Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New Fireplace, All By Myself

Drinking beer at lunchtime is never a good thing. Well, it is in the moment, but afterwards it's just draining. If I don't get a nap, the beer exhausts me, and after two Stellas, I have found myself completely wiped out. But with the sun finally peeking through after weeks of rain, a lunch outdoors with my boyfriend (that just happened to be at our favorite bar), was much needed. I've spent the past day and a half working hard and I needed to cop a squat with my favorite man, over a chicken wrap and some beeahs.

Yesterday, I exhausted myself with painting things. I decided, a few weeks ago, to use this week as a week of painting and planting. Everything (okay, not everything) is getting a fresh coat of something. It started in the morning, when I took it upon myself to paint an exterior door Farrow and Ball Drawing Room Blue. The color was enormous, and it's simple, structured elegance made me want to paint everything blue. I begged and cooed until W agreed to let me use it again on an interior wall.

Next, I began painting the family room with a bright neutral, Farrow and Ball Farrow's Cream. It's not quite yellow, but it has much more punch than any sort of beige you might find. As W spackled, sanded, taped, unplugged and moved furniture, I began painting. One of the four walls in the room was a deep crimson, and seeing it reemerge with this new, bright color was overwhelming. I am so in love with these colors.

In the meantime, there has been this brick-looking tile section in front of my fireplace. It doesn't make much sense being sandwiched in between the hardwood floors, and the painted brick face. I decided to prime and paint it. Here is the before picture; I remembered to take just after I started priming it.

Before. Yuck.
I primed it, and then prepared to paint the tiles to match the stone. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the name of the stone's paint color. I decided it might have been Benjamin Moore's Nantucket Fog. I went out and got a sample, but when I got the small can home, I realized it wasn't the right color. It was too blue. It was, however, perfect for a chair I'd repainted a couple years ago. I repainted the chair once again, along with a little yellow table that I'd gotten secondhand a few years ago.

Table and chair, painted Benjamin Moore Nantucket Fog. The tiles, behind them, are primed.
Today, I went to Anchor True Value Hardware and got a small bit of the color that was on the brick; the name finally came to me late last night. It's Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. After I painted my fireplace tile, though, things still didn't look right. The screen, a plain black screen that had been screwed to the brick by one of the home's previous owners, was lifeless. It made me want to paint the floor a glossy black to match, or...

Detach the screen!

Removing the screen was easier than I'd expected. 
A couple screws, some brute force and... it's off! 
I used my new drill that I'd been dying for (see above photo), the one that my loving boyfriend got me for Mother's Day, to detach the screen. Oh, one I started I was overwhelmed with joy. The effect of seeing it gone opened up the fireplace so much. It did require some cleaning and a bit more painting but boy, was it worth it.

Now, at 5:14 p.m., my fireplace is drying. Soon, I will have a new, beautiful screen and tools, and the result is just fantastic.

Great success! Can't wait for the new screen and tools.

I owe my friend KScorna her baking dish (so sorry, K, I promise tomorrow), and I didn't get to the post office to mail my friend JRA's birthday gift. Dinner will be served a bit late tonight. All for the sake of a fireplace that's worth company.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thank You. Please, May I Have Another?

I cannot say it enough. Sending thank you notes is important, and it makes everyone involved feel good. While a verbal thank you does work on the spot, following up with a hand-written note is just good manners. Now I must say that I have a few friends who are amazing with thank you calls, which are lovely, and thank you emails. There is something, though, about getting a stamped note in your mailbox from someone who wanted to say thank you. They took the time to pick out a note card, write a message, address and stamp it, and then mail it. It shows effort and care, and in today's fast paced world, that means a lot.

Two years ago, I got turned on to a card company called La Familia Green. W's cousin's wife, and one of my favorite mama's, A, sent me a thank you note for a new baby package that I'd sent to her family. It was a cool folded thank you card with a luchador giving the thumbs up, written below him was the word "gracias" (link here). I loved the kitchy style of the card, and went to the website to check out the rest of their shop. I ended up with purchasing a six pack of "G Thanks" cards that still make me laugh when I send one out.

I've always been a big fan of note cards, for as long as I can remember. My grandmother used to have a box of all occasion cards that she would take out anytime she had to write a note, whether it be a thank you note, a birthday card, one saying "get well", or even just a quick note to say "hello". I copied her idea and made myself one, which I'd kept for about 20 years. Now, the box has become a whole card desk. I am obsessed.

