Monday, August 24, 2015

The Impromptu Gathering

It was about 5pm a few Saturdays back when my sister in law called to ask what we were doing that evening. Even though we were knee deep in painting the downstairs bathroom and none of us had showered that day, my answer was "Nothing, why?" She said she had a bunch of steaks for the grill so why don't we come over for dinner and hang out?
I had run to the fish market earlier that day and bought mako steaks so I offered them up so it would be a surf and turf style meal and told her we would be there in an hour. We grabbed a chilled bottle of wine as we ran out the door, stopped and bought some ice cold beer along the way and within an hour we were relaxing on their deck watching my nieces roll around the lush, green grass.

this my friends, is the life

The sunset was spectacular,  the company even better and I knew that all the planning in the world could not have turned out a better Saturday night. 

I love spur of the moment gatherings. Forgoing all the planning, cleaning and perfecting (since I am still somewhat a total Type A, although I am admittedly becoming more of a free bird in my old age) makes for a more enjoyable event. Something that is so organic and real. And fun most of all.
Earlier this summer Charlie and I were talking about how difficult it sometimes is to get together with the people we care for the most. Everyone is always so busy that sometimes we are making plans a month in advance and by the time the date actually rolls around with so much "life" happening in between, who even knows if you will really still feel like getting together?  
I can't help but wish life was a bit more sporadic so when you pick up the phone last minute and say "Hey, what are you guys doing tonight?" the answer will be "Nothing, why?"
It seems like that is when the magic really happens.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

House Hunters: The Perfect Home For Me

It's been a while since I did a House Hunters post although I have been spending 99% of my free time searching online for homes these days. Our search has taken us father west then we ever thought we would go, but life is funny like that sometimes. And yes, we are still looking in Tennessee. That state has my heart. I'm pretty sure it's settled into my soul as well. 
As I comb through listing after listing I sometimes worry that finding the right house is not going to be as easy as I thought. I'm also scared that I may find my dream home but that it might be in the wrong location. This has actually already happened to us. Sigh.
Instead of sharing listings that are sort of right, I decided to show you a home that is exactly what I want, with an ideal piece of property in an area we really want to live in. 
Built in 1907, this historic gem is located in the quaint town of College Grove not too far from the infamous and swoon worthy Franklin, Tennessee. It sits on just over 5 acres and even has the first letter of our last name on the front door. Coincidence? Maybe not...

 Perfect view from the front porch

 Adorable outer buildings

 And a barn!

 And flat land to grow food!

Let's look inside:
 Simple but perfect.

 With a cookbook collection numbering over 400 titles, ample book storage is definitely a perk.

 This kitchen. Oh, this kitchen.

 Yes and yes.

 And another shot because the kitchen is just so good.

 Again, simple and perfect.

 Got to be honest, I don't mind the wallpaper. Would probably change it but it does not offend or bother me in any way.

 Simple is the theme here and it is just so, so right for this house.

This is what I love. This is what I want. 
This is also about $100k over our budget. Insert wailing emoji {here}.

It is roughly the same size as our house now which is just right for our family of four. It is in Williamson County which has top notch schools in towns where you can also have acreage. A perfect scenario for us. While we are all in love with it, we cannot even dream of trying to stretch this high. We want to move in order to have less overhead, not more. Being foolish defeats the purpose of our move.
It's just hard to see things like this and then look at some of what is in our budget and one of two things seem to happen. 1. The house is amazing but the land is not. 2. The land is great but the house is not. It's really frustrating.
On the up side, every time I get up from the computer after a long session and wander through our house I am taken aback by how beautiful and perfect it is. And while it wasn't beautiful or perfect 10 years ago when we bought it, we made it this way. 
Unfortunately, we just haven't found anything we want to put that same energy into again and I am not willing to settle for a house I am not in love with no matter how great the land is.
Maybe if we hold out long enough they will drop the price? Here's to wishful thinking!

*I created a House Hunters board on Pinterest of listings that appeal to us. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

B Is For Bourbon

(wasn't I cute?)

