Friday, December 31, 2010


From sunset shining through a misty window's filigree of frost

To the bright prance of a pair of dancin’shoes on the littlest feet,
To a pan of Caro’s Bumpy Road fit for even the tiniest candy-lovers,

To the big batch of Mother’s Banana Bread that Caro made,

To the Winter whimsy of a gift-wrapped air conditioner with its own crown of Snow-folk,

To the old familiar Snow family which has stood smiling somewhere in the house for years, with the wreaths and the swags and the creche and the old, well-loved ornaments,

To a happy little companion in another chair---the house has said CHRISTMAS all over, thanks to Caro's artistic hand and a huge, lifetime collection of STUFF.

A place for sitting with First Cup of coffee or that last warming sip of cocoa just before the twinkly lights are turned out for the night,

The welcoming sight of presents beneath the tree (this picture was made after everyone brought in packages on Christmas Eve, and quite a few of them went out the door with Chris when he left Sunday on his trip to the coast to see his Mom, and then a rambly route around to see three of the children and their families on the way home).

We began the Season’s home celebrations with Caro’s Cookie-Swap party on the fifth, with twelve-to-tea late on a frosty afternoon:

The next week, we spent a glorious Sunday-through-a-snowstorm going to hear Messiah together, then dinner out. We were all a bit under the weather, so to speak, that next week, so it took a little time to get everybody well and up and going again.

The next weekend we enjoyed the matinee of Harry Potter and a late lunch, and did some baking and candy-making and a little bit of last-minute shopping.

Because of everyone’s schedules of work and other commitments, we set our Christmas Dinner for Christmas Eve, and so as not to miss out on our usual Beans-and-Cornbread Supper, which we’ve traditionally had on that night, we had a quiet family dinner of the good old homey soup on Thursday.

Christmas Eve, we gathered here about three, just having some family time, and went upstairs to open presents, just the six of us. Our Girlie put on her tutu and pink shoes the minute she opened the package, and settled a tiara somewhere along above her eyebrows.

I ran down to pop the potatoes in to bake, and Chris checked on the tenderloin on the grill, just before she opened her favorite present---a BIG floor drum, and after that, we were in Tutu- TomTom-Tiara mode for the rest of the night.

We all trooped downstairs to dinner, set with the Christmas dishes Son #1 gave us years ago, and the almost-Mammaw goblets with poinsettias on the glass. The round pads are just those flannelly things made for packing good china, and they’re used on the glass whenever we have a hot plate to set down, so the cool tabletop won’t take away the heat from the food too quickly.

Sweetpea’s place. She always gets a red mat, for her own plate is so small and besides, she insists that we all wear the things for hats for at least a few moments. So we spend a bit of every holiday dinner in lopsided berets, if we’re not all sporting some of the zany old hats in Chris’ collection.

A nice snappy salad with Romaine, thin sweet onion, mandarins, pignoli, and a tart vinaigrette.

My plate---Chris and I usually share a potato, and my slice of the beef comes from the medium-rosy section.

A big pan of “yeast-riz” rolls to accompany, hot and buttery:

We went back upstairs to open our stockings and have dessert from the Living Room dresser. This picture is after all the pillaging and snacking---the droopy sacks hold a confection the group has nicknamed "crack," for it's greatly addictive. It's Rice Chex, tiny pretzels, peanuts and M&M's, drizzled and tossed in melted Almond Bark and cooled to such a delicious, clumpy finish of salty and sweet that you just have to have another handful.

And on Christmas Morning, we of the house opened our presents to each other, with a lovely brunch of Banana Bread and Cream Cheese, Caro’s Cheesecake Coffeecake with Three-berry sauce, Sausage Balls and Bacon, with the two pies set out for whoever wanted a nibble---Derby Pie, and a marvelous coconut one, made by Mother’s Karo Pecan Pie recipe, with all that caramelly coconut on top.

After all the festivities of the week, we had a very quiet Christmas afternoon, just reflecting on the season and talking to all the chillun by phone. About dark-time, we headed for the fridge for thin-thin slices of the cold leftover tenderloin laid between those yeasty rolls for our very late dinner.

