Obsessed with Charcuterie

Obsessed with charcuterie.

A friend and her husband came over for cocktails on our patio last week. I told her beforehand that I was going to make us a special summer cocktail, and she said she would bring a charcuterie board. I told her it wasn’t necessary, but secretly, I was excited about it!

I’ll get the cocktail information out of the way first, because I know you’re wondering. Back in March, I traveled to Miami with my teenage daughter and some of her friends for Spring Break. A friend of mine met us there with her daughter, and a good time was had by all. On the last night of vacation, we dined at a restaurant called Ocean Grill at The Setai. The atmosphere was lovely at this beachside restaurant, and when I looked at the drink menu, I was thrilled to see a Frozen Bellini. Of course, I ordered it, and it was fantastic. I remembered that when I was thinking of cocktail recipes, and I looked it up. I found the recipe at orwhateveryoudo.com. You can see it here. I went exactly by the recipe, but when I served them, I added a little more ginger ale when I added the prosecco…just to sweeten it a bit more. And they were almost as good as the ones at Ocean Grill.

So my friend and her husband arrived with a giant charcuterie board in tow! I couldn’t believe it when she walked in! She had made a lovely arrangement of cheeses, meats, crackers, fruit, and chocolate. Wow! I couldn’t dig in fast enough! We sat out by the pool, enjoying our Frozen Bellinis and the charcuterie board (and watching the parade of coyotes!).

And as usual, I became obsessed.

My friend told me Crate & Barrel has a large assortment of charcuterie boards, but I didn’t have time to go there last week, so I ordered one from Amazon. To see the one I ordered, click here. While I waited for it to arrive, I went grocery shopping. My friend said she gets great ingredients at Trader Joe’s, which is just around the corner from my house, but I can’t bring myself to go, because the parking is so bad, so I went to another local grocery store that has plenty of parking. I wandered around the store looking for the perfect ingredients…cheeses, crackers, bread, nuts, meats, fruits, olives, and chocolate.

As usual, my life should be a sitcom, because here’s what happened: I got home with all the groceries and put them away. My husband and I decided to go for a walk. We often go for walks in the evenings…usually just two miles, but it’s something we enjoy. We got about a half mile from our house when one of her friends drove up. I asked, “What are you doing here?” And she told us she was on her way to our house. What?!?! Apparently, our daughter was still out with other friends but told her friend she could go on to our house. No big deal, but we cut our walk short, got into the car with her, and went back home. It was then she told us two more friends were on their way. We love having our daughter’s friends over, so that was absolutely fine with us.

The other two friends arrived and promptly announced they were hungry. One asked, “Do you have any pepperoni and cheese?” They know I usually keep that as an easy snack, so I got out some of the pepperoni and cheese I had purchased for my soon-to-be-made charcuterie board. Another one opened the pantry and grabbed the nuts and crackers. The third girl? She grabbed the prosciutto and mozzarella I had purchased. My husband, knowing I had just purchased everything for the board, just looked at me and laughed. The pepperoni supply was completely depleted, and the cheese? Well, there wasn’t enough left to work with.

I didn’t even get to make my planned charcuterie board, but I was thrilled the girls enjoyed everything I had purchased. There’s nothing I love more than having my daughter’s friends over. Young energy is a good thing. I remember when my own mother loved seeing my friends arrive at our house. Even when my friend, Angela, came over to her house when we were both 50, my mother thought the laughter we shared was the greatest sound ever. Since our daughter is a teenager, I totally get it now.

I’m still totally obsessed with making charcuterie boards. I will make another trip to the grocery store later today. I know my daughter will have friends over at some point this week, and I will be prepared with a beautiful charcuterie board. It will have all those same ingredients I know they love, and hopefully, they will devour everything.

I will stand back and smile while trying to think of new ingredients for the next charcuterie board.

Coyotes in the City

Coyotes in the city.

We have lived in the same house for over 20 years. We love our neighborhood in Charlotte (North Carolina). We don’t live right in uptown (what Charlotteans call downtown), but we are well within city limits on the south side of town.

Because our neighborhood has two lakes, lots of trees, and borders a golf course, we have lots of wildlife. Over the years, it hasn’t been unusual to see owls, blue herons (they nest right behind my friend’s house), deer, snakes, hawks, rabbits, turtles, bullfrogs, ducks, geese, Bald Eagles, and even a lone turkey! And yes, we have seen a few coyotes…maybe three over the course of twenty years.

During the pandemic, we started having evening cocktails on the patio. Every evening, we sat outside laughing and talking…sometimes just us, and sometimes with neighbors and friends. I don’t remember hearing or seeing any coyotes last year, but this year…wow.

Earlier in the year, the people who purchased a house just over the ridge behind us decided to demolish the house and clear a lot of the trees from the three acres of land. I thought it was sad as I saw beautiful trees being mowed over by heavy equipment. One tree that went down was a favorite one I could see from the patio, but it was none of my business. Since then, all construction activity has stopped on the property. For several months, it has been quiet.

