"I've discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it."
- William Faulkner

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"g" is for...

I've made reference before to my irrational unappreciation of the Delta prior to moving there. After graduating from State (and never having lived anywhere other than Starkville), I was offered a job with Viking Range Corporation, a world-wide company in the small Delta town of Greenwood, Mississippi. I admit I didn't know much about Viking or Greenwood before taking the job, but God guided me west on Highway 82 towards a great job and some great people.

If you're not familiar with this formerly sleepy Delta town, I recommend you try it for a great weekend getaway. Stay at The Alluvian, indulge at The Alluvian Spa and feed your appetite for instruction at the Viking Cooking School. And for a small town (or any town, for that matter), you can't beat the restaurants in Greenwood - the famous Crystal Grill, Lusco's prohibition-style dining booths, eclectic Southern cuisine at Delta Fresh Market, the "Delta Casual" atmosphere of Giardina's and Steven's BBQ for the best chocolate cake in town.

Books have always been a big part of my life. My parents read to me from day one, and I began reading early as well. I will never forget road trips with my dad where a new book was always the prize for good behavior, and I still read a great deal today. I was a young adult when I came across one of my most favorite children's books, The Great Alphabet Fight. Super-clever and beautifully illustrated by Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic who draws and paints with her teeth), this book is a little hard to find, but is completely worth buying if you run across it. If you have small children (or teach them), it's a great addition to your library!

Just realized I haven't introduced this week's Delicious Dish. The instructions are super-simple, and the concept is easy to appreciate as well.

Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches (or whatever kind you want them to be)

1 (17.5-ounce) package chocolate chip cookie mix (I actually used slice and bake)
1 stick butter
1 egg
1 (12-ounce) bag mini chocolate chips (I used rainbow sprinkles, too)
2 pints chocolate chocolate chip ice cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine cookie mix, butter, egg, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Stir to form dough. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 14 minutes. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack. Cool cookie completely, and then freeze for a minimum of 1 hour before completing ice cream sandwiches as directed.

Soften ice cream on the counter for 10 minutes prior to making sandwiches. Remove cookies from freezer, place a scoop of ice cream on the backside of 1 cookie. Sandwich with another cookie and carefully press together until ice cream reaches the edge of the cookies. Roll edges in remaining chocolate chips. Freeze for 10 minutes, then serve.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"f" is for...

The alphabet game is kind of hard. I'm not even half-way finished, and I've already had to really think on something.

Fortunately, one of my favorite stores, and one I don't get to patronize very often, Francesca's Collections, fits the bill. I love this place for cute, trendy stuff that is also really affordable. Every time I've been there, I've picked up a cool sweater or dress or some great jewelry (I think this clutch is especially cute and only $36!). You can also shop online, too. And if you live in the Jackson, MS area, Francesca's will be making its way to Renaissance at Colony Park in Ridgeland (thanks for the heads up, KK)!

Time doesn't stop. Life changes. We grow up, move out and move on, and few things remain constant. Whether performing duties as a sounding board, a shopping partner or a brutally honest constructive critic, a good friend is an invaluable resource. It could be the person you don't talk to as regularly as you'd like, or it could be the work buddy that keeps you sane on crazy (or slow) days. Either way, real friendship is a true gift from God, and I am so fortunate to have been blessed with so many!

"A sweet friendship refreshes the soul." Proverbs 27:9

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"e" is for...

Happy Easter! How convenient that this worked out for me.

I love Easter. In addition to being the most holy of holidays, this most important spring day brings with it Peeps, new dresses and my personal favorite, the Cadbury Mini Egg. America must have honed in on the deliciousness of this rare treat because the powers that be at Cadbury now offer the heavenly bites of chocolate at Christmas and Valentine's. I totally feel yaya's pain if she has banned them from herself until Sunday.

Not only is Sunday Easter, but it's also my very first friend YAYA's birthday!

Happy (early) Birthday, Ya!

Oh, and thanks to Matt for letting the twins and me come over to play in his new backyard. Here's proof we had a good time.

We love Uncle Matt!