There are still trees a-sparkle, and bows and swags hanging; lots of the presents are arranged in tidy heaps of what-belongs-to-whom all over the living room, and nips and bits of Christmas sweets are whittling down the supply of goodies. The sentiments and the meanings of this most Blessed of Seasons are still vivid in our hearts, like the flames of remembered candlelight, and even with all the sparkle and glitter of a New Year about to burst forth this night, the memories of the blessings will remain.
And I wish that for you---all the glitter and sparkle, the soft glow of candlelight and the warm sun of bright days---along with the memories, glowing with a true, lasting flame throughout the New Year to come.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


It all started with Charades, I think, this bountiful, beautiful Christmas Season, for we’d all gone down to Tennessee the day after Thanksgiving to a lovely lodge, where we gathered with the Georgia clan and the Grands’ other Grandparents, plus an Aunt and Uncle and Cousin, as well as DS#4, here for a week from California.

There were thirteen of us, a lucky number this time,  and we had one of the best family visits I’ve ever attended. We went out for seafood the first night, the whole big bustling crowd of us, bundled up in sweaters and jackets and scarves-of-the-season, bright with reds and greens and bells-on-boots. We weren't loud, we weren't rowdy, but we DID have fun. I've always been particular about the behavior of the young folks in any situation, and ours were so sweet and happy---don't you just LOVE being at the table that folks all around keep looking over and smiling at, as if they're wishing they were sitting there too?

The next day we had a big homey family breakfast in the kitchen, with Chris slicing the big ham he’d grilled the day before after the turkey came off the grill. We had muffins and bagels and fruit, with milk and juice and endless pots of coffee in the twelve-cup pot.

The three Grands and Cousin painted Christmas Tree cookies, sent by Caro for a little Craft-time, and we played board games and painted the stained-glass pages of a big book. Knitting needles and embroidery hoops abounded, going fast and furious around us as we talked and drew and played.

A break for a good energetic outdoor play-time at the playground, with Tennessee sunshine obliging, as the young 'uns whooped and climbed and ran, then all came back in for a late-day dinner.

We set out the turkey (note in the far back---she's still trying vainly to cover her bare bosom) and ham and everybody’s Thanksgiving leftovers, with homemade German Chocolate Cake and an ethereal mile-high-meringue Coconut Pie from Shapiro's.

And as the day was drawing down into twilight, a belated birthday party for the littlest.

Lots of knitting and crafts and blowing up Princess air-mattresses and spending-nights-in-our-room,

with the final evening spent in a rousing game of charades, ending with about two dozen Christmas Carols---you pantomimed the title, then had to lead the rest in singing it, and all the little ones were quite adept at both. Thus the segue from Thanksgiving's winding-down into the Christmas festivities.

A big country breakfast in the dining room on Sunday morning, with the four kiddos co-opting an empty table for their art, as we grown-folks caught up on each other’s doings, cramming in every moment before we had to part ways for another season.

Then back to the big sitting room upstairs, where DS led us in a little church service---a wonderfully familiar, spiritual time, especially the sharing of it with so many people we love---the perfect ending for such a wonderful family time, and we made lots of family pictures around the fireplace before we all headed in our own directions home.

It was a wonderful trip, a wonderful visit, and it was so GOOD to be home, in this welcoming Christmas House.
And moire non,

Sunday, December 26, 2010


We've had a quiet, busy day today, Sweetpea and I, as her Mommy is taking advantage of the sales to fill her depleted gift closet.

We had grits and scrambled eggs before Ganner left on his long trip South to see his Mom, then we had a review of several Christmas gifts, and then lunch with Caro downstairs. A good long cozy nap after reading a new book, and tea-time at four, when she had chocolate tea in her own tiny teapot, and a couple of crispy, ethereal cigarette cookies whilst I had the apple-green pot of Magnolia tea.

Now we're immersed in Play Doh, and you'd be surprised how many colors you can get by mixing several, plus it's just so satisfying squishing all that cool goo with your fingers.

And it's also fun to give a blue Nemo a purple and orange Mohawk. Over and over til his hair turns tan.

Moire non about Christmas itself, but today's all there is for now, and that makes me smile.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Twenty years ago, somewhere hereabouts of this minute---2 p.m., we were on the long cold road from the Alabama coast to our new home in Indiana. We’d had our Christmas celebration with all the family on Christmas Eve, for Chris had to be back up here by morning on the 26th. We rose about three a.m., on Christmas morning, way down there in the fairly warm climes of Alabama, went around the house kissing every sleeping head Goodbye, and hit the road.

