Monday, December 28, 2015

TWENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY AT THE GOLDEN TORCHES



Not our WEDDING anniversary---we just celebrated our 29th---but our WAFFLE HOUSE Anniversary of the Christmas Day that we moved from Alabama to Indiana. I’ve told you about our ongoing love affair with Waffle House HERE, from Christmas Day, 1990, when we were on the road to our new life here.  We’ve had countless breakfasts there since, sometimes at midnight, if the whim strikes.

So, this past Saturday, the day-after-Christmas, we braved the sleety day to go and celebrate our TWENTY-FIVE years in this wonderful, adopted place.  

We walked in onto the slippery, slidey tile floors---wet with countless footsteps, and were embraced by that unmistakable aura of good coffee, sizzling bacon, and the welcoming bright waitresses and cooks.  




We were seated beneath the only PINK-painted lamp in the house, with fanciful snowflakes giving our table an unaccustomed rosy glow.




The windows had all been painted from the inside with festive scenes---wreaths and drums and ornaments, reminding me so fondly of a nice boy from my childhood, whose great talent for chalk-drawing was amazing---he’d come into our classrooms after school, painting blackboard after blackboard with scenes of elves and Santa, or Easter bunnies on bright green hills, or hay-shocks and pumpkins.  It seemed so magical to walk in one morning to such happy pictures, like strolling into one of those Easter eggs with the tiny dioramas inside.  
 







Waffle Houses are always filled with a cheerful energy, with scurryings and lively banter and rushing to get that good hot food out HOT.





Our own server, Brittney (hoping that’s spelled correctly, for she confided that her name tag had broken, and she’d caulked it twice, and was waiting for a new one---a thought that I found absolutely charming and sweet) was swift and cheery and quite interested when we told her it was our “anniversary of Waffle House.”

As she sped and skidded on those continuously-mopped floors, we told her of our tradition, and then, as she went back into the cooking area, we could hear the words “anniversary” several times, including once from the booth just ahead of me, where sat a nice couple having their own breakfast.








Chris ordered his usual waffle, pouring the warm syrup into all the little “hotels”---old family joke---and easy eggs with grits and bacon and that fabulous dark raisin toast, fire-blasted and buttered between and triangled onto a saucer with apple butter.






I veered from my always Western, and had just the hash-browns, choosing four of the toppings, and having to consult the menu for the proper titles:  scattered (shoved around the griddle til delightfully crisp and separate) covered (cheese), smothered (sautéed onions) and topped (lovely rich red chili).





We ate and talked and made a few pictures, just for here, and as the couple next to us left, they congratulated us on our years together, saying that they’d been together thirty years “I used to do his homework,” she confided, “and we’re getting married next year.”   So congratulations all round and many smiles and good feelings.

On one of Brittney’s return trips with that ever-filled pot, she handed us our ticket.  “I told my manager Nate about your anniversary, and he’s paid your bill,” she said.  







What a lovely thing!  We were simply overflowing with thanks, and as we prepared to leave, we asked to meet Nate and thank him.   He came out and stood behind the register as we repeated the story, with all the staff gathered round.   I don’t talk very loud, but I could hear “AWWWW,”   from several places around the room, and as we headed for the door, I waved and said Bye, and it seemed that the whole room chimed in, waving and calling out.

And that’s our Anniversary visit to the Golden Torches--familiar beacons along every highway.  Stop in sometime, and be sure to have the scattered, smothered, covered and topped.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

'TWAS THE NIGHT . . .



 

On this night of wonderful anticipations, of scents of sweet, of savory, of HOME, of wishings and dreams and thoughts of those we love, I wish you all the innocent, sweet hearts of little children, awaiting a Wonder.

We are few in our house tonight, with promises of quite a few more in the days to come, with little celebrations “all along,” as my Mammaw used to say.   She would have LOVED this brood we’ve managed to acquire, with seven children between us, eight GRANDS and eight GREATS.   We are truly blessed.

And so, we SOUTH Pole Clauses wish you the very best of Christmas Nights, with a bright morning dawning.






 

Monday, December 21, 2015

JOY



I’ve had a bit of a sweet spot for the Air Force since I was a child---my Daddy was a mechanic in the Army Air Corps.  

Add to that a heart-smiling swell of Christmas music which grows and grows, to the astonishment and delight of a gathering crowd---JOY.

Friday, December 18, 2015

NIBBLE, NIBBLE . . .




