Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mojito Update: A Cautionary Tale

How NOT to Make the Perfect Mojito!

Today I'd like to do an update on one of the first posts I did. My very first was dated June 24, 2009. It's been a very busy (and fun!) slightly-more-than-a-month of blogging! Thank you for all the visits and words of encouragement. There's a good chance most of you didn't see my Mojito post. I think I had 4 followers at the time (and that was thanks to Susan of Between Naps on the Porch, who was kind enough to ask some of her sweet friends to stop by and wish me well!). Please make sure to visit her and check out all the participants in Tablescape Thursday, my favorite day of the week!

It's time for another "Foodie Friday." You can visit Gollum's beautiful blog by clicking here. Check out all this week's participants. There are certain to be some wonderful looking and even-better-tasting dishes to be savored!!!

There are many, many mojito recipes floating around. I tried several of them and the recipe I posted is the one that I (and guests) have found to taste (and look) the best. A while after I posted the instructions, I had my first "fan letter," an e-mail from a delightful lady describing the harrowing experience she had trying her hand at mojito-making. I asked if I could share it with you, and she replied:

"You can use anything I sent...not sure anyone would want to hear it, but feel free.
It was a lot funnier after a couple mojitos...."

She mentions Delta Dawn, a reference to an estate sale I wrote about HERE. Here's the e-mail:


I found your blog today via Rhoda and I really love it. I follow many blogs but you're the first male to have one in my area of interest and I love your way of describing things (i.e. the sexy part of the mint.) Tried leaving you a comment, but I don't have a blog account.
Anyhoo, after reading your blog today, I was craving a mojito (also had Delta Dawn stuck in my head), so I printed out your recipe and after work went to get the ingredients. It's warm here in Virginia and it sounded so good. I drove to the ABC store which is not near my home. I'm a vodka girl so rum is out my knowledge area (I like good liquor) but after considerable looking, I found a bottle that actually had a "muddler" attached to the bottle (never even heard of a muddler before today) and a recipe for mojitos, so I figured that was the rum to get. I headed to the Kroger in the same shopping center, which I mentioned wasn't near my home so I didn't know where anything was at. I headed to the produce area and got limes and a few other things, but could not find any mint. To the best of my recollection, I've never tried to buy mint in my store before but I assumed they would have it. This is a lot bigger store than the small grocery near my house, but alas after 3 trips around the produce area, no mint. What the heck is a mojito without mint and here I had this huge bottle of rum in the car and a brand new muddler to test out. Then I saw it...a rack of potted herbs...and there was two very sad mint plants left. If I wanted a mojito, that was it so threw the plant in my basket. Hunted for a long time to find other items I needed and also got the club soda. (and a $7 bit of smoked gouda jumped in my basket.) A few more stops on the way home and finally, home to fix my mojito. But then I couldn't get the rum open. Finally realized to remove the metal thingy about the top and sliced my finger a bit doing that. Still wouldn't open. Peeled more metal wrapper off. (some cursing during this time) Ahhh I think I've got it...I see it's a cork. Rum has corks??? Give me Stohli here! And then, the top separates from the cork. What to do? Get that smoked gouda's gonna be a while. Can't find pliers so a kitchen knife is handy. Finally, bleeding about the bottle, I manage to get the knife in the cork and get the bottle open. Used my new muddler to do the limes and sugar, and contemplating how safe it might be to try to crush my ice (I don't have an ice maker) and decided against that. Get to the club soda, open it and spews out all over the kitchen....more smoked gouda....that stuff is awesome.....clean up the club soda now mixed with blood....decide a little more rum might be in order by now. Finally my mojito is ready....and you were right, great mojito even without the ice crushed but my sad plant didn't lend itself to a sexy garnishment and by then, I was ready to just drink the rum straight from the bottle and start belting out Delta Dawn LOL. Just had to tell you about my night....Love your blog and added it to my list. Hope you keep posting.

The original post:
After checking out mojito recipes online and viewing numerous youtube videos by bartenders claiming THEIR way is the ONLY way, I know how confusing it can get!

Some say to use lime juice (rather than lime wedges), to use confectioner’s sugar, that simple syrup is best, to crush the mint leaves to smithereens (yuck, they come right up the straw and taste bitter). I've tried most of the options, and I think I've found a nice balance ... one likely to please and impress your guests.

I like to use pilsner/ale glasses like the one in the photograph. I hate beer, but I love the shape of these glasses!

