Tuesday, August 31, 2010


When we parted ways in the late afternoon, coming out into that glaring sun, we went to check in at our hotel. My heartfelt wish centered around a cool shower, so that was first on my agenda, while Chris changed into fresh clothes and lay down to read. Out and refreshed and dressed in fresh cottons, I sat down for a bit, as well, and poured us glasses of that good iced tea in the jug in the cooler, for the dinner was all ready and waiting for our guests to arrive.

They came in with a “cooler” of their own---a big Styrofoam cold-box holding four bags of frozen blueberries, a box of fresh raspberries and one of figs, a jar of raspberry freezer jam, and one of regular jam. They’d already shown me the dried figs and cinnamon apple slices---all of the above from their own garden and trees---and the enormous can of Virginia peanuts they’d brought, as well as a loaf of zucchini bread. What generous friends we have!

We talked for a while, and they showed us on their laptop where all we’d be the next day, for the route of the Iron Man Competition was marked out. As they were planning to get up at four, and be at the Great Lawn by the river by six as the athletes warmed up for the dive into the river, and since they planned to take a shuttle down to LaGrange, where the bike race would wind through town, they said we’d do better just to wait and meet them later in LaGrange.

That settled, I took the Tupperwares out of the ice in the cooler, and we had supper---Shrimp and Farfalle salad with julienned red and gold peppers and a Cajun mayo; Chicken/Apple salad in Pita Pockets; Spinach Tortillas with a spread of cream cheese, chopped Sultanas, garlic chives and sunflower seeds, then a layer of baby spinach leaves laid on before rolling and slicing into “wraps.” There were celery sticks to go with the peanut butter/Tupelo honey dip, some really crunchy “Garden Cheddar” goldfish (wonder where they pick those?), grapes, and slices of pound cake. We had big icy glasses of the tea, and since they’d brought a gallon of Ben’s famous scuppernong wine, Chris sampled that, as well.

I set it all out on a long cloth made by rolling out paper towels onto the little bar/dresser thing, and the guys sat in the two chairs, while Lil and I sat cross-legged on the bed and we all ate our supper. It was cold salads, mind you, for a hot day’s lunch in the shade of a picnic area, eaten at suppertime in a decidedly un-picnicky cool hotel room, but they seemed to like it. Friends you can sit barefooted and comfortable on a hotel bed and eat dinner with---those don’t just come along every day.

They left before dark, for they had to set an EARLY alarm clock. I wondered if all the athletes were already slumbering, resting up for the morrow, or if the excitement and anticipation kept them gazing expectantly into the dark like warriors on the eve of battle.

And so we leave them, those Iron Men and Women, those modern-day carriers of the torches bright as the first Olympians held, these perfectly-trained, impossibly-honed young folks with determination in their eyes and a great fire in their bellies, for the victory, for the sheer DOING of the thing, which makes us all the better for their valor and their courage. We’ll leave them to sleep their strengthening, restful sleep (if they can), until their own alarms chime the call to the race.

Details of our Sunday at the Race to come in September.

Monday, August 30, 2010


We arrived in Louisville a little before noon on Saturday, keeping in phone contact with our friends awaiting us in the shade of the big cluster of buildings which make up the Kentucky State Fair.

This was my first Fair all-on-concrete---we even PARKED on concrete, walking acres to the exhibits, rather than parking in what amounts to a field like here and back home---the buildings stretched WAY to the right and WAY to the left, housing almost everything we toured.

It was an odd Fair to me, accustomed to the heat-and-bustle of the Mid-South Fair, with its scents of the cattle barns and the aromas of the food kiosks, the outdoor scrambles and passings and the all-day glare of the Memphis sun, with the rattly racket of the Pippin punctuating the day like an old train on rickety tracks.
There was where we used to make our way through the Midway and the outdoor activities to the few cool spots---the indoor exhibits, the quilts and pickles, the wedding cakes, the half-ton pumpkins and the endless plates of vegetables and gourds and seeds, as well as the long table-filled buildings with sellers of honey and woodcarvings, cheap gadgets and Posturepedics.

And now later, the past twenty years of Fairs here in Indy have been the same---a little less heat, perhaps, but all the same scents and exhibits and proud young sequined singing groups and hearty cloggers giving their all to the floor in their matching T’s and bouncing rhythms, with the music of the midway clashing with the barkers’ cries and the have-to-shout-to-talk of the milling crowds. We flow through the clusters of food brokers like water past rocks, smelling every fried food scent in the history of Time---some in the same eternal grease---with the enticing signs and even-more compelling aromas; we ponder the jars of jewelly jam, the jar-aquariumed pickles and okra and squash; we long to touch the fabric of the intricate quilts and wedding dresses, caress the softness of the tiny knit booties and hats.

But the Kentucky Fair was almost ALL indoors.

In the great heat of noon-time and the absence of any shade or place to sit with our picnic, we voted to save the packed lunch for our supper, and we had lunch in a BBQ tent, right next to the big one with the kickin’ band and the Margaritas almost flowing out the tent flap---great fun atmosphere all around us.
Chris and Lil opted for the Brisket Sandwich and all the fixin's:

And Ben and I had the Pulled Pork Sandwich (What Else WOULD You Have, when you can get it?)

