Tuesday, July 26, 2011

tunes i like tuesday: poison & wine

I am thrilled to say Countrymouse and I are going to see these guys tonight!!  I've been a big fan of The Civil Wars for a year or two now.  You may remember that I featured their cover of the great Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love".  I still think it's a great song and a great cover.

Aside from really liking their sound, what I noticed early on about Joy Williams and John Paul White and was that other singers I liked liked them too... even though they weren't getting commerical airplay or had even released a full length album.  (Their first full length album, Barton Hollow, was released this past winter.)  When the artists you like are buzzing about another group, it's time to take notice!

Besides being named by Paste Magazine as "Best of What's Next" here's some of the buzz, buzz, buzz.....

"The Civil Wars are the BEST live band I have EVER seen." - Adele
"The Civil Wars are a bonafide phenomenon." - KCRW
"Through bands like The Civil Wars, a new music industry is born." - LA Times
“I think this (Poison & Wine) is my favorite duet. It’s exquisite.” - Taylor Swift (Full disclosure: Swift is not one of my musical loves, but she's good at what she does and a lot of people like her.)

Have a listen... let me know what you think. 

PS: Just an interesting tidbit... Joy Williams and John Paul White are NOT married.  Well, they are... just not to each other.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

dog days

Who isn't hot??  Complaining about it doesn't change a thang!  (But somehow, it's all we're talking about... isn't it??) This is what our weather has been like the past few days.  I clipped this about 7:00 am this past Thursday morning.  It really probably was 77° at that moment but it definitely wasn't raining.  Nah... we just had fog. I'm sure it was because the air was so saturated from all the moisture/humidity. (I wish we had rain... my poor lawn and flowers are dying a slow and ugly death.)

Current: Rain
Wind: N at 0 mph
Humidity: 100%
97° | 76°
Chance of Storm
101° | 77°
Chance of Storm
99° | 76°
95° | 72°

I know there are places where these kind of temperatures are normal here in the US and abroad (like Iraq and Afghanistan... God bless our troops!). But I live in Maryland... this isn't our "normal"... we're just the pseudo-south, for goodness sake! (Maryland was a slave-holding border state during the Civil War, which means we are still treated like a red-headed stepchild. The North thinks we're the South and the South won't have us.) 

I was driving to work the other day and the term "Dog Days" popped into my head.  It was something I hadn't thought about since I was a kid and even then, I'm not sure who I heard use it.  (Although a quick Google search showed that the term is alive and well... maybe I just haven't been paying attention.) As a kid, this term always conjured up a picture of a poor dog panting and breathless, like this...

and I really wasn't sure what it meant.  Well, now that I'm all grown up, I know it refers to the long, hot days at the height of the summer season.  What I didn't know, and hence the Google search, is the origin of the term.  From the wiki:
The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks.
The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise. The Romans sacrificed a brown hop at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.
Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies" according to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium.
Reading this immediately made me think of 1) Keanu Reeves mediocre band, Dogstar (ewwwww) and 2) the much superior Florence + the Machine's, "Dog Days Are Over".

I think our dog days are long from being over but it also made me think about making some sangria!  Peach sangria, to be exact. Peaches are finally in season here in Maryland. (YAY!) I get my peaches from my friends at Blades Orchards... check them out if you're local.) 

Here's my recipe for peach sangria.  It's simple and tasty, which is everything a drink should be to get you through these dog days!

Peach Sangria

1 (750ml) bottle rose' wine
3/4 cup vodka (use peach vodka if you have it & want an extra peachy flavor)
1/2 cup peach nectar (I buy this in single cans in my local market's Latin foods section.  I always have some on hand for Bellinis.)
6 Tablespoons frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 pound peaches, peeled & sliced
2 cups club soda, chilled

In a pitcher, combine all the ingredients together except the club soda. Add club soda just before serving.  Float some raspberries on top or garnish with a little mint. Enjoy!

How are you waiting out these dog days? Special drink?  Activity? (Personally, my yard is terribly neglected and it shows. Countrymouse is going to attempt to mow our dying grass later since it's only supposed to be in the low 90s.  YIKES!) Do you still grill when it's killer hot outside?  (We do... but we eat inside.) Will we wish it was summer again once the snow starts falling? Whatever you do, keep cool, my friends.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Today I am playing along with the ladies over at LoveFeast Table, who asked,
"What is your word? One word, right now in this time and place that describes you?  Don’t think long. What is the first word that comes to mind?"

