Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sound of Music Dinner Party

I love a party with a theme! When our neighborhood association announced that "The Sound of Music" would be our first outdoor movie of the season, I decided we should celebrate with an Austrian-themed dinner party beforehand.

Ryan doesn't really get into this as much as I do, but he's a good sport and always up for cooking on the grill! The nicest thing about our house being on the market is that it was already clean, so all I had to do for the party was the fun stuff - decorate the table and arrange a centerpiece. Our azaleas bloomed this week and are beautiful! Laura gave me these pretty napkins and napkin rings for Christmas and the candle sticks are from Mama Jean and Papa Carrel.

Since I sold our patio tables and chairs in the yard sale last week and couldn't find my table cloths, we improvised with two card tables and a white twin bed sheet. We brought out the kitchen table to hold the food and drinks. 

We tried to keep the food Austrian: 

Jarlsberg and Amadeus cheeses for our appetizers. Our white wine was Broadbent from Austria. It's going to be my favorite wine this summer - very crisp and refreshing. 

Bratwurst with sauerkraut and a side potato chips (we Americanized the sides!) for our main course. 

We finished up with my version of apple strudel. This should have been rolled up like you do cinnamon rolls and then sliced, but I was too chicken to mess with the filo! I used a recipe from the 1967 version of La Cuisine: Secrets of Modern French Cooking. Instead of making the dough from scratch, I substituted filo pastry - it seemed much easier. The filling was bread crumbs sautéed in butter, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples,  a cup of sugar and a few tablespoons of cinnamon. I layered it between several filo pastry sheets and brushed with an egg yolk and butter mixture. Served with whipped cream!

The girls walked to the park while the guys took their time. Somehow they weren't as excited about a musical? "The Sound of Music" is one of my all-time favorites. I know ever word and can (but didn't!) sing along with every song. My father is the only person I know who enjoys watching it as much as I do. I love the time period, the setting, the costumes, the music and, of course, Julie Andrews!

If you're looking for a good book, check out Julie Andrews' autobiography Home: A Memoir of My Early Years. She has quite a life story! It took the wonderful ladies at our neighborhood association FOUR years to get permission to play the movie in the Being Belhaven Art Series. You can find the full schedule here. The real story of the von Trapp's is pretty amazing even without Hollywood. I find it interesting that the family's main issue with the movie is that the father seems so harsh and strict and that he was actually a very kind and loving father. You can read more here

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sushi Birthday Night

On Friday night we celebrated Mom's birthday a little early with a sushi party! Mom and I made sushi about a year ago for the first time and have been itching to try again ever since. Thomas came over and he and Ryan really got into seeing who could make the best roll. Laura wasn't able to come and she's the sushi expert in the family so we really missed her!

We made spicy shrimp and crab rolls with avocado, green onions, cucumber and a crab dip (instead of cream cheese). 

Some of our can use whatever you like!

Basically, you cook the sushi rice, mash a thin layer on a piece of dried seaweed (I wish it wasn't called seaweed!), then quickly flip over the seaweed and fill with your preference of goodies. Then you roll up and use a bamboo mat to shape the roll. That's it! It doesn't take that long - we cooked the rice in the microwave and Mom and Thomas chopped everything up while that was cooking. 

We also sang "Happy Birthday" to Mom - her birthday is tomorrow! Her cake was, of course, chocolate and chocolate. This apple didn't fall far from the tree!

DeeDee, John Eric and Jane joined us for a piece of cake - and JE and Thomas were kind enough to help Ryan move some heavy furniture outside for my yard sale. I didn't even have to bribe them with cake! 

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yard Sale - What I Learned

We had a very successful yard sale on Saturday morning. When I first started going through our stuff I wasn't sure we really had enough to justify having a yard sale. And then I kept going and quickly figured out that we had PLENTY. Over the last week Ryan and I have gone through each room, closet and the attic and workshop and pulled out everything we didn't use anymore or just absolutely love. The hardest things to decided to sell or keep were things we liked or had been given as gifts but never really used. However, after looking at a 1,000 square foot house in Greenville last week, and realizing the amount of downsizing that is most likely ahead of us, we were motivated to get it out of here!

Most of the advice here comes from my Aunt Bonnye who is yard sale extraordinaire in Tuscaloosa. My mom came to help us on Friday organize and price everything and DeeDee came on Saturday to help with "customers" - it was an all hands on deck situation! In the end, I made $504.50 - way more than I expected!

