Welcome, 2011 — Come On In and Stay A While

Happy New Year’s Eve! Go forth and have fun tonight. With safety, please. And if you decide to stay home — whether you’re hosting a crowd or a romantic dinner for two — you’ll need something special and sparkly to drink. Several friends shared their favorite bubbly cocktail recipes in the food story I did this week for the TimesDaily. Check it out — it’s not too late to run to the store and stock up on beverage supplies. I did leave out one recipe from my friend Steve, who started off his list of ingredients with “Get some moonshine.” I love the South!

And then take a minute to read my weekly newspaper column for inspiration on making resolutions. Oh my goodness — I could fill pages and pages with promises to do things better. But then it would take me so long to sit down and write all my resolutions down that I wouldn’t have the time to actually, you know, do them. That’s my excuse, anyway. Like right now. I really should go out and walk before it starts raining. But it looks like it might rain any minute. And it’s windy. And cold, maybe. So I’ll just stay inside where it’s nice and warm and dry and THINK about going out to walk. I mean, that’s almost as good, right???

This past week I did get a headstart on one of my resolutions, which is to write more fiction. Of course, friends and family will argue that my newspaper columns already have touches of fiction but they’re all good sports and don’t mind that I might perhaps slightly edit things they say and/or do — for journalism’s sake, of course. Except for almost-3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable, whose adorability is an absolute fact that needs no exaggeration whatsoever.

New Orleans and Mardi Gras

Beignets for Mardi GrasAs Fat Tuesday rolls around — it’s tomorrow — everybody has a little New Orleans in them. And if you didn’t make it to Mardi Gras this year, you can celebrate at home (and a little quieter) with your Books about New Orleansown personal tribute — and you don’t even have to wear purple beads. For instance, you can find Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix and ground coffee in almost any grocery store. And it’s pretty good, too. Not the same of course of sitting at a Cafe Du Monde outside table and brushing powdered sugar off your clothes while you make fun of other tourists people-watch, but it’ll do until you can get there yourself. Check out http://www.cafedumonde.com/ for details. And for some delicious New Orleans Mardi Grasreading while you’re sipping your chicory cafe au lait, pick up a copy of “Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table.” Sara Roahen was a professional cook when she moved to the Crescent City while her husband attended medical school. She soon got a job as a food writer, and this book chronicles her joyous exploration of New Orleans’ food and people. She falls in love with her adopted city, and she’ll make you want to book the next flight there. Go to http://www.sararoahen.com to learn more. And for another New Orleans fix, don’t forget about “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” If you haven’t seen it in the theater, put it on your must-rent list when it comes out on DVD. This intelligent and cinematic film is so thoughtful and artistic — and the city of New Orleans should have gotten a supporting-actor award for its part in it. I thought that such a mystical and magical and slightly other-worldly film could have been shot only in New Orleans, despite the Baltimore locale of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original story. Visit http://www.benjaminbutton.com/ to find out more. Need more NOLA? Go to http://www.nola.com/mardigras/ for Mardi Gras parade webcams and up-to-the-minute details on what’s happening. Best viewed with a Sazerac in hand.

Bottled Water

dasani_strawberry2Am I the only person who cannot find Dasani flavored water in the non-lemon flavors anywhere lg_dasani_grape1anymore? All I can find anywhere — and I mean anywhere, any place, any time — are the plain and the lemon flavors. Not good. The grape, strawberry and raspberry Dasani flavors are favorites in my house. I know, I know. It’s all really local tap water. And plastic bottles are clogging up the earth. But my husband and I drink more water when we chug the Dasani — plain tap water tastes like blood to me ever since I had oral surgery and I only use the powdered flavor mixes as emergency backup because I’m not wild about them either — and we religiously recycle the bottles. So that makes us feel a little better.

But apparently I’m out of luck. My husband and I occasionally stumble across a rogue single bottle at a stop-and-rob but no local groceries have the six packs I buy four or five at a time. What’s the deal? Am I just constantly showing up behind other Dasani fans who beat me to it? Is there some sort of sinister Dasani shortage going on? Or am I imagining the whole thing? I abhor the taste of Nestle water, I’m suspicious that Propel has more than 25 calories a bottle and I don’t like water that tells me what to do: “Revive” “Energize.” “Focus.” Forget it. I like my water to remain quiet, thank you very much. That leaves me with Aquafina, which is only so-so.