Lovely days with GRANDS this week---they’ve been here whilst their Mom and Dad see to the new house.  We’ve cooked and played games and cards, we’ve played CLAY and painted and made a magnificent pink paper-chain for the kitchen pass-through, along with a set of exquisite hand-cut snowflakes to dangle therefrom.   The kitchen has stayed busy, as we practically took out stock in the Mssrs. Dannon and Co., as well as every fruit, granola, and peanut-butter enterprise going.

What a nice visit!  We’ve gone to Sweetpea’s piano recital (shortest on living record--chorus only, varying in pace from minuet to gavotte in a mere sixteen bars, and another tiny piece, just learned that morning, in which she managed to find and put on Ganner's hat between bow and resumption of playing, finishing triumphantly with the brim way down over her eyes---the Musketeer flourish at the end was well worth the half-hour drive in the cold).  We went to Steak and Shake for dinner, and all over the place to see Christmas lights displays.   

But the quiet times when we’ve just sat and talked will be an always-memory for me.   A nice game of Go Fish can be as enlightening and rewarding as any College, Conference or Symposium, and for getting to know what your Grandchildren are interested in---can hardly be beat.  Those long stretches between visits leave a whole world of experiences and growing that we’ve lived second-hand, and so this up-close few days have been a wonderful gift.

They’re all upstairs, gathering up their luggage, toys, books, stuffed animals, fresh laundry and load of Christmas goodies, and I’d told them I’d show my blog friends their yesterday’s handiwork.  If Santa missed our house completely this year, if there were not a single ribbon-swirled box in the house---I’ve HAD my Present.

Monday, December 14, 2015

EYE FIERI



I'd like you to meet Eye Fieri, the latest addition to our household menagerie, come to sit between Keurig and Kettle in amongst all the PINK.   She’s a gift from Caro, and will be supervising kitchen activities if I don’t find her in the dollhouse, a fervent game of beanbag-toss, or Fuzzy-pup’s bed. And I'd imagine she might be privy to and willing to part with a few of the delightful recipes from Mole's or Ratty's kitchen, especially if I divulge Caro's recipe for Candied Cricket. . .

It’s been a busy week, getting ready for our little annual Christmas Tea last night, and getting beds and house ready for three GRANDS, to arrive imminently to stay the week, as their parents and the movers work on getting their new home filled and settled before Christmas.

Snacks and groceries and clay and paper and pens and paint and games laid in, beds all fluffy and fresh, both guest room windows wide open to the wind chimes in this unseasonal breeze, and the dishes from last night’s wonderful party soaking in the sink.   Must get to my little doings, and when I surface from all the hugs and hilarity, moiré non.

I wish you all a wonderful week this Blessed Season, a week of preparation, meditation, dedication, and all the love and grace and light your hearts can hold.




Friday, December 4, 2015

WHY DON'T YOU PICK ONE UP . . .





Every now and then, Chris and I will share a cigar---not a big old Cuban or a Mr. Monopoly stogie, but a dainty little plastic-tipped White Owl or Muriel, and always outside the house.   We neither have any tolerance for cigarette smoke, and shrug ourselves through the clouds outside store doors, or passing on the street, and especially the reek on a smoker’s clothes close in a restaurant or movie---it’s just unpleasant to us.

But the crisp fragrance of a tiny cigar, out by the fire-pit on a chilly night, imagining all those after-raking evenings, with the piled leaves lit WAY over in the side of the field and perfuming the Fall air with that unmistakable closing-down-the-year scent---there’s a certain charm in that which we both enjoy, aside from the affectation of the moment.   I smoked cigarettes for several years WAY back when, and after that, a friend and I would share a little two-pack of Muriels on occasion.

And from the remembrance of a beautiful, classy school friend’s fragrance of Chantilly mixed with the hint of her Daddy’s cigar smoke---I always considered that one of the loveliest scents there was, as she rustled through life in silky blouses and taffeta petticoats and dark curls floating to her tiny waist.  The scent of Pall Malls in our house was a paltry substitute for that elegant scent.

Once, when Chris and I had smoked one in the car, we went into the Mall to stroll a few minutes before a movie, and I took a peppermint from a basket on a table display.   The lady at the table asked if we’d like to enter a drawing for a bus trip, and we won a “day-trip” which we chose to redeem with an evening at the Madrigal Feast at IU.   We always gave credit for that magical evening to the Muriel which started it all.