Here’s how I make a mojito:

Bill's Mojito

· Cut half a lime into wedges
· Place lime wedges in the bottom of a double rocks or highball glass (or perhaps a pilsner glass)
· Add two teaspoons of granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
· Crush the above-listed ingredients with a wooden muddler (or use the non-business end of a large wooden spoon as I did until I found a muddler at an estate sale)
· Add fresh mint leaves. Pinch them off near the stem and add as many as ten small ones – fewer if the leaves are large.
· Crushed ice comes next. If you have an ice maker with a “crush” feature, you’re in luck. If not, wrap ice cubes in a dish towel and pound away with a hammer, rolling pin, etc.
· Now pour in light rum … lots of it!
· Stir with a long-handled bar spoon. Naturally, being a good Southern boy, I always have an iced tea spoon nearby. Iced tea is the "house wine of the South" … for goodness sake!
· Stir gently, to bruise and distribute the mint leaves and to bring all that sugary, sherbet-y, limey taste upward.
· Now top off with club soda to give it a little fizz and sparkle.
· Garnish with the sexy end of the mint sprig. Some people just shove mint into the top of the glass, but I like to anchor it with a lime wedge on the rim. It’s pretty, and it puts the wonderful aromas right under the nose as you enjoy sipping this cooling beverage!
· Add two straws – not that you’re going to share it … it just allows you to cool off faster … and enjoy life more!!!

Now you have my recipe, try it and let me know what you think, OK?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Estate Sale!

It's time for another "Thrifty Treasures" party hosted by Rhoda of Southern Hospitality. Go over and check out all the participants. Please be sure to make note of Rhoda's new address and become a subscriber.

I love a good estate sale! Recently I went to one of the more interesting ones I’ve encountered.

The personal property of a retired local judge was being sold. He was a widower, and had died at the age of 91. You might have heard of his nephew, Al Gore (yep, that Al Gore!). I’ve read that the former Vice-President visited the home frequently and that the judge had been a trusted advisor and confidant.

The house itself was unusual. Perched on a knoll at the end of a street of modest brick homes, its first incarnation had been as the clubhouse for the local golf and country club. It was built in the 1920’s and, when the club was moved to a larger property, the former course was subdivided and the clubhouse became a private residence.

The house probably hadn't had a renovation since the 70's. It was an interesting combination of frayed elegance, dated "improvements," and neglect due to age and infirmity.

Some of the pieces were definitely over-the-top!

The huge fireplace was evidence of the unusual origin of the residence. Note the mink stole on the piano. Remember stoles???

Mirrors like this one were sometimes used in furniture so ladies could check to make sure their petticoats weren't showing!

I've seen tables like this one, but never one with a lamp attached.

Don't you love the old fainting couch? I've also heard them referred to as "hussy couches!"

One of the more interesting bird cages I've seen.

It had been raining, so the workers had moved tables from the lawn up onto the wide wraparound porches. I really liked those porches!

A great old Victorian dresser ... one of the few pieces still unsold as the end of the sale approached.

This lamp had just had its second reduction. Hope it found a good home.

I should have bought this little rocking chair. It was reduced to $5. One of the arms was slightly loose, but a few drops of wood glue would have solved the problem.

I thought I had to have these Fostoria "Laurel" pieces. I already had quite a bit of "Laurel," and it's one of my favorite patterns. I bought these on the first day of the sale (I also went back the next day to check out price reductions). Normally prices are firm on the first day, but I offered less than the asking price. We agreed on a price just slightly more than I offered. I was elated ... it worked out to just over $1 per piece.

I used "Laurel" water glasses and a tall champagne for serving sliced lemons HERE. Remember my little "Romance" post? So many nice comments, and Fifi Flowers did a lovely painting based on one of the photos!

This Theodore Haviland "Apple Blossom" china was gorgeous! Check out the handled cream soup bowls! Estate sales are often the best place to get great prices on dishes in perfect or near-perfect condition!

The asking price on this stemware was only $1/piece. I don't know the pattern, but I thought they were attractive.

These 3 Heisey water glasses were priced at $2.50. It was the second day of the sale, so they were reduced to half price. I offered $1 (accepted). Not a bad deal for three elegant vintage stems!

The glasses sparkled after a bit of soap and water!

I used them in my "Breakfast Bar" post. If you missed it, you can see it HERE.

I hope you enjoyed tagging along and seeing another estate sale with me! If so, let me know and we'll do it again soon.
Bye for now,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mrs. Rivard's Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas
And Mrs. Rivard was nestled, snug in her lonely bed.

“It’s not really Christmas though, “
the sitter on duty thought.
“Christmas in July … who ever heard of such a thing?
But if it makes Mrs. R happy …
and besides ... she’ll probably be gone by December.”

Too bad the nephew and his wife were off on a cruise
to celebrate their 40th … they were always with Mrs. Rivard
on holidays and all the special occasions she loved to celebrate.
But it was unusually sultry this July, even for Natchez.
So she’d encouraged them to go away
“Funded the trip as well” … one sitter had whispered to another
as they changed shifts.
There wasn’t much the sitters didn’t know
at this point.

