Monday, May 31, 2010


It was a quiet day here, today---no fireworks, no company, no cookouts. We started the day with our coffee outside, and then a three-of-us in planting mode---getting the great pot-corral between the outbuildings all cleaned up, with most plastic ones sent to recycle, and all the terra-cottas either put to use or stacked neatly. The little worn picket fence “concealing” them was moved back into the cleared space, with a neat iron lawn-chair, the long-ago yellow paint on its slender frame a mere whisper of itself, with a graceful white pot of pink impatiens dropped into the space where the seat would be.

Caro spent her morning setting sets-of-three pots of red, white, and “blue” impatiens into other pots set around the benches, the grapevine trellis, and atop the aging white pedestal by the bistro set. The blue is more a purple hue, but there seems to be no real “navy” in the flower world. And pastel blue gives the effect of a Cake-Wrecks flag cake, made by an inexperienced or unheeding baker and left to languish on the mark-down table the Fifth of July.

So we got our hands into the dirt, planting and grubbing, getting all the maple spinners out from between the heavy-leafed hostas, re-arranging the stones in the flowerbeds, pulling up hundreds of hopeful little maples, sweeping out sticks and debris, and filling a lawn-sack for this week’s Big Garbage Day.

We got out the round patio table and a couple of old wicker pieces too long in the damp dark back of the potting shed. The pale green piece went onto the porch, and the old rattan guy, wide of arm and sturdy of ravelly back, went out beside the back fence to garnish the hosta bed.

We found wrought-iron sconces and window-boxes and several other things several years in the losing, and HAVE TO STOP SOMEWHERE.

Caro brought a nifty cantaloupe-sized gazing ball made into a hanging lantern, its solar bulb glowing in the twilight, and one of the regular variety, in swirls of iridescent cobalt and copper. The old fishing float on the tree is still hanging on, the graying rope and the haze of the glass a testament to several year-round tours of sentinel duty on the Big Tree.

And last Sunday’s seed scatter has taken root and risen in beegrillions on the big round sandy plot of the back garden---I know a lot of them will have to be ruthlessly thinned, and there are enough wee maples in there amongst the flowers to make a good sized forest in a few years.

The tallest sunflowers---the nine-foot variety---are just tiny babies now, standing a couple of inches tall; they have a neat dicot atop like a propeller beanie, and just days ago, I walked out to see their first glimpse of sunlight. They were standing there just out of the ground, their tiny necks like white threads topped with the split seed---they had the appearance of peeking out from Hobbit-helms like Merry and Pippin, with the halves down over their ears on either side.
We were outside when it started to rain, big pelting drops shaking the leaves and drenching our clothes. We just stood for a moment, all of us out there in the beginning of the downpour, soaking in the moment as the soil began to soak up the moisture. We came in for a long time, cooked and ate our supper together, cleared the table.
Then we slipped on our mud-trusty clogs and went out again, just to see how everything looked, and it was lovely---dripping and very green, with the plants standing taller, leaves fuller and more rounded, and the darkening of the big garden bed showing up the greens like jewels on velvet.

It's not yet a sea of green, but a haze of it is forming from all the tee-ninecy leaves seeking the light. It’s a satisfying thing, making a garden. A holy thing and a good, and it was a day well spent, this day of remembering those gone too soon. The cycle of seed and season confirms our place in this chain, and commemorates theirs.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


It's holiday weather here today, with the heat of the sun and bright skies and the snap of flags in the sunshine, the smoke of a thousand backyard grills raising delicious scents into the Spring air. I awoke to the silhoutte-gleam of sunshine across the room, a hopeful sign for all the activities and memorial services and celebrations of this long Spring weekend.

But weather hasn't much to do with the feelings that surround this special day, this day of remembrance and honoring and taking stock of our nation's blessings. The placing of wreaths, the little flags stuck into the earth of countless graves, the floral tributes, the handful of limp posies clutch-wilted in a child's hand, the tears of remembrance---those will quietly and reverently go on even as the scent of charcoal drifts up and the promised rain comes down.

I have a deep-imprinted vignette in my memory-collection, of sitting there in a hot scratchy dress several years ago, to see my dear Mother-in-Law receive the folded flag "With the thanks of a Grateful Nation." And so we remember GrandDaddy, in all his twenty-something years of service, and I keep a secret, heartfelt gleam of pride for our other servicemen and women, and those we'll never know of as we sleep safely on their watch.

And just looking at the flowers in the picture above, the two tall, stalwart reds and the smaller, just-as-strong pink, I think of all our sisters and daughters in uniform, the strong, brave women who step up to the mark, who serve standing proud beside the men whose strength and bravery have stood true for centuries. We feel a surge of gratitude, of pride, of thankful praise for all the ones who take our well-being and our freedom so seriously that they live and die for it, and us.

And so I say "Thank you," to each and every one, and give a prayer of thanks for all of our servicepeople, past and present---those standing proud in uniform today, those who have served, no matter what the term, those who have retired from their service, but remain ever soldiers, those lying beneath the brave small flags, and those known only to the angels and remembered in the hearts of those who loved them.

Taps for remembrance:

Friday, May 28, 2010


The hostas have been loving this weather. The long rainy season gave them a wonderful start, and they've grown lush and lovely, thick with their life-juice, and now towering taller than their usual August heights. And quite a few have already sent up their waxy flowers, mostly white but with a few lavender blooms tempting the bees.

They're a vast palette of greens, lushly hanging over the damp earth of their four-years-now home. This time last year a quickly fleeting hailstorm burst down through the not-yet covered branches of their sheltering tree, and ripped the smooth leaves into raggedy shreds, in just five minutes. They hung there all Summer, never recovered, but enough of themselves left to make their way to Autumn.Their valiant stand in the face of such decimation was a lovely testament to their hardy natures, and I did not prune, I did not trim. They were who they were, like injured soldiers returned from war, shining even brighter through their wounds.

Last night's roll of thunder gave me an ache of apprehension for the lovely green beings flanking the lawn, as the temperatures have been right to nurture a high nest of hail, but all is well in the beds this morning. The leaves drip great round drops like bright lenses set on the velvet, and the green, crisp with their great overnight drink, hang full and heavy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


This bad boy was in no way injured in the telling of this tale---the colorful bandages were applied the morning after Easter by Sweetpea. She was not given free rein of her Easter Basket goodies, and in lieu of Reese’s eggs, was placated with a box of bright Bang-Daids, with which she soothed the ails and injuries of her arms and legs, the dog, her high-chair, the refrigerator and the clock.

But yesterday. Ahhhh, yesterday. She and her Mommy had already left for the day when this saga unfolds; I think it a blessing, for I cannot think what I would have DONE with an almost-three young lady who is coming into her own MIND, as they say. She’s not yet a THAT CHILD, but then, that would not be so bad, now would it? Except for that "I don't WANT to," part.

We’d had a rompin’ stompin’ bike-riding, neighbor-visiting, pool-splashing day, with both breakfast and lunch on the patio, (right now, you Mamas out there---you know how hard it is to truck stuff in and out of the house, to butt-bump the door and plead, with your hands full of lemonade cups and puzzles and towels, when the little one just doesn’t WANT to come in?) Well, it was THAT kind of day.

She went home, and I took the last microt of my meager energy to pick up cups and bib and errant shoes and all the other attendant necessaries to spending a day out-of-doors. I opened the gates, as Chris would be driving in very soon, and then I dragged myself and one armload into the house and down the stairs---OH-so-ready for a shower and a big icy glass of tea. I poured the tea, headed for the bathroom, kicked off my clogs. Then I remembered, I had Caro’s phone in my pocket, where I’d been carrying it all day, having no time to find my own in the milliseconds we’d been in the house to teetee or to grab something. It had to go back in the charger upstairs.

I heard barking from outside---FuzzyPup’s dinner hour had crept by, and so I trudged out onto the concrete, mustering the strength to go get him, and, since I hadn’t paid much attention to him all day, talking to him in a Kitchy-Koo voice about dinners, and we were going to GET those dinners, yes, we WERRRRRE. He bounced excitedly as I feeble-footed my way across patio and grass, and I, flattered, mistakenly took the enthusiasm for my charming company, or my really special way with Alpo, take your pick.

The second that leash-clip left the collar ring, he was off like a shot, over and out the driveway and across the street. I know this, because I winced my way after him as fast as I could go. I got to the end of our drive to see him disappearing into the far back yard of an across-the-street neighbor. Now the choice: Go back for shoes, or tickle-toe on across the pavement and driveways, hoping to keep an eye on his trajectory.

So I went, hip-hopping, missing rocks, finding some, easing my way back and through between the houses---no sight of him, just alleyways, garages, one big fenced yard.

No choice, now---I’d lost him. I’d called “Fuzzy, COME!!” til I was hoarse, so I came home, grabbed shoes and Caro’s phone AGAIN, and went out once more, down the very same drive into the same back yard, where I spotted Fuzzy. I called him once again, then realized he was INSIDE that big fence, with no gate in sight. And he was taking a poop IN THEIR YARD.

Mortified, getting REALLY grumpy and VERY tired and hot, I retraced. Out and around the longest house in the county, to find a sign on the door: DO NOT KNOCK---day sleeper. Hoping to make free with their gate and somehow clean up after Pup, I headed for the fence. STILL no gate in sight, but a big flap in the fence, from which he’d escaped during my LONG walk out and around.

Thought I heard barking over my shoulder. Went that way, around ANOTHER block, through the strip mall, over and around and through, and back to the same place, finding quite a few dogs minding their own dogly business in their OWN yards, bless their hearts.

Across the street once again, shading my eyes against the sun, and waaay ahead, I saw a very small form, moving very slowly in my direction. I walked toward him, calling out “Good Boy, Come” in my most syrupy, enticing voice, wanting only to get my hands on THAT DOG.

He has such a shaggy coat, and had run in the heat, and he was just exhausted, panting and tongue hanging, so I picked him up like a baby and staggered the blocks back home. I hope the neighbors thought I was talking sweet baby-talk to him all the way home as I gazed down on his cute, lolling face.

I was not. I set him down at our driveway, and he ran for his water dish, drinking long laps of water, then came into the house slowly, where he spent most of the evening near his indoor water, sprawled like a flat frog on the cool kitchen slate.
And I still haven't found my phone.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Today I'm working on this:

More pruning, some clearing, a thorough washdown of the bench, clearing and planting of the pot with some red,white and blue petunias, and later in the season, when we have some of the tea parties we have planned, I'd like to festoon all the small cut limbs with ribbons holding a cascade of pretty teacups.

And see the little bistro set hidden in the background?

It started out set just slightly inside the ivy, but over several years, the encroaching spread had made it impossible to go sit with a cup of tea without bruising the beautiful green with your feet. So the little set (rusted and hazy when I bought it at a yard sale) has become weather-worn and grubby. It was a pretty little vignette as you drove into the drive, and now Caro has suggested that we bring it out right onto the pavement a bit, for easier use, and added a pedestal with a graceful pot for more of the petunias.
She's also going to put a pretty little lantern-shaped white "chandelier" on one of the shorn tree-limbs right above the table.
It's so uplifting to see everyone's gardens, the progress and the blooms and the care and work and tending which show in every bed, every shrub, every plot and place and vignette and area and room and space which has been made into something beautiful.
I love those glimpses into the handiwork of others, their way with plants and rocks and water and statuary and small arrangements of pretties which brighten the landscapes.
And I wish I had the touch for that---and the inclination, I suppose. I have absolutely NONE of the generations of genes which have coaxed fruit and vegetables and glorious bloom from the deep richness of Mississippi soil. Anything I touch (or neglect) turns to one of two extremes: Arid and dead, or jungle. There's no middle ground. I pot, they perish. I leave things alone, and you get swallowed up in the green.

I DO love the rich luxuriant growth of the grapevine across the garages; the spread of the shining ivy from eight little slips a few years ago has reached lawn proportions, creeping tendrils out and out, until the carpet gleams way out into what used to be grass.
The kudzu-tendencies of all the vines on the fence, the honeysuckle trees which shade more and more of the lawn each Spring, needing ruthless pruning to keep them under control, and the constant force which through the green fuse drives the flower---those are rampant and raging their way up onto the patio and into the potting shed.

I DO love the shaggy overgrowth, to see the lush swell of the buds and the leaves, to watch a rusted fenceline entwine with green velvet, then disappear into the shady cloak. I'd probably leave everything to kudzu itself into a landscape of blobby shapes-of-trees and house and cars, had I not the wise and guiding hand of Caro to keep things in check.

Angel seems happy to be sitting amongst all the overfill; all she needs is a little cleaning, a little fresh water for the chipmunks in the cup of her skirt, and all will be well.

PS This morning also included weeding the hosta bed, and using Sweetpea's tee-ninecy little yellow yard broom to get up all the maple spinners. At last.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Written Monday, but we had yet another watery mishap---between water filter and ice machine, which Chris was still tinkering with til midnight, so I didn’t get any pictures sized or ready til now.

Monday Morning: Out early with coffee this morning, just enjoying the early breezes and the wind chimes and all the chorus of birds ranged in every tree round the yard. The view from my chair:


We sat on the patio for a while, just getting adjusted to the day, and then strolled out for a moment to the garden, still damp from yesterday’s sprinkle-in of all the tee-ninecy seeds we’d planted.
The second tilling yesterday of the big round plot left it like cake crumbs, just perfect for all the almost-microscopic seeds. Even the Giant Sunflower packet had what looked like the little kernels I keep in the fridge, not the big old crackly gray teardrops folks peel with their teeth and then Ptuhhh! out onto the lawn.

You kinda expect a ghostly figure to appear from the arbor---all that’s missing is Mr. Darcy, strolling out of the mist in his long flappy coat.

Wintered-over, as they say, was a lovely clump of sage---it’s added lovely flavors to dressing and stuffings and butters for the past three years, and just this year decided to bloom.

The lavenders are veterans of three Indiana Winters, and That Yellow Thing is another of the immortal flowers---Sweetpea picked a clump for her Mama three weeks ago, and I stuck it in a plastic cup on the patio table. I just threw it out yesterday, and some of the blooms were still fresh.

And then the oregano-marjoram clump, which is bigger every year. I don’t know which is which any more, just that one’s taller---just a quick brush with your palm sends the fragrance of a Mediterranean hillside out into the heat of the day.

There’s Caro’s tall-grown lovage (lovidge, as Mammaw used to say, though she usually called it celery-plant). Lovely dropped into the soup pot or chicken and dumplings. There are two small tarragon plants in the back, bravely green even after the Winter, and the low nests of thyme and lemon thyme fared well, also.

We planted giant sunflowers, three-foot sunflowers, dahlias, cosmos, a great swath of wildflowers for butterflies, crescents of larkspur and double hollyhocks and zinnias, some fluffy bushes of baby’s breath, black-eyed Susans, and a wide smile of trailing soapwort around the front edge, in front of the lavender and sage.

Some garlic chives, given to Caro by a friend---they survived two days and nights in a bag, and started perking right up when the water showered down.

Don't you just LOVE this time of day? The night-still is clinging on, save for the birds, and everything is SOFT, somehow, like encased in velvet. Looking out toward the arbor:

We also added six good-sized hostas to the bed out beside the arbor; that makes eighteen back there---they just need a good drink now and again, and the hose has to be a hundred feet long, but they’re just so lush and beautiful, with just that little bit of tending. They need a good raking right now---we never did get all the maple spinners gathered up. I’m ashamed to show this picture, but it’s how things ARE.

We had a lovely morning, with a walk around the neighborhood, watering the roses, a nice try-out of the new little blue plastic “pool” and then a good dry-off and dry clothes. I climbed a little ladder and green-taped some of the exuberant grapevine up onto itself. Long tendrils were escaping every-which-way, caressing the face of every passerby through the yard or walking on the sidewalk, and we expect it to be making untoward advances to the tomato plants about August.

BabyGirl and I took an Elevenses break with tiny Cherry Vanilla cones on the patio, just because it’s NOT RAININ', Y’all.

Chris came home for a late lunch with us, Little One had a nap, and then her Mommy and Daddy came over after work for supper. Chris picked up Chinese and we ate on the new big plastic table on the patio about seven.

More little ice cream cones all around, another quick garden stroll and sprinkle, and everyone’s now safely home.

All through the rain, I’ve been wishing for a day like this.


I just happened upon a blog through another that I read every day---the new one is called Brambleberry Cottage. The second post really caught my eye, with pictures of flowers so beautiful, and text so charming and well written, that I thought I'd share it here today, on this going-to-feel-like-Summer day when our gardens are setting their feet into the ready soil, and the hedges and trees and all the overgrowth and undergrowth are flourishing into a constant green.

And so, while I ready a raft of pictures I took yesterday out and around the garden and lawn, do go immerse yourself in this lovely floral symphony. It's music to the mind and eyes.

I'm headed out, First Cup in hand, to enjoy the sunrise.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


We had a special visitor one night last week---he’d been to see us before, last Summer when we took his picture in front of our Fairy Door, and out in the garden with the big bell.

His name is Flat Stanley, the friend of a little girl whose Uncle Dave is also a friend of ours. He is from a big family of Flat Stanleys, whose exploits and travels have been documented by second-graders all over the country. They have posed with Presidents, Princes, Senators, Race Car Drivers, Schoolteachers, Astronauts (one relative even went on a recent shuttle mission), Sports Figures, Television and Movie stars, and in all sorts of national places of interest.

Stanleys begin life as a plain piece of paper, with just a little outline idea of who he will become. The children draw his features, his hair, his clothes, and color in all the details, so, just like all people, no two Flat Stanleys have the same DNA.

The paper pictures are then sent to relatives and friends, to take with them on trips, vacations, adventures, sightseeing, and to any place of interest. Stanleys have had their pictures made scuba diving, ballooning, skydiving, riding cable cars and trains and goats and horses. They have had some wonderful adventures, these guys, and we were glad to hear some of the thrilling tales related by our visitor.

He and his friend Dave came to our house unexpectedly that evening; we’d gone out to a lovely long lunch, and had decided that our annual peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches would be just right for a quiet supper. So PB&J it was---I set out some grapes and some crackers and a little salmon/cheese ball from the fridge, along with some just-cut sticks of cheddar and cucumber, and we had our dinner.

We do not live such an exciting life as Stanley does, but he seemed to enjoy our quiet dinner, as he told us of a recent visit to Detroit, and another to Cincinnati. We had very little to offer in the way of adventure, so we just let Dave make his picture as he participated in our little home activities.

He stood at the old milking stool and milked the cow:

He helped prepare dinner at the Dragonstove:

He helped SockMonkey do the dishes:

He then had a violin lesson on our little Magic Violin. It’s a wonderful instrument---you just think of a song you love, and that’s the one it plays. It even plays Silence---wonderfully calming and sweet, if that’s what you prefer.

Chris told Stanley some of his adventures when he was in the Navy, and he let Stanley stand by the piece of the Rock of Gibraltar that he picked up when he was there. It even looks very much LIKE The Rock, doesn’t it? See the blue sky----See the Sea!! Here’s Stanley, pretending to be the Colossus of Rhodes:

And then, after all that excitement, Stanley was ready for a quiet cup of tea with Tigger, who makes REALLY good tea, with Hunny that he borrows from Pooh.

We really enjoyed our two guests’ visit, and hope the Second-Graders enjoy seeing Stanley’s small adventures at our house.


I just got to thinking about how wet it has been, how I just cannot stand the muggy-scent of all the drying carpet and the covering scents of all those anti-microbialfungicidalgermkillingdeodorizing sprays we’ve sprayed over and over as things get back to normal.

It’s still cloudy out, but with no forecast of any of it pouncing upon us in the next few days, and hopes are high to plant the garden tomorrow and Monday. We’ll probably have to re-till, for a Liliput-forest of maples has covered the entire plot, testament to the will of the wisps which whirled down to cover the bare dirt.

And the post this week about planting the tomatoes---I re-read that just now, thinking that the token gesture with that tiny watering can was so sweet, totally un-needed except by the little wielder of the water. The dirt was sogged past bearing in the pots, the yard spongy and grass-wet to the step, and still the small nod to the usual method.

The plants certainly didn’t need more moisture, but SHE needed to do her part in the planting and in the nurture. It’s just what you DO. You give things/people/projects/ideas the import they deserve. They all need a good start and good care and good management as they make their way, as they grow and flourish.

And the plants did not get nearly the benefit from the watering that our BabyGirl got from the doing; she took that little green can back and forth from hose to pot four times---once for each pot, getting a cup or so of water into the fresh dirt each time. And she beamed. She was accomplishing a great thing.

Perhaps it’s her Mammaw genes, or those from my Daddy, or the great long line of farmers in her Daddy’s heritage, but she wanted to water those tomatoes, and we helped her. Her purpose was good; her heart was in it, her mission was true---truer than her aim, which sent a scatter over her little pink clogs, dampening socks and pajama-cuffs.

We all came into the house triumphant, fulfilled with the completion of a worthy task, and had our breakfast.

And she was happiest of all. She’d stood in the meager sunlight, fulfilling her duty, giving what she had---a cup of water and a good start.

And that’s a whole sermon in a little green pot.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I had two sips of a Margarita tonight, after running a slice of lime around the rims of two glasses, dipping them into the handy little round plastic box of flaky salt, and setting a jaunty slice side-saddle on each rim.

I'm just not much of a drinker at all, and I set down the glass and wandered off somewhere else to put something on the table or grab the butter or heat something in the microwave. Then, when we finished dinner, there was my glass---no longer a bright, zingy green, courtesy of McCormick's finest, but a deep dull hue after all the ice had melted and left it just sorta muddy.

I DID pick up one of the squeezed halves and give a vigorous rub to the section of counter where Chris had carved the chicken. I'd already sprayed and wiped with the antibacterial stuff, but I thought another citrus wipedown couldn't hurt, and it smelled wonderful.

I've always liked limes, though they've never been as available as lemons. Lime in drinks, in limeade, in desserts and on a quick-seared fish or chicken filet. They are, as my Mammaw used to say, "The Makin'" of guacamole, with all the bright flash of the lime and the salt to jazz up the buttery unctuous green mush.

I love the peel, grated and stirred into a peppy cocktail sauce, vibrant with horseradish and tabasco, or as a gentle punctuation to a cheesecake batter or chess pie, or best of all, Ooey-Gooey Bars.

I have no idea where I was going with this, but I'm gonna go pare off another paper-thin curl of lime peel and rub it all around inside the rim of my tea glass, to inhale and savor as I sip. I'm not fond of any strong acid tang in my tea, and just the fragrance of the oils is perfect for an icy glass. You think you can taste it.

It's all in the perception.

Believe it?

The "limes" above are berries from the tree over the patio, and the pink dish would not cover a penny.


We planted the tomatoes this morning, before breakfast. GrandBaby Girl arrived in her pajamas, and when her Daddy offered to help her Ganner get all the tomato plants into the pots, she was ready to get out there in the dirt.
We've had SUCH excessive rain that the entire downstairs has been a swamp, with getting out the shop vac and the blowers, putting down great squares of rubber-backed carpet for the little one to walk on, etc. So the sun today was a welcome change, and we dug in the dirt for a bit. Sweetpea and her little snub-nosed green watering can christened each plant with a tiny sprinkle, and then we came in for breakfast.
We got all washed up, and while I was getting everything ready for the table, I set the plate of strawberries on, and handed her the shaker of powdered sugar.
"Sprinkle a little of this all over the strawberries," I said. "You're a GOOD helper when I cook."
And she did her part, with a little neat (comparatively speaking) snowfall of white in clumps and scatters across the plate.
When we all sat down, we noticed that each and every strawberry had a teensy nip taken out of the end. Cook's Treat.
Can't wait for Summer---she REALLY likes tomatoes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Woodhue Pure parfum is a gorgeous long discontinued sultry fragrance. Top notes include orange accord, zesty bergamot, and citrus sparkle. Middle notes feature Jasmine Base notes are a blend of sandalwood accord, vanilla, Cedar, and musks

From an ad for a Vintage bottle of perfume---half full.

Does anyone remember Woodhue? To me, it says crisp cold nights, heading out for a date, wearing a skirt-and-sweater outfit and my mouton jacket, scented with the above “accords” and sparkles of the wonderful stuff which smells like if you opened a cedar chest in which you’d spilt a Watkins vanilla bottle some time earlier.---now THAT’S an accord. I loved it.

Chantilly was a second favorite---it was a bit stronger, heavy on the vanilla as well, and much like a too-flowery seat in a funeral parlor, but pleasant. Girls poured it on, and at parties and in church, the group of us radiated the sweetness of honeysuckle cookies.

Royal Secret became a definite covet when a beautiful young woman moved to our town and went to work in the same office as I. She was tall (I was not), very slender (ditto), and had long black hair and exquisite manners; she could make you laugh til you cried with her slightly-bawdy sense of humor, and we all just loved her. I just remember it smells elegantly sweet, and I longed for some for a long time, then wore it proudly, cause that was what beautiful, elegant Penny wore.

Shalimar is of equal sweetness to all the above, with notes of vanilla (perhaps the drawing-card of all the ones I’ve ever really liked---my first experiments with fragrance were furtive visits to the baking cupboard. When Mother or Mammaw weren’t looking, I’d dab a bit behind my ears and in the “crooks of my elbows” and sail off to third grade, confident in my beautiful aura and aroma).

I haven’t bought Shalimar since that day in the 80’s that the duck flew down the chimney and broke the fancy bottle in my bathtub. Cleaning up duck poo and broken glass can change your mind about a lot of things.

Joy was the fragrance my Mother wore most; she DID have a long Estee’ period somewhere in the Sixties, when the Lauder coffers were being enriched by every woman South of the M/D line. There were a few years in there, when in any southern gathering, or even in church, you could float heavenward on the pure '"Esty Law-der" fumes, unadulterated by any other scent save for Brut and Old Spice and old Mr. Godbold’s comb-over Vitalis.

Arpege I remember strongly---that being the operative word, for my very first week at college was spent in a haze of saturating fumes. We were there for Rush, and my roommate wore gorgeous clothes and a cloud of Arpege which preceded her down the hall and out into the world. I hid my face when she picked up the bottle, and after the interminable atomizer hiss, held my breath til I could flee out for air. It was WAY too much of a good thing, and I wondered that she was invited back anywhere after Ice Water.

And then, there was Intimate---take Arpege Girl and multiply her by twenty, all living on your hall. Mornings were a feverish rush to get awake, showered, and OUT of there, before you smothered, and running the gauntlet past twelve rooms, all with open doors exuding a miasma of Kents and Intimate---OH, my. It was like everybody was smoking cigars dipped in Aqua-Velva.

Intimate was the epitome of what my Daddy always said about some perfume: It smells LOUD.

Then there was the crème de la crème: Blue Waltz. Several of my friends wore it and I thought it smelled lovely. It was for sale in the drugstore, in Woolworth’s and in the local Ben Franklin---well within a child’s saving-up range. I would walk by and open a bottle, inhaling an appreciative sniff; I’d turn the bottle back and forth, admiring the almost-heart-shape of its squat little body. Once I even removed the cap from the big display bottle---that thing probably held a pint, and my hopes were dashed when it didn’t smell like anything at all---just colored water. I’d just known it was enough Blue Waltz to keep me in fragrant bliss for the rest of my life.

I dared to sneak a sample only once---a tiny furtive dab onto each wrist when Miss Hazel was busy making milkshakes----nobody in the store seemed to notice, and I walked out with a gleam in my eye and the confidence of Audrey Hepburn---I was GORGEOUS. And then, my Mother caught a whiff of my contraband, and I was in TROUBLE.

“I’ve TOLD you about that cheap trashy STUFF!” she said. “I’d better not EVER smell that tacky mess on you again!” And so was my one foray into the world of Blue Waltz. It remains, like the exquisite fruit at Goblin Market, a never-found-again grail, a never-equalled perfection.

And since all those, I’ve had brief fling with Giorgio, a slight flirtation with Design, and besides the above "dresser set" of Shalimat from Chris, the only bottle on my shelf today is my Daddy’s bottle of Obsession for Men. The afternoon he died, I walked out of his house with his watch on my wrist, his teeth in a baggie, and the plump bottle from his bathroom shelf. I took the teeth to the Funeral Director and gave the watch to my son, and I still go spritz a little whiff of the Obsession onto the shower curtain for remembrance, or onto my shoes, if I’m going out. Full circle back to my third-grade love affair with Vanilla.

I coulda just married the Watkins man.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


We've had steady storms and downpours and hardly-a-day-without-rain for what seems months now. We STILL haven't been able to get into that beautifully-tilled garden, now a great round lake, and these boxes of bulbs and baskets of seeds are languishing sadly.

Save for looking out the windows to see if any pairs of unicorns or dodos had been missed before we close the Ark doors, I've been mopping and soaking up damp carpets and trying to steer a lively little girl through the clear, dry paths snaking through most of the downstairs.

I found a few old posts from a recipe/cooking site I used to belong to; even to ME these sound over-the-top. Blame it on the company I kept, I suppose. When someone asked, "How do YOU Gild the Lily in the kitchen?"---I answered.

Sink the back of a spoon into a bowl of hot mashed potatoes, skins on or off; continue making a dozen or so little divots. Gently lay a pat of butter into each, Sprinkle top with crumbled bacon, chopped chives, snowing of cheese. Wait a moment for butter to melt into little golden lakes; carry it carefully to table.

Make a lovely cheeseburger to your own specifications, WITH a nice slice of chilled sweet onion. Garnish plate with about a dozen half-slices of cold crisp onion, which you will segment into crescents. salt lightly and eat crunchcrunch like chips, between bites of juicy burger.

Empty a can of Eagle Brand milk into a microwaveable bowl. Heat one minute, or til steamy. Stir in eight ounces of Valhrona dark, chopped, and a pinch of salt. Leave it alone another minute. Let it rest and get acquainted. Stir briskly until it coalesces into a silken, flowing mass of chocolate, folding back upon itself and beckoning with its shining wiles and enticing fragrance.

Spoon over ice cream. Lick the spoon. Dip fruit. Take a bite. Double dip.

If there are leftovers of the sauce, chill and dip onto parchment by teaspoons. Roll into truffles and do not tell that they're of such humble birth. Or reheat at midnight and eat without ice cream.

Make Stroganoff. Cut a cream cheese into one inch squares. Drop all over top of sauce; cover pot and leave five minutes. Stir cream cheese into sauce.

Do the same for a pot of cooked, drained potatoes; drop in a stick of butter and a whole cream cheese...put lid on, let soften, mash.

Make favorite brownie recipe; add a cup of chopped chocolate and pour into pan, reserving one cup. Stir reserved batter into 1 pack softened cream cheese--drop onto batter, swirl with tip of knife. Bake, cool, frost with chocolate frosting. Pipe lines of lighter or darker frosting on top; feather.

Make burritos, wraps, anything with flour tortillas. Serve with salsa, guacamole and Ranch. Hubby likes homemade "pink" dressing, made with mayo, ketchup, garlic, and a special-recipe vinegar/sugar spice mixture that we make by the quart. He likes it so well I smuggle a bottle of it into Mexican restaurants in my pocket.

Crisp-fry thin-sliced onions; drain, salt, and sprinkle on already-loaded baked potato.

Center bowls of chilled gazpacho with several spoonfuls of lump crabmeat or half a dozen peeled, tails-off shrimp. Center ANY hot soup with a dollop of sour cream, garnish of chives, grated cheese or buttered toast crumbs.

Kindergarten lunch: Give each child a slice of American cheese and to peel and center it in the bottom of an empty soup bowl. Allow them to tear it into fanciful shapes if they wish. Ladle in soup or chili.

On the above cheeseburger I mentioned: Five minutes before sitting down to the table, melt a pat of butter in a skillet, put the two halves of the bun cut-side down, leave for a few minutes to turn golden and crisp.

If doing more than one at a time, lay all tops or bottoms into butter, turn other half cut-side up on top to be heating, let crisp, reverse. We had these tonight, and our two guests kept telling Hubby what delicious burgers he grills. I can keep a secret.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I haven’t seen what I think of as my MIZPAH heart in a long time---a half-heart, actually. The charms were cut in half, with a little pointy border, and on most of them, the word MIZPAH was written on the little bas-relief banner, sheared neatly in half.

The hearts were quite popular, worn by two-halves-of-a-steady-couple, or by almost-engaged pairs, or even by married folks---she’d wear her half proudly with her sweater set, and he’d tuck his discreetly beneath his T-shirt.

The word MIZPAH, as we all knew from seeing it, half and whole, meant “The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another.” But mine did not say that---it had the cryptic message "BE FRI," since it had been bought in conjunction with my best friend, on one of the MidSouth Fair trips we took together.

We’d been to Memphis to the regular school-day-out “Mississippi Day” for all our lives, most usually together, with one set of parents or the other, seeing the exhibits, marveling at the artistry and the craft of all those women whose quilts and pickles were so beautifully and artfully done. We’d strolled the MidWay countless times, repeatedly riding the TumbleBug, which would shake your bones and send you rocketing up against the thighs and sides of perfect strangers as it whirled your hair-do horizontal and your stomach sidewise.

We never DID ride the Pippin---the oldest rickety wooden roller-coaster outside Coney Island, I imagine. Even we, foolhardy and fourteen, did not trust the safety of that clattery thing---we’d STOOD beneath it as it roared overhead, the whole structure like a great nest of graying garden lattice, and you could SEE the nails shake in the peeled-paint holes. We’d waste several perfectly good hours of “fair-time” just sitting in the shade, looking pretty, or with the sun on our shining hair, tossing our ponytails and laughing gaily at imaginary jokes for the benefit of any boys walking by.

And the year we saw Elvis---up close and personal---that’s a story for another time.

The little half-hearts were quite popular in those days, coming along in the wake of the “mustard seed” craze---I also had one of those charms on my charm bracelet. And so, passing the booth of bright brassy gewgaws, chains swaying in the breeze from passersby and the clatter of the Pippin, we stopped and chose one. Since we’d seen all the MIZ and PAH swinging on the necks of so many boy/girl pairs, we got the one which said BEST FRIENDS.

We’d been friends-since-four, when I moved down the street from her big ole green house in town. We were walk-over friends, strolling into each other’s screen doors as if they were our own, and shared our love of books and music and piano lessons and perhaps a crush on a cute boy or two.

And we had our names “engraved” on the backs---skewed script almost run off the edge by the vibrations of that electric pen in the thin-squint man’s shaky hand. My half said, “BE FRI,” by mere chance of his grabbing that one first and scrawling my name on; hers got the most letters, and the oddest message, “ST ENDS,” which we thought hilarious, and even now makes me smile. We said it looked like a beat-up road sign, and it sounds to me today like the setting of a murder mystery with a plump little nosy woman as the village detective.

We wore them proudly to school the next day---not nearly as unique and clever as we’d thought, for half the girls there had parted with some of their Fair Money for the same tinkly garish things. We didn’t wear them for too long, for they soon fulfilled their destinies of making our necks green and our fingers smell like old pennies, but the friendship lasted way past high school. She went off to Nursing School in Memphis and I to Ole Miss, and we corresponded and both went home for a lot of weekends and caught up.

We both married, had children, saw each other when she’d come back from Arizona to visit her parents. I still miss her bright smile and her infectious laugh, and I think of her often, as my MIZPAH Friend.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Today's post was written by Chris, yesterday afternoon while the scent of smoke and Spring were drifting down the stairs. He'd remarked that the chicken was "lookin' mighty good," and went up to take a picture or two. When he returned, I asked if he'd just sit down and write the steps and the method to this family favorite---we've been known to have four to six of these beauties beneath the lid of the Weber, as we gather the clan and set the tables outdoors.

