Thursday, September 30, 2010


All pictures from Internet

I still wonder about Mary. Long before our attention was called to the lifestyle which has been named HOARDERS, Miss Mary was a source of wonderment to me, for I watched her overflowing basket, week after week, as she prowled the vast echoes of the charity shop where I volunteered on Thursdays. Over the years, we could set our clocks by Miss Mary. She would appear in the door just after we opened on mark-down day, her iron-gray permanent scraped stiffly backward under one of her many bright headbands, her unmistakable harlequins catching the gleam of the fluorescents as she rounded the long rows of aisles, picking up a plate here, an outdated skirt there, a cheery sweatshirt with teddies and hearts and bells.

Her husband, Mr. John (yes, they REALLY WERE John and Mary) was a man of quiet ways, a familiar farmer-in-a-cap, of tall spare frame and the particular bowed gait which bespeaks a man of work, of a well-loved pickup into which he slides his jeans-clad spindle-shanks with their permanent wallet-outline on one back pocket, more often than he eats or sleeps.

He seldom entered the shop, save to carry out her big purchases---once a set of little nesting tables---one true find, for the gilt and graceful cabrioles had set the pricing ladies all a-twitter over the charm of them. He’d sit in the parking lot, listening to the news or weather or whatever interests a man of the soil, then clomp in, his cowboy bootheels right at home on that century-old plank floor which could have graced any western saloon, nod us all a “Hidey” and sigh with resignation as he picked up all the once-ours, now-his in those big white bags.

Miss Mary picked up at random, but with a sense of a driving purpose---as I pulled the overdues and re-priced the things which had overstayed their welcome, I moved aside as she gently inserted herself into the space beside the basket of bargains, fingering and squinting at brand names on china, then just blindly grabbing up a Last Supper plaque, a plastic Louis-Whicheverth-style clock with one hand missing, or a heavy vase-shape in garish colors, with cookie-cutter-cutouts of clay laid haphazardly on, seeming a product of some long-ago therapy workshop.

And I think of all those mis-matched, homeless items, from all corners of the globe, come together in that ever-filling house. Surely she didn’t have a place for all those oddities---the clothes she sometimes remarked were for her daughters, but everything else---worn purses and dishes and wall-hangings of chipped plaster and wood---I just had the impression that they were taken home and set on every available surface or nail-pounded into walls already frescoed in junk.

The shop is long since gone, with its final burdens-after-the-sale donated to a nice man who also volunteered and had a small second-hand shop of his own. And Miss Mary was there to see the doors close, grabbing up one final garish horse-head plaque before the cash register rang its last.

I just hope she had a happy life---she seemed much older than I, and I waver between hoping that she did not die in a house so filled that she could not breathe for it, and wondering if they let her take some of her things into her room at Golden Years, and how she chose them.

Or did she have to be unearthed, years later, having perished beneath an avalanche of painted eagles and chipped swans and plaster cats with eyelashes?

Perhaps her children were left with the gleanings---all those Thursdays of joyful pursuit, all those big bags lugged out to the pickup, all those small artifacts from other people’s lives, crammed into one vast junkyard of a house. I hope their memories of their Mother were not of tacky gew-gaws, but of her kind smile and her gentle voice, for she was a sweet woman. I hope she fared well and enjoyed every cluttered moment of her life, and I hope they remember her as kindly as I do.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It's cooler---54 right now, and the feeling of Fall is creeping into the air. Today's a bit of a cloudy day, and all the colors are muted---all the still-greens and the waning punches of red and bright pink and the yellows of the potted flowers and the few holdouts in the drought-sered garden.

And the yard itself is a mishmash of the weekend's garage cleanout---still with the broken-down boxes, flattened and tied, and the bags of styrofoam from the packing, and the other keep-or-save or where-will-it-GO items of twenty years' accumulation.

