Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Unexpected kitchen find!

Look what I found at the Liberty Antique Festival... It's a welded, stainless
steel, half-height commercial sheet pan rack and mobile table. And, I love it!
 This was a sweet find! Every time I've baked and decorated cookies, I wished I had
one. Especially that time I baked and decorated 300 cookies. Have you ever baked
and decorated 300 iced sugar cookies? Well I have, and I can tell you, it means there
are cookies everywhere! All over the kitchen counters, top of the stove and covering
both dining room tables. But now, with the help of this little baby, I'll be able to cool
cookies and dry flood-iced cookies overnight, all in one tidy, compact space. And,
since this is one especially sweet-yippee of a bun cart, it comes equipped with a
work table, and capacity to hold 12 full-size sheets, which means I now have an
extra work surface, capable of holding even my extra stand mixer! I know you're
wondering about the deal, so I'll tell you... The dealer had it staged in his booth
with a vintage toastmaster sandwich press sitting on top of it. Truly a commercial-
grade, 1970's restaurant sandwich press, and pretty cool too. But what would I do
with that sandwich press? Nothing! So I asked if he'd split it up and sell just the
cart. Fortunately, today was the last day of this festival and this dealer wasn't
operating a mobile-museum... He was there to sell. So he lowered the price
from $225 to $125. I said nothing, and then the dealer asked if $50 would do
it, which of course, it did! I've been looking, and others, like this one, which
holds fewer pans, sell for much more! And except for a few drips of ick, my
pan cart appears to be unused. Ick is always free. But it's nothing a little...
 Soft scrub, and elbow grease won't cure. Okay, so it took a lot of Soft scrub!
 Nevertheless, this find may just inspire me to
whip up a few batches of sugar cookie dough!
 After all, it's been a while since I made these and these...
 And, now that I have this sheet pan cart, I'm out of excuses!
By the way... You know about THIS SWEET DEAL from a few weeks
ago, but there's another one I have to tell you about. We just learned
on Good Friday the true value of what we picked up; and, it is so
unbelievable that it's taken me a couple of weeks just to wrap
my brain around it... But I promise to share it with you soon;
just as soon as a second appraiser takes a look and is able
to confirm the first appraiser's opinion. So... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dear Scary Storms, Please go Away!

As I was peddling away in Spin class, I noticed the sky getting dark... I realize I
should have been, in the zone and therefore incapable of paying any attention
to what was happening outside, but tonight I just wasn't. How could I be?
The threat of Tornado-producing storms was warned and I now drive
a convertible Mini Cooper, which basically constitutes a golf cart
attached to a sail. So I jumped off my bike and headed home!

