Friday, March 22, 2013


We had about six churches in our little town.   The Methodist was a slender, straight church tapering to a steeple-bell, with the sanctuary jutting out from the T-arms of the other rooms at the back---quiet and scented of Johnson’s wax and lingers of perfume and something like an old man's wallet and the crackle of Cokesbury pages. That picturesque church was cramped on a lot inside the squares of sidewalk-all-round, but taken through a long-distance lens, it could have graced any green sway of hills in England.
I can still remember the Calligraphy-lettered names-in-black at the bottom of each of the twelve tall Gothic windows with their stained-glass radiances of crowns and shepherds gilding our cheeks and hair during eleven o'clock church. My young eyes had traced the shapes of those honored-in-glass names hundreds of times a year as the quiet annual succession of ministers (Methodists send;
Baptists invite) droned from that straight-from-IKEA blonde pulpit behind its matching In Remembrance Of Me table.  
  Tiny black classic fans up high between the windows moved in a synchronous dance of black filigree all the Sundays I was a member, in those ancient days before A/C, and even after, to "help it along" when the place was filled for funerals or convocations.
Even church suppers at the Methodist were quiet affairs---families came respectfully up the back steps and into the door of the big room used for suppers and the before-Sunday School assembly and wedding receptions, the Daddies lifting their hats from just-slicked after-work hair, and the Mamas bearing casseroles and platters with the whisper of  waxed paper over the ham and the rolls and Apricot Nectar Cakes.
There was such a quiet presence to those meetings, those activities, even Vacation Bible School---attended by every kid in town, with the Baptists and the Catholics tamping down their energy for the indoor parts. We said the Two Pledges, sang earnest, gentle songs, and then did paper crafts, heard the Story, strung beads and tied yarn and burst like a spillway through the doors for recess and KoolAid.
The Baptist, now---that was a huge pile of bricks, with enormous TARA columns filled with bees, and creaky, thunderous wood plank floors with the sway of pews like ocean waves into the distance. But it was LIVELY, somehow, with wonderful music and a gusto to the singing, with fiery exhortations from the pulpit when the Spirit moved them and the between-Sunday-School-and-Church scarcely-hushed chatter buzzing to a close only AFTER the choir filed in.
Forty conversations sounded like hundreds, echoing off those cavernous spaces and hard wood pews, with more going on as the places filled, and unmuted calls out three-rows-over to a neighbor in greeting.    I loved it---it was full of life and energy, lots and lots of the young folks I knew from school, friends I'd envied for their fun tellings of happenings in church or VBS (which we all also attended---you just went to BOTH every Summer), and the year that we all made bookends by tapping tacks into little tombstone-shaped pieces of wood is memorable---we must have sounded like a woodpecker brawl in there .    There were also youth trips and youth choir which met at five on Sundays, before BTU and evening services. 
Their Church Suppers took on the aura of those Barn Dances (perish the thought) in which everyone gathered loudly, and all the females brought their VERY BEST casseroles and cakes and pies, served in their best dishes and garnished within an inch of their lives, like those checkered-napkin baskets auctioned off to admiring swains at a hoedown.   There was kitchen-pride and surreptitious comparison involved in both denominations, but the Baptist Ladies seemed to set the best tables.    They cooked more like they MEANT it.
That church also had a scent---one I can't name, but I'd recognize it this minute and be right there in that  bright buzz of people and the spirit of hearty worship. I looked online at a friend's granddaughter's wedding recently in the local paper, and just by happenstance saw the obituary of my very first boyfriend, when we were about fourteen.   I was immediately transported to the back row of those hard pews, way up under the overhang of the balcony, where all of us "couples" and other young folk sat during church.   The memories rushed in, and I could smell all the same familiar scents---Broadman pages this time, as we shared the hymnal, the Vitalis on his elegantly-arranged pomp, the surrounding wisps of Evening in Paris and Chantilly and Blue Waltz and cold mouton jackets, and the lingering whiff of hot dogs or Frito Chili Pie and Pine-Sol wafting up from the downstairs kitchens.   
I don’t believe I’d recognize the Odor of Sanctity, but that ole-time familiar scent of Church Gatherings---oh, yes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013