And by now, we’d made it all the way up into Tennessee, I believe, with no sign of sustenance along the road save feeling trapped in one of those awful Cooking Show Scavenger Hunts amongst the choices of jerky, Cheez Doodles and ninety versions of Caff-Pow offered in gas stations, convenience stores and Jiffy marts.

We’d had a lovely Christmas dinner with every one of the children in attendance the day before, all coming to us for an early holiday, and we’d feasted on Turkey and dressing and all the good old butter-laden Southern side-dishes, so we’d had our traditional meal, but it was CHRISTMAS DAY, and no real food in sight. We just kept pushing on past the McDonalds and the Burger Kings and the Hardees, thinking somewhere would be a moment to stop, take a little break, and eat something---anything on a plate, with a fork.

It wasn’t a hard trip; the scenery was a bit drab that time of year up through the mountains, except for the evergreens, but the music was playing and we were talking, and, twenty years younger, bright-eyed and eager for whatever our new life brought us. We just kept scanning and looking for a place with lights on, with cars in the parking lot, with some semblance of human habitation, and then---the tall, beckoning yellow sign, lit up like The Star.

The parking lot was packed---a good or bad sign, however you might look at it, but we opted for glass/full, and pulled right in, to see a goodly-sized line snaking out the door. But everyone seemed to be in a pretty cheerful mood, for the waitresses---those famous Take-No-Prisoners women, their traditional tiny mauve babushkas or eyeshades replaced by Santa hats and elf bells and reindeer antlers---those wonderful women were out there in the parking lot with trays of coffee and juice and water, going up and down that line with much-needed refreshments.

They were checking party-of numbers, parceling us out to fill all the seats, strangers with strangers, to cut down on waiting time. And it didn’t seem a long wait, either, for Chris is a never-meet-a-stranger person, and so we sat in a booth with a couple from Dyersburg, and every year I feel as if I should send them a card.

I was almost hoping we'd have to sit at the bar, for I've never had the nerve to just pop down on one of those stools, back to everything, and eat my breakfast with the world looking on; I was kinda looking for an excuse to cross Hunker Over Bacon and Eggs off my List of things I've never done. But I'd probably be a dismal failure at it---not enough droop to my outlook, I don't think, nor ability not to look around, taking everything in all at once. You kinda have to lean into life, to sorta hug the plate, to keep constant guard, it seems, to master a proper hunker, and I wouldn't presume to make an amateurish attempt in the company of pros---it wouldn't be polite.
I think I had an omelet, and perhaps Smothered and Covered:
And of course, Chris had the entire works: Waffle, eggs, bacon, grits---still his favorite, and this time every year, we try to go on a frosty day, inhale that coffee and burnt-toast smell, slide ourselves across those cold, slick vinyl seats, order a plate of that that carb-packed, wonderful fried stuff, and remember our long trip in search of a place to eat. It wasn’t Christmas Dinner, but it was bright and tasty and warm with the shared holiday spirit of a bunch of strangers sharing a meal far from home.

Friday, December 24, 2010


When you're needing a warm perch

and the world is cold and the snow is high
Come Inside. Come Inside.

We'll sit over coffee or tea and chat a bit, speaking of this Blessed Season and Family and Friends.

We'll help ourselves at Caro's bounteous buffet of Christmas Sweets---this was on Monday night, when we'd had a simple family dinner downstairs, and all trooped upstairs for dessert. Some of the dishes were still cooling; tonight everything will be on pretty plates.

And when it's time to rest your head, a soft place to lay you down. Plenty of room. Plenty of Room.
You'll always have a welcome in my heart, Dear Friends. Sleep sweetly on this most Blessed of all Nights.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


This is not a Christmas subject, but the more I look at it, the more it needs solving.
Maybe it’s seasonal overload. Maybe I’m just losing my mind. But I’ve just encountered something I’ve HEARD of, but have never experienced before. I have, as my Mammaw and several of her sisters used to say, had an episode of “Can’t read my own writin’ once it gets cold.”

Granted, I wrote it a while ago. And Granted, it’s been stashed away in a recipe file not-my-own for quite some time, I imagine, for I found it just a couple of weeks ago, rummaging in the upstairs cabinets for stuff to donate to the DAV. The little green bottom-half of a recipe file---green as only the greens of the Seventies were green, of an unfortunate shade then and still referred to as “avocado,” though not a one of those sour, gray colors matches any avocado outside of three-day guacamole in the Café Ole’ parking lot---captured my attention for its memories and for its contents.

