Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Live-Blogging American Idol

8:01pm Live-blogging. Finally. Although I think Idol started a minute early and I was running late. Plus I have no fucking lights. I don't know why - the lights in the living room keep shorting out. And so I am in the dark. Crap - Ryan just asked Kara to define her favorite word: Artistry. Ugh.

8:03pm I forgot to mention that Paula appears to be in another Desperately Seeking Susan cast-off. Song choice this week is free reign...as long as it's a popular download on iTunes. Free reign??? Have you heard the songs these people have picked recently? They need Simon to pick all of their songs. Seriously.

8:06pm I don't know Usher. In fact - I doubt I know anyone the contestants pick tonight. But I will go on record as saying I LOVE Anoop. This is not a strong vocal but you have to give the kid props for stage presence, for standing out and for how he makes love to the camera. I can almost...almost...tolerate UNC being in the Final 4 because of Anoop.

8:09pm Paula is clearly high. Why is she talking about Anoop's stage presence? And Simon pans the performance...knew it.

8:10pm I am wondering if the Anoop-Kara tension is a Duke-UNC thing? And Megan doing Bob Marley? Shoot me now...

8:15pm Ryan's first plug for iTunes.

8:18pm I don't get Megan Joy. Apparently no one else does either.

8:19pm Paula is rambling on about stools...and Randy just compared Megan's performance to watching paint dry. Harsh DAWG. Harsh.

8:26pm I ABHOR Rascal Flatts. Why is Danny going to torture me???

8:28pm I am realizing I'd probably enjoy Rascal Flatts if they had a different singer. I am sort of liking this song (What Hurts The Most). It's enjoyable when it's not pushed out through the adenoids. The lyrics are kind of nice. As is the melody. I also, for the record, kind of like the new Rascal Flatts song on the radio. But I can't stand the vocals.

8:34pm I am an unabashed Alison fan. I don't get the wig...or the dress (I think she and Paula have been rummaging through the same bin). But I love her voice. Randy agrees with me.

8:37pm Simon always looks uncomfortable when Paula speaks. And he always rolls his eyes.

8:43pm Scott is going to sing Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel. This is so predictable. Everyone will lap it up...though I bet Kara comments on artistry.

8:45pm Scott is shouting - not singing. And he's wearing a T-birds outfit from Grease 2. Seriously.

8:47pm Apparently I am alone in my views. The judges...all of them...even Simon...LOVE it. Kara even likes "the new look."

8:55pm I am not a Matt G fan. Not this version. Not the other version.

9:01pm I am getting bored by these later contestants. I don't think Celine is ever a good choice...but I agree with Randy and Kara (so far) - Lil can sing.

9:04pm Way for Ryan to exploit Lil's kids. She's definitely coming back after this!

9:09pm Another plug for iTunes.

9:11pm I know everybody loves Adam. I am not quite sure I get him. But he is Idol material - whether you like his style or not. Paula's just compared him to Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler. Simon keeps it real...basically bizarre but a stand-out. And props to Adam for giving props to Ricky and the band. You know who's voting for him tonight.

9:13pm Why did Kara say Studio 57? Is she that dumb or was she trying to make a joke?

9:17pm There are a lot of commercials. This is why I prefer to watch on TiVo.

9:19pm For the record, even though I can NEVER remember who Kris is (even tonight, I knew there was one more contestant but couldn't remember who) - he is AWESOME. Adam who?? THIS is what it's all about. I heart Kris. I might even vote...dude he NAILED it!!!! But what's up with that Juan Valdez mustache in training???

9:21pm Kara can't contain herself..."that is artistry!"

9:24pm After watching the recaps, I think the bottom 3 will be Megan Joy, Anoop and Matt. If Megan Joy doesn't go home it's only because guys think she is hot (Haley Scarnato redux). And if Anoop is sent packing instead, I will pull for the Tarheels. Really I will.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Monday, March 30, 2009

ITAC Gives Away AWESOME FREE S#!T

What happens when you shamelessly promote a loved one? You get FREE things to give away to your faithful readers. What can be better than that (for y’all at least)?

So after Friday’s post, dad called me up and asked me if I would participate in the official Flipping Out Blog Tour. I won’t get into specifics of what a “blog tour” entails (for all I know dad has details posted on his site and/or will have them posted shortly) – but know this: On April 21st If That Ain’t Country will be THE stop on the Flipping Out Blog Tour.

What does this mean for you dear reader? Well – let me re-phrase: You can become eligible to win FREE S#!T and what sort of free S#!T can you win?

Any time between now and April 20th, demonstrate how much you know about me…AND Dad (details to be released shortly) and you could win one of several prizes including:

1) An autographed copy of Flipping Out

2) 1 dozen of my homemade Quattro Chip Cookies (I’d simply send you the recipe but I guard it more closely than the Colonel guards his)

3) A well-thought out “gift basket” that reflects our current economy.I'm calling it the Dollar Store Special.

Details on the contest (An ITAC first) forthcoming.

And if that Ain’t Country, I’ll Kiss Your…

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flipping Out

Every once and I while, I take a break from letting you all know what's going on with me, and I indulge in what I fondly refer to as "shameless promotion of a loved one."

Today is one of those days.

My father kills people for a living. Some of you might know that already. Some of you might not. And his latest round of murder and mystery (served with a healthy dose of humor and wit) will be released on March 31st. I highly encourage you to buy a copy.

However, I get it. This is a tough economy. Maybe you are concerned about spending $16.47 plus taxes and shipping on a book by an author you know nothing about. Will you like it? Will it be a wise use of potentially limited resources? Dad gets it too and so he posted the first five chapters on his website. Read them and then go pull out your American Express.

And don't just stop with those 5 chapters. I encourage you to go back and read through some of the other blog posts. They are funny. Entertaining. Clever. Poignant. They are unquestionably well-written and I feel certain that once you read one or two of them, you will absolutely be inclined to buy/read Flipping Out. And for that matter, Rabbit Factory and Bloodthirsty as well.

For the record, I am not the only one out there plugging my dad. There are people with alot more clout, a lot more influence, and a lot more readers promoting Marshall Karp and Flipping Out.

One of them is James Patterson. Maybe you've heard of him. Or read one of his books. Or seen a movie based on one of his books.

Dad and Jim (that's what those who know him call him - Jim) go way back. Not 1962 way back. But back far enough. Back before Jim was a legend. And I highly encourage you to read "The Jim I Knew" to learn how it came to be that a man like James Patterson is out there cheering for my dad.

To say I am proud is an understatement. I am just over the moon. Over the moon.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Idol Musings: A Not Quite Live Blog

Ok...so I couldn't quite live-blog Idol. But I did take notes...mostly live...and now I am sharing those notes after the fact. So here are my (and Marty's) thoughts on tonight's Idol.

8:01pm Surprise. Kara looks normal. Well - if Jane Fonda in Klute or a brunette Belle du Jour is "normal." Still - I am digging the false lashes and the bed head. As for Paula...she was apparently styled by a 6 year old who ran out of Barbies to torture and only had Madonna's cast-offs from Desperately Seeking Susan to choose from. At least Simon is smiling. And I am digging Preppy Randy. Anyone who says Dawg while wearing a striped cardigan gets my vote.