She had become frail, but still insisted on having the table set
for the meals she seemed less and less interested in eating.
“Just set the little table for one. Make it look Chrismasy,”
Mrs. R. had instructed before she went to bed.

Eloise did her best, using what she could find in the little storage closet.
The one beside the cozy nook off Mrs. R’s bedroom,
where the little table was located … just a few feet from the bed.
“I’ll use one of those old Haviland plates she always liked
and her favorite silverware – that fancy set.”

When Eloise was younger … when they were both much younger …
she would often help serve at the big dinner parties.
Mrs. R would say “Remember, Eloise, fancy silver with plain dishes;
simple patterns with the flowery plates.”

The candles would be lit.
She likes having candles, regardless of the time of day.
She’ll want a lot of them burning today,
since it’s “Christmas.”

Eloise put the tattered mink on the back of the chair.
Just in case the old girl gets chilly from the air conditioning
that never seems to stop running this summer.
She remembered how Mrs. R’s eyes had sparkled
when she showed Eloise the new fur jacket ...
Christmas, 1967 … could it really be that long ago?

She still enjoys having it around her thin shoulders.
Perhaps it makes her feel as if her husband is wrapping
his strong arms around her, protecting her from the world…
from feeling lonely … from thinking about what lies ahead …

China: Theodore Haviland "Shelton"
Flatware: Gorham "La Scala"
Cross: Gorham
Sherbet: Fostoria "Silver Flutes"
Stemware: Fostoria "Wavecrest"
Fur: Borrowed
Crystal Candleholder: Fostoria "Baroque"
Silverplated Candleholder: Junk Store, $2
Crystal elephant: Junk Store, $.50
Wreath: Hobby Lobby (after Christmas clearance)
Tablecloth: Repurposed Drapes, $2
Please join Susan at Between Naps on the Porch to check out her wonderful beachy tablescape and visit all the participants in Tablescape Thursday!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breakfast Bar?

Well, it's time for another Tablescape Thursday with our hostess, Susan at Between Naps on the Porch! Please visit her beautiful blog to see her wonderful tablescapes! Make sure to visit all the other participants. I also thought I'd try linking to "Thrifty Thursday" over at Tales from Bloggeritaville hosted by Leigh. Go on over and check out her showcase for thrifty finds!

Hi, Everyone!
Fifi of Fifi Flowers Design Decor paid me a fantastic compliment today! She based one of her wonderful paintings on a tablescape I posted a couple of weeks ago. Please check it out here and let Fifi know you've seen it! Thank you, Fifi, and thanks to all of you who have been so kind and supportive.

OK, back to today's post:
It had rained here all night, so it was too wet to set a table for you outside. I've already "done" the dining room and breakfast nook ... so I decided to set a table that's not a table.

Here's the result, a breakfast bar ... well, a setting for breakfast ON the bar:

It was light outside ... around 7am, but a few candles always enhance the mood.

These are some of my favorite dishes, "Medici" by Myott/Staffordshire. They're very similar to a pattern by another English company, "Florentine" by Wedgwood. Wedgewood introduced "Florentine" in 1931, and it's still an active pattern. The primary difference is that the raised enameling in the center of "Florentine" depicts flowers, rather than fruit ... and it retails for $400 for a 5-piece place setting! I found 40 pieces of "Medici" at a local antique mall for $100 (after a bit of negotiating). A fire destroyed Myott's records and pattern books, so not much is known about dates, etc. of many of their patterns.

These dishes are definitely old, and there's some "crazing" (the slight crackle you can see in the glaze if you look closely), but I don't mind that they've been used and obviously loved. For me, it adds to the interest and reminds us that the pieces have a history.

The silverplated flatware is by Rogers. The pattern is: Starlight / Hostess / Claridge. I have no idea why it's listed under so many names, but I like the simplicity and the art deco influence.

You'll notice that the handles are longer-than-average on the forks and knives. That was popular during the 1930's and 40's. It's called the "viande" or "grille" style. It reflects deco styling; the idea was that it would be an ergonomic design well-suited to cutting and eating steak, etc. (viande is French for meat). It seems that grilling became popular during that era. I think it was primarily seen as being something new and stylish ... a marketing concept. I happen to like the proportions ... that's probably why long-handled iced tea spoons and seafood forks appeal to me visually.

The "placemat for two" is a hand-crocheted runner from an estate sale. It cost $1.

You can see some of the glassware I've been collecting in the background.

I had planned to use these vases for roses, but the rose garden took a beating during all the heavy rain. I looked around, and the marigolds were standing proudly. Somehow though, it seemed that single marigolds looked lonely in the containers. The daisies had also survived the rain intact, so I snipped a few of those. Actually, some of the ones pictured here were used in last week's tablescapes ... they're definitely durable flowers!

