A Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

I know I have mentioned here that I am always looking for breakfast dishes that can be made in advance.  When I have houseguests, it always seems as if the morning slips by while we are talking and drinking coffee and I haven’t taken the time to feed anyone, because I’m having so much fun.  Also, truth be known, I’m not one to wake up all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  So, having a casserole and some muffins all ready to go is the best option for me.  My guests get fed and I can still visit with them and not miss any conversation.

Last week some friends were in town and I had an opportunity to try this casserole.  It’s a grits and smoked sausage recipe and I knew I would substitute cooked pork breakfast sausage for the smoked sausage.  I used a 16 oz. roll of pork breakfast sausage which I cooked and crumbled before adding in place of the smoked sausage.  It makes a large casserole, fills a 13×9 pan, easily feeding 8 to 10 people.  My guests loved it.  My husband loved the leftovers.  And, it can stay in the refrigerator up to 4 days before you cook it.  It hits all my must-haves.

Smoky Sausage-and-Grits Casserole

Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

I also made Classic Bran Muffins, which can be made ahead and frozen.  Add peach slices and some juice and your guests will think they are at a fancy B&B.  Ha!

I also plan to take this casserole to the beach when we go on our family vacation in a few weeks.

What’s your plan for breakfast when you have guests?  Please share in the comments!

We Painted the Brick!

Painting the brick exterior of our home has been on my wish list since we bought our house.  Unfortunately, it was not on any list of  Mr. DB’s and since there were other priorities I didn’t push it.  Every now and then when we drove past a pretty painted brick house I would point it out to him.  His response usually mentioned “maintenance issues”.   There’s always maintenance I’d say, as if we just had to accept it as the cost of being homeowners.   Adding to my painted brick houses board on Pinterest only fueled my belief that our house would look so good if it were painted.

Here we have a picture from those early days.  The landscaping consisted solely of English ivy from one end to the other, giving the property a somewhat sinister, deserted look.  While we were getting used to having a mortgage, we had little money for major improvements.  But we could pull out the ivy ourselves, and we did.   Little by little we added new plantings – it’s still a work in progress.

You know that expression lipstick on a pig?  I guess I thought  I could disguise ugly brick with landscaping and black shutters.  Didn’t work.

In another attempt at improving the curb appeal we had a tree cut down in the front yard.  We hate to cut down trees.  But I knew it would make a difference in the landscaping.  I wrote about that here.

Now we have more lush plantings that give us the perfect setting to display the American flag.

These half-measures did not make me stop wanting to paint the house. In fact, I became more and more convinced that we really needed to do it and now. I had painters at the house on another job and while they were here I got an estimate for painting the house. Hmm, less than I thought.  The maintenance will not be a big issue.  I was able to reassure Tom and he started really noticing some other painted brick homes in our neighborhood.  Gradually, he came around.

The brick color is Gateway Gray and the trim is Snowbound, both by Sherwin Williams from their HGTV home collection.  Interestingly, getting Tom to agree to paint the house was the hard part.  We quickly came to agreement when we found this color.  I bought many samples and we painted them on the side of the house.  Once we saw Gateway Gray we both knew it was the one, not too dark, not too light, just right.

The painters fixed the facing around the front door and removed an old intercom from beside the door.

Full disclosure, Tom isn’t the only one who hesitates on unnecessary home improvements.  I have to talk myself into spending money on projects that are purely cosmetic.   Shouldn’t we put that money in our retirement fund, or, if I’m going to be frivolous,  maybe toward a trip to Paris?

There are no regrets here.  We love the way it turned out.  It was just the fix the house needed.

How do you feel about painting brick?

My Notables: Noteworthy Articles and Products

There are always a few articles or products that I find so interesting and helpful, I just have to share them.

I have finally found a sunscreen that doesn’t make my face feel greasy or look shiny.

In case you are out of ideas on how to keep your kids occupied, this post from Emily Henderson may come just in time.

I can’t wait to  use artichokes in my next floral arrangement based on  this tutorial.

Friends recently served roasted tomatoes on crostini and it was delicious.  Top with mozzarella and basil and your guests may fill up on the appetizer.

Could you cut your weekly waste down to a tiny jar?

I would love to know what you think.  Let me know in the comments.