There's naught but green, still, in all the hanging trees and bushes, grown like jungle along the fence-sides, crawled over garage and potting shed, and remarkably lively, for the months of waterless existence that have been August and September. Hardly a peek of any orange or gold along the roadsides, for the heat has fooled the calendars of the trees, leaving them gasping in the hot still air until the first quick cool night just now.

The only calls-of-Autumn have been the temperatures and the change in the bright of the days---the slants of the sun have tilted mightily, and we look up, early in the evening, to see darkened windows when we still feel eight p.m.

Bringing out the Fall decor---the remembered swirls and festoons of bright leaves and gilded gourds and the old familiar pumpkin mugs, the small new Jack-be-Littles of the perfect hand-sized pumpkins and squash, the crisp, born-lacquered bean-pods from the neighbor's tree, the new string of jack-o-lights for the living room dresser's vase of dried limbs. We'll get more of the decorating done soon, winding a leaf-boa around the dining room chandelier, scattering those big crisp seed-pods down the table amongst brighter hues, putting small candles into the luminaria for the walk, but today's a stay-in-and-bake something day, I think.

I was struck by the imagery in a recent Little Compton Mornings, by my friend Jane:

There are several faithful, or fateful, signs of waning summer. One that never ceases to catch me off guard is the dusky lilac-pink of Joe Pye-weed looming, portent-like, by the side of the road—how is it that something so large and attention-demanding can rise up so suddenly, seemingly overnight? The Queen Anne’s Lace, far more quiet, just as if it had been there all along and you had been too fool to notice.

The air has changed. Nights are cooler, and the sky at evening has a wistful look, its radiance faded from the intensity of just a few weeks ago, its colors muted as if to more age-appropriate hues. In the morning when I take my coffee outside, the sun’s slant barely reaches the table top, quitting its old job of cup warmer, and telling me to trade in my hat for a sweater. Even the sounds are different. They seem to say, it’s time to go.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I’ve written of my learning to read at four, courtesy of Miss Kitty across the street---Bless her Dear, Generous, Patient Heart. She made me free with any and all of the books in her enormous bookcases, and away I went. I gobbled up words like popcorn at the movies, never looking away, never losing track, never paying attention to my greedy fingers cramming the luscious morsels into my mouth.

I’m hoping to instill such a love of reading into all the GrandChildren, and every package contains books of some sort. Our lower shelves, stripped of their Clancy and Koontz, have merry stacks of Seuss and Milne and Potter and Grahame, in those wonderful higgle-piggle piles of mixed sizes and colors which tilt and sway like Technicolor Jengas, requiring a call of “Cleeeeen-Up!” perhaps twice a day.

We read together, Sweetpea and I, and she sees the love her Ganner and I have for our books---we can’t think of anything as important to a child’s educational preparation as the love of Reading.
I recently found an immense edition of the Dick and Jane “readers” of my own first grade days for Our Girl, with a slick, bright yellow cover and the heft of an encyclopedia. The little folks are exactly the same, in their Thirties and Forties little outfits and shoes, their parents’ clothes and expressions the ones I remember, and Father’s hat as natural to the page as the little brown oxfords and the Mary Janes.

Sunny skies all around, except the occasional patter of friendly rain, occasioning the donning of perfectly-matched slickers, hats and boots, for laughing adventures beneath bright umbrellas.

In spite of having read a lot of what today’s kids call “chapter books” provided by Miss Kitty and the local library by the time I started First Grade, I somehow remember the Dick and Jane books as having been much more inviting and interesting.

These things have absolutely NO PLOT, people.

Except maybe for that time Puff was up the tree, with all the suspense of the Lost Kitty Carry-All---there’s no real action, anywhere.

They Look and See, and sometimes GO, but that about wraps it up. Even just-turned-three Sweetpea prefers ANYTHING else---she likes a plot and a conclusion as well as the next person.