Well, construction has been quiet, but the neighborhood has been eerily noisy.

We started sitting outside for cocktails again as soon as the weather allowed in the spring. And one of the first nights we were out there, we heard something: howling, yipping, yapping…the creepy sounds of coyotes. Yep, coyotes, right here in Charlotte city limits. It happens at some point almost every night, but I don’t think it’s something I will ever get accustomed to hearing.

Recently, I was sitting outside at 10pm with my neighbor when we suddenly heard a long, lone howl. It was one of those perfect howls like in a western movie. We looked at each other in disbelief. And shortly thereafter, we heard the familiar yipping, yapping sounds of a coyote frenzy. After investigating the meanings of these different sounds, I have learned that one long howl is likely a coyote trying to locate its pack. The yipping/yapping heard afterward is the pack responding to the howl. So I guess that is the communication we were hearing that night.

A few nights later, my husband and I had some friends over for cocktails, and at about 8:30pm, just before dark, my husband pointed at something and asked, “What is that?” I responded, “That’s a coyote…and another…and another!” Three coyotes roaming just past our next door neighbor’s house. They looked very confident. I’m not sure if they saw us, but if they did, they clearly were not disturbed by our presence. Of course, the men ran out to the other side of the house to see if they could see more of them, but nothing. We had never seen three coyotes together in our neighborhood…and it was relatively early in the evening!

Not gonna lie…I find it fascinating, even if it is a bit scary. I know…coyotes generally want to stay away from people, but that knowledge isn’t much comfort when we go for a walk in the evening. I have a fear of encountering a whole pack of coyotes. My husband always tells me not to worry about it, and I jokingly tell him that if we are charged by a pack of coyotes, I’m pushing him down, and I’m running. It’s a joke, of course. I have no idea what I would do if we encountered an angry pack. Chances are, I wouldn’t have to do anything, because they would run from us, but I don’t really want to find out.

Our yard is fenced. We leave exterior lights on at night. We don’t leave pet food outdoors. Our back yard is fenced. And we have a relatively big dog, a Doberman Pinscher. All of those things are supposed to deter coyotes. Our veterinarian says that if we see any near our yard, we should make loud noises to scare them. He also said we could soak pieces of cloth in ammonia or perfume and tie them along the fenceline. Apparently, those unnatural scents deter coyotes too. I’m not going that far…yet. Right now, as long as they keep their distance, we will co-exist peacefully.

When I moved to Charlotte more than twenty years ago, I certainly didn’t think we would have coyotes in the city!

Razzle Dazzle!

Razzle dazzle!

Several weeks ago, at the end of September, I took a much-needed vacation to the Los Angeles area. I had not been on an airplane since the whole COVID shutdown started, and I was having withdrawals. I needed to get on a plane and go where I wanted to go. So I did.

My dear sister-friend, Jennifer, flew in from Ohio and met me for the first couple of nights, and we had the best time talking, laughing, and drinking champagne…lots of it! She could only stay for two nights, but I stayed a couple more nights after she left, and that’s when I razzle dazzled the maître d’ at one of my favorite restaurants. I had made a dinner reservation for one (I don’t mind dining alone), and when I arrived, he greeted me warmly. He then looked down at my very shiny, glittery gold shoes and exclaimed, “Razzle dazzle!”

Apparently, prior to my arrival, he and the hostesses had been discussing how a little “razzle dazzle” can add some excitement to life, and when I arrived in my shiny shoes, I brought it with me! As I dined near some old school Hollywood types (a Corleone and a very tan man), I laughed thinking how I had brought the razzle dazzle. These two very famous gentlemen were dining at the next table, but I had the razzle dazzle! And I knew the maître d’ had learned something I’ve known for a long time…a little razzle dazzle can brighten a mood, add some excitement, and improve my outlook.

Now, razzle dazzle has become a part of my daily lexicon. I read an article recently about words you can add to your daily lexicon to sound “more literate.” Sadly, razzle dazzle wasn’t included in the list! No surprise there, but I don’t feel the need to sound more literate. I want to sound more exciting…more fun! Life can get so boring. It can be so monotonous. And during the COVID shutdowns, it gets downright lonely and depressing sometimes. Am I right? But if I’m lonely and depressed, I can remind myself to razzle dazzle, and if I turn on the right upbeat music, or have a glass of champagne, or put on my shiny shoes, or even sport some bling-y jewelry, well, my mood improves immediately! I know it’s silly. But sometimes life calls for silly. I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. Again…depressing.

So for my next big razzle dazzle, I’m going to put up my aluminum Christmas tree with its color wheel. Yes, I know it’s just the first week of November, and believe me when I say I normally don’t go all holiday crazy before Thanksgiving. But in 2020? I think we need a little holiday razzle dazzle to brighten up the end of what has been a dismal year.