Favorite Vases

I really love playing around with arranging flowers these days.  Around here there are several places you can buy about  a dozen stems quite inexpensively which means you can buy a couple of bunches.  I cringe to remember the days I bought a ready made bouquet and jammed it into a pitcher (my attempt at artfulness).  But I have evolved.  Now I have quite a few vases and other vessels for my arrangements and I would never, ever buy a mixed bouquet from the grocery store.

Every now and them I am so pleased with my creation I must snap a picture and save it.  Will I ever make it again?  It’s unlikely, but, let’s face it, a picture is the only way a floral arrangement can survive.  I thought I would share a few of my favorites.  Hopefully, you will look at them and think, why, anybody could do that.  Yes, exactly.

I’m always going on and on about alstroemeria and that’s because it is the perfect flower for anytime of year.  They come in every color, they last for over a week, they are beautiful and at our Safeway a big bouquet is $5!  What more could you ask for?

I save the vases from floral arrangements I have received, like this clear square vase above.  The height is just right for seeing over on a dining table and it holds a good sized arrangement.  This arrangement is composed of several bunches from Trader Joe’s, which has the least expensive flowers around.  But I have noticed they do not last as long as the Safeway flowers.  Still, if I’m buying them for a specific event they don’t have to last a long time.

 

Those little daisy like flowers are chamomile.  I was going for a summery, just picked on the side of the road feeling here and the little chamomile flowers gave it just that touch.  I found five glass containers at a thrift store and made five arrangements for my table.  Did you notice the white alstroemera?  All of these flowers were from Trader Joe’s.  TJ’s does have a wider assortment than the grocery store.

Simple is always in style of course.  Peonies in a white footed vase will always delight.

When I found this green vase I tried to talk myself out of buying it.  As you can see I lost the discussion and I’m glad.  The shape and the color of the vase were created just to display two pink hydrangeas.

Okay, I know this one didn’t require a lot of creativity.  It’s a classic to put hydrangeas in a blue and white bowl.

This little turquoise pitcher is another thrift store find that called my name.  Again, I have never been sorry that I succumbed to its call for I have used it again and again.

Well, I could go on and on but that is enough for now.  As you can see, the possibilities are endless and well worth the effort.  Flowers, whether from your garden or the grocery store,  add that blend of beauty and warmth we all strive for in our homes.

Have a great weekend!

Summer Celebrating

I love summer for so many reasons, but especially for the salads and fruit desserts that I make at this time of year. Even though we can get the ingredients for these recipes all year I still tend to make them primarily when the weather is warm and the living is easy.  I thought I would put some of my favorite recipe links in one place in case you were looking for some simple but flavorful dishes.

Blueberry Tart

Potato Salad

Tortellini Salad

Deviled Eggs

And lastly, I could not come up with anything cuter than Emily Henderson‘s idea for a great Fourth of July party with kids (although she doesn’t mention food, just decor and games).  It is such a fun and adorable post though, I think everyone should see it and wish they were invited over to her place.

I agree with her idea (which is sort of what I have done) of gathering up your blue and white “stuff” and just adding red through food or other items – flowers – or clothing.  Then you have a red, white and blue party without investing in a bunch of kitschy party items you have to store.

I will bet you have a lot more blue and white around your house than you thought.  Put out some strawberries and watermelon on your table and you are good to go.

Happy Fourth of July!

Displaying the Flag

Displaying the Flag

For years I have struggled with how to display the American flag on our home or in the garden.  Our house does not lend itself naturally to flag placement.  We live in a typical ranch style house with no distinguishing architectural characteristics, such as porch columns or railings.

I love this display of the flag on the charming Victorian home.   And they have displayed the flag properly to the left of the door, according to this article.

Mr. DB leaned toward the flag pole idea, but I didn’t think it seemed right for our yard.  In the picture below they planted the flowers around it but it is a little stark for my taste.

Finally, after hours online and batting around some ideas, we hit on a solution that met all of our criteria.

I wanted the flag and it’s support stanchion to be part of the landscape.  Mr. DB wanted it to be central and to stand out. We found the perfect spot as the centerpiece of the landscape on the left  side of the house.  It looks intentional and purposeful there.

We purchased a 4×4 post from Home Depot and set it in concrete (using quickrete and their online directions).   It was a pretty simple project, after all the deliberation.

We are still looking for the right light so that the flag can be up at night.  Those lights in the picture provide a weak beam and aren’t really adequate.  Please let me know if you have suggestions!

I love to display the flag all of the time but particularly on the patriotic holidays, those times when we remember and reflect on  all the values that made us the nation we are.