The other mystery is that we were forbidden to “read ahead” of the day’s lessons. What on earth was the great denouement---the solution---the climax they were hoping to preserve? Were they going to solve a mystery---take a trip---get a new pet---do ANYTHING besides Look and See?

The colors are still bright, the family cheery and loving, the pages still the depictions of the Perfect Family of the Forties---three happy children living with the same Mother and Father they started out with, in a house with a picket fence, a dog, a cat.

But let’s face it---Fact of Life:

One point to Thomas Wolfe---Dick and Jane ain’t as much fun as they useta be.

Downer. Down, down, downer.

Friday, September 24, 2010


You'd never think about a little ornery critter like this as being anything of a matchmaker, but he, or a big ole crowd of his family, certainly gave it their all one time, and made an ordinary evening into one of the best parties I ever gave.

Years ago, before Chris and I met, I used to go places with several of my girlfriends, all of us unattached, and we’d have some wonderful times, from just going out to dinner to going to Memphis to the Opera or Symphony or to hear a band we liked, or to Jackson for the weekend.

One of our ladies was not quite as independent as the rest of us, and was most eager to find a guy and get married, and based all her “outings on scoutings” as we teased her. She just
REALLY wanted to be married, and in an increasingly desperate way---you know, when a woman says, “I love Joe with all my heart and really want to marry him,” she’s on the right track, especially if Ole Joe loves her right back. But when your friend constantly says, “If I could just get married, everything would be all right,” then, there’s a lot of leeway for pro and con---mainly CON.

Anyway, on the evening in question, I’d invited a nice crowd over for dinner, including one really nice guy who lived a few miles from us, and who was just the kindest, sweet man, with his own farm and a few nice crawfish ponds, from which he sold to restaurants and locals.

We’d decided, my friends and I, to make it a lovely evening, with “dress for dinner” on the invitations---our “dress” being everything from A DRESS to nice pants to that sequined thing you bought for Mary Alice's Las Vegas elopement last year.

I cooked a lovely meal for about fifteen or so, and set up the tables in the big den, all with nice china and silver---one of those two-glasses-to-the-setting arrangements; not too formal, but swinging pretty high for one of our usual gatherings. I remember I wore a beautiful silky caftan (it was that era)---all drifty golds and taupes and tans, and the house looked lovely with the flowers and candles.

Everything was all arranged, with the coffee service set up on the buffet, and all the food in readiness, all the guys in nice slacks and jackets, all the ladies primped and pretty. My friend was a little bit nervous of the meeting, though she was surrounded by all of us friends, and kept looking out the door and windows as the time ticked on.

The last to arrive was our friend Joe himself, right on time, and as I was busy in the kitchen at that moment, I didn’t see him get out of the truck. I heard someone say, “What’s he carrying?” about the time that he came in the door with a heavy-hanging garbage bag in each hand. He gave them one big swing each, and plopped them right up on the big bare kitchen bar, as the delicious aromas lifted out into the room.

“Just a little something to nibble on,” he grinned, as we put down more bags and newspapers all along the bar and gathered around, and this is what it looked like as he upended those two big sacks of crawfish, still steamy and warm, and fragrant with Cajun spices:


And not one person stood back---I headed for the fridge to get cocktail sauce, ketchup, lemons and several kinds of hot sauce, as well as little paper plates for everybody to mix their dip to their own liking. We all shoved up our sleeves, grabbed lots of paper towels, fixed more cold drinks, and dug in.

I must say, even when we’d all washed in lemony suds and sat down to the REAL dinner, we were still drifting along on the rolling tide of all that unexpected gusto and feasting---that was one of the most fun parties I ever gave.

They didn’t ever get together, but we all sure enjoyed that attempt at matchmaking. 'Cept maybe those twenty pounds of mudbugs.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Oh, why did I overstep myself yesterday, showing the shady lawn and the Autumn flowers and talking about cooler weather??!!

It's NINETY degrees here---right now, this minute---As Fall Turns In Indiananna!!!

