M.C.'s Birthday Dinner

I realize that I am supposed to be writing about Georgia adventures—like antiquing in Madison and the three lovely Lake Oconee houses we spent time in last weekend. But that’s just going to have to wait because I’m in charge here, in case you haven’t noticed. And I want to write about food. (Go ahead, snap those jaws shut. I know you’re only feigning surprise.)

Specifically, I want to write about MC’s birthday dinner. MC, in case you didn’t know, has also been referred to as the Lovely Miss E on this here blog. She’s the mother of the equally lovely Auntie R and the mother-in-law of Uncle H. In honor of her birthday, we celebrated a lovely dinner on the deck yesterday evening.

There was steak, of course. (That’s MC’s favorite, in case you’re wondering. And Uncle H made wayyyy too much.)

And sweet potatoes, roasted in the oven. (I usually do fries, but I think I'm sold on the chunks now instead.)

Plus mushrooms, sautéed in a whole lot of butter and garlic. (They were delish and I am pretty sure I ate this whole bowl full. Seriously. I can still feel them in my stomach.)

And MC’s famous rolls (which, by the way, I made quite some time ago and still have not shared with you—bad Julie).

And white asparagus.

Yes! White! I’d heard rave reviews but never actually experienced white asparagus before. And man oh man am I glad I did because it was good. Particularly drizzled with butter and lemon. Yum. (Keep in mind, however, that if you happen to make it, you have to peel the asparagus first. You don’t have to do that with the green stuff.)

Then, for dessert, I made strawberry rhubarb pie. Uncle H loves it and so if rhubarb is in season and I’m in town, it has to be on the menu. (But because it was MC’s birthday, I made it with Splenda instead of regular sugar for her, which really is just as good. And I had extra pie crust so I “wrote” her initials in crust on top of the pie. Still, Uncle H was the one who ate most of it.)

While we were finishing up dessert, the driver arrived to take My Mom and I to the airport hotel. But because we were in the south (you know, the place that coined the term southern hospitality), the driver couldn’t just sit in the car and wait for us to come out. Uncle H actually called him in advance to see if he’d eaten yet because, if not, we had plenty of steak for him. Alas, he had eaten. So instead, when he arrived, Uncle H invited him to the back deck to enjoy a piece of pie with us before we took off. He accepted the offer for the pie and company on the deck and was, I think, thoroughly entertained.

Ah yes, southern hospitality at its best. It’s a wonder I left.

The Brookstone Member-Guest

Member-Guest tournaments can be serious affairs that involve high entry fees, big-money pots, intense playoffs, and exquisite crystal prizes.

Or they can involve pink flamingos, feather boas, and bird feeders.

Guess which kind I participated in yesterday?

Yep, it was the latter. This was my third year playing in the Brookstone Member-Guest tournament with Auntie R. My Mom was there too, playing with Miss LP. My Mom used to play with Auntie R each year, until one year she couldn't come so I played with Auntie R instead. And we won. And now I get to play with Auntie R every year. (Don't worry, My Mom doesn't mind in the least. She and Miss LP have a wonderful time. And they don't get near as competitive as Auntie R and I, so it works out for the best.)

Each year, the women's member-guest includes a theme. One year it was a safari, so we wore safari-looking cowboy hats and posed for photos with a giant gorilla (photos are required, by the way).

This year, the theme was Birdies of a Feather, so Auntie R and I decided pink sequined flamingo t-shirts were appropriate (and good luck).

My Mom and Miss LP wore vests adorned with bright blue feather boas.

They also had little blue birds attached to their visors. My Mom actually wore her visor for the whole round and every time I noticed the bird perched on her head I started giggling. It's a wonder I didn't mishit more shots.

Speaking of which, guess who won Low Net for the first flight this year?

Yep, that's right. Collins and Collins. (That's Auntie R and I, in case you weren't sure.) The big winnings? Bird feeders. They're very lovely, only mine didn't quite fit in my suitcase, so it's going to hang out at Auntie R and Uncle H's for a while.

Oh, and by some miracle, I won the putting contest for guests too.

(And it really was a miracle, because promptly after finishing the contest on Thursday I played 18 and three-putted pretty much every hole. It was at that point My Mother—My Mother!—informed me that I needed a new putter. In fact, she was adamant. And if your mother tells you that you need a new putter, you sure as hell better find a new putter. So Uncle H loaned me an old Taylor Made for Friday and I have to admit, I did putt a bit better. So thanks for the sound golf advice, Mom. I promise to listen to you more often.)

