Not exactly “board”…

Since I had to host a board meeting tonight, for my Pace Cetters‘ Womens Leadership and Networking Organization.   This meant hors d’oeuvres and drinks for 10-15 ladies at my house at 5:30 this evening and it was a bit of a scramble because…

OK, let me be honest, everything’s always a bit of a scramble with me.

Anyhow, this was my last official board meeting as President of the group for 2019 and I wanted to do a little something special for these lovely ladies, who have all collaborated and gone above and beyond to produce an incredible format of community service, inspiring guest speakers and incredibly fun and engaging social activities for our membership this year.

257 Pace Cetters 2019 Jubilee Tea.JPG

I had thought to do a “Thanksgiving” theme for my pre-meeting snacks to express my appreciation, inspired by the traditional dinner, so I planned out a menu with hummus and veggies (to represent the green bean casserole), Parmesan pastry pups (thank you, Trader Joes) to represent the glazed ham and rolls, those amazingly delicious Cranberry Brie Bites from Delish (standing in for the cranberry sauce, plus anything cheesy, random crescent rolls and pecan pie – yeah, pecan pie! Possibly a bit of a stretch…) and spicy turkey meatballs for the (d’uh) turkey and…crap I needed something else.  Sweet potatoes!  Yep, that’s the ticket!  I needed a sweet potato hors d’oeuvre recipe!

I madly googled and found one at the last minute,  “Healthy Loaded Sweet Potato Rounds,” that looked doable and fairly tasty so I jumped in and bought the ingredients.

My husband. “You can’t experiment on people at a party with a recipe you’ve never tried.”

Me: “What are friends for?”

It actually turned out quite tasty and could be adapted for Keto and Vegetarian, quite easily.

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 10.21.35 PM

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Hot sauce
  • Monterrey Jack and cheddar shredded cheese (Mexican blend)
  • 3 green onions
  • Sour cream
  • crumbled bacon bits

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Dice bacon and fry until crispy.  Drain, crumble and set aside.
  3. Cut the sweet potatoes into ¼-inch slices. Place the slices in a large bowl, sprinkle with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon salt, and stir to thoroughly coat both sides of all slices. Place on a baking sheet lined foil (I sprayed lightly with cooking spray first), taking care that the rounds do not overlap (if possible). Bake 10 minutes on one side, then remove from the oven, flip all rounds, and bake another 10 minutes.
  4. While the potatoes bake, finely slice the green onions.
  5. When the potatoes are done, remove them from oven and add a dot of hot sauce on each round (or more if desired). Top each round with shredded cheese.  Add a dollop of sour cream, garnish with bacon crumbles and green onions.

Winner, winner, Chicken Turkey dinner!  Or, Thanksgiving-themed cocktail party!

Anyhow, Board meeting was a smashing success and they scarfed up everything!  (Yay). And the Sweet Potato Rounds were a giant hit!  Whoo hoo!

 


A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday with my family.

IMG_0439

I am so thankful that I got to see my sister-cousin, Patti!

IMG_0442

I am so thankful for the very grand dinner…

IMG_0446

A Honey-baked ham, roasted turkey, crawfish dressing (and plain cornbread dressing), mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, squash casserole, praline sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberries, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and brownies.

IMG_0451

I was grateful to enjoy all of my favorite foods!

IMG_1988

I was blessed to be able to spend time with my little niece, Livvy.

FullSizeRender-2 copy

I had the pleasure of playing with Betty, the Boston Terrier.

FullSizeRender-2 copy 2

I was extra-thankful that David’s Mom Skyped in so she could join the festivities!

And I was truly thankful for all the laughter and joy that filled the day.

IMG_1976

My dad creates an elaborate ceremony of dubbing visitor Grace an honorary Ferguson

IMG_1978

Grace was very good-spirited about the whole thing (or maybe she’d mustered her courage with some good spirits). Anyhow, perfect Ferguson material.

IMG_0431

“I dub thee Gracie Ferguson!”