Fortunately, I beat the really heavy rain and wind home. There may have been several
speed laws violated - But none noticed by those cars equipped with the Christmas
lights hidden behind the grill just above their bumper. All that aside, just as I began
wiping down the Cooper inside the garage, the heavens opened up and it poured!
Which reminds me of a story... You see, just after we entered into contract here, the
owner called me in Monterey to report on how Spring was coming along. She even
mailed me a tiny crabapple she said came from one of the, soon-to-be-mine trees in
the soon-to-be-mine yards. (She was) Strange, since there were no such trees on the
property at that time. But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes, the rain! During her
report, the (wing-nut) former owner told me they'd just had what she called, a
real Frog-strangler. I had never heard that term before - And, at that point,
considering my source, I kinda wondered if she believed there was a serial
frog killer loose in the neighborhood! After that I stopped taking her calls.
Turns out, that's just one of the nicknames locals have for this volume of rain. Since
relocating, I've heard, Frog-strangler from others, as well as, Gully-washer. I have
yet to adopt these phrases, (and please don't hold your breath waiting...) After all, I
am still trying to win the whole buggy vs. cart debate I get into while shopping. I
say, Buggies are pulled by horses, shopping carts are pushed by peopleBut
the response I get is crickets. I know. I've got a lot of work to do. Back to
the rain... Still won't refer to it as a, Frog-strangler but I will admit to
hoping these guys weren't harmed after the way it just rained! 
Truthfully, the weather here freaks me out! Coming from Monterey where weather
is a non-event, and having lived in Kansas as a teenager, where tornadoes never
got any closer than the television when we watched The Wizard of Oz, to central
North Carolina where every season delivers the potential for disaster and/or
death is more than unnerving. Especially when each disaster can, (thankfully)
be forecasted days in advance so that the anticipation can rub my nerves too. I
say... While also not ideal, given a choice, I'll take a small, can't-be-predicted,
earthquake that shakes the house a few seconds every few years over spring-
time tornadoes, summer lightening storms, fall hurricanes and winter ice
storms any time! I worry when it storms. I worry about those too far away,
especially the Ranger and our friends and our neighbors too. And of course,
I worry for our belongings and Bing, if God-forbid our home were destroyed!
I also worry about our landscape. You see all of this isn't just pretty. It's also
a huge investment and the primary source of enjoyment for us at our home.
It is also food and shelter for too many critters to count! Now, before anyone
bashes me for talking about losing our landscape as a result of severe weather,
when agreeably there is much worse that could happen - Let me just state what
I believe is the obvious, that any loss of life should not and clearly cannot be
compared to losing a few trees and bushes. I'm just sharing the value I place
on our gardens and the wildlife depending on it, which is often overlooked...   
Especially when you consider that none of this can be insured against loss! Not
that we wouldn't want it insured... However, homeowner's insurance does not
cover for the loss of your landscape. Our pool? Yes. The outdoor furniture sets
and umbrellas? Yes. Fountain? Check! Decks, fences, and the shed? Yup, paid in
full. But plants and trees? Not a single one. Of course, we believe they should be...
Because if the acres around our home were stripped clear, I wouldn't want to stay!
We learned this fact after trees fell into the solarium and the shed during an ice storm,
(not because we read our USAA policy documents!) Turns out, even though trees
took out a room connected to our home and our shed, and both were replaced
under our policy, the removal and replacement of said trees and the others
that came down, was not. Have you priced the removal of a 40-foot tree?
It's not cheap. And it gets even less affordable when you multiply it by four!
Therefore, every time the skies clear following a storm and I take my hands away
from my eyes to find that everything I love about our landscape was spared...
I breath a sigh of relief, and say a prayer of Thanks!
So long as my beautiful landscape is
safe, and the trees are still standing...
I don't mind that heavy, and potentially
Frog-eliminating rain makes their noses run!
This is such a beautiful time of the year here in North Carolina. Every bird house on
the property has a nest being attended to by busy bird-parent pairs. Last weekend,
after storms threatened, I asked my handy-guy to put a few extra screws into this
one to keep it from flying off the post. Four pairs of bluebirds are depending on us!
Think I'm kidding? Just as soon as I took the
photo above, one of the moms popped out!He says this bird condo-complex weighs too much to blow off. I say she is counting on
us to keep her nest in that house, and that house on the ground... So more screws!
Have you seen the pond lately? I can't imagine a shade of green that's missing here!
I'm so lovin' the green!
Another thing I'm loving is this fern. This week is the anniversary of its
planting. How do I remember that? Because it's administrative professional's
week, and this, (then little) lovely was tucked into the very first arrangement I
received as a new executive assistant at HbI. It's one of my favorite ferns here
at the pond. And, because it has since multiplied, I enjoy it in a few places!
Speaking of Admin. day and ferns... I received these this morning! And, you
can bet this sweet little fern will have its own place by our pond very soon!
Speaking of new additions to the pond landscape... We stumbled on these ceramic
bark planters last weekend and thought they were perfect for this spot in our
garden. This is the smaller of two we bought. I asked for columbines to fill
it, and that's exactly what I got! And, one random hosta it seems. Hum...
Before I wander away from the pond I'll show you another 1st Admin. day
arrangement addition to our pond, which has also multiplied since being
planted. It's this sweet cluster of tiny blue flowers. Sorry, the gardener
isn't around for me to ask at the moment... So, little blue flowers it is!
I'm telling you... If you have a problem with elevated blood pressure this is
all the treatment you need. Just being down here makes me say, Ahhhh!
And yet, USAA considers landscaping an, uninsurable asset. Now that I think about it,
they may have a point. Does anyone really know how many zeros to put after priceless?
The mallard pair just dropped in for their
dinner and they tell me they don't know either!