 What's your word??? Join in the fun over at LoveFeast Table or leave your word below in my comments to get in on the fun.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

random tidbits

No Tuesday Tunes post yesterday because I had to wake up at o'dark o'clock to get to the airport to pick up my son Matthew.  Some of you know he recently returned back to the States from Iraq but he is finally on leave and is home here in Maryland for a few weeks.

He surprised me when he came home at Christmas, which is no small feat. Have any of you watched Operation Homecoming on TLC??  What do you think? The commercials make me cry... I don't think I could get through an entire episode.  (Click the link to see a teeny tiny version of our homecoming moment.)

Matt will be heading to Afghanistan in January to participate in a pathfinder/recon mission.  He VOLUNTEERED for this assignment because he said he didn't feel like he got enough done in Iraq. Part of me is extremely proud of him and the other part of me wants to slap the living shit out of him.  (Sorry for the potty mouth, but sometimes there are no other words that fit.)  So those of you who pray for our troops, please keep him (and my heart) on your lists.

Though this quote is for all of us, it is a reminder for some one special in my life who is going through a rough time.  Hang in there... we'll get through these days together.

What is it about London designer Orla Kiely that we all love so much?  Her use of simple, bold images makes me want to buy everything of hers I see.  Thanks to Target for making her merch so accessible (and affordable!). I am currently sporting this bag as my summer catch-all thanks to an awesome deal I got from Swirl.  It's pretty much perfect for me... coffee-themed, gigantic and orange.  What would your prefect bag look like?

Even though it's Wednesday and not Tuesday (you didn't think I'd let you off the hook that easy, did you??) here is a tune I am LOVING right about now.  If you don't already know Foster the People, do yourself a favor and check them out NOW! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011


The pressure of the hands causes the springs of life to flow.
- Tokujiro Namikoshi

What is it about touch?  I've been pondering the power of touch today after a friend did some Reiki on me to help heal a headache.  It didn't totally take my headache away but it did feel better.  Just having her hands on my head simply made me feel more relaxed and comforted. 

I think the importance of touch, like breathing, is so basic that we sometimes take it for granted.  Research has shown that touch plays a huge role in our mental and physical development and with our happiness and energy as adults.

I've been reflecting on all the ways touching has played a part in my life... from my husband to my children to my dying brother.  We convey so much by touching (or not touching).  What ways has touch been significant in your life?  I'd love to hear about it.  I find this whole subject fascinating. If you'd like to read more about the wonders of human touch check out this site. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

tunes i like tuesday: beautiful mess

I listen to a lot of music.  Like everyone else, I have my favorite artists or tunes and sometimes they come and go. One artist that has remained a favorite of mine through thick and thin is Kasey Chambers. I seriously love everything she does.  Her sound is definitely Americana, which amuses me since she's an Aussie.  (I suppose I should really say her sound is Roots Music.)  Chambers has a loyal following here in the US but nothing compared to Australia.  She has won multiple ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards) and continues to have strong commercial success.  

A new Kasey Chambers album is always a treat.  Her latest album, Little Bird, was released in the US last fall.  Chambers lends her distinctive rootsy vocals, that range from little-girlish to outright infectious, to the 14 tracks.  Along with Chambers you will find a host of awesome guest singers, including Patty Griffin, Chamber's husband Shane Nicholson and her father, Bill Chambers, fellow Aussies, Kevin Bennett and Missy Higgins, who is featured on background vocals on the featured song, "Beautiful Mess". 

This is a sweet song and the video is visually cheery. Be sure to watch until the very end.  If you are a fan of Lucinda Williams or maybe Patsy Cline, check out Kasey Chambers.  Let me know what you think.