IMG_0436.JPG

Newest turkey in the crew!

Mostly, I was overwhelming thankful for the outpouring of love and acceptance from my family.  It’s there on Thanksgiving as well as the other 364 days each year.

IMG_0419

I am a very thankful girl!

I hope you all had a lovely day filled with the things you are thankful for.

“I am grateful for what I am and have.  My Thanksgiving is perpetual.”

Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

 

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: As Fine as Wine

13930_10152426241672561_5480934725351323470_nAuthor’s note:  This post was planned as my “letter W” contribution in the April 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge.  I made it as far as “V” in my thematic “A Hellacious Belle’s Guide,” only to bail on “W,” never completing the challenge. 

I hate not finishing things (an unfortunate Aries trait), so I’m attempting to go for W – Z during November’s NaBloPoMo Challenge.  Thanks for your patience and I really appreciate everyone’s kindness and comments.

As a city belle and a lifetime hospitality industry employee, I tend to think of myself as a tiny bit of a connoisseur when it comes to wine.  I do say “tiny,” because not only is the industry enormous, but the varieties and varietals are almost infinite – years of study and training (and drinking!) are required to become an expert.  And although I’ve had some study and training (and I’ve definitely mastered the “drinking” part) I still feel that  fundamentally “it’s just grape juice,” (although sometimes truly amazing grape juice honed by masters) and there is a flavor for everyone and every palate.

Although the Southern states of Virginia, North Carolina and Texas are perhaps better known for wine making, it’s interesting to know that my home state of Georgia was once one of the largest producers of wines in the United States. Prohibition’s early start in Georgia (1907), wiped out their lead and made the industry almost non-existent until the 1970s, with the exception; oddly enough, of sacramental wine production.

Today, Georgia boasts over two dozen vineyards and wineries all over the state, although the preponderance are located north of Atlanta, in the higher elevations of Helen, Dahlonega and Cleveland.

Georgia boasts climactic conditions suited for growing Vitis vinifera (European varieties) and cold-hardy French-American hybrids used for making traditional “fine” wines. The South’s mild Springs and early Summers allow a long growing season and the higher elevations of the Appalachian foothills provide some relief from the humidity.  Our famous red clay soil, a universal source of profanity after a rainstorm, actually contributes to both to excellent drainage and the ability to retain moisture during dry spells.

255072

Vines at Montaluce, in Dahlonega, GA

Basically, this all means that the South, and Georgia in particular, is enjoying a renaissance of vinification.

How fortunate, I’ve always considered myself a “renaissance girl!”

399020_10151097183882561_504866155_n

Frogtown Cellars in Dahlonga, Georgia

Once I managed to climb over my own ridiculous snobbery about Georgia-produced wines, I fell in love with the North Georgia wine country.

We visit its rolling hills and beautiful wineries several times each year, even staying in the estate villas in Montaluce for family vacations.

255057

Skilled winemakers and award-winning wines make it a pleasure not only to “shop,” but to “buy local.”

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
Ernest Hemingway

We’re not trying to make California wine. If you want California wine, go to California. What we are doing is making Georgia wine…and Georgia wine is good wine.”

-Rob Beecham, Montaluce Vineyards

People are Strange (When You’re a Stranger)

IMG_1759It is important to note that people are also strange in convenience stores very late at night, on any type of mass transit, at Revival Services featuring live rattle snakes and frequently at  Walker-Stalker Con.

Oh, and Hallowe’en.

Most definitely people are strange on Hallowe’en.

Mostly “good” strange, though.

People are strange when you’re a stranger…

11666260_10154326225758626_7188270440199424970_n
Faces look ugly when you’re alone…

12063774_10153363037747561_1342264074409107673_n
Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted…

12191022_10153363036882561_8654378376526060499_n
Streets are uneven, when you’re down.

12109248_10153363038392561_140340081329090489_n
When you’re strange…

IMG_1704Faces come out of the rain…

12191729_10154326224283626_6244635442865543464_n
When you’re strange…

IMG_1736

No one remembers your name…

IMG_1760
When you’re strange…

12193794_10153363037402561_7107139450925816058_n

When you’re strange

12063566_10154326224533626_4714241547103439925_n
When you’re strange.