Recently, I sent thank you notes to the guests of my Cinco de Mayo party. I wanted to keep the Mexican theme, and wanted the notes to be quality, hand printed cards. On etsy, I found Loitering Press, a shop based in Brooklyn. They had tons of cool cards, and when I saw that they had Mexican inspired thank you cards, and blank notes (la Virgen de Guadalupe), I knew I was in business.

La virgen de Guadalupe y gracias note cards by Loitering Press.
Now, there were other options that fit the bill, but these made the most sense for my party. I wanted to get a special card for W, since he is the man behind the magic, so I searched for a card that had the words "love" and "burrito". I found this card that reads "I love you more than a giant burrito", which is a hand printed Gocco card (listed here is the 3rd edition, but W got the second edition in red). Though the shipping cost was nearly as much as the card, as it was coming from the UK, it was well worth it.

I finished all the cards with a Celebrate stamp, because I believe that stamps make the outside of the envelope as beautiful as the inside, if you do it right. These are great for any party invitations or thank you notes.

I'd tried to get custom envelope seals in the colors of the Mexican flag from my favorite shop that sells them, K is for Calligraphy. Alas, I must have asked too late because I never did get the option for those seals. Note to self: plan ahead. To me, the envelope is as important as what's inside.

While I realize that there are networking sites like facebook with which you can send thank you notes, and there's email, texting, and more, I think it's worth hanging onto the idea of hand writing a note to share your sentiment. What's better than having a lovely note card displayed in your house as a constant reminder of thanks?

This will be my next purchase, just sent to me fresh from Mollie of La Familia Green, who is at the National Stationary Show in NYC this minute.

"Yes, I still send thank yous" from La Familia Green.
A message worth sending, and super cute, too.

Let's start a guerilla thank you writing campaign, and use these cards to send our message! It's a brand new style (I don't even see it listed on the site yet), so check my DGfiles facebook page and I will let you know the minute it's up for sale. I want them now! If you prefer, you can check their website,  lafamiliagreen.com. Either way, let's keep the love flowing, via the old-fashioned, USPS way. Who's with me?

I guess I'm just a fool for mail.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Justin Bieber's Family (who knew, and what about you?)

I never thought I'd say this but, as Justin Bieber says, never say never. Today, I saw the commercial for his documentary, aptly titled Never Say Never, rented it on demand, and I loved it.  I've watched it twice.

I've got Bieber fever.

The fever is not about his songs which, frankly, are pretty catchy. Nor is it about his incredible dancing that made me want to enroll in dance classes again. It's not even about the fact that this kid can play the drums, the piano, and the guitar, really, really well. It's about the fact that he was raised by a teen mom, who split with his dad before his first birthday, and his maternal grandparents, and they seem to have done a really remarkable job.

Before I got the fever, I thought that Bieber was a machine pushed by eager fame-whore parents. It's quite the opposite. Early home videos show him playing the bongos, drums, guitars, and singing his little heart out all on his own, and really loving it. They show an amazingly young boy break dancing like a superstar. This kid was born to perform.

His mother, a quiet and kind woman who seems to want nothing more than wholesome things for her son, is very committed to him, and not in a Dina Lohan white-knuckle way. She looks out for his best interest, is protective, and seems to be as involved in his life as she can be. There isn't a trace of pageant mom in her. His grandparents, too, are obviously supportive and committed to their grandson's well-being. Love abounds all around this family. In fact, his manager (?) Scooter, looks out for him as a father would. Bieber's actual father does attend one of his shows and, while watching his son, he finds himself in tears. It's all good with the Bieber family.

Watching Never Say Never got me thinking about what kind of parent I am, and what I want for my child. Like most parents, I want my child to be both joyful and grounded. While we cannot give our children actual happiness, we can give them stability and support. We can create boundaries, and set behavioral expectations that are age appropriate and represent our family's morals. We can be loving, firm, and lead by example.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Favorite Muffin Recipe (what's yours?)

Every year, when blueberries are in season, I get the itch to make blueberry muffins. I got the recipe from a Cooking Light magazine, and made it for the first time in the off season, January 22, 2005 with my son. He had just turned four years old, and he thoroughly enjoyed doing most of the work. It's that easy. My recipe is clean, made with organic yogurt, blueberries, eggs, and orange juice. I start making them right around Memorial Day, and put them in patriotic muffin cups. I make them weekly, and keep them in the freezer. Every night, I take a couple out to defrost for the morning for breakfast. My son loves to have them with his protein shake, and since I know exactly what's in them, I can feel really good about him eating them. You don't need your mixer or much time to make them, and if you freeze them right away, when you defrost them, they will taste as fresh as the first day you made them.