The lunch was surprisingly tasty, considering their venue, (and come to think of it, I swear my chair sat on GRASS---the only spot of green all day). There were passable beans and very nice potato salad, a deli-case slaw (but a necessary ON for the sandwich---it’s the LAW). A great pile of shredded raw onion sat unwanted in the corner of the cardboard container, perfuming the air with its sharp redolence, and adding just the right SOMETHING to the savor, though never actually consumed.
We all had strong, sharp soft drinks, no stint to the carbonation and flavoring, with the remembered tongue-sting of a real, glass-bottle Co-Cola, fished from the icy depths of an old-fashioned tub cooler and upended for those first few throat-tingling gulps.
We walked and looked, strolling and veering around crowds and strollers and big bags of souvenirs carried by a great cosmos of humanity, daring the sweat of the outdoors, enjoying the Summer entertainment and admiring the work of others’ hands.

The oddest thing was that even the kine and horses and pigs were ensconced in big hermetic cool-rooms, vast as arenas. But on the next-to-last day, not even the hay-strewn floors and the chill of the air could eclipse the overwhelming aura of sheep and goats and cows, too long on concrete and too far from home. We picked our way through puddles and droppings and all sorts of muddle on the floors, wishing there were grass outside to give that old-fashioned shuffle-scrub to our shoe soles. Mine, luckily a garish pair of green-rubber clogs, are outside sun-drying right now, after sitting in a Clorox bath in the laundry room.

It was just so strange to be there, to be entering the big wheeze-shut doors, to step into a bright-lit, tile-floored building which could just as easily host a Shriner’s convention or a convocation of purposeful WMU ladies with their purses firmly on their arms. The juxtaposition of so many animals in their own cubicle-warrens with their owners staying there for the two weeks was oddly the same, with their mattresses stacked Pea-Princess deep in one empty stall. A pair of little girls in a stanchion-cordoned small “room” bounced on tiny mis-matched beds and sat cross-legged to play a hand-clap game in their personal rectangle among all the others imprisoning sheep and their haypiles. The fluorescent cool spaces of a convention hall were a bit mind-bending as we walked barnish aisles and quickly escaped all that farm essence.
The prize winning Blue-Ribbon Half-Ton Pumpkin---the lighting doesn't do justice to the creamy peach of the colors, like a perfect, ripe persimmon on a stark November tree:

And Gourds and Vegetables:

I did not make these pictures---they were provided by our dear hosts, as Chris didn’t take along a camera. I hate that we didn’t get a picture of it, for the Best In Show quilt was, indeed, a show-stopper---it was a free-hand marvel of swoops and swirls and appliqué and too many fabric patterns to count, all in a wonderful kaleidoscope of hand-made ribbons and cutwork and 3-D and peacock swirls, with a flirty half-fringe of sash-sewn fabric swagged down. It was one of those things you have to look at in sections, and you remember it in sections, somehow, with no way to put the whole scene into your mind all at once.

This was a great Fair, winding down like a grand party with the bouquets slightly wilting and the canapes soggy there at the end---a wonderful thing of purpose and talent and pride, with the tired hosts eager to turn out the lights and go home. And it was just DIFFERENT from the outdoor stuff we’re used to.

We parted ways late in the afternoon, to meet later at our hotel, where we had our picnic supper.

And of that, moiré non.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


We're home again---sunbrowned and Faired out, glad to get into the shower and comfy cottons after our two days in the Kentucky Sunshine. I've a crick in my neck from LOOKING LEFT as most of those 3000 bike riders passed us, and I think I've invented a new ailment---surely this stiffness in my right wrist must be Cowbell Tunnel Syndrome.

Lovely weekend, lovely friends---too much to tell, so Moire non,


Saturday, August 28, 2010


In the South, we’ve had “peeps” for centuries---our People---those who came before, those who are kin, those who define us and care about us and love us and put up with us through thick and thin---they are the rocks and the concrete we’ve built our history on.

On first meetings, we don’t ask about your family---the boldest ask who your PEOPLE are---who they’re descended from, where they settled, and are your Jamisons kin to the Jamisons in Lauderdale County?

At a gathering, a stranger may be eyed for a bit, with a hushed word amongst the older ladies---Not so much “She’s FROM Georgia,” but in the vein of “I think her people are mostly in Georgia.”

Or, “I can vouch that she comes from lovely people,” alongside, “His people are known to be on the trashy side.” Or “Her people won’t have a THING to do with her since . . .”
Of course, a dowager will raise herself to her full height and pronounce, “MY FAMILY is from xxxx,” living for the name and the provenance, but still she’ll wonder about other folks’ people.

We have quite a few of our own People, the generations before mostly delineated in all the
Family Forest posts last year. And they're not all of our lineage; our bloodline people are firmly THERE on the tree, but the Heart-People, the acquired people, the people of marriages and friendships and little children born not of our blood, but of our hearts. Five of the GRANDS that I talk about are technically "steps" to me, and three to Chris,---but that's not a part of our thinking or of our vocabulary.

We're just Family, all together, and that's the way it's always been---these seven little pieces of our hearts out there walking around---and I cannot think of them except as OURS.

And friends---several deep friendships make those folks our People, as well, lived tried and true through childhoods, through milestones and through good solid times together. Today, we're going to meet two of those friends---we'll spend the weekend talking and walking the Fair, having a picnic, going out to dinner, watching one of their own compete in the hardest athletic competition there is. And we're all proud of him.

We DO need People. We're born to some; others are born to us. The ones who choose us---well, that's just the best Lagniappe in Life that there is.


We're AWAAAAAAY to the Fair!

Hope your weekend is COOL, in every sense.