Mahogany Chicken begins with real charcoal, preferably Kingsford brand. Real charcoal is the only way to go. Gas is something you put in your gas tank to go get your charcoal. Your chicken should be a fryer size of about 4 lbs. When you wash and dress or trim your chicken make sure the body cavity is open to allow the heat access to the inside.

A chicken of this size will cook completely in approximately one hour in a good kettle grill as shown in the picture. The chicken will cook more evenly if indirect heat is used. You can see from the picture that my grill has two charcoal compartments that keep the heat to the sides.
The kettle design will direct the heat in a circular enveloping pattern that will cook the chicken without burning.

I turn the chicken once in the one hour's time it takes to cook. I also keep a small pan of water between my charcoal containers. The water boils the entire time. This keeps the chicken moist and tender. As long as the water boils the chicken can not dry out. Keep in mind that every charcoal grill is different and cooking time can vary.

If you want a real smoke flavor you can put a couple hands full of wood chips on the coals when you first put your chicken on the grill. Make sure the flames from the chips are not directly under the chicken.

Your bird will be done and ready for the sauce when the legs move freely. I put the sauce on both sides of the bird about five minutes before it comes off the grill. Make sure you keep the bird between the charcoal or the sugar in the sauce will burn. You can sauce the bird twice in five minute intervals if you like a lot of sauce.

If properly done the leg meat will pull off the bones and the wings will slide off easily. The trick is to not overcook the chicken.

Indirect heat in a good kettle grill, boiling water for moisture and a good sauce make for a nice tender juicy bird. Add a fresh Vidalia onion sandwich, baked beans and a cold glass of tea and try to save room for some dessert. Supper’s ready.
I'd already made a little skillet of "baked" beans---sauteed onion and bell pepper, glugs of the same Sweet Baby Ray's that went onto the chicken, a little brown sugar, and two leftover Turkey Brats, grilled earlier in the week, cut into teensy dice. A little Tupperware of Potato Salad, with Special Syrup, celery seeds and lots of mustard, and my part was done.
And it WAS "Mighty Good" chicken---meltingly tender and slipping from the bones.
Summer's coming---time for GRILLING! (To Chris, any time is grilling time!)
PS Later in the day: I just clicked to enlarge on the picture of the whole grill---you see that SECOND SET of little chrome legs just behind the legs of the Maroon grill??
That's the STAND-BY black Weber kettle, just in case . . .

Friday, May 14, 2010


Not-quite-sunny this morning---hope the yard guys can get the cleanup and mowing done tomorrow after this week's thunder-and-windstorms. The whole yard is full of sticks, twigs, and fallen leaves, and the patio is much the same, with the addition of bee-jillions of tiny green berries from the enormous tree overhead. They hitch a ride into the house and downstairs on your shoe-treads, and then catch you unawares in your sock feet---ouch.

And we still haven't put a seed in the garden. DS got it tilled almost three weeks ago, and it looked perfect on Saturday when he finished---I could not wait to get going with all the big basket of seeds (not to mention the twelve boxes of assorted bulbs which Caro gave me for an EARLY MD gift so we could get them put out---they're still in the bag, patiently awaiting the planting). The rains have not been every day, but they have been fulsome and persistent, so that wading into that big circle of turned earth would mean a cloddy mess and lost shoes.

So here we wait, for the drying and the sun.

Breakfast with tee-ninecy banana-nut muffins---the little bags of Martha White just-add-milk-or-water mixes are excellent, and one bag makes six regular or the tiny dozen muffins. Two minutes to get them in the oven, and they're out when the bacon's finished. I measure the milk into the big Pyrex measuring cup, dump in the mix, and just stir it up from the bottom. The handy pour-lip and a rubber spatula, and the filling of the tiny wells of the pan is easy-peasy.

And a lovely lemon-chess pie into the oven this cool morning---it perfumes the whole house with the zest and sweet sugary smells. Pay no attention to that raggedy crust---I roll it VERY thin so that it stays very crispy and crunchy all around.

And that's about it, except for the dishes and the dryer calling my name. But not very loudly. If I listen carefully, there's just a whisper in the distance, like echoing bells receding into the forever, whilst on this cloudy day, all these lovely colorful blogs of sunshine in the South and other people's pretty houses and parties and dishes are a welcome clamor.

And I must answer. Happy Weekend, Everyone!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Random quotes written in my journal---they are the words of bloggers, friends, people whom I'll never know and whose words have touched a place in my heart, or caused a smile with their wit or their cleverness or their own heart-felt thoughts.

But motherhood is NOTHING like the card isle at Target AnitaO at Women's Colony

You all, I have just about decided after years of observation…there in not much ,a team, of determined men can’t do if they have backhoe. Gloria Christensen, of the Hinds County Gazette.

Everyone has their way of doing things...I listened to my heart with mine. Not what others told me. Dr. Spock was a great guide for many things..but otherwise..I raised mine by heart. My friend Mona, of Wspr Sweetly, on Raising Children

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company. Unknown

I just took my camera in hand and walked around my yard, for there is where my simple beauty lies. Molly in her yard at sunrise. Read more:

I cook big, so I need company to eat it all. Jeanne @ Backyard Neighbor

On her own Mother: You might root for her, but you wouldn’t post bail...too risky. Mrs. G., of The Women's Colony

And drivin’ out to Antoine’s, for the Sunday Eggs Sardou . . .line that will fit into a poem or a country song someday---scribbled down months ago by me.

When I make a sandwich, after I put the two halves together, I give it a little pat.
KEETHA of WriteKudzu

And from Stephen King, from The Shawshank Redemption, in one of the brightest spots in a grim-spotted movie, of prison and of gray and of the beating-down of the humanity within. Andy Dufresne, convicted of murders he did not commit, had been given the task of administering the prison library.

