Cooking · Family · Gratitude · hostess with the mostess

More holiday fun!

I can’t believe I forgot….

Life has been very, very, busy at Aunt Gem Manor since the week of Thanksgiving. But I did take a few pictures of the beautiful Thanksgiving feast, and wanted to share them with you.

First, a nice setting is always key. I only get to use this runner once a year. Next year, a cornucopia!

Loved making the desserts beforehand. I couldn’t believe Publix didn’t have any pecan pies. So I made my first pecan pie.

The feast itself, with only slightly frazzled cook.

And leftover custard cornbread – it was perfect!

That gooey, creamy cream center – bliss!
Cooking · holiday · hostess with the mostess

Welcome to 2016 – and the first recipe of the New Year

Today I’m having friends over to celebrate the New Year with black-eyed peas and cornbread. I found my new favorite cornbread recipe at

  • 2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 16 oz. creamed corn


  1. Mix all ingredients together and pour into greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until lightly brown.

As Ina Garten would say, How easy is that?

Beauty · Community Supported Agriculture · Cooking · holiday · hostess with the mostess

He is Risen!

Easter Sunday 2011, the flowering cross outside Riverland Hills Baptist Church after the 9 a.m. service.

Flowering Cross

After church I cooked Easter lunch for Mom and Dad. The menu featured veggies from my first spring weekly share from my coop – Pinckney’s Produce. We had:

Spring Onion Soup
Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges

Baked Ham Slices

Cabbage-Celery-Cucumber Salad
Broccoli-Grape-Bacon Salad
Crispy Turnip “Fries”

Rolls with Butter

Angel Food Cake * Fresh Strawberries * Whipped Cream

Happy Easter, everyone.

hostess with the mostess · Introspection · me · Toastmasters


Hi kids,

Don’t ever promise more than you can deliver. There’s a universal business saying “Under-promise and over-deliver.” That way you can make your customer very happy. Amazed, actually. (As Mark Twain once said, “Always do the right thing. It will gratify some and astonish the rest.”)

When 2011 started, I made just two New Year’s Resolutions – Be Healthy* and Be Hospitable (which translated means “throw more dinner parties and don’t be such a hermit.”) But every January when we turn the calendar over to a bunch of shiny blank pages, I’m seized with the urge to do more, accomplish more, make this the year I GET IT ALL DONE!!! Whew.

So naturally I went a little nuts in January with the hospitality. I threw a drop-in Jan. 1, then right after that a dinner party on Jan. 14 – a Friday, mind you, and I work for a living! I made plans to throw a dinner party every two weeks thereafter. I was busy drawing up guest lists for parties into March. I had a spreadsheet with guests, menu ideas, notes on food allergies, notes on previous menus so I didn’t serve the same thing twice to a guest, etc., etc. (On Jan. 1 when I thought about serving the same meal twice to a guest, I thought, how gauche. Now looking back over the whole Excel mania, I think, how bonkers.)

The dinner party frenzy has slowed down. Specifically, it has come to a halt. Why, Aunt Jim? Well, since you ask, while I was aiming to be the hostess with the mostess, I also was going into overdrive to achieve several different educational goals in Toastmasters. I’ve joined two clubs in addition to the club I belong to at work and agreed to be a club coach for yet another club. I’m going to be giving four speeches in a three-week time frame. (One of which involves memorizing Elizabeth I’s “Golden Speech” and interpreting that.) Oh, and I agreed to help assist at a Toastmasters training event February 26 by chairing a volunteer team.

Then there was that insurance certification class at work, which I signed up for in November thinking that the February exam was a LONG WAY OFF and I had plenty of time to study. (I passed on Feb. 11!!)