IMG_1733

Thank you to the Doors and Jim Morrison for the Spooky-festive and appropriate lyrics, and massive thanks to my bestie, L.C., not only for being her amazing self, but for throwing her annual and wildly fantabulous Hallowe’en Extraganza, which is more fun than anything should be.


From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
~Scottish Saying

Halloween-Candy-Buy-Back-

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Total Immersion

I am in deep.  Way deep.

-5

Deep in the heart of Dixie.

I am on vacation with my family, far south of Montgomery in Monroeville, “The Literary Capital of Alabama;” for the town’s production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The play is currently in its 26th season in Monroeville, which was the template for the fictional Maycomb in Harper Lee’s book.

20150425_165455

We are staying in the Best Western, Monroeville.  It is the town’s luxury accommodation, yet we are still in a bit of a “technology-free zone” – I have painfully sporadic internet at the hotel and there seems to be no Sprint signal within miles, so you may not get this post until I’m able to finesse something with Dixie cups and string.

20150425_165302

The entire citizenry of Monroeville has apparently jumped in to create the event, which includes a mint-julep VIP reception, the play itself, which is acted by “The Mockingbird Players,” and divided into two Acts: with the first half set outside the courthouse in a specially built amphitheater and stage, and the final scenes set in the actual city courthouse.

My folks, foster sister Wendy and my husband, David.

My folks, foster-sister Wendy and my husband, David.

Set in Alabama during the Great Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of a young white girl, Scout and her brother Jem, whose father, attorney Atticus Finch, has been appointed to defend a black man framed for a crime he claims he did not commit.

Courthouse set for Part One of

Courthouse set for Part One of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

The play, like the book I read so many years ago, was touching and poignant, with its message of justice, courage and family.

Enjoying freshly made mint juleps just before the play began.

Enjoying freshly made mint juleps just before the play began.

The event was fabulously produced from start to finish.

Clocktower of the old courthouse

Clocktower of the old courthouse

The cast, crew and Courthouse personnel were kind and welcoming. The food, featuring crispy fried oysters, roast beef, pork tenderloin sandwiches, shrimp, chicken and cheesecake was abundant and delicious. The grounds were beautifully maintained and a riot of brightly colored flowers.

Post play catered dinner and cast party on the courthouse grounds

Post play catered dinner and cast party on the courthouse grounds

The post-event cast party featured live music and a chance to mingle with members of the Mockingbird Players, who are all volunteers from Monroeville and the surrounding counties and are comprised of teachers, business owners, contractors ministers, attorneys, retirees, students, judges, stay-at-home moms and morticians.

Wendy and me with

Wendy and I with “Atticus Finch,” Jeff Brock, by day the District Judge for nearby Conecuh County.

20150425_180705

It was such an incredible experience, made even more special by the presence of my family and the opportunity so spend time with them in a world so far removed from where I live: at the heart of a small town, deep in South of my childhood and memories.

“Growing up Southern is a privilege, really. It’s more than where you’re born, it’s an idea and state of mind that seems imparted at birth. Its more than loving fried chicken, sweet tea, football, beer, bourbon and country music. It’s being hospitable, devoted to front porches, magnolias, moon pies and coca-cola, and each other. We don’t become Southern, we’re born that way.” -Anonymous

T

Always “After” Me Lucky Charms – The Tardy Paddy’s Party

11008454_10153702145578626_3595862338279555338_nEverybody loves a party, but there is something about a Southerner that makes them reach lunge for any excuse to celebrate.

We’ve always focused on our Scottish ancestry (David’s a Douglas and I’m a Ferguson) but I do, at least, have some Irish heritage as well (McCormick on my Daddy’s side, should anyone require legitimacy.)

Just knowing us and our obsession with entertaining should have removed any minutia of surprise from the minds of friends and family when I announced we were adding St. Paddy’s Day to our list of annual gatherings.