Friday, August 27, 2010


You know, having children and grandchildren will change your mind and your habits about a lot of things. Not the least of these is the range of household products you seem to adopt when there’s a little one in the house---gentler cleaners, vinegar-rinses, softer scrubs, and then there’s THIS:

We started using it when Our Girl was born, for it was easier just to toss tiny soiled clothes in our washer here, than to send a messy bag home every day. And for this three years, we’ve been doing all our laundry with this same stuff. My grocery list usually has “Pink Top” as one of the items, and we all know what the code means.

I’ve also decreased the coffers of Bath and Body Works and all their plethora of scents and lotions and washes, by jumping ship because I’ve become addicted to the gentle demeanor and soft suds of these:

Though they come in original, vanilla, shea butter, citrus and cucumber/melon, all of which are on the shower ledge, the lavender is my favorite, and I keep a stock of the baby wash and the lotion.

I never DID care for the smell of baby oil or that insipid pink lotion which was all you could buy when my children were babies, but these are delightful and gentle and about a quarter of the price of all those specialty products from the bath stores. Of course, the original item is always in the shower, as well:

Chris swears by the shampoo, and his hair always smells the same as that sweet little-girl head I kiss every time we have the blessing---a soft, clean lavender. I like the shampoo, as well, but every now and then I like to vary it with a stronger type---a REAL shampoo, sorta like a little spa treatment, to keep the follicles on their toes.

We’ll never give up our Safeguard, as long as it’s available, but we’ve completely turned to the Baby Stuff for all our other shower items. What's nicer than the scent of clean babies?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


We had a lovely day together yesterday, with many forays out and about, walking around the neighborhood, stepping out the gate to visit our nearest neighbor, whose grandson was trimming her hedges and removing a few errant limbs from her backyard trees. He’s a nice young man, his tall stature usually causing Our Girl to become bashful and come running to bury her face in my apron, so to speak. She didn’t care for the hum of the trimmers, but when she saw him put together the two long poles with the little curved snip-saw on the end, she was so engrossed she walked right up to him to watch.

He snipped a few twigs, a few leafy little spriglets from up and down the trunk, and she asked if she could help---he showed her how to hold the rope and pull it to operate the blades, and she trimmed two small snips before I called her away so he could do his work. She was vastly proud of her labors, and told everyone she saw that she “cut limbs.”

We watered all the backyard flowers, giving the hostas a long cold drink, and she manned the big green watering-can, getting a couple of cups of water at a time from the hose, and giving the sidewalk more than she gave the flowers. Then her play in the water turned to standing in front of me, running her hands through the stream of water, and becoming thoroughly soaked, shorts and shirt. We came into the cool house, and I ran her a warm lavender bubble bath in her little yellow tub, where she played until I had lunch on the table.

A long nap whilst I put on a big pot of snap beans with sauteed onion and little chunks of ham, made a pot of mac & cheese with one of those packs of grated “four Italian cheeses” and just a little cheddar for color, and steamed a pack of baby carrots to glaze. About twenty minutes before we sat down, I added a couple of cups of tiny-cut potato cubes atop the beans, to steam tender and stir through the dish to absorb the flavors of all that good pot liquor.

Our son came by after work to do some straightening on the patio, for some of the bathroom-redo debris was still out there, and so Our Girl and her Mommy and Daddy stayed for supper.

I had chicken wings brining to fry, and was kinda dreading adding that heat to the kitchen right before we sat down to supper. Chris called en route home and said he had to run in Sam’s for a pack of printer paper, and Light-Bulb-Moment! So he brought two of the wonderful rotisserie chickens, which we really enjoyed with our vegetables and lots of the fresh red tomatoes from the garden.

I just don’t know of a more convenient, easier addition to a meal, especially when the group expands, and it’s WAY preferable to heating the oven and kitchen for a couple of hours. It’s also VERY inexpensive---$4.99 each, and comparing a plain old raw chicken in most grocery stores, plus the rub and roasting time at home---you just can’t beat the price. Convenience notwithstanding, it’s my very favorite takeout, of ANY kind. All that salty delicious seasoning cooked in and through the perfectly-cooked, tender chicken, and the jus in the bottom of the dish makes a lovely anointment for plain white rice.

And I'll make chicken salad tomorrow for Saturday's picnic.

I guess I’ll be frying up those chicken wings for supper tonight---he’s always preferred the little second-limb, with its tender stretch of muscles, and I like the drumettes. He pulls the two pieces apart, I pour the tea, and we serve our plates. Good team, we are.

Miz Sprat signin' off.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I had the sweetest, most charming e-mail from my friend Keetha at writekudzu this week. I'd enjoyed her blogging about plans for her wedding last year---all the preparations, and then the actual day, with all its lovely Southern traditions and wonderful food and decor. It was a beautiful occasion, and I felt as if I'd been there.
And though we’ve never met, perhaps so did Keetha:

Hi Rachel,
I hope you don't find this creepy but I had a dream the night before last that you were in! I dreamed I was getting ready for my wedding (which was last May!). It was the wedding day when I remembered I hadn't ordered any flowers for the wedding. None! No bouquets, no arrangements, not even for a bit of tulle on the railing outside. My mother was *not* happy with me atall. Then I saw you there and I said, "Oh, Rachel, yay!" I told my mother, "Look, there's Rachel. I bet she can help."

While planning the wedding I had a number of dreams about forgetting to get in touch with a florist, or a cake baker, and remembering it on the wedding day. I haven't had one of those in a while, and this is the first one I've had with you in it. :-)

In my dream, I told my mother that I kept dreaming about doing this very thing - forgetting to order flowers. I was almost in tears because I wanted, if nothing else, THAT WHITE TULLE on the black wrought iron railing outside.
How funny.

Just had to share that bit with you!

All my best,


Oh, Sweetpea!!! What an honor!!