But WAAAAYYY back when, in my first married life, WAY before all my second singlehood, WAY before I met Chris, I occasionally smoked a little cigar, in the days when you COULD smoke one in company or at a party.   So, when my children’s Dad and I went on a big company convention to Washington, I smoked a cigar with Miss Edie Adams.

  

There was one big dinner event on the trip, in the enormous banquet room of The Sheraton, and the evening’s entertainer was Miss Adams, herself, known to us all from her television appearances and her cigar commercials.   She sang and performed, and later in the show, the stagehands wheeled out a tall lamp-post.   Applause from the audience, for we all recognized the familiar moment coming.   And when she asked if any ladies in the audience enjoyed smoking Muriels, a great cry went up from the several tables where our group sat, with shoutings and pointings, and the spotlight settling on ME.  

I was so flustered and it was such an unexpected thing---I was the youngest person in our whole group, wife of the junior draftsman, and not at all accustomed to taking much part in conversation, let alone a SPOTLIGHT.   And as she smiled and beckoned, and the cheering and applause got louder, two of the men got up and pulled out my chair, with me stumbling my way FAR FAR amongst the tables to the side-steps up to the stage.  And every step, all I could think of was the dress I was wearing---my Mother had made it for me special for that dinner event---a snug white long-sleeved MINI-DRESS, meant for an elegant evening, and not for LOOKING UP AT.  

I made my way across the stage---I remember being sort of blinded by the light following my every step, and holding one side of my skirt caught in my hand tight against the side, so as to maintain as much modesty and dignity as possible.  She welcomed me with a hug, offered me the Muriel, and lit us up as the music started.  She handed me a mike and started to sing, and some weird something happened---just as if she and I had been right there all afternoon in our rehearsal tights and hair rollers, we backed up to the lamp, each lifted a high-heeled foot behind us to the pole, and finished in spoken, breathy unison:   
 Why don’t you pick one up and SMOKE it some time? 








I’ve never before nor since been a part of such a strange, silly  congruence of events as that crazy falling-into-the-moment in such perfect time.   Smoke and bright light and such thunder of applause in that huge, echoing room---I guess that’s how it happens in Show Business, and I reckon I can say I’ve had MY Fifteen Seconds.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

'SNOW WONDER



Last night was Sweetpea’s Christmas program at school---the auditorium filled with anticipation and talking and greetings to friends, as all the parents and Grands and small siblings took their seats in that pre-program hum-and-chatter like no other.   The lights flickered, and the children filed in and up onto those risers all across the stage in outfits to befit such a splendid occasion.



I can just see the send-home page now:   WEAR RED, WHITE OR GREEN, and those were represented in every scheme from solids to stripes to shirt-and-pants to dresses as sparkly as tinsel, and costumes straight off the Elsa/Anna wall at Party City.   Small girls on the front row felt the grandeur of their whirly-skirts as a couple of them spun and spun their little sequined selves before the music began---somehow the whirlers ALWAYS seem to get those front-row spots, whether the lineup is by height or need to slip out to the mike stand, and never fail to fulfill roles of such importance.  One little brunette in Sloane-fringed vest, skirt and boots continued an evening-long shimmy-shake which would have won her a Ten-from-Len in a Charleston contest. 

The jollity began with jinglings and clappings and bells and sleigh-rides, moved on into Snowmen on the Lawn, ran the gamut of Fa-la-las and Merry Measures, with none of the usual Wenceslas gravitas, and rounded out with a rousing twist version of Jingle Bell rock, with one lively little guy, front and center in a James Brown suit and spiked hair, just one beat off the rest, doing his own fabulous dance-and-spin worthy of an off-the-strip Vegas Revue.   Wow, what a program!

We applauded and whistled, and did that gather-up and rise so familiar at the end of small-town programs, blinking into the new light, scuffling for purses and dropped gloves, and making our way out into the lobby, where Sweetpea ran up to us, full of the joy of the night, and was encircled in a great poufy-coat group hug by us all.   We came out of our happy huddle beaming and pepped, and by gosh, we coulda slapped hands and gone for First Down and ten---flappy capes, Mammaw’s walker and all.


Our Girl always likes for us to “dress” for the program, so we got lots of smiles and stares from the little ones, with Chris in his Santa hat and beard, and me in my red cape and little gold glasses.   We smile a lot, too. 










