Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CARO COOKS WW

Mondays are Caro's day off, and she spends several hours in her bright, cheery upstairs kitchen, cooking dishes which can be stashed in the fridge for quick meals for most of the week. This Monday, she did several salads, and several things to be re-heated for her dinners (very early in the morning) and breakfasts (when she wakes late in the evening to get ready for work).

Most of the Things in Dishes were Asian this week---Caro has accumulated a lovely spice and herb collection, with all sorts of wonderful powders and seeds and flavors from all over the world. She also has a whole arsenal of wonderful utensils and knives and graters and planes and choppers, and makes the most beautiful salads and stir-fries and curries and soups and stews.

She invited us all to dinner on Monday, and we sat up in the little sitting room, chatting with her while she cooked. The scents were absolutely tantalizing, as she stirred and added herbs and readied all the hot dishes. She'd made up several flavorful salads and relishes earlier in the day.


She stashes all her food in Tupperwares, for easy storage and ease of getting out a serving quickly when she's getting ready to leave.

So, when she said everything was ready, we each grabbed a couple of containers---I headed down with four stacked under my chin---and trooped downstairs, where we had sorta scatter-set the table and poured our tea. And I don't think the meal could have been any better if we'd got out the best china.


And every single recipe on the table was "made up" by Caro, and they're all within her Weight Watchers points system. She can quote points like she says the alphabet.


A crisp pencil-asparagus salad with rice vinegar/Splenda dressing.






Blue Slaw: Shredded Purple cabbage, julienned radishes, green onions in rice vinegar/Splenda dressing.



My only contribution---a pot of little sticky pearls of Calrose rice:



Blanched-and-shocked sugar-snap peas with shredded carrots and green onions in the rice-vinegar/Splenda dressing. A few drops of sesame oil are also a great addition.




Tabbouleh: 1 bunch curly parsley, 1 flat-leaf, 1bunch mint, 1 bunch green onions, all minced together; diced cucumbers, diced tomatoes, bulgur wheat, fresh black pepper/sea salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.



Honey-mustard chicken---she did a little experimenting with a lot of new powdered flavors, and this one was the best dish of the whole night---even our Baby Girl asked for "more chicken, please." Boneless skinless thighs dressed with a sauce of powdered soy sauce, powdered honey, powdered Worcestershire, onion powder, garlic powder, Sugar-Free honey and plain ol' yellow mustard. Coat and bake---baste a couple of times if you like. I can't wait to serve this at a party, cut into bite-size, and baked, then speared on picks.




BS thighs in "red gravy" is an old recipe from my Aunt's kitchen---she'd make it now and then when we went up to Memphis for a Sunday visit. It was called "Arabian Chicken" at the time, though there are no spices to speak of. It's simply chicken in a non-stick pan (brown if you like, or not), covered with a layer of sliced onion, pepper rings, and sliced tomatoes. In Winter we just dump on a can of diced tomatoes. A little salt and pepper, and perhaps a sprinkle of sugar if the tomatoes are really tart, and simmer for 20/30 minutes til the chicken is very tender.
If the sauce is watery, thicken with a little cornstarch/water slurry. Serve over rice.



Vegetable stir fry w/ tofu: Pam-spray a non-stick pan and stir-cook minced ginger and garlic, with carrots, onions, celery, green peppers, cabbage, sugar snap peas, and tofu with chicken stock until just crisp/tender. Thicken with slurry of soy sauce, sugar, water and cornstarch.



Vegetable Lo Mein: Pam-spray nonstick pan and stir-fry onions, celery, shiitake mushrooms, and a handful of broccoli slaw, add udon noodles right from the package, or use cooked soba ones. Toss with powdered garlic and a bit of soy sauce.
This is almost exactly the recipe for our Pad Thai---you just add a bit of sesame oil, then scatter toasted sesame seeds and finely chopped roasted peanuts on top with some fresh bean sprouts.





We had a lovely dinner together---the kind of crowded, homey relaxing meal that's so enjoyable (especially when someone else COOKS). And the total informality of eating dinner from Tupperware made it even more fun. Our Baby Girl already served herself to rice and ate some, and was helping herself to the chicken even before we sat down and had the Blessing.


There was also a scrumptious dish of Mushroom stir fry: fresh sliced shiitakes and white 'shrooms along w/water chestnuts and bamboo shoots with same stock and slurry as above.
And in the kitchen: Baked Oatmeal Squares made with oats, applesauce, mashed bananas, blueberries, eggs (in this case 'Beaters), milk (skim) and cinnamon.

About midnight, that honey-mustard chicken just called to me, and I did my best Nigella up to the fridge, cut off half a piece, and brought it down to munch right out of a paper towel, while watching the rest of Project Runway. Don't you DARE laugh.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MRS. BARBEE


We used to get whole new outfits for Easter Morning. For weeks before the date, we’d discuss our Easter Dress, and our Easter Shoes and even our hats and hairbows. And most of us in town had the same seamstress---Mrs. Barbee, who by my time had outfitted a couple of generations of little girls, teens, and their mothers in fancy apparel. She was constantly in demand, for every piano recital, formal dance, (no proms in those days, but somehow someone somewhere in the county was always having a dance---a formal, or a tea-dance, or even a sock-hop on somebody’s hardwood floors at home) and for every High School social and Wedding-related soiree.

She was a tiny dry bird of a woman, with a wrinkly little face even when we first met, and she made all my "fancy" clothes from second grade recitals to going-off-to-college wardrobe. I would stand atop the little round step-stool, eye-to-eye with Mrs. B, (or eye to cheek, which on her were dense peachy forests of tiny fuzz, each small sprig bearing its own personal grain of Coty face powder, like whole universes of Who-worlds, safer than Horton on her sweet face. She coulda retired on the savings she'd have had from just the dust which fell down her neckline).

She'd roll twelve or so straight-pins round between her lips, with the uncanny knack of sliding just one forward with her tongue, ready for the grab-and-spear of the hem, darts, placket. She never stuck me, but I do believe I've been scratched by every stiff fabric known to couture---those were the days of just-coming-on of the polyester stuff, the nylons and the nets and taffetas. And I suppose it was the mouthful of pins which caused her to use her own form of wordless language---she had a series of MMMMM and ummm-ummm and other little noises which could be uttered with tightly-closed lips, and we moved whichever way or held in or held up whatever she indicated.

