Birdcage Beauties

Bird keeping is an ancient art. Long before the Spaniards invaded Mexico, Macaws were being bred as pets and the Japanese were cultivating beautiful songbirds. But of course it was the French, during the time of Louis XIV that brought bird keeping into popular culture.
These birds all needed housing and the variety of cages designed for them is as varied as our own homes.
From the Baroque... primitive...

..whether for decor impact, or for keeping live birds..

 beautiful bird cages, with their airy design adds ambiance to every space they grace.

It is no surprise that they are the darlings of decorators around the world.

If you love bird cages as much as we do, we offer this gilded cage currently on Chairish. or click our icon in the right hand column. A stunning home for a pair of Java Temple Birds, Finches or Canaries.
Until next time..


Homemade Southern Pecan Pimento Cheese.

The first taste of homemade pimento cheese tells you it is nothing like store bought. Southerner's really love pimento cheese and families often pass down their recipes. Many folks in other areas such as the Carolinas, use cream cheese which gives it a smooth texture and sweet taste but I was taught to make it the Tennessee way, using cottage cheese and mayo. It has a chunkier consistency and tops a burger as easy as it does a saltine.
And oh! How great it is just sitting down with a box of saltines. I top mine with diced green tomatoes and sweet yellow onion that has marinated in apple cider vinegar with a generous splash of balsamic.

Top some sliced toasted french bread with it and serve with a regional southern wine for a great get together with friends.

And of course, it makes the best ever grilled cheese sandwiches when served on sourdough bread with fried green tomatoes.

Here is my recipe:

You will need-
16 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese grated
4 ounces cottage cheese
4 ounces diced pimentos well drained
4 ounces chopped pecans toasted
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
 several dashes of worcestershire sauce
 several dashes of hot sauce
Toast the pecans in the oven and let them cool completely. Grate the  cheddar using the largest hole on on your grater.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and chill for several hours before serving.

Until next time..


A Heavenly Mother's Day Cocktail

Mothers are special and next weekend consider this divine cocktail known as a Celestial to serve to the moms in your life.

It can be served in a lowball glass on the rocks, or shaken with ice and served in a martini glass.
You will need:
Godiva's White Chocolate Liqueur
UV Blue Raspberry Flavored Vodka
Cream or Half and Half

For the On the Rocks version, fill a lowball glass with ice, then fill  the glass one third with White Chocolate liqueur. Fill the remainder of glass with cream and add a shot of vodka to the top. As the Blue Vodka winds it's way through the glass it makes for a lovely presentation.

For the Martini version I use 1 part UV Raspberry flavored Vodka, 1 part Godiva's White Chocolate Liqueur and two parts half and half, shaken on ice and strained. You can top this with shaved white chocolate but I pierce a white chocolate truffle with the swizzle stick as it makes for a surprise extra treat.

Variations on the always there are variations. For the on the rocks version, mocha flavored Tennessee Sipping Cream in place of the Godiva's makes things really interesting and packs a harder punch. If you want a dominant raspberry flavor, a quarter ounce of raspberry liqueur will do the trick. Mother's Day is just around the corner. Cheers!

Tomato Cathead Biscuits and Shrimp Gravy

A Southern staple, tomato drop biscuits make a breakfast delightful, brunch memorable and an afternoon snack satisfying. The term 'cathead biscuit' is southern slang for a really big drop biscuit.
Yesterday we had them for brunch, paired with an egg poached in olive oil and nestled on a bed of spring greens lightly tossed with a basic vinegarette. The piece de resistance was the shrimp gravy ladled over the huge biscuits.

 Both recipes are included here.

Tomato Biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 medium tomato, seeds removed, finely chopped and patted to remove excess moisture.
1/2 cup milk
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil or bacon grease
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 tablespoon chopped sun dried tomato
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil very finely crushed

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl mix sour cream or yogurt, milk and oil then add to flour, mixing until moistened. Add fresh tomato, sun dried tomato, basil and green onion. Stir until the dough forms. Taking a large spoon, drop onto a non stick baking sheet about 1/3 cup of dough per biscuit. Bake in a preheated oven of 425 about 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Makes about 6 biscuits.

Shrimp Gravy

1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup bacon grease
1/2 cup crumbled crispy bacon
1 bunch green onions chopped
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
pinch of paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, add flour to the bacon drippings, whisking until it lightly browns. Add the onions, tomatoes, (juice and all) garlic and shrimp. Mix well. Add spices. Simmer about 15 minutes until the shrimp pinks up.