May you always be blessed

With walls for the wind,

A roof for the rain

A warm cup of tea by the fire,

Laughter to cheer you

Those you love near you

And all that your heart might desire.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Un-Superbowl parties may be few and far between, but ours was fun and we had a nice evening together, having our party-food dinner on trays, with a favorite old movie we hadn't seen in years---Quigley Down Under.
First menu item, by concensus, was a Muffaletta, that paragon of sandwiches, made on good heavy bread, stacked with all sorts of good Italian cold cuts like salamis, pale curls of thin pink ham, Tony Soprano's beloved "gabbagool," Provolone, roasted peppers, and slatherings of wonderful Olive Salad, and the two cut sides of the bread anointed with an Olive-Oil-Herb Vinaigrette.     The whole thing was weighted with two heavy books for a couple of hours, to get all the parts acquainted and into perfect harmony.
 The bread was a marvelous foccacia, studded with herbs and thin tomato slices and olives, and it could have stood as the ONLY dish at the table, all by itself.   It was Caro's idea, and she made it perfectly.   Our Deep-South, Land-Locked roots have surprisingly encompassed quite a few cuisines from other places---the good-sized Armenian and Syrian and Greek and Italian communities settled in our area a century ago and more have contributed to our taste for many exotic herbs and combinations, and even the smallest towns seem to have their own Chinese restaurant, whether store-front or actually IN a store.

When I was perhaps six, two of my Daddy's cousins---gorgeous, outgoing girls with bright, gum-snapping personalities, wonderful clothes and fabulous perfume---married two young men who were brothers from a big Italian family, so we all learned early of the charms of latougies and ravioli and muffalettas---those gems made with the quick gnarled fingers of the Grandmother, dipped dripping into the roasted-peppers dish and and sliced olives and marinated vegetables, with all the meats being handed into the kitchen straight from the slicer in the store a room away. 


The table---strictly infomal, as befits a non-event.   When the hot stuff's set on the table, there's no time to go get a fancy bowl for the sour cream.

Chris' straight-off-the-grill chicken wings, sweet and tangy and smoky with Baby Ray's Sauce.

Guacamole by Sis's recipe, with minced onion and tomato.   I'm absolutely addicted to those tee-ninecy baby English cucumbers, and also to the POP of a grape tomato.

Caro's Crave---hunks of sausages simmered in that cliche' old Southern stand-by sauce made of Ketchup, Plochman's, and melted Grape Jelly.

Potato skins, baked and scooped and scattered with cheese, bacon and green onions and re-baked to crisp and melt.   Sour Cream to come later.

My Plate.

A little plate of Fudge, Peanut Butter Fudge, chocolate-striped macaroons and Caro's wonderful homemade caramels in the wrap.   She made POUNDS of the things, and got requests for more.  We just passed the plate around the chairs from time to time, booing dear Snape and cheering for Quigley.
And so---the backward flight (plod) and a bit of catching up.   All I have right now to write about is  Family Gatherings, for those are the major occasions for us.
Next, back to January 1, for our New Year's Gathering with DS#5, our DDIL and their wee one---his first-ever visit to our house, and such fun.   
Don't give up on me---I'm still here, and still trudging along, late as usual.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Still going backward in time, to catch up on our little doings, for I seem to have posted only thrice this whole year.   The flowers (beautiful from any angle, and that's a splendid thing, for I cannot make them stand upright, no matter how many times I flip the picture) were a gift from two of the guests, who came down the stairs gleaming and beaming and ready for the party. 

The "dining" table---one of two we use downstairs.   We also added another at the opposite end of the room, for we were eighteen-to-brunch on that cold afternoon.

Fortifications, from left:   Good strong from-the-leaf tea that Chris makes---unsweetened, Southern Sweet, ice water, Peach Tea, and Bloody Marys.

  Breakfast Table under the big sunny lamp.

Above is the view back down the room from THIS table:

 Third table, down the room beneath the torchiere.   Guess who hosted THIS one.    Chris also moved from table to table during the course of the meal, enjoying a course with each group.

As we sat down.    I'd asked everyone to choose a place to sit, take their glass to the bar, and help themselves to drinks.    Each table had its already-set center of needfuls:   Cream and Sugar, Butter, three kinds of jam for the biscuits and rolls (Our Friend Lil's Blueberry jam, her Raspberry Freezer Jam, and some Peach Preserves I already had), with bowls of Paminna Cheese and Crackers for munching.  And just BECAUSE.   It's Paminna Cheese.

That's MY hand---I'm probably waving around, saying "DOOO sit down."

The green pot holds a  pot of daffodils from another guest---we called them the Miracle-Gro Marvels, for they had two buds when they arrived.  By evening, the buds had flowered fully, and by morning, about five yet-unseen buds had sprung upen into a magnificent burst of yellows and golds.   Chris says it's my new "real sunshine" bulbs he put in the lamps downstairs, and I think so, for I've had the very best January and February I can remember in YEARS---lots of energy and very few days of feeling down.   Not to say that I keep up with things any better, or keep things neater, or that there's never a pile of dishes in the sink, but I'm cheerful about it.   

 When it's brunch or maybe a soup supper, I like to serve from the counters and stove---so homey and informal.   Chris had put the turkey on about seven a.m., and it was perfection when he carved it at noon---succulent and juicy, with the waft of smoke.   The rolls had been rising gently for about the same length of time, and he split them for ease of buttering or sandwich-making.  