I'd stand there, my sturdy little round body rigidly stiff, as she and Mother conferred, marvelled at my hopeless embonpoint for a such a running, tree-climbing, swimming, ballplaying neighborhood Sheena of the pre-teen set; then they'd sigh in resignation and make it fit. I can still SMELL the stiffness of those materials, the corners and the edges and the little ravellies that burrowed beneath your arms. No hair shirt could tickle like a pinned-together or just-darted bodice with the seams untrimmed. Ow.
Mrs. Barbee had one son, a quiet man who almost always wore white; he was a slim, pale, pearly person, quite like the descriptions of Boo Radley, and though slow-moving, could vanish from the living room like smoke when you knocked on the door for your fitting. You could see him through the eight panes of the front door, through the haze of the pinched-together white sheer curtain with the rod shirred top and bottom, and sometimes even before you knocked, he’d see your shadow through the door or catch a movement out of the corner of his eye, and get up from his brown recliner and disappear through the dining room arch, not even stopping to turn off the ballgame.
Mr. Malcolm did radios, and made a little bit of their living, but he was a gentle shell of the bright lively young man Daddy described from their teens. He'd been badly affected by the War, but not wounded, I don't think. He was more within himself than with us, for all the years that I knew him. And he was good to his Mama.

One year, three of the Moms picked the same pattern and the exact material except for color. So three of us in stiff cinch-waisted, poufy-skirted peau de soie brocade with Anne Shirley's dream-of-Heaven sleeves appeared at the same tea-dance. Mine was yellow, and if those enormous shoulder-puffs weren’t leg-o-mutton sleeves, they missed their chance. And I LOVED it, even though we were triplets. We took one look at each other as we arrived, and burst out laughing. And MRS. B HADN’T SAID A WORD.

And we felt gorgeous in those dresses---there's no dressing room, no rack of clothes, no expensively-perfumed, luxurious store in the world which can give the totally beautiful feeling of one of those several-fittings, pins-in-the-mouth, turn this way, scratchy-fabric dresses crafted by that artist who was our Mrs. Barbee. You felt important in her clothes, as well as pretty.

It's like those descriptions by Gallico in Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris---the details of the hand-sewing and all the perfection expected, and the calculation of the cost, down to the last hook for the last eye, and the sheets of tissue in the box. I loved that book. And after Mrs. Barbee's, I could smell Dior's salon, as well---the little steam in the air from the iron ever-ready for pressing seams, and the dry, crisp scent of heavy fabric, with a lingering hint of Coty in the air.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

EITELJORG


We met friends for the afternoon at the Eiteljorg yesterday; the exhibit of weapons from the cowboy-and-old West era had piqued the interest of our guy friend, and he asked Chris to join him for a stroll through the various gunnery, to explain things and answer his questions about calibers and uses and such. Guy Stuff.

We two ladies decided to just take our ease in the tearoom, since we’d toured the art and weavings and baskets and most of the other museum displays several times already. It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon, and just walking up to that vast browny/tanny edifice, with its great expanse of grounds and all the huge bronzes on the lawn---deer and buffalo roam indeed. You go into the parking garage, and stash your vehicle in the cold depths, then take the elevator upupup, walking out of big glass doors onto the sidewalks leading to the immense doors.

Those doors, huge and heavy and bestrewn with great black ironmongery, befit a fort or a castle or one of those strongholds so aptly named a Keep; you stand there in another place, awaiting your permission to pass, almost smelling the hot sand of early Texas or Arizona, feeling the great PEACE of the place in the afternoon sun.

She and I meandered down the halls, through some sort of unannounced bazaar: interminable stalls of wares just-for-the-buying---crockery in glorious colors and intricate moldings, paintings and sculpture and some of the most beautiful stone jewelry. I’m not a jewelry person, myself---one little gold ring is about it for me, but the sheer artistry of the necklaces was so wonderful that I just walked slowly by each and every display board, admiring and sighing. My friend has a great knowledge of rocks and crystals and such, and she engaged the artisan in a discussion of various stones and polishing techniques---they named rocks which sounded to me like flowers and constellations and maybe even Biblical tribes. My favorite was “dragonsblood”---a heavy string of chunky squared beads of stone, with gold beads between, and a shining oval pendant of the stone, all the green depths shot with wine-red markings. Just lovely.

And we remarked to each other that our tastes and styles are so different: she’d have twelve of the necklaces hanging from all the nice hangers in her dressing room, and wear them with dash and elan. I’d use them as curtain tiebacks and garnishments around the fronts of lampshades.

We sat over tea and coffee out in the big bright atrium, just chatting of things since we’d seen each other last; we discussed teaching little ones to read, her own putting together of chapters of math classes she teaches, in using all the rhomboids and dodecahedrons for illustrating the problems. Fascinating. I just love talking to her---they both are just brilliant, and such fun and so witty that the time just flies.

The guys came back and sat with us for a bit, then we said our good-byes out on the lawn. Chris suggested we run by Shapiro’s for a pound of corned beef and a loaf of their wonderful rye. We went into the takeout end of the restaurant, looking out over the big cafeteria space, which was filled, even at four, with lots of the basketball fans---we’d forgotten about Final Four, and the town is filled, especially the area around the Museum/Convention Center/Stadium/Victory Field.

We came home, got into comfy clothes, and had lovely warm corned beef sandwiches and dill pickles. We’d also had a look into the magnificent pastry cases, as well, and I’d chosen a little bar marked “Pear-Apricot Bars.” It looked juicy and luscious, with all the colors of both blended atop a nice nutty crust.

He’d also picked an Espresso Brownie, a cannoli with chocolate cream filling and each end dipped into ganache, a strudel-type thing like a cannoli with nuts and apples and a caramelly filling, and a tiny diamond of Baklava.

So we took a little knife and sliced off a wee bit of each and made the prettiest little dessert plates to go with our second glass of tea. He’d asked when we sat down with our trays, “Do we have any OLD movies recorded?”
And I obliged with two I’d TIVOed the night before: Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans (original version, with Olivier, Harry Hamlin in his Dreamsicle Days and Dear Maggie Smith, perfect as always). Almost TOO MUCH action, those incomparable Harryhausen special effects, and heroics enough for any six movies---a DOUBLE FEATURE, no less, with my Best Fella.

Friday, March 26, 2010

PP VII---ELISE TOWNER


Elise Towner wears lovely clothes, gets her hair done more than once a week, and forever carries the over-hanging scent of Kents and Arpege. She does not see it---for who looks into the mirror when they’re taking a big drag---but she’s one of those smokers who sucks in every puff for all she’s worth, with her mouth making a little volcano with myriad crevices down the sides. Even when she’s not smoking, she’s getting a circle of those tiny inward lines around her lips like the folds at the business end of a 12-gauge shell, from sucking on the weed for twenty-some years. And despite an armada of amazingly-expensive creams and miracle masks, some labeled for Night and others exclusively for Morning, or Day, or for the Sun, she’ll be a dry-faced old lady with a grim set to her mouth before she’s fifty.

Elise shops. She goes to Jackson and to Memphis and sometimes Birmingham for a long weekend, and she flies to Dallas to Neiman Marcus about four times a year. When she went off to Ole Miss, she carried more clothes than any six other girls, all bought during a week in Dallas, where she and her Mama bought everything that caught their eyes.