I don't have much to say about this picture. It's looking back from the green toward the number four tee box. I just felt the need to add an obligatory golf course shot.

One last note: Another perk of the women's tournament? On the fourth hole, a certain handsome gentleman who also happens to have the last name Collins (that would be Uncle H, in case you're wondering ... there are quite a few handsome gentlemen with the last name Collins, so it's important to clarify), served refreshments for all the ladies.

How appropriate.


A New Design

If you regularly visit the Julie Tries home page to get your updates on all things Julie, Conservative Boy, and Butter, odds are you've already noticed things have changed around here. (Unless it's early morning and you're still bleary eyed. In which case, wake up darn it! This is important stuff.)

If you read my posts by email subscription or RSS feed, however, you have no idea what I'm talking about. So I'll give you a hint:

Either way, if you're not there yet, might I suggest that you mosey on over to the home page to see what's happening? It will only take you a minute (promise!) and all you have to do is click right here.

An incredibly talented friend of mine helped add a bit of personality to Julie Tries. Maybe you like it, maybe you don't. All I know is that I think it's swell and I'm excited to finally boot that boring blog of the past to the curb.

Let me know what you think. Then come back later—I'm posting about more Georgia adventures soon!


Memorial Day at the Lake


I'm back from a long weekend at one of my favorite places: Lake Oconee in Georgia. (Remember it? We were there last summer and for Thanksgiving too.)

"Back," of course, is a relative term, as I'm still in Georgia for the rest of this week. But, alas, lake time has come to an end because My Dad, My Sister, and Conservative Boy had to fly home bright and early this morning. Apparently some people can't take their work with them wherever they go. (Yes, I am rubbing it in.)

I have a few posts to share with you about our adventures in the Lake Oconee area—stay tuned for antique shopping and a peek at a few of the lovely residences we spent time at while in the area. But for now, I thought I'd whet your appetite with some photos of the actual lake, where we spent much of our time Saturday and Sunday (despite a few rain showers).

There was boating (and more than a bit of sitting on the dock).

And tubing.

And swimming.

And fishing.

And plenty of wet dogs.

(Wait! Hold the presses. This is not my dear sweet Butter you're seeing here. We'll call him Butter's long-lost cousin, Chester, who despite being a year younger weighs as much as Butter does. These two were a nice substitute while I was away from my dear puppy. But man oh man did they wear one another out.)

Plus there was plenty of photo-taking, since Uncle H and My Sister both have cameras I covet. So I can't take credit for all of the above images. It was a team effort!

More soon ...


An Herb Garden

Last year I planted herbs in pots. Two types of parsley and oregano made an appearance in this pot near the front door. Mint, basil, and rosemary resided in the mass of pots on our sidewalk.

This year, however, I decided to change things up a bit. You see, there's this great planter built in along the front of our house beneath Butter's window. Last year, I filled the planter with a random assortment of flowers (including an abundance of petunias) and a few other plants. It was pretty and all, but I decided that this summer it was silly to buy a ton of herbs for pots and a whole lot of flowers for the planter, when I could easily put both things in the planter.

So this year, the planter has become my herb garden (with a bit of color thrown in for good measure).

First there's basil. Three basil plants, to be exact. The Conservative Men do not enjoy basil, but I lurrrve it—with fresh tomatoes, as homemade pesto, thrown into any dish imaginable. So one basil plant isn't going to cut it. Now I have three.

Near the basil, there's oregano.

There's also rosemary. Rosemary is delish.

And parsley. Yum yum.

Plus some lavender, which smells absolutely divine. I am going to use lavender in my soap, when I get around to making it. (I keep talking about it, I know. I really am going to do it soon.)

As I said, there are a few flowers too. Like these little princesses.

And these snapdragons, which I hope will grow tall and tease Butter in front of the window.

Come on over and snag some herbs anytime you like!


A New Flower Season

Once the tulips and the daffodils fade away and Mother's Day arrives in L-Town (which signals planting time around these here parts), it's time to whip my front yard into shape.

I hurry through the initial raking and mowing and trimming so I can get to the good stuff: hauling out my many flower pots and filling them with plants.

Last summer, the front of our house was overrun by my pots. Like this.

(This photo was taken early last summer, before the veggies in these pots really took off).

This year, I've reigned myself in a bit (for budgetary reasons, and because I have some new areas to plant). Granted, when I say "a bit" I mean "a very little bit," if you really want to get technical. But let's not dally with language. We have flowers to ogle over.

