Friday, May 29, 2009

Gone to the Dogs

I'm inspired to dedicate a post to my "kids," Samantha, Tilghman, and Madison.  They have added to much joy to our lives- I cannot imagine life without them!  Here are several resources that I enjoy- specifically for the dogs or from people who love dogs.

Stray Dog Designs, inspired by the couple's adopted stray dog in Mexico, offers super cute furniture, lighting, and home accessories.  I believe that most (if not all) items are made from recycled materials in Mexico or Haiti.  A portion of all proceeds goes to support selected charities, including the Sociedad Protectura de Animales in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

this is the product
Method, the clean people, do a great job of offering environmentally responsible and animal-friendly cleaning products.  They've recently introduced an all-purpose dilutable cleaner, which promises to be safe for pets, $4.  Because you know your dog is going to eat off the floor if given the opportunity- it's nice to know he/she isn't also licking up a bunch of toxins.

Skinneez Stuffing Free Dog Toys

Doctor Fosters and Smith Skinny Toys, $6.99.  Made without stuffing- perfect for those stuffed-animal hunters intent on destroying... and ingesting...regular stuffed toys (Tilghman eats everything).  I also highly recommend their "Grunter" series- our dogs haven't destroyed the moose yet!  This site is also a great source for things like reasonably-priced leashes and collars, as well as other necessities like ear cleaners.

Lunabrite Life Vest 
For more designer leashes (like the Lilly Pulitzer ones shown above), charms, beds, or even life vests, In the Company of Dogs has some great items for pets and their people.

I visit FreeKibble daily- it's a website started by 12-year old Mimi Ausland, featuring daily trivia questions for Dogs and Cats.  For each click/visit, Castor and Pollux will donate 10 pieces of kibble to animal shelters.  Though it may not seem like a lot, it adds up!  

Though I've not purchased any crate covers yet, Doghouse Covers has some great-looking slipcovers for crates, $30-$55. For those who can sew, I'd think this would be a great project! For those of us who cannot, Doghouse Covers has some super cute and affordable options. Based in Charleston, SC, the company also supports animal charities (yay!)

I've never used this new airline, but I love the concept.  A pet-only airline, where pets fly in the main cabin.  Potty breaks before boarding, a pet attendant who checks on them every 15 minutes while en route, and pet lounges at departing/arriving airports.  Intro rate of $149.

Last, but certainly not least, I have to put in a plug for other furbabies needing a good home. Petfinder is a great source for adopting an animal!  Lots of organizations are on there- including the places where we got our kids.  

Samantha-Fluvana SPCA (outside of Charlottesville, VA), 
Madison- Retrieve a Golden Atlanta (Minnesota area), and Tilghman- Adopt a Golden Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Power of Craig's List... and Always a Hostess

Craig's List admittedly gives me the heebee-jeebies. Some of the things people are advertising as wanting or selling... creepy. And, I still can't get my head around the fact that people will "give" away their family pet! Yes, my perspective comes from years of volunteering with Dog Rescue groups. 

However, if you narrow your sights, Craig's List can serve a very useful purpose.  Case in point: we excavated roughly 500 square feet of sod this past weekend. Dear Mr. Southern was trying to strategize on disposing of said sod. I figured- we have sod that needs to go away, people must need sod or landscaping stores wouldn't have it for sale. We just need to work out a trade- Craig's List! He was dubious, but I posted "free sod" last night and by morning, we had over eight responses.

So right now, I have a young man rolling up the sod and loading it into his pickup truck. While it is not hot out, and he's getting free sod, I still feel badly and really want to go serve him some iced tea or lemonade- like that pictured above (I'm sure you were wondering what relevance the pitcher had to CL). What a lovely little tray.

I fear he would think I was one of the crazies on Craig's List though...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Flowers

Must end the day with a happy post... Loving the 50% off sale at...Bluestone Perennials

And, that their color scheme coordinates with the flowers at the end of my driveway.

I do not know what the volunteer purple flower is, but I love it!

A Costly Lesson to Learn

Both Mr. Southern Aspirations and I work in some form or fashion related to the Retail world.  I am not one to bash companies- I recognize that there are some policies (return policies) that are silly or frustrating. For example, I am sad that RueLaLa changed their return policy to Merchandise Credit.  But, RueLaLa clearly states the policy and they probably had a justifiable business reason for doing it.  Intentionally misleading the consumer with tricky advertising is another matter entirely.  I managed to avoid falling for scams for most of life... until now.  

Not here to bash (entirely at least) but to warn-- Just Say NO! to Glow.  Responded to an offer for Free Hair Trial by Kronos hair, part of Glow.  I saw the asterisk next to Free Trial- it said, . "* Product is free to try for 30 days. Pay only a small $4.95 shipping & handling fee." I assumed that the asterisk indicated- it's not really free, it's $4.95.  OK, I'll bite.  Bad me, I didn't read the fine print on the order summary- I didn't think I had to since I read the asterisk.  Apparently, if you don't return the products within 30 days, Glow will bill your credit card $98.50.  And they did.