Friday, March 21, 2008

birthday diva

Happy Birthday to my sister Harris!

"No one knows better than a sister how we grew up and who our friends, teachers and favorite toys were. No one knows better than she..."
- Dale V. Adkins

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"d" is for...

My dear friend, Beth Williams, told me once that switching from Coca-Cola Classic to Diet Coke was more difficult than childbirth. I'll never forget it because, though I have never given birth, the switch affected me greatly as well. Now that I've converted to the diet soda pop, going back to the super-sweet original is nothing short of a sugar shock. With this new world of artificially sweetened fizzy beverages, I've explored the different offerings and come up with my faves:
1) Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper - hard to find, but totally worth it
2) Diet Dr Pepper
3) Diet Coke
4) Diet Sprite or Sprite Zero or whatever they're calling it now.
5) Diet Pepsi - the breakfast of champions according to my little sister

Sorry mom, Tab is still not cutting it for me.

Kell and I were lucky in that though having two puppies in the house at once wasn't exactly relaxing, the twins entertained each other and didn't do much chewing outside of the occasional shoe or belt or dryer sheet. However, the Dingo bone has changed all our lives - both for the better and for the worse. When they each have one, they're angels, chewing quietly on the meaty rawhide treat. But when one notices that the other's bone is clearly more delicious, havoc ensues.

If you have a dog that loves a good chew, I recommend the Dingo. They're vet approved, clean your pooch's teeth and completely digestible (even though the twins have been known to eat so many in such a short amount of time that I have cleaned up Dingo puke). We graduated from the minis to the smalls recently because of their rate of consumption and in concern of a choking hazard, but our four-legged children love all varieties from the Goof Balls to Munchy Sticks to the original Hand-Tied Bones. You can find the Dingo at any grocery store, super market or drugstore, and Walgreens usually has value-packs! Delicious.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"c" is for...

In mid-January of last year, the Smith household changed forever. Why, you may ask? Kell and I became the proud parents of twins - the four-legged kind, of course. Though the original offspring was quintuplets, we chose 2 and sealed our fate forever. Enter stage right: Olive and Charlie. Charlie's our little guy; super sweet with a dash of doggy anxiety. His greatest loves: sister Olive, his parents, dad's socks, underwear, Dingo bones and being held. His greatest enemies: sister Olive, the vacuum cleaner, dogs on TV and cats. Here are some pictures:

Charlie the day he moved in with us.

Charlie with his sister Olive relaxing in their room.

Charlie in his winter coat.

Another (human) Charlie I know is running for District 3 U.S. Representative! Please vote for Charlie Ross on April 1!

The conduit for our doggy adoption was CARA, a great animal rescue agency in our area. If you're not familiar with this organization, CARA is a no-kill animal shelter and home to nearly 300 dogs and 40 cats. The tireless staff is dedicated to finding permanent homes for these needy animals, hosting fundraisers, working with local businesses to host adoption days and taking adoption trips to Vermont twice a year to expose the animals to more loving families. Since the twins came along, Kell and I have also sponsored Alan, a two-year-old Boxer-Weimaraner mix. Our monthly sponsorship donation secures money specific to Alan so that general donations can be dispersed among his other roommates. Please consider sponsorship - the cost is only $15 per month.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"b" is for...

My relationship with the Mississippi State Bulldogs is like an arranged marriage - but one of those that the couple is really glad they got together and is really blissfully happy and will stay married forever. I was destined to be a Bulldog before birth, and when I entered the world, the blurb in the city newspaper said "Future MSU Cheerleader Born." Seriously. It's framed somewhere in my parents' house.

Growing up in Starkville, the heart of Bulldog Country, and being the child of a Mississippi State Athletic Department employee didn't leave me much choice of objects of my college affections (or rivals, for that matter). I was a Bulldog cheerleader for about 3 Halloweens, went to game after game after game with my dad (happy or not), and after high school decided to become a Bulldog myself. Despite my maroon blood, it took my moving away from Starkville to realize how much the university means to me. I find myself recounting memories of my deliriously happy college days each time I set foot or just ride through campus, and I finally realize why people give hundreds and thousands of dollars to still feel like a Bulldog.