After all, while based on a Irish religious observance, the modern holiday is truly an American celebration.

For us, an excuse to shake off the winter “blahs,” invite over a bunch of good friends, serve up a mess of great food and drink and enjoy a little festivity! (And the perfect excuse to dig out the green wig I bought years ago for another St. Patrick’s party)

March 17th, the actual St. Patrick’s Day, was out – it was mid-week and I had an enormous event at work, so we settled on a Post-Paddy Party the following weekend.

I love researching and designing menus, so I did some digging and came up with a Gaelic-inspired repast – thanks to some inspirational food blogs (please click through for the recipes):

Grab a plate and a cup!

Grab a plate and a cup!

Irish Guinness Lamb Stew100_1791

Cheddar and Guinness Fondue  with dunk-able ham cubes, croutons, apples and fresh veggies

Stuffed Baby Red Potatoes with Cheese and Bacon

Smoked Salmon Dip  served with assorted crackers

Kale and Spinach Greek Yogurt dip served with European Cucumber chips. (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s but click the link for a delicious home-made version.)

Jeeves, our trusty alligator butler, offered revelers a "Lucky Charm" libation at the door

Jeeves, our trusty alligator butler, offered revelers a “Lucky Charm” libation at the door

For bevs, we had our usual offering of red and white wines, a selection of Irish beers (Harp, Guinness) and a little sparkler I whipped up with fresh mango juice, cava and a dash of Emerald Green Tropical Punch Gatorade (shameful, I know, but the color gave it the zingy tone I was looking for).

Some lovely supplements to the spread were brought by friends:

Dana's homemade Irish Soda bread (complete with holographic butterfly - he likes to add that "extra touch."

Dana’s homemade Irish Soda bread (complete with holographic butterfly – he likes to add that “extra touch.”

Laura and Paul's tasty Guinness chocolate cake with Bailey's Irish Cream Icing! (and holographic butterfly - Dana had an extra.)

Laura and Paul’s tasty Guinness chocolate cake with Bailey’s Irish Cream Icing! (and holographic butterfly – Dana had backup.)

And we dug in, drank up and had a wonderful time!  Kudos to David for the spectacular Irish Stew!

Gathered in the kitchen enjoying Irish Lamb Stew and soda bread

Gathered in the kitchen, tucking into some Irish Lamb Stew and soda bread

Paddy's Party players!

Some of our Paddy’s Party players!

Enjoying the nosh!

Enjoying the nosh!

Someone always has to play with the kiddy toys...

Someone always has to play with the kiddy toys…

Some, more than others.

Some, more than others.

Happy hosts! That's me in the green wig.  (any excuse)

Happy hosts! That’s me in the green wig. (any excuse)

We had an amazing time – blasting Irish party tunes, talking, laughing, telling stories way into the wee hours.  Absolutely fantastic party.

And then there was the after party math.  ::sigh::

the afterparty

the 5 a.m. clean up party

The wee green beastie retired again til next year

And the wee green beastie is retired again til next year

Slàinte mhath, y’all!

Six Things Thursday: February 5, 2015

I’ve got a ton of happy moments to be grateful for and share in Nerd in the Brain’s Three Things Thursday this week.  I’ll throw in a few extra to (hopefully) make up for being MIA last week.

Basically, two very fun weekends! Both wildly different but lots of wonderful memories.

Not a lot of time to blog. (Working on this.)

Reunited with my very dear friends, Sharona and Mike!

Reunited with my very dear friends, Sharona and Mike!

Friday the 23rd, we enjoyed some talented local art at my friend Denise’ opening at the Movement Gallery, and afterwards, visited Sharona and Michael, friends from my “glamorous” bartending past, running the bar at the quite excellent restaurant, Valenza. (Food and drinks were stellar!)

IMG_20150206_081632

Gracie: a lot of cat to love. And brush.