Nowadays it seems as if we all have opinions on who is the most patriotic.   However, I would like to take this opportunity to dispel any notion that military families are more patriotic than others.  As a family member of a retired Marine, I can say that we chose that life, we loved it and felt honored by it, but we are no more patriotic than others who love and revere our great country.  And we all have our experience with the country; each is individual and unique.  That must be respected and acknowledged as well.

Do you have a traditional Fourth of July celebration or does it vary every year?  Ours certainly varies.

No firm plans yet, but I know we will take a few minutes to reflect on how very lucky we are to be Americans.

 

 

Visiting your Newborn Grandchild in the Hospital

Our second granddaughter arrived sooner than expected a couple of weeks ago! Our son and his wife had their child about a month early, and thankfully everyone is doing well.

Going to the hospital on short notice made me wish I had prepared a list of stuff to bring with me.  Even though this is my second grandchild (our daughter welcomed a daughter last year), I was still racking my brain for something helpful and useful to take.  That was my first mistake.

A gift doesn’t have to be useful!  Take balloons!  Balloons add such a festive touch to a sterile hospital room.

Food is usually welcome and appreciated.    Mom and Dad are probably off cycle with the delivery. Once everything settles down a bit, they may notice that they are starving.  Specialty sandwiches are a good option since they don’t have to be served hot.  Fruit and cookies are nice additions as well.  Everyone needs to keep their strength up.

Present for Mom. Perhaps the new Mom would appreciate a nice robe or wrap to put over her hospital gown, especially since everyone is snapping pictures right and left, not to mention plenty of friends and family dropping by.  Or maybe some scented hand sanitizer to dispel that hospital sterility and encourage clean hands.  Any suggestions on this one from some new moms out there?

Champagne?  Maybe.  You know the couple and what they would like.  Juices are also good for nursing moms.

Beanie or mittens for baby.  Etsy has so many options, personalized or not.

Also, just ask the couple what they need/want you to bring.  Most people are not in the hospital that long so there really isn’t a need to take too much stuff.

Of course the main thing is welcoming that new little member of the family!

After your visit you can start planning a meal or two to take over when everyone gets home.

Memorial Day and Shrimp Etouffee

 

We had a somewhat soggy Memorial Day but that did not dim our fun any.

Luckily I had planned a meal that did not require the grill. Growing up in southern Mississippi, on the Louisiana border,  my tastes tend toward the spicy and flavorful blend of seasonings that defines the region.   It has been awhile since I have done some Cajun cooking and I had a yen for etouffee.

Etouffee is a kind of gravy combining spices with celery, bell peppers and onions.  This gravy adds so much flavor to the shrimp.  It is really good served over rice with some scallions on top.  I used this recipe and it was outstanding.   Serve it with a tossed salad, maybe a little fruit salad as well and to me, it is the taste of home.

 

Chef John (creator of the recipe) says he used frozen shrimp and it was very tasty.  I used previously frozen shrimp from Whole Foods.  They were really delicious, and also came peeled and de-veined which was a bonus.

Back when my mother used to make etouffee we used crawfish, which were plentiful in that area.  Crawfish are the poor relation of shrimp; they are a little chewier, but they do hold onto the sauce more tenaciously.  Shrimp works just as well.

No one seemed to miss the burgers.

Naturally, the red, white and blue decor had to come out.   Have you noticed how useful red napkins are?  I plan to go out this week and buy some more.  Between the patriotic holidays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day they are on a steady rotation.  The blue tablecloth is from Ikea and it is so easy to care for.  It comes out of the dryer wrinkle free.

I bought those funny little patriotic characters over 15 years ago at an antique mall.  They add their own kind of spice to the table.

And now summer is officially underway!  Unfortunately we have another week of rain to look forward to.

Rosewater Anyone?

Rosewater Anyone?

It’s been a long time coming but finally I have the rose bush of my dreams.

I was pretty sure I couldn’t grow roses in my shady back yard.  Roses require a lot of sun, usually about 8 hours.  My yard is bordered by large trees, which I love even though they don’t allow much sun to penetrate their foliage.  There is only one little awkward corner in the back yard where the house and the driveway come together where the sun’s rays are not obscured by structures or by shadows.  There I have had some luck with a few sun loving flowers, such as canna lillies and morning glories.