The "vases" are vintage frosted hunting horn-shaped pilsner glasses by Tiara. They were a Goodwill find at $.99 each. A well-known replacement service lists them for $13.99 each.

I decided to use tall sherbet/champagne glasses for juice. This is a Rock Sharpe pattern. I really like the sparkly stems. The water glass is from the mid 1950's. It's "Tempo" by Heisey. They're very nice quality (comparable to Fostoria). I found them at an estate sale (covered with dust on an outside table) priced at 3 for $2.50. It was the second day of the sale, so I offered $1 for the set ... offer accepted! I have a fairly large set of the same stem with an etched pattern -- that's how I knew they were Heisey when I spotted them at the sale.

A close up of the etch/cutting on the Rock Sharpe stems. They're probably from the late 1930's. I paid $12 for ten at a local antique mall (after chatting with the dealer who was in her booth that day). They had been priced at $22, which was already a great price. Since I know she likes to negotiate, I figured it wouldn't hurt to offer less. Prices often depends on how much the dealers have invested in the pieces, whether the rent is due, if they're overstocked, etc. It definitely pays to be polite, and it's never a good idea to offer an insultingly low amount.
I think the simple lines of the sugar bowl and creamer have a deco influence. The're a 1970's pattern by Fostoria called "Transition." One of the pieces still had the original Fostoria label ... I removed it today just for you! I bought the set at a salvage store in Illinois for $4.

A closer view ...

And there you have it ... breakfast on the bar! Well ... minus the food ... what would you like me to serve?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Abandoned Find New Home!

Hi Everyone,
It's time for another "Today's Thrifty Treasures" party graciously hosted by the fabulous Rhoda of Southern Hospitality! Please be sure to check out her latest post and visit all the participants in this always-fun event!

The thrifty finds I’m showing you today didn’t come from a traditional thrift store (at least not one where the items for sale have been donated in support of charities or other worthy causes). The merchandise in from a "junk store." The owner of the shop sells items from self-storage units that have been auctioned to the highest bidder due to non-payment/abandonment of property.

Did you know that one of every ten US households rents a storage unit? In good financial times, people are buying, replacing, moving up; in an economic downturn, people are downsizing, losing their homes, moving in with relatives. Either way, business at storage companies is good. Potential buyers at the auctions have to look in from outside the units before bidding and can’t open bags and boxes … because it’s still someone else’s property at that point. It would be trespassing until the goods are auctioned.

The shop owner says she generally finds things of value in the units she buys. Other times, she pays to have it all hauled straight to the dump. She almost always ends up with nice furniture that sells for enough to make it worth her time. I enjoy digging through the “smalls,” and have found quite a few nice things for what I think are reasonable prices.

Here’s what I found there last weekend:

This little ladderback chair cost $5. The woven seat is in good condition and, since it looks old (and there's no place for it in the house) it went to the booth my partner and I have at a local antique mall. The cushions went too (priced separately).

This antique, hand-made oriental rug is worn and a bit tattered ... but I like the colors. I actually like the fact that it looks as if it's had a rather challenging life. It also cost $5.

One pair of long green drapes and two fringes scarves (ecru?), each about 18 feet long. $1 for both. They're in spotless, perfect condition. You'll likely see them draped across a table in an upcoming tablescape.

Plastic hangers ... and who doesn't need more hangers? $1, including tote.

I've wanted one of these trays/desks for a long time. They're usually rather pricey. This was my biggest single expenditure at $7. You'll probably say I should paint it, but I like the color it is; I think I'll try touching up the scratches first.

This silverplated candleabrum was only $2. Very shiny ... didn't even need polishing (not that I mind polishing silver!).

Two books that could contain useful information. Fifty cents each.

A simple glass carafe and two plastic stemmed glasses (great for sipping something cool while in the hot tub!).

A Corningware tray and a blue Pyrex pie plate. $1, total for both. I collect the original blue cornflower pattern. It's discontinued and, I think, very classic looking. I'm gradually eliminating the other later patterns.

This came from Goodwill. It wasn't priced, so I asked the manager (who sees me in there a lot). He went in the back and came out with a $3.99 sticker. I didn't hesitate for that price. It's very sturdy. The pickled pine finish is slightly distressed on top. I think I'll paint it espresso brown. I don't mind the hardware ... I'll see how it looks with the new color.

Here's where the $5 rug ended up, in the sitting area of an upstairs bedroom. I think it defines the space and "cozies it up."

I used the decanter in my first Pink Saturday post.

This is a lemon pie I baked yesterday ... Paula Deen's recipe ... in the blue Pyrex dish. I thought the lemony yellow would be pretty with the blue. Thank you to a fellow blogger for providing the recipe!

That's it for now. Let me know what you think!!