How sweet it was

Schedules and plans. Commitments and calendars. Deadlines. The Mister will tell you that I tend to follow the rules, micromanage, and occasionally overbook. I sync the phone calendar with the computer calendar at home and at work. I color code by family member the white board calendar in the back hall.  Every now and then, though, it’s kind of nice to enjoy a little spontaneity. The Mister and I had already been out once this past week for an event, and we had the usual lacrosse practice, confirmation class, piano lesson, Scout meeting kind of week, but when a friend called “the day of” with two extra tickets to the local Children’s Museum fundraiser, I impulsively said, “yes!”  The Mister and I could use a date.IMG_0520After all, the event was nearby. The dinner jacket and the little black dress stood at the ready in the closet. And, there would be chocolate. Local restaurants would be serving tempting and decadent chocolate appetizers and dessertsIMG_0505So, I ran the afternoon carpool, and the Mister picked up a pizza for Middle and Little. We threw on our rigs, Little snapped a picture, and off we went.
If you’ve given up sugar or chocolate for Lent, then this is a good stopping point for you. Really.IMG_0512We started off with chocolate espresso encrusted filet mignon served with a beet mousse. Fabulous.IMG_0524Next, we sampled Queen’s cake, a flourless torte with a bitter orange infused something or other. Not bad.IMG_0515Then, our favorite, a chocolate bread pudding with Guinness caramel sauce.  IMG_0513 The renowned Carolina band, The Mighty Kicks, electrified the Poinsett Club ballroom.IMG_0521IMG_0517 Chocolate with raspberries, and chocolate with strawberries tempted us, too.IMG_0522
Now, truly the Mister and I had a fine time, but we were home in our bed by ten because our weekend plans were even sweeter. You see Little has just turned 13, and we were hosting a slumber party!IMG_4685I thought a candy buffet would be a fun surprise for Little and her friends. So, I found some fun, colorful treats at the Dollar Store and Target and carefully hid them from my children, who can sniff out candy with alarming accuracy.IMG_4686  Then, I pulled out some footed glass dishes and vases that were stashed away.IMG_4687 - Copy I loaded the vases with mini Moon Pies, Sixlets, Sour Patch Kids, Pixie Stix, Smarties, Marshmallow Twists, and Cry Babies and arranged them on the dining room table.IMG_4689 - CopyLittle was so surprised when she came home from school and saw the display, and the girls seemed to love it!IMG_4693 While they waited on a few late arrivals to have supper, the girls decided to take the Cry Baby challenge. Cry Babies are apparently a super sour jaw breaker-type gum, and the challenge is something along the lines of “If you can hold it in your mouth for two minutes, then you have conquered the Cry Baby!”IMG_4706After supper (a taco bar), the Mister and I loaded up two vehicles’ worth of girls and headed downtown where the partiers enjoyed a round of indoor mini golf, picked out matching friendship bracelets at our little shop, Go Fish, and then walked over to the park to generally squeal and giggle and revel in their cuteness, I guess. It’s been so long since I was 13, I honestly don’t remember!IMG_4703Did I mention that most of these girls are friends from drama class? In fact, if you are going to see The Hunger Games this weekend, then you may just spot one of them in several scenes!IMG_4697It’s funny, isn’t it, that even though technology has come so far, black light is still seen as soooo cool by middle schoolers?IMG_4708On the bridge before heading home for cupcakes, ice cream, more candy, a movie marathon, and very little sleep.
Saturday morning, we fed them doughnuts and wished them a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. By nine o’clock, they were all collected and on their way home.
And that, my friends, was pretty sweet, too!

Top o' the Morning

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.  Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

--excerpt from the Lorica, traditional morning prayer commonly known as the Breastplate of St. Patrick, although not attributed to him.