The forgotten thing was the cranberry mayo---our usual spread for turkey sandwiches, but I just didn't think to make it til it was time to set out the condiments.   We made do with plain mayo and several kinds of tongue-curling mustards.    The salsa and chips were brought by a gentleman guest, who always contributes some kind of chips-and-something to every gathering.    Once it was a CASE of Sunchips Variety packs for Chris' birthday gift,  and we munched on those for months.

 Our mainstay for any brunch---Quiche, crustless and simple.   The front one is broccoli and grape tomatoes, and the back one is crumbled sausage (Hamburger Pie in Sweetpea's parlance).   We've probably made thousands of these things over the years for various weddings and parties.  So easy to make, and so easy to calculate servings---nine or twelve for lunch, twelve to sixteen for brunch, depending on the number of side dishes, and up to 117 neat squares for cocktail bites.

My photography seems to be improving a little bit, but I certainly did not notice the trusty old green-apple handwash bottle so prominent in the shot.    It's been on the sink for probably five years now, replenished every time it runs out, with a quick-shaken mixture of Dawn Green Apple Antibacterial and Sam's pearly-white hand soap.  

Roasted Grape Tomatoes---just popping their juices, with sea salt, olive oil, a little garlic, and just a thought of thyme.

 Caro's magnificent Mac and Cheese, with the tiny fancy bow-ties.   I just LOVE this serving-piece, a gift years ago from DS#1 and DDIL---it's the smoothest pearly foam with a stainless liner and a screw-in lid to keep things cool or hot all day.   It looks like a big white pumpkin when the lid's on.

 Pinto Beans and Rice with Andouille and Cajun seasonings.   It's one of the few dishes which allow for putting the bottles of Louisiana Hot Sauce and the Worcescescester Sauce right on the table.  I love to use these pots for serving from the stove or counters---the set of three were a gift from Daddy MANY years ago.(Along with two matching baking-trays and a lasagna pan).   The thing in back is a marble lazy-Susan with little containers of sea salt, Balsamic, and several olive oils.

 Fruit in my Mother's ripply-glass bowl, from WAY back in the days of the first parties I ever arranged and cooked for.  

Winding down the day.   I DO think these two folks had the best time of all.

Thursday, March 7, 2013



Our wonderland this morning, after days of Will-It in the paths of great swirling blues and greens and pinks all across the Weather-Map.  It was a great wet SOFT snow yesterday, not quite cold enough to send you diving for the indoors, but still plenty to herd you in sparkled and dampened and stomping your feet.


The silvery chevrons of the luck-leaf bush,



And Caro’s careful herring-bone tread to the back door in the wee hours: 

The far back garden, with the great rusting bell encrusted past anything on the Wilton wedding-shelves.   The forlorn small stepping-stool, scene of many a grab-a-rock-and-clang of warmer days, is a pristine little tuffet beneath the cold iron. 


The Birdie-Corner, like a faded sepia photograph with only the whisper of yellow  chair to anticipate Spring.


View out past the firepit,


 which is merely a shallow bowl scooped out of the dirt, surrounded by the ziggy-zag flat grey stones which used to encircle the front-yard maples and petunia bed.  (Until removed from temptation’s way after the night a passing young scapegrace who, from peer pressure or pure preposterone, screwed his puny courage to the sticking place and hurled one through the guest bedroom window, to crash against the headboard with a noise which sent us all scurrying to see if a car might be embedded in the house).


And the tame fun of sitting around that glowing warmth on a Fall twilight, ghost stories and marshmallows the entertainment, is in no way expressed by the word “firepit”---that name will forever conjure the cliff-hanger endings of Saturday’s movie serials, with Jungle Jim or Tarzan captive in the Forbidden Temple, dangling over the great abyss of a volcano’s mouth, whilst the Leopard People chanted and prepared to cut the rope.


(And cut, they did, right at To Be Continued, with no hope for the hapless Hero, until, breathless for the next installment, we settled into our seats on the following Saturday to a miraculous hand-grasp or second rope or invisible projection which avoided Doom yet again. Our own discussions of the lame last-second reprieves indeed, DID, run to heated arguments as to whether he did or did NOT get out of the Cock-a-Doody car/hole/crocodile’s mouth).

Digression.  If there’s ever a time, it’s a snowy day, hushed with white quiet, scented with the bubble of a pot of savory-something on the stove, and encompassed with a sense of remove-from-things which gives a fillip of escape to the order of the day.   These, I think, are the adult equivalent of “SNOW DAY!”---even the paltry ones of my own childhood, when the busses rumbled at the first three flakes past the 'rithmetic window.

Chili Mac and Cherry Cordial Ice Cream for supper, and to all a Good Night.