When I was say, 7 or 8 years old I caught a nasty virus that had me bed ridden for days. My father felt bad for me and surprised me one night when he came home from work with the Annie soundtrack  from the Broadway play (on vinyl ~ holla!) to cheer me up. I listened to that album on repeat until I am sure my mother was lamenting her "Hard Knock Life" and dreaming about "Tomorrow"  when I would hopefully tire of it and stop playing it. Unfortunately for her, once I was back on my feet I not only incessantly played the album but began to use the hearth of our fireplace as my "stage" where I would reenact the entire show. Again and again and again and again.
THEN the movie came out in 1982 with Carol Burnett (game changer!) bringing the whole thing to life and renewing my obsession with that spunky little redhead. I saw it in the movies and when the betamax tape came out (showing my age here) I naturally watched it on repeat. One of the scenes long burned into my memory was of Miss Hannigan and her bathtub gin. When she sank into the whole tub of it? Hilarious! Although truthfully, I may not have fully understood what was really going on, but her garbled drunken mannerisms were definitely funny to a young kid.
As an adult I came to understand what was up with gin and why Miss Hannigan would immerse herself in a tub of the stuff. It's like the nectar of the Gods. Seriously. Smooth, refreshing; to be honest I have often thought I could be quite content soaking in a tub the stuff myself. It's that good. With a generous splash of tonic, it has long been my go to drink. Add a hefty squeeze of lime juice and one to garnish the glass and it just screams "Summer!"
I am sure you are thinking "Why is she going on and on waxing poetic about gin when I thought this blogpost was going to be about bourbon?" Well, I am just getting to that part.
While gin and tonic has always been my summer drink, bourbon (ah, here we go!) and whiskey have been my favorite fall/winter liquors for the past couple of years. I have shared about my love for the old fashioned before, and this summer's fresh produce has me rethinking my seasonal drinking habits. Slowly sipping this powerful drink is pleasurable enough, but the liquor soaked fruit in the bottom of your glass is equivalent to the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. With each bowl you eat, the anticipation of getting to that trinket builds and builds. Same thing with the old fashioned. Each sip you take gets you closer to that fruit patiently waiting at the bottom. 
When I found myself grabbing the bourbon off the bar again in order to whip up these delicious Peach Old Fashioned's I started thinking that maybe the old days of gin and tonic are doomed to obscurity like betamax and vinyl. And my old hearth dancing days.

Summer Peach Old Fashioned

Muddle a few peeled and pitted peach slices (be generous), two maraschino cherries (the more the merrier), two dashes of Angostura bitters and one scant teaspoon of sugar in the bottom of a small rocks glass. Add ice then top with 2oz. of good bourbon. Give it a gentle stir. Add a few small peach slices to the top for garnish and because they will just sink to the bottom and marinate in all the goodness.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Weekend in the Hudson River Valley

Every summer our family gathers for a weekend at my brother Tom and his wife Stacey's beautiful farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley of New York. Nestled in a bucolic country setting, their home was originally the barn of an estate and was converted to a home in the 1940's. As you can expect, it exudes charm and character; from the crown molding and chair rail to the stone hitching post and water trough by the front door. 
The quiet is a welcome respite from our busy suburban lives. The serenity of their rolling acre of lush, green grass and the shimmering, crystal clear pool definitely soothes the soul. I look forward to it all year long because it's a weekend spent unwinding, relaxing and catching up with the ones we treasure most. That, to me, is worth more than any fancy, five star getaway.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Quick & Easy Summer Hostess Gift

As I was leafing through a magazine a week or two ago I saw a feature about berry bowls and colanders and this adorable little white ceramic one caught my attention immediately. Usually these product features are chock full of high end, high price pieces so you can imagine my surprise to see that it was from Target! And under $20! And dishwasher safe!
Win ~ Win ~ Win!
Naturally I ran right to Target and snatched one up. Pretty enough to stay on the counter top and perfect for storing fresh fruit since it affords plenty of air circulation, I initially intended to be selfish and keep it for myself. Then I remembered that we were going away this past weekend to visit my brother and sister in law at their gorgeous farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley of New York.
Since it is blueberry season right now in NJ, it only made sense to fill the colander with fresh, Jersey blueberries. Blueberries are one of the best parts of summer! Then I made a simple little tag with a fun play on words because I simply could not resist.
I like to bring a hostess gift, especially when the hostess truly goes out of her way to make your stay fun and comfortable. My sister in law Stacey goes above and beyond always ensuring we have a wonderful time.
I really like this idea. Not only is it practical and sweet, at under $20 for the entire gift it is affordable and a great way to highlight fresh, seasonal produce. You can be sure I will be picking one up for myself on my next trip to Target. How could I not?