Ryan talks about Alexis Grace's "shocking" exit last week. Was it really shocking?

8:05pm The contestants arrive in Hitsville and Ryan comments that they are greeted by "screaming fans." Yeah - like 10. Way to exaggerate Ry. Seriously.

The first performance of the night belongs to Matt Giraud. I am not digging the falsetto. Or his wardrobe choice. One can not sing Let's Get It On while wearing a cardigan. Even Randy Jackson couldn't pull that off. The camera cuts to Paula - why is she praying? Oh wait - she merely has her hands clasped in admiration. I don't get Matt. I really don't. Marty says that he doesn't think it's an Idol-winning performance. I agree. So why does Paula comment on Matt's "sexy-cool vibe?" And even Simon, who I usually agree with, thinks that Matt is a front runner. For what?

8:19pm Ryan makes his first plug for tonight's performances being available on iTunes.

Marty says he can't picture Kara as a Duke girl and I am inclined to agree.

The next performance is Kris and we are in for back-to-back Marvin Gaye songs performed by white boys. Very white boys. Marty reminds me that How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You is actually well known as a James Taylor song - which makes sense. Another bad wardrobe choice - Kris's shirt reminds me of the Holocaust. What is with those numbers "tattooed" on the shoulders? Paula is up and dancing during the performance. It's not that good - though I do prefer him to Matt.

8:24pm Simon tells Kris that in order to be a star, "...you need to be conceited. Like me." Bravo Simon. Bravo.

8:25pm Mild Ry/Si banter. It's uncomfortable to say the least - but fortunately Ryan stays away from the sexual innuendo.

As Ryan tells America to vote for Kris, Marty points out that Kris is shorter than Ryan and wonders if the height disadvantage will hurt him when America votes.

8:31pm Why is Scott wearing head to toe salmon AND paisley? I know Scott is blind people - but please...While Scott performs, the camera cuts to Paula and Simon. Marty observes that it appears as though they are holding hands and that they do that alot. We agree - either they are having sex or he's keeping her from falling off her chair. Why does Scott pick such crappy songs? He's not the best vocalist to begin with...last week he chose Martina McBride. This week he's singing Diana Ross. I do like the arrangement in the beginning...the slow tempo...but then he "digs in" and it's sort of a mess. Marty likes Scott's timbre. Meanwhile, I once again come to the conclusion that Scott just does not have the vocal chops. However, as Marty reminds me, he is on the tour...at least.

And once again, Scott's performance inspires a debate amongst the judges. This week it's Girls v. Guys. Scott handles himself well given that he can't see the madness (at one point Ryan literally has to explain what's going on - poor Scott). Or all of Paula's bracelets. That's what my wrist looked like 3 weeks ago when I got decked out in my 80s finest to hit the Breakfast Club in Charlotte for my friend Sarah's birthday. For the record, I was also wearing leg warmers. At least Paula's not wearing leg warmers - right?

8:43pm Megan (sorry - Megan Joy) is up. Even in rehearsal I am detecting that funky thing she does with her vocals that I just don't care for. However, she is STUNNING. I mean, tattoo sleeve aside, the girl is gorgeous. Although I am not sure how I feel about the necklace but still...Less than a minute in Marty predicts she'll be gone this week. "Bordering on down right awful...like a Miss America pageant." Those were his thoughts. Mid-performance, the cameraman cuts to Paula and Simon who are playing kissy face. What's up with these 2? Judges comments are priceless. Randy: "It was a train wreck." Once again, it comes down to a crappy song choice. Paula: "You are stunning. You take my breath away." Thanks Paula. Useful at an actual Miss America pageant. Not a singing competition. Simon is less harsh than he should be and I therefore think that he wants to sleep with Megan. Sorry. Megan Joy.

8:54pm I realize just how serious Anoop's eyebrows are. During rehearsal, Smokey Robinson (this week's mentor during Motown Week) says that Anoop's performance of Ooh Baby Baby is sensual. Anoop? Sensual? Hmmm.....

No doubt - he can sing (and as always, we forgive him for being a Tarheel). Marty and I agree for sure on this point, however Marty thinks Simon will hate it. Despite the talent, it's kind of dull and slow. I am starting to drift and I begin to wonder what Kara studied at Duke to qualify her for this role. As comments roll in, Paula seems like she just might be beginning to crack and struggle with her words. Simon nails it: Anoop lacks showmanship. However, need I remind everyone of the showmanship that Anoop demonstrated 2 weeks ago during Michael Jackson week? Everyone hated it and asked for more serious vocals. Now that he's delivering serious vocals, they want showmanship. This show is a lose-lose for everyone sometimes.

9:05pm Michael Sarver says he is going to "Church up" his version of Ain't Too Proud To Beg. Before he even sings, Marty predicts that Michael and Megan (sorry, Megan Joy) will be in the Bottom 3. Once the roughneck starts, Marty and I agree, he's way better than we expected. Paula is the first judge to comment and she doesn't like. If Paula has nothing postive to say, you know you are in trouble. Michael basically gets ripped a new one by the judges (Kara makes at least her second reference throughout the evening to "artistry") and yet has the heart and class to stand up there, smile, and tell the world that he is lucky and having a Helluva good time. Michael Sarver is one classy dude! For that reason alone I hope he stays.

9:17pm Ryan makes his second plug for Idol performances on iTunes. Then it's Lil Rounds. I am digging the wig. Digging the dress. Digging the saucy, sassy attitude. But the vocals leave me feeling...just so-so. Paula's up out of her chair dancing. Marty thinks Lil sounds flat and off-tempo. I agree she sounds pitchy in places. Randy says that the "front of the song sounded tortured." Kara says something about Lil choosing "melodies that breathed more" and I wonder if she's been popping some of Paula's happy pills.

Kids - it comes down to one thing. Song Choice. Song Choice. Song Choice.

For the record, Simon reminds everyone that Lil can sing and basically encourages America to vote.

9:28pm We are off TiVo time and on real time.

9:30pm I didn't realize just how many commercials they show. I usually fast forward.

9:32pm Adam looks like Elvis...or maybe Chris Isaak. Marty doesn't like it. I do. He's singing Tracks of My Tears - TO SMOKEY - but he kills it. I am not a fan of the falsetto (and there's lots of falsetto tonight) but Adam is so...subdued. Modern. I think to myself while he sings: I'll betcha Kara talks about his "artistry."

At the end of his performance, Adam gets a standing O from Smokey. Ok - so he's totally redeemed himself from last week. And I am totally right. Kara tells Adam that he "showed artistry on that stage tonight." Oh Kara - didn't they teach vocab at Duke?

Marty observes that this year seems to be all about the guys. I point out that there are only 3 women in the Top 10.