Saturday, we met up with my parents, who were in town visiting with some good friends of theirs in North Georgia. Besides great company and a wonderful dinner, we  were able to hang out with their really fabulous cat, Gracie, who used her advanced powers of feline mind control to bend me to her will.

2015-01-25 20.34.31

On Sunday, we helped out with Atlanta Lab Rescue’s Adoption Day.  One of my very favorites, the incredibly precious and beautiful Jake, found his forever home with a really sweet young couple.  Yay, Jake!  That’s a whole bunch of happy right there.

{Insert a manic work week}

Continuing the awesome on Friday the 31st, we gathered at the mountain house for our yearly celebration of Burn’s Supper.

Patti, my sister-cousin

Patti, my sister-cousin

This is David’s and my fifth year to host (our slightly warped version of) the traditional Scottish dinner and it gets bigger (and a little rowdier) each year.

Patti, my little Mommy and me

Patti, my little Mommy and me.  Oh, and a photo bomb from Dana.

We had a happily overflowing house with my parents, their friends Mike and Derenda (Gracie-the-cat’s folks), my sister-cousin Patti and her friend David, good friends, Heidi, Hil and Dana, and our bagpiper friend, Sam and his wife, for a soul-restoring weekend of beyond stellar views, company, food, wine and festivity.

The motley "MacCrew."

The motley “MacCrew.”

So, there you have it! My 6 things Thursday, or 3 Things Thursday², as it were.  Thank you, Nerd in the Brain, for the chance to remember (and share) my big ol’ bunch of happy!

(Soon to come, Tales from Burn’s Supper. Many, many stories in itself.)

three-things-thursday-spreading-happiness1

December: A Recap

Ta dah!  Now that I have successfully disappeared for a month, I’ll move on to my next trick, which may or may not involve more consistent blogging.

The doctor’s note I’m submitting for my absence will remind the reader that December is the third circle of (work) Hell for me. No surprises there, it has been for the last twenty years or so, since I stumbled into the hospitality industry back in college.  My job has always been to create and insure other people’s holiday memories, not so much my own.

For years I didn’t really care,  but getting married (and older) has made it increasingly important to carve out time for special celebrations with family and friends.

Detective Inspector Ferguson approves the Christmas tree

Detective Inspector Ferguson approves the Christmas tree

So nowadays, about the time the T-day leftovers are packed up, I’m scrambling to plan as many snippets of holiday fun as possible around my chaotic schedule.  While highly valued, they do end up absorbing the wee segments of time I can normally devote to leisure activities like blogging, working out and laundry.

I think I was pretty successful this year in creating some Christmas “me” time; so here, in vague order, is a recap of my holiday season.

The Christmas Tree

2014-12-01 19.39.19_resized

Nothing says, “Whoo-hoo, it’s Christmas!” like a Christmas tree.  A tree is mandatory for me since a long ago Christmas when I was so broke (mentally and financially) that I couldn’t manage one.  My friends chipped in and got me a tiny Charlie Brown tree, which was very sweet, but kinda sad.  Afterwards, much like Scarlett O’Hara, I swore dramatically to “never be Christmas tree-less again!”

Getting that Tannenbaum up and bedazzled is the first thing on the holiday agenda.

Now that I split my time between my loft and the home I share with my husband, I have reluctantly sacrificed real Christmas trees for a faux fir.  Real trees are truly the best, but with a work schedule skewing towards 12-15 hour days and 6-day workweeks, I would only get to enjoy about five minutes of twinkly wonderment each night after work before passing out from exhaustion.  I would then spend the entire next day, trapped at the restaurant, fretting that the loft was erupting in flames since I’d forgotten to unplug the tree lights.

Fake trees don’t smell as nice, but they are slightly less incendiary and don’t turn into a projectile weapon when you finally take them down mid-January.

Christmas Parties

Party group shot!

Party group shot!

Years of serving hors d’oeuvres at other people’s events has left me with a perpetual jones for Christmas soirees where I get to be a guest and dress up in holiday finery to revel with friends.

