Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Had a wonderful visit with Sis, and we delivered her to the airport this morning.   It's all new in there, with bright concourses, soaring architecture (no pun---the struts and supports are gleaming white pipe-structures with tapering ends, like a forties home-rolled---stretching up to huge heights).    It's GORGEOUS in there, and we looked our eyes full.

Just the ceiling of the great central atrium with the food court where we had breakfast is a sweeping high canopy of suspended pale azure stylized curving wings or gauzy palettes, hanging like the most ethereal, magical nursery mobile, stories above us craning up from below.

Perhaps it's because I was a bit tired from all the late-nights, family visiting, huge meals with us all around the table, long days of talking non-stop, laughing and crying, plus Sweetpea for the last two days and a visiting GrandDog---well, despite feeling up and going this morning, out into the bright day, all showered and fresh, I still got into a bit of a muddle. 

Or maybe it was the new signs --they're not the little kindergarten logos we're accustomed to---the paper-doll cutouts of the two genders, familiar and unmistakable.

These new ladies are STYLISH---slim fashionistas with a MULLET skirt, folks!    So, after we'd run in to wash our hands before we sat down to eat, and even another quick trip in with Sis, for one last moment before she boarded the plane, I STILL mistook one side of the court for the other.    We left the gate and I said, "If we're going anywhere else, I'm gonna run in for a minute."   

Chris steered me beneath the sign above---which, true, DID appear on one of the ones above my head, and on a door-with-a-handle to the side, with "FAMILY" on it.   I just kept strolling in, around the curve of that echoing labyrinth of beautiful tiles, and walked right up behind a gentleman facing the WALL.

I don't think I've turned and moved that fast since the frog jumped out of the mailbox.    

We came home and I slept all afternoon.    Better now.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I’ve been reading the new book of Julia-to-Avis letters, between Julia Child and Avis Devoto, after they met as pen pals in the early fifties.    The first letter was from Julia, a fan letter to Mrs. DeV’s husband, who had written a piece on knife choices for the kitchen.    She heartily agreed with him that the old original steel was best for blade and angle and use, and that stainless was just unwieldy bits of useless metal, and anybody who used them, etc., etc.   She seemed to send sets of the old dark steel ones to all and sundry in her cooking milieu, with undisguised disdain for those who preferred the stainless.

She raised an eyebrow and the tip of her nose at a noted chef who was horrified and sickened by the staining of the food which occurred with the steel blades, as well as the unpleasant metallic tang which adhered to whatever they cut.

And I’m with THEM---the stainless side, for I long ago retired the old steel blades, with a shudder and a grimace at the memory of the beautiful slices of a lovely sweet onion, falling beneath one of the admittedly sharp, good blades, but looking bruised and rotten, merely from the contact.  

Like my shoe shelf (sparse as it is), my knife rack is notably devoid of Big-Brand Names. But all the ones I REALLY use have the SAME name, because I like them. They are called RADA, are just RIGHT for my hands, have the best-feeling handles, and sharpen up exactly like I want---keen and ready. We pick them up mostly at Flea Market and Gun Show displays, and I'm finding it hard to locate one I DON'T have yet.

They are stainless, with gleaming brushed-steel handles, are just the right weight for me, and amongst their array (From Chef's knife, with a slight curve to the 10" blade and a wicked, paper-slicing edge, to the little Birdie-beak nipper with its teensy wanna-be-a-scimitar nose) I have everything I'll ever need at the cutting board. Which they also offer---stiff 9x13 translucent sheets, about six of which stand against the shelf wall behind the cooking pots, and which fit perfectly into the bottom DW rack.

My two favorite knives are sorta a cross between a cleaver and a chef's knife, without the curvy, rocking bottom. If a cleaver had a narrower blade which extended out to a rounded nosetip---that's how they look. And they're perfect for my hands, for the board, for slicing an onion just right in quick, sure strokes, or chopping it with that tip-steady downward slice that lets the perfect little chips fall, ready for a salad or a cooked dish.