So, as you can see, I’ve been a tad overcommitted. Just a tad. But finally, finally, I had the backbone to say “No” to a request. A friend in our Adult Bible Fellowship at church asked me to serve on the leadership team as the outreach chairman. I would have loved to have done that; after all – outreach – that’s hospitality, isn’t it? But it would have involved going to five additional meetings a month – plus more tasks! I just couldn’t do that after all the other commitments I’ve made. What made it worse for me was this was a request to do something for my church. Ah, the guilt! But you can get so busy doing church work (no matter how well-intentioned) that you neglect your own inner spiritual and prayer life. So I found the guts to say no.

Now, I just have to work on my prayer life.

*An entirely different discussion for another time.

Cooking · holiday · hostess with the mostess · Introspection

Resolutions for the New Year

Each year everyone thinks about what they’d like to do differently for the new year. Most (98.9%)* of those resolutions involve health, diet, losing weight, etc. This year in our Adult Bible Fellowship class (Sunday School for all you traditionalists) the guest teacher even asked us if we had any resolutions.

One guy said his resolution was to not make any resolutions. He had too much trouble keeping them.

That’s a copout, I wanted to say. But I didn’t want to start something in class so Continue reading “Resolutions for the New Year”

Christmas · Cooking · hostess with the mostess

To Do list

A day off and I am spending it getting ready for a drop-in on Saturday, as well as doing many tasks on my to-do list:

  1. Donate old computer monitor to the Oliver Gospel Mission for their Christian Life Development Program.
  2. Take tablecloth to dry cleaners.
  3. Rehearse speech for Toastmasters meeting at noon.
  4. Prepare introduction for Toastmasters speech.
  5. Make up final shopping list for party and then shop.
  6. Wash car later in the day or tomorrow … we’re going to have weather in the 50s! And then Saturday it should be in the 60s for New Year’s Day!
  7. Later – tidy up closet and set aside clothes for donations (take those to Goodwill.)
  8. Make batch of chocolate chip cookies.
  9. Oh, and today I have a Weight Watchers meeting at 6:30 p.m. ….

I need to be in the car on my way by 10 a.m. … better get a move on.

Cooking · hostess with the mostess

Scenes at a Dinner Party

Last night’s dinner party was a success!


  • Chicken chili
  • Ratatouille
  • Braised Butternut Squash with Indian spices
  • Cream Biscuits
  • Lemon Curd Mousse served as a pie in a gingersnap crumb crust
  • Watermelon (light dessert option)


  • Mom and Dad
  • My neighbor Mary Alice
  • My friend Jill

The timing was just great for a celebration. Originally it was planned for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9. But as the USC-Alabama game kept going, I called everybody and said don’t even think about coming over until the game is done!

I don’t think they were planning on leaving their TVs anyway until it was over.

We all celebrated, except Jill. She’s an Alabama fan. Bless her heart.

Oddly enough she came over early, with five minutes left in the game. “I  just couldn’t watch it any more,” she said.

The dinner was the first time I’d had guests over to try out the new dining room table. Please note the beautiful tablecloth and cloth napkins.


Dining room table
The table is set - hey, there's Mom! Sorry so fuzzy - the camera wanted to look at Mom.


We started with a chicken, bean and hominy chili. Hominy is good – it’s where we get grits.


Chicken chili
Seven hours in a slow cooker and voila, chicken chili


Then we added the butternut squash and ratatouille to our plates. You can see the butternut squash in the photo below. Never got a shot of the ratatouille. The only sad note was the biscuits. Turns out you can’t use double-acting baking powder that is several years old.  Doesn’t work. Nope. Ah, well. Actually, they were tasty, just not fluffy. Sigh.

The piece de resistance was the pie – a Lemon Curd Mousse heaped in a cookie crumb crust made of gingersnaps. Nine tablespoons of butter went into the crust. Two cups of cream went into the pie. Lord, have mercy.


The table
The groaning board: butternut squash, unfortunate biscuits, delicious lemon curd mousse pie


I sent what was left of the pie home with Dad. It was evil and could not stay in my house.

By the end of the evening my feet were killing me and my back hurt – I’d been standing all day making goodies.  Next time I don’t think I’ll try to make every dish from scratch. But for the first event, it was a success.