What really irks me is that they didn't disclose the $98.50 in the asterisk.  That would have been full and fair disclosure.  Is what they did perfectly legal? Sure.  Ethical or right?  I think not.

Rant over. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Be Still My Heart... Juliska at OKL

I adore glass... pieces with simple elegant lines as well as those with a touch of whimsy.  In fact, instead of crystal, Mr. Southern and I actually registered for Simon Pearce glass for our recent marriage.   You can just imagine my joy then when One Kings Lane emailed me about today's event... Juliska.  And of course, right at a time when I was putting myself on a strict interior decor budget... to pay for all my plants I'm installing.

Here are some of my favorites... please, someone buy them so that I may live vicariously through you!
Clear Isabella Beaker Lamp
Clear Isabella Beaker Lamp, $199.
Wouldn't this look fabulous on a bedside table?

Silver Eve Candlestick Lamp
or perhaps the Silver Eve Candlestick lamp for $319.  
Please note that the shades are sold separately.  

And the Clear Hugo Bedside Carafe set... perfect for the guest room (or your room), $55
Clear Hugo Bedside Carafe Set
I don't think there are enough good bedside carafe options in the market.

Or perhaps the simple Octavia set, prices $24-$44?
  Clear/White Octavia TumblerClear/White Octavia Footed Tumbler
Clear/White Large Octavia GobletClear/White Small Octavia Goblet
I can imagine a million uses for these glasses... not just for drinking purposes.  Great floral displays, toothbrush holder in the bath... 

And let us not forget their stoneware... Fortunately (sort-of), OKL is not offering many of the white pieces, which would look best with my current kitchen.  In my dream white kitchen though, these would look perfect!

 Pistachio Green Teapot
Pistachio Green Teapot, $49
Butter Yellow Small Footed Compote
Butter Yellow Footed Compote, $18-$49 depending on size
Pistachio Green Large Pitcher
Pistachio Green Large Pitcher, $42
Pistachio Green Large Cake Stand
Pistachio Green Large Cake Stand, $55

These prices are amazing, though I wonder how they selected the assortment?  Regardless, what a great event.  I'm sure you are on the list, but if you need an invitation, let me know (emmie2008 at gmail dot com).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Brunch

Happy Memorial Day

...and a special thank-you to those who have served to protect our freedom.

Image of Buffalo Tavern in Ashe County, North Carolina.

We opted for a new take on the traditional Memorial Day Cookout and had our neighbors over for Brunch. I don't mean for this to sound trite, but I was pleased to celebrate the day with a veteran- one of our guests served in the military for years and was an assistant to General Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War. But this is about entertaining, not politics.

Speaking of entertaining, I'm adding my grocery-store bouquet, cut short and placed in a glass bowl, for a different look.

I wanted to do a sweet, savory, and fruit dish... but as is often the case, not all went according to plan. The cantaloupe, while sweet, was very ripe- to the point of having an odd texture.

When something goes wrong in the kitchen, bring out the blender. No, not margaritas (later this afternoon!) but Cantaloupe Soup.

Using a recipe inspired from Epicurious...

Mix together peel of 1 lime, 1 1/4 cups water, 1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves, and 1/4 cup white sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Let mixture cool (if you're running late and in a panic, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes). Pour liquid through strainer into a bowl; mash the mint leaves with the back of a large spoon to get all the good "juice" out.

Combine liquid and cantaloupe (pulp, sans seeds, scooped from cantaloupe) in blender and puree. This will probably take 2 passes. Pour into large bowl and refrigerate for preferably 2 hours or longer. Again, sticking in the freezer will speed up the process but you may need to blend-stick quickly before serving. Add a sprig of mint and voila.

Overnight French Toast

Look like you slaved all morning when really you whipped it up the night before.

Melt 1 stick butter, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons corn syrup in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until smooth- about 4-5 minutes. You don't have to stir constantly, but watch it to avoid burning. Note: I ran out of butter and used about 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Surprisingly, it worked.

Spray a 13x9 glass dish with non-stick spray. Pour syrup into prepared dish. Slice whole bread and lay in pan, overlapping pieces slightly. I used whole wheat this time in an attempt to be healthier and it worked fine.

In another bowl, whisk together 5 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups half-n-half, 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour over bread mixture. Cover with saran wrap and keep in fridge overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350 and allow bread mixture to come to room temperature. Bake toast uncovered for about 40 minutes. The bread will puff slightly and egg mixture will firm. Serve almost immediately. You can sprinkle with confectioners sugar or add syrup, but I usually serve as is.