How $20 changed my life, well, my morning

Not too long ago I was visiting at the Mister’s sister’s house in Florida.  Knowing how much I like a good cup of coffee, she kindly brought me one. The coffee was rich and bright, and it was surprisingly topped with a foamy cap. orange tod's walletNow the Mister’s sister is a thrifty gal, and I knew she hadn’t added a fancy cappuccino machine to her appliance line up, so I had to ask how she created this coffee masterpiece. She returned to the kitchen and reappeared with what she called a handheld milk frother. She found it at T.J. Maxx. Really, you just never know.

We returned to Greenville, and the search was on—TJ’s, Marshall’s, two specialty kitchen stores. Nothing. So, I began googling hand-powered milk frother. Nothing. Until I skimmed an article about using a French press coffee maker for this purpose. Ah. Success. So on my next trip to the Target, which was, of course, later that afternoon, I picked up the Bodum Travel French Press for less than 20 dollars. IMG_4684And, now each morning, the Mister grinds the beans and feeds the machine, while I warm a scant amount of half-and-half in the glass portion of the press. A few seconds later, I froth the milk, and it literally triples in volume. IMG_4683At first, this was our Saturday treat, but when I realized I was already thinking about it on Wednesday, I decided it would become a new and gracious morning tradition. We sit and sip while we read our devotions and then, some mornings, the newspaper, too. (Happily, because the frother creates such volume, we are actually consuming less half-and-half, too!)IMG_4682 And, as a bonus, it offers an easy way to impress guests with an after-dinner coffee!
Do you have a beloved morning ritual?
Or, what’s your best $20 purchase of late?

Did someone say pie?

The trend watchers have been saying for a while now that pies were the new cupcakes. These are pretty much the same people that said tea was the new coffee. Maybe more people are drinking more tea, but it doesn't seem like coffee consumption has exactly plummeted. I predict it will be the same with pie and cupcakes. People, especially little people, like cupcakes. Cupcakes are manageable. Grown-ups like cupcakes, too. Cupcakes offer portion control. Even shoppers like cupcakes. After all, cupcakes offer opportunities for accessories.

But, still. Pie.
I'm all for it. In fact, embarrassingly, I can't stop thinking about it.
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet cookbook author Martha Hall Foose. If you like to cook, or if you live in the South or if you are interested in sustainability and local food, then you probably know of Martha Hall Foose. The "other Martha."

She's written Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, winner of a 2009 James Beard Foundation Award. Currently on the road promoting A Southerly Course, she was in town as the guest of local magazine Edible Upcountry and the Center for Sustainability at Furman University. She was really charming and chatty, and she is much prettier and younger than she looks in her books. But I digress.

After a brisk walk through Furman's beautiful campus, my friends and I arrived at the event where MHF was signing books and chatting leisurely while earnest college students (well, they looked earnest to me) passed trays of roasted tomato canapes and bacon pralines (I know) and mini custard pies.

To say she had her audience eating out of her hand is quite the understatement. She talked about some of her favorite recipes, and she made a pie crust while she shared anecdotes from her work on the film The Help, for which she did all the food styling.

Her story of creating a chicken leg for a vegan, celiac actress who practices a "cruelty-free lifestyle" was particularly amusing.

Still, cookbook authors are pretty plentiful. And, really, how many Southern cookbooks does anyone need? Here's the thing, though, Martha Hall Foose can not only cook (with impressive experience here in the U.S.  and in France), she can write. She has that whole Mississippi story-telling thing going, and she uses her incredible gift of writing to tell stories not about food but about people. So much more delicious.

Sometimes the stories are about the people that made the food or ate the food, but the best ones are about the people that inspired the food. Eudora Welty comes to mind. Welty, who lived in Jackson, Mississippi her entire life but wrote short stories and essays and novels that still resonate with readers all over the world, inspired Foose’s custard pie recipe. Turns out Miss Welty actually liked to eat some god-awful liver and curry concoction, but she inspired a custard pie.
e and me with martha foose
Personally, I want to be the kind of person that could inspire a pie.
Or—even a cupcake.
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