This year David and I not only hosted our own Christmas party, but we finally made it to our friends Anne and Randall’s Annual Grown Up Cookie Swap with Booze, (which to our shame and regret, we have missed the last three years.) An added bonus: our white chocolate, ancho-chili gingersnaps won “Best Cookie,” garnering us the first prize of a spendy bottle of champagne and the warm fuzzies of success.

Ice Skating

Toepick!

Toe pick!

What’s merrier than a little Holiday on Ice?

Unfortunately, ice skating in Atlanta is pretty much limited to pop-up rinks during the holidays, but I try to squeeze in at least one seasonal ‘Scapade, since I own my own skates and by December, have typically paid down my insurance deductible.

My BFF and I have a running “Toe Pick!” joke that never fails to convulse me in laughter, especially as I’m inevitably the one to take the first colossal wipe-out of the season.  David and I also went ice skating on our first date; which, especially now knowing my husband’s distaste for ice skating, never fails to remind me of the power of love.

Annual 3-D Flicks and Friends Outing

Or not.

Or not.

Every December, I meet up with a couple of fellow geek buddies the Wednesday the week before Christmas to catch whatever gi-normous sci-fi/fantasy 3-D blockbuster the studios are tossing out for the hols.  We started in 2010 with Avatar, moved on to Tron, and have been surfing the Hobbit death-spiral since 2012.

It’s been ages since we all worked together, but we have somehow survived changes in jobs, marital statuses and progressively offensive movie interpretations of beloved books to keep our yearly appointment of film and friendship for these past five years. Wow.

Which only goes to show you that “nerd” is thicker than water.

David’s and my Wedding Anniversary

Celebrating two whole years!

Our Alligator Butler, Jeeves, offers celebratory bubbles.

David and I have two anniversaries, as we had two weddings (the secret helicopter one and the include-the-whole-family one.)  December 22nd marked two years for the family festivity, and January 26 will be 3 years since we said “I do” while choppering about the Atlanta sky.

This year, David surprised me with a starry stroll on the Beltline to Inman Park for a lovely dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.  It was magical to have some “us” time and definitely one of my favorite moments of the season.

Christmas with my family in Alabama

I feel truly lucky that my parents and David’s mom, Linda have become wonderful friends and we are able to spend Christmas together.  It’s just plain awesome to have a jolly hol-i with all the family I love so much – including my sister, her husband, my niece Olivia, and “adopted” sibs Wendy and Alexis.

Playing Santa at the family tree

Playing Santa at the family tree

This year I was able to finagle almost a whole week off work to spend in Birmingham.  Score! Lots of fabulous food and drinks, talking and reminiscing and watching Christmas Vacation for the gazillionth time.  Oh, and lots of love.  That’s the best.

Overall, I think this is one of my favorite Decembers ever.  Hopefully, next year will be just as memorable and if I’m lucky, might actually include in a post or two, the odd sit-up and a little Woolite hand-washing.

Wishing you all a very wonderful 2015!

Feelin’ the Burns

So far this NaBloPoMo, I’ve managed to write a fresh post every day without resorting to a re-post of one of my old favorites. However, I noticed a fun-sounding  Post-a-Day yesterday when I was scrolling through the Reader and realized I had written something years ago that would respond beautifully to the challenge.  It brings up some great memories, too, so I thought I would share again.

“What’s the most elaborate, complicated meal you’ve ever cooked? Was it a triumph for the ages, or a colossal fiasco? Give us the behind-the-scenes story (pictures are welcome, of course).”

This is a story from 2011, right after my husband and I met, about a very special dinner.

The Last (Burn’s) Supper

Just in case you’ve missed the clues, I am a Ferguson. For the uninitiated, uninformed or uncaring, that means I’m of Scottish heritage, something my family is insanely proud of; after all, we are descendants of the first kings of Scotland. Our royal pedigree made absolute sense when I found out – I’ve always felt I was a princess, my tiara is simply implied.