Let's with some geraniums.

Then we'll move on to the pot of dahlias, which just bloomed.

Plus some pretty little pansies.

And some marigolds.

Of course I had to plant a few practical things too, so there's a jalapeno plant.

Plus a cherry tomato and a Roma as well.

That about covers most of this year's pots. But, lest you think that's all I planted, be warned. In the coming days you'll be subjected to a string of planting-related posts that will take you all over our yard and even down the street.

Don't say I didn't warn you.



I am a lover of most creatures that are found in the water.

Some, like sharks and gators, I prefer to love only from afar (ideally when sitting on my couch watching the Discovery Channel, thanks).

Others, like many of the beautiful fish species that swim in the sea, I'd love to see up close.

And, honestly, a whole lot of them I like to eat. Especially shrimp. And crab. And lobster. And tilapia. And salmon. OK, and most other kinds of fish too.

I'll even be adventurous and eat squid. Or octopus. Or oysters. Although when any of them are raw, they do make me cringe a bit.

One thing I've managed to skip trying (despite a few opportunities to do so in recent years) is crawfish.

There's just something about them, about their little bodies and their claws and their antennas, that have always creeped me out. I don't mind cracking open a crab claw or a lobster tail, but the though of extracting the meat from those little red creatures hasn't ever appealed to me.

Yet after the Cubs game, when we headed to McGees for the crawfish boil, I decided I was going to try them.

So I learned how to get the meat from their tails—and discovered it's pretty darn good. (Fun too, albeit messy.) So along with my red beans and rice and jambalaya (all you can eat for $10!), I had my fair share of crawfish.

And they were delish (spicy spicy). Particularly when accompanied by live music and cold beer.

(Though I have to admit, I didn't suck the crawfish heads like the rest of my dining companions did. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.)


Bleacher Seats

Growing up in Wyoming, I didn't have a lot of choices for professional sports teams to root for.

Scratch that. I didn't have any options.

But that was OK. It just meant I—along with everyone else in the state—got to pick and choose whoever I wanted to call my team. Sure, a lot of people picked Denver teams because they were pretty darn close (in Wyoming terms, anyway). But a lot of people picked teams from the West Coast. And the East Coast. And everywhere in between.

That's why, during basketball season, I was a huge fan of the Charlotte Hornets (yep, even had a Hornets Starter jacket). And, of course, I followed the Chicago Bulls (um, hello, Michael Jordan).

During football season, I rooted for the 49ers and the Chiefs (just like my Dad).

And during baseball season, I'd follow the Rockies, but my real teams were the Minnesota Twins (I adored Kirby Puckett and went as a Twins player for Halloween at least two years in a row) and the Atlanta Braves (because I got to go to a few of their games when I was younger and I loved Fred McGriff and Chipper Jones).

Part of me still roots for all of these teams, but now that I live in Illinois (and live with a rabid ... er, I mean avid ... Illinois sports fan), I've started cheering for the Bears and the Cubs too.

That's why, last summer, I went to my first Cubs game. Only we didn't actually sit in the stadium. We sat on one of the rooftops next to the stadium (incredibly fun, yes, but still not in Wrigley).

Lucky me, this year I actually made it into the stadium for the first time ever. And not only that, but I got to sit in the bleacher seats. (That, in case you're not familiar with Wrigley, is where all the cool kids hang out. At least that's what I was told.)

We sat in right field and had a very nice view of the giant scoreboard you saw above. And the iconic ivy.

And the field, of course.

We got there early enough to have pretty darn good seats. And boy oh boy was it a gorgeous day. In fact, despite warnings that we needed to pack gloves and ear muffs, it turned out to be so warm and sunny that we were in t-shirts. (And I came home with quite a sunburn on my forearms, forehead, and nose. Guess I should've worn that free camo Cubs hat I snagged ...)

Hot dogs, beer, a sunny day, and baseball. What more could you ask for?

Oh, that's right, my very own Cubs t-shirt. And a Cubs win.

Check and check.


Enjoying Google Ads

As anyone who uses Gmail or searches with Google likely knows, interesting text ads often pop up on the right side of the screen depending on what you're typing.

One time I was exchanging emails with some friends about the Living History Farms race we were going to participate in before I moved to L-Town. The Google Ads adjacent to our messages were along the lines of "Real women run in skirts" and other such nonsense, which made me laugh because as anyone who has participated in the Living History Farms race knows real women wouldn't dare wear skirts. Only crazy ones would—the kind that don't mind flashing the whole world as they scale a giant, muddy hill or ford an icy stream.