The little box (half) was in the cabinet of a little house we rented once for a short while; the lady had gone into a nursing home, and both we and the lease were transitory, for her son was going to sell the house soon. Every single thing from the lady’s life was still right there in the house---furniture, linens, appliances, and every single thing needed for the operating of a home except towels. We hung her bright white sheets on her little clothesline, and slept on those fresh, fragrant linens in the beds she’d raised her family in.

And when we were about to leave, I called the Realtor and had her come over and have a walk-through, for I’d cleaned that place from top to bottom, scrubbing walls and floors and everything in between, and, knowing that the house and contents were to be auctioned, I asked if I might buy the little box before we left. She gave it to me, and I’ve carried it with me through two apartments and three-houses-before-this-one, with its neat little snood of Saran wrap to keep the little cards and clippings from harm.

And, sometime in between there, I wrote that card above. That's my tell-tale back-slant, my loopy letters, my staccato shorthand used in all recipes. It's never failed me until now.

I cannot decipher it, beyond “Worch” must be L&P, and “lab” might be a hastily-uncrossed "t" for Tabasco, and I do believe the “ging” spells ginger in almost any recipe. And see, there---that has to be “vinegar” up there, for I carefully went back and daintily put in the little ghost of an 'i’ to make it right.

But what does it MAKE? What would you DO with it---is it a marinade, a dip for shrimp, a salad dressing? And what on this good blue EARTH is PANCHO?

It’s become our latest Joke-Word in the house---years ago, there was a commercial in which a teacher asks a math question, calls on one little boy, and he blurts, “EGYPT!” We made THAT our watchword for years, using it for any word we couldn’t think of, any word we just couldn’t knock off our tongue-tips, any non-sensical answer we needed to make. We’d just shout, “EGYPT!” at irrelevant times, and all fall out laughing.

But NOW---Caro and I have been chortling over PANCHO for weeks. What does it MEAN? What cosmic confluence affected my mind so drastically that I’ve totally blanked out such a mystery? Did overhead lights suddenly flash on my way home one night, and did I awaken hours later with both time and memory missing?

I have surmised that since I never have any index cards in the house, and since this one seems to have been folded so that I might have tucked it into my pocket after writing down that Secret of the Ages, perhaps it’s a recipe I jotted down at a friend’s house, at a cooking show, from a doctor’s raggedy magazine, and kindly supplied with THEIR card, whoever they were.

And in any conversation, one of us is sure to interject “Pancho” into the stream of talk, in the most inappropriate and unnecessary places, with great cackles of laughter overtaking us all.

Something that silly, and which makes you laugh so much can’t be a bad thing, right?

And so---can anyone help solve this one? I’m a puzzle-solver, a code-breaker, a never-quit mystery buff, but this one is just so silly, I can’t concentrate on the specifics. And this stuff musta been DELICIOUS, for I seldom ask for recipes, thinking I can go home and re-create the dish. But this---this one’s got us all stumped. And maybe it's something wonderful, and we're missing out.

Best translation gets choice of a copy of Elizabeth David Classics, Kamman's The Making of a Cook, or a battered 1955 copy of The Good Housekeeping Cook Book, with the enclosed newspaper clippings, including Ann Landers' Lemon Pie. If you're of another bent, you could choose Margery Fish's Country Gardening or Classic Entertaining by Henrietta Spencer-Churchill. It's my first-ever Give-Away, but this is SERIOUS, folks. I gotta solve this thing.
PS. I don’t drink, and can only plead that senility has set in. Help?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I've been missing my friend John, at MISSISSIPPI GARDEN. He's been away from the blog-world for quite some time, as he has not been well enough to continue of late, but I look often to see if he's checked in, or perhaps just peeked at his own messages I've left, wishing him well.

The first Christmas of my blog, he had posted a piece about his favorite modern Christmas story---Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. It's also one of my own, for the times and circumstances so nearly mirrored my own raising, with Mammaw and a group of Aunts all chiming in on my welfare and manners and grooming, though they did not actually RAISE me, in the sense of every day looking-after.

And Y'all know I very rarely repeat a post, but this little book bears looking at, bears reading, for a real and stark and stunning picture of a little boy's life in the South of his day, with the devoted, fierce woman who took him in and did her absolute best for him, despite her own meager circumstances. And the almost-zany zeal with which she carries out her own odd Christmas tradition---that bespeaks a Southern woman's determination and grit and sheer strength of will to overcome and outlast and follow through.