They stayed at the Stoneleigh, because you just DID, enjoying the spa and the pool to revive them from the effort of all that energy used in choosing between designers. The day they left to fly home, two men from the place, who had driven over the day before and stayed at Motel 6 out on the interstate, picked up the room key at the front desk of the Stoneleigh. They were driving a big box-truck all totted up with racks and hangers and brackets inside for hanging all the clothes, and they loaded up every single dress, suit, cocktail outfit and evening dress, all the underwear locked in the five suitcases, along with twenty-one pairs of shoes, which slid neatly into the chest of shelves in the truck, with the door closed and locked over their pricey leather contents.

The shoes would be taken out at home, a Polaroid snapped of each pair, then the picture stapled securely to the end of the box, for quick and easy finding of whichever pair Elise wanted at that moment. Her Mama had her own shoe-shelves done just like that, and had for years, except that the Polaroids were a new thing, seen in on a TV show---a fleeting pan of some movie star’s room-sized closets showed the whole library of shoes in their neatly-marked boxes. And her Mama wished SHE’D done it that way long before, with the pictures and all---seeing the contents at a glance was WAY ahead of looking at five index cards printed “Blue Heels” and having to look in to be sure.

And after all the clothes had been taken out and tried on and modeled at home several times, Birdie Mae, with strict little notations and slips of paper and a big printed-out chart to go by, had got them all back into the carry-bags and sleeves and shoeboxes, for a repeat of the truck-hauling process to Ole Miss for Rush. (Three of the sororities had cut Elise After Water, and she STILL resents it---she flat refused to let Mike contribute to two different incumbents because their wives were Chi O’s).

She filled her dorm closet with her clothes in their fancy hanging bags and arranged bras and panties and stockings in the drawers of the highboy the men wedged against the left side wall of her closet. She'd also had them stick up one of those snap-on light things on each of the four walls of the closet, and nail a little inch-high rail around the big shelf at the top, for keeping her shoeboxes in place.
She put the rest of her clothes in her trunk and made it an end-table to her bed, like young Army recruits keep their things. The trunk stuck out a bit beneath the little in-room sink, and so the girls had to do a little side-bend, standing there in their underwear, to brush their teeth and blink beneath the Maybelline wand.

But Elise didn’t bring NEAR all of her clothes---when there was a big Game coming up, or a dance or just a special date to go to the Peabody or somewhere else in Memphis, she’d have a long, detailed phone call with her Mama, and next day that Big Ole green Sedan de Ville would pull out of that long driveway outside Paxton with all the chosen garments and accessories on racks in the back seat, just bringing them right on up to her and carrying back whatever needed taking to the dry cleaners or hand-washing by Birdie Mae at home.

And Elise was forever resentful of the whole other closet wasted on her roommate’s meager nine outfits, bought at Sears and Penney’s and not worthy of all that wasted space. Elise opened her own closet door from time to time, spritzing the space full of perfumed clouds which clung to every thread and button, marking her territory and her passage through the halls to class. She still plows through life like she plowed through people, sending the import of her Self through the parting crowds like the overdone fumes of Arpege.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

401


or


Just for fun, I Googled “401” and got about a dozen entries---a number, a year in history concerning Visigoths, et al., a type of future-providing savings plan, and the one which I felt to be quite apropos: the computer code given with ERROR! ERROR!, when your name and password do not coincide on sign-in.

Heaven knows, I’ve been fee-fuddled with THAT today!! I got up all bright-eyed this morning, to see a blast of sun down the stairs, presaging a good day to get out there and “get up” those leaves I raked out of the hosta beds yesterday. But I could not sign on to my blog site---I tried off and on all morning, but it just Would. Not. Work.

Chris tried and tried, and he could not get in either, and we wondered if everybody was having trouble with their own. I Googled several blogs which carry LAWN TEA on their sidebar, and I could not enter those, either.

By the time I’d had my first cup of coffee, made Chris a pot of tea, carried pot/cozy/coaster/ cup/saucer/ coffeepot/Sweet&Low/my milk pitcher/his little grenade-shaped pitcher of Pet to the table, and we sat talking long enough to have several cups each---well a cold drizzle came along, darkening the doorway, and just SPOKE to me: Don’t rake leeeeeeaves. Hear that ominous whisper?

So I didn’t. This cool-off and cloudy has done things to the barometer the last couple of days which has spoken sharply to my knees and fingers, and I pampered them all by staying in when it was cloudy. Until lunchtime---Chris’ first call was after noon, so I asked if he would like to take me to lunch. And well, he SEEMED delighted, so we went.

See---there’s a Southern term called “Tolerable” which explains everything you need to know about all kinds of ailments. If you’re under the weather (appropriate for my own particular circumstance), and folks ask how you are, you can say, “Tolerable.”

It’s nomenclature for whatever applies---you can be up and about, or feel the need to go get under the covers, or take off a day from work, or be almost recovered from something major---if you’re to the stage of Tolerable, you’re getting there, but not today.

The most often used definition for the word is “able to take nourishment, not much else.”
And so Tolerable applied---where there’s cold rain and mucky wet leaves, stirred up from the flowerbeds where I raked ‘em last Fall, and quite possibly where our new GrandDog takes his own business---well, I’ll pass, cause I'm not feelin' my best.

But if a lunch date is involved---I’m your girl. I’ll brighten up like a gold dollar, get on my goin’-out clothes, and hop right in. And so we went, and it was nice---a cheery warm place with lovely food, music and a REAL screen door, put on since our last visit, for authenticity, and in honor of SUMMER’S a-comin’!

And when we got home, the site was still down, and I didn’t get it to work til late this afternoon. There were some lovely comments on yesterday’s post #400, and I so appreciate them, and will answer them properly tomorrow. It’s such an honor to be amongst such wonderful, kind people whose words and pictures and ideas and sheer talents brighten every day. I can tune in and find humor, color, bright sayings, little fun tips and trips and stories of families and work and spiritual journeys to inspire and amaze. I’ve had my heart touched and almost broken, my funnybone tickled, my eyes filled with glorious images, and my soul sent soaring through other people’s sharings.

The talent unleashed with every click of these buttons is astounding, and I’m just SO glad to be able to witness this wonderful world of blogging. I throw a few words out there as my offering, and get back reams and albums and blessings running over.

Thank Y’all SO much!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

POST #400---LAWN TEA?

Four hundred posts since that November day in 2008 when I sent that first tentative post out into the unknown air. And the welcome and the friendships and all the wonderful comments and the replies and the e-mails have been wonderful. I’ve seen places and learned about things and places and people that I would never have encountered, and I’ve enjoyed all the travels and new sights and sounds SO much.

What I’ve had to share in return is mostly family stuff, almost all SOUTHERN, and all just written down and put out there. And the comments have been so kind, and so complimentary---one theme runs through most of all: “You just make me SEE what’s happening.” “Your words convey every feeling and every color of the party/day/morning/ trip/visit.” “You make the most ordinary things sound exciting and beautiful.” Such lovely things to say, and I appreciate each and every word.

