Friday Dance Party – Being Set “Free” With Graffiti6

It’s time for another edition of Friday Dance Party here on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

I’ve been set free several times this week.  I just haven’t been in the groove much at all this week.  It all started when I realized that last weekend was Labor Day weekend.  For some reason, I thought it was this coming weekend.  How do I totally miss a holiday weekend?  When someone at work mentioned the long weekend ahead, I thought they were joking.  Then I began to think about what I would have felt like if I had come into the office on the actual Labor Day Monday and no one would have been there.  That would have really set me free.

At the beginning of this week, it hit me that Summer was drawing to a close.  Another feeling of being set free.  Where did Summer go?  It seems like a couple of weeks ago that I went home for a visit over Memorial Day.  Like a few days ago that we left to spend the Fourth of July in Las Vegas.  Are you telling me that it is time to officially not wear white, harvest the remainder of the vegetables from the garden, winterize the swimming pool in the backyard and, the worst part, begin to locate all of the winter snow shovels so I can put them inside the garage in anticipation of our first snow storm.  Am I really beginning to think about snow?

I also thought this week was close week.  Close week is the time every 28 days that my company closes their books and sees how much money they made or didn’t make.  When my company exceeds their profit forecast, it is chalked up to excellent execution.  When they don’t make their profit forecast, it’s the accountants fault.  Those damn accountants…they must have made ANOTHER mistake.  Needless to say, close week is fairly stressful and I got all crazed and fired up for it a week too early.  Close week is next week.  Wasting all this energy on something that didn’t happen really set me free.

And now this weekend I’m being set free on the Jersey Shore.  We’re off to Asbury Park…home of Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.  Actually, I’d be just as happy to get a glimpse of Snooki or The Situation.  I would set my family and friends free as they watch me take off my shirt, do a little dancing with some fist pumps and then leave with my new friends (drunk, of course) and go do some GTL.  I can only hope!

So with a week’s worth of being set free, it’s time to give thanks for making it through.  We did it again!  So let’s dance this week and be set “Free” from Graffiti6, a London-formed duo that began in 2009.  Let’s give thanks for all that we have and all that we’ve done to close out another week.  By chance, if you see me on the MTV channel with my Jersey Shore friends, let me tell you in advance that I am so sorry for setting you free.  I know the feeling!

We’re Back – Random Thoughts And Shots From Las Vegas

I know that what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but I won’t give too much away from our trip.  As usual, the weather was hot and so was the Strip.  Lots of great food, some wild cocktails, a trip to see Celine, some shopping and lots of gambling has to add up to a great time and this trip was no exception.  Turn up Elvis and enjoy my random thoughts and shots from our trip.  It’s good to be home, but Viva Las Vegas!!

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Fun And Light Stalking In East Hampton

We were invited to spend the weekend with our good friends at their house in East Hampton, Long Island, New York. Our friends are part of a small percentage of people who actually spend the Summer and Winter at their home in the Hamptons. The Hamptons are mostly known as a Summer destination where people travel there to relax and enjoy the heat of the Summer in their home or at one of the many beaches that are on the Atlantic Ocean. Many people have never been to the Hamptons in the Winter, but it is actually a great time to go because there is no crowds and, better yet, no traffic in getting there.

From a history perspective, the Village of East Hampton is a village in the Town of East Hampton, New York. It is located in Suffolk County, on the South Fork of eastern Long Island. The population was 1,083 at the time of the United States 2010 Census. Founded in 1648 by English farmers, East Hampton remained a quiet farming community until the late 19th century, when it became a resort for the wealthy upper class. It became an artists colony in the mid-20th century, popularized by the Abstract Expressionists, most notably Jackson Pollack. Today, it has become a premier weekend destination during the Summer season.

Winter has another benefit in East Hampton as well. Besides no crowds and little traffic, finding your favorite star’s cottage is much easier as well. Yes, I admit that I enjoy finding famous people’s houses and staring at them from the car or from the road that runs in front of their places. Winter is the best time for a light stalking adventure because you can see through the vines and shrubs that are in front of the houses because they have lost their leaves.

My latest trip centered on finding a few homes of my favorite FOODIE people. Enjoy a few of the shots I took on my East Hampton adventure:

Come out, come out Martha Stewart. Here we are in front of Martha’s East Hampton home on Lily Pond Lane. The front yard was filled with burlap covering various shrubs, bushes and small trees for the Winter. The burlap is sort of her Winter trademark. Since I am a civilized stalker, I only go as far as the front gate! If you want to see what the inside looks like, visit here.