Finally, I could no longer ignore my desire to have a rosebush and though it wasn’t ideal, that awkward corner was the only spot in my yard where roses had a chance to flourish.  So I would plant my rose there.

I bought the Cecile Brunner rose which does tolerate light shade.   The first two years seemed to bear out my misgivings about growing roses in our yard.  There were only a handful of blooms.  But the stems were lush with leaves.  And then this year, there was a sudden profusion of blooms!  I’m not kidding when I say I did a double take when I looked out the window a few weeks ago.  I beheld a glorious rosebush that seemed to have bloomed overnight.

And the smell!  The bush fills the air with its fragrance. Sometimes I just stand there and inhale.   I’ve been cutting stems daily for bouquets for the house.   Even as cut flowers the scent perfumes the air inside.   It’s hard to describe the pleasure they bring.

After the arrangement wilted, the fragrance lingered in the petals.  I didn’t want to waste those sweet smelling petals and decided to see about making my own rosewater, which I have been hearing so much about.   I looked up “rosewater recipe” and found this one.  It could not be more simple.

After steeping the petals for 10 minutes, I ended up with this golden liquid.  You can’t really tell from the picture but there is a thickness to the water.

I used it on the back of my hands and now they feel supple and soft.  And they give off a subtle rose scent.

Apparently rosewater has been around for a long time, thousands of years, and has many uses.  This article from Elle was quite interesting.  Although, I must admit I can’t see myself using it as mouthwash.

I do not have a spritz bottle, but I do plan to get one so that I can spritz rosewater around on linens and pillows.  I love natural scents.

Of course the best scent of all is to have a big bouquet of beautiful roses in every room.  You could just put bowls of petals around too.

I deferred my dream of growing roses, thinking I was being practical and realistic.  But there was so little at stake to just give it a try.  I’m not sure why it took so long to realize that.

I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.

Emma Goldman

 

My Hammam Bath Experience

My doctor, dermatologist, actually, suggested the hammam bath for me due to my dry, scaly, bumpy skin.  I knew my skin, especially on my back, needed attention.  In fact, one reason I was in her office was to check for cancerous spots, but also to diagnose the itchy rash that suddenly appeared all over my back and legs.

For the rash I was prescribed a visit to the spa.  Well, kind of.  In many cultures body scrubs are part of a monthly ritual for deep cleansing.   The hammam treatment is a Moroccan bath which  involves a period of steaming followed by vigorous scrubbing.

I’ve been to many spas over the years, but I have never experienced the hammam.  I googled it to see what to expect.  Experiences vary so I thought I would share mine.

Fortunately a spa providing hammam baths is located within a 15 minute drive of my home. Soon after arriving I was ushered into a comfortable room with a daybed and two chairs.  Maria, who performed my service told me to remove all of my clothes, including underwear and to wrap in the large Turkish towel provided.

Next I followed her into a sizable tiled room that was filled with steam.  A shower was running in the corner and I showered there, basically letting the warm water wash over me.  From there I was helped over to a large tiled slab where I lay down on a mat.  The room is so steamy you can barely see and I felt like my breathing had to adjust a little.  But it also feels good.

Then Maria used black soap to wash my entire body, front and back.  This took about 5 minutes.  You are left to steam for about 15 minutes.  When she came back, she began a vigorous scrub with a brush on my legs, working her way up to my shoulders and arms and then doing the same on my back side.   This scrubbing felt good for the most part.  Only my abdomen felt a little sensitive.  After scrubbing a section Maria would pour really warm water over me and that felt wonderful.  After the scrubbing and the water she applied a thick gel-like substance, like a masque all over my body.  I steamed some more, probably 5 minutes.  She came back and poured more water over me, removing the masque with her hands.

Then she had me sit up and she washed my hair and applied conditioner.  I went back to the shower for a final rinse.  In the dressing room I toweled off and Maria came in and applied Argan oil which my skin just drank up.  The entire process lasted a little over an hour.

My skin feels so smooth now.  I think I will go on a regular basis because I do have exceedingly dry and bumpy skin.  Also my doctored “ordered” it.

Afterwards you  feel a little raw, so if you are going to go anywhere you might want to bring a hairdryer and a little make-up.  Although there was a hairdryer and brush in the room, which I used, I would probably bring mine next time unless I planned to go directly home.

All in all it was a good experience and I see why some make it a regular part of their skin care routine.

What is your favorite spa procedure:  massage, facial, scrub, steam?