And my favorite, “You could make a stone sound gracious.” What a lovely thought, and would that I could. I DO love gracious, beautiful moments; the loveliest times are sometimes unexpected, and some of the most fulfilling are ARE hard work, but SO worth all the effort, the polishing, the smoothing, the arranging JUST SO.

I love the simple grace of the preparations---a stack of pretty plates, a cuddle of shining old mis-matched spoons:



Dessert with a few friends:



A sunny Spring morning with First Cup:



A warm Autumn table, awaiting guests:



Preparations for a Lawn Tea---Fruit Bowl, carved by Caro:



Cocktail Rollups---Jalapeno Spread on Tomato Tortillas; Veggie Spread on Spinach ones:


Just-Baked Lemon Chess Squares:



Sometimes we go splurge on some DECADENCE at a bakery:


Several days' work for an evening tea for about twenty friends:


And then, when I start to tell about them, I get caught up in all the magic of the fun and good times, and enjoying their enjoyment---I get carried away with the telling, and use more words than pictures. The words ARE flowery and sometimes too much, but they’re always true, even if they embellish more than I should---yesterday’s tea party for example.

Our Baby Girl spent the day mostly outdoors---we did a lot of walking, waving hello and stopping to speak to neighbors as they worked in their yards, walked their dogs, sat in the sunshine on their freshly-furbished porches, all set out and decorated for Spring.

Then Sweetpea said “Tea Party---I want to have a Tea Party!” She carried her small yellow chair into the patio sun, scooted one of "her" handy little tables over to it, and she was ready. She also shouted an invitation through the fence to our Dear Neighbor, and she said she’d be right over.

I came in and took down the Apple-Green enamel teapot, Chris’ morning favorite, and the lovely variegated tea cozy crocheted by Dear Neighbor, herself. A pink table covering, pink floral napkins, two Limoges cups with flowers, some dainty small crisp cookies, a scoop of the lovely Black Tea/Oolong mixture DDIL had given me for Christmas. Kettle just on the boil, a quick pour, all the lovely tea things up and out the door, table set, and we sat down.

We poured and sipped in the sunshine of the patio, nibbling a cookie or two, as our little one sat in her small chair, sipping from her cup, getting up to run down the sidewalk or take a turn on her trike. We spoke of garden plans, of seeds a-waiting in the basket, of trimming a few things of their Winter’s shagginess, of how the herbs are sprouting up again, and of the fencerow’s pale greening.

Now, THAT sounds gracious and charming, I think---I'd like to go to that party, myself. And it’s the truth, every word, as it happened.
Also, as it happened, the fact that we have had rain for what seems like the proverbial forty days, the back yard is solid mud, with the expectant little grass trying to get a foothold in the swampy ground, the patio still has Winter stuff lying around, the Adirondacks have been brought from the storage shed, but not set up, and thus have become the repository for whatever needs setting down.

And the view from our tea-table was not of lovely landscapes, to say the least---old Snow-Gobbler, ready for a nice Summer in the storage shed, and the downstairs carpet, just delivered:



The usual tea table is scooched up under the big iron table on the patio, only one real lawn chair has been set out, and I was trying to run in, get downstairs, put on the kettle, get tea things set out, get FuzzyPup to stay in OR out as I went, and lure Baby Girl IN with me each time I came in the door. She was giddy with the weather, and was having none of that coming-in stuff, and so I grabbed anything that could be stashed in a little grocery sack---pink napkins, two teacups, sippy cup, a bag of Nutter-Butters and a spoon in the sack on one arm, teapot-in-cozy in the other hand, ushering a tiny girl up the stairs and out the heavy back door, and we “set” the table.

When Neighbor arrived, I ran back in the sitting room and grabbed up one of the only portable chairs upstairs---a nice parlor one from the sitting room, and went back out.

We DID sip, and we DID chat, amongst the chaos of the patio like an island in the mud, and we had a lovely time.

This was our setting, exactly as I described above---cloth, napkins, cups, cozy and pot. Note the charming engraving on the side of the "table" and the lovely serving piece holding the cookies:




And this---our tablescape, arranged mostly by a very small hostess, who was just tickled even more pink with her accomplishment:




And the spoon---I forgot the spoon---it was not mere Sheffield or Revere---Oh, no. THIS occasion called for something SPECIAL. It was a red one, the best that Dairy Queen can offer. I wish you all could have been here.

And thank you for being here through all these interminable, flowery, wordy, from-the-heart posts!! Every day feels like a gathering of Dear Friends.

Monday, March 22, 2010

ALL THE KING'S HORSES . . .


 
 
 
 
 
Internet photo
There's just something about this time of year that says "Eggs." Not just EGG-eggs, but fancy, gussied-up ones, with scenes and little woodland creatures and bunnies with MORE eggs featured prominently upon them. And Debra Lee Flowers used to make these eggs.

A bowl of sugar, a little food color in a bit of water, dribbled in and stirred vigorously just to dampen and tint the sugar all through, then the stuff was packed firmly into the halves of the plastic egg molds.

Wilton did a thriving business in all sizes of plastic ovals, and on several occasions, the beautiful little tableaux had humble beginnings in leftover L'eggs packages. A flat planing of the top to make the finished product fit together perfectly, a quick ploooomp out onto a cookie sheet, with half an hour in a low-low oven, and the rock-hard pieces could be cooled and put together with Royal Icing.

(Also purchased in powdered form from the ever-estimable Wilton Company, purveyor of such niceties as baking pans of every imaginable shape, paste color of uncountable rainbows, impossibly-cantilevered stands for soaring creations, and tiny staircases for marching wee bridesmaids up the sides of a wedding cake).

She made quite a few of the fancy eggs, and if she took them out when they were just SO from the oven, just at that perfect moment when the shells were hardened, and the centers still a bit damp, she could scrape out the middles and make the most enchanting little vignettes inside, like if Willy Wonka and Faberge' got drunk together one night on chocolate vodka.


And Humpty Dumpty---he was an experiment one year, for her own Easter centerpiece, and he turned out quite well, she thought. He was an ostrich-sized egg, a bright yellow, his bottom cut very flat, and had cute little ruffly arms and legs piped of frosting, just like the clowns on page 89 of the Spring book.
And the wall---oh, the wall. She had SO much patience then, and so many ideas---she later harbored the wish that she'd not squandered so much of it on geegaws like little villages and baseball diamonds, all made of sugar. If only she'd saved half of each for her later years, when patience wears thin and clever is hard to come by.

