Welcome, 2016! Come on in and make yourself at home

Less than 12 hours into the new year and I’ve amazingly already accomplished several things on my resolutions list. This bodes well for the next 12 months, although of course there’s always room for derailment. I’ll keep you posted.

So, not that I’m bragging, but here’s what I already did in 2016:

  • Got healthy — yay for a good night’s sleep (yay, pharmaceuticals!)
  • Got organized — finally ran descaler through my Bialetti Mukka pot (twice), which then led to chipping off a year’s worth of dried gunk wiping off the stove top but I managed to ignore the urge that would’ve led to full-scale oven cleaning. No need to go that far.
  • Got good-wife points — although when I uncharacteristically asked husband John Pitts if he wanted scrambled eggs & cheese for breakfast (and by “asked husband John Pitts if he wanted scrambled eggs & cheese for breakfast,” I actually mean “asked husband John Pitts if he’d like me to make some sort of eatable meal by taking things out of the fridge and doing something to them on the stove.”), he checked my forehead in case my cold/sinus stoppage/winter crud had caused a fever.

So that’s good. But before we jump in to 2016 (I can never say “jump” during the holidays without picturing Hugh Grant in “Love Actually”), let’s reminisce about 2015. And since I’ve forgotten most of what  happened in 2015, let’s just stick to December. And since that’s also increasingly a blur, how about concentrating on Christmas? That I can do.

For example, Christmas reminds me how talented my family is. When you’ve got an artist in the family — son-law-Jason Behel, art teacher & artist extraordinaire — you get presents wrapped like this:IMG_2697


Older Daughter matches her husband’s creativity with homemade skin-care products that, I promise you, surpass what’s available in the most luxurious spa. (Although Jennifer Timbes’ Cottage Garden in Corinth, Mississipppi, is a close second. Also: don’t tell husband JP that I even know what a luxurious spa is, please.). The best part? Older Daughter promises free refills.IMG_2704 IMG_2705

Christmas also reminds me that nobody, NOBODY, understands you like family and friends do. And, really, who cares about everybody else. Younger IMG_2703Daughter felt my pain, literally, when I’d burn my hand every freakin’ morning that I’d pour boiling water from the microwaved measuring cup into my pour-over coffee filter. I’d long wanted a Bonavita gooseneck teakettle but nobody UNDERSTOOD how vital it was until Younger Daughter stepped in and I now enjoy excruciating-steam-and-boiling-water-splatters-free mornings. But then again I can’t even drink the coffee I manage to make without spilling it. We were also delighted at the beautiful simplicity with which this miracle of technology works, as reflected in the parts diagram — Lid! Handle! Body! — and the instructions, which essentially said “Fill with water, put on stove top and pour water out when ready.” Brilliant!

Speaking of Younger Daughter, I had a been-there-done-that-moment when she shared an idea for her Ugly-Sweater-Party outfit. It was an idea I remembered from an early 1990s craft book I still have in a prominent position on a bookshelf had to dig around to find in the attic because who keeps things like that? The only reason I didn’t have this to pass on to Younger Daughter is because … well … someone who can’t handle hot water or a cup of hot coffee really shouldn’t have a hot-glue gun. Just sayin’.

And then, of course, we had our family Christmas Eve tradition of tequila shots and watching “Die Hard.” I don’t even know why that’s our tradition, but it is. So hope your holidays were merry and you have a wonderful New Year ahead of you. With abundant tequila shots, naturally.


Happy New Year!




So Long, 2011 — Or, What Happened to All That Money We Had Laying Around?