Clann Ferguson Badge

Imagine my delight when my fabulous new boyfriend, David, turns out to be of Scottish ancestry as well–Clann Douglass, to be exact. Visions of bagpipes and Caber Tosses dancing in my head, I turned to him one January night and asked him the question burning so long and lonely in my soul:

“Would you host a Burns Supper with me?”

So for those uninitiated, uninformed or uncaring (and for you now joining them) Burns Supper is one of the major Scottish Holidays (along with Tartan Day, Hogmanay and St. Andrew’s Day) celebrated by Scots around the world. Specifically, it’s the commemoration of the life and works of famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who was born in 1759, and has been known as the “Bard of Scotland.” Burns is revered for his egalitarian beliefs (rare for those days) and his works, most notably poems such as “To a Mouse,” which inspired the Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men; and “My Heart’s in the Highlands;” and the traditional New Year’s anthem, “Auld Lang Syne,” a classic to this day. Typically Burns Night, or simply “Burns Supper” is held on the anniversary of his birthday, January 25th, and is celebrated by eating the customary supper of haggis, neeps and tatties, reading his poems, singing his songs and downing shots of Scotch Whiskey to toast his “immortal memory.”

Since eating, drinking and being of Scottish descent come somewhat naturally to me, I had always aspired to host a Burns Supper, but in the past had found myself overwhelmed by the proscribed ritual: the entire night is shaped around a complicated timeline of speeches, toasts and songs a little beyond my American-born and raised sensibilities. I was also intimidated (read: flat out terrified) at the thought of creating the traditional menu, as it stars not only “Neeps and Tatties” (mashed turnips-bleck! and potatoes) but features the dread Haggis as centerpiece of the entire event. To be honest, for me, organ meat steamed in sheep intestine doesn’t exactly pique any desire to chow.

The Dread Haggis

The Dread Haggis

Ahh, but now! A partner in crime! Not only Scottish, but an excellent chef and delightfully (and possibly foolishly) excited to do things with me. Let the (Highland) games begin!

We decided to stage the event at David’s house, since he would be doing most of the cooking. If you’ve been following along with my blogging adventures, you know by now that I’m not only not much of a chef, but neither do I possess the culinary infrastructure required for major meal production. The guest list was easy: my dear friend (and fellow Scottish-American) Dana McPherson, who I knew was not only familiar with Burns Supper, but culinarily adventurous, free that evening and and in possession of a formal dress kilt with no apprehension to wearing.

Me and my bonnie laddie in our Scottish finery

The next step was to convert the menu to something that, in my opinion, was actually edible. Judicious internet research revealed, ta dumm!, that others share my aversion to turnips and tripe, and have created alternatives to the classic offal and root veg offering. Armed with a “Neo-Scottish” menu and a sheath of recipes, David took over in the kitchen, leaving me to figure out my wardrobe for the evening. David, despite limited mobility due to a broken leg (fodder for another blog post) had managed to acquire a last-minute formal dress kilt, but I was scrappin’ for anything fancy-n-Ferguson, finally donning a royal blue velvet Betsy Johnson slip dress with my Ferguson scarf jauntily knotted over one shoulder and afixed with our Clann kilt pin. Not nearly as fabulous as the boys, but would have to do.

Due to a spectacular and incendiary incident with a can of compressed air and a faulty furnace (yes, also most likely another blog post) Dana arrived late, a little crispy around the edges, but properly bandaged and bearing our evening’s libations. He was primed with pain meds, but David and I had taken the precaution of blunting our trepidacious tummies with the contents of a bottle of champagne (a Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee Palmes d’Or 1996, a gift from Dana and a really incredible bottle of wine, btw.), so we were all three buzzily excited when we finally sat down around 10 p.m. for our official celebration.

David and Dana

The first order of business, according to Tradition, is to say a blessing, called the Selkirk Grace or the Kircudbright Grace, made famous by Burns who recited it for the Earl of Selkirk near Kircudbright.

Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit

Next up: the grand event! David, bless his heart, had not only undertaken cooking the entire dinner (hey, I did make the salad) but had also spent weeks learning the infamous Burns’ poem, “Address to a Haggis.” According to ritual, after the salad (or first course), the haggis is born in triumphantly (ahem) on a platter, accompanied by bagpipe music. The host then lauds the haggis with Burns’ immortal tribute.

Me and Dana

David may have cheated a little by having the poem pulled up his Blackberry
(ahh, modern technology) but executed it with such zeal and such an admirable brogue, that Dana and I were stunned into silence. (Well, to be honest, we were mostly stunned from two bottles of excellent Chardonnay, a 2002 Darioush Reserve, and if you listen to the video we took of the night, the “silence” part is also a little questionable.) Needless to say, we were pretty impressed.

Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!
Then horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit!’ hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

David’s Address to A Haggis

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned
Like taps o’ thrissle.
Ye pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

The poem ends with a dramatic (and somewhat violent) stabbing of the Haggis (I presume to let out the steam, but knowing what goes into traditional haggis, my thought is it probably originated as a precaution). I have to say, David did a spectacular job – the Neo-Haggis was really quite tasty and I went back for seconds of Neeps N Tatties!

We paired the entree with Dana’s contribution of a 2000 Darioush Reserve Cabernet –truly an exceptional wine (not that we were in any perceived danger of dehydration by then) which David broke up with shots of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch for inspiration.

Enjoying an amazing meal

The evening’s framework cust0marily calls for more toasts and speeches, including a toast to Burns’ Immortal Memory and a “Toast to the Lassies” to which I had prepared the counter-toast, the “Reply to the Laddies,” (“Down with trousers! Up with kilts!”) but it was so late by the time we’d finished dinner that we decided to save them for next year. It was a truly lovely night, dare I say say intoxicating, in every way, with great companionship and wonderful food and wines. What a fun, fabulous and incredible ode to our heritage!

Now, on to Hogmanay!

Thanksgiving 2014: Countdown of Odd Gratitudes

I’ve spent the last two days being grateful for unusual (read: weird) things (turkey and dressing, clothing racks) so I think I’ve stumbled into a trend that I will ride until the holiday.

Today’s oddity I’m grateful for: my alligator butler, Jeeves.

10557225_1456815097900240_7772965240661781108_n

We first met Jeeves (or his prototype, who we now call Jeeves, Sr.) at a beach house we rented in Rosemary Beach, Florida two years ago. I fell immediately, head-over-heels in love with the little bronze fella and launched a relentless campaign for a Jeeves of our own. I found his maker on-line (Frontgate) and immediately began staging pictures of Jeeves “being helpful around the house” to assist in the case I was presenting my husband to justify spending hard-earned money on a prefabricated metal reptile.

10491246_1456834147898335_9065312837799511115_n

Whose life wouldn’t be improved with a little assistance from a medium-sized fake lizard with a perky bow tie bearing an ever-so-helpful tray?

10377360_1456834197898330_4901249789947211575_n

I was so wildly successful in my proposal (or so annoying my husband just gave in) that soon a little Jeeves came to live with us.

We have whole-heartedly incorporated him into our lives and actually dress him up for holidays.

Sure and begorrah, that's me lucky lizard!

Sure and begorrah, that’s me lucky lizard!

Burn's Supper (Scottish Holiday on the birthday of poet Robert Burns)

Burn’s Supper (Scottish Holiday on the birthday of poet Robert Burns)

Baby New Years. (except that when I posted this picture on Facebook, everyone thought David and I were announcing that we were having a child.)

Baby New Years. (except that when I posted this picture on Facebook, everyone thought David and I were announcing that we were having a child.)

He’s wildly handy for al fresco suppers.

Jeeves, Sommelier

Jeeves, Sommelier

We often have him greet party guests at the door with a selection of libations.

"Drinks, anyone?"

“Drinks, anyone?”

So today, I am grateful for my wonderful alligator butler.

And my even more awesome husband for bringing him into our lives.

(By the way, Jeeves has his own Facebook page and would like to be your friend.)