The wall, she thought, would be best constructed of cardboard---the bottom of a CornFlakes box seemed about right for forming the first one. She cut it about five inches from the bottom with an x-acto knife, flipping it upside down and making a perfect little perch for His Eggness. Then came the bricking.
A lot of frosting-smearing and smoothing later, she had successfully frosted the outside of the cardboard. A quick sprinkling all over with a good coating of red-tinted sugar, and the fun began: do you have any idea how crosseyed you can get, and how sticky, and how much you begin to HATE sugar, on a midnight when you've stood there making little skewer-tracks through frosting and RED sugar, marking off brick-shapes, even and squared and stacked as they should be?
But was at last done, and the setting-on of Humpty and the piping of his little arms and legs and facial features the last part---he wore a tiny Pilgrimish hat, of black construction paper, and a big smile, apparently not knowing of the crash to come.

And people saw it, and wanted one like it---she must have made about a dozen that year, and put the pictures into her album for future customers.
One year, the request changed a little---he was to be caught in actual FALL on a birthday cake. She worked out a way of tipping him backward and putting his little legs askew in the air, for the Birthday Boy, age four, had specified that he wanted him tumped over. And he wanted to supply the horses himself---with no mention at all of King's Men.
Debra Lee dutifully delivered the cake, only to watch the kid bring out about a dozen small green plastic cowboys-on-horses, a rearing stallion or two, several of his Weeblish farm-scene steeds, now missing legs or ears, and two of his sister's Little Ponies, one pink, one purple, and shorn of their girly manes and tails.
He went wild on that cake, on the smooth green icing with the neat "stone" path up to the wall, digging in those tiny hooves, those small chubby babyhood horses, those dainty little pony-feet. He scattered equine shapes with abandon and joy, making the little lawn into a hoof-scarred morass like Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
 
The chaos on that cake would have put Wilton slap out of business, she thought as she drove away---a whole barnyard of mismatched horses plowing up great holes in the green turf, a Humpty-Dumpty with his butt in the air, and two embarrassed, naked Little Ponies sorta huddling shamefully in a corner, listing a bit to starboard.
 
There was way more decor than actual cake, but the Birthday Boy seemed smugly satisfied with the wreckage, though Debra Lee heard later at BTU that he'd gotten a day-after spanking for climbing up to the What-Not shelf where his Mama had preserved Humpty and the wall, and gnawing all the Royal Icing off the entire piece.
Debra Lee swore off eggs forever, giving all the molds to her daughters for their sandbox.
\
 
And the little boy now works at PIXAR.
.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

WHAT-NOT OR NOT?



Did your family have a What-Not shelf? Until I had my own home, I don’t think I’d ever been in a house without one. The name’s origins are lost to Time, but I imagine that it began as a catch-all word for the little rinky-dinks which accumulated there.

I can remember one such collection of souvenirs, miniatures, tchotchkes, and what-have-you little doo-dads in almost every place of my childhood---my Mammaws both had one, all their neighbors one or two---sometimes quite ornate spirals or corner tiers or towers of things.

The items which sat on those narrow displays were always small, quite often of either china or wood, and even more often, had the name of a vacation spot/gas company/service station/ insurance company/fraternal organization/military unit/foreign place someone’s son had been stationed during the war.

And I was totally fascinated by the wee things---where else could a child, bored with visiting on a Sunday afternoon, just stand in the corner and be occupied just LOOKING at stuff for an hour? Mammaw’s one neighbor had several grenades on hers---her son had brought them back from WWII, and he SAID they were all still loaded. Another shelf held a few of the long-point shells, angry as wasps, sitting on their flat bottoms; she dusted and POLISHED those things with lemon juice and salt, every time she did her Revere Ware, for goodness’ sake!

Yet another neighbor’s collection was of glass balls, flat on the bottom, and filled with the most enchanting flowers---I would just get lost in those, glinting in the sunshine, and I know I wore out my welcome several times over, for they had no kids my age, and I’d just knock on the door, asking to look at the glass things. Later I learned that they were called paperweights, and I coveted a paperweight SO badly---though the fact that I HAD no paper to weight did not seem to occur to me—all mine was in tablets and booklets, before we were all allowed three-rings.

And lots of the guys in my high school, all being smalltown or country boys, took classes in the Agriculture Building---mechanics and shop and actual FARMING classes. And the Shop guys got to make What-Nots. I think those were their second assignment, right after a birdhouse, all culminating in the final pinnacle---either a chiffarobe (mirrors included, sometimes) or a cedar chest.

The What-Not plans came out of a book, the same ones every year, and so the patterns were limited; there was your Three-Tier Corner model, with little lathe-cut spindles along the sides; the Two-Flat-Shelves edition , with a heart or some-such jigsaw-cut out of the shelf-back, and the REALLY fancy arrangement on either three or four little legs, like a tiny open étagère.

And they all contained humorous salt-and-pepper sets, tiny sets of parlor furniture, dolls and bells and wooden shoes and miniature cup-and-saucer sets inscribed “See Rock City” and “Souvenir of Biloxi, Miss.” Flamingoes abounded, as did things made of seashells, and the number of ashtrays, ring holders, pictures, picture frames, keyrings, shotglasses and coasters which could be made featuring both---boggling.
There was also a strange profusion of smaller-than-a-matchbox shellacked outhouses, each with a tiny moon in the door. Everyone seemed to have a set, S&P or not. It was as if some weird, hypnotic Privy Salesman came through with a suitcase full of half-price bargains, and glamoured the whole populace into saying, “Wow!! Isn’t that CUTE?? Might as WELL!”

And I can still name most of the little goodies which sat on the incongruously-tacky little corner What-Not in our otherwise really pretty living room. Even after Sis and I had both married and moved out, and Mother could indulge in custom-made gold silk drapes, with a puckery-green divan and little spindly chairs, that dark old shelf just SAT there, like a wart on a pickle, holding all those same old tacky things like ancient talismans.

There were saltshakers--- A pair of Schlitz bottles---glass, with tiny real fluted caps; a yellow porcelain bird, a Hummelish girl-with-goose and boy-in-cap, a little shiny wooden chest with a microscopic clasp, a small parlor chair with a bordello-looking red velvet pouf (pincushion), and of course, the ever-present Privy Set. I was just glad it sat there in silence---what if it HAD been a S&P, and someone actually put them on the TABLE??

There was also a stuffed yellow turtle, its flannely back pocked from countless pins and needles during its days as a pincushion, and a little roll-out tape measure inside. I’d rescued it from Mammaw’s machine drawer when I was about five---I’d felt sorry for it, for its small black embroidered eyes had frayed, and I thought it was blind. Mammaw had said, “You don’t want THAT old thing!!”
And I’d blurted, “Maybe I can get it a seein’-eye snail!”
And quite some time later, I DID, at Ben Franklin---a tiny stuffed snail, with a pink shell, about the size of a thimble. She and Turtle got on quite well, sitting there on that shelf in the morning sunshine. I always felt that Snail was describing pretty things to Turtle.