9:41pm Why is Ryan holding a trumpet? Or is that a flugelhorn? Danny can sing...no doubt...but I am irritated that he did not take Smokey's advice on the arrangement - especially after telling everyone that Smokey was way smarter and more experienced and therefore his advice was to be trusted. I personally think that Danny lacks confidence and that will be his ultimate undoing in this competition. However, I have no doubts as to his ability to secure a recording contract and become a Christian rock star. I love Danny. I really do.

9:46pm Why do they always qualify Alison as "16-year-old Alison?"

9:47pm The preview for 17 Again comes on. It appears to be a cross between Big and 13 Going on 30 - in reverse and with boys. How do these films get greenlighted?

9:51pm I LOVE Alison. But I think it's (Papa Was a Rolling Stone) kind of a weird song choice. Marty thinks she could blow Kelly Clarkson out of the water. Kara - who earlier said she NEVER stands - is standing and dancing. So is Paula - but that's hardly a surprise. Kara tells Alison that her voice "is from God." Paula's comments don't count because we are all to focused on the crayon mustache that Simon has drawn on her face. What are those 2 doing? Simon compliments Alison - but not to the extent he could.

9:55pm As they run through this week's performances, I am wondering if I should actually vote this year - specifically for Alison. I haven't voted since Taylor Hicks/Katherine McPhee.

9:59pm I realize Smokey is in full on brown leather and for that reason alone I love him.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From Thrill to Chill

Time was, a visit to Maggie was a visit to Chapel Thrill, all swanky dinners and strolls up and down Franklin Street in search of any place not running wild with college kids. But my visit this weekend was more about a visit to Chapel Chill.

Although it's been a while since I last went to the Carrboro Farmer's Market, I have not forgotten how simply glorious it is and so when Maggie and I were making plans for our visit, I felt that a visit to the CFM was absolutely essential.

My goal was to be on the road by 7am Saturday morning in order to make it to the market before they sold out of everything. I got a bit of a late start (trying to check my pool on account of all the ACC bracket busting on Friday night) but I rolled into town right at around 9:30. I even found a parking spot.

Maggie had arrived at 8:30 and had already stocked up. As she put it to me on the phone when we were trying to coordinate where to meet, the market basically had lettuce, lettuce, lettuce and root vegetables - at least as far as produce was concerned. I was less concerned about produce and more interested in cheese (specifically Celebrity Dairy goat cheese which is my all time favorite goat cheese anywhere) and meat. In anticipation of what we had started referring to as our Alice Waters Chez Panisse style dinner that evening, Maggie had picked up a rack of lamb (the last one) from McAdam Farms, some organic lettuce, baby radishes, beets, and baby arugula. She had also snagged me 2 logs of the paprika-garlic goat cheese from Celebrity.

While waiting for Maggie, I started to wander around. I couldn't remember where I got the sausage last time I was there, so I wound up at Cane Creek and picked up a pack of parsley-Parmesan sausage and one pack of sweet Italian sausage. I got a wheel of farmer's cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery (I didn't really want it but I had sampled so many I felt compelled to buy something). Even though Maggie had picked up what I needed, I stopped by Celebrity and wound up getting another log - this one called Party and coated with parsley, chives and onion. This is where Maggie found me (she wasn't surprised) and we took one more spin around the market.

Given the cold weather and the time of year, there were definitely less purveyors than I remembered and Maggie already had us covered on produce, but we went back to McAdam Farms as I was hoping to find some lamb to bring home for dinner tonight. Alas, they were out of chops and racks. But they did have some tasty looking racks of lamb riblets and I picked up 2 for my dinner with Maggie. I also grabbed 2 green tomatoes because fried green tomatoes seemed like a good thing to cook one of these days.

After depositing our goods off at her house, we headed into Chapel Hill. We had lunch at Sandwhich, one of my favorite lunch spots in town, where I indulged in grilled Gruyere on sourdough (cheese was a major theme throughout the day yesterday. Major.) and some of their tasty homemade chips. And while I passed on dessert from Bliss, the cupcakery cafe right next door, I have to say that the chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache looked phenomenal.

So what do 2 Duke graduates do on a Saturday afternoon in March in Chapel Hill? Well, first off, you be thankful that the Duke game doesn't come on til late. Ditto The Carolina game (nothing worse than listening to a bunch of obnoxious Carolina fans cheer for their own team and/or against yours). We found ourselves the first 2 patrons of the day at The Crunkleton where we drank beer and watched Villanova spank UCLA followed by John Calipari and crew proving to the world that they do in fact deserve to be a number 2 seed. Clearly that opening game against CS Northridge was a fluke.

When it became clear that A&M would not upset UConn (something we were both really hoping for), we left Chapel Hill, picked up our groceries, the dog and Maggie's roommate, and headed to Maggie's parents' house in Pittsboro for a civilized evening of really good food, wine and Duke basketball. The evening delivered on all counts.

While the second round of games played out, we sipped unoaked chardonnay from Toad Hollow and gorged on cheese: 2 kinds from Celebrity Dairy (paprika-garlic and French Kiss), the farmer's cheese I hadn't intended to buy, and an aged Gouda we had picked up along the way. It was fun to watch the first half of this round - LSU and Michigan both seemed to be holding their own and Purdue-Washington looked super close as well. But by the second half it was clear that the top seeded teams would not be upset and I don't know if you call a 5 knocking off a 4 a true upset.

As Duke took to the court, we got busy in the kitchen. The riblets were marinated in a mixture of hoisin, lime, cilantro, and garlic chili sauce. The chops were coated with a mixture of Asian BBQ sauce (soy and tomato based), black vinegar, mustard, garlic and lemon.

Maggie had also picked up some really pretty green onions which she split down the middle and lacquered with hoisin, sesame oil and rice vinegar.

Pre-cooked...I know, raw meat is sort of an odd thing to photograph but it just looked so pretty!


In addition to being a brilliant chef (and an accomplished surgeon), I give Maggie massive credit for both working the grill and the fireplace (gas-accelerated but requiring real wood). If I am ever stuck in the woods unexpectedly - I want Maggie with me. Girl can do!!!

Maggie's dad built this himself. It's very impressive - as is Maggie's mastery of wood and fire pokers.


So while the meat and onions were cooking, we threw together a salad with the lettuce, arugula, radishes, roasted beets, homemade croutons and some remaining crumbles of cheese. We were a bit Asianed out and opted instead for a basic balsamic-Dijon vinaigrette.

Hastily photographed BEFORE we added the beets. Oops.


The whole dinner was delicious and the Gundlach Bundschu 2005 Rhinefarm Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sonoma Valley that we drank was the perfect accompaniment not to mention and INCREDIBLE bottle of wine.







For dessert, Duke beat Texas 74 - 69 and we busted out a bag of Double Stuff Oreos.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not All Belks Are Created Equal

Nine times out of ten, if I am wearing a cute dress, I got it at Target. Specifically, it's most likely an Isaac Mizrahi for Target dress and it probably cost no more than $39.99. I love Isaac. I always have - even back in the 1990s when he was still in the world of couture along with the likes of Todd Oldham (now designing for Lazy Boy and also responsible at one point for some goods at Target) and Mark Eisen (now designing for Wal-Mart) and his dresses cost $3,999.