He took on the small, dim space, with its creaky book-cart of handworn, many-times-read books and its dusty corners, and by writing to organizations and pestering the state legislature with something like a letter-a-week requesting funding, he was sent boxes of used books and records.

On one particular day, the guard stepped out for a moment, and Andy took out a big old slick black record from its worn sleeve, set it on the turntable, started it playing, and turned on the intercom/public address system for the whole prison---house and yard.

The men elbow-deep in hot laundry suds stopped their labor; the kitchen cooks and the machine shop grease-monkeys and the floor-moppers and the guards all looked up in wonderment as those silvery notes floated out over the gray walls and bare-trodden yard, as if they were seeing the very angels in the air who voiced the melody.

And Red, who was Andy's best friend---a pragmatic old lifer played by Morgan Freeman (imagine that rich, honey-syrup voice narrating the words), says:

I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it.

I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was as if some beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I SO apologize to all who have been trying to comment, and who have found a glitchy spot in the works of this magical machinery.
I've had several e-mails about having trouble getting the comments to work, and I do hope that whatever it is or was, it will be resolved soon. I LOVE hearing from everyone, and I hate that you've had problems with this.
I've encountered that several times, usually on the same blogs, and it's very frustrating to try and try, getting the same old can't-do-it results. I DO hope you won't give up!!
And I've been having problems myself, with two of the blogs I check in on every day---Colorado Lady and The Women's Colony. For the past few days, both of them are nothing but a great expanse of page, with the whole shebang of the content condensed into a two-inch margin smushed off to the side, with just enough of the pictures and words to be tantalizing, and the rest just out of reach.

I'm gonna get Chris to have a look at all of this when he gets back.
And PLEASE let me know if you're having trouble---I treasure each and every comment and e-mail from all of you.

Speaking of the not-getting-through: Does anyone know what happened to Alice of Tea In My Cup? She had the most wonderful little vignettes and recipes and plans every day for all different kinds of tea parties, with enchanting photos and all sorts of welcoming occasions.

She suddenly said, "I'll be back soon," and never returned. For almost a year, I'd still go to the site every now and then, and look my eyes full of a Christmas Tea or a Baby Shower Tea, or a wonderful celebration of a birthday or anniversary, but all of a sudden, the site says "You are not authorized."

It's nothing personal, of course, for she probably did not realize I was ever there, but it's sad to lose such a wonderful site, with no recovering the beautiful of it. And I'd really like to know if she's Okay---I hope she's still hostessing, still preparing those dainty viands and exquisitely-set tables. It would be nice to know it's still there. Somewhere.

I hope she knows how much I enjoyed it, and how much I miss her.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Spring memories of my Mammaw are of fresh-turned earth, upturned by her little hand-plow, lots of small green things beginning their upsurge into the garden and flowerbeds, and the fresh clean scent of her Ivory-Snow-washed dresses, clean and crisp in the morning's heat. She was my most definite and positive maternal figure, and a lot of my memories of her center around the kitchen.

I don't think I've repeated a post during the year-and-a-half I've been posting, but this one came to mind when I was reminiscing about Mammaw just now, and it carries a great deal of our relationship in it---the closeness, the little and big chores done together, and the sweet, bright memories I have of her.

This image is from the Internet, and I cannot believe I found it---I know those are lemon drops, but squint just a LITTLE bit, and imagine that they're tee-ninecy little fingertip squeezes of crushed pineapple, set just SO into the little daisy petals, and you'll be looking at the cake I'll remember for all time.

This memory of Mammaw has a bright yellow hue, of the kitchen walls and the hot afternoon sun through the uncurtained windows, the egg yolks, the exotic pineapple, and the big Pyrex mixing bowl. I hope that all my family will someday read and savor and try to capture that lovely, sweet-scented, sunlit essence of baking with my Mammaw:

In the big Hoosier cabinet, redolent of vanilla and spices and good baked things, there was always that three-layer pineapple cake with 7-Minute, waiting on that same battered shelf every day of my young life. Mammaw made one every Friday afternoon, after she had cleaned up the noon-dinner dishes and mopped the kitchen floor. I got to sift the flour from the built-in sifter in the cabinet, and measure it out, along with the baking powder, sugar, salt and soda. And sometimes I would go out to the chicken yard for four fresh orange-yolked eggs (a MUST for cakes---they made the layers a lovely deep gold).

She'd crank up the big old Sunbeam mixer and get that cake in the oven in ten minutes flat. The whites would go into the top of the double boiler with cream of tartar, water and sugar, to be beaten every minute of the seven minutes. I did the careful timing, watching the little red second hand of the old white Bakelite Philco clock as it made its slow journey. The runny, slimy whites mixed into a magical, creamy concoction the glossy-white of mountain snow (though I had never seen any, save on the insurance-company calendar placed yearly over the same lighter-than-the-rest rectangle on the kitchen wall).

A "tall can" of Del Monte crushed pineapple was drained in the big strainer and further squeezed as dry as possible by hand. The layers were placed one by one on the big round platter and sprinkled with the pineapple syrup, then smeared with the white frosting. Onto the frosting went tiny fingertip dabs of the pineapple, little clumps all over the surface. All the layers were stacked this way, then a final coat of the frosting, with the requisite swirls and curlicues, with the last of the pineapple dabbed all over the top.

The Friday-night cake was elegant and beautiful, its golden layers falling tenderly beneath the knife. The Sunday cake was a little disheveled, with its frosting beginning to droop a bit, and the little pineapple divots sinking further into the snowy cushion. By Monday, the frosting had taken on the receding look of Winter's last snowfall, with craters and show-throughs and bits of brown crumb emerging through the white, but the taste just got better and better, the layers moister and more flavorful.

The Midweek cake, what there was left of it, was still standing, though the layers were listing to one side, testament to their valiant days of patience in the dark of that cupboard; the frosting was just bits and crumbs of crystals, sugary crunches that fell prey to all passing fingers. The crumbs left on the platter were gummy and drying, better than the best bar cookies or lemon squares or chess diamonds.

Thursday night, the scrape of fork tines claimed the last rich, fruit-essenced bits, and the week was done. Friday was cake day, and all was right with the world.