Be sure each muffin has at least a couple of blueberries. Sometimes, if the batter isn't stirred well, you will end up without enough blueberries in the last few muffins. However, if you over stir the batter, the muffins will be tough and the blueberries may break apart. If you use frozen berries, they will most likely bleed giving a tie dye effect to the muffins. Sometimes, I prefer this effect, and when I can't get fresh organic blueberries, I use frozen organic berries. They look pretty cool swirled. When you allow them to cool, do so on a wire rack. After they've cooled, plate them and drape a light kitchen towel or cheesecloth over the top. Wrapping them in plastic wrap will totally ruin the muffins.

Never refrigerate baked goods, unless we are talking about pies, because refrigeration makes them go stale. If you have ants and don't want them getting into your muffins, you can put them in an airy Tupperware, and leave them on the counter or put them in the freezer. Again, do not refrigerate them or they will just be awful.

My little buddy G next door loves these, too. I think I am going to leave a couple of muffins on his front porch, once I make them.

Try this recipe. You'll love it, and it's about as wholesome and healthy as a yummy tasting muffin can get. I've done the same basic recipe with raspberries (not as pretty but still delicious), chocolate chips. and quartered cherries.

Share your favorite muffin recipe with me here, in the comment section, so that I can give some new ones a try.

blueberry-yogurt muffins 
makes 12 muffins; 3.3 g fat per muffin + 3.7 g protein
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c unsweetened o.j.
  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. vanilla low-fat yogurt
  • 1 c fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 T sugar in the raw

Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold berries into the mixture.

Spoon batter evenly into 12 muffin cups (I use a 1/4 c measuring cup per muffin) lined with muffin liners or sprayed with non-stick baking spray; sprinkle 1 T sugar in the raw over each muffin. Bake at 400* for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans immediately; cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For Locals: fun SALE alert

If you know me at all, you know that I love garage/yard/tag sales more than anything. There are a few upcoming that I want to share with you.

The best one ever is at the Community Church. I got a vintage card table with four folding chairs (all wood) for just $10. That sale is this Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Mountain Lakes)

King of Kings is having their Attic Treasure Sale on Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. (Rt. 46, Mountain Lakes)

The Mountain Lakes Garden Club is having their annual sale at Island Beach this Saturday from 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. (Boulevard, Mountain Lakes)

If you are looking for a boat, check out the boat auction at Cedar Lake clubhouse on May 28th. (Denville)

Please share your upcoming garage sales with me here, and I will post them. Happy sale-ing!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oh, So Nosy!

I'm a bit stressed. As I prepare to send out my thank you notes (and you will read about them once I know that my friends have received them - they're awesome) at the post office, I get a call from someone regarding a situation that I don't want to discuss, something incredibly uncomfortable. The call lasted 35 minutes, most of which had me in tears, or speaking loudly, wishing that I could be anywhere but here.

Consider it the straw that almost broke this camel's back.

After a rough few weeks, I was hoping that things were starting to settle down. I was focusing on the positive changes that I'd made in my life, feeling good about them. But then, after I turned down a bid for an addition on my house, the person (subsequently referred to as said party) who presented the bid had the audacity to send me an email reminding me that said party is "distressed by the direction of my alternative design proposal", which said party didn't even see because someone else will be handling it. It's just not said party's business. Said party also referenced that I "date an artist" and have "spent tons of money" on my home. Unrelated and, once again, not said party's business. I would almost tell you why said party thinks it is said party's business, but that would out their identity, and I just don't think it's fair to share that online. Now, I was willing to let this all of slide and move one -- noting that said party must have been hurt by losing the bid -- even though the email was an unprofessional, if not outright ballsy response, except that said party started telling my neighbors said party's concerns about what appeared to be my decided changes. And one of my neighbor's brought them to my door. (Neighbor referenced: If you are reading this, show me that I'm wrong about you and that you are not the gossip frenzy girl I think you are by not sharing this with anyone. And please, don't come back knocking at my door to talk about it.)

My neighbor, whom I hadn't said a word to about the addition, came to my house to ask me to please rethink my addition, and not do it cheaply, because she'd heard from the person addressed above, well, their whole side of the story. This is both unprofessional and gossipy. When one receives a professional proposal for work, one expects that they can choose not to accept the proposal. Furthermore, it would seem that the professional who made the proposal wouldn't go around town talking poorly about the desired client. You would think. The fact is that I do not live in a condo complex, and I can basically do whatever I please with my home. I could even paint it pink, put flamingos on the lawn (KT, can I borrow yours?).