It was sparkly-clear through the windshield on the drive over, with all the reds and greens and whites and yellows of traffic lights and tail-lights shining like a great path of colour laid down just for us, and when we came back out, after less than an hour, Oh, My!!   We were greeted by a swirling snowstorm like great wet cornflakes blowing past all the bright lights of the parking lot like a trip in Ten-Forward.  It was absolutely magical, like being in our own private snow globe which never needs a shake.   I put up my hood and we walked hand in hand WAY back to the car, like a stroll on a Summer’s day, just looking our eyes full of the wonder and the beautiful of it all.






It lasted almost all the way home, not sticking to the road, and was completely clear again when we got out of the car.  It was like a big special effect, just for us two, arranged as the Grand Finale to such a splendid evening.  If not for the program, we’d have not seen those few magical moments, nor experienced that stupendous marvel going on out there.  Don’t you just love how things just conflue sometimes, to make magic?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

WHAT FOOLS WE MORTALS BE.




. . . and what artists and savants.

I don’t customarily go linking up to things that I stumble upon just browsing, but sometimes . . .

It’s simply paper, a vision, and a pair of magically-gifted hands.

Consider my mind blown---out the window and drifting far away, over about Ohio, with the last of the Autumn leaves.

Monday, November 30, 2015

BETTER LATE THAN . . .




We had our little Thanksgiving gathering last night, postponed and consulted on and dithered about with three sets of us, with our first group having to make what my Daddy always called a “flying trip,” when a visit was short.  The GA bunch came last Sunday, spent thee nights---I had great daytimes to spend with the Kiddos, while their parents went house-hunting a couple of hours away (hooray!  Closest they’ve ever lived).  We all gathered for our suppers together, and had a wonderful time, but no chance of settling in to a real Thanksgiving dinner together.

So we settled on last night, for the few of us “in town,” and little did we know . . .    You know how I’ve always liked the combination of pink and orange, especially at Thanksgiving, when it’s time to bring out the special old cloth and those fabulous clunky pink Fostoria goblets?   Or just in general, enhancing my new kitchen with a few Fall items all around this room? 

Well.  The niceties of that certainly did NOT predict nor include having a big old ORANGE extension cord wound all across kitchen counter, behind the sink, and down to the coffee-and-Bose corner, because suddenly THAT plug gave up the ghost as well.   And there we were, with things out of place, and all that cooking going on, and suddenly it dawned:   Whatever breaker that plug was on must deal with the FURNACE, as well, for we were getting colder and colder, and no warming chuff of the igniting, nor the cheery hum of the faithful fan to distribute the warm air.   A call to “our” electrician whose month of delays occasioned the taking-down and desperate putting-back-up of the kitchen cabinets before the GA contingent arrived brought him immediately to the house while all the good dinner smells of sage and onion and sweet potatoes wafted through the rooms.   Verdict:  sump’n sump’n “outside line”   “Power Company” “they will be right here” as he called it in.

And they were, with the verdict that they’d put us on their schedule for today.  So, as he had checked and metered and called, we asked him twice to sit and eat with us, but he’d already eaten, so we wavered.   You can't just SIT DOWN TO THANKSGIVING with another person in the house, even though they've declined, and are working, can you?  It just seem so not right, somehow. And we'd waited DAYS to have the special time together.  So when he left almost three hours after our scheduled mid-afternoon repast, we got out all the hot dishes and Caro quickly cooked the broccoli, Sweetpea grabbed her little page of History of Thanksgiving in Color and Prose to read to us after the Blessing, and we sat down.

And even with all the delay and chafing at the probably-dried-out everything, the meal was absolutely perfect.   The dressing was moist and delicious inside its lovely golden top and bottom crust, the sweet potatoes sweet and rich, with the marshmallows gently melted atop, the pineapple casserole still creamy beneath the Ritz-crumbs-fried-in-butter topping, and the TURKEY---oh that Turkey---simply delicious and tender and moist and still nice and warm, through some magical alchemy of prayer and hope and gritted teeth at all the delays.   It was the weirdest, nicest thing---the wait seemed to have created some sort of strange bubble of peace and perfection after we sat down, and everything seemed even to taste better than usual.


The sublime Pecan-Wood-Smoked Turkey:
 





Dressing:



Caro’s stir-fry/steamed Broccoli in Mother's Vegetable-Bowl-to-match-her-china:



Sweet Potato Custard:





Gravy with boiled eggs:






Pineapple Casserole, sweet little nuggets in a rich cheese sauce with Butter-sizzled Ritz crumbs atop:



Devilled eggs, before the compote of Cranberry was set into place. Actually the plates were half-served when Chris mentioned it, and I heard a little whisper of “It’s probably in the Microwave,” (family joke about the One Missed Thing), as I got it out of the fridge.




