Sunday, January 19, 2014

LeCreuset Ham and Bean Soup and a surprising trip to TJMaxx!

While it rarely gets cold enough here to snow in winter, it does get cold enough
to make one crave soup... Recently my someone was craving ham and bean soup!
However, the downside to not being home for the holidays is that there is
no leftover ham bone with which to make a good ham and bean soup. But
when I mentioned this to my friend Nikki over lunch one day, she said that
our local Honey Baked Ham store sells ham bones. Problem solved!
I couldn't believe it! Only two dollars per pound and, just look at all the
ham still left on that bone! Not only does this guarantee a fantastic soup,
it also means there's now no downside to not being home for the holidays!
Ham and bean soup is incredibly easy to make! All I do is chop up a stalk
of celery, four large carrots and two large onions; one white and one sweet
yellow. I toss all of that into one of my LeCreuset Dutch ovens where I've
heated a few tablespoons of olive oil and melted four tablespoons of unsalted
butter into a few cloves of crushed garlic and let it simmer just until the veggies
become translucent. Then I add my ham bone and add enough vegetable stock
to cover most of it and then, I let everything simmer for an hour or two...
Until the ham fall off the bone when poked with a fork. Then I remove
the ham bone from the pot and finish removing the ham by hand. After the
bone is clean, I cut up any large chunks of ham into semi-bite size pieces and
add it back to the pot. While the soup continues to cook, I bake cornbread!
Nothing is better with ham and bean soup than
cornbread covered in butter and drizzled with honey!
Or so I'm told... Because there is only one of us
that likes ham and bean soup in this house!
And, it's not me!
Nevertheless, I'm always happy to make it!
Besides, it means I don't have to cook
dinner for 3-4 days until the pot is empty!
Speaking of pots... We've been car-shopping for our youngest son for a couple of
weeks and yesterday's adventure took us to Lexington where our interaction with
a man selling a Dodge Durango left me in serious need of retail therapy to help
shake it off. The first place we stopped was Thomasville where I found this!
It's a vintage German kaufladen (shop) with lots of original advertising
pieces. I loved it but the $325 price tag kept me from dragging it home. One
of the things I always look for are language books and this shop had plenty!
The biggest surprise yesterday, following the surprise of how rude, stupid and
inconsiderate some people can be, was what I found at TJMaxx! Now, I rarely
shop at TJMaxx; however, my mom gave me a gift card so I decided to pop in!
Finding LeCreuset seconds didn't surprise me, (for those of you that
do not know, orange LeCreuset tags means these pieces are seconds)...
However, seeing all of this Ruffoni and Cu Artigiana copper cookware did!
I mean, really... Since when?
It would have been a sin not to take a piece home...
And I'm no sinner!

Friday, January 17, 2014

All roads eventually lead me to Pottery Barn... The Outlet, that is!