So - you can imagine my dismay when sometime in December I noticed that Isaac merchandise was no longer on display in Target stores. I was delighted that you could still order on-line, but even so, there were no new items being added and everything seemed to be moving over to the "Clearance" section which indicated to me that the genius partnership between Isaac and Target was coming to an end. Sorrow doesn't begin to describe what I was feeling. Moreover, I had no idea where Isaac has disappeared to until...

...I read not too long ago that Isaac had been poached by Liz Claiborne (Brilliant move Tim Gunn. Bril-Li-Ant!) and that his new collection would be on shelves soon. I was ECSTATIC!! Now, I can't recall ever buying anything from Liz Claiborne ever but as long as Isaac is in charge, sign me up.

I immediately raced to the Liz Claiborne website to browse the collection and find out where it was available locally. OMG - how cute, cute, cute it all is. Especially the shoes! And I love the bright pinks and yellows...Sorry. I got distracted.

Turns out, in the great state of North Carolina, the new Liz Claiborne is available primarily at Belk and Dillard's. Although I didn't see the Lincolnton Belk listed, I harbored this secret hope that perhaps...just maybe...I would be able to shop for my favorite designer in my lil ol' hometown.

I need to pause here to talk about our local Belk. Yes, it's a department store but it's a department store in Lincolnton which means it's different from a department store in Charlotte. Or even Hickory. Until recently, I hadn't ever really been to Belk (I know - you would have thought that a shopaholic like me would have at least checked it out) because frankly, it seemed rather dismal. My first excuse to shop there was with Marty when he needed something basic, like khakis. Subsequent visits have again, usually been with Marty, and usually been geared towards buying a specific, basic item (e.g. a plain white turtleneck, a black short-sleeved tee shirt). But, after discovering the whole Isaac/Liz/Belk connection, I immediately raced into town to check it out.

As it turns out, not so much to check out. Mainly brands I hadn't heard of. Nothing particularly glamorous. Or current. Not even any pre-Isaac Liz (let alone any Liz that was touched by his genius). All in all, rather depressing. But as a friend of mine who works for Belk explained to me: not all Belks are created equal. The Belk at South Park in Charlotte, to take one example, is on par with Nordstrom's or Bloomies in terms of the brands and labels they carry. Incidentally, it's also home to an ENORMOUS Lilly Pulitzer section with oodles of pink and green and where I once got a darling dress and super cute skirt at almost 80% off! You know how I love to spend to save.

So I did finally make it to the Belk at South Park yesterday and I did get my first taste of Liz by Issac and while they didn't have the shoes I wanted, I still got lots and lots of lovely things which made me extremely happy. Plus, I felt like I was doing my part to contribute to our economic recovery (yes, I will keep saying that over and over and over again...).

Once again, I have had to take my Country Girl hat off. But these days, shopping at South Park is more of a novelty than going to the farm supply store - which I have to do tomorrow since one of the water troughs is broken.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Inspired by Idol

Ok. So I sooooo wish I had live-blogged American Idol last night. I mean, I honestly found myself turning to Marty every other minute and uttering something about the genius/hilarity/insanity of the show. And I suppose that is what makes Idol truly Genius...it is this amazing cross between the utterly ridiculous, true talent, biting criticism, wacky fashion, drama, camp, sparkly eyedust (way to go Idol make-up artists - I am all about the sparkles!) and the Grand Ole Opry. I mean seriously - how could you not love it?

As for last night, here are some of my thoughts in retrospect.

My first thought was: What the Hell is Kara DioGuardi wearing? I didn't realize we were broadcasting Idol to other planets. Can someone please get this girl a stylist??? I then had another moment when Marty reminded that she went to Duke and I started wondering if she and I were ever there at the same time and what on Earth she wore to class and how does a degree from Duke lead you on the path to Idol Judgedom? And then I began to think about Ryan Seacrest and how he wound up with his career but frankly that's just too much to think about and so...

Speaking of Ryan...what's up with the tie clip Ry? I seriously had to ask Marty if I have missed something and if they (tie clips) have come back in style. Neither of us thinks so.

In watching the judges throughout the evening, I became convinced that Paula and Simon are in couples' counseling. At one point she made a comment about Simon not being respectful and her tone and word choice just smacked of psychology. Frankly, I think this is a good thing, although their twisted and tormented relationship has provided much entertainment (although not quite as much as Simon and Ryan's hate-hate thing they have going on...).

As for the performances....I'll start with my favorite. WELCOME BACK ANOOP! I will forgive you for being Tar Heel (in fact - I am delighted that NC is being represented by an educated and literate person and not another small town girl with stars in her eyes who doesn't know what calamari is...) and simply say: GENIUS. Song choice. Performance. Wardrobe. The works. I'd buy tickets to see you perform RIGHT NOW. And for the record, I may be the only person in America besides Anoop's parents who enjoyed last week's performance of Bad. Sometimes campy is good. Really.

From best to worst. Adam Lambert - that was self-indulgent, ridiculous, and practically disrespectful to the Man in Black. Somewhere, Johnny Cash is rolling over in his grave. I'd like to give you credit for being creative and original, but that was just....UGH. You deserve to go home after that mess. Really.

I don't get Megan. I don't. I really like her as a person. She seems quirky and offbeat and interesting and different...which is all good. But she has done something funky with her vocals the last 2 weeks which have just not resonated with me. Granted, she apparently had the flu last night and had come from the hospital. And for the record, tattoo sleeve aside, she looked STUNNING...but vocally, I am really confused.

Not so much with little Allison. Can we finally have a rocker chick advance on this show? For the record, I never got over Gina Glocksen getting voted off BEFORE Haley Scarnato on Season 6...

I love Danny Gokey but thought his song choice was a wee bit self-indulgent. I won't even discuss the jacket because there are no words to describe...

I am worried about Lil Rounds (and frankly - was irritated that Simon kept calling her Little. I thought THAT was disrespectful) because she and Grand Ole Opry just weren't a good fit.

I am also worried about roughneck Michael because this was HIS week and he was only so-so. Well - actually, I kind of liked his performance. And I liked that he showed personality and that he worked the crowd. Frankly, he's a whole lot better than Bucky Covington and Bucky-Boy has a record deal. But still, Simon didn't do him any favors with his critcisms. So yes, for the record, I am worried.

I thought Kris was actually very good (though not as good as Anoop-Dawg) and I think that I might finally actually remember who he is instead of turning to Marty each week and saying: which one is he again?

I don't think that Scott has the vocal chops - or if he does - we just haven't seen them yet. However, I think he'll be on the show for a while. And frankly, I felt bad for him because that whole Paula-Simon post-performance discussion about whether or not he should or shouldn't use the piano every week...it gave me a headache and I could witness the drama. He didn't even get to witness it. He just had to listen to it. If I didn't have visual aids on this show sometimes, I swear I'd go bonkers. So kudos to Scott for not self-imploding on the stage during that whole mess.

I really don't get Matt. The judges were ecstatic about his performance. Marty and I both felt only so-so about it.