Happy New Year! Even though the Tournament of Roses parade (and I guess a football game?)  isn’t on until tomorrow  so it really doesn’t feel like New Year’s morning, this is the first day of 2012. So far I’ve celebrated by (thinking about) a healthy breakfast and (thinking about) doing an exercise DVD, so I count that as a successful year so far.  And since we”d already enjoyed the big-city lights of Nashville, Tennessee, this weekend, husband JP and I stayed home for the New Year’s Eve countdown. We chased some screw-top bubbly wine we’d unaccounatably found in the back of the fridge with some yummy Christmas chocolates, threw glitter out on the front porch and alternated being horrified by the (literal) spectre of a propped-up spray-tanned Dick Clark and being sympathetic with the Mobile, Alabama, TV hosts trying to make the anti-climatic Moon Pie drop and the lackluster crowd seem somehow festive. It’s a tough job. Bye-bye, 2011. You brought us adventures, opportunities, a boy grandbaby and much love and joy. However, you also brought us a few tears, fears and heart-stopping moments. Overall, though, you were pretty balanced. Here’s to 2012 — and we’re eating as many black-eyed peas as we can today.



I know I said I was continuing the New Year’s Countdown through Twelfth Night christmas-2008-part-2-0624— Tuesday — but now that our tree is (finally) down and all the wreaths and garlands and Santas are packed up and I’ve broken almost every one of my resolutions already, I’m sort of over the holidays and ready to move on … to another holiday, that is.  Does your space feel empty without all those Christmas festive touches? I’m always glad to get my house back after turning it over to Christmas for a month, but I miss the whimsy of holiday decor — plus, it covers up the cat hair valentines-day-005and distracts from the dust. So I keep the wintery things (snow people, mainly) out and gradually add red heart-y Valentine’s Day things, such as those cute heart “trees” and heart candles I put on the mantle after taking off the Christmas stars and angels. On the table by our front door — my absolute favorite piece of furniture in our whole house valentines-day-0032because so far in almost five years of marriage it’s the only one my husband and I have bought together — I’ve got a couple red and wintery serving pieces plus red and green candles I keep out until spring just because I like to. I  added a touch of valentines-day-007Valentine’s Day: A wonderful mini folding photo album out of handmade paper that my younger daughter found at Sojourns, a Fair Trade shop in Birmingham, Ala., and put in my Christmas stocking. Adorable! In our kitchen, I dismantled the bowl of shiny Christmas ornaments that sat on the table and replaced it with three red heart candles. I love the clean look of red on white. Every year around this time I’m so grateful for my grandmother’s advice to always buy red. “You can use it for three out of four seasons,” she said, “and you can always find red things on sale.”  So true. Thanks, Grandma. See? I was listening.

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-0623Welcome to the first Saturday of 2009 and the ninth day in Cathy’s New Year’s Countdown for a tip on dismantling Christmas at your house. Look, even if you are one of those wonderfully organized people who already have (almost) all the holiday things wrapped, packed, labeled and back in the closet where they belong, you probably have a snowperson here and a Christmas candle there, still hanging around. And of course all the rest of us are staring at the tree that needs taking down today — or is that only me? Anyway, I admit I’m only so-so at housekeeping and downright bad at organization and in no way should I go around dispensing advice on these subjects, but I do love that wonderful feeling when everything is clean and uncluttered and efficient. Granted, because I’m inherently lazy and content to live like a slob, I don’t enjoy that feeling very often. But I know how to get it without much effort, so here’s a quick and easy route to post-holiday satisfaction: When you finally take it all down and put it all up, challenge yourself to 1) Throw/give away three things you don’t use but keep in storage anyway (this is where you can guiltlessly get rid of all those ugly Santas your aunt keeps giving you) and 2) Reorganize so you can easily put your hands on the essential part of your family holidays (the stockings, the Christmas CDs, the Advent calendar) that you spent two weeks trying to find in 2008. Do these things, and I promise you December 2009 will be a little less stressful. Not much, but a little. And isn’t that good enough? Check back for day no. 10 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown.