Are you there, Barefoot Contessa? Yes, here is a shot of Ina Garten’s East Hampton home. See how the hedge in Winter enables you to see right through?

Another shot of Ina’s home as the car creeps down the roadway.

Remember the season that Ina moved from filming in her home’s kitchen to a look-alike kitchen in her new studio? Here is a shot of the studio which is on the lot right next to her home.

Don’t think less of me because of my stalking. I like to think that it shows I have a high level of curiosity versus stalker-like tendencies. I can’t believe I am the first person to do this, so I feel secure in the knowledge that there are others out there who are like me and understand. Now I just have to figure out how to get one of them to invite me in for a little bite and some tea without getting arrested.

2011’s Top 11 – Decided By You

JoJo the Yorkie and I curled up yesterday to pick the top 11 stories that we posted during 2011 here on Acorns On Glen.  Some of us curled up a little too much.  Can you see where JoJo starts and the faux fur blanket ends?  We started this blog in February as a way for us to realize and then give thanks for all the great things that happen in our lives.  You just can’t take life for granted and this blog is a great way for us to reflect and cherish the fact that we have great family, great friends and now a whole group of great people that visit Acorns On Glen on a frequent basis.  We’ve been blown away by the number of people that stop by and read our posts.  Thanks to all of you who have welcomed us into your lives this year.  The posts that have been visited the most are varied, but the majority of the top 11 seems to show that all of you, our readers, like good food and how to cook it.  Here are 2011’s top 11 posts:

1.  Funky Italian Stuffed Peppers

Our Notorius B.I.G. (Brooklyn Italian Grandmother) heads the list with her great recipe for cubanelle peppers.

2.  South Carolina’s Unbelievable Angel Oak

You liked our sight-seeing trip down in Charleston, South Carolina.

3.  Time For Tuberous Begonias

The story about the begonia tubers I’ve had for years is our most viewed gardening post.

4.  Lots Of Bling – Christie’s Important Jewels

You like jewelry, eh?  Yes you do, big stones with lots of sparkle is what you like.

5.  The Man Behind The Curtain

My bio….you like me, you really like me.

6.  A Toadstool Birthday Tea

Our first guest blogger shows us how to throw a great birthday tea for the little ones.

7.  Luna Moth Or Not – You Be The Judge

A truly magnificent discovery that landed on the back side of our house and stayed for a few days so that we could marvel at it.

8.  A Field Trip To Le Farm Restaurant

Just like us, you enjoyed the cooking of Bill Taibe at his Westport, CT restaurant, Le Farm.

9.  Chocolate Caramel Tart With Fleur De Sel

Who can resist this sweet-salty flavor combination?  We can’t!

10.  Thinking Of My Citrus House Guests

Our little orange and lime trees impressed this year and even gave us a few pieces of fruit.

11.  Meatball Mania With Sauce

Finishing off just the way we started, another hit dish from Notorius B.I.G.

So here’s to everyone who has helped make Acorns On Glen a success.  We are truly humbled by the response, along with your words of encouragement, and can’t wait to share 2012 with you.  We want to wish everyone a Happy New Year (wish I could pass everyone a glass of champagne now) and may 2012 bring you great joy and happiness beyond your wildest imagination.

Friday Dance Party – GaGa’s You And I

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

This weekend we are off to Pennsylvania to see some old friends that I grew up with in Iowa all those years ago.  While we have been out of Iowa for a long time, we have remained close through the years and try to see each other at one of our homes as often as possible.  It’s funny, when we all get back together it is amazing how easy it is to catch up as if we had just seen each other a few days before.  I guess that’s the beauty of having close friends.  To honor our Iowa roots, I thought we could dance this week to Lady GaGa’s ‘You and I’.  It seems that she is traveling back to her country roots to find and reclaim a lost love?  I end that sentence with a question mark because after watching the video a few times I’m not quite sure what to think about her mission.  It’s a great song and a great video….I can’t take my eyes off of it.  If it makes sense to anyone, please let me know.  Mermaids and farm country….you tell me!  So take a few minutes to be in the moment and be happy for another week of living.  You’ve made it through and deserve to celebrate.  Turn up those speakers and dance with GaGa.  Let loose and be a little monster for a few minutes.  What are your plans this weekend?

Hats Off To Magar Hatworks

This is a Fascinator made for the Kentucky Derby.  What is a Fascinator, you may be asking?  It is a hat that has gained in popularity since Kate Middleton began wearing these precariously perched feathered creations on her head.  The Fascinator is a particularly ornate accessory that can feature feathers, beads, flowers and other fancy trimmings.  Fascination over the Fascinator is growing in the United States, with Google searches up 50% for this style of hat since January.  Hats–that’s what brought us to Magar Hatworks in Charleston–and we weren’t disappointed.

Leah Magar has been described as a 21ist-century hat maker.  She uses old-fashioned hat making techniques with a fashion-forward vision in creating her quirky, Sunday-best hats.  She uses the technique of blocking to make and stitch hats by hand.  In fact, she has a collection of museum quality hat blocks lined all around her showroom.  Here are a few examples of the many hat blocks she owns.

But my friend and I were at Magar Hatworks to buy some hats.  You see, I am obsessed with hats and when my friend talked about the hat shop, we knew we had to go.  Honestly, even though I love men and women in hats, I only own two hats and they are recent purchases.  The reason?  I believe that I have the biggest head in recorded history.  There were signs of this before I fully realized it myself.  I have an aunt who says that as a new-born baby I was “all head”.  I could never, ever wear a baseball cap without it squeezing off my head.  Sporting ventures like football required the school to special-order head gear.  However, it was call outs from folks in college and then in the work place about the hugeness of my head that made me finally get the measuring tape out and take a reading.  I am proud to communicate that my head is approximately 26 inches in circumference.  It was confirmed by a measurement at Magar Hatworks.  For the most part, that is a very small person’s waist.  After my initial measurement, Leah Magar said in astonishment that she didn’t have a hat form big enough to block out a hat for me.  After she saw my sad eyes and face, she relented.  She knew how bad I wanted a hat.  You know how it is when you want something so bad and you are told that you can’t have it.  She is now making three for me!

Here is a view of some of the hats that Leah makes.  The straw hats are there for the end of the Spring/Summer season and the others are for Fall/Winter.  For the colder season, there were hats of felt, wool and cashmere that were all dyed in great colors and adorned with various notions.  I ordered one straw hat and two heavier wool hats for the Winter.  My friend bought two straws and is throwing serious hints to her husband about this wonderful Winter hat she needs as a Christmas present.

I have to believe that old-time hat making like what Leah Magar of Magar Hatworks is doing is a dying occupation.  When my friends and family see me walking around with my hats on, I want them to know it is not so much for the fashion statement but more about the fact that an art like this can’t cease to exist.  What a skill!  Oh, and by the way, if anyone laughs when my big head puts a hat on, I may just have to strap on that big Kentucky Derby Fascinator instead.  That will give them something to laugh about!  When was the last time you wore a hat?

Our Hotel In Charleston – The Planters Inn

This is our hotel in Charleston.  Since we are still thick in our Charleston, South Carolina vacation review, it is only right that we discuss where we stayed while in the great city.  The Planters Inn, located in Charleston’s historic district, is a gracious Charleston hotel known for elegance and Southern hospitality.  Built in 1844, this beautifully restored inn is situated on Charleston’s open-air City Market, the King Street Antiques District is only a block away and Fort Sumter tours are within a half-mile.

The inn has beautiful four poster beds in each room.  Unlike other hotels, there is no real lobby area in the hotel.  Instead, there is a small desk that is off of a parlor area that is decorated with period pieces that make you feel like you are back in older times.  Here are some pictures of the hotel that illustrate the charm of the Planters Inn.

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Besides its beauty, it was nice staying at the Planters Inn because it was close to everything that we did while in Charleston.  Its proximity to tourist attractions, great restaurants and shopping can’t be beat.  After walking outside in the heat, it wa great to come back to the parlor or your room and just relax.  Even though the inn is in the heart of the city, it was always very quiet and accomodating.  We were glad we stayed at the Planters Inn.  What great things, like the Planters Inn, have you discovered over the Summer?

Charleston’s Hominy Grill Restaurant – Yum!

This is one of the first things you see when you arrive at the Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina.  Painted on the side of the building, this waitress seems to assure you that inside you will soon be eating some great home-cooked food just like your Grandma used to make.  Nationally acclaimed and locally beloved, the Hominy Grill is a Charleston institution serving classic Southern specialties.  No cans are opened at the Hominy Grill.  All of the food is prepared from scratch with fresh, locally raised ingredients.  Chef/proprietor Robert Stehling first learned to cook at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC.  He then worked for several years in New York before moving to Charleston where he opened the Hominy Grill.  He received the prestigious James Beard Best Chef Southeast award in 2008.

When we first arrived, we knew we would have a little wait given the number of people who were outside on the patio already waiting for a table.  Given the gorgeous weather that Charleston is known for, waiting outside for our table was nice.  Although there wasn’t a bar to stand at, the Hominy Grill does have a window where you can go up to and order whatever it is you would like to drink during your wait.

After about thirty minutes, it was our turn to eat.  The six of us sat down at a table inside a nice bright room with what appears to be an old-fashioned stamped tin ceiling.

Next up, it was time to read the regular menu and review the daily board of specials.  Almost of the dishes offered were Southern classics made with fresh ingredients.  Right off, we knew that we would hit all three courses in our eating adventure–appetizers, main course and dessert.

We started off with fried green tomatoes with ranch dressing for the entire table.  Is there anything more Southern than that?  Did you know that there is not a special variety of green tomato that you grow to use when you make your fried green tomatoes?  You just need to gather unripened, green tomatoes off the vine and batter and fry them.

After polishing off the fried green tomatoes in record time, it was time to move on to the main course.  Take a look at this delicious dish of shrimp and grits, another Southern classic.  The shrimp was sautéed with mushrooms, scallions and bacon and then served over cheese grits.  In this dish, the bacon actually gave the dish a nice smoky and salty flavor when up against the smoothness of the grits and the tender shrimp.

What would the South be without something fried and then served with gravy and a biscuit?  The Hominy Grill did not disappoint and several of us ate the Big Nasty Biscuit with a fried chicken breast smothered in cheddar and sausage gravy.  When we saw this, all we could do is trick ourselves into thinking it only had 200 calories in it and then dig in.  Talk about some good eating!

BBQ was also on order at the Hominy Grill.  Southern barbeque is more vinegar based than other barbeques that you may have eaten.  I like the bite that this type of barbeque offers.  Here is the BBQ chicken sandwich with slaw.  Vinegar BBQ heaven!

Are you ready for dessert?  We were.  We kept it simple and delicious as you can see.  Nothing light about butterscotch pie and a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, huh?  The butterscotch pie was creamy and delicious.  It has been quite a while since I had eaten butterscotch pie and this was a light and flavorful treat.

Now onto the chocolate brownie with homemade vanilla ice cream.  Here’s the question–have you ever met a brownie a la mode that you didn’t like?  I haven’t and the Hominy Grill’s selection was as good as it looks in this picture.

What a great brunch!  At this point in a meal and after all of this food, all you can do is either go back to home base and take a long nap or walk it off.  We thought it best to do some walking which is probably the right choice after you just finished devouring something called the Big Nasty Biscuit.

When we go on vacation, we do some sight-seeing, but for the most part our favorite part of a vacation trip is getting to know the locals through eating.  The Hominy Grill in Charleston really got us acquainted with the food of South Carolina’s low country.  Given that they try to utilize fresh and local ingredients, the food was really delicious.  We hope you enjoyed our little eating frenzy at the Hominy Grill….we sure did.  Do you enjoy dining out a lot when you are on vacation?

South Carolina’s Unbelievable Angel Oak

This is Angel Oak on John’s Island in South Carolina.  When we were ready to make the trek from Charleston to Kiawah, our friends drove their car and we hired a car service.  Our driver begged us to take a few minutes to stop and see this tree.  He said it was one of South Carolina’s best kept secrets and we needed to stop and take a look.

The Angel Oak is a Live Oak (Quercus viginiana) that is a native species found through the South Carolina coastal low country.  Many people think that the name Angel Oak has something to do with angels from heaven, but it just refers to the last name of its previous owners.