And last but not least, Alexis Grace. I really agreed with Randy that Jolene was just not the right song choice. Which leads me to ask...

WHY DO THESE PEOPLE PICK THE WORST SONGS 95% OF THE TIME?

Idol needs to employ a Song Choice Coach for these kids, Seriously.

The only thing remotely Country about this post is that it was Grand Ole Opry week and Randy Travis was on the show...and he is an absolute legend. And the funniest moment of the show was probably when he heard Adam's wacky sitar-laced rendition of Ring of Fire and did everything he could to keep a straight face.

Ah Randy Travis. You are so my hero right now.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bracketology Blue Devil Style

So I find myself in a serious, serious quandary: How to fill out my 2009 NCAA Tourney Bracket. As a Blue Devil, it's a HUGE psychological hurdle for me to fill out a bracket with anyone other than Duke winning it all (even though they haven't won a National Championship since 2001 and the odds of their winning every year are slim...).

Still, every year, no matter what their record, reputation and Tourney seed, I see the Blue Devils going all the way. I feel as though I am somehow betraying my alma mater to pick anyone else to win it all - no matter what the odds.

My dear friend SaeJ, who is not a Duke alum but who is a HUGE Duke fan, says it's OK to pick somebody else to win. Her argument is that if Duke wins, you get the psychological reward of their victory less the financial earnings. On the other hand, if they don't win, the chance of picking up some cash is still there. And really, those spectator heels at J. Crew are kind of cute...

So, I sit here right now and struggle, wondering how to fill out my 2009 Tourney Bracket. Will Duke go all the way? Even the pundits on ESPN didn't seem to think so - unless the Devils can shoot from 3-point range like they did against the 'Noles to win their 9th ACC Tournament Championship in 12 years. But can they do it for 6 more games? Against bigger teams? Maybe better teams? Are Rick Pitino's Cardinals unstoppable? What about this year's Cinderella? Who will it even be? Remember Gonzaga years and years ago? George Mason in 2006? Davidson nearly upsetting Kansas last year?

I don't know. And I don't know who will win this year's Tourney. But I sure as Hell hope it's Duke. If not, I hope it's the Cardinals because I REALLY want those shoes...

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gourmet Goodness at the Beach

I don't know why, but stepping into Frank's Outback on Pawley's Island last night for dinner made me think about being on safari in Africa. Not that I have been on safari in Africa mind you...but I have numerous friends you have been to Africa and I have seen photos and glossy brochures and heard stories...So on some of these luxury safari trips travelers stay in these massive tents built onto platforms and even though they are "tents" you walk in and it's like being in the most gorgeous, well-appointed hotel room ever and you sort of forget that you are in the middle of Africa on safari. At least, that's my interpretation of things. I might be wrong. And in case I am, for the record, Frank's Outback also reminded me of the tents they stay in at the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

So what's my point? Well, don't let the fact that this restaurant is in a tent fool you. It is simply stunning on the inside. All drapery and pretty sheers, plenty of plants and green foliage, lots of twinkling lights and candles, wrought iron tables and chairs, a pleasant bar, a cozy fireplace. I simply marveled most of the night at how lovely and warm and inviting and pleasant the decor was.

And that's just for starters. The service and the food were on par with the surroundings so you can imagine how utterly sublime the evening was. So I am taking off my Country Girl hat for a moment, putting on my Gourmet Gal hat, and sharing every delectable detail of one of the best dinners I have had in a while.

Marty and I rarely walk into a new restaurant blind. If we are planning to visit or are merely exploring a new restaurant, we will always look for a menu online in advance and peruse it thoroughly. This exercise basically helps us evaluate and make our decision: is this the type of restaurant we want to go to? Some may call this cheating or losing out on the thrill of discovery. I prefer to think of it as careful planning - which is completely in-line with my personality.

So when friends of ours suggested Frank's for dinner on this most recent trip to the Beach, we checked it out. In fact, they gave us 3 recommendations: Frank's, Emi and Divine's. Since I had heard good things about Divine's from another friend, that was the first one I did research on. It looked tasty and I was all set to make a reservation until Marty's mom mentioned that they had eaten at Frank's once before and that it was good and so Marty found the menu on-line and it was a no-brainer. Any time there is restaurant including foie gras in any form on the menu, you can be assured THAT'S where we will be going.

We weren't totally sure what the difference was between Frank's and Frank's Outback. Turns out not much. One is indoors, one is outdoors (but tented and climate-controlled). Otherwise they share the same wine list and offer the same level of sophisticated, delicious cuisine and gracious service.

So enough backstory (you know me and my need to share every little detail) and on to dinner.

My first problem in reviewing the menu on-line was that everything looked amazing. I could have ordered enough items to eat dinner about 6 times over. Plus - I was having trouble figuring out the difference between "Tastings" and "Small Plates" and could I eat enough of the 2 portions of the menu combined to satisfy me (although that Pan Roasted Herb and Dijon Crusted Rack of New Zealand Lamb with Rosemary and Maderia Laced Mushroom Demi Glace under Entrees sure looked tasty)?

The decision-making process was not much easier once we were actually seated at the table but I'll spare you the drama and simply tell you what we ate:

My mother in-law ordered the Grilled 8 ounce Filet of Beef with Green Peppercorn Demi Glace and she simply swooned.

My father-in-law began with a Tasting of Seared Jumbo Sea Scallop With Asian Ginger Slaw & Orange Soy Glaze. Although I didn't taste it, the smile on his face said it all. For his entree, he chose one of Frank's signature dishes, Pan Fried Cornmeal and Black Pepper Encrusted Atlantic Grouper with Wild Caught Shrimp, Broccoli Rice Pilaf, and a Dijon Three Peppercorn Sauce, and said after that he had never had a better piece of fish anywhere.

Marty got the Small Plate of Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Pate Served with Truffled Potato Chips to start. As much as he loved it, he said it was so rich and earthy that it was too much for one person. I tasted about a microspeck of the pate on my fork (I do not care for truffles) and agreed. For dinner he had one of the specials which was a Pan-Fried Filet of Locally-Caught Flounder served over Stone Ground Grits with a Lemon-Butter-Caper Sauce. I am not much of a fish eater to begin with but I had a bite and it was sensational.

As for me, after much vacillating back and forth, I started with a Tasting of Seared Rare Ahi Tuna with Greens and Sprouts, Grilled Asparagus and Wasabi-Ginger Vinaigrette (Oh My God - YUM!!!) and then opted for Mediterranean Lamb Pizza with Arugula, Parmesan Cheese, Goat Cheese on Whole Wheat Dough fresh from the wood-burning oven. WOW! Innovative, creative, brilliant and utterly scrumptious (with the just the right amount of wood-fired blister on the heavenly crust) I have seriously never had a better pizza anywhere. Ever. Not even up for debate. Seriously.

And I am not just saying that because I had the WORST PIZZA EVER on Thursday night.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How To Have Fun In These Trying Economic Times

Blame it on my friend Sarah. After our insanely fun excursion to Monster Truck Jam we decided we needed another adventure (read blog post for me and potential column for her - not to mention all the good natured camaraderie and bonding that comes from having fun!).