Variations on this theme-
 The shrimp gravy is very versatile. You can add chili peppers for more bite or milk for more creaminess. Try it over grits or French bread.
We thoroughly enjoyed our brunch.

Until next time...


Why Your Room Needs That Unexpected Element

Decorating is not an exact science. Some of the world's best decorators have never had professional training or an internship. Yet all the great decorators have that special something. A gift for understanding the client and transforming their home into something interesting. One of the tricks to accomplish that is the unexpected element. The unexpected element can be small, quirky and speak quietly, like a special secret between friends.
Or it can be bold and in contrast to the setting of the room, like this very unexpected element in  designer Ryan Korban's apartment.

It could be something over scaled, such as this lovely wallpaper mural from Surface Views...

or as simple as an unexpected table display..

All these things have in common the ability to  take the visitor out of a preconceived notion of what a room should be and bring a whole new perspective of what it can be.

Try adding a normal object in an unexpected way. This room was already gorgeous but the mirror placement takes it to another level.

If you think your decor is a bit meek, Outsider Art on the wall will change the complexion of the room. Outsider Art runs the gamut in pricing, from high end gallery pieces to flea market finds and is highly collectible.

So shake it up a little. Be a little something unexpected.

Until next time..


A Never Forgotten Secret Southern Sauce

Today we made crawfish n' shrimp cake poorboy sandwiches and topped them with a sauce known only as Never Forgotten Sauce. Found in landlocked areas of the South like Nashville, Memphis and Atlanta it resembles a remoulade in appearance but is different. Remoulades contain, egg, lemon juice and dill. They are more tart than Never Forgotten sauce which is sweet and spicy. It is a great compliment to crawfish, crab cakes, catfish, salmon, veggie burgers, hamburgers, chicken and  ham and cheese sandwiches. Use it as a dipping sauce for fried shrimp(so yummy), fried oysters, even fried potatoes.

People in the South have their own personalized versions of this sauce. Here is mine.

You will need-
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic gloves
5 larger green onions
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 cup  stone ground mustard
1/4 cup hot sweet mustard
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
several dashes hot sauce to taste

Mince the green onions and two cloves of garlic. In a jar add all the ingredients and shake well.
Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld. I always keep some on hand as it brings everyday sandwiches up a notch.
Until next time..


The Pros and Cons of Estate Sales

When I was young my mother was the queen at buying bargain antiques at Estate sales. Later I enjoyed them as well. Then an enterprising local appraiser began buying up whole contents of estates, putting the really good pieces in her shop and selling the rest at garage sale type events. I stopped going to estate sales and concentrated on antique auctions. This year that enterprising woman retired and I hit a couple sales with good results. Most notably a five foot tall wardian case that now houses Cymbidium orchids and a delightful electric French table candelabra.

There is no art to shopping local estate sales. Ideally you have an eye for quality and the family is usually there to give you a bit of history on a piece.
But the complexion of estate sales has been changing. It began at first when eBay was launched. Bargain hunters sold their finds on eBay. Then auction houses began contracting to sell whole quality estates at local auctions and online.
Now it has changed again with the launch last year of Everything But the House. This company employs locals in major cities to contract, photograph and catalog estates in their area. The name of the company is a good fit as they do indeed sell every thing but the house. Cars, clothes, kitchenware, books, antiques, jewelry, even dog supplies. I have purchased a couple things from them with not great results. The first was a lamp that was photographed with all of the crystal prisms. I went to their office during the very short specified time for pick up and some crystals were missing. Being in a rush because of their inconvenient pick up time I let it slide.
My second purchase from them I fared much worse. Trolling their site I spied a wall sconce that was a match to one I already had. It took a while to deliver from Denver. I checked the tracking and saw that Fed Ex had marked it as no one home when in fact I was home all day. Once it was delivered I brought in the box which appeared used and was smelly, opened it and saw it was very poorly packed. No one had bothered to wrap the arms of the sconce, or remove the crystals, or even wind the cord. When I sell items I pack well and I expect the same when I buy.

The sconce was broken beyond repair.

I contacted them immediately and in all fairness they responded immediately.They explained that they do not do their own packing but contract a third party to do it for them, apologized and asked for photos, which I sent. At first I was told to contact the shipper, but the next day they had refunded my money.
While I do appreciate the speed with which they responded, it is unlikely I will buy from them again unless it is something that isn't subject to missing pieces or likely to break from bad packing.
Their concept is smart, but it does diminish the selection of estates sales locally.
I will still go to the rare local estate sale for fun...when I can find one.
Until next time..

Gilby reads and recommends Modern Dog