I love Aunt Sook, as I loved and remember fondly all the odd group of Aunts of my own---the one who DIPPED and traveled hundreds of miles on Greyhound to come spend summers with us, ferrying tiny Ayres and Avon samples in her vast suitcase---oddly enough, from the big city I now live in; the one whose livelihood got her tossed in the calaboose for the activities of the scandalous houseful of young ladies she was "counseling," and the one whose quiet, spare reserve sent her deep into the beautiful realms of paint-by-number to escape the constant humming hive of the six-days-a-week dawn-to-dark little country store they owned. And always, my Mammaw.

And so, from LAWN TEA, Christmas, 2008---Reflections on A Christmas Memory:

One blog featured Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” in a daily post, the stark words re-read this morning with my first coffee. I could feel those cold Christmas-morning planks of the bedroom floor, see the hard-won clumsy homemade gifts and tree decorations, smell the scents of Winter-long bacon grease and Vicks in that drafty grim house.

The faded gray tones of the accompanying picture echo those in my own scrapbooks and albums. Little Truman squints and gives a tentative smile into the sun, as the limp skirt of his spare, gaunt kinswoman hangs beside the pants of his short white boysuit.

I know that woman---called “Aunt Sook,” though she was some distant cousin, as unwanted and unwelcome in the household as the quiet, brilliant little boy. You can see the arthritic clench of her hands which had just made thirty fruitcakes, chopping and stirring, sending them to the Roosevelts and other dignitaries, as well as neighbors and friends---she'd saved every coin and dollar she could spare for the year, hiding them in a purse beneath the floorboard under the chamberpot beneath her bed.

Those same wiry hands had chopped down a Christmas tree, wrestling it home past bayou and brush, for that beloved child, and decorated it with bits and bobs of anything pretty she could scrounge.

I know that scraggy porch, the one “turned” post standing valiantly against the sag of time, the rattly boards of the steps, the GRAY of the whole thing---the house and the porch and the prospects and the people and the time. There are plants on the porch, and contrary to my Mammaw's first porch, the one of my childhood, with the big old creaky swing, there are no coffeecans in sight. I'd have expected at least one, holding a cutting of something-or-other, to coddle into flourishment in that ripe Alabama climate. Mammaw's coffeecans held mostly coleus---plural to her, I suppose, for if she gave you ONE, it was a colea. I never GOT the difference til I learned to read, and seed catalogs were some of my favorites.

We have pictures of that hollow-faced woman in our own handed-down flaps of Kodak-cardboard; the deep, wise eyes, the scrunched-back, sparse hair, the best-dress for the honor of the event, the still stare captured in its simple eloquence. She even LOOKS like my Mammaw and her sisters, though three of them, including Mammaw, were definitely not slim, spare ladies. They were bright, laughing women, whose conversation and dress and daily doings were not of the gray sort.

And so, his Christmas Memory. Very unlike mine in content, but so similar in locale, in persona, in clime and in women whose lives were of that time and place. My own memories lean more to scratchy dresses and a big noon dinner with kinfolk at Mammaw's house, with her own small tree set on the living room/bedroom dresser and her own bed behind a curtain not six feet from the dining table in the "middle room."

Men sat on the porch, came rumbling in to eat, rocked back on two chair-legs with toothpicks from the tiny vase; they soon vacated their places for Second Table, went outside, smoked, talked, kicked car tires and smoked some more. I think---for they were as peripheral to my ken as I to theirs.

But, like Truman, I DO remember the Women. Christmas and every day of my life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010



To get that Brand New #2 Ticonderoga, smell its pine-sap breath as I reach up to run it through the hand-crank sharpener on the wall, and watch its pencil-dandruff float like soft snow onto my feet. I want to pick up that Brand New, virginal Big Chief tablet and hold it in my hands and smell the cheap pulp-paper pages. And write as long as I want.

A whole handful of those tee-ninecy little Avon lipstick samples---from the time ago before “samples” were little old dinky smears between plastic. The little “tubes” were really doll-sized little lipsticks, real as the big ones in my Mother’s dresser drawer---white plastic all over, about the diameter of a Dairy Queen straw, and maybe an inch tall.

They had a real little cap that slid on just like on Y-Vonne Barbee's Tangee, and the actual lipstick always was smoothed tight into a tiny peak, like the roof of a child-drawn house, pristine and pure and never touched by lip til mine.