And I'm sure I was svelte and gorgeous, looking no-older-than-thirty-six, with sweepy-long eyelashes and shining auburn hair. (That's who I am in MY dreams).

Your wedding was simply charming, and I remember it so well---your words and pictures took us ALL there, as you so-graciously made us all welcome. I still think of that enormous sideboard with all the lovely strawberries and cheese straws, and that table with the wonderful traditionally-Southern repast.You were both absolutely glowing---the way you were looking at each other, and the way his face was all lit up with the marvel of you---it just shone through the photos.

I've always heard that when you've been to college, you will occasionally have a dream of having never attended one particular class you've signed up for---you just never did go, never got a book, never took a note, and NOW it's exam time, and you're sunk. It's something about that first real responsibility for yourself dawning, I think, after all those years under your parents' roof.

And yours was the responsibility for all the facets of your wedding---even the longing for the tulle STILL made it one of the least needfuls for the wedding---even with NO flowers, folks just would have thought "how elegantly simple and graceful" or some other pleasant thought (no Mrs. Elton with her "shocking lack of satin" remarks). So even in your dreams, you had everything really important covered.

I, however, dream of No Punch. I'm perfectly composed; the work is done, the cake and food are glorious, my staff stands lined up or busy in the kitchen, neatly uniformed, with every spoon and every rosebud in place. The car doors are slamming, the crowd is heard laughing and talking merrily in the vestibule of the Club, and THERE'S NO PUNCH. Or tea or wine or champagne or ANY kind of beverage, because I didn't bring any.

I don't know if they didn't order it and I neglected to mention it, or if I left it at home in the big fridge (thirty or two hundred miles away) or if I just forgot to make a single drop. So what does that tell you? Wonder what a psychiatrist would make of that one . . .
Anybody else have a recurring dream which means nothing, but kinda does?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


My friend Kim answered quite a few of the Southernisms on last week’s post. The translations---Kim’s words in italics; other words mine:

Nabs are cheese/PB or cheese/cheese crackers. With a Tab, they are the busy secretaries’ lunch of choice.

Crawdads are crayfish.

Spicket – is that a faucet (spigot?)?
Yep. "Naw, naw!! Don't bother puttin' ice in it---spicket water will be jes' fine!"

Slopjar – ick.
Slopjar---the under-the-bed nighttime convenience for those who didn’t have indoor plumbing. My Mammaw’s was on a tiny bench in a curtained-off corner by the back door, and I’ve carried that thing out to the privy for emptying many a time, making a detour past the junkhouse faucet to give it a good sluicing with a dab of Clorox and lots of cold water before taking it back to the house.

Lightbread – Wonderbread. Store-bought bread---a gourmet item to families whose bread consisted of the heavier, more rustic homemade cornbread and biscuits. Occasionally a pan of homemade rolls would make its way to the table, on VERY special occasions.

A childhood friend used to love to spend the night with me, for we almost always had toast for breakfast---she equated that to luxurious fare, for in her family of ten, her Mama turned out several dozen biscuits every morning to feed that large brood. And homemade biscuits were a luxury to ME.

Sweetmilk white milk. When everyone had a cow, there were always two kinds of milk in the house---sweetmilk and buttermilk, hence the long-lasting spoken distinction, carried on even into store-bought days.

Settee – couch/sofa.

Beauty shop – hairdressing salon.

Piddlin’ – negligible
. Kim’s right about the “negligible”---“Why you want to waste time on that piddlin’ little ole thing?”

It’s also a term for frittering away time, or doing tiny chores or just finding something to do---sorta what Dr. Phil would call “wastin’ daylight.” Lots of men think of it as just "Gettin' out of the house."

Phone call: “Hay. What y’all doin’ today?”

“Just piddlin’.”

Doo-hickey – thingamagig. How’d I do? And what else would you call a washing machine?

You know your Southernisms. Today's casual reference to 'washer and dryer' has only recently reached way into the Deep South, and still the word "BENDIX," referring to all washers, lingers in some older speech, as does "HOOVER" for vacuum cleaner. And in earlier days, to have acquired a "wringer washer" was an envious feat indeed, and usually the only time the word "machine" was not appended.

Galluses---suspenders---a word usually used by older men. Our neighbor’s parents used to spend Summers with her when I was a child, and her daddy loved to read as much as I did. He’d come to our back door in his usual garb of seersucker pants, an old-man undershirt, and his galluses, asking, “You got any more of those Perry Masons?”

Gettin’ your beauty struck---having your picture taken
Cho-cho---An ice-cream-on-a-stick, vanilla dipped in chocolate

Locus’ Cicadas, the long-whirring, loud-buzzing accompaniment to many a lawn party, most notably known in our family for drowning out most of the sound in our wedding video

Git-fiddle any musical instrument with strings

Hammerjack woodpecker

And a Snake-Doctor is, for some obscure reason known only to long-ago Southern children, a Dragonfly.

Monday, August 23, 2010


The weekend was a nice one, with a couple of invitations out---we went to a Golden Anniversary Tea in the afternoon on Saturday, and it was so good to see our old friends on their happy milestone day. They were surrounded by their family and a lot of friends, and were just glowing with the happiness of it all.

We went on from there for a bit of birthday shopping for our two littlest Grands, who will both turn three in the next couple of weeks. A few books, a DVD or two, a Tinkerbell doll and some POWER trucks, as well as a pretty little tea set---all plastic, with bowls and plates and “silverware” as well as the pot and cups. We'll have many a late-afternoon Winter tea with those---pretend and real.

On to Chris’ favorite catfish place for dinner---quite a nice one. They have a buffet on Saturday night, and the Southern cookin’ is quite authentic---snap beans cooked down LOW with little cubes of ham and onion, real mac&cheese, baked with crumbs on top, fried chicken and panko-fried shrimp and some quite-nicely-done asparagus in a lemony sauce, as well as a delightful spinach salad on the salad bar---mushrooms and craisins and pine nuts scattered in, and old-fashioned poppyseed dressing. A quiet evening of TV when we returned home.

We met Our Girl and her Mommy and Daddy for brunch yesterday, and enjoyed a leisurely meal; I do think she would have cheerfully come right on home with us. We gave her the Tinkerbell after we ate---last year’s flurry of presents-all-at-once was a bit too much for her, for she’d be so delighted with one thing, only to have it whisked away to open the next. So, she will be getting a few little things along, then an item or two at her party.

On Caro’s days off, she cooks her meals-for-the-week. Most of her Glad-boxes snugged into the fridge hold grilled chicken and tomato sauces and curries and green vegetables and salads, but this is what
she cooked us for supper:

Gorgeous plates of thin, perfectly al dente pasta with a quick sauce of red peppers, mushrooms, and pretty little tender stems of broccolini, every one like a small flower, with a last-minute grating of Parmigiano Reggiano showered on. I love when she holds the microplane up over the plate, and those translucent shreds of cheese, like pale, thin coconut, snow onto the pasta. Sublime.

Another quiet evening at home, and so to the new week. Hope yours is wonderful!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


There’s such a rich, interesting history to a lot of southern words---different meanings, different inflections, different heritage. That piece of paper you get from the state or county for fishing or hunting is a PER-mit to permit you to participate.
Related image

A croaker sack/Kroger sack (depending on where you shop, I suppose) is usually a kind of burlap bag, but could range from a cottonsack to a feed sack. This term is seldom used to refer to a sure-nuff paper grocery bag for shaking up that frying chicken with all that flour and seasonings, but that same bag could be called a poke, a la Miss Loretty’s brown paper trousseau luggage in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

A deep freeze keeps your food frozen; a Frigidaire keeps it cool, and you pay for those items from your pocketbook. You might tote that stuff home and wrap it in loomnum foil (also pronounced faw-ul) or Saran, clean your clothes in a washing machine with water from the hot water heater, and sprinkle-down a load of laundry for ironing.
Image result for sprinkler head for soda bottle

To close a window, you might pull down the sash; you go to church to hear the message, and to partake of The Lord’s Supper. Your meals are called breakfast, dinner and supper, and might include a mess a greens, a pot of snap beans seasoned with a little hand of fatback,

and a pone of bread:
A duster is the light robe a lady might wear to cook breakfast, and her bedroom slippers might be called house shoes or, if they slide between the toes, thongs. But with all the beach-house rentals and the trips to Florida, the word “flipflops” is catching on fast.

A firefly is a lightning bug, a frog is sometimes called a hop-toad, and a grub in a hole in the ground is a doodle-bug, fished for by many a squatting, dusty small person with a ball of spit-moistened dirt on a broomstraw.

Try your hand at translating a few from what I call my Mason/Dixonary:













Gettin’ your beauty struck

Beauty shop



Snake Doctor

Translations will be posted on Tuesday, 24th.

Friday, August 20, 2010


After yesterday's post with its Faulkner-solemn tones, I thought we needed something Happy, something Light---Friday Frivols and the beginning to a good weekend. I went to my Journal for some of the quotes I've enjoyed and picked up recently---they're all about comfort and Summer and Home:

The hum of bees is the Voice of the Garden. Elizabeth Lawrence

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard

What a ripping little house this---everything so handy.Dear Friend Ratty, Wind in the Willows

And in the same vein, Mole’s just-before-slumber thoughts on his cozy old house:

It was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.---
Wind in the Willows

Nothing in the world matches sundried bedding for a good night's sleep.
My Friend Sparrowgrass

My friend Kim is a Constant Reader, and does a lot of book reviews. Hers are not of the stern sort, and though she’s VERY smart, they are never, like so many, phrased more to show her knowledge and wit rather than the worth of the book. Instead, they let you know her take on the tome in a gentle, guiding way, and she’s never steered me wrong.

Miss Julia is funny and smart and the other characters are wonderful. I love that Miss Julia has standards and values, but that she doesn't let them get in the way of loving good folks. Kim, in GoodReads

Tea-drinking is a cheerful habit to cultivate, as each cup gently shifts fatigue, lifts the spirits and brightens the brainbox. Helen Simpson in The Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea.

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living evey minute with love, grace, and gratitude

Denis Waitley

I dust a bit...I am at this moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.Ignatius J. Riley---John Kennedy Toole---A Confederacy of Dunces

Those sowing seed with tears will reap even with a joyful cry. The one who without fail goes forth, even weeping, carrying along a bagful of seed, will without fail come in with a joyful cry, carrying along his sheaves---Psalm 126:5,6

Lucy Vanel, of Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook, on her Alpengarten---her potager:

Wind blows across the pasture and seed from unruly weeds try to reclaim their old home each week. When we arrive on Friday night the feeling is usually a little bit like facing the sink full of dirty dishes after a raucous dinner party. Will the weeding ever end? Then we set to work, and in short time, tugging up this and that, prying the spiraling fingers of savage wild growth away, we are satisfied.

On the dying of the day in a Seattle Summer:With each day, the light stays a bit longer, as though too lazy to leave at anything but a slow crawl.Molly Wizenberg of Orangette

I wish you all a sun-drenched, satisfying day, of bee-hum, happiness, grace, with a quiet moment for a cup of tea, a friend, a good book.

And may the light linger, linger, til you slumber in your comfortable bed, hushed with the quiet end of a good day.


Thursday, August 19, 2010


I think today should hold a lot of House-Righting and Dish-Washing and Clothes-Folding, for I’ve sadly neglected all three this week. It’s a sort of jumbled chaos downstairs, with so many things out of place, and so I’m headed off to a big I-Tunes Fest of Sense and Sensibility to entertain as I work.

Perhaps when things are a bit more serene and livable, some time out in an arbor chair, with the overhanging limbs and the hot breeze giving the proper reverence and setting to Faulkner (he’s always a Summer read, I think. You get the tastes and the sweat and the sheer overlying weight of the weather to set the stage, as well as the theme), I may continue reading As I Lay Dying, swapping the genteel pomp of the Dashwoods, with their soft intrigues and loves lost and misunderstandings and honor-well-served, for the grim, homemade-coffin trek to bury Addie Bundren amongst her Own People.

And it's not a sad book, as you'd think---it's just a well-told journey, seen by six different sets of eyes. It’s tiny glimpses of each family member as they gather for their Mother’s last days, as they take her home to her family graveyard, told in small moments of their thoughts---tiny half-page blips, sometimes, like the eye of a camera panning a crowd and snapping this one and that for one brief glance.

I've known ALL these people, especially in my childhood, when the old times still lingered and the old ways were still the norm---the sitting-up-all-night, the wakes and the singing, the gathering of the men in the stomped-down yard, passing bottles and time with a quick wrist-swipe at both whilst the women tended to things in the house.

I can remember four all-night-sit-up-with-the-deads in the house of my childhood---the shining metal caskets were wheeled in through the front door, through the vestibule arch, and parked square-ways right in front of the big double-windows of the living room like a new piano. Quiet voices, bowls of potato salad set down on the kitchen counter by kind neighbors, the scent of bouquets of garden-cut blooms set head and foot of the casket, the pile of hats on the hall bench, as the men removed them to honor the house and the dead, passing by on the way to the kitchen for a cold drink. For the first time, I was allowed to click the lock on my bathroom door for my bedtime bath, and I wore the new nylon duster from two Christmases ago over my gown for the five steps to my room, where I closed myself in, listening late to the soft murmurs in the house.

Even the names in this book are notional and obscurely odd: Anse, the shirking, whining father and Cash who builds the coffin in full view and sound of his Mother’s bedroom window; Jewel-who’s-a-man and Dewey Dell the only daughter and Darl and small Vardaman, whose name is the only one I've ever heard as a person's name, and at least recognizable as a town in my state.

They are of their age, of the wagon-and-horse, of the overalls-and-sweat and dipper-and-bucket age, pondering or mutely accepting or cursing the fate which set them in such a hard place, in such times.

And I’ll go out into the quiet breeze, sitting with a pitcher of well-iced tea, frivolously reading in the afternoon, but from a background of knowing these grim, enduring people, smelling the scents of their journey and their trials---remembering it, being FROM it, but not OF it. Not any more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We three went a-Fairin’ last night, to very happy results---the first Fair for our Baby Girl since that HOT afternoon when she was not-quite-one. That one was spent alternately pushing the stroller and wiping her little face and arms with a bathcloth wrung out in the little ice-chest, for we were in company of visitors, and just sought out shade and cool as we could.

This time, she’s almost three, and talked about it for days before---we were very fortunate in waiting-for-Monday, for the air was so cool and pleasant, and the night drew on clear and starry---we could see the crescent-moon, Venus, and a glowing contrail in the sapphire sky, even above the garish midway.

Our goals were simple: See the piggies and lambs, and ride the merry-go-round. And we did, with several little side-treks into buildings---once for a case of raspberry honey for our Fair-Going friends. That was late in the trip, and the heavy box of jars took Sweetpea’s place in the little pink folding stroller we picked up at Target on our way.

So we went to the Piggie-Barn, and saw the brand-new babies, born end of July. Little pigs can be some of the most charming small creatures---the pink ones are the pinkest there is, with the gleam of their silvery little pelts giving them a pearly cast. They just look so CLEAN---not quite presaging the muck to come.

photos from the internet
We went on to the lamb barn, and strolled our way through the maze of blacks and whites and grays, tiny bleating fluff on stilts, big just-shorn slick ones sporting a tat assortment to joy the heart of Miss Kat von d, and one kneeling wise old golden one, prototype of sheep-in-film, with the curly coat and the eyes old as time. Our Girl petted and stroked and reached out to several, talking to them in soft tones.

And then we happened upon a lovely bit of lagniappe: the Percheron judging. These beautiful sculptures of walking black satin were primped within inches of their lives---silver chains and harnesses and manes clipped and banded in little stiff sheaves standing proud as a Roman helmet. They were just gorgeous, stepping high and proud, pulling their carriages and sulkies and one bright circus wagon, parading down the street into the arena to the judges.

We made our way to the Merry-go-Round, talking all the time of riding Princess, the horse who would be waiting especially for US. She’d not be pink, we didn’t think, but a nice rosy shade, with pretty decorations and a nice smile. And she was. She was all of that, and there was not a huge crowd, so after we stepped up onto that big round floor and made our way through snorting steeds, prancing palfreys, high-stepping horses and other garish mounts, there she was---right ahead, in the center row, just waiting for us.
We got all ready, with the rider sitting firmly in the saddle, holding the pole, and me with my arms firmly around her. And it’s a good thing---that was the fastest carousel in the history of Barnum. I’m telling you, we whirled like a whirlwind, charging around that stationary track, holding on for dear life---too much G-force to wave at Chris, who was grinning and waving from the sidelines.