By the way, other Bulldogs won the SEC tourney this weekend, but we're Little Rock bound! Good Luck, Dawgs!

I am a hair product fool. My mane has pretty much every characteristic that even one alone would cause a coif crisis. It pretty much defines high maintenance, and it takes months or even years to develop a styling regiment. Those that know me (or my hair) well can testify to this cold, hard truth: I am forever chasing the dream of the wash-and-go style. Won't happen. Not for me. So, I turn to the product du jour - "better living through chemistry" as my photograper friend Bill Powell says.

My favorite fixin's now are all made by Bumble and bumble. I always new the company existed and thought the packaging was cool (I wanted to be the person who wrote out the name of the product to print on the bottle - cool penmanship). But working at The Alluvian Spa, a Bumble and bumble network salon, turned me on to actually trying the products. My personal faves (and ones I used this morning actually) are defrizz, grooming creme and brilliantine. All of course are geared towards taming the beast that is my hair.

Now for this week's Delicious Dish... Neither "Delicious" nor "Dish" nor the title of this week's recipe begins with a "b." My apologies for not keeping consistent with my theme.

Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole

1 (8-ounce) package wild rice
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I got the frozen kind, and it's actually really good. Just be sure whatever you get is a product of the USA!)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 (10 3/4-ounce can) condensed cream of mushroom soup (can use the low-fat version if you so desire)
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar
Salt and pepper

Cook the rice according to package directions minus 1/4 cup water. Drain and cool.
Bring 2 cups water and 1/2 tablespoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan and cook the shrimp for 1 minute. Drain immediately and set aside. (Or thaw and de-tail the shrimp and set aside.)

Heat the butter in saucepan and saute the pepper and onion until soft, about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, soup, 1 1/2 cups of cheese, shrimp and vegetables. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well. Spray a 9-inch square aluminum cake pan or an 11 by 7-inch glass casserole dish with vegetable spray. Place the mixture in the pan and top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"a" is for...

I've seen this on several blogs, and I must admit, I'm intrigued. As with many of my blogging expeditions, I will not guarantee a letter every day (in fact, it probably WON'T be a letter each day) nor will I guarantee to arrive at "Z." Just be content to learn as much about me as my attention allows. The Amazine Face Reading lady did mention that my eyebrows signified a lack of desire to finish projects. By the way, did you know that the word "alphabet" came from the first two letters in the Greek language - alpha and beta. How's that for trivia?

I've always enjoyed reading, but a very few books really grip me and speak to my soul. Similarly, I like movies, shows, books, stories, pictures, etc. that are funny, but few truly make me laugh aloud. For those of you unfamiliar with the first two works of Alice Sebold, I strongly suggest you read them. The Lovely Bones is one of my most favorite books ever (not THE favorite - we'll get to that one later in the alphabet), and Lucky is also outstanding. Though not funny, and (more than a) tad dark (just like I like 'em), The Lovely Bones is exceptionally well-written and both a literary and commercial success - a title critics and cynics alike rarely on a book that exploded onto the book club circuit. But, Sebold's ability to use a young girl as a conduit for expression of grief is nothing short of amazing. Any words I use to try to describe this novel doesn't do it justice. And once you read Lucky, you'll understand why Sebold was led to spend 5 years of her life on Lovely Bones.

Ever the overachiever (riiiiiight), I have another entry for A. For years prior to moving there, I publicly denounced the Delta. My mind was mad up that I didn't like it, and as my dad says, "the only things there are to do there are play tennis and swat mosquitoes." So, imagine my distress when I landed a job in Greenwood. Viking opened more doors for me than I can ever count, one of which being The Alluvian. For about a year and a half I roamed those uber-cosmopolitan halls as event manager and made me into a gigantic hotel and party snob. The Delta gave me some of the best friends I've ever had. One of whom, Haley, has brought her blog out of hiatus. Check her out!