10 Things I Learned:

1) Price to sell - People going to yard sales are looking for great deals. Anything over $10 should be a big item. For us these were things like mattresses and box springs; furniture and some yard equipment. Old TVs don't sell. Even for $10. I think it's important to be willing to bargain with people - I only had one lady who was a true haggler (this is a skill I greatly respect!) but she ended up calling friends and buying way more than she would have it I had not been willing to negotiate. I would say most of our items were $1 to $7.

2) Everybody loves a bundle - Ryan bundled up odds and ends from his workshop in buckets and then put a $3 price tag on it. So a bottle of oil might be 1/2 used and the package of nails open but it was still some money. And many of the things in the bundle we would have ended up tossing. Also, to make pricing easier we had big signs that said all books & DVDs $1, all VHS tapes .25 cents, hanging cloths $2, and folded clothes $1.

3) Keep your money on you - Aunt Bonnye suggested a fanny pack but I am anti-fanny pack (and didn't have one) so Mom and I each kept our purses strapped across us. A money box is too easy to walk away with and, unfortunately, a big problem at yard sales. Every half hour I took our $10 and $20 bills inside and let Pepe watch the money!

4) Have change and only take cash - I broke this rule for a few people but I knew them and one of them bought $120 worth of stuff. We started off with $60 worth of change (one $10, five $fives, twenty $1s and $5 in quarters.

5) Staging - Just like in trying to sale a house I think having your stuff arranged nicely (and clean!) makes a big difference. I washed a couple of things and hung up nicer clothes on a clothes rack I borrowed from a friend. Ryan shined some of his shoes and we dusted everything that needed it. We also had a "flow" through the driveway and carport that made it easy to watch everyone.

6) Be flexible - a neighbor was walking by and stopped to look. She ended up making a pile of things she liked and asked if she could finish her walk and them come pack with money. I took a chance - even though I didn't know her - and she came back with $26 dollars. You could also offer to hold it for an hour.

7) Keep at it - we started the sale at 7 a.m. and were out there by 6 a.m. putting the finishing touches on things (we put most things under our covered carport the night before and asked our neighborhood security guy to keep an extra eye on our house). It was slow and steady from 7 a.m. on but it would have been easy about 10:30 a.m. to wrap it up. But we stayed out there and ended up selling most of our stuff between 10:30 and noon.

8) Advertise - the paper here charges $25 to run a yard sale ad for three days and I'm cheap and wasn't sure if I'd even make $100 bucks. So instead, I posted the information along with details on what was for sale on Craigslist and our neighbood site along with Instagram and Facebook. The Tuesday before I posted signs in my yard (we live on a busy corner) and then on Thursday and Friday I posted signs around the neighborhood. If you do this, make sure to take them down after the sale! I think my crowd was probably 80% neighborhood people - they didn't haggle and it was fun to see so many of my neighbors! I think I spent $6 on posterboard and a marker. Yellow and black are the best colors to attract attention (so say advertising experts)! Also, since the sale was over I've had several people e-mail me looking for items and have sold a few more things that didn't sale.

9) Don't be a sucker - I think this goes without saying but don't ever let someone into your house. Direct them to the nearest gas station for bathroom emergencies. My "beware of dog" sign and barking dog in the backyard kept anyone from even asking.

10) Have plenty of help - Ryan was working on Saturday and I was so glad Mom and DeeDee were there to help. I think we sold more in that we were all talking items up and pointing out the best deals. Plus, about 10:30 we started saying "just make us an offer."

The Salvation Army is picking up the leftovers so that will be tax write-off and the children's hospital is getting the leftover books, movies, and games. It was a lot of hard work and fun and something I hope not to do again for a long time!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fondren After Five

I feel like this year spring has taken its time to show up. I keep putting our coats up and then pulling them back out. BUT I think it's safe to say now - a week into April - that spring has sprung! Finally.

Ryan and I took advantage of the beautiful and warm weather on Thursday evening by going to Fondren After Five and had a blast! It's the first Thursday of every month and in the area where much of The Help was filmed. Fondren's known for it's funkiness and there always plenty of characters that make for great people watching. Plus the stores stay open late and many offer wine. 

The t-shirt place was giving away shirts and showing how to do screen art on the back - I love a good art project! 

Coming off the dryer - I never knew how this was done!

There were several different bands - this one was outside Brent's Drugs. We stopped to listen and then decided to have a drink at the Apothecary. It was our first time there and I've been wanting to try it.