And gonna be NINETY-FIIIIIVE this p.m. Records broken, lawns shriveling, fire-watch in effect for the first time in my memory.

Oh. My. And SIS is talking Pumpkin Pie Spice coffee and fireplaces and football weather in TEXAS. Poo.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The new mum arrived with great expectations---beginning to pop darts of bright color the minute it was set on the outside table, and the container of lush red blooms out front is almost ready for the trip indoors.

The sun is more bashful, mornings, about that first trip across the back lawn,

And the berries on the fence-hedge are brightening, from their copper first-turn:

To the bright red of their softest transparent ripeness, like some Fairy-chef’s delusions of grandeur in pursuit of Jello:

The rose-hips on the hedge-rose, small as match-heads, show their colors amidst their brave tatters, like the too-bright rouge and bitten lipstick of a faded courtesan:

The Fairy Gate---the shape of the arch overgrown and the stones foot-scattered by scampering children, is swung wide in welcome still. The little arbor rack awaits the small hats and shoes and ribbons of our tiniest guests.

Indoors, the Autumn cloths have come out, with a cuddle of shining spoons awaiting guests for a coming birthday:

And as I pursue my own small nestings and arrangings, I wish you all a
---------------------VERY HAPPY FALL!-----------------------------

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


You know I just mentioned that Blog Friends can be For Real Friends. At least the ones I know can be, and are. And now one dear to me has returned from a long time away from Blogging, for her husband was seriously ill, and they took the time off for his treatment and recovery.

I’m so glad to welcome back Lee-Ann of Beautiful Peartree Cottage.

Her sweetheart Rob has had a successful recovery, and among the other lovely things that have happened to them lately is that they were chosen King and Queen of the Kyneton Daffodil Festival. The honor is given each year to a couple who have worked and contributed to the welfare of the community, and Lee-Ann and Rob have always been involved in all sorts of activities beneficial to their area. I know you’ll enjoy seeing their many engagements and activities which are theirs as Guests of Honor.

In this season of Autumn’s approach, and our own winding down into the cold days to come, have a look at Spring arriving in Australia, They look like the pleasantest people you'd ever want to know, and I'm glad I do, if only from halfway around the world.

Monday, September 20, 2010


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My Aunt Billie was a tee-ninecy woman, really short and compact, with the tiniest feet of any grown-up I’d ever seen. I haven’t til yet figured out where she got those darling little platforms, with the ankle straps and spike heels, because I reckoned she’d have to shop in the children’s section at Penney.

And even those little three-inch-heels hardly brought her as tall as me. She was the Mother of my four Memphis cousins, and she and Uncle Early had the most loving relationship I’ve ever seen between husband and wife. He absolutely adored her, and said so often---he looked at her with the most wonderful looks on his face, and would pull her small self onto his knee as she passed by his chair, hugging her tight as she giggled and hugged back.
She “wasn’t much of a cook,” according to my House-Proud Mother, whose cooking was praised far and wide, plain and Southern though it was, and whose standards of life encompassed morals, cooking and cleanliness---the only three REAL virtues.

Aunt Billie was possibly the most frugal person I’d met until my Sister’s college roommate, but that’s another story. She kept very careful household accounts in a little book---if she opened anything from the pantry, she wrote it down in the book, as in :Tues., 20th: opened new Ajax; Supper: 1 can Green beans, 3 chicken quarters, cup rice, can Fruit Cocktail, 1 tea, qt. milk.

Those were the supper quantities for her family of six, and I can personally remember a Sunday Dinner---probably the only meal I ever ate at her house---in which she stood in the kitchen swing-door, counting heads in the living room and front yard, in order to know how many little potatoes to put into the boiling pot. One each, exactly, and a great source of critical remarks by my Mother on the way home---“stingy ways” were just above “trashy” in her Book of Ills, and she’d so labeled Aunt Billie years before. The carefully-rationed food and the “weak as water” coffee were her only view of that kind, loving and beloved woman.