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-0621Welcome to the eighth day of Cathy’s New Year Countdown. Look, I promise you that it is not too late to make your 2009 resolutions. (Go to http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090102/ARTICLES/901020301 to find out why.) You were nursing a headache busy yesterday, anyway, so make today the day. Need inspiration? Go to your favorite bookstore and find new guides and how-to’s for every problem you’ve got. Browsing in good bookstores is a joy and treat you deserve — what better way to start 2009? (A friend told her book-loving granddaughter she’d take her to Barnes & Noble for her birthday but they only had a couple hours and her granddaughter said, “Only two hours? That’s not much time!”) My motivating picks for 2009 are “A Year of Wine” — which explores the idea of drinking wine by the season and packs in lots of wine info — because I want to stop wandering around wine shops aimlessly and choosing bottles only by the cute labels; “Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design” — a workbook for identifying and celebrating your personal style — because I have none; “Great Hair,” by What Not To Wear’s Nick Arrojo — who shows you how to choose styles and products based on your hair’s texture — because my hair is a disaster; and “Get Positively Beautiful,” by WNTW’s Carmindy — who believes in enhancing the positive instead of hiding the negative — because I couldn’t get Nick Arrojo’s book without getting Carmindy’s, too.  Based on the way my post-holiday house looks right now, I probably should have concentrated on books about cleaning and organizing, but wine, fashion and makeup are much more fun. Check back for day no. 9 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown, when we finally face the dismantling of Christmas.

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-062Happy New Year! Hope everybody’s 2009 got off to a great start. It’s the seventh day of Cathy’s new-year-2009-004New Year Countdown and we’re going on to Jan. 6, or Twelfth Night, mainly because I have a real problem packing it all up and letting the holidays go. I mean, why not celebrate as long as possible? (Or at least, as long as your neighbors will tolerate your yard decor. ) My husband and I kept the party going with a rockin’ New Year’s Eve on Wednesday night. He’s a newspaper sports editor, and as usual, he was at the office until after midnight as the paper went to press, so like the good wife I am — no, really! — I hung out with him there. We watched the ball drop on the copy-desk TV and toasted each other and the New Year with sparkling grape juice. This was one of the first New Year’s Eve we didn’t go out or at least have a family party, but, strangely enough, our daughters (one married and a mom and the other a college senior) seemed to have better things to do than hang out with the old folks, so we were on our own. And I kind of liked it! Check back tomorrow for day no. 8 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown for a great tip on finding inspiration for 2009.

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-0622Welcome to the sixth day of Cathy’s New Year Countdown —  New Year’s Eve. I’m going to admit to extreme nerdy geekiness and say that some of my favorite things are new calendars and planners. C’mon, admit it: You love them, too. It might be old-fashioned, but there’s something about those pristine blank pages. Blackberries are nice, laptops essential and iPhones are pretty cool, but they don’t hold a pixel to a brand-new calendar. With an unblemished year in front of you, enthusiasm and optimism seem quite warranted. Oh, the things we could do! I could be organized! I could be on time! I could go to fabulous places! I could remember all my friends’ birthdays! Who knows? It could happen. With a new calendar, all things are possible. If you didn’t get one for Christmas, don’t let 2009 sneak up on you without one. Go to your local bookstore or office-supply store or big-box discount store and find what you need. I always get a big wall calendar for the kitchen family-planning headquarters plus one of those 365-a-day-whatever tear-off calendars for my desk (featuring a daily handbag or puzzle or knitting pattern or wild-women quote of the day) and a cute and sleek planner for my purse that looks great for about 3 days and then I spill coffee on it or lotion/perfume/hand sanitizer leaks all over it or I tear out pages to use as hasty notepaper and then find myself skipping from the second week in January to the first week of May. But my intentions always are good. That’s the thing about a new calendar — good intentions are all that’s important. Check back tomorrow for more tips on making the most of 2009 with day no. 7 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown. Since it’s still a party at my house, let’s keep the holiday spirit going and stretch the New Year out to Twelfth Night, or Jan. 6. Happy New Year!

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-0621Welcome to the fifth day of Cathy’s New Year Countdown. It’s  been nice to take a couple days off of shopping for/making/eating holiday goodies, but the break is over and it’s back to the kitchen for New Year’s. I know, I know — you were just there a few days ago. But listen. My friend Cheryl has the perfect and most delicious recipe for the remaining festivities, whether you’re going to a party and need to take something or hosting a party and need to feed the multitude. It’s good for football munching and open-house buffets. It’s even perfect to give as New Year’s gifts like you said you’d do instead of giving Christmas gifts. (Remember you said that?) Plus, you’ve probably got all the ingredients on hand already, especially if your friend’s civic club was selling pecans this fall and you mistakenly bought six bags and wondered what you’d ever do with them. Now you know. Here’s the recipe, and check back tomorrow for the sixth day in Cathy’s New Year Countdown.