AND WHAT WAS ON YOUR WHAT-NOT?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SATURDAY SILLIES--PUZZLES

I just picked up this one above from the internet, so I haven't solved one of the boxes, yet.


I DO love puzzles, especially word puzzles---the cleverer, the more I admire and enjoy them.

The ones I work most are these, and I recommend them highly---they're typical Brit puzzles, with puns, hidden words, anagrams, backwards answers, etc., and sometimes the Brit spelling will throw the diagram off for American spellings, but that's all part of the fun.



http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~wgh/crosspuz2.htm


And then there are this kind:



Winter's Cautionary Tale:



If the Bmt, put:



If the B. putting:



Don't put:
a-der



Udbn*it



Playwright of Numbers:


IIIIOOO


All answers welcome, and I'd love it if anyone has favorite puzzles of their own to share!! Solutions on Monday, if they haven't all been solved before then.

And now, if only I could work out the vagaries of this blog spacing. Pooo.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

GREEN GATHERING

Our little gathering for St. Patrick's Day---our BabyGirl helped me gather up little green things from the china cabinet, the linen press, the kitchen, and kept saying, "THIS is GREEN!!" for the sugar bowl, the creamer, the gravy boat. We made use of everything we could, in our mix and match table, and I think she did quite a creditable job, in that we started about an hour before time for dinner.


The table---the very last of a beautiful hyacinth, clipped at the base and put into a little vinegar bottle, with only a few fresh bright little bells still blooming, for the flowers, and whatever else we could gather up. In the sherbet dishes at our places is the GREEN version of Pink Salad, with crushed pineapple, marshmallows, sour cream, and quartered grapes. The blue bowl is Sweetpea's carrots---set to cool before the big bowl was put on the table.





The shiny, juicy roast chicken---dismantled warm and inviting by Chris, five minutes after being brought home in that fragrant SAM'S container:



Our Girl's favorite thing (besides the croissants, of course, ditto from Sam's, for making sandwiches of the leftover-chicken-made-into-salad for tonight's dinner)---she's a carrot girl, and we called them our "bowl of gold."




The Green---fresh green beans, blanched for five minutes in salted water, left to cool and dry beneath a damp paper towel, and stir-fried at the last minute with caramelized onion, soy sauce, sugar, garlic and a little sesame oil---everybody's favorite:





More GOLD---Yukon Golds. We thought they would be an acceptable stand-in for REAL Irish Potatoes---simply jacket-boiled in salted water.




Their accompaniments---simply butter, salt and pepper (in a little Spring gathering-basket).






Some tiny bocconcini---balls of fresh Mozzarella, marinated in olive oil and herbs, with a little hit of red pepper flakes. Also from Sam's, and put on the table because they were HERE.







Crispy little flaunts of celery in an old spooner, for salad. The two little side-bowls are the dips---peanut butter and honey, and Knorr Vegetable Dip.




Dessert was mini-cupcakes from Caro's bakery, with vanilla buttercream and shamrock sprinkles, of course. We didn't even use the dessert plates---we just peeled away the fancy paper and bit the creamy tops off.


This was an easy, prepare-it-in-a-few-minutes dinner; the getting together the cloths and plates and napkins took more time than the cooking, and was great fun besides.


Nice, quiet celebration of the day---hope yours was lovely, as well.


And if last night has lingered into today, there's always this, from this time last year:

http://lawntea.blogspot.com/2009/03/morning-after.html

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SHAMROCKS



A bit of the Auld Sod, straight from Ireland itself, to wish you cool green passage and the soft green beneath your feet.


The little one and I have been cooking for a little family dinner tonight---we've strung fresh beans for stir-frying with garlic, we've washed the potatoes (Yukon Golds---not quite Irish Potatoes, but the gold is appropriate), we have the celery strung and ready for stuffing, all crisp and crunchy (though I DO draw the line at GREEN cream cheese), and I've made a green version of Pink Salad, with baby marshmallows, crushed pineapple, sour cream, quartered grapes, and a tiny spinkle of dry lime Jello.
Tiny cupcakes with shamrock sprinkles and Homemade Ice Cream. The Murphy Side would be proud.

Chris will pick up a couple of roast chickens at Sam's at suppertime, for we're otherwise occupied the rest of this day with taking advantage of this sunshine.
Céad míle beannachta, Y'all!

Monday, March 15, 2010

BLOOMING BOUQUETS

The photos on my friend Janie’s blog today are just TOOOO good to miss!!! They’re of Bradford pears, in the Southern season so far ahead of our own. There are two trees down the block from us, and we stroll down almost daily to check their progress, for the display is fleeting, from bare limbs one day, to swelling buds, to the tightly-furled little blossoms like the bouquets of avant-garde brides, whose flowers are exotically-named unbloomed peonies imported from Belgium or Holland or other flowery places, towering over guests in their matching vases set upon chartreuse cloths. For the bride, they’re clutched into nosegays wrapped with gossamer silks and satins of taupe. They’re captured by all the smart photogs, held against mortgage-weight dresses, against the edgy walls of rusting buildings, carried on a tandem bike by a bride in blue shoes.







These full-blown blossoms are more like the bouquets of today’s Southern brides, with lush cascades of Spring’s promise, and like the luxuriantly luxurious arrangements of whole limbs of blossoms in vases and buckets and urns set on Battenburg or quilts, humble and so vastly great they elude the telling.

They evoke stretches of green lawn, tents of billowing tulle, big bowls of lemonade and Sweet Tea, Sweet-Potato Biscuits and Ham and vast trays of melon, bespeaking the open-handed hospitality of a Summer afternoon.






As the time of bursting comes, that season-in-a-day when the force that through the green fuse drives the flower---I wish that the time for watching could be like that wonderful Disney film, back when Disneyland was on Sunday nights, and was one of the few “color” programs. It was called “Nature's Half Acre,” or some such evocative name. With the magical processes of the time-lapse cameras, you could watch the puffing of the bare buds, then their bursting forth into the most charming flowers, right before your eyes. I considered that the “best movie” I’d ever seen, for years and years. Perhaps it still is.

The pear-blooms cover the trees like an ice-storm, crusting the bare limbs in magic, a snowfall of the most delicate, the most ethereal of petals, each different, each unique, with the punch of tiny red and burgundy anther-hearts center-pulsing with the ongoing life of the plant. I think of each one of those tiny stem-tips as promise-of-pear, marveling at the amount of fruit that tree would produce, could it bring every bloom to fruition. A tree could feed a city, I think, were there a way to hold up all that vast weight until the ripening.





I marvel every day at the magical skills of Janie’s lens---she captures the most ethereal and the most weighty moments in the South, from the temporary of a pear blossom to the lengthy wither of a centuries-old barn, melting into the earth. What she does and how she does it are unexplainable---the light and clarity and sheer artistry of her work are amazing.