And I dearly loved her---she was such fun, leaving the “grown folks” to talk in the living room, whilst she sat cross-legged on her daughter’s bed, and joined in as the two girl cousins and I discussed Elvis and movies and did each others’ hair.

I remember that once we went in and out through the living room numerous times, gathering the bright yellow mums from her border-beds, and making these enormous doughnut-shaped “buns” atop each others’ heads, and garnishing them all round with the stuck-in flowers like crowns of birthday cake. Imagine THIS with flowers stuck all around like Elizabeth I’s ruff:

Internet picture
She didn’t care---we were having fun, and she dragged three silky kimono robes out of her closet to make our pictures in.

They had a patio---the only one I knew of then. We had a back porch and a set of wide brick front steps, but a PATIO!! It was brick-floored, as well, with a little wishing-well fountain in one end and several hanging baskets of ferns swaying in the breeze beneath the ceiling. And all around, the bright, lush hedge of the most gorgeous rosy orange and purple and yellow and red flowers I’d ever seen.

My Mammaw was famous for her roses and dahlias and all the rest of her garden, but these city flowers eclipsed them all by a mile. They were these huge velvety trumpet-things, with little waving fluffy-tipped tongues sticking out from their throats like magic wands. The sheer size of them, towering over our heads, and all those brilliant flowers studded amongst the big leaves---they were absolutely awesome. She told me where she’d bought the plants, and what kind of care they needed, even the special little grains of fertilizer she put on once a year, speaking of her high biscuits in the fond tone she used for husband and children.

The flowers completely surrounded the three sides of the patio, except for a little gap for the stone path which led out to the big barbecue pit in the far end of the back yard, and it was my greatest wish on every visit to have JUST ONE to take home. I imagined shaking down my ponytail, parting my hair on the left, and cascading it down over my shoulders with one of those coveted blooms snugged in behind my ear like Dorothy Lamour in her best sarong.

And I would have, too---but I was to timid to ask, and she never thought to offer. She sat out there and drank coffee and smoked for a while first thing every morning, and that was just the most enticing thing I could think of for someone to do---wielding that long Kool between polished nails, sipping the Folgers from a real china cup, soaking in the beautiful of that Hibiscus Hedge.

The closest I’ve come up here is my good old Rose of Sharon bushes, and they’re almost the same, but not quite.

I didn’t get to go back for her funeral---we were living far, far away, and in process of moving into our house, and so there was no realization, no finality of her leaving. And now, I still envision her in the just-light of a cool morning, with the glow of day bringing out the colors in that magical hedge as she sits out there with her steaming cup, rocking peacefully amongst those glorious high biscuits.

Sunday, September 19, 2010



While we were on our IronMan/Kentucky trip, our friends gave us a little box of fresh figs. Chris is so very fond of fig preserves and since you can hardly find big old lush preserving figs here, I made some---a teensy pimiento jar was what the several figs afforded, plus a tiny “cook’s cup.” The tiny dab left over after you’ve filled all the jars of a canning, plus all the sweet, sticky spillage onto the plate beneath the jars---those are savored with bread and butter, or as a nice sweet point to a quick meal on a day you can't endure putting ANOTHER thing on that hot stove.

Chris came home for lunch that day, and came into the house with several perfect big tomatoes for BLTs. I put together a little side-plate while the bacon was cooking, shredded a bit of lettuce, peeled three tomatoes, and we made our sandwiches to take to the patio.

The little “side plate” is Sweetpea’s divided tray, garnished with cute frogs, and neat for whatever she’s eating. I was cutting up a bag of cheese sticks for when she and I have our fruit and cheese after her nap, so some of those, plus a coupla boiled eggs, some babybels, the fig bonus cup, and some fresh papaya went onto the tray. We never eat all that’s put out, but I like to have a pretty plate or tray, with nice accompaniments---leftovers are a GOOD THING.