                                                                                                       Spiced Nuts


2 large egg whites

2/3 c. sugar

2 ½ tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning

2 tsp. Worchestershire Sauce

1 tbsp. chili powder

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. salt

6 cups mixed nuts (any combination of untoasted walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios)

¼ c. butter, melted

1/3 c. finely grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with foil or parchment. Grease lightly and set aside. Position a rack in center of oven. In large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar, beating to a loose, meringuelike texture. Beat in Old Bay Seasoning, Worchestershire sauce, chili powder, cayenne and salt. Add  nuts and butter and stir well to coat evenly. Add parmesan and mix again. Divide nuts between baking sheets, spreading evenly in a single layer. Roast 30-40 minutes to a golden brown (don’t let nuts darken too much), rotating sheets during cooking for even roasting. Line a work surface with foil or parchment. After removing the nuts from the oven immediately slide onto the foil or parchment. Cool completely. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three weeks. ( I never have put mine in refrigerator.)

Note: My friend Sherry says these are wonderful warmed up. Put them in the oven on 300 degrees for 10 minutes and then at 350 degrees for 5 more minutes.


New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-062Welcome to the fourth day in Cathy’s New Year Countdown. It’s the Monday after Christmas. The stockings are down, the presents are done and the tree looks sort of lonely sitting there all by itself. Post-Christmas blues, anyone? Here’s a trick to pick yourself up out of your holiday funk. Gather together all the January magazine issues you didn’t have time to read before Christmas, brew some good coffee or pour your favorite wine and enjoy some good old-fashioned escapism. You deserve it, and I promise you’ll have a whole new attitude when you’re done. For instance, right now Vogue wants to show me how to dress cheap and chic and Instyle has tips on making the most of what I have (but how do they know what I have?) and dressing slim. Lucky offers 564 ways to step up my style. Southern Living has the coziest comfort food and easy ideas to relax my rooms. And I can “feel calmer now” with Real Simple’s 20 essential organizing lists (although the thought of 20 lists is not calming at all, seems to me) and learn must-try recipes from Hawaii’s star chef with Coastal Living. See, don’t you feel better already? Now, if somebody would just actually do all those things for me, 2009 would be practically perfect. Anyway, check back tomorrow for the fifth day of Cathy’s New Year Countdown.

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-0643For the third day in Cathy’s New Year Countdown, I’m going to give you permission to tackle that one holiday chore you never got around to: Sending out cards. Okay, by “you” I actually mean “me.” I’ve pretty much abandoned snail-mail greetings, yet I keep buying them (“Oh, these are so cute! And they’re 75 percent off!”) and I love getting them. All through December, I keep telling myself — and anyone around who will listen — that I’m going to sit down and send out cards and I can’t go to Wal-Mart or the recycling center or to pick up the dry cleaning because I’ve got to do the cards! But then I end up doing things like reading through the back issues of the Sunday New York Times that pile up or watching reruns of “Whose Wedding is It Anyway?” — you know, important stuff like that. But here’s the thing: It’s still the holidays and you I can still send out cards. And, it’s even better to send them out now because I can answer questions people asked in their cards (“How are the kids?” “Do you like being a grandma?” “Are you still married?”) and, if I get really ambitious, even include some of our Christmas photos. (But probably not since there are still Sunday NY Times to be read. Good idea, though.) And nobody will care if they get holiday cards after Dec. 25. Look at it this way: If you got a holiday card now, would you think “This person obviously is lazy, unorganized and undisciplined and has no idea about the proper order of things” or would you think “Aw, how nice! What a lovely thing to do”??? I rest my case. Come back tomorrow for Day No. 4 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown.