Monday, December 11, 2017

SWEETS OF THE SEASON---REDUX

Today’s Fudge-Making Day, so it can cool and be cut for delivering around town to clients, so I’m “fudging” with the posts and using  this one from Christmas, eight years ago.  Wish I still had as much time and energy as I did then, when I was looking after a two-year-old three days a week.  She’s quite adept in the kitchen now, herself, and I’m sure she could show me a thing or two.

From LAWN TEA, DECEMBER, 2009:

This time of year, I wonder if the Revenooers might think we've got a still in the basement, turning out 'Shine. That's the way they used to catch a lot of bootleggers in the South, by the amount of sugar they were buying, going from store to store for a hundred pounds here, and fifty there. And we haul it home with the wagon draggin'---like we're driving Thunder Road.

Just plain Fudge, creamy and chocolatey---I love its colour and shine:



I'm the candy-making Elf---Kahlua Fudge, with a couple of shots of Espresso Syrup and Kahlua. Chocolate coffee beans atop.



Cappuccino Fudge, with a shot of Espresso syrup in the recipe:





Reese's Loaves---the bottom is the old-fashioned recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge, with extra-crunchy, left to sit in the pans til cool and firm, then a small pour of plain fudge on top.

The platter has to be empty by Christmas Morning---that's where the Banana Bread by my Mother's recipe goes, with a little dish of soft cream cheese alongside.



The loaves cut into giving-size portions---you can see they're in thirds, with little rounded corners on some---this is a VERY rich candy. I advise cutting it in little short-ways slices, rather than the big ones on the platter above.




Caro made Miss Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies, with oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut and pecans:




Some crisp, salty snacks to counteract all that sugar---Caro's Chex Mix:





Rocky Road, with roasted peanuts and tiny marshmallows tossed with melted Ghirardelli:





Here's the tableful of goodies for clients and friends---not nearly all of what we made, but it looks pretty, all arrayed like that. We swap the pretty cloths for an old red vinyl picnic sheet, and use a lot of Windex on the two glass tables, for candy-making is messy work.



And one more look at the shining, lovely original, from which all the recipes spring:



Wishing y’all ALL the SWEETNESS of this Blessed Season!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

COOKIE HOUSES, REMEMBERING

Linking with Beverly's PINK SATURDAY.  


From LAWN TEA BLOG,  December, 2008

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Today’s the day---the First Sunday In December---forever to be known in our family as Cookie House Day. Not Gingerbread Houses---no baking involved, and the scope and variety of cookies and decorations knew only the bounds of the local Sunflower, Kroger, and Fred’s Dollar Store. We bought whatever took our fancy---salty or sweet, just so the shapes were interesting, or they LOOKED like part of a Witch’s Architecture. Or a Fairy's, perhaps even a Gnome's. We used candy corn for window-trim and pretzels for fences or tiny sugar-dusted shredded wheat pillows for thatching---anything goes in a child’s eyes, especially one armed with a big cup of sugar frosting. Imagination is ALL.

We'll have a very small version this year, at our breakfast table, with only one little girl and a pair of one-year-olds to participate. So we'll have safe candies and their kinds of cookies and a lot of help from Moms and Dads and us Grandparents. And probably baths in the pink TeleTubs for the two small ones.


The first year---the late Seventies, I think, we started out with about five little ones from our tiny church, who came over after Sunday Dinner, and we made up the rules as we went along. Pretty much, the rules were: You had to be three, or no older than twelve. Past participants were welcome to come and assist the little ones in their own creations.

I had cut little cardboard patterns, maybe 9x9x7 boxy shapes with two triangular peaks, duct-taped the forms together from the inside, then taped those to thick cardboard squares, a couple of inches bigger all around to make room for a little lawn or woodpile or some Christmas trees (or a moat---that's what I'd opt for). 

Sorry---that outburst was surely caused by endless afternoons in close proximity to twenty or so three-to-six-year-olds with unlimited access to sugar.

On the long bar, paper plates of all kinds of "bought" cookies and candies and pretzels, gumdrops and canes and crackers stood ready. I usually made a gallon of the butter/powdered sugar/flavoring frosting we used for birthday cakes, but for this one, I always used a drop or two of orange extract and a tiny sprinkle of salt, so all that finger-licking wouldn't be so overpoweringly sweet.

Each child got a paper plate or platter, to choose all the building materials and attach them to the roof first---it was a rectangle a bit wider and longer than the housetop; the hangover made neat eaves for applying icicles. A gentle score down the center, and the flat board bent in the middle to set neatly onto the house. The finished roof dried while the house was decorated.


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Everyone also got a plastic punch cup filled with icing, and a small plastic spatula for spreading. You could smear it on the cardboard and attach stuff, or smear the backs of the cookies to attach, or however you could fulfil your dreamhouse. And when, at time for icicles and other decor, we handed each a filled decorating cone, eyes widened and faces lit up even brighter. Children just LOVE being trusted with pleasant grownup tasks, and this was not the TIME for "no, you can't do this; it's too messy." They strewed icing with merry abandon. Licking fingers and arms for stray icing, even an experimental squeeze into an open mouth---that's what the BIG bowl of homemade dill pickles and the bowls of salty pretzels and all those pitchers of ice water were for.

When all was finished, handfuls of the leftovers, the broken cookies, the unused candy, pretzels and other edibles, all were distributed inside the houses, and the roofs were set on, the weight of icing and cookie-shingles keeping them in place. We made pictures, Mamas returned to carry the sticky carpenters home, and we cleaned the kitchen. And I never waxed my floors for the holidays until after the party.

After about the third time, several adults requested to come make a house for their dining tables or for an upcoming party in their home, or to relive or just LIVE some childhood moments once again. So several years, we had a wine-and-cheese party on Saturday night; everybody brought bags of goodies to decorate with, I made the icing and cardboard forms, and when it was over, they all helped clean up and set out the decorations for the children the next day.

This got to be so popular over the years, we had people calling in October to reserve a place, and we finally had to move it to the Fellowship Hall of the Church. Several Moms in other churches around the county called for instructions; I gave out the icing recipe, drew them the pattern, and they started having parties of their own.

I haven’t been there for Christmas in years---I wonder if they still do. And I really hope some of the children remember.


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Friday, December 1, 2017

GOMER SAYS "BYE"










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R.I.P. Jim Nabors.


Sweet spirit, simple soul, incredible talent.  


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Can you imagine that trio in Heaven right now?


Monday, November 27, 2017

NEIGHBORS, PART II. THE GLASSES




Neighbors,  Part II. THE GLASSES


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According to Miss Bobbie, one of the two little boys next door had been born “afflicted,”  Southern then-vernacular for any problem acquired or developed surrounding a child’s birth, and it could also apply to having any lasting condition resulting from any of the usual childhood diseases.   Little Bobby was just “a bit slow in his ways,” as she told his story, and had very poor eyesight, requiring stronger and stronger glasses as he grew older.   He didn’t do well in his first couple of years of school, but did learn to read just enough to get by. He didn’t attend much past third grade, when his grasp of arithmetic and geography had been the cause of “failing him” twice, so that he was head-taller than his classmates.  And so he stayed at home. 






  In Miss Bobbie’s  words, “He made a BIG man.”  On up into his thirties, he’d walk all over town with his Mama while she sold her Avon, and he’d sit on your steps or in your porch swing if you didn’t have screen.   You could track what time Miss Emma would be at your house by looking across and seeing what house where Bobby was sitting, looking at the birds.



He’d sit in the sun or shade of the porch, slowly moving the glider with gentle movements, and holding her furled “parasol,” which was a big black umbrella that she took from his hand and snapped open each time she came out the customer’s door, bearing it aloft to ward off the sun until she reached the next stop---a geometric little sidewalk journey like stitching one of those squared-off Greek-key patterns onto a dresser scarf---to the next house, just forty steps away.



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He, in exchange for the parasol, would accept her little Avon suitcase of wares, dwarfed to child size by his enormous soft hands, and he’d carry it meekly down sidewalk after sidewalk, handing it back in the wordless parasol-snap moment of exchange at the steps.  When School was “out,” or in the later afternoons, he usually had an entourage of two or three of the little neighbor kids.


 Children loved him, that simple shining soul, so soft spoken and shy.  They’d show him things, things from their grimy pockets, or bird nests or a mended pocket-knife, and he’d give them solemn consideration through the ever-thickening lenses, murmuring little comments and answers in that eternal language of small boys and their treasures. 

I can still hear Miss Bobbie’s Alabama voice right now, “ . . .and they’d show him therr pocket-bobs, and he’d look ‘em over. . .”     The kids eagerly followed him from front porch to side-steps to an old glider with an awning, as his Mama made her way around the block with him moving gently in her wake.  Bobby was always given first choice of seating wherever they alit, easing his way onto the steps or into the swing with a soft sigh as he sat, and they all jostled a bit to capture the best spot for his attention.  And no matter whose porch or yard they were all occupying, they were as accepted as the breeze, because Bobby was there, and nobody ever acted up when he was so unheedingly in charge.

And so I’ve had this small pair of oh-so-thick glasses for almost thirty years, laid onto the top shelf with all the old cameras and spy-glasses and belt buckles and old black-and-white family pictures with names on the back lest we forget.   The case is unconscionably dusty, as is everything on that last-to-be tended shelf, with the passing seasons of months and years.   They lie in that napped blue velvet, just as his little-boy hands snapped shut the small hard clamshell for that last time when the next, stronger pair was required. 

These are a lasting treasure to me, as would be a Grandfather’s watch or a Great Aunt’s lavalier, though I never knew the owner save through the stories and the forever place that sweet, never-met young man occupies in my heart. 



Thursday, November 23, 2017

SO MANY BLESSINGS

So many Blessings, so much Gratitude.   Thank you all.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

HOME AGAIN



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Central Park Bears


We’re HOME, We’re Home!!  Our trip to New York was all that I’d ever dreamt and the great and powerful THEN SOME which wouldn’t cover the half of it. 

Such sweet chillun to see and hug and talk with, such a beautiful, happy baby GIRL to meet and snuggle and sing to, and such a parade of wonderfuls---unexpected wonderfuls, which I’d never thought to do or see, and so much good talk and travel and dining and just being together---it will take ten posts to tell it.

And so, two buses, two trains, (the last one four hours late arriving, occasioning our wild, wind-whipping ride in a three-car luggage-cart, careening around corners with nail-biting leans over the precipice toward the tracks, as our lost Andretti Brother took us on an uncontrolled Indiana Jones mine-cart tour of the underground of Union Station), nine Ubers, five subways, forty-leben escalators, a skyscraper worth of stairs, hundreds of blocks walked, and one taxi home, here we are---a lifetime dream fulfilled and a camera full of photos.  

And of those, moirĂ© non---it feels like Monday to us, and that makes just a two day week.   Hope you’ve all been well and warm and happy!!


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Dylan's Candy Bar 9'  Chocolate Bunny

Thursday, October 26, 2017

NEIGHBORS

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All pictures from the Internet

Years ago when Chris and I were first married, we moved way over into Alabama to be nearer his teen-and-pre-teen children.   The little house we lived in was in a “mill town,” one of many which dotted the quiet shady streets; the older lady who had lived there all her married life had gone into a nursing home and left the house in the hands of a nice lady realtor, who showed us around and directed us toward churches and stores and the library.   It seemed as if the occupants had stepped out for a moment, leaving all their worldlies just as they’d like to find them when they arrived home.  

We slept in their beds, with their linens freshly-dried on the line right out the back door.  We used their dishes, their appliances, their roomy old claw-tub and their floppy wooden five-times-covered ironing board, clattering it out of the special narrow slot in the kitchen wall and shaking the unwieldy legs straight---I loved that clumsy old thing, and when we left, I asked to buy three things, and the realtor lady pressed all of them upon me, just for my asking.   We lived there for almost two years, attending the welcoming little church right down the block, and having a wonderful time amongst all the long-time residents of the neighborhood.   My next-door-neighbor, Miss Bobbie, told me many, many tales of the town’s history as we’d sit on her porch or mine, shelling peas from the tee-ninecy garden plot out back or just enjoying the afternoon at that lovely time of day when it’s too late to begin any real chores, and too early to start cooking supper.

She was a lovely older woman who had moved there as a young wife in the Forties, and had loved her neighbor very much---they were almost sisters, she said, as they’d both moved into those little houses when their husbands had “got on at the Mill,” right after they got back from WWII.  They’d seen each other through some tough times and helped each other with raising their  children, as well as all the assorted happy and sad of daily life in a small town.   And then each clung to the other in her widowhood, not too many years apart.

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I was mesmerized by all the simple happenings she related, and grew to know the former residents of our little home as if they’d been family and we’d inherited the place from a familiar Aunt and Uncle.    


One weekend when the children were all with us, the boys were outside, up trees with the neighbor kids while Chris chatted with the neighbors. Only Karrie and I were at home, and since on another visit,  we’d said we’d wait till a quiet moment to have a peek into an immense old black trunk beside the bed in the spare room, we decided that NOW was the time.   We spread a fresh-dried sheet over the beautiful Chenille counterpane, and gently laid item after item, doily and dresser set and calendar, every pen set and brooch and immense stack of ironed hankies, all the keepsakes and souvenirs and bronzed baby-shoes and diaries and khaki-crumbled report cards, out onto the bed.   
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I don’t know how to express the sunlight and the shine of that small moment, handling the precious things of a family’s past---we two shared such gentle regard for each item, as we took it from its place, admired or read or smiled, and laid it down softly in that room where it belonged.  We were like those white-gloved archivists and curators of precious things for those few hours, I think, giving each piece a moment of quiet respect, and then laying them all safely away in their resting place once again.

And one small leathery case--out of ALL, there was one small object which captured my heart so that I had no words.   I was so struck by a pang of dolor and love and wishing it had been different, that I was all teary over the discovery, and in a moment, so was she. 

   And Moire non in Chapter II. 






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Friday, October 20, 2017

I GOTCHA COVERED!




Now that the weather is cooling a bit, with sunny skies beaming down onto the leafpiles (ours still merely an unaccustomed-for-this-time-in-October BROWN, like all the Autumns of my life, until we moved here twenty-seven years ago), we’re enjoying putting out a cozy thing or two---a soft throw across a chair back, the “cold-weather pillows” in burgundy and deep greens, with needlepointed teacups and other things comfy and warm.

And, with the ushering in of the cooler season, I’m remembering the HOT days of my Southern past, as well---especially those gosh-awful clear shrouds of heavy plastic made-to-fit for the “good” furniture in living room and den.  Remember those unspeakably uncomfortable, complain-when-you-moved, stick-to-your-bare-legs monstrosities which were the pride of every household with a “living room suit”?   Those lovingly-guarded, hard-won sets with the immaculate gold upholstery were more tenaciously defended with their prophylactical plastic than any furniture in history---even that in the never-used, daylight-forbidden parlors of Victorian households.   At least there, the distance between bee-hind and brocade was mere clothing, but that PLASTIC---oh, my.   What conniving, evil minds thought up THAT stuff? 



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Some of it was a little bit subdued---a translucent softer kind of plastic instead of that noisy stuff that gave the couch the gleam of a well-loved Camaro, but STILL.



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I can remember sliding off Aunt Lo’s clear-covered sofa (and glad to be free of it) after I’d wiggled and crinkled and made all sorts of effort to keep my velvet Christmas dress demurely down, and my abrupt descent beneath the coffee-table in a flurry of red petticoats was a story repeated every year by and to all the older generation.   And even when I was grown up and attending a shower or tea party, or even a morning “Coke party” with dainty tunafish sandwiches cut with Karla Kay’s Mama’s bridge-set cutters, and frilly crocheted panties on the icy Coke bottles---still we fidgeted in the Summer stillness and tried to keep decorum as we struggled to stay in one spot.


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Miss Joan Crawford, 1973.  Look at the shine on that chair and sofa, and imagine how many famous bottoms struggled to keep their balance, whilst balancing cocktail, conversation and cigarette.

The next one could be any one of my three Memphis Aunts, this anonymous woman of the Internet, sitting with one steadying foot on the floor in her pretty pink boucle, and making all sorts of creaks and crackles as she leans toward the ashtray.  I try to think back to who DIDN’T have these---we didn’t, but then there was that pesky brown naugahyde, which is a whole nother story.  And there we also those who, after putting a “slipcover” on the precious upholstery, would THEN cover the whole thing with Dupont’s finest, shielding the $3.95 rayon with the $14.95 plastic, and totally hiding the expensive brocade.  And By Golly Gosh---are those drapes and sheers covered in their own shower-curtain-liners as well?




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And this one---this is a doozy---where in the Blue Heck did they GET that thing, perfectly fitted and tailored, and are there immaculate little holes in just the right spots for those little spindles?   Didn’t you always wonder who they were saving them FOR?  



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Wish Y’all could come sit a  while on MY sofa so we could have a good long chat---some kinda contretemps betwixt Google and Blogger lets me sign IN enough to post a blog post, and recognizes me when I write a comment on YOUR blogs, but the words then just disappear when I hit POST and never show up.   I’m sorry to be incommunicado, but I’m still reading, still enjoying, though I can’t get through to say Hello.



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

GIVE US THIS DAY .. . .




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The mention of that corned beef in yesterday’s blog post reminded me that I always tell Chris when a pot of corned-beef-and-cabbage is on the menu.  (I can never write that magical combination without thinking of the comic strip Maggie and Jiggs---she of the opera and caviar pretensions in their New York mansion, and he longing for the simple homely fare of his childhood).  Chris will “run by” whichever branch of SHAPIRO’S is in his line of travel for one of their still-warm, incomparable loaves of RYE BREAD.  That crust!  The damp, cushiony texture of those beige slices falling beneath the knife with a little scatter of crust-crumbs and plump caraway seeds!

I am a whitebread (actually cornbread, if truth be known) convert, Southern raised and deli-deprived. Though I don't remember any corned beef, any pastrami or lox, there was one close approximation, especially for that Deep South area. There was a little hole-in-the-wall "cafeteria" in an adjoining town, the town where “the” dress store was, for a special occasion which called for store-bought. The small "hot-line" could always be counted on for sauerkraut and some enormous juice-bursting sausages, two per order, with a dainty string-bow holding the little garlicky garland together. Another pan held slumpy stuffed peppers, the beef-and-more-garlic bread stuffing wafting its siren-call up and over the other fragrances in the display.
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Scalloped tomatoes, crisp latkes the size of thick saucers, their tiny frill-cups of applesauce and sour cream awaiting your choice, a deep pan of the yellowest noodles I'd ever seen, halves of shiny-brown baked chicken and their roasted potato-wedge accompaniments.

And the first and only "green" green beans of my experience, barely poached, then tossed with oil and onion and peppers. They were a far different breed from the low-cooked snap beans of our table, and had a "beany" tang to them that ours never had---perhaps the long cooking in our kitchen removed all 
trace of their former lives, imbuing them with the salt and hammy, porky goodness of their additions, making our beans merely the conveyor for all the rich tastes of Southern seasonings.

But way down on the end, after the deep-meringued desserts, the tapioca in little cut-glass dishes, the high-standing squares of kugel with its proud golden crust, stood THE LADY. The lady with the high-piled hair and the moustache to rival my Uncle Fate’s, the avert-my-eyes-so-as-not-to-stare-at lady, who took our measure, our unused-to-the-fare tenor with all of  our redneckness shining through, and asked, in a charmingly lilting accent, "RRRRRRRoll or conbraid?"

I would draw up my shoulders, nodding knowingly and cloaking myself in all the worldly air assumable by my ten-year-old clunky little self, and say, "Rye, please."




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She'd smile conspiratorially in approval, reach beneath the counter, and bring forth two slices------inch-thick grayish-tan, soft, pillowy caraway-studded slices, crusted in gold. Onto a tiny plate they went, slid across the silvery counter to my waiting hand.

I LOVED that bread. It was Dorothy's door after a lifetime of black-and-white Wonderbread movies. It was always freshly made, sometimes still warm, with a lovely silky crumb, a stretch-and-chew to the crust, and a little ping of sour-sharp surprise when you crunched one of the seeds.

I remember that little twelve-foot counter as one of the brightest memories of my restaurant past. And now, when we enter the sanctity of the fluorescent brightness of Shapiro's, with its tantalizing scents and tastes and tables to seat two hundred, I still take up that little plate of rye and bear it to my table with the same child's anticipation.

And it never fails to live up to the memory.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

OCTOBER GAVE A PARTY

Two of the FL GRANDS at last year's paint-party.   Too far away now, but we're just so grateful that they made it through all the winds and waters.

October gave a party,
The leaves by hundreds came;
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread a carpet
And everything was grand;
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
-----------------George Cooper

I’ve always thought that the year should start in October instead of January. January just grabs ahold of you in an icy grip, keeping you befuddled with the aftermaths of the holidays and all that work and cooking and traveling and celebrating. January is a Pipsissewah of a month, a cold-in-the-head, car-won’t-start time of year, with grumpy people with their heads down struggling against wind and umbrella and ice, the mere feat of standing erect on skiddish streets a burden and a task.


But OCTOBER, now---October is just the best time of year there is, with the golden days and the whish of leaves and the turnings, turnings. The leaves turn and the birds turn South and the time turns from shorts and sandals to comfortable sweats and that favorite old sweater, taken out for the first time in two seasons, snugged on in a cool twilight, as the savory scent of something-in-the-oven wafts out in welcome.

Just walking around outside is a marvel---the air feels silky on your skin and the sun lights gently upon your hair, with a different scent, a different FEEL to everything---better and better as the season progresses. The sight of the harvesting, the change in the produce of the markets, the farmstands offering the crisp fruits and the cider and the huge orange bulk of pumpkns and gourds---we just went to one today, picking out two more cushion-mums, a loaf of wheat bread, six apples, and a watermelon-green-striped gourd like a bashful goose.




Somewhere a long time ago, I read a quote something like, “If I have but one month left to live, let it be October.” I would echo that---it’s always been my favorite time of year, with the air and the light and the rustle of leaves and just the OCTOBERNESS of it. Not because it’s cooler after the summer heat (which is important), not because it ushers in the Holiday Season (also a good thing), and not because of anything in particular which happens or has happened then (though we DO like Halloween).

That’s not it. The month has a personality of its own; it stands on its own, unlike any other time, and I’d know it with my eyes closed. There’s a huge daily enjoyment to the month, with all the sheer exuberance of the color and the brightness---you can just BE in the moments of it, and just enjoy. A simple walk around the neighborhood takes on a different slant---swishing your feet through the leaves, or seeing the swirls of leaves as they drift down like snow, or admiring the Autumn blooms and decorations on the neighbors’ houses and lawns.

Things to do the first few days of October:

Paint Halloween Houses with Sweetpea, her Mama and Caro. (check.  This past Sunday afternoon)

Visit the famous HORTON’S in Tipton to enjoy all their Fall regalia.

Bake a Bundt cake---a beautiful golden-yellow one, fragrant with vanilla and cinnamon.

Decorate for FALL.  (Does three velvet pumpkins on a windowsill count?)


Simmer this beautiful Corned Beef for several hours in its tangy brine, then add in carrots, baby potatoes and wedges of tender cabbage---serve just at twilight on a cool night. It would be enough just to enjoy aura and the scent all day---there’s a satisfaction and a contemplation to having something savory going for supper, and knowing that it will take time and that things are progressing as they should.

There are lots more, and I'd LOVE to hear yours!

Monday, October 2, 2017

WE'LL REMEMBER

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           Today we are all Las Vegans.




Saturday, September 30, 2017

WHERE YESTERDAY LIVED






Don’t we all wonder, as we pass by, what history is writ in the sagging shutters, the peeling paint, the windows with their sightless panes neither lit from within nor turned to the sun---don’t we wish we knew that story?   Don’t we muse and speculate, as we measure out past days in our minds, what family must have blinked into the day and settled into sleep for countless years between those walls?  All the What Ifs and What Mights, sifted though our own memories and filtered through our own lenses of Time---I can see and hear and feel those days and childhood shouts and breathless runs through the grass, those white-hot kitchen days of canning and cooking, those evenings on the porch as the night drew on.     

I’ve just been privileged to read and enjoy just such a story about a deserted old house, for my friend Debbi of her own FRONT PORCH has brought its days and occupants and occupations to brilliant light, just from her imagination and photos of the languish of its planks and roof, seeing into its past through the veil of droops and weeds and rust.   I hope you’ll go and have a look---that girl knows her way around Charleston, and her words and images bring it shining to the page.





Friday, September 29, 2017

READING IS OUR THING!





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We just celebrated Caro’s birthday this week, and I’m remembering that back in my very younger days, before she was born, we inherited a wonderful old worn wooden rocking-chair which had been in the family for years.   The boys were 1 ½ and 2 ½ at the time, and we’d sit together many times of the day to read a story.   It happened that the Saturday Evening Post had published Fox in Sox in its bright, colourful entirety, and I would sit in that big old chair, one little boy on each side of my lap and Caro-to-be in the middle, and that wide magazine spread before us.   I’ll bet I read that story more than a hundred times.   We can all just launch into the rhyme on any verse, rocking wherever we are, sitting or standing, and continue on til the rollicking end. 

We will love Dr. Seuss forever.  I’d say more about that, but it’s been said most eloquently already:

READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY, 2016 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  A PROCLAMATION:

The moment we persuade a child to pick up a book for the first time we change their lives forever for the better, and on Read Across America Day, we recommit to getting literary works into our young peoples’ hands early and often. March 2 is also the birthday of one of America’s revered wordsmiths. Theodor Seuss Geisel — or Dr. Seuss — used his incredible talent to instill in his most impressionable readers universal values we all hold dear. Through a prolific collection of stories, he made children see that reading is fun, and in the process, he emphasized respect for all; pushed us to accept ourselves for who we are; challenged preconceived notions and encouraged trying new things; and by example, taught us that we are limited by nothing but the range of our aspirations and the vibrancy of our imaginations. And for older lovers of literature, he reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously, creating wacky and wild characters and envisioning creative and colorful places.

 Today, and every day, let us celebrate the power of reading by promoting literacy and supporting new opportunities for students to plunge into the pages of a book. As Dr. Seuss noted, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 

Together, we can help all children go plenty of places along their unending journey for knowledge and ensure everyone can find joy and satisfaction in the wonders of the written word.


NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2, 2016, as Read Across America Day. I call upon children, families, educators, librarians, public officials, and all the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. BARACK OBAMA


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Monday, September 25, 2017

MA'S BISCUITS



Our cans were all silver in colour, but Bryan has been a popular brand all my life.
We’ve been mentioning biscuits-for-breakfast as the weather cools once more into the Cozy-up, Gathering-in season of Fall. 
I do think I must have been born under the sign of the lard can, for we had one in both of the houses of my childhood, and their twin resided under the kitchen cabinet of Ma, who was my first Mother-In-Law, and Grandmother of my three children.   They were called Maw and Paw by the GRANDS, then all of us, but signed cards and letters "Ma and Pa."  That woman was just an angel on this Earth.   
We lived right there on the yard with  them on the farm home-place, and she had the exact silver can under her own kitchen counter, right down to the big circled “HF” imprinted in the lid. She had a bowl and sifter in hers, as well, and contrary to my Mother’s fastidious spooning and measuring and stirring, Ma made biscuits BY hand and WITH her hand. She, too, put twice-too-much flour into the bowl, made the crater by banking it against the sides with her fingers, and then three-fingered a clop of Crisco out of the three-pound can.






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Her busy little soft hands were quick as lightning, working that flour into the handful, fingertips busily rubbing, til the “peas” stage. I don’t think she measured the buttermilk, either, but just poured from the BIG crockery pitcher, lifting it with a big sigh, and then I’d clean the white clotty handprint off the handle with a wet dishrag before replacing it in the refrigerator. She also made the buttermilk in a big crock, which somehow took up most of the left side of the refrigerator, possibly a gallon’s worth. Dried milk, water, a cup of last week’s making, overnight on the kitchen counter with a neat tea-towel cover, and voila!! Good as a fresh-churned batch.

I loved to watch her hand squish that biscuit dough; at first the buttermilk shot through her quick fingers like soapsuds, then as the flour absorbed some of it, the dough became a heavy, pliable mass, with the flour worked in from the sides til it was to her liking---a quite wet dough which would seek to escape from her two hands when she lifted it from the bed of flour like a limp cat.







Onto a flourcloth it went, the cloth homemade from newbought Curity diapers, each sewn double for strength, and covered in a thick layer of flour. Several lifts of the four cloth edges in turn, to even up the dough and give it a thorough coating, then pinches quickly rolled through floury palms, placed gently into a Crisco-rubbed skillet, with a final two-knuckled salute to the top, making twin dimples to hold the pools of brushed-on melted butter. The cloth also went back into the bin after use, its dusty weight settling into the dark to await its next needing.





All our biscuits were different, all good, all crusty and golden and steamy-soft within. Ma’s had a crispy bottom crust, beloved by Pa, who would separate several biscuits with a quick twist, butter them BEFORE we said the blessing, then sometimes distribute the dripping top halves to the little ones, while he applied a liberal dousing of sorghum or pear preserves to the cookie-crisp, butter-saturated bottoms. For Pa, life was simple: gravy went on the soft, spongy top halves, syrup on the bottoms.   

 Ohhhh, that all our paths could be so easily chosen.






Friday, September 15, 2017

GIMME SOME SUGAR!!

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Sweetpea stays with us when her Mama goes on business trips, sleeping upstairs in her room, and being trundled back and forth to school and activies.   Night before last, her reader featured a new version of the old Kissing-a-Frog tale, with a Princess enchanted this time by an angry witch, and doomed to live as a frogess until a Prince should kiss her.     The story featured quite a few words in Spanish, so as we read in turn, each taking several voices and parts, I would translate and teach her to pronounce the unfamiliar words.  

The tale was of a Viceroy’s family (short explanation of King, in Spain, and you know how we have a Vice President?---who is second in command?---well, Roy is the word for King, and so Viceroys were in command in Mexico because they were the King’s Second people, etc. representing him there.  So that  part was well-received and remembered.

Then came the losing of the Viceroy’s son’s golden arrow down the well, with the promise for its return, etc., as “You will let me eat from your plato, 
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and sleep beside you in your cama, 


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and (most important), give me a beso in the morning.”

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And so, with the several repetitions of this promise, and her excellent memory and inflection on the words---Man, we were moving right along.  And so to sleep.

Yesterday, at breakfast, I said, “Tell Ganner the story of the PRINCE and the Frog,” and away she went---Viceroy explanation included, and arrow in the well, and promise.  Now, that promise was smooth sailing the night before, and she launched into eating from the plato, and sleeping in the cama with flying colors.  Then, somehow, her new-found knowledge and the similarity of the words conflued to hatch an innocent joke that we’d have had to hide to laugh.


She finished her tale with a grandiose accent and a flourish: “And he promised to give her a PESO in the morning!”

And if you do laugh, how do you explain THAT one?

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