I've been too friendly, it seems, with my neighbors and proposed contractors, otherwise these people wouldn't feel that I had an open door policy. I cannot imagine telling someone what to do with their house. Not for a minute. I have watched my neighbors do things that I don't agree with, but I've never said a word. Fortunately, I have really great neighbors on one side of my house, a husband and wife with two adorable little boys, and for me, they are my saving grace.

But I've had it with living on the D list version of Wisteria Lane (thanks, JMK, for that reference). Please, keep your nose in your own affairs.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tiffany -- Worth the Weight in Gold

Two years ago, nearly to the day, I got a Tiffany link clasp bracelet with three heart tag charms. On them, were engraved the following: Johnny, Ward, and then Emma on the front side of the third, and Mollie on the back side. One week later during Memorial Day weekend, I was jumping on the trampoline with the kids and one of the link clasps hooked onto the trampoline and hyper extended. I brought the bracelet back to Tiffany, expressing that I was concerned I could lose it if it happened again. While they did replace the link (Tiffany is great at repairs) free of charge, I was still worried. I wear the bracelet 24/7, and wanted something sturdy.

Needless to say, the bracelet did survive the past two years with the new link, though many a time a random link got caught on something (jeans, couch, bedsheets, anything) and would hyper extend. You see, all of the links open in order to make it easy to attach charms. That made the risk of losing my bracelet that much greater. Essentially, each link was a weak one. I learned how to push the links back into place, but it was nothing short of annoying.

The original link clasp bracelet.

Just a few days ago, a link got caught on my jeans and hyper extended so badly that I couldn't put it back into place. W thought it best that I take it back to T&Co. once again to get another new link. I agreed.

At the cushy customer service section, a woman came out to help me. She asked my name and telephone number. After hearing my concern, and looking up my last repair, she offered me the option to trade my bracelet for another one, and to have the heart charms soldered onto it free of charge. In an effort to stick with what works, I chose the classic charm bracelet (I have one in silver, too), but the only one that they had came with another heart tag charm. This meant I was trading up at a cost of $750. I thought about it and decided that the peace of mind was worth every penny.

When my bracelet is ready, I will pick it up with a fourth charm that bears no name. An open heart. I like it.

Thank you to Tiffany & Co. for being so wonderfully accommodating.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fiesta por Cinco de Mayo (al día siguiente)

I woke up this morning, Mother's Day, feeling like I'd been out all night drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes. While I'd done nothing of the sort, I could pin the cause of the feeling on two things. It was the morning following our fifth annual Cinco de Mayo party, which was held in my pollen-laden backyard. The pollen makes my allergies absolutely aggressive, and then there was a strong push of smoke coming consistently off of the fire that we'd lit in the fire pit. Though the beauty and heat of the fire made the night that much better, it did nothing but wreak havoc on my throat the following morning.

My head was aching; my body felt completely drained. Though I hadn't gotten drunk, I did have a few cervesas over the span of six hours, and a cup of Patron XO Cafe (to die for, thank you M & J) that my dear friend MK had brought over. The booze dehydrated me, and once W and I went to bed, we were both too tired to get up for some water.

Our slow, bumpy wake up was worth it. The Cinco de Mayo party was a total blast. We had about 20 of our closest friends come to kick off the warm season. Everyone was in good spirits, and many came in their Mexican best. Our friends S + V came an hour early, thinking they were an hour late, which was such fun! S and I chatted while she helped me get things set up; we tested the dip and shared a drink before the party got going. They had arrived with armfuls of blow up cacti, which were hysterical (and are currently being housed in my basement for next year's party). While S and I were kicking it housefrau style, V + W went to V's house to get wood for the firepit. My friend MK's husband J wore an awesomely thick mustache, and changed his name to Diego for the night. (Ironically, I wanted to name my son Diego before we settled on his decided name.)

We had a hot sauce contest, and everyone was invited to take a blind taste test and register their vote. Our first tester, RR, chose to cleanse his palette with a shot of Patron (he and his wife brought us a bottle), one shot between each of the first three sauces. His co-tester, VP, followed suit. People watched with interest as RR and VP compared flavor, degree of heat, and originality. Six more people sampled then voted, and a winner was chosen. In the process, though, our friend KT said that after tasting one of the sauces, her mouth was so numb that she could have had a root canal and wouldn't have felt a thing.