His Sandwiches: Lettuce, tomato, salt, and a lavish hand with the Blue Plate---very crisp bacon on the side:

Mine: 12 grain bread, lettuce, tomato, a little bit of crumbled bacon dotted about, and a little slick of Blue Plate:

And, always, Winter or Summer, big glasses of Luzianne---we have a big set of these glasses, in all different jewelly colors, but I took out just the two pink ones, and have used them so long, and run them through the dishwasher so often, they’re losing their shine:

I’d had a craving for papaya, and chose one of the three-pounders at the grocery store---not very well, I’m afraid. It was still too firm to be really tasty, and so I decided to see if it would make a decent preserve, like watermelon rind. And it was wonderful, sugared for several hours to bring out the juices, then simmered til thick and rosy with lemon zest and vanilla:

Our neighbor loved the little jar I took her---it was different from any fruit I’ve ever made into preserves---delicious on toast or biscuits in the morning, and a lovely sweet counterpoint with tangy Paminna Cheese and crackers. This morning, it was almost all gone, as I set it on the table with our Raisin Bran and toast. Chris cut bananas onto our cereal, nibbled a cheese stick or two, ate a while, then munched his toast. I passed the preserves---“Want some of this on your toast? It’s almost gone.”

He chewed, contemplating. And then, in one of the most circuitous “No Thank You’s" I’ve ever heard, said, “At this point in my consumption of the meal, it would kinda be a waste to introduce it.”

Word for word, because I came straight over here and wrote it down before going back to my breakfast, laughing like a loon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


We don't have mistakes here; only happy accidents.--------Bob Ross
Who remembers Bob Ross? We used to watch without fail, marveling as that soft-spoken, kind man with the impossible haircut took big ole brushes, the kind you’d paint your bathroom with, and sorta crimp-touched them against the canvas, turning out the most lifelike trees and mountains and icy stream you could imagine.
And I think it WAS imaginary---he’d seen those trees and mountains, all right, but in his own imaginary world, everything was soft and pleasant, the colors muted and smooth, and the vistas beautiful, every one.

He stood right there on our screens, speaking casually, almost under his breath, whispering the paint onto that canvas with the ease of a child’s fingerpainting. The gentle strokes were first a pale cloud of swirls, then clouds, then great dripping brushfuls of colors, swaying sidewise, dabbing and touching, creating trees and shrubs faster than you could think, and that little knife-edged tool incised the paint to chisel the sharp faces of mountain cliffs and the edges of rocky places far, far up and away.

They were like magic, those few minutes of television---as we watched, the picture grew and formed, with things taking shape under his hands like forests emerging from blown-away fog. The very great marvel of it was the thing, I think---that slight, unprepossessing man, soft spoken and almost shy, could conjure images more quickly than a magician’s wand, with only a couple of brushes and a palette of goo.

And he told us WE COULD DO IT, as well. He had a firm belief that everyone could paint SOMETHING
, given the encouragement and practice, and I’m sure uncountable artists of today owe at least a part of their training and support to watching him paint so effortlessly. His movements were as smooth and graceful, and the accomplishment as swift, as the water moving in those far-away streams.

I think we wished he’d go on forever, like Mr. Rogers, whose quiet demeanor and kindness were so like his own---he was part of our week’s routine like Church and Sunday Dinner, relied on to BE THERE and to return without fail.

Those happy little trees and that laughing little stream, those “happy accidents” that some might call mistakes---they’re all a part of our culture and our consciousness, like burgers and fries---new pencils---a bike. And it is rumored that every painting he did “on the air” was sent to a PBS station somewhere in the country, to “help them out” with their fund-raising. His estate also donated a great portion of his life’s work to other public TV stations, for carrying on their own work.