To sit on the tall chrome-and-green stool at Leon’s elegant matching counter and have Miss Hazel pick up one of the little metal sherbet cups, sling the big old scoop from its rest in the bin of ice water, and scoop up a perfectly-round ball of vanilla. To watch her flip open the square lid to the sauce-trove and lower that tiny ladle into the deep dark recess down into the secret place where the Hershey’s lived, drizzle the string of chocolate over the ice cream, and set the whole thing down in front of me, with a crisp little napkin, a special little ice-cream spoon with the neatly-rounded shape, and a smaller version of the big-top/small-bottom pale green Co-Cola glass full of ice water.

To bake a pound cake in that old-fashioned tall tube pan---not a fancy, heavy, fluted Bundt-type pan. To butter the bottom and sides of the pan, with a good coat all the way up the tube so the cake can release. Then a quick cut and fold of one side of a paper Safeway bag until with one neat snip, I can unfold a perfect circle to butter and fit into the pan.

Eggs and butter and flour and sugar at the ready, all room temp beside the big old glass-bowl Sunbeam. Creaming of the butter, adding of the sugar, then the eggs one-at-a-time, then a gentle alternate with the flour and buttermilk, til the batter is creamy and perfect, perfumed with a good glug of Watkins vanilla or lemon extract.

All the batter scooped into the pan except for one cup, which gets two drops of McCormick red stirred in, then the beautiful pink dropped in clops all across the top, to marble gently in with a long skewer, making the cut cake into a marvel of rose-and-gold swirls.

To read all of Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes for the very first time, with fresh, new eyes and a sharp young mind for solving the mysteries.

To finish the supper dishes and my homework listening to WHBQ-Radio-Memphis, then set out the big old Co-Cola tray with cups and saucers, spoons and napkins, and two neat slices of that good cake on little cake plates, for the nine-o’clock coffee with This Is Your Life. To walk in with my loaded tray, set it down, and serve my Mother and Daddy their favorite late-night snack, one more time.

Friday, December 17, 2010


From the first days of fist-grab and chew, to the endless delight of pop-them-in-half, to the never-ending joy of peeling away each infinitesimal bit of paper from the smooth, waxy crayons, all the way to now---a conserving and a respect which call for the lining-up-and-keeping in the tiny lunchbox from Aunt Kim and Uncle Mike---the days of childish things are evolving.

And order---despite the still-scrawling, WAY-outside-the-lines artistic license of our little one, she’s learning the order of things. Smooth rainbow rows precede most coloring sessions, and sometimes they are the entire endeavor itself, those lined-up pastels and darks and exotically named “Macaroni and Cheese” oranges and fanciful blues.

I think so, myself, for I, too, was a conservator of coloring and writing tools, even at her age. A new box of EIGHT was a treasure, and once I played at the house of a friend who had THIRTY-TWO. I bought my own first box of Sixty-Four when I had my own children, and I shared it lavishly with those small hands still in the crack-and-bite stage, for who knows what childish dreams are made that way?

And a new #2 Ticonderoga and First-Day-Of-School’s virginal tablet---bliss, and you wouldn’t see me or get my attention for days. I wrote and wrote, scribbling little plays and stories and poems. There’s an order in that, as much as in the tidy ranks of the color-lines, for the putting down of thoughts gets things into their places.

I need order, today, I think, more than anything else. I need to attend to, or at least decrease, the pile of laundry which seems to have been my only saving grace in these days of a houseful of sickness. It was simple to sort, toss in, start the rush of water, pour in the detergent and lower the lid, imagining the hardships of this kind of cold on a washday of even my Mammaw’s time---I was fifteen when she got her new house, all modern and bright, a small five-room little haven with the washer right there in the big bathroom, Queen a Sheba convenient as all get-out.

The drying was still done in the outdoors, Winter and Summer---the long lines stretched between trees and FruitHouse, the adjunct to the chickenhouse, and repository of all the canned goods, stored things, discarded things, might-need-someday things, and whatever other saved-ups still hung around for decades in those days before Goodwill.

The lines of sheets were so beautiful out there in the green, blowing white in the wind, and the scent of the Rinso (“Like Washing with Sunshine!”) floating over into the little area of my outdoor kitchen where I turned out the most elegant mud-pies, was like the puff of perfume from my Mother’s dresser drawer.
Sis just said yesterday that her Italy trip holds memories of clotheslines everywhere, hanging from windows and balconies and rooftops, all the daily personals of the family flapping right out there in the sun, and visible in the same camera frame as the Vatican, the Doge’s Palace, the canals, the rolling hills of Tuscany. And that, too, is an order of things, carried on for centuries, and likely to live forever. I hope so.

I’m thankful to be IN, and to HAVE these clean things, cluttered as the rooms are becoming with stacks and sorts. And order there will be. Slow and sure, though this tortoise falters now and again, still a bit weak and trembly from the tempest, and reaching for the red Jello and a break now and again.

So, back to the washer, to fill and load, and to heed the dryer’s hum, and then the snap and fold of towels, shirts, pants. There’s even a sermon in sorting socks, if we just heed the words.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


We’ve all had quite a bout of that WHATEVER going 'round,
We’ve muddled through; our systems are just now approaching sound.
Chris got it first---from lobster butter Sunday night, we swore,
And Monday was a bad day---with Tummy cramps and more,

Off to hospital for two days, for rest and re-hydration,
We went to visit, then came home via a fave location.

Our supper was at Steak n Shake—with chili, cheese and more
Thank Heavens, with the Five-Way, I’d requested “Hold the Four.”

And then it was MY turn, to greet the morning with a sigh,
And spend the day in deep regret with thoughts of meals gone by.
I sat huddled in a blanket in the bathroom’s meager light,
Harking Onomatopoeia in the trashcan through the night.

Repeat reminders of that meal have made my days quite rough.
And I think I’ll write to Corporate, saying “TWO-WAY’S quite ENOUGH.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Image by Janie at Southern Lagniappe

I cannot tell Y'all of this great honor that I discovered when I visited my friend Janie at Southern Lagniappe just this minute.

She has done a little retrospect of some of her photos, with the comments that I posted when I first viewed them. She'd asked a while ago if she might do that, and she's made a lovely little album of her pictures today, with my little thoughts which came to mind when I first saw them. She has an eye for light and for detail which make her photos of the South absolutely magical, and I hope you'll go have a look.

I haven't even seen it all yet, and am hurrying back to take it all in.

Thank you, Janie---for this and Everything, Always.

Monday, December 13, 2010


We braved a driving snowstorm yesterday afternoon, to get far from home to the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church for the afternoon performance of MESSIAH. (Does one say performance for such a work of art and labor of such magnitude?). Just imagine, back behind the altar, the rows of women singers, all in black, just behind the first rail there with the maroonish stripe across the top, then up and behind the second railing, the two rows of men in black tie.

On up up, there was no choir where this one is, but along the rail and up the ledge in the middle was a line of a couple of dozen red poinsettias, with dozens of votives ranged down the row, leaving just the magnificent window above, surprisingly bright despite the dull gray of the afternoon outside.

Along the sides, on each of the goldish rims of the arches, a vertical line of six hanging votives flickered, and flanking the altar in front, right against the wall, were two very tall, slender Christmas trees, with hundreds of tiny lights.

The four soloists sat right in front, with the orchestra down on the floor level.

There's just something about those Gothic arch shapes, repeated like mirrors, which kindles a worshipful awe in my Deep-South Baptist heart.

We were in the back, able to take in every bit of the bright beautiful atmosphere leading up to all that glorious music and color at the front.
And it was marvelous---clear and shining and perfect, a moment which would have gone on just the same without us, as I sometimes think when we’re viewing or taking part in something out of our ordinary---something special and memorable which is totally not of us, but takes us in with a welcome and leaves us with a lovely memory. I’ll get that feeling---the one that’s NOT déjà vu, but something totally opposite, that this can’t really be happening, like when the plane starts going very fast for takeoff, or you’re in an unfamiliar or unaccustomed place.

I cannot explain or narrate or describe how glorious it was---the talent and the work and the voices---oh, the voices. All those perfect pitches and the tunes and the harmony---as my friend Kim says, “it just kilt me daid.”

We took it all in, scarcely breathing at times, and remembering to exhale as the last note died away. Just being in a ROOM with the power of that would have been way enough, but to be in such a setting, such a bright, ancient place of worship and accord, with its history and its air of holy rites and that stone which has echoed Alleluias for longer than our lives---that was far, far above reckoning.

And, as the most familiar notes sounded, we stood in respect and awe.