It was Sarah's idea to go roller skating.

I had no idea that roller rinks still existed - but indeed they do. In fact, there seem to be more than a few around.

So last night Sarah, Josh and I headed to Kate's for a little 8-wheeled fun.

Here's the first great thing about Kate's. It costs $3. $3 gets you in and gets you skates. Of course, on weeknights the rink is only open for two and a half hours (not that one really requires more time than that to skate) but that's still less than $1/hour to have fun - assuming your idea of fun involves footwear that has been worn by other people, being terrorized by small children and the occasional rowdy teenager, and worrying non-stop that you might fall and break something and/or humiliate yourself in front of said small children and teenagers.

The first thing we all noticed about Kate's was the smell. It smelled...stale. That's all we could agree on. It wasn't quite sweat. It wasn't booze (they don't serve it). It wasn't smoke. The warmth of the rink reminded me somewhat of a gym after a lot of people had been working out but skating doesn't generate a lot of sweat. So for now - we'll leave the odor at stale.

So I confess - I went into the evening terrified of falling. In fact, Marty seriously urged me to change from my capri leggings into jeans because "when I fell" I would want a little more fabric between me and the ground. Jeans, he went on, would mean I would only get bruised versus getting cut up (for the record, I did change).

Here's the sign posted when you go to get your skates:



Everyone and everything seemed to be indicating that some sort of serious injury awaited me. When did roller skating turn into an extreme sport?

Sarah, a skating veteran (well - 2 recent visits to the rink), assured me that I would NOT fall and that I did not to think I was going to fall and hurt myself and have it all be some sort of grand, self-fulfilling prophesy.

I tried to take her words to heart but after I laced up my skates and stood up, I felt that falling was inevitable.

Do you know how unnatural it is it to be on 8 wheels? There's a reason why we have toes and arches and heels and not round, wobbly protuberances at the end of our legs. Rolling humans are simply against God's plan.

I required Josh's help stepping down onto the rink (why is there no on-ramp?) and tentatively wobbled forward. I think our first lap took a solid 2 - 3 minutes. There were lots of gasps and small shrieks as I struggled to keep my balance and tried desperately to ease into the fluid rhythm of roller skating. But I made it around once without falling. And the next lap was a little easier.

I will pause here to tell you what is scary about roller skating:

1) Maneuvering through traffic. I don't know if the experienced skaters (who come whooshing up behind you and beside you) are scarier or if the inexperienced skaters (who suddenly appear in front of you and won't/can't get out of your way and neither of you knows how to stop and so a crash feels rather inevitable) are scarier. Either way, navigating the rink and trying to stay out of harm's way is tricky.

2) Little children on roller skates. There were quite a few wee ones on hand...some who knew what they were doing. Many who didn't. But somehow I found the whole idea of children under 5 on wheels frightening.

3) How many people can actually roller skate really, really well. I thought that roller skating had gone out of style some time in the 80s along with leg warmers, electric blue eyeshadow, and rubber bracelets. But apparently not because the level of talent on hand last night at Kate's was impressive.

We skated for a while and then there was a game and the game required you to be able to stop (I never did quite get the hang of stopping and instead relied on walls/ledges and in general anything I could run into/grab onto to stop) and so we got off the rink and ate pizza which Josh fondly referred to as space pizza since it felt like it had been dried out and then rehydrated. The crust had no give - it was sort of a cross between stale toast and an even staler cracker. Of course, we forgot about how bad the pizza was when Sarah killed a roach at our table.

Then it was back to the rink for more skating. Sadly, we all kind of went at our own pace and so we didn't skate together (Josh - for the record - is a skating Bad Ass!). But it was fun and it was cheap and I didn't fall and I managed to neither knock over or get knocked over by another skater!

Josh is a skating genius!


Sarah is my new mischief making pal...


Me on skates...the first lap...being hounded by the paparazzi like Bernie Madoff on his way into court yesterday.


I totally got the hang of it. Look - I am even able to turn around and smile for Sarah while rolling forward. That's a serious accomplishment in 2 hours.


Josh "enjoys" his space pizza.


At the end of the night, when I finally sat down and took my skates off, I realized what the odor was I had smelled when we first walked in: Stale Sweaty Feet.

And of course, because someone somewhere knew I needed a way to make this relevant to the title of this blog...as we were slipping out of our skates and into our shoes, an older man and woman got into a serious, serious fight and for a moment, we thought a brawl might break out. I instantly had flashbacks to the Silver Bullet.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How I Do Grits

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a sort of Grits treatise. I think he was trying to shock the Yankee in me. However, being the unflappable girl that I am, I subsequently shared my thoughts on coarsely ground hominy.

For the record, my first memory of grits was Polly Holliday drawling that classic line weekly on Alice: "Kiss my Grits Mel." I used to repeat that in my finest Southern accent as a young girl. I am not 100% sure I knew exactly what she meant, but Lord did I love how she was saying it...

My first real exposure to grits was probably in the form of polenta...are they still Grits if eaten on a mountain top in Italy?

All that aside, I don't really care for Grits. They are not my thing. Send me off to breakfast at the finest greasy spoon in the South and I will opt for toast (yes toast - preferably rye or sourdough although they are both hard to come by below the Mason Dixon line) and hash browns every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Grits just aren't one of the starchy sides I go for.

But - every once in a while I enjoy them. My most favorite recent Grits experience was last Spring. I was at a conference on Isle of Palms, SC and for breakfast there was a Grits bar. You could choose from either traditional "plain" Grits or tomato Grits and they were served (in a martini glass) with a variety of traditional toppings including bacon, tomato, cheese and green onions. I had the tomato Grits - LOADED - and they were INCREDIBLE.

But other than that, I have pretty much avoided them. Until last night.

Last night for dinner Marty cooked a Brennan's classic: Chippewa Shrimp and Goat Cheese Grits. I will tell you what (and I know that Grits traditionalists everywhere will fall over at this): I would eat Grits EVERY day if they were prepared like this...goat cheese (lots and lots), milk, fresh herbs. There wasn't even a lick of butter (well, the Chippewa butter on top), but the point is I would eat the Goat Cheese Grits stand alone they are that fabulous...

So Grits. Yes, I have solved the Grits problem. The answer is Goat Cheese.

Next on my to-conquer-list: Sweet Tea.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Disciplining Dixie

In short, we sort of failed in some regards where Dixie is concerned (and I know I've written about this before but I am going to rehash rather than post a link to the previous post because I am just too darn lazy to fish through 300+ posts to find it). We brought her home in December when it was COLD and when I was super busy studying for my Series 65 and we did not really train her or work with her and right when I made the commitment to start working with her more Lucky, Buster and Peanut were born and then...well, we all know what happened after that...

To be fair, there are 2 schools of thought where donkeys are concerned. One is that they require the same training and discipline as horses. This means regular feedings. Halter training. Working with their feet (critical when it comes time to have the farrier trim their hooves). Keeping them up in a stall for a portion of the day (daytime in the summer, nighttime in the winter) so that they don't gorge themselves and founder.

