work space with some newspaper or other protective covering.

Begin by separating the napkins.  Then cut the printed napkin into small (about one by one inch) diamond shapes.  I found the easiest and quickest way to do this was to fold the napkin, cut a zig zag line, and then cut back again in the opposite direction. You will also want to cut a few triangles.  I was able to complete three eggs from a single napkin this way.

Once your napkin is cut into diamonds, thinly apply the Mod Podge to the egg in sections.

Then, attach the diamond of paper to the egg and lightly coat the top of the paper with Mod Podge, smoothing out any wrinkles.

Tap down the edges, and apply the next diamond.  I used the straight sides of triangles to edge the rims of the eggs.  It would be easier to close the egg and do it as a solid form, but for some reason, I thought I wanted to be able to open my eggs.  If you are using a toile or similar type design, I strongly recommend not trying to match up the design. Once the egg is covered in paper, lightly coat the entire egg (or the halves) in Mod Podge.  This will provide a smoother finish.  Set the egg aside to dry and begin the next egg or pour a glass of wine and watch Selling New York on HGTV.

Seriously, I finished a dozen eggs in about two hours.  I love that they are a bit of a riff on transferware dishes, and I plan on using them in my Easter table setting, which I'll post about next week.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way!

The Mister and Middle took off this past weekend for beautiful Hunting Island, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, where they camped and fished with Middle’s Boy Scout troop.  Much to Little’s dismay,  I took advantage of their absence to do some spring cleaning.  My reward after cleaning was to pull out the spring decorations, in hopes of freshening up the indoors. 
Spring is at its full, frothy peak in the Carolinas, with azaleas, pink and white dogwoods, tulips, and iris proclaiming the glory of God, and I am in awe of the renewal and promise of life this season brings.  Of course, the indoors can’t begin to compete with the wonder outdoors, but perhaps, it can make us smile and even urge us out into the sunshine.
If you were a reader of Town and Country Mom this past fall (and thank you very much if you were), then you might have read my fall decorating “rules,” here.  My spring rules are even simpler: No fake flowers.  No plastic Easter grass.  Our house should not look like a gift shop.  I realize that last one is in the eye of the beholder.  I try to be tasteful, but, some things my children have loved since they were young, and they expect to see those decorations every year.  I happily comply.IMG_3658 On the sideboard: paper grass on a silver tray with speckled eggs and fake candy bunnies.
IMG_3659 On the dining table: glass hurricanes with speckled eggs in creams and blues and palest pinks
IMG_3662 On the chest in the front hall: more speckled eggs in blue, pink, and lavender pastels
IMG_3664 In the family room: moss bunnies, speckled eggs, paper grass, and papier mache carrots in an old wooden tray
IMG_3678 In the kitchen: more moss bunnies and one concrete rabbit, affectionately nicknamed Bunzilla.  (Don’t tell anyone, but that biscuit barrel is hiding Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.)
More Easter decorations may be seen at  Hoppin Down the Bunny Trail.
Do you decorate for spring or Easter?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

One fish, two fish, red fish . . .

Or white fish, actually, works perfectly in this healthy and simple dish.  It's easy enough for a weeknight, but with a little effort in the presentation department, it can be an elegant company meal, as well.  The recipe was given to me by the Mister's college roommate's wife years ago.  She served it to us after we had spent a fun day boating on Tampa Bay.

                                           Photo courtesy of Petit Chef

Kim's Fish on Spinach

Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Layer the following ingredients in the order they are listed:

two tomatoes, sliced, or a cup of grape tomatoes, halved
one pound fresh spinach, washed and dried
one cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
fish filets, one per person (red fish, sea bass, tilapia, or similar)

Drizzle with the juice of two lemons, then sprinkle filets with:

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
two garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or so, until fish is firm and flakes easily.  Serve with rice or couscous.

And now, please tell me, if you made Kim's Fish on Spinach for company, what would you serve for dessert?

Reach out, reach out and touch someone

If you're of a certain age, you may remember when the corporation now known simply as ATT, broadcast a commercial that urged us all to "reach out, reach out and touch someone" via American Telephone & Telegraph's long-distance service.  As I recall, the commercials were kind of endearing.  Now, of course, ATT is all about fiber optics and networks and data streaming and, well, now I'm in over my head  . . . .

The point of this rambling post is to say that after much diagnostic testing of my laptop, it turns out the trouble was with my network.  And tonight, a techie named "Leonard," who I suspect lives in India, was--after an hour and a half of asking me to "kindly click on restore" and "kindly click on re-set" on about 3,100 various dialog boxes--able to troubleshoot my problem.  "Thank you for choosing AT&T."

Yes, indeed, not having internet service has been an inconvenience for me, but not being treated as inconvenience was quite refreshing.

More posts to come.

I've been saving up.
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