See last year's hostess gift ideas here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer Drinking ~ The Blackberry Basil Bourbon Smash

It's been a while hasn't it?
Life is all sorts of crazy right now ~ crazy good, crazy stressful, and even crazy exciting ~ but all in a very good way. Unfortunately, I cannot expand on that right now (boo!) so instead I come offering a cocktail that celebrates some of my favorite things about summer. 
Nothing warms my heart like finding freshly picked berries at the farmer's market, having bowls full of ripe fruit sitting on my kitchen counters, or seeing a bumper crop of herbs growing in the garden. In fact, this year our basil has grown to epic proportions. There are basil leaves out there as big as my hand! Giant basil is perfect for a delicious caprese salad and also for muddling into a refreshing cocktail. 
So let's put those giant basil leaves, and the plump little blackberries littering the farm stands to good use, shall we?

Blackberry Basil Bourbon Smash

Muddle 7 basil leaves (or less if they are as big as your hand), half of a lemon, quartered , with 3 blackberries in a glass. 
Add a tablespoon of simple syrup and 2 oz of bourbon and give it a good stir. Using a strainer, pour it over an old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with basil sprigs and some extra blackberries.

Try saying the name of this drink 5x fast. Better yet, try saying it after knocking back a few of these bad boys!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Musings

Ugh....Monday. The worst six letter word in the whole English language. It seems like we spend the weekend getting all the errands run and the house immaculately clean just to leave on Monday morning and spend minimal time here over the next five days. In my mind, weekends should be three days at a minimum with Monday being the day to kick back relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. 48 hours is simply not enough time to accomplish all the things we need to do and still find time to relax. But don't worry, as soon as I become Queen of the World or President of the United States, that will be the first law I enact. Actually, that might be the whole platform for my political campaign! I bet it takes out any opponent too.... who's with me???
All kidding aside, we have spent the past few weekends spring cleaning around this joint. I have brought 3 full car loads of stuff to Goodwill and the trunk is currently filled with load #4. Things are feeling more bare and empty and generally wonderful around here. Thus my loathing to leave here this morning. This place just feels good.
Years ago I downloaded the album The Drums by well, The Drums and on that album there is a song called  I Need Fun In My Life. It resonates with me more than you could imagine. While I feel like I have fun and wonderful things going on in my life all the time, there could be more. There could always be more. In the song he sings this:
"Oh, I took walk yesterday all around New York City and I saw something written on a said The Less You Own The More Freedom You Have, the less you own the more freedom you have so I went home and I threw it all away...." There is something so liberating about having less around you. With each car load of things we no longer, or possibly ever needed, I feel lighter. More Free. It's an amazing principle.
I fully recognize that my book and dish collection alone would totally prohibit me from being on the next episode of Tiny House Nation, but I think you see where I am going with this. The less is more theme can still translate in my 2,000 sq. foot home. I need to be thoughtful about any purchases and apply the in/out rule as much as possible. I no longer shop at large scale retailers the way I did 4, 5 years ago for more than essentials because I find there is generally nothing I want from them. When I woke up yesterday and saw that Twitter was ablaze overnight with the release of the Lilly Pulitzer line at Target I got that twinge in my gut that maybe I had missed out on something. When I strolled into my local Target store around 10am to buy hand soap, razors and shaving cream the racks were basically completely bare with a few random women running frantically around trying to grab any piece that was left. It was amusing and sad all at the same time. Amusing because Lilly Pulitzer merchandise is readily available for sale all the time, it's just out of 99% of these women's budgets and sad because consumerism still makes people act like wild animals. Albeit, when I spot that treasure from the corner of my eye in the thrift store I sometimes get a little crazy too. Proof of that right here and here
My point is, I want so much more out of this life and it takes more than stuff to fulfill that need. Unless it is made out of porcelain, bone china, ironstone, or pretty pictures stuffed inside a magnificent hard cover book. Then my needs are met. For a little while anyway ;).

Happy Monday!