I purchased this particular tree earlier this year from Vermont Country Store. You can see it and order here, and get the color wheel here. ***Did you know the color wheel was invented to keep people from stringing lights on the aluminum trees, because it would have been a fire hazard?*** Several years ago, I had a tree/colorwheel that had belonged to my grandparents. I remember it in their living room back in the 1970s…and as a little girl, I thought it was absolutely glorious! The beautiful colors of the light wheel reflecting off the silvery tinsel of the tree! It was mesmerizing to me. In fact, if you’d like to see some photos of “mid-century” women enjoying their aluminum Christmas trees, click here. After my grandparents died, I got the tree and the wheel. I put it up one holiday season and kept it illuminated, but after that, I was afraid of it. It was old and dusty. And I wasn’t sure about the electrical components. Frankly, I was afraid it would catch fire. So this year, I purchased a new one, and I can hardly wait to put it up and razzle dazzle my family and friends with it. My husband likely won’t approve, but he’s not a big fan of razzle dazzle like I am. It won’t be our only tree. It’s just going to be our early tree…the one that will razzle dazzle us through Thanksgiving. We will put up our regular traditional tree after that, but I will keep the aluminum tree up too…just for the razzle dazzle effect…and maybe just to drive the husband crazy.

And when I put up the aluminum tree this week, I will be wearing my shiny shoes. In fact, I will be wearing different pairs of shiny shoes throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season, so if you see me, please feel free to yell, “Razzle dazzle!”

This year, I’m especially glad the holidays are approaching. We need some light! We need some brightness! We need some razzle dazzle!

Blame It On the Limoncello

Blame it on the limoncello.

After I posted my piece titled Please Drop In, I received a text from a friend telling me she was on the way to my house. This particular friend is funny…hilariously funny…and smart…put those two qualities together, and it makes for an awesome person. In fact, she’s so awesome that, years ago, when she told me she had “people” (that’s Southern for family) in Clanton, Alabama, I told her we absolutely must be related. I have family all over Alabama, so anything’s possible, right? Rather than digging through genealogy, I just went ahead and declared her my cousin. So, now we’re cousins. I’ve written about my “fake cousins” before. I don’t have a lot of them, but when I feel a particular kinship with someone…well, they become my fake cousin. So…when she said she was on her way to my house, I was thrilled!

A few minutes later, she drove up my driveway in her beautiful white convertible, and when she hopped out, she had a bag in her hand. Here’s what it contained: two cups of ice, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of Limoncello, a bottle of Diet Sprite, and some lemon juice. That’s a party in a bag! And yes! As you see…she even brought cups of ice! This cousin was prepared!

I have to admit that when I saw the bottle of limoncello, I got a little scared. I had an unforgettable experience with limoncello several months ago. You’d think at 53, I’d know what not to do where alcohol is concerned, but apparently, I’m not the fastest learner. A friend invited me to go with her to see Kathleen Turner perform in her one-woman show in Greenville, South Carolina. Because I’m a control freak, I offered to drive us there. We made an early dinner reservation for 5:30 or 6:00 at a restaurant near the theater, and we hit the road, arriving at the restaurant at about 5pm. The bar was open, but the restaurant wasn’t open yet, so we bellied up to the bar. My friend ordered an Old-Fashioned, and I ordered a glass of Prosecco. Well, one glass turned into two…never a big deal, because we wouldn’t be getting into the car for hours. But then, the bartender offered us some homemade Limoncello.

Has anyone ever told you how dangerous Limoncello can be? Well, I drank what he poured me, and when I stood up to go to the ladies room, I knew immediately that I was a little drunk. Yes, at 53, I was accidentally drunk before dinner. Fortunately, when I returned from the ladies’ room, our table was ready, so we could go straight to our table and order dinner. After dinner, I was feeling better, and we walked in the cool, brisk air to the theater. The show was great, and we joined some friends of my friend for “drinks” afterward…I just had coffee, thank you very much. By the time we left, it had been six hours since we moved from the bar to our table, and I was sobered up. I had a terrible headache, but I was sober.

The day after that little jaunt to Greenville, I was talking with another friend who said she’d had a limoncello experience too, and she reminded me of a time Danny Devito appeared drunk on The View. Later, he blamed his slurred speech and unsteady gate on the limoncello he’d been drinking, saying, “I knew it was the last seven limoncellos that was going to get me.” Since then, whenever something goes awry in my world, I say, “Blame it on the limoncello.”

But last week, my cousin who dropped in assured me no bad behavior was on the horizon. She assured me we were going to have one very light afternoon cocktail. And I watched intently as she mixed a lovely, summery-tasting concoction using all the ingredients she brought with her. And it was delicious! It tasted like sunshine!

All this was my long way of saying a great big “thank you” to my cousin for dropping in with the perfect treat in hand. Even better, she brought her infectious sense of humor and optimism…just when I needed it most! This whole pandemic has cancelled some of my vacations, and she knew I had the blues. But she cured that! I hope she’ll drop in again soon…or maybe I’ll drop in on her!

Blame it on the limoncello!