This is not the one we saw, nor is it a huge choir in stately robes, with a resounding orchestra. It’s not one of the several I’ve been privileged to see and hear, but I tell you true---If I could ever chance to be where something like THIS happened, it would be INDELIBLE.

I've watched it half a dozen times, now, and when the Mom and little boy take each other's hand about 3:05---gets me every time. Hallelujah.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Between this:

And This:

There was a LOT of work. DS asked if he could make the dressing this year, and I was delighted. I made the stock the day before, with the carcasses of two Sam’s chickens, celery, onion, a little chicken base, a little garlic and salt, and stashed the gallon in the fridge. Though we were making dressing and gravy only for seven, he likes LOTS of broth to make the dressing moist, and we make two kinds of gravy.

The plain, bland kind with just boiled eggs (it’s a Southern thing, and I’ve taken enough flak for it on cooking sites to last forever---it’s amazing how many ways folks can find to spell “EWWWWW”).
And the de rigueur Giblet Gravy, made just with livers this year.

The Dressing in Progress:

Lots of folks like to sauté the vegetables first, and that’s certainly a delicious way to make dressing, with those caramelly onions and celery and perhaps even mirepoix with carrots. But there’s a moment there, a split-second of the preparation, when the scent of the cornbread crumbled into the big bowl, and the tiny mince of raw sweet onion and just-cut celery, along with a generous scatter of fresh-ground black pepper and a good shake of the McCormick Poultry Seasoning---leaning over that bowl for the Fall’s first scent of Dressing-in-Progress---smelling those only-that-one-combination aromas---that’s when the Thanksgiving Dinner begins.

Not when I’ve polished up the silver, or got out the pretty cut-glass dishes gathered from so many tables not my own, or when the sweet potatoes go in to bake, but at THAT MOMENT, that inhaling of the scents old as Southern cooking, readily available for probably centuries and compiled of the essence of the dish---THAT’S the instant the clock turns to Thanksgiving, no matter what the calendar says.

For the first time, we cooked Golden Acorn Squash, stuffed with apple, craisins and Sultanas. Chris is very fond of the green ones, and happened to see this recipe online a day or two before THE DAY.

This dish is one of my favorite old pieces---it’s my Mammaw’s Homer Laughlin pieplate, never absent from any holiday or “fancy” dinner. I love old and faded and chipped pieces, but not necessarily around food---but this one has been in constant use since probably the Thirties or Forties, and it's like an old retainer with fumbly hands and clumsy feet, kept around because of respect and such long, faithful service.
The Sweet Potato Custard---I made up the streusel topping, and as the plate was so full, and the time flying by, I never did add it to the dish. We served this with the Dessert Course.

The green beans, contrary to tradition, were tee-ninesy Haricots Verts, cooked down low with soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil---a family favorite.

I’d made the beets several days early to let them marinate a bit---pickled with vinegar and some sugar, a little bit of spice, and a tiny drained jar of cocktail onions---I love the little glowy pearls.
The "other" Cranberry---with apple juice, orange peel, vanilla and Splenda:

The REAL cranberry---at least to Chris, without which . . . And, as always, the little pleats from the can add the authentic touch.

Crisp, briny Pickled Okra:

The “Kickshaws and Garnishes” as they used to say, with the celery the only nod to the Relish Tray tradition:

The finished dressing:

Couldn't you just step up and lie RIGHT DOWN?


If Turkey seems a bit streamlined, it’s because Chris took both Breast Lobes from the carcass, stashing one in the fridge for our trip on Friday, and slicing the other across the grain, for a really neat presentation. The thigh meat is hidden beneath the wings. He always carves in the kitchen, for it’s a messy business, all that dismembering and such, unfit for children’s eyes. (Though they do come running for a taste as soon as he brings it into the house).

It’s VERY moist, with just a hint of smoke, and simply delicious. (My first TEE-HEE. I just noticed that the picture shows Turkey topless, and she looks as if she's trying to retain her modesty with her wing-tips).

The table photos look like spreads from a 1974 Gourmet Magazine---all wine-dark and in somber tones---we were quite busy, and hurrying while things were HOT.


Everything was eventually tinted with the cranberry and beets, and once it hit the beans---which one of my Faithful Readers can recognize Gagh??

So---desserts later, OK?? I think this is a surfeit for one afternoon---Chris is taking me to dinner, and I can’t think of a thing that sounds good right now.

Moiré non about dessert and our weekend trip to TN,