The other school is simply that they are donkeys and to let them be. As one donkey (and horse) owner I know put it, unless you plan to put them in the circus, what's the point of all that training?

At the end of the day, we wound up subscribing to the regular feedings (which we sort of had to do because of the goats) and putting Dixie up at night. Putting her up at night seemed like the one aspect of disciplining I could handle. I would also put her bridle on daily - even though you aren't really supposed to keep a bridle on a donkey unnecessarily because they can injure themselves and/or get caught on something and all sorts of bad things can happen.

So this has pretty much been the routine for the last few years. Until...

The other week I met with another Country Girl (and donkey owner) such as myself. We had coffee and were swapping animal tales and I mentioned that we put Dixie up at night and she asked why. One of the whole reasons for having a donkey is to protect your herd. If a coyote or a pack of wild dogs or any predator were to get in the pasture, Dixie would kick, stomp and in general PROTECT.

Well of course we knew this and there have been plenty of occasions were we heard things in the woods (coyotes perhaps) and we left Dixie out so that Lucky and company might be protected. But after a night or 2 we'd go back to putting her up because that was the one form of discipline we really employed.

But my conversation with Country Girl II got me thinking.

So Marty and I made the decision to start leaving Dixie out at night. It made sense. Wasn't protecting our kids the single most important thing?

That then posed a new problem. Dixie's bridle. I would always put it on her in the morning when I let her out of her stall and I would always take it off at night when I put her up. However, if I wasn't doing that, there seemed to be no reason to use her bridle at all. But when I stopped using her bridle over the summer when she developed all of those hot spots, it was very difficult to get her used to it again once she finally healed.

So I'll pause in my ramblings to say that with all of this cold weather, there's not a whole lot of green in our pasture. Our yard is a little bit better and Marty and I have recently noticed that when we let Lucky out, she seems more interested in what little green is in our yard than any treats we are planning on giving her.

So yesterday. Yesterday was gorgeous. And we were standing in the back yard and let Lucky out so she could spend some time with us (or maybe so we could spend some time with her - I am never quite sure who misses who more). And she of course started furiously eating the grass and we could tell that Dixie was jealous because Dixie is ALWAYS jealous when we let Lucky out and then it occurred to me.

Once upon a time, I used to put Dixie's bridle on, and put her on a lead, and bring her out to the yard and work with her. Why not start again? This would effectively accomplish several things.

1) Give Dixie access to some green stuff (at least until the pasture grows in).

2) Give Dixie some minor form of discipline. I am not saying we (and yes, I mean WE) will do this every day but 1 - 2 days a week we should be able to put her bridle on and bring her out with Lucky for a 10 minutes to work/play.

3) Assuage Dixie's jealousy of Lucky.

And so after a bit of a struggle, I got Dixie's bridle on (it's so much easier to do it when she's in her stall and being bribed with a treat), got her on the lead, and brought her out. She fussed some but that's to be expected. We haven't done this in a while. But she loved grazing in the yard (I brought her over to her favorite patch of bushes behind the garage that I remembered she loved from when I used to do this on a regular basis). And she loved being with us and Lucky.

She even let me work on her feet a little! I was thrilled!

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Friday, March 06, 2009

What Is It Worth?

Dear readers - I need your help.

Several months ago, when we were finishing up our efforts to clean out the storage building, I found a giant red ball and metal stand that was clearly some sort of yard decor. Although I only had the one ball and the one stand (as opposed to a pair or a group), I stuck it out in the front yard. It immediately drew comments.

What was the ball? What was the significance of the ball? Why was it in the yard? What did it mean?

All I heard in my head was Bonnie Raitt singing "Let's Give Them Something To Talk About." Seriously.

I mean - it wasn't a huge deal. It was random yard decor and I could either keep it in storage (what's the point), get rid of it, or put it to use. So I put it to use decorating the yard.

I have had it out there for 4 or 5 months and had sort of forgotten about it until...

...Today. I am in the pasture mid-dance (read: feeding ritual) with the goats while Marty is in the house on a conference call when a nice couple in a Mercedes CLK 430 convertible pull into the driveway. They wait patiently for me to get to a stopping point in the routine at which point I exit the pasture and approach them (looking rather disheveled I might add).

Will I sell them the gaze ball in the front yard? Oh - so that's what it's called. A gaze ball. I seem to remember my mother-in-law having a number of them scattered throughout her yard when she lived here and apparently this couple collects them and they have never seen one so large. So again - would I sell it?

Wow. On the one hand, my mind is focused on finishing with the animals and my barn chores. On the other...potential profit for a random item I found in storage and did not spend a single penny on.

We go to examine it up close. The man comments that it needs a paint job. I agree. He offers me $40.

I hesitate. I just don't know. Suddenly - now that these people want MY gaze ball, the value seems to shoot up in my mind. Is $40 enough for this conversation piece? I ask if I can have a day to think it over. He raises the offer to $50. Again, I demure. My mind is swirling in 400 different directions. I just don't know.

So - I ask you dear readers - what would you do? Would you sell this for $50?



And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Red Star Saves the Day

I have had extremely positive retail experiences and extremely negative retail experiences. However last night was the first time I can recall where shopping actually proved to be a lifesaver.

So Marty and I were invited by an attorney I know to attend the First Night Gala of the Southern Spring Home and Garden Show in Charlotte. It was technically a work event so I asked Marty to wear a suit. I will pause here to say that he has a closet full of gorgeous bespoke suits, however he rarely wears them anymore (mainly to the occasional funeral). Still, when discussing wardrobe choices I made it be known that I preferred the 3-piece pinstripe (he looks amazing in it) with the blue and orange striped tie we got while in Italy and oh yeah, while you're at it, please wear a shirt with French cuffs. Don't think of me as being demanding. Think of me as merely giving some wardrobe guidelines.

6:15pm we are in the hotel room getting dressed when Marty announces he has forgotten cuff links (had I been there while he packed this might not have happened). My first thought is can I MacGuyver cuff links with what we have on hand (bobby pins come to mind) but unfortunately, I am not able to channel Richard Dean Anderson. Frankly, I can't even channel Will Forte.

My next thought is that do you actually need cuff links or can you just sort of fold the cuffs over and then gingerly put on the jacket over so as not to muss the sleeves. The answer is: French cuff shirts require cuff links.

So....what does the shopaholic in the relationship suggest?

We are conveniently staying in the South Park neighborhood and are literally seconds from the Mall. We pull out of the hotel driveway, Marty makes one right turn, goes through one light and BOOM - South Park Mall awaits. We have a choice between turning left into Dillard's or right into Macy's. Since Macy's is technically closer (and we are looking to make this as painless as possible for the non-shopper in the relationship), we pull in there. There's a spot right in front of the door. It's a sign

The door we enter through brings us right into the men's shop. Another sign. Since we are pressed for time and don't have time to explore, we ask the first 2 salesmen we see where the cuff links are. The cuff links are right there at the counter at which they are standing. How fortuitous!!!