Speaking of priceless... The pink azalea on the side of the house is about to pop!
So is the Wisteria on the arbor!
Together, purple wisteria clusters and pink azalea blossoms make this
side of the house and garden worth the trip across the yard to see!
This is what I call my permanent Mother's Day bouquet!
It always blooms just before Mother's Day. And, by Mother's Day,
this side of the house will be a solid blur of perfect pink blossoms!
Saves the man I love and our sons plenty on flowers for Mother's Day!
This is a nice surprise! We picked this weigela up at the Farmer's market last fall.
vetoed it after learning it is deciduous... Because I'm a, green-all-year-long kind of
girl; however, he bought it any way encouraged me to give it a chance because he
said its spring color would make up for it being naked during the fall and winter
And, as usual, he was right on the money about it!
Now that the grumpy sky is clear and it's safe for the bluebirds to come
out to feed, I'm going to leave them to it. Because the more mosquitos
they munch on, the fewer mosquitos there will be to munch on me!
Thanks for walking the gardens with me this evening...
And, do know that while I may occaisionally complain about the scary weather
here in central North Carolina, you must never doubt my appreciation for how
spectacular this area is or how fortunate I know I am to live here. Also, I hope
you won't judge me too harshly for not getting with the local slang. Now, if
you judge me on my complaints about the former owner of our home, I'll
be forced to whip out other proof I have that she really was a fruitloop!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And then there was Easter Sunday dinner...

Sunday lunch and after our sweet guests departed...
It was just the two of us again. Plus Bing, of course. So we spent the rest
of the beautiful day, more than six hours, relaxing in this spot on our
deck. We read. We napped. We talked. It truly was the perfect day! 
And then, just after the sun went down and the
bats began to flutter around above our heads...   
 We realized that we were hungry again! Now the reason I served bakery cupcakes
for dessert following our Easter lunch is because our guests had a sudden change
of plans for their Easter Sunday. Which meant Mom had to adjust... Which also
translated into less than two hours notice to prepare a complete holiday meal
that I planned out almost a week in advance. But I managed. And I banged out
one early and very amazing lunch - Even if I do say so myself! The only down-
side for our dear guests was that their change of plans meant they had to
settle for market bakery cupcakes, instead of this cherry butter braid
served warm from the oven, and topped with rich vanilla ice cream!
 But what about our dinner, you ask? Well, I'll tell you... Our guests loved the
scalloped and mashed potatoes so much they took them home, along with some
of the leftover ham. So without a more complete spread of leftovers, I decided
another direction was in order. And, that direction was ham panini sandwiches!
Except that mine was turkey! Because as good as ham from the Honey Baked
ham store is, I just don't care that much for ham to eat it twice in one day!
  Our quiet Easter Sunday dinner was very yummy!
 And our Easter dinner dessert was much better than those market bakery cupcakes!
Did you have Easter dinner leftovers... If so, how did you use them?

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Following our Easter lunch we wandered down to the pond to feed the fish and
watch for a while. After all, this is my favorite time of the year for pond-watching
since the mosquitos have yet to find me. Plus, there's a lot going on there right now! 
The fish are awake, and the water plants are reaching for the sky!
And... The frogs are back! Do you see her? I say her because I thought what I
saw was a frog sitting on a rock. Then I got a little closer and the frog jumped...
Off the other frog! Mrs. Frog is still under her leafy, maple-umbrella. Mr. Frog is
the guy you see hopping toward the water fall in the middle/top of this photo!
At least I hope they're Mr. and Mrs.!
Otherwise, this is one very naughty froggy!
Either way, I am sorry for the interruption of their fun!
I'll go now and leave them to their business of populating our pond with tadpoles!
I have to say though... If I were a frog living by our pond...
This would be the spot for me! Just look at that lush, tiny bed of moss being
shaded by the little Japanese maple tree sprout. It's story-book-land perfect!