For some reason, I believe the bread looks a little dried out in this photo. It really isn't!

Salmon-Wrapped Poached Eggs (aka Healthier Eggs Benedict)

Inspired by Gourmet Magazine

First, whip up the sauce. Combine 1/2 cup sour cream (light works fine) and 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. Slowly pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Add 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives, 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cover and place in fridge until time to serve.

Prepare asparagus spears by trimming ends and removing the spears along the side of the asparagus. Put in glass dish with a little water; cover with saran wrap. Microwave for 4 minutes (seriously, a no-fail way to prepare asparagus. I would have preferred to use our asparagus steamer, but with Mr. Southern at the stovetop poaching the eggs... I didn't want to get in the way).

Poach the eggs in an Egg Poaching dish-- if you make breakfast, it is totally worth buying. Ours, shown below, is from Sur la Table but they have several options. We found 5 minutes was the perfect egg poaching time- whites were cooked thoroughly but the yolk was pleasantly runny.

Demeyere® Egg Poaching Pan

Set egg on plate, drape egg with one thin slice of smoked salmon. Place asparagus at a diagonal along side egg and top with a dollop of the sour cream sauce. Unfortunately, our guests had arrived at this point and I felt a little odd whipping out the camera to photograph Mr. Southern and I plating up the eggs. So, I'll have to re-create the setting and post photos later.

Hope you enjoy your holiday! We're off for more work in the yard... which is a must given the calories consumed at the brunch!


Friday, May 22, 2009

A Tribute to my Grandmother

I've been debating about whether or not to publish this post. The Blogging world is an interesting one...many of the ones that I follow are professional- and people apologize at times for putting personal posts. This blog, on the other hand, is very personal to me- but I still hope that it also provides entertainment and enjoyment for others.

Here goes... My grandmother passed away a year ago yesterday, so the day was spent with mixed emotions. I miss her terribly, but at the same time, feel so blessed to have had her in my life. I spent much of my childhood living next door to my grandparents; in part due to the physical proximity, I developed a very special relationship with them.

Rather than focus on the loss, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate the fantastic woman that my grandmother was- and is in spirit- and her profound influence on me. But I also wanted it to be fun and light-hearted and in keeping with my general theme. So here are some cute items that remind me of her...

Village House Needlepoint, $150

Though originally from the mid-West, my grandmother moved to Maryland after college and became a true "Baltimore-on," embracing the East Coast culture- Maryland in particular. She loved crabs- both in tasteful decor and to eat- and I'm sure she'd adore this pillow!

Bird-watching was one of her favorite pasttimes; pictured above is a Baltimore Oriole, one of her favorites. I found this very cute birdhouse, in a cape-cod style.

2dormer.jpg (58765 bytes)

Birdhouse, $70

Memorial Day Hybrid Tea Rose

Grandmother was also a talented gardener. While my Grandfather tended to be in charge of the food garden, Grandmother took care of her roses, jonquils, and other flowers. This particular variety is very apropos this weekend as well. Memorial Day Hybrid Tea Rose, $17.95

She had great housekeeping skills, for lack of a better descriptor, as well.

She tought me to always line your dresser drawers. While her liners tended to be yellow and pink- color dependent on the room!- this is a great option.
Hammocks and High Tea scented drawer liner, $25
Jessie Steele Bib Ava Rooster Apron

She was a master of the kitchen and I enjoyed spending hours in there with her, making everything from canned veggies to pies. Aprons have come a long way in style and fortunately we cute options like this one above,
Jessie Steele apron, $24.

She also knew how to set a great table and buffet- and would love these hurricanes. Hurricane Glass, $145-350

Grandmother beat breast cancer twice!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention her Faith in God. This was a significant part of her life- she spent much of her effort on various committees within the church and elsewhere helping others.

I tend to not go for decorative crosses, but really appreciate this one shown above. German Silver Cross, $412.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scarfing it Up

Image from The Gap...

Loving the summer scarf thing.  I've realized that, by and large, I do much better with simple, classic clothes with pops of accessories.  Thus, this trend is perfect for me!  And interesting how this trend falls right in line with the "new economy" shop your closet.

I picked up two cute and bright scarves from Target yesterday (just $15 and $20 bucks) and this morning am creating a look based on those.

Here are some other options.

Options from the Gap, $24.50

Banana, $69

Eileen Fisher cotton voile scarf, $108, and silk Shibori scarf, $168

The rest are not quite the same, but are the terribly classic scarves and just beautiful.
Limited Edition Jubilee Scarf
Lilly Pulitzer Jubliee Scarf, $50

Hermes silk scarves: La Rosee, Per Astra Ad Astra, Peuple du Vent, and  Legende Moghul $375. Multiple colors available; I'm of course drawn to the orange.

Thinking I'll have to go with one of the Hermes.