Stay tuned for B!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the best seat in the house

We all have our comfort zones. Be it your own home, a certain impenetrable group of friends, old clothes...you get the idea. And clearly after reading this story, there's a reason a trip to the ladies' room is often called a "comfort break." Those of you faint at heart might want to click away.

Always the homebody, Pam Babcock was recently rushed to the hospital disoriented, atrophied and with a toilet seat um, stuck to her, um, backside. Yes, people, you read correctly. After two years of sitting on the potty in the bathroom of her boyfriend's trailer, Pam's skin had grown around her comfort seat, and she was unable to get up. And where was her boyfriend, you might ask? He asked her every day if she was ready to come out, and each day she replied, "maybe tomorrow." According to an article on CNN.com, Pam and Kory had conversations, meals and a normal relationship...all in the restroom. A normal relationship? On a potty? Hardly conducive to romance if you ask me. When asked about the sit-uation (couldn't resist), Kory said, "you kind of get used to it." Really.

County Sherriff - and get this; I PROMISE it's true - Bryan Whipple (yes! like Mr. Whipple of "Don't Squeeze the Charmin" fame - I can't make this up) said his team had to pry the seat off the commode with a crowbar, and Ms. Babcock had to be taken to the hospital to have the ER staff remove the apparatus. Yikes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

express yourself

Remember P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" campaign in 2004? Mary-Kathryn does!

Cast your ballot today! Your vote counts!

Monday, March 10, 2008

i'm baaaaaaaack...

I recently received a message from a friend distraught by my lack of blog posting. I fear I have yet again neglected my cyber-friend, and in the process, I failed to post about the happiest (?) of anniversaries - my one-year as a blogger! Much has happened in this 374 days, many of which have been forever preserved in post after post of general musings, political proliferations, recommended recipes and the occasional scolding of Dina Lohan. However, I prefer not to dwell on the past but gaze to the future.

Not only did this weekend bring along with it Daylight Savings Time (tell me again please why we still do this?), but the great state of Mississippi has wandered into the direct spotlight of national politics. Taking in my daily dose of Fox News this morning, I noticed there was a political junkie broadcasting from downtown Jackson, and my morning commute exposed me to flag-waving, sign-holding supporters of Hillary Clinton, and yard signs for Barack Obama. Does no one remember what Hillary said about Mississippi just a few months ago? Don't patronize me; I had my mind made up way before you come-latelies got here.

No matter who you vote for, it DOES matter that you vote. Tomorrow is the party primary election, and many of you will be voting to determine the nominees for your U.S. Senator. Bear in mind that the men and women of our military are giving their time away from their homes and their families and sometimes their lives so that we may have the right to express ourselves via casting a ballot. Be sure that whomever receives our delegates has earned them and not bought them.

And last but most certainly not least, this week's Delicious Dish. I grew up eating Beef Stroganoff - not the real thing, mind you, as my mom is from Batesville and not Berlin, but I still love it nonetheless. So, needless to say, I was glad to be able to try out Rachael Ray's version. Here it is:

Rachael Ray's 30-minute Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin fillet
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups beef consomme, available on soup aisle
2 teaspoons prepared Dijon style mustard
1/4 cup sour cream, eyeball it
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil, 1 turn of the pan in a slow stream
1/2 small onion, sliced
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cornichons
1 pound extra wide egg noodles, cooked to package directions
Chopped parsley leaves, garnish
Thickly sliced pumpernickel bread, optional

Slice meat into 1/2-thick by 2-inch long very thin strips and season with salt and pepper. Set in freezer.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and cook with flour 1 minute. Whisk in consomme. Thicken 1 minute. Stir in mustard and sour cream, thicken 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season sauce with salt and pepper.

Heat a second skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter, then add the meat and onion and cook over high heat until brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Then add the chopped cornichons and stir to combine.

Arrange meat on a bed of egg noodles and top with Stroganoff sauce and parsley. Serve with thickly sliced pumpernickel bread.

TIMING Tidbit: Slice and place meat in freezer 15 minutes. Sauce and meat are prepared 10 minutes before you are ready to serve.
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