Sweetpea’s Mama’s wonderful Pink Salad:










Dessert was a fabulous, moist Pumpkin Roulade with a Ginger cream cheese filling, a gift made by a friend of Caro’s.

What a day, memorable in all sorts of ways, and you certainly deserve a big Turkey Sandwich, with all the trimmings, if you’re still here.



Friday, November 27, 2015

IT'S NOT THE DAY . . .

Several years ago Thanksgiving



I’ve just been roaming around looking at Thanksgiving posts on friends’ blogs, and it was a wonderful thing to see---all the preparations and polishings and things chosen carefully for the cherish of them and the guests who would use them.  I blush to tell that I simply imagined all the family hustle-bustles, the warm redolences of sage and pie, the light and the clink of silver on plate, for we had our pot-roast dinner on trays at the TV.   What an odd feeling.   The wonderful aroma of that pan of cushion-tender beef-in-rich-gravy perfumed the house for several hours in the afternoon, and the corn pudding, the pot of shiny pearls of Calrose, the Waldorf salad, all took a small time in the kitchen to prepare, and we just simply WERE in our dim cocoon, for Caro was sleeping upstairs to go to work, and all the departure of our rowdy crowd the day before was still ringing in the house, somehow, with remnants of fruit and yogurts and pretzel crumbs in the kitchen. 


We’ll gather with our few local Lovies on Sunday, when everyone’s schedule allows us the day.  There’s an enormous turkey in the fridge for Chris to put on the grill for a few hours, and most of the other necessaries for a small family dinner in the house.   We’ll gather and be thankful again. I always say that the holidays begin when you put together the Thanksgiving dressing.


And I’ll have the so-familiar moment once again, of these decades of Thanksgiving and Christmas preparation, of the MOMENT:








There’s something so just itself and so nostalgic about leaning over that big bowl of crumbled cornbread, minced onion and celery, fresh-ground black pepper and a little shake of poultry seasoning or several crumbled curls of sage, and inhaling that unmistakable aroma combination.  That humble, homey scent of brown crusty bread and onion and garden sage is a centuries-old memory-scent for Southern women, I think, carried on from sparse black skillet to Pyrex to le Creuset, with the meaning and taste intact for all the intervening years.







Then there will be the laying of the table, the setting out and arranging, for a celebration small but of great import---the thankfulness for all our blessings, and for those gathered with us and the ones far away, but always in our hearts. 




Saturday, November 21, 2015

IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK . . .



For those of you who took yesterday’s post to mean we’re all catch-as-catch-can with the kitchen for Thanksgiving and a week of Grands for a visit---be not dismayed.   The kitchen is its shining self, with everything back in  place on the walls, cabinets re-filled, canisters and utensils in their new homes, and good scents emanating from that direction this minute.   It's just that we took DOWN some of them a month ago for some work, then gave up and put them back up because five of the chillun will be here tonight, to spend the week.




The only thing was a late-discovered electrical thing which precludes running washer and dryer at the same time as any other appliance or plug on that one breaker.   So the thing to do was take down one new cabinet and the huge microwave shelf, so as to get at the breaker box.   The dear guys came and removed those way back in October so the electrician could come at any time, and the contents have been strewn across both breakfast and dining tables, with the two cabinets scrumped beneath the big table.  No big thing in the scheme of, but disheartening to think I was going to get it all done Halloween, then the NEXT Saturday for sure, and then by this Monday, we just decided to heck with it, had the men come replace cabinets, and told the electrician NEVER MIND til after Christmas.   Not in capitals, but by then, I was quite of a mind to shout.

So we’re perking along.   Top picture is the completed kitchen. 
 
The corner with the big old homemade shelf, with Mammaw's big Homer Laughlins on top:







I love the ombre line of sugars, most with vanilla beans inside:





The gaudy group of utensils, in an old crocky pitcher and a modern stand.





READY FOR ANYTHING:




And if I had the picture I just took of Chris, out valiantly scraping the inches of snow off the windows after we got caught in a white, downy blizzard of what looked like enormous cornflakes, wet and clumpy, when we came out of the grocery store, I'd be posting that one, too.   It brights me most of all.