I was entertained again the other day when these ads appeared next to an email exchange with Kid Sister about a certain creature I live with.

Nice try, Google. But you missed the mark with this one. The Butter I was referring to would not fit in a temperature-controlled dish or a butter crock, does not make my skin soft like organic shea butter (although his fur is pretty darn soft), and barely even fits into large dog clothes.

For the record, Google, this was the Butter I was referring to—the Butter who runs hot laps around the living room after we bathe him.

But you have to give Google credit. They tried, they really did.


Pseudo Grandma Fran

If you've ever dined with Q and MB for a major holiday, odds are you've heard of a little dish called Grandma Fran. It's a super secret absolutely delicious family recipe of MB's (named after, I believe, a certain Grandma Fran who used to make it) that is often requested in the Conservative Family household. But, as I believe I just mentioned, it's super secret.

So what I am about to share with you is not the real Grandma Fran. It's Pseudo Grandma Fran, concocted by Conservative Mom for those desperate holidays (like last Thanksgiving) when we are not able to celebrate with the Q and MB family.

One such holiday was Mother's Day (happy belated Mom's Day, all you lovely mothers out there). Conservative Mom requested her favorite dishes and the kids happily made them for her. (Full disclosure: Kid Sister and T-Bear did most of the work.) One dish I was entrusted with making with Pseudo Grandma Fran, so I thought I'd share it with you.

It's like cherry Jell-O. But so much better, because it has a super cinnamon kick to it. And applesauce too. Try it out yourself. But remember: This is not the real Grandma Fran.

Here's what you do:

Pour a bag of Red Hots in a pan with just over a cup of water.

Bring water to a boil and stir until Red Hots melt.

Stir in a large box of cherry Jell-O (don't add extra water).

Remind Butter that Red Hots are not for doggies. ("But Julie," he says. "They smell so good!")

Stir in a jar of applesauce.

Pour into a serving dish. Refrigerate (about 7 hours did the trick here, though you could probably get by with less). Serve with dinner and enjoyyyyy.


Getting Ready

Every morning when I get ready for the day, Butter assumes his spot just outside the hallway to keep an eye on me.

Seriously, he lies here like this every morning. I don’t know whether he is afraid I’m going to choke on toothpaste or burn myself with my curling iron (both possibilities) or if he just adores me so much he likes to gaze lovingly at me. I’m going to pretend it’s the latter.


Mmm Morels

Heaven takes many forms. On Monday night, it involved our first meal on the patio of the season and morel mushrooms. Yum.

The mushrooms came courtesy of Conservative Dad who, after hunting for them on Sunday, divvied them up among all of us after Conservative Family Dinner on Sunday night.

Now I've had morels before and enjoyed every tasty bite of them, but I'd never actually cooked them before. So, while C.B. fired up the grill to cook some brats on Monday evening, I rolled up my sleeves (figuratively speaking, of course—it's finally in the 70s here!) and set to work on the morels.

Cooking them is very easy, actually. Especially when your honey brings home a box of panko breadcrumbs.

After soaking the mushrooms in salt water overnight, all I did was:

  1. Melt butter in a hot pan. Be generous with the butter, but maybe not quite as generous as I was. I instantly clogged our arteries. Then again, as I always say, everything's better with Butter.

    Er ... butter. Sorry. I hate it when those random photos sneak in. I swear I have nothing to do with it.

  2. Slice the mushrooms into strips length-wise.

  3. Beat eggs in a bowl.

  4. Dust the mushrooms with flour.

  5. Dip the mushrooms in the egg.

  6. Coat the mushrooms with panko bread crumbs.

  7. Cook the mushrooms in the butter until nice and brown.

  8. Eat immediately. Try not to eat them all. OK. Go ahead and eat them all. And don't feel the least bit guilty. These babies only come around for a short time every year, so it's OK to indulge.
(I'm such an enabler, aren't I?)


Giving You Some To-Dos

Hello dear reader. I want to ask you to add a few very important things to your to-do list today.

OK, so they might not be super important. But they are fun.

First, I suggest you go to The Home Know-It-All and comment on the post about the Black & Decker Scumbuster. Doing so instantly enters you to win one. If you don't want it, you could always win and pass it along to me. I'm not eligible to win but I sure do want to try one out. Have you seen our shower lately? Let's just say it's a bit scummy and leave it at that.