We've given dozens for gifts, especially to the guys in the family who like to cook---almost all, in fact. Last Christmas, I just handed the catalog to the son here in town, and said, "Pick out four and mark them---all you guys will get the same ones."   Since he's the one with the biggest collection, I figured what he doesn't have, no one else does either. And the two newly-wed couples got the "Starter Kit" which had nine pieces and a sharpener, as well as a board.

I sound as if I should moonlight for Ron Popeil, but I just haven't found anything in the kitchen I like as well as I like these knives. (Well, maybe my ice-maker, but that's on another plane altogether).

I'm not a Chef. I'm an everyday COOK, turning out home-cooking and thin-slicing and chopping and dicing, dismembering a chicken or turkey, peeling everything from potatoes to peaches.   I have no knife-case, with every precious item stored in silken velvet. There's no acquire in my soul, sending me on a long quest for the best brand or the exact shape for each use.

There’s certainly no utensil-snob gene in my makeup---buying the NAME instead of the product ---that makes about as much sense as making a phone call on a potato.

I grew up as the only girl in a big neighborhood of rowdy boys. I carried a Barlow, honed to a keen edge on a satiny brick. One of the heavier small knives disappeared from our knife-drawer, never to be seen in the house again, since it was handle-wrapped in heavy tape and used for target practice---I mastered a tip-hold throw that sent my little knife into post, tree, shed wall, with blurring accuracy. It just came naturally to me to flick it out to its target as if it were still guided by someplace up in my shoulder.    And the little “flick” which sends blade into target is still in my muscle-memory, like the never-forget balance of walking a steel train-rail or riding a bike.

And I DO love the handfeel and the heft and the quick keenness of a trusty old kitchen knife. All mine are probably exactly what they mean when they say "stamped"---
these coulda been stamped out of a Play-Doh mold and I'd still like 'em.

Chris just picked up several yesterday at a trade show for Sis to pack into her luggage and try.   I heartily recommend them.

And you-----Stainless or old-fashioned steel?

Friday, June 24, 2011



I've been watching So You Think You Can Dance, and I'll admit to muting the sound for some of the really rocky, clicky numbers---I DO love the movements and the athleticism of the dancers, and marvel at the invention and the versatility of the steps.

I just got something in an e-mail you might enjoy---a beautiful "Street Dance" with a magnificent accompanist.


My Kitchen Greeting included a Yellow Rose of Texas this morning, for Sis will be arriving tomorrow for a visit.    We hope to just sit in the patio breeze with endless pots of coffee and pitchers of tea, and just catch up.    We've both vowed that it's OK to retreat and read in the shade, or go take a nap.

She's escaping the 108 temperatures, and so our unusually-cool temperatures (64 right now) will be a soothing solace for her visit.  

We'll probably be out of pocket for a bit---nothing planned, no schedule at all---but that's the nicest kind of restful visit.    And we may both check in for a post---who knows?   She knows delightful stories and has a wicked sense of humor, so we'll just see what we shall see.

Right now, I'm heading up to get fresh linens on the guest-room bed, and then go make Paminna Cheese.

If that's all I accomplish, that's a start.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


One of the first blogs I ever read was one of the BIG ones---just because I’d heard of it.   In the only  post I ever read, she was defending discussing diapers and poop and other matters on her blog, because lots of Mommies read it.

And today---so as to follow what I’ve heard is popular, and perhaps raise the tone of things around here---here goes:      As  Caro and Sweetpea and I sat on the soft cool breeze patio with our coffee, FuzzyPup needed the attentions of the baggie squad---quite early, for his routine is five-minutes-before-supper and get all the day’s activities out of the way, so as to have more naps.

And THEN, as I looked up just a little while later, there he was AGAIN---same as before.   Baggie, ditto.

So, when Sweetpea was ready for her “long walk,” I decided to take him along, though it’s always been a problem of criss-cross, stop, look, cross, trip, Fuzzy's succumbing to all the bygone collected spoor of the walking trail to stop to poop, entangle, stop, veer off, etc., when they’ve gone together.   