We squealed “YEEEEE-HAW!” and patted the brave Princess, who was giving us one great ride. And she WON! She came in ahead of every horse on there. Good Girl.

Chris had said he’d like to take Sweetpea on the BIG Ferris Wheel---not MY idea, but he’s so careful and comforting with all the little ones, she was rarin’ to go. Even after she saw the immensity of the thing stretching WAY up into that night sky---she pranced herself right up that ramp and headed for the gondola. And away and up they went---almost first on, so they had the longest ride of all, as the wheel would go for a moment, then stop for the next two cars to load at the bottom.

I followed them around with my eyes, and that whole long series of round and round, my heart rode in Car #2.

Back to the carousel, which hadn’t slowed a bit; we climbed aboard and took our chances on that gaudy centrifuge once again; Princess was patiently awaiting us. This time, we tried to raise our hands to wave at Chris, but it was hard work. Our Girl’s little pink cheeks were so pink, and her eyes shining, as she smiled BIG and shouted at me, “Ganner’s my very, very, VERY, VERY Best Brother!”

She’s had very little contact with the concept of brothers, until she interacted with the Grands at the beach , and a boy sibling is still a bit of a mystery.

She was getting tired when we left the Fair about ten, and so she was occupying the stroller as we took that LONG trek back out to the parking lot. I had put the box of honey and two jars of our own into the big bookbag I carried the necessaries in. Trudging up and down all the stroller-ramps got dicey, with the bag handles cutting into one shoulder after the other, as I kept brushing Chris off, for he was seeing to Our Girl's transport.

I stopped, reached into the bag, padded my shoulder, and unashamedly walked out of the Indiana State Fair wearing one bright pink, Princess-emblazoned Pull-Up Epaulette.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I DID manage to get a pie in the oven yesterday afternoon---the peaches had had a little hermetic meditation under a big cakedome since Friday afternoon, and were at that perfect moment, when you take a chance on giving them the gentlest squeeze-with-all-five. I’m glad they were ready, for we all know that those fingerprints will injure and mar, and then they’ll show up beneath the skin after the peach DOES ripen.

The pictures are not the best---I’d scalded and peeled and got most of the way through getting the meat off the seed, when I remembered to go get the camera. And then, with such a sticky sweet mess to play in, there was a lot of hand-washing and drying and grabbing the camera and the light was not very good in the afternoon kitchen, and my photo skills are sketchy, at best.

So, between sticky and amateur, these are the dubious best of the bunch:

Cutting up the peaches:

Midway through, I realized I'd underestimated the amount of peaches---I made one of the small gratin dishes for Caro---her WW recipe with Splenda, and a little top crumble made of a bit of oatmeal, a bit of Splenda, one little crushed package of Lorna Doones, with a teaspoon of water to make it clump for scattering. Then I had to go get out a pie plate for the other one.

Rolling the crust with Mammaw’s old (new) rolling pin---she always called it the New One because it was a gift to her way late in life. It has a long metal shaft with the two handles loose enough for the roller to roll while you keep a good grip. She thought it the neatest invention, and talked about it to all her friends.

After all those years of use, it now has one unpredictable, sassy handle which hops right off the pin and leaves you going cattywonkus off onto the counter, when you meant to go straight ahead. It puts a little challenge into the rolling, for you have to keep in step. It’s kinda like all of us, I think---doing its best, but then there’s a sudden flat tire or a banana peel . . .

I’d said something yesterday about a rustic pie, and peaches certainly lend themselves to that kind of pastry---they just snuggle right in, pouring out those delicious juicy runnels into the plate and over the crust. Chris likes a lot of crust in his serving, and though it's the exact amount of crust for one pie, folding the excess over makes it just like he likes it. This one was brushed with a milk/egg white glaze, then scattered with a little Turbinado.

And the center, still bubbling from the oven---couldn’t you just DIVE right in?

We had not-quite-elegant cuts of the pie with scoops of Blue Bunny Vanilla after our burgers last night---as tasty as if it had been beautiful.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The heat is supposed to abate today, and we hope to be able to take Sweetpea to the Fair tomorrow. Our Fair-Going friends were here this time last year, and we miss them, but we hope to see them end-of-the-month in Louisville, where their son is running in the Iron Man competition. I TRY to encompass the endurance and training and discipline that must entail, and words just fail.

To go and be in the vicinity of all that energy and sweat and sheer will-to-endure that will be rife in the air of that place---I don't think there could be a spot at that moment with more concentration of effort, with each stroke in the water, each pump of the pedals, each step of that marathon like the final stages of labor, of just one more ounce, of giving everything you have, and then finding more. It may be too hard a thing to witness, from that close a distance---those great surges of the human spirit, giving all that they have to their goal.

I wish them fair weather for this combat, and Godspeed in their race.

In this heat, this immediate moment of lowering, breath-stifling heat we've had, only a cool supper seems inviting. So, for the least possible heat in the kitchen:

Chris’ Mahogany Chicken:

Some Pinto-Bean Salsa---a rinsed can of Pintos, minced sweet onion, a bit of pickled jalapeno, a wisp of pimiento for color, a free hand with the lime and salt.

Devilled eggs---very simple and plain, tangy with mustard:

Peaches, perfect in the market right now. I have five more getting perfectly-ripe beneath the cakedome, and hope I’m stirred to make a pie this afternoon. One fits nicely into the small oven upstairs.