Dasani, what’s up? Can you give us some strawberry love down here in Alabama? That would be very nice.

Christmas Decorating

decor-and-ginnas-007Our friends Ginna and Charlie in Tupelo, Mississippi, have the loveliest house decor-and-ginnas-004and it practically glows at Christmastime.  Their festive holiday mantle makes me happy just looking at it, although Ginna disavows any credit and says a decorating friend of hers put it together. But Ginna’s the one who bought the raw ingredients, so I think she deserves all kudos. We stopped by to see Ginna and Charlie this past Sunday afternoon in our search for dry martinis and good company. Ginna was finishing one last bunch of holiday goodies and congratulating herself on having the tree up, the presents bought, the presents wrapped and even the stocking stuffers successfully hidden away — unusual for her, she said. Of course, Charlie had done his part by spending all afternoon raking and bagging leaves.  Let’s see, they had been busy and productive and had their Christmas to-do list all checked off, while my husband and had been driving around talking about all the things we had to do and bumming drinks off of people. Hmm …

Ginna’s tree — her kids made her put their old handmade ornaments in the back — and her beautifully wrapped presents.


Charlie’s afternoon work — an immaculate yard.

Winter Wine

ice-age1How did I know I’ve been drinking the wrong wine? I mean, I knew that New Age is perfect for drinking with a lime wedge over ice cubes and I do like that very much and I keep a couple bottles on hand for that very purpose. But one time recently all my limes looked and felt like walnuts I didn’t have any limes and all my ice cubes smelled like shrimp so I just poured some New Age straight in a can’t-break-it wineglass and drank it and I liked it that way. It seemed like a light and refreshing alternative to all the rich holiday food I’ve been inhaling enjoying. However, later I saw a bottle of New Age in the discount basket at a local wine shop and the store owner explained that most people only drink New Age in the summer so the old vintage goes on sale to make room for the new when it warms up. I mean, she said it nicely when I asked why one of my favorite wines was on sale and I’m sure she’s not the kind of person to judge one’s drinking habits but I did detect a glint of suspicion in her eyes as she answered. So, to recap, I’ve been drinking the wrong wine the wrong way at the wrong time of year.

Anybody ready for another glass?

Christmas Drinks and Christmas Movies


Cheerful mugs of warming goodness — what better way to cheer up eveylns-christmas-009on dreary winter mornings or cozy up at night? Or anytime.  I love pulling out holiday mugs and cups every December. When piled up on a tray in the kitchen, they double as the best kind of decor: cheap and functional! From morning cappuccinos to post-lunch macchiatos to afternoon tea to evening hot cocoa, I’ve got every drink situation covered.  Not that I drink coffee and espresso and tea and hot cocoa all day — well, actually, I do. But of course some holiday drinks are not rich and hot and creamy and served in a sturdy mug — such as these cool ruby-red margaritas my friend Evelyn served us at our Christmas book-club gathering. Delicious and refreshing.

 new-vacationAnd for another delicious and refreshing treat, how about the No. 2 pick on my list of favorite Christmas movies? It’s “Christmas Vacation” (1989) with Chevy Chase. How can you not sympathize with Clark Griswold, the Every Little Man who sincerely wants to provide a stupendous Christmas for his family despite almost insurmountable odds? It’s like an updated “Wonderful Life,” only with redneck cousins. I absolutely love this movie. It’s the first movie I pop into the player when the holiday-movie mood strikes. From the opening Christmas-tree hunt to the final group hug, this movie delights every year. I adore the light-stringing scenes and Clark and Eddie’s shopping trip and literally laugh out loud as the family arrives and settles in. The Christmas dinner is priceless, and is there anybody not touched by Clark’s look at Christmas Past while he’s stuck in the attic? Randy Quaid is at his comic best here, and it’s nice to see a young Juliette Lewis be normal before she convinced herself she’s a rock star. However, the thing about “Christmas Vacation” is that my husband strongly dislikes it – which is very strange because usually he goes for gross-out humor flicks and I head for the Jane Austen aisle. I’ll admit that some parts are cringe-inducing and pander to the National Lampoon typical demographic, but this movie still ranks right up there for me. Stay tuned tomorrow for my top pick, the best No. 1 all-time greatest Christmas movie in the world. What do you think it is?