Many of you have written to say you miss my posts... Thank you for that!
So where have I been? Well, I don't mind telling you that after the
joy of welcoming back our dear Ranger from his deployment and
then immediately jetting off for what turned out to be an incredible
three-week long bi-coastal holidaythe blues set in for a while...
Missing my mom and dad is always more deeply felt in winter, when
the landscape looks as sad as I feel... Then there's the fact that I always
begin each new year being reminded of my age, since my birthday comes
exactly two weeks after Christmas! Now, don't get me wrong, I very much
prefer celebrating birthdays to the alternative; however, having pockets
full of gift cards to spend while every store's shelves are bare is no fun!
I've spent the past few weeks reading some of the many books we dragged
spent a lot of time there while I was home. I almost hate to tell you about it
because I prefer to keep it all to myself... But honestly, it's a secret that's far
too delicious to keep! Partly because of the incredible deals you'll find but
mostly for the wonderful work YBR does to support hundreds of community
organizations. For a peek inside their store, you should check them out via
Facebook. Although there are always tons of things I'd like to drag home,
the absolute best deal at Yellow Brick Road is on their books! Not only is
the selection incredible, the prices get even better all day on Mondays and
Wednesdays after four o'clock when books are half off! Between us, Army
dad and I spent nearly $400 (at half price) and dragged home more than
200 pounds of books in our carry-on luggage! Oh, I also found books I knew
Ranger's girlfriend would love so I mailed them to her before we left Carmel!
I came home feeling pretty sure I wanted to add an area rug to the living
room after seeing how beautifully the one my parents added in theirs
enhances their furniture and acts to tie the whole room together. After
reading through all of the interior design books I dragged home, I realized
that very rarely is hardwood flooring left exposed underneath furniture!
So I hatched a plan to fix it! I say hatched a plan because explaining to the
man I just convinced I would never want carpet in this room again so that he
would rip it out and install hardwood for me required plenty of plan hatching!
Fortunately, timing was on my side because by the
time I had it all pulled together, it was my birthday!
Everyone gets what they want for their birthday... And my wish was
to take Friday off and spend the weekend shopping for an area rug!!
By the way, my birthday was fantastic! My bosses spoiled me
with beautiful flowers, fun cards and one of my bosses even
gave me a $50 Trader Joe's gift card! Then, when I got home, I
found these gorgeous flowers from Ranger's girl waiting for me!
And, after dinner we went rug shopping at Home Goods!
Of course, the first rug we looked at got me into a little trouble because
it looked exactly like the carpeting we just ripped out! This Calvin Klein
below was nice but there was a woman already having it pulled down to buy!
Since Greensboro doesn't have a Home Goods I had
find an excuse to go to Raleigh where there are three!
And, the best way to lure my husband into the Jeep for a 4-5 hour
shopping road trip is to mention all the antique shops along the way!
Sunrise Antiques in Raleigh has moved and
is now actually located in Dunn, North Carolina...
Which was another 40 miles out of the way...
Which was fine because there were plenty of interesting things to see...
Plenty of everything...
But incredibly, not a thing we wanted to bring home!
On the way into town I spotted this thrift
store, which on its name alone earned a visit!
It seems that everyone that has ever gotten married in Dunn North Carolina
consigned their wedding dress to Saks Thrift Avenue! Now, a few weeks ago we
celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary and I've never been happier so I'm as
far away from needing a wedding dress as a girl can get... However, I appreciate
beautiful wedding dresses and some of these dresses were stunning. As I looked
through them I noticed some pretty high-dollar designer dresses! Saks Thrift
Avenue in Dunn might just be the Filene's Basement of North Carolina!
After lunch in Dunn we made our way back to Raleigh and wandered through
a few of our favorite shops there. I'd just been talking with a friend from high
school about the glass corn muffin pan I always use and promised to find one
to send her. Sadly my friend is battling breast cancer so she's recently taken
a very serious interest switching from Teflon to baking and cooking in more
natural materials like glass. It thrilled me to be able to send this to her!
After we closed down all the antique shops it was time to get serious about
locating Raleigh's three Home Goods stores to do some rug shopping!
Nothing knocked our socks off but both of us liked
these two rugs enough to bring them home!
But before we went home, we stopped at Streets at Southpoint for
a second birthday dinner to use up the Cheesecake Factory gift card from
my brother! After we learned the wait would be forty-five minutes I ducked
into Sur la Table and watched a bit of the cooking class going on. Then...
I dropped into Pottery Barn! Because when it comes to things for
my home, eventually all roads lead me back to Pottery Barn!
Most of the time when you think of Pottery Barn rugs like this, you
immediately assume you'll have to spend $1,000. And, you could! But
see that Special Price tag there? It meant the two rugs I liked right
away were $200 off and, since they were available at the store I would
save on shipping too! However, explaining to Army Dad that I wanted to
squeeze in two more rugs on top of the two rugs he just loaded up for
me at Home Goods, in the pouring rain no less, just wasn't going to fly!
So I asked the associate to call up the Winston-Salem store to see if
by chance they had these rugs there. And guess what? They did! So I
paid for them by phone and then quickly ran back to the Cheesecake
Factory where nachos were already waiting for me at the table!
During our Penny-sighting, I casually mentioned that I may
have two other options waiting for me at Pottery Barn... Just
in case the two rugs I just bought didn't work in my room!
Then I quickly excused myself to visit the restroom before he could object...
When we finally got home at midnight, I took a few minutes to unpack
my antique-shop finds and checked the mail. You know how they say
when you do something nice for someone else something nice will
happen to you? Well, that very thing happened to me again! Because
while I was buying glass bake for my friend and a little Augsburg-thing
for my mom someone very special was thinking of me! Who was it?
It was none other than my sweet friend Dani... As in Sweet Dani B!
Yes! Dani sent me her super-cute New Year Love Angel cookies...
And, some of her Polar Vortex Confetti Cookies!
They looked so good I brewed tea at 1AM for them! Dani's Love Angel
cookies are now on display; however, these babies... They are long gone!
By the way... Dani has designed a whole new collection of fun cutters
for and I expect it'll be a challenge to get her new
heart shaped cutters (they are to die for!) in time for Valentine's day
if you don't hurry and order them now! Finally, while I offer my own
decorating kits via my store, Oui, Sugar!, I'm thrilled to say Dani now
offers her squeeze bottle kit at CopperGifts too! You can find it here! 
You won't believe this but I'm going to tell you anyway... The promise
of Dani's cookies and a cup of tea is all it took to motivate my husband to
move furniture at 1AM so that I could see the rugs we bought before bed!
This option didn't quite work and the orange rug worked for me even less!
My husband disagreed, saying he liked it a lot! So I told him that
if he liked it so much, then he could have it for his library!
Suddenly, he liked it less!
Li-Li Coconut thought we were both nuts and just wanted to go to bed!
As I slept on all my rug options it hit me!
Before I go pick up the rugs I paid for at my Pottery Barn, why not
call the Pottery Barn in Gaffney to see if they have them for less?
So I called! And, while I was told they did not have the Malika or
the Adeline in the store, they had an over-stock of rugs right now!
But how on earth would I convince my husband to
spend a second day driving and shopping for rugs?
Cue the antique mall ploy!
After all, we said the shops in Belmont, NC were on our list...
And, Belmont is on the way to Gaffney!
Our first stop had to be Catawba River Antique Mall...
Because it was recommended by John, the vendor I met in Atlanta!
He told me he has a booth here with a lot more of the great
antiques and maps he sends back from his home in Germany!
And, I found it!
I could have rummaged through John's booth all day!
The first thing I noticed was this glass scoop spice rack. I remembered my Oma
had one in her kitchen so there was no way this wasn't coming home with me!
John's booth did not disappoint!
After delivering my spice rack to a clerk for safe keeping, I went back!
Just look at those beautiful Hungarian and French bread boards,
walking canes and that fantastic enamelware potato bucket!
I loved it all!
There were so many great things to see I almost lost sight of the real objective!
Get down to Gaffney and to my Pottery Barn Outlet!
If you're in Belmont, I highly recommend a trip to the Abbey Monastery and...
The second shop on my list was Piccolo's
where I immediately had a copper moment!
Would we ever make it to Gaffney now?
Focus, Janet!
There are area rugs waiting for you at Pottery Barn!
I could hurry myself along... But let's not forget that I wasn't alone!
I was with a man that simply cannot walk past a book without picking it up!
I began hiding books in booths ahead of him!
Which worked for a little while!
Then he went downstairs and found more...
So I rushed down to get ahead of him and covered up more books!
Finally, we were out of Piccolo's and into our last stop...
Blythe Gallery, which is housed in the old Stowe manor!
Touring this beautiful house was a treat!
The collection of antiques and other goodies is extensive!
Every room is decorated as if someone
still lives here and yet, everything is for sale!
I love gallery trays and Blythe Gallery has a lot of them to choose from!
Check out those leaded glass windows there on the landing!
Speaking of rugs...
I needed to get going!
But I couldn't not peek into every room first!
I'd buy that sink!
But I'm afraid it's one of the few things not for sale!
By the way, the only reason I was last to leave...
Is because there weren't a lot of books at Blythe Gallery!
Finally... We made it to the Outlet! And, get this... After shopping
in the pouring rain for two whole days, the moment we pulled up to
the Pottery Barn Outlet in Gaffney, clouds parted and the sun came out!
Coincidence? I think not!
The second incredible thing to happen was a flash sale posted just
moments after we arrived! 40% off the lowest price, one day only!
I couldn't point to rugs for the staff to pull fast enough!
I was holding court... First in line! Everything went down for
me first, while other guests began to gather around... Each one
asking, Are you going to take that one?... If not, I want it!
Hands off! This one is mine!
Then I saw it... It was the Adeline I bought the night before, the
one I was told they did not have when I called! Regularly $599, but
only $249 at the Outlet plus, 40% off while I was standing there!
As much as I wanted to call it mine, the rug I pulled before I found it
spoke to me a bit more and it was bigger, which also appealed to me
since I really wanted the sectional to sit on top of my new rug! But I
didn't let Adeline go... Instead, I snapped a picture and posted it to
my Facebook page and sent a message for my friend in Monterey to
take a look. I knew she'd love it and, I was right! Not only did she call
up and ask my friends at the Pottery Barn Outlet to send her Adeline,
she chose another rug on my recommendation too! So... How did I do?
You tell me... I picked up this 10X14 for just $449 after my 40% discount!
Deduct the $100 Pottery Barn gift card my boss gave me for Christmas
and the $168 statement credit I had for overpaying my bill in November,
and I ended up paying next to nothing for my new Pottery Barn area rug!
And that my friends is how you do it!
Deals for me, deals for my friends... It's a good thing!
Army dad made out on this jaunt too! His 8X10 Hastings choice normally costs
$999... Outlet priced $449.99 but only $269 after our little 40% off flash sale!
Talk about being worth the trip and effort!
I love this rug! And, I'm sure you can imagine how much fun it was to call
my Pottery Barn store for a full refund for the two rugs I never picked up!
I've been asked to give my word to never want
to move the furniture out of this room again!
And, I did. For now...