Towering over 65 feet high, the Angel Oak has shaded John’s Island, South Carolina, for over 1,400 years.  This means that the oak would have sprouted 1,000 years before Columbus’ arrival in the New World.  Recorded history traces the ownership of the live oak and surrounding land, back to the year 1717, when Abraham Waight received it as part of a small land grant.  The tree stayed in the Waight family for four generations and was then part of a marriage settlement to Justus Angel and Martha Waight Tucker Angel.  In modern times, the Angel Oak has become the focal point of a public park.  Today the live oak has a diameter of spread reaching 160 feet, a circumference of nearly 25 feet and covers 17,100 square feet of ground.  Angel Oak’s largest limb has a circumference of 11.25 feet and a length of 89 feet.  Talk about a large and long arm!

Angel Oak has in the past few years been threatened by proposed development in the area and the destruction of the surrounding woods.  While Angel Oak will not be cut down, many residents of the area believe the surrounding woods help to protect the prized oak from storms and helps allow proper moisture and drainage.  Residents also believe the surrounding woods help filter out harmful pollutants before they reach the Angel Oak tree.

We were very happy to take a little turn off the beaten path and get a chance to see Angel Oak.  Know that the pictures don’t do justice to how large and majestic the oak tree actually is when you see it in person.  It is said to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River.  It sure is a sight worth seeing.  Have you ever seen Angel Oak or heard of it?

Charleston Introduces Us To The Firefly Half and Half

This is our new drink of the Summer discovered on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina.  It is a Firefly Half and Half and it is the second installment of our Charleston, South Carolina vacation review.  It’s discovery must have been fate.  It all started when my other adult vacationing friends ordered up some late-morning Bloody Marys.  Being someone who does not like hard alcohol or tomato juice, the idea of drinking a Bloody Mary was just not going to happen.  So I asked the bartender at the restaurant where we were eating to suggest something for me to sip on and she came up with the Firefly Half and Half.  It contains some Southern classics–Sweet Tea (infused with vodka), lemonade, a lemon slice and some ice.  As you can see by this picture, my Firefly Half and Half was much better than the Bloody Mary as mine is half gone and the other drink only just sipped.

Our discovery starts with some Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.  It was first created in a small still on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, before becoming the world’s first hand-crafted sweet tea flavored vodka.  Keeping true to its Southern roots, Firefly is distilled four times, infused with tea grown on a plantation five miles from the distillery and blended with real Louisiana sugar cane.  It tastes just like real sweet tea, but with an even sweeter kick.  It is available nationally, but finding something made close to Charleston just seemed a little more special than say finding it in Iowa or Connecticut.

For those of you who want to cut down on the sugar cane, Firefly also makes it in a skinny version using the natural sweetner stevia.  It’s the same great taste, but less sugar.  The choice is up to you.

You really can’t mess up this recipe for the perfect Half and Half.  Here it is:

Firefly Half and Half

  • 3 oz. Firefly Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka
  • 3 oz. Lemonade
  • One Lemon Twist
  • Mix over ice in a highball glass

You will also hear this drink called an Arnold Palmer or a John Daly.

An Arnold Palmer is a beverage consisting of half iced tea and half lemonade named for pro-golfer Arnold Palmer.   It is often called a Half and Half.  A John Daly is an alcoholic mixed drink, named after pro-golfer John Daly.  It is simply an Arnold Palmer with vodka.  A John Daly could also be made by combining vodka with lemonade and sweet tea.  Anyway you order it, as a Half and Half, as an Arnold Palmer or as a John Daly, just add Firefly to the beginning and a bartender seems to know what you are talking about….at least in South Carolina anyway.  However, no one that I talk to seems to know why this alcoholic beverage and its non-alcoholic cousin are named after golfers.  I can imagine the correlation, but I will wait to write about it until I can find facts and not just my evil conjecture.

By the end of our vacation, the adults had made a batch to take to the beach on a daily basis.  Name something better than vodka iced sweet tea to drink on a hot beach!  I also must give credit for the lead-in photo of my Firefly Half and Half to my 16-year-old traveling companion.  Since I was on my second (o.k., maybe third, but I was on vacation) drink, I was a little shaky with the camera and so my friend stepped up to the plate with a great shot.  Give the Firefly Sweet Tea vodka a try.  It is actually the perfect drink for your Labor Day festivities and a farewell to Summer…but I’m sure it will be great in Winter too.  Is there such a thing as an out-of-season cocktail?  Have you ever sipped on any of the Firefly vodka products?