This is set to go straight to that post, so the blossoms will still appear, even though the date has passed. However, you'll be so mesmerized, you'll just keep looking and looking, at every one of her posts. They're that wonderful.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

A-WAITIN'


Pictures of growing spring, and farms, and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air;
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific;
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there;
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows;

And the city at hand, with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life, and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.

Whitman "When Lilacs Last . . ."

We're still in the mud-stage, but this morning, I noticed four clumps of tulip greens---the faithful old things were here when we moved in, and that's 12 years ago. Last year they didn't even bloom, but we left them there in hope, sorta like a faithful old dog who's outlived his huntin' days, but still deserves a place by the fire.

And Miss Effie, the nesting flamingo who sits at the foot of the BIG TREE, will soon lay a few tiny pastel eggs in her nest, in honor of the Season. She's been with us since three houses ago. You DO know that flamingoes sitting on a nest are NOT TACKY, don't you? Just wanted to be sure.


And the little corner fern has three bright green fronds peeking out above last year's blanket of leaves in the hosta beds. The moss is a verdant blanket of velvety hues, all across the back garden, and with today's clock-spring, the real one promises to be right around the corner. Before we know it, the grapevines will be sending out their little seeking fingers and the Fairy Dell will be filling with the gleamy leaves of millions of little purple violets. The Winter-crimped carpet of ivy is already beginning to green up and shine, and even a couple of bushes have either retained lots of fresh leaves, or they're just jumping out to get a head start.

I've had the lilac-print tablecloth on the breakfast table for weeks now, and I think I'll go twine the silk ones into the chandelier---I've never known lilacs, as they were more New Englandish flowers than Delta ones, speaking of poems and thaws and mossy woods, but they have always been such a romantic idea, kindled by Whitman and Gladys Taber and Miss Emily, though I never DID think "Lilac Seas" was my kind of poem, being so grim and cryptic, and all.
And the pronunciations---having never SEEN a lilac, or having heard the word pronounced, I accepted the March girls' high-falutin "lie-lacks" as the true way, and then when other movie stars spoke of "lye-locks"---well, I was confused as heck. I do like the country way of saying plain old lilacs, just like it looks and feels.
And I DO love them now, as real, touchable, smellable flowers, with a way of perfuming the air with magic, from a long way away. And despite their soft sprays and fragile beauty, they're fleeting, but not flighty flowers---they're good solid old kitchenyard and arbor and gatepost LILACS, pure and true, and I'm so glad to know them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

PATCHWORK COOKIES

We were going out to our favorite Japanese place tonight, for our littlest GrandGirl (2 ½) has never seen all the flim-flammery and artistry of those flashing blades and onion volcanoes.
She’s having a sleepover with us, and since the weather has been what she calls “grumpy” all day, with cold drizzles and occasional downpours, we decided to make it a home-evening.

We came to that decision in the grocery store, as we watched the folks running through the rain, splashing in puddles and coming in the doors like shivery pups, ready to divest themselves of wet jackets and hats. So we threw two little packs of Stouffer’s lasagna in the buggy, along with assorted snacks and the makings of a good romaine/red onion/Mandarin salad (she will eat two kid-cups of those little golden nuggets at a time, if we allow).

Then AFTER we were back in the house with all those bags of groceries, leaning over the too-full-already freezer with sprouts and trout and peas, trying to wade our way into THE ROOM to put away the canned and boxed goods (I’m tellin’ you---if those Sherpas go on strike again, we’ll never find our way out)---Chris said brightly, “Why don’t she and I make COOKIES?”

And so they are---this minute. I went upstairs to the left-from-Christmas stash of sweet-supplies, finding half a bag of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips, about half a cup of Tollhouse regulars in a little Rubbermaid, an unopened bag of chopped Macadamias in a drawer, and then raided the lovely small candy-dish of its little chocolate buttons, as Nigella calls them. And, of course, there is always a bag of fat pecans---in the freezer or Cold Room, awaiting the toasting or chopping.

So, now, my two CookieChefs are in the kitchen in matching aprons (he’s wearing mine, and is quite fetching in the lovely pale green-with-yellow sash), and she’s oh-so-proud of hers. I’ve been taking pictures sorta down the counter as they measured the sugar (I hope the camera caught that great snowfall as she poured from pyrex cup to bowl), and the scent of toasting pecans and vanilla is wafting, wafting.

I’ve just been informed that “Ganner Spill it!!” and I’m not going to look or inquire. I DID forget to tell him that her version of cracking an egg is to grasp it in both hands and squeeze with all her might, but she's never yet succeeded in breaking one. Today may be the day.

So, after while, we’ll be having a nice plate of warm Toll-mac-whi-peca-choco-butt cookies, straight from the oven---wonder how THAT would go over at the Pillsbury Bakeoff?
And I’m fairly certain we may not need that lasagna after all. One of the loveliest times I can remember was the night our Georgia five arrived about one a.m. from that long drive, and everybody collapsed around the dining table, close and cozy, as Ganner took the cookies out of the oven and we all had a past-midnight feast of warm cookies and cold milk. I still smile at the memory of those little faces, sleepily amazed and delighted at the unacustomed treat. We washed chocolate-smeared hands and faces and all tumbled into our beds.
I have this theory that if disagreeing lawmakers, rulers and deciders would just desert those smoke-filled rooms for a nice kitchen with the scent of cookies baking, and all settle down over a homey table, wonders and miracles would occur. Dare we hope?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

GUSSIED vs. HUSSIED


There’s a difference in the South between Gussied Up and Hussied Up---the pronunciation, for one thing. Gussied is pronounced with the USSS as it’s spelled---a crisp ssss through the teeth, and most always meaning nice things. The declaration and question, "Why, you're sure gussied up today---where you goin'?" can almost always be taken only as a compliment on appearance and taste.
On the other hand, Hussied takes on a HUZZZZZ sound, with a little bit of disdain in the hum of the zzzzzz’s. As in “Why that ole HUZZZZY!!! Who does she think she IZZZZZ?”

The key is that you can Gussy up a house, a room, a dress, a tabletop, a package or a window treatment or a hat, but almost the only thing you can call “hussied up” is a person---female persons, at that.

Well, maybe that time Bugs Bunny wore the lipstick, but that’s not a good example, I guess.

Gussying is all in the outlook, I think---you add a little extra touch here, a coat of paint there, a new shade of nail polish or a different centerpiece, and there you have it---gussied. A lush blossom tucked behind an ear, purse-shoes-belt to match, a fresh white pique collar on a plain navy dress, the tilt of an absolutely useless wisp of whimsy passing for a cocktail hat---those fall into the gussy category.

As do lace on tiny socks above shiny black Mary Janes, ribbons on ponytails, white gloves in Summer, pearls with a sweater set, a flirty glimpse of red silk slip in the hem-slit of a demure dress, (which can all-too-easily fall into the Hussy category, depending on dress, slip, and degree of flash). There’s also the extra-fancy trimmings to a wardrobe---the colorful inserts on a pocket, a special set of buttons for placket and sleeves, an elaborate stitching technique which sets the garment apart, a special furl of ribbon or paper to make a gift almost too beautiful to unwrap.