Second, while you're at The Home Know-It-All, check out the $200 bathroom makeover. Seriously, it cost $200. And the result is fantastic—you wouldn't even know it's the same bathroom. I thought it might inspire those of you who, like me, are on a budget but are always looking for ways to revamp your house.

Finally, take a trip over to BHG.com to check out the results of the 48-Hour Blog Challenge.

The outdoor makeovers—two porch redos, a grill cart, an arbor, and a potting bench—are all projects you could tackle yourself. Or you could come over to my house and tackle them for me, if you're so inclined. Either way, while you're visiting, be sure to vote for your favorite—the winner receives a $5,000 bonus!

OK. That's it for the to-do list. Unless you're interested in more? Well, in that case, about that shower ...

A W Flag

Conservative Boy has two favorite Ws. The first, our former president, is memorialized in a shrine in the basement (that, thankfully, isn't that noticeable when you're down there). The second is the big blue kind that flies on a white flag after a certain Chicago team wins a game.

Thanks to T-Bear and Kid Sister, Conservative Boy received his very own giant W flag for Christmas. And, after buying and borrowing multiple flag poles that didn't work, he found the right one. So today, in honor of yesterday's win, you'll spot a giant W flag flying in the breeze outside our house.

So far it has startled me twice when I walked out into the living room. I thought someone was standing there for a second. I guess I'll get used to it.

Of course you'll get used to it, Conservative Boy says. You better, since it's going to fly after every single game the Cubs have this year.

Cubs fans. You eternal optimists. Go ahead, I'm ready. Remind me that this is the year.

[Update: A few hours after this was posted, the Cubs lost. Conservative Boy requested that I immediately bring the flag in.]


A Kentucky Derby Party

The hat contest at the Kentucky Derby party Conservative Boy, Conservative Parents, and I went to Saturday afternoon was rigged. It must have been. How else can you explain why this hat didn't win any prizes?

It's pretty much the best Kentucky Derby hat ever, right? And I slaved over it for hours. Or for at least 20 minutes. It's stylish. It makes a statement. Parts of it are edible. What more could you ask for?

I think the secret judges must have something against pastel, sugar-coated marshmallows shaped like bunnies. Maybe if they had been horses instead.

Or they don't think cowboy hats adorned with tissue paper are proper Kentucky Derby party attire. And that? Well, that's just plain ridiculous. Everybody knows a good cowboy hat is all-occasion wear. Maybe I should've worn my cowboy boots too. I bet that's why I didn't win.



Getting Organized

I realize that this blog post might bore approximately 50 percent of my readers, who are male. So I'll just warn you right now: It's about organizing my jewelry. Then again, if you're like Conservative Boy you may want to keep reading.

He was digging through a dresser drawer the other day and we discovered he has quite a collection of jeweled Sigma Chi pins, random earrings from when his ear was pierced (the rebel), necklaces from when he wore necklaces (no comment), and about 250,000 money clips. OK, I exaggerated a bit. It's only 129,000 money clips.

Anyhow, if you're like Conservative Boy or happen to be a woman, perhaps you can relate to the absolute mess my jewelry usually is. Up until a couple of weeks ago it was scattered. I hung some tangled necklaces on a hook in my closet, but the rest were crammed in random boxes and thrown into my nightstand drawer. My earrings littered the bathroom countertop and the top of my nightstand, were shoved in abandoned purses, and occupied a random jewelry box here and there. A mess, I tell you. An absolute mess.

And then I reached that blessed day when I decided I couldn't take it anymore. And I set to work organizing, without spending any money. So I rounded up some random bowls I had on hand (full disclosure: I cheated and bought two bowls at the thrift store for about a buck), scrounged around in the garage for the extra silverware organizer we had no use for, and headed to the bathroom.

Our big retro bathroom is blessed with a multitude of drawers, over half of which are empty because we don't have that many toiletries. So I commandeered two drawers at the vanity: one for my necklaces and bracelets, the other for the earrings.

Voila! Organized. And cheap. And easy.

There are, however, plenty of other clever ways to organize your jewels besides this little solution. To display your earrings, try my friend Cara's pretty earring organizer. I also love Sherry's ceramic egg crate at This Young House. And if I had $66 lying around, I'd buy this magnolia tree. But I don't have $66 and probably won't until Butter gets a job.

How do you corral your gems? Share your ideas here, as I'm sure to tire of the current system in, oh, 5 minutes.