Bob Ross left us much too soon---the Summer of ’95, when he was just 52, but his legacy of sweeping vistas, beautiful landscapes, those “happy little trees” bordering gently-winding small streams going to pleasant places---those survive, along with a great audience who loved him and his work. He was a happy man---he made it so in his world, for himself and all of us who watched faithfully and still miss him.

Friday, September 17, 2010


With the cooler days, the Nesting Urge comes upon us, and one of the manifestations is the need to BAKE something. So, yesterday, Sweetpea and I undertook to bake a little loaf cake---the original recipe came somehow from the PW blog, possibly via my friend Kim, who is a big fan.

This is an Orange Marmalade-Yogurt cake, and had more the texture of a bread, even after poking and sousing with the syrup; it would probably lend itself to a thinner syrup, like a baba does, and soak it right up, becoming luscious and tenderly moist---and would probably make a KILLER Rum Cake, with some orange juice and a shot of rum in the glaze.

Or maybe I baked it too long, or too much of the baking powder got tossed over the side.

We put on our matching aprons, got the little step-stool, washed our hands thoroughly---so thoroughly, in fact, that I had to keep rinsing hers, as she'd gone for a big squirt of the lavender hand soap in the bathroom, rubbing it in like lotion. We set out our meez and got to work.

My Ina-moment with the big sifting-strainer was met with “Don’t SHAKE it. Let MEE do it!” as she stirred the flour, baking powder and salt in a little tornado which sent a lot of it spinning into the air, and quite a bit over the sifter-sides and into the bowl, unmixed.

A firm grip and a stern hand---her grip on that old Fifi spoon reminds me of our neighbor in my early childhood, whose big black washpot was the focal point of her Mondays---she had a huge old “hick'ry stick” bigger around than a broomstick, and about as long, for gooshing the clothes up and down in the boiling lye-soap suds. Yep. I remember those days.

Eggs. Sugar, lemon zest, vanilla---assembling the “wets.” Half a cup of the yogurt overshot the bowl and got jettisoned over the side---we scraped it up easy-peasy and back in it went.

Almost there:

Stir wets into drys---I don't know why I hadn't moved that little glass container of seasalt out of reach---she was mightily set on spooning scoop after scoop into the flour, one with each size of measuring spoon.

Again, that determined grip:

Into the pan; an attempted last stir, and then cleanup. We took the pan upstairs to the small oven as we went up for her Naptime.

It rose and filled the pan, growing golden brown as she slumbered:

One little mishap, as the bottom clung to the pan---Wow, I’d forgotten how BROWN glass pans can make a crust.

A little patchwork, like a jigsaw puzzle, with every notch in place---who cares? It's going on the bottom, anyway:

Pokes all over with a wide meat-fork, then some of the yogurt/orange marmalade/powdered sugar glaze poured on..

A good soak, then the rest of the glaze, spooned and smeared on the sides to make them tender and moist.
As I heard her first waking sounds through the monitor, I went up, and instead of the usual drowsy wakeup, as I sit on the other bed and wait for her to be ready to get up, she said, "I smell CAKE!" and threw a knee over the side of the bed.

In celebration of Our Girl’s First Cake-Baking, we invited her Mommy and Daddy over for supper, and after Chinese takeout, we ceremonially cut the cake, presented under a big glass dome. She clapped and said, “Light the candles!”

Everybody just kept reaching out to spoon-or-fork-scrape up another little smear of that GOOD sauce.

Really good first effort, don't you think?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


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In reply to requests for the recipe for Asparagus Rollups in yesterday's post---I somehow thought I'd posted it already somewhere here. They're no big deal to make---very simple ingredients, an old Bubba kind of cheese sauce that you spread on rolled-flat bread slices, then roll up around a canned spear---long or regular, take your pick.

The recipe is from one of those little spiral cookbooks of the Sixties or Seventies---some club or school or other---those books compiled by local cooks as a fundraiser, and somehow featuring canned mushrooms, Cream-a-soups, fiddly-squat methods for oysters, and meatballs in grape jelly.