I rarely post pictures from parties, but this one is awesome so I got permission from the subjects to share it on the blog. Here, the first runner up along with the winner of the hot sauce contest; the winning sauce is called Scorned Woman. It's blurry because it was taken with my cell phone, and our pal on the right was moving.

J making a sad face (at my urging) with his chipotle based hot sauce,
and MC with his winning sauce Scorned Woman, and prize The Tequila Cookbook
We spent most of the night laughing, and the night passed too quickly. We played a game, created by W's sister M, where everyone had to write what Cinco de Mayo is about. We had prizes for three categories: the right answer, the most wrong answer, and the funniest answer. The prize for funniest was my old Shawn Cassidy album, the most wrong answer was an untouched vintage game, Perquacky.  The answers were funny, and no one actually knew what we were celebrating.

My attempt at introducing the tequila cake (which did fairly well at a local bar on the actual fifth of May) fell short. My friend KP made her legendary delectable brownies, and KScorna made a fabulous Margarita Pie. There's a piece or two left in the fridge, but most of the 9 x 13 pan filled with pie was enjoyed during the party. It was so good that people had seconds and thirds. KScorna is going to share the recipe with me so that I can post it here.

After W and I rolled out of bed, we headed to our favorite diner. Though there was a line of people waiting for a table, we confidently walked inside, hoping to find a two-top. At the counter sat two of our friends, who'd been with us at the party last night, with their children. Somehow, despite the late night they'd shared with us, they looked amazing, H even donning a pretty, fitted pink dress. W and I, on the other hand, had barely brushed our teeth and still smelled of the previous night's smoke.

Blame it on the Patron.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Go Ahead, Make My Daybed

I'm deciding to make this a quick blog. The story behind it is long and messy, and I haven't got the energy to rehash it. Between a long-drawn out social break up*, hours upon hours of gardening, and endless discussions regarding renovation (or lack thereof) plans, the building of the bed was the final straw.

In short, my son is having some sort of renovation done to his bedroom. It's not too small, but it's a dormered space, so most of his room has a slanted wall. It also has old carpet and childish wallpaper. The carpet's being removed, to expose the beautiful wood floors, the wallpaper is being torn down, and the walls are being freshly painted. The slanted wall is being ripped out so that we can repitch the roof and get him a little more headroom.

Since my son is being displaced temporarily, I decided to put a daybed with trundle in our office/guest room. They are expensive, so in an attempt to save money, I decided to buy one online and build it myself. It was rough. The building instructions says that two people are needed, but since the only other person in the house was my son, I had to build it myself. It wouldn't have been hard had I not had to balance the heavy pieces in the upright position while attaching the nuts and bolts. It wouldn't have been hard if I didn't have to balance the spring mattress frame on my knees while I screwed it to the bed rails. At one point, in exasperation, I called my son into the room telling him in no uncertain terms that he needed to help me. Poor guy.

In the end, after a couple of hard hours of work, some old fashioned bitching, and a puncture wound in the top of my right foot, the bed is done. I am very happy with it.

Now, if only I had a pair of wire cutters to release the trundle. Anyone?

*I watched the Housewives of NYC for the first time in a year last night. Kelly B. breaks up with her friend, Ramona, after three years. She says that after three years, it either works or it doesn't, and if it doesn't, it's time to move on. It makes perfect sense. If only Ramona would respect her decision, and leave her alone.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paint By Number

Years ago, probably five, I went to a small garage sale at a house on a cul-de-sac in a neighboring town. It was the end of the day and there wasn't much left, but I got out of the car and looked anyway. I always stop for garage sales.

Nothing grabbed my eye except for a paint by number ballerina. I'm not a collector, but the colors matched those that were in my bathroom, and she was cheap (I think $3), so I decided to buy her. My bathroom walls are covered with some sort of metal that was painted over, so until I started to hammer the nail into the wall, I had no idea. But it just wouldn't go. Holes can only be drilled into the bathroom wall, and frankly, I wasn't committed enough to take a step so big. The ballerina simply sat atop a basket over the toilet. For years.

About two years ago, I found a second paint by number, that I liked and was well priced. I think it was from my fave shop, Savannah Hope Vintage, but I may be wrong. Anyhow, it was a bouquet of flowers and it just grabbed me when I saw it, so I got that, too. I hung them side by side in a small nook in the upstairs of my house. They hung there for quite some time, waiting for a third to make their little set complete. I didn't want just anything, so I waited, leaving the space open. It took a while, but then I found a Lindsay Lohan paint by number. It was one of her mug shots, created and being sold (unpainted) by PopParty, a Jersey City based shop that sells on etsy. They offer other unfinished paint by numbers, too, including custom paint by numbers, and while I'd love a paint by number of my family, I thought it best to start small. I love Lindsay, and thought that painting her myself would be a lot of fun, so I decided to buy it.