So send me to the grave with the age old question
How to get into this beautiful mess
And it was never my intention never my style
Everything about you was worth my while

I'm linking this post of two fun sites that feature Sunday music: 5 Minutes Just for Me and Do I Really Wanna Blog?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

squash fritters with fresh herbs

We have a meager little garden.  Countrymouse and I often joke that we'd starve if we really had to sustain ourselves with what we grow.  I know people who plan and plot their gardens every year and spend countless hours weeding and watering, etc.  I am quite confident that they are greatly rewarded for their efforts. My approach is pretty much on the other side of the spectrum.  I spend about 10 minutes thinking about what I want to plant as I peruse the nursery, stick the plants in the ground and hope it rains every night.  (We actually do have a soaker hose buried in the garden that Countrymouse turns on every few days aka when he remembers.) Believe it or not, our little garden does okay.  Occasionally, we do something really gardener-ish, like fertilize the soil.  We practically live in Frank Perdue's backyard, so having a chicken farmer for a friend is kinda standard in these parts.  That also means, getting chicken manure for your garden is pretty easy too.  The thing about chicken manure is that it is rich in nitrogen, which garden plants love.  (This is why your garden thrives on rain water, which contains nitrogen, better than your household water supply.)  Nitrogen can be tricky...too much can make them do crazy things like this....

My squash plants look like they have been hanging out with Barry Bonds.

Nitrogen helps plants use carbohydrates to gain energy.  Too much nitrogen will cause a lot of leaf growth but unfortunately, when the plant is spending all it's energy growing leaves, it doesn't grow as much fruit. This is what happened to our squash this year. The upside of all of this is that instead of having to stealthily leave zucchini or summer squash on my neighbors porches in the wee hours of the morning, we have just the right amount.

I recently whipped up a batch of squash fritters to go with for dinner. (I ate so many while they were cooking, I couldn't eat dinner.)  They were awesome and especially tasty with some tzatziki sauce.  This is by far the best tzatziki recipe I have ever used.  I always add an obscene amount of garlic.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Squash Fritters

2 summer squash (about 8 ounces), grated (Use whatever you're growing.)
1 egg, separated
4 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup milk
Oil for frying

1. Grate the squash on a box grater or on the grating disc of a food processor. Roll the grated squash in a clean dishtowel and squeeze out some of the liquid. The shreds don't need to be bone dry, but you want to get rid of some of the water.

2. Put the squash in a bowl with the egg yolk. Stir in the flour, baking powder, cayenne, herbs and some salt and pepper to taste. Add in the milk and stir to combine. The squash mixture will look like rather dry pancake batter.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks. Fold the egg white into the squash mixture. Now the squash mixture will look like damp pancake batter.

4. In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 inch of oil until hot and shimmering. Drop spoonfuls of fritter batter into the oil. Fry on both sides until golden brown, 3-5 minutes per side.

5. Drain on paper towels and serve with a sprinkling of salt and some lemon wedges.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

tunes i like tuesday: 100 days, 100 nights

Hope you had a great Independence Day. We did here at the Mouse House.  It was kinda chill and was capped off with an all-American barbecue... shandies, steaks, baked beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini from my garden and apple pie (well, we would have eaten it if anyone still had room for it).  My niece and nephew played and the adults kicked back on our new deck.  Pretty much as good as it gets.  Adding to that was an awesome soundtrack. I've been totally digging some soul/funk music this summer. My Bill Withers station has become my default Pandora station. I'm not always sure Countrymouse likes it as much as I do, but he's a good sport. Probably my second (current) favorite station is Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I wrote about Sharon Jones last summer in this post where I called her the "real deal" and I still mean it. I love her funky sound. If you're anything like me, you live for these long, casual summer days and nights and Sharon Jones makes for perfect summer listening.  If you live within driving distance to Annapolis, Maryland you should consider attending the Silopanna Music Festival on August 27th. Jones and the Dap-Kings will be one of the headlining acts (along with Matt and Kim, Fitz and the Tantrums, Trombone Shorty and Harper Blynn, in addition to a host of local music). I'll be there so be sure to let me know if you're going!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

precious blessings

My God!  How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!  
~Thomas Jefferson

Countrymouse's birthday is on the eve of Independence Day, so it's always a festive time around our house.  (I mean, really... how many people get to celebrate their birthday with fireworks??)  Yet, even in party-mode, we never forget the reason we celebrate (the holiday part not the birthday part.) 

So in honor of Independence Day and as a little tribute to Countrymouse, who loves Zac Brown, I thought I'd share this song.  You might wonder what a song called "Chicken Fried" has anything to do with the holiday.  The song is about being thankful but in particular it's this verse...

I thank God for my life
And for the Stars and Stripes
May freedom forever fly
Let it ring

Salute the ones who died
The ones that give their lives
So we don't have to sacrifice
All the things we love

So Happy Birthday USA and Happy Birthday Countrymouse
I'm thankful for both of you.