It's set up in the back of Brent's like an old speakeasy. You enter through the front door of Brent's (a former pharmacy but now just the soda fountain part is open) and go through an unmarked door to this small, dim room with blackout curtains. I've read way too many book set during Prohibition to not get into this. So fun!

The drinks are all "prescription cocktails." I had the Mortar & Pestle. There were also temperance drinks for teetotalers. Ryan loved it and he's pretty hard to impress!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Recipes & Farmers Market Finds

I feel like I fall in and out of love with my Southern Living magazine subscription. I always try to cook at least one thing out of it each month but sometimes the cost of ingredients seem like they are more than the subscription! But recently I've tried a few things from the Quick-Fix Supper section and they were really good.

Our favorite has been the Tuna Croquettes with a tangy avocado-buttermilk sauce. I used red onion instead of green, since I had that on hand, and just added a teaspoon of vinegar to 5 T of regular skim milk instead of using buttermilk.

Laura made these Brussels sprouts at Christmas and they were so delicious I've been wanting to try them ever since. They were great! I think the key is to pick out the smaller Brussels sprouts - the larger ones seem tougher. Giada's recipe calls for pancetta - I substituted bacon.  

For some reason when I take photos in my kitchen after dark they have a greenish tint. Not sure how to fix this?

On Saturday I went to the Farmers Market on High Street which is my favorite Saturday activity. I went a couple of weeks ago and there really wasn't much of anything but I was so happy to find these goodies this time around. Smith County strawberries, Swiss chard, cabbage, kale, spaghetti squash, brown eggs, sweet potatoes and red and green bell pepper. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

House Hunters - SC Edition

Tuesday night we realized we could both leave town for a couple of days so we quickly made plans and arrived in Greenville, South Carolina late Wednesday night. Eight hours is a long car ride but thanks to cell phones (and lots of practice during interview season) we got a lot accomplished! Plus going to Greenville you lose an hour - it's going to be strange being in a different time zone than everyone we know!

It's a very odd feeling visiting a place and knowing it will be your home in a couple of months. Whenever we travel I always imagine what it would be like to live in that place, but this is a whole new ball game! When we were in Greenville in December we both loved the town but it never crossed my mind that we'd live there. I don't know why - since when you go on a job interview the logical thought process would be that you may move there!

Greenville is so beautiful, clean and friendly. It is by far the best downtown I've ever experienced with small town Southern charm and everything you'd find in a much bigger city. You can tell everyone there takes great pride in the downtown. It's not just touristy - it's very much a part of everyday life. There's even an Anthropology downtown - I've never seen one outside a mall. Restaurants, breweries, shops, every sort of business, an old-timely general store and a beautiful park complete with a suspension bridge and waterfalls! This picture is on top of the bridge overlooking Falls Park on the Reedy.

We may not be able to eat at all the amazing restaurants here in just four years. But we will have fun trying! We had Trio for lunch, Smoke on the Water for happy hour and supper at Blue Ridge Brewery. Our eating out strategy is to have drinks and appetizer then split an entre. The spicy crab dip at Smoke was amazing! I can see many nights on their patio in the future.

Thursday night was the season opener of Music on Main. So we caught the free trolley from the West End and watched a bit.

We looked at houses and have met some really nice people. We know what area we would ideally like to be in - close to the hospital and close to downtown. We drove by Greenville Health Systems and took a few photos (of course). The highlight for me was meeting a friend from college, Pace, for coffee Friday morning! I don't think we've seen each other in at least five years but we picked right back up like we were back in Martin-Stockard! This trip made us even more excited about our upcoming move. I know we will really miss our wonderful friends, family and friends who are like family in Jackson! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Birthdays and More

In the crazy haze that was last weekend I made a quick trip to Oxford to celebrate Mary Thorne and Poppy's first birthday! How cute are they?

Can you tell they enjoyed their cake?

Elizabeth Magee had so fun opening gifts! She has had a lot of practice since turning 3 last month!

But we can't forget "the real" Uncle Thomas (not to be confused with EM's beloved CPR doll) celebrated a birthday too last week! I don't have a birthday pic so this one is from Thanksgiving!

On the moving front we have made progress. My to-do list needs its own to-do list there is so much work to be done!

Ryan cleaned out his pharmacy and med school files. Wow! He got six big boxs down to one.

I have sold four pieces of furniture on Craigslist and am making progress towards a yard sale. If you're interested here are two pieces: and More to come!