And just as we neared the last turn toward home, there he went AGAIN, with my first impulse to just yank him away.   I cannot think what I thought I could accomplish by that.   And of course, with the already-extra this morning, it had never occurred to me that he’d excuse himself a THIRD time, so I had only phone and key in my pocket.

But on all that expanse of neatly-mowed, impeccably-tended grass, there was ONE piece of cellophane fluttering on the ground nearby, and I did what I had to do.    It was only the serendipity of seeing my dear five-down-neighbor (also a dog-walker) out on the porch, that got us a baggie for the trip home.

Otherwise, I’d have been shepherding Sweetpea, corralling Fuzzy, tripping and tangling and veering as usual, all the while gingerly carrying poop in a dangerously-folded Planter’s wrapper.

And how is YOUR day?

Monday, June 20, 2011


In the long-ago days down South, we had people over often, or I catered a party or “helped with a shower” or some other such gathering for church or school or friends, and I had several punch bowls---mostly gifts.    Filled with a lovely fruit punch, or good strong clear sweet tea with floating lemon, or clouds of that severely-sweet sherbet-and-Seven-Up fluff---set one of those down, and anytime’s a party.

One of my bowls was a gorgeous Austrian cut-glass model, with a lovely pattern incised in lines almost sharp enough to cut your fingers.     It was a beautiful thing, shining in the light of a pretty table, or even just in the sun on the afternoon dining table.   I even put down towels in the sink when I washed the delicate thing.

It required “acclimating,” according to the directions on the paper which came in all the tissue and wrap---you had to put in a little cold water and swish it gently around, then a little more, then with a little ice, getting the chill all up the sides and chilling the bowl a bit before pouring in the icy punch.

I lent it seldom, for it had been a gift from Daddy, bespoke from friends traveling and shipped from faraway lands.    And I always took the time to tell the hostess JUST how to season the bowl before using.    Once, and the last time---literally---that I lent it out, was for a very special baby shower at our church.   

We were having a lovely time with games and chatting, and then it was time for refreshments.   As some of the ladies started setting platters and trays on the table, there came a resounding “CRACK,” like a pistol-shot from the kitchen, followed by a gasp-and-a-total-hush, during which came the splash and drippage of a great quantity of liquid onto the tiled kitchen floor.

   I knew exactly what the sound had been---my gorgeous punch bowl.    I didn’t even get up to go look, for I think everybody else did.    It was in two neat pieces, split almost precicely up the middle, lying like a dead clam amongst the big pool of Sunrise Punch, which was speedily making its way past the extra cups and the twelve Tupperwares of cookies and tee-ninecy sandwiches, and onto the floor.

The one hostess who “didn’t get the word,” had undertaken to fill it right up from the big old jugs of crusty-iced punch, straight from the freezer, and they did their work.   Nothing to be done but smile and finish the party and take home the sticky pieces, to glue together “just for looks” for the table.    And nobody was to blame, really---no way to be mad, (well it was worth at least a private pout or two)and what good would it have done---just a gentle regret for spoiled perfection, but we still got to look at that shine and twinkle for many long years.

And another bowl---a Christmas gift from my children---was in use for lots of things besides punch.   It was one of those two-decker models, with the smaller matching bowl inverted beneath to make a goblet-shape,  and all those little plastic doo-hickies around the edges to hold the cups.    It held many a banana pudding for Church Suppers, or a huge salad for a ladies’ luncheon, or even that ever-popular “Overnight Salad” with all the layers---or best of all, an immense four-or-five-makin's of Pink Salad for the Family Reunion, showing rosy through the glass.

Right now, I have several in the house, including an impressive Fostoria beauty, huge and gleaming, which lives atop the oldest china cabinet---it was a gift from a dear friend when they downsized houses, and except for DS and DDIL’s wedding, I’ve never had occasion to use an item of such magnificence. 

Punch bowls say you're doing something special, even for everyday.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Sometimes, I find something that just makes me SMILE so much I have to share.   On Sunday night's Tony awards, there was one number which I just keep going back to the TIVO to watch.

The star of the show introduces the number, but keep your eye on Norbert Leo Butz, who plays Carl Hanratty---the stand-up, do-it-right FBI agent who catches the crook.   He won this year's Tony for this performance:

Click the video in the middle to fill up your screen.   As David Letterman said after they performed on his show, "I think I have chest pains."

But I'm still smiling!

Monday, June 13, 2011


It’s 61 degrees here, folks---an oddity in the course of all these nineties, and literally a cool breeze in the midst of our heat wave.

Everyone but us is gone on their daily rounds, and we’re sort of sleepily easing into the day---she with Tinkerbelle adventures and me with a third cup and a quick glance into a refreshing blog or two.

We’re planning a quiet day, perhaps a long walk if the weather holds back all that moisture hovering in the clouds,  and the cool of the kitchen is just right for a nice baking of cookies to go with our afternoon tea.

And, since it's Caro's day off, we hope to spend some of it in a little pruning and readying for the second annual decorating of the Tree-Cup Tree.   It's languished forlorn for months now, since all the bright ribbons and cups were removed for safekeeping for the Winter.  

I wonder how many times in the course of a day a kettle is raised from the hob or taken from the burner or lifted from its electrical tuffet to pour the just-on-the-boil water over the waiting tea leaves.  

There must be the incense from a smoky fire in countless places, the brazier still the norm---in the old places which still hold to the old times, from tribute, tradition or necessity.  A cheery hob cradles a timeworn kettle in more homes than can be toted; great stoves like ship-prows hold vast kettles and vats, for the endless mugs and cups of strong, heartening brew; dainty pots are set upon hot plates, mugs are thrust into microwaves, and a very few draw their hot water directly from the faucet, fingers held beneath to test the temperature until necessity withdraws.  

The lift and stream of the kettle in that age-old graceful motion, unmistakable in its contours and soothing in its quiet dance, spell a gracious moment, a refreshing hour.  The interval from bag-dip to soothing sip can be in the space of a breath, and the reward just as vital.

This will probably be an extra-long day together, just Sweetpea and me.   The “tea” might be Cambric in her small pot, with a little pot of Lapsang for me, or perhaps a bit of vanilla cream on this odd gift of a cool day, for huddling the cup and seeing the steam rise in the shade.

Remember the slipshod charm of this hastily-assembled "tea table" last year?    

We’d love your company---there’s always plenty in the pot.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


 The coffee-and-tea spot in the downstairs kitchen.   I think Chris wakes up thinking up little tableaux and arrangements, for almost every day when I wake and stumble sleepily out, he has something new or different or just charmingly thoughtful, set out on the counter.  

Lately the theme has been YELLOW, from the cup to the creamer to a blushing S&L apple, sometimes with a small painted-glass frog, and the other day it was a pair of little resin birds.    One birdie was cheerfully claimed and hugged as soon as Sweetpea arrived, and somehow had a mishap-of-a-missing-tail, going into the "repair" box for when Caro has a moment to put her magical touch on the re-assembly.

The other bird was brightly alert this morning, following a trail of just-the-right-color M&Ms chosen one-by-one from the baggie left from smuggling few nibbles into last weekend's X-MEN.

I try to get my mind around the thought and planning, the choosing and the arranging, and the sheer dedication and love of standing there picking out the yellow-and-deep-red candy, just to match the sugarbowl.  

It's as impressive in its way as plotting the path of comets, and WAY more endearing.   

And the roses are still hanging in there, as are we all.

I hope you all a bright happy weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Metronome which belonged to Maria Callas---from Sotheby's Catalog
We had quite a busy morning, with Sweetpea coming down the stairs with her Mommy about 7:30, and then her Daddy dropping in for coffee on his way