This recipe sounded good for a party, but included a lot of cheese grating and sprinkling, and a lot of Worcestershire sprinkling onto each slice, and you know how I am about not having the ingredients mixed well, and getting a little PING of surprise. I can carve radish roses to your heart's content, but fiddling about with three drops of L&P on each slice runs my patience thin. I think the whole thing was meant to be a portable Rarebit, without the drippage.

So---I dumbed it down, countrified it within an inch of its Durkee’s, and everybody seemed to want to order these for parties and lunches and weddings. One lady even got these large julep-cups and stood more than a dozen in each one, for each table. They’re totally NOT gourmet, but they’re GOOOD!
This is how we often served them at weddings and other elegant finger-food affairs---the small crisp bites seem more in keeping than the great long cigars of the home-style version.

Asparagus Rollups Two dozen or so
1 can asparagus spears, regular or tall---tall is prettier, but watch space in pan
Loaf of sliced bread---the plainer, the better, like Wonder Bread
A 15 oz jar Cheez Whiz
Big clop of Durkee’s
Bigger clop of Blue Plate
Coupla shakes of L&P
Sprinkle of powdered garlic or one toe, minced and salt-smushed til creamy
Several grinds of the peppermill

Be careful to open the can at the end with the bottoms of the spears. Gently pour out and discard juice

Put a double-thickness of paper towels on a plate or tray, hold the can very close, and shake the spears gently out onto the paper, moving the can along a bit to keep the spears separated.

Sorta count them, and compare with number of bread slices. If spears are thinner than a pencil, use two in a roll.

Generously butter baking dish---not spray; you need the butter to crisp them all over. Those two-to-a-pack flimsy disposables are perfect for one loaf, just hold pan carefully in and out of oven.

Scrape all of Cheez Whiz into a medium bowl and vigorously stir in all the condiments. Set aside while you roll the bread. Leave crusts on---they make a lovely, buttery crisp edge. The easiest way is to put a slice on a plastic cutting board and roll bread from corner to corner, flattening as you go---give it a quarter turn, roll again. Stack these as you go, and cover with damp paper towels if you’re going to be rolling more than one loaf.

What I WAS TOLD IN ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE by a lady who made several recipes of these for a party was: put the cutting board on the (very clean) floor with the bread all laid on, put a matching board on top of that, and WALK ON IT. I pray she did not get the boards mixed up between rounds.
Then, I like to use the same cutting board, which will hold six slices side-by-side. Spread the bread with a nice layer of the cheese mixture and lay it down; repeat with other five slices.
Lay a spear right at the edge on one side and roll up tightly. Place seam-side down, touching, in buttered baking pan.

Repeat layout, spread, rollup, til all bread is used. Wrap in double Saran and refrigerate til ready to cook---you can stick them in the oven after guests have arrived, to serve warm, or earlier, for room temp.

Preheat oven to 350; Melt two sticks of butter in small pan or in microwave. Brush generously all over tops and drizzle down sides of pan. Bake 12—15 minutes til top is getting golden and feels toasty and getting crisp. Serve in a napkin-lined basket with a napkin atop.

These are the perfect accompaniment to a salad lunch, especially CHICKEN SALAD.

This picture is one I borrowed from the Internet---from someone called CLUMSY COOK, who certainly IS NOT! They’re gorgeous, and I’d make these in a heartbeat, but I don't have a hand for working with phyllo, and elegance loses some of its charm when all the guests are brushing crumbs from lapel and cleavage onto table and rug. But aren’t these PRETTY?? I think I need to be invited to a party like that.

And these last ones---crusts trimmed, prettified and set out on a bright platter---what a welcoming sight on a dinner table or buffet. I think I'd like being invited to THAT occasion best.

And if my two oldest sons were here, and I made the spread for these---they'd both spread it on two slices of bread, lay the spears down like logs on one slice, top it with the other, and put the whole thing under the broiler.