On the left is the printed sheet showing how Lindsay should look.
On the right is my finished version.
I had a blast painting her, and it was easy enough since the paint, the brush, and the how-to was all included with the set.

Once she was done, I went out searching for a vintage frame that would be work beside the other two paint by numbers. It took me months, and though I never found a vintage one, I did find a frame for $4 at Michael's that works perfectly. Now Lindsay, the flowers, and the ballerina are one happy family.

Lovely together. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

¡Tequila y Chocolate!

I'm not Mexican. Not even close. In fact, I've only visited Mexico once, for a couple of hours, and only Tijuana, as part of a trip to Southern California. Yet there is something about Cinco de Mayo that makes me want to celebrate.

Mostly, it's because it's in early May, and having a party in my backyard forces me to do all of my mulching, get my outdoor lighting hung, and clean the yard. It's an early summer kick-off of sorts. If it's not too hot, I have W light a fire in the firepit, and we all sit around it on Adirondack chairs and drink our Mexican cervesas in sombreros.

I used to make lots of food, and would even have tamales shipped in from Texas for the party. I noticed, though, that hot food can be a problem. Few people actually arrive on time, or hungry, and the hot food cools quickly when outside. My house is too small to be heating food in the kitchen; it makes a mess. I am sure I could Sterno the food, but I find that having people come later in the evening for drinks and dessert, works just as well.

This year, I found some fun recipes for the party. While I am not a fan of tequila, it does seem to be the liquor associated with Mexico, at least in these parts. Given this, I've decided to make a big batch of tequila sunrise to have in a pitcher for those looking for something stronger than cervesa, and a tequila cake (my guests will all be getting the recipe written out on cards as part of my thank you notes) with a tequila glaze.

For those who are in the tequila-free boat, I will be making Mexican chocolate balls. They are easy to eat, and fun to make (recipes below).

This year, we will be having a hot sauce contest. People bring their favorite hot sauce, and everyone taste tests the sauces to see whose is best. I get to keep all the hot sauces to eat the rest of the year, which is a wonderful treat. I have a favorite that I'm having shipped in from Savannah. Still, I am more excited to taste the ones that I've never experienced before. We have taco Wednesdays every week, so the hot sauce goes quickly.

I keep decorating simple. I use empty Corona bottles as vases to keep single red blooms all over the house. With them, I hang a paper flag in the colors of Mexico. I burn saints candles that are Spanish, and have the saints' names and faces on the outside in Spanish. They cost about $1 each and aren't scented so their are no scents to muddle the tastes of the food. They come in different colors with different Saints, so they are lots of fun to have around the deck.

This year is our fifth Cinco de Mayo party. I almost decided to have a mariachi band come, but I think I will save that for our tenth one. ¡Fiesta!

bolitas de chocolate mexicano

3 oz. Mexican chocolate, finely ground
3 c powdered sugar
1 c sweetened condensed milk
1/4 t salt
1 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 c almonds, finely chopped

Combine chocolate, powdered sugar, milk, salt & vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Shape into 1" balls. Roll in nuts. Makes 72 balls.

tequila cake
preheat oven to 325*
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 c butter
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c milk
  • 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 c tequila
Cream sugar, butter, and eggs together. Stir in milk, then add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat well. Add the Tequila and beat until smooth. The secret of this cake is to beat the batter very well until it becomes shiny.

Fold the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour in a 325* oven or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake on wire rack, then remove cake from the pan, place on cake server or plate and top with Tequila Cake Glaze.

tequila cake glaze
  • 1 c light brown sugar
  • 1 c dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 c water
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 c tequila
  • 2 T Grand Marnier
Place the sugars, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until the mixture becomes semi-caramelized. Remove from heat, stir in the tequila and Grand Marnier and pour over the cake while glaze is still warm.

tequila sunrise

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1/2 c fresh orange juice
  • 1 T grenadine
  • 1 t lime juice
  • crushed ice and maraschino cherry for topping

Mix tequila, orange juice, grenadine and lime juice in a blender. Pour into glasses. Add crushed ice and garnish with a cherry. (I will have a bucket of crushed ice and a bowl of cherries beside my pitcher, for people to make their own sunrise.)