Gussying in a room could include a punch of pillows, a paint color, a mural or bit of trompe l’oeil, some specially-draped and tasseled curtains, a little tableau atop a table, a mantel, a shelf. We all love a special touch, whether our own, in a magazine, in a house in which we feel the warmth of things well-loved.

But Hussied Up, now---that’s a different subject entirely, mostly calling for a state of BEING, for the carriage and attitude count for a great percentage of the aura. The extra touches are there, the attention to detail may be present, the care in preparation and presentation undeniable, but the effect is just TOO-TOO. Too-tight or too bright or too-too is just too much---they run over into “Did you SEE what she was wearing?” on past, “Too much sugar for a dime,” into “Ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound sack,” and the capstone: “Her Mama would just DIE!”

My girlfriends and I used to tease each other about being Hussied Up when we would go out together---a little extra care with the lipstick, an appointment for a hairdo that afternoon, an outfit just bought and pressed Just SO, but those were just nice ladies getting spruced up.

REAL Hussying is either a gift or a curse---a flair for a dramatic look, with a special style that gets you noticed AND talked about, but in an envious or admiring way, though your admirers may be as much detractors as any.

Or the curse of not having The Sense God Gave a Goose in the way you present your person---a painted-on outfit cut down TO THERE, with tottery heels, big hair and too much jewelry AND perfume just ain’t the way you want to go through life. It gets you noticed, all right, but it also gets you Looked At Funny and Laughed At, besides.

We had an Aunt who wore odd little outfits, with a bit too much powder and lipstick, and the Toujours Moi preceded her into the house. She wore TOO MUCH STUFF, too many GeeGaws, too much tarnished or plastic bits and pieces with gappy places where the crumbs of sparkly glass had fallen from the settings. She was like the society woman of whom it was rumored that she just stood in the middle of the room and her maid flung every knick-knack in her jewelry box at her. More was MORE.

On up into the Seventies, her stockings had seams, and there were always flocked butterflies or embroidered flowers scattered up her calves. In addition to all the above, her ensemble for my Grandpa's funeral included a large shoulder-strap purse, of a big ole Laura Ashley-type floral chintz if I remember right, and slapped on it midways like a Homecoming Corsage was the final touch: A huge red paper-satin bow, one of those sticky-back ones sold by the dozen at Fred's for Christmas packages.

But she was sweet and she was OURS; we tittered a bit in secret, but we would no more have hurt her feelings over her over-the-top effect than we’d fly. She was a nice lady, and no matter what she wore, the SELF of her could never have gone past extreme Gussied Up into Hussydom.
And therein lies the real difference.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

MUCHO GUSTO!

We went for a walk to the grocery store about noon on Friday, for the ingredients for Sis’ famous chicken Enchiladas---I’ve had them at her house before, and when she said “How about I make Enchiladas one night?” I was right on board with that. We picked up a few items, then I asked if she’d like to stroll on around to the tiny Chinese buffet for a bowl of soup.

We had the nicest walk in the sunshine, with our few grocery items in a big purple market-bag, and I was surprised that the restaurant was practically FULL on a weekday. We usually go for an early dinner, just on a whim, and week nights are rather sparse, leading us to wonder each time if the place will still be there. NOW I see---proximity to several rather large office buildings is the key---those tables of nicely-dressed folks, plus a few soldiers in uniform---well, word has spread, and I think the future of our little eatery is fairly secure.

We sat there for more than an hour, just talking over soup and several other items from the buffet---they make THE BEST General’s Chicken in town---bar none (that I’ve tasted).

When we came back, we just relaxed for a while, for all the folks weren’t due here for dinner until six. We had a leisurely afternoon---I put on seven chicken thighs in the fat red Le Creuset with chunks of celery and onion and carrots, and the scent filled the house with the promise of a good dinner to come. She boned out the chicken and shredded it, and put away the stock to be used for soup or dumplings later in the week.

And in the manner of the theater, getting all the bit players out of the way so that the REAL STARS can take the limelight: The Unfried Beans, just sorta scroomped around in a dry non-stick skillet, with a little sauteed onion, cumin and garlic:





I washed cilantro while she chopped onions and got her mise all set out, then I started the onion sauté for the Spanish Rice.

I made it sorta slapdash, with a glug of salsa thrown in, as well as chopped peppers and garlic, a little cumin, a little cilantro, and then, when it didn’t smell QUITE seasoned enough, I went prowling in the pantry for a likely seasoning. I noticed a rolled-up half-used pack of Knorr Vegetable Soup---I’d made dip with the first half---and tossed in a tablespoon or so. You can see the little bits of carrot and pepper and maybe even peas for all I know, but pay no attention to the little brown flecks. They’re where I scraped the pot a bit after I got so involved in everything else and let the rice cook WAY too long---you coulda served that stuff to die-hard BiBimBap fans.



And butterbeans, of course. We always laugh at our favorite Mexican place, for we’ve decided that they put a pack of frozen veggies into each night’s immense pot of rice, for color, and we always check to see who got the good luck by getting a butterbean. So I opened a package of frozen ones and tossed in seven, since there were six of us, to even the odds. And I think everybody got one.

We had plain old store-bought salsa and sour cream, but Sis made the Guacamole---her recipe is outstanding. She also took great delight in diving into the dish cabinets and getting out just the right bowl for each dish---YELLOW!!!! Guacamole looks goooood in YELLOW!!



Tomatillo Sauce, right out of the container:



Her special Pico de Gallo, with jalapenos, cilantro, sweet onion, tomato, lime and salt, then you just imagine Splenda in its direction, to smooth the tart tomato. Wish I coulda smoothed the transition from picture to page, but you know how obtuse jalapenos are.

The Condiments and Kickshaws: (I’ve always wanted to say that---probably from reading too much Irvin S. Cobb as a child).




And the Enchiladas----I cannot tell you. She fried the corn tortillas, then rolled each one around handfuls of chicken, some grated Pepper-Jack, and a bit of onion, laid them neatly into the Pammed pan (cutting one in half down on the side end, to make it fit JUST SO), and ladled on her special Enchilada sauce---don’t ask me---I saw only cans of green chiles and lots of cheese.
MUCHO QUESO on top, then into the 350 oven for 30--45 minutes til bubbly and golden.



Her plate, with some of everything---she likes plain beans, and beans with topping.
I knew we’d find a use for those heavy crockery platter/plates I got at Goodwill years ago. Taken out of the hot dishwasher and set on big old flannel coaster-mats, they made the experience even more authentic.



Lovely meal, good company, and dessert was Carrot Cake WAY later, with strong café’. OLE!