Of course, as it turns out, there's not much of a selection. Red stars and....red stars (the red stars are of course, for Macy's). Not exactly a match for the orange and blue tie...but better than a bobby pin.

All in all the whole experience lasted less than 5 minutes and cost about $7. Seriously.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

4 Days To Go

I think it probably has to do with the whole "I don't haul my cookies to and from Charlotte every day" thing, and so it's been less of an issue this year as opposed to last year or the year before that. But still. I am not a fan of driving in the dark or of the dark in general. So how excited am I that Daylight Savings Time officially starts this Saturday?

I know - there are those of you who hate to spring forward. You bemoan the lost hour (as if that one hour actually means anything) and the crazy amounts of daylight which permeate your dark and shadowy worlds. All I have to say to you is pppbblllllggghhhhh (that's me sticking my tongue out at you)! DST is genius. The most genius thing ever. Longer days. Lots of sunlight (helps for anyone who suffers from seasonal affectation disorder). It's all good.

And I am especially grateful that I won't have to be stumbling through the dark to put my donkey up at night...although come to think of it, we aren't really doing that any more (next post: Disciplining Dixie). But still -

If that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Monday, March 02, 2009

If That Ain't Country: Snow Photo Chronicles II

Meet the seamier side of snow. Specifically the literal hundreds of wet pounds of snow that fell and then sat on and then weighed on our gazebo-awning-canopy type thingy on our deck. The one we JUST got this summer. The one I ASKED Marty: do we need to put this up in the winter (because it was a pain to put together) and he said no - we don't get THAT MUCH snow. But then, on occasion, we do. Like yesterday.

In short, UGH!!!

See it sinking...slowly...


See it close-up.


Broken beyond repair.


That's a lot of wet, heavy snow.


Crushed.


Mangled.


Destroyed.


Joys of farm life - right?


And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

If That Ain't Country: Snow Photo Chronicles I

So of course, the first thing I do whenever it snows is I get up, I go outside and I take a lot of pictures. I am sure by now you are all sick of my snow-covered barn, but it's always so peaceful and tranquil and idyllic looking that I can't NOT take the picture. Plus, this was a serious snow (you will find out shortly just how serious) that dumped close to 7 inches and so everything was even more wintry wonderland than usual.

Our snow-covered barn - again...


The pasture. And notice, for the record, how much BETTER the view is now that that awful oak tree is gone.


Our snow-covered garage/storage and a relatively peaceful looking yard.


Beautiful, fluffy looking trees...although I fear limbs may break, fall and do (serious?) damage under the weight of so much snow.


Lucky is the first to greet me when I head into the pasture.


Peanut pokes his head out from behind the barn.


The back side of the pasture.


The kids eat some alfalfa for breakfast. It helps keep them warm.


My Dixie Chicken.


The other thing I always want to do when it snows is tell everyone about my Chicken Meatball Stroganoff recipe and the whole snow-related story behind that. Apparently, I already did that last year when it snowed so click on the link if you forgot or haven't read it yet. I swear for anyone who is within 10 feet of snow, this is the best thing to cook...EVER. And I am not just saying that because it's my recipe.

So this is the peaceful side of a snow day. Everything is white. And pristine. And calm. And clean. No muddy footprints. No melted slush. No dirty tire tracks. It's rather lovely don't you think?

Well...later, I will show you the other side of snow.

And for the record, when Marty and I stopped off at the FABULOUS new Ingles off of 321 yesterday en route home to pick up some groceries for dinner and some essentials (like wine), the very first person I saw walking out of the store was carrying...yes...you guessed it...milk, bread, and eggs. Seriously.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

One Girl's Guide To Eating Your Way Through NYC

So here's what I have to show for a weekend in NYC: About 5 lbs.

It starts when I arrive on Thursday night. Our flight was delayed and despite snacking on salt and pepper calamari and Swedish fish at Charlotte-Douglas International, I am hungry when we (finally) touch down. First stop? Little Vincent's (Pizza? Check!).

So here's the thing about NYC pizza - it's all good. Pretty much. And when you move to places like NC, and your pizza choices consist of Domino's, Pizza Hut and Little Caesar's, ANY pizza in NYC is good. So fine - there are those who would argue that Totonno's is better than Famous Ray's (or Original Ray's or Famous Original Ray's...)...well, why Little Vincent's? It's in the same building where my parents live. And it's good. I don't care who you transplant from NYC to any corner of the globe - there is something about pizza in NYC - Tap water? Air pollution? Whatever. It's unparalleled.

Friday's food fest begins with lunch with my godmother at Cafe Luxembourg (French Bistro? Check!). Lunch consists of a yellowfin tuna burger (medium rare) with wasabi aioli and plenty of thin, crispy, salty shoestring fries accompanied by a glass of Chalone Chardonnay. Yum. Post lunch activity is Faffing. For those of you who don't know what faffing is, it's a cross between browsing and window shopping and trying on and wandering and not really spending...well, I suppose it could involve spending but in my case on Friday, it did not involve spending...at all (apologies economy - I'd like to stimulate you more).

Friday evening finds us in Hoboken, NJ where we used to live for 5 years. Dinner is at Augustino's (Red Sauce Italian? Check!) where we used to have a standing Thursday night reservation. Although we forgot to request it in advance, Sharon knows we both live and die for eggplant rollatine and she submits an order to the kitchen even though it's not on the menu. It comes out hot and melty and cheesy and fabulous and utterly delicious. For the entree, Marty opts for shrimp Francese over linguine and I go for 2 meatballs the size of my head (literally) over rigatoni. I get through about 3/4 of one they are that big. But they are also that good because I have a big plate of cold rigatoni and leftover meatball for breakfast the next morning.

Saturday lunch is Serafina on 79th and Madison (Nouveau Italian? Check!). To clarify , there are multiple Serafina's throughout the City but I am partial to the Serafina on 79th Street because they serve the Insalata Porto Cervo (romaine lettuce, corn, carrots, tomato, avocado, hearts of palm and an awesome Sardinian dressing). So - yes - even though all Serafinas are owned by the same people, their menus differ venue to venue. After the salad I order what I always order - pizza Vittorio - thin crust, wood-fired pizza topped with crazy amounts of prosciutto and fresh tomato (which for the record, is tasty, but makes the crust soggy - too much liquid).

Saturday night finds us at Haru on West 43rd (Asian Fusion/Sushi? Check!). Rock shrimp tempura, beef negimaki, veggie dumplings, tuna tataki, and a generous salad with plenty of ginger-based dressing (plus actual sushi for the guys) and suddenly I feel as though I have completed my cross-cultural culinary tour of NYC.

After, we head off to the relatively new Baryshnikov Arts Center to hear an incredible performance by the Glass Farm Ensemble. Then there's a post-concert nightcap at HK.

And then, just to prove that you can take the girl out of the city but you can't take the city out of the girl, I dart in and out of multiple lanes of traffic in front of Port Authority just after midnight in order to hail a cab home. In the rain.

It's so not country. I know.

But I'll still kiss your...