A quick boil of water in the electric kettle, a three-minute bath, and they just slip right out of their skins:

Warm and luscious and just dropping from the seed:

I really prefer the taste of the clings, but they’re all done for the year; the Freestones have a heartier, more almond-y depth, almost a bitter tang, but with a little sprinkle of sugar and just a mere glance at the vanilla bottle, they’re one of the delights of the season.

For a pie, it’s the same---a little more sugar, a few shards of butter dotted atop, a rolled crust or a cobbler batter, or a rough-crimped rustic galette---they’re all heavenly this time of year. And if you feel the need to put cinnamon in your peach pie, I don’t want to hear about it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I’ve been asked several times about the ill-fated Humpty-Dumpty post of several months ago, and if I were the real maker-of-the-scene. And though I DID make quite a few of the eggs over the years, plus perhaps a dozen of the little Humpty Dumpty scenes, I was not the maker of THAT birthday cake. The story was told to Mother at her beauty salon, by the actual baker, with lots of hand gestures and appalled expressions amongst the “He just dug HOLES in my CAKE!” “You should have SEEEN the mess.”

However, I DID stand aghast at a Saturday-morning luncheon setup for a wedding, as the bride's aunt made a shambles of a beautiful wedding cake. I’d made the cake---a classically simple white three-tier, stacked in the old-fashioned manner with no columns, something like this, but without all the scrollwork:


The bride’s mother had given me a picture of the cake her daughter wanted--- tall graceful layers and just the palest most modest shell borders at tier-bottom and top edge. She’d saved the picture from the Memphis Commercial Appeal Sunday Magazine, and the cake in the picture bore a graceful swag of pale roses, draped smoothly across the front and around the side onto the plate, something like this, but with fresh roses, blooms and buds, set onto an invisible net frame.

And if the Mom said “That dewwww-y look” once, she said it a dozen times, referring to the fresh roses, of a pale, chaste peach shade.

I looked at that picture a LOT, for several weeks before making that perfectly-plain cake; I loved the idea of having NO decorations attached, no royal icing or swans or pearl beads or those tooth-killing silver dragees, no matter how popular and pretty. The roses on the cake were on a form made of thin mesh, and easily removed for the cake-cutting---I liked that, too, for it would leave the entire cake in pristine form, without making an unsightly area early in the cutting.

But the bride had an AUNT. From Memphis, so of COURSE with WAY better taste than any of us down-home folks. She would “do” the roses for the cake. I would deliver it, set it down, and go on with getting the food ready in the kitchen.

So I did and did, and in the hustlebustle of the morning’s work, it did not register that the roses had been delivered by the florist, who set down the centerpieces, set up the lattice backdrop at the bride’s table, and left to finish decorating the church. The roses were delivered IN BUCKETS. And I should have KNOWN.

I’d set the cake in the usual manner---on the Bride’s Table, ready for any decoration to be set neatly upon or around it, but I hadn’t counted on the wet roses OR the Aunt. I asked about the form and was waved airily away---sorta dismissed, as it were, and so I went back to the kitchen.

She began her work, clipping and cutting stems, eyeing the layers, trying a length-of-stem for size against the fourteen-inch tier, the ten inch, the six. And then it hit me---she hadn’t paid a bit of attention to that swag in the picture. She hadn’t made a mesh or wire or fabric swag to put the roses into---she was going to stick those roses directly into that cake.

And she did, starting at the bottom right, poking the larger roses into the soft tiers, positioning them and driving them home with a heavy hand. Occasionally one would strike her as wrong, somehow, and she’d pull it out and move it a little bit up or down, right or left, leaving a gaping hole in the frosting. She went all the way up that beautiful cake, making a six-inch swag of flowers which dipped and swayed their way up the icing, with crumbs falling from the pulled-out stems, and tiny areas collapsing from the damage as they withdrew.

I SO hoped that the petals of the succeeding flowers would somehow camouflage all the damage, but it was painfully evident from a lot of angles, with a few teensy clumps of cake fallen to the tray and more and more of the flowers sagging floorward as the weight-to-hole ratio grew. I feared a full-on tumble before the reception even started, and after about the third pass through the reception hall, a quick peek to assess the carnage, and a pang in my heart for all that beautiful work wasted, I kept to the kitchen until it was time to set up the buffet.

What CAN you say to a relative whose taste and expertise has been held in such esteem by family, has been trusted to know how and to do it right, and whose clumsy attempts just maimed something beautiful? Imagine that plain white cake above, just standing there, the product of many hours of work and certainly worthy of a nice affair.

Now poke it with a stick at random, with abandon, in several dozen places, up and down the tiers. Try covering the booboos with flowers while the cake crumbles and litters the tray.

That’s how it felt, and that’s all I remember of that sweet girl’s wedding. I know the food was good, the party was wonderful, the marriage solid and still going strong, but I’ve wondered what they think now of that all-knowing AUNT.

And I still think of “that dewww-y look” as “that crumm-by look.”

Friday, August 13, 2010


Put a few slices of bacon into the microwave on a plate. Make a quick trip out to the tomato vines for a hatful of whatever's ripest.Peel two for Chris; I like mine just as they're made.

What a plateful of beautiful!! This would make a super-salad, just by itself.

That plate of extra-thin, extra-crisp bacon. We both like to crumble it all on top of the tomatoes, before we lay down that Blue Plate-spread top slice of Wonder Bread.

Add a bowl of cold cherries for dessert.

Won't you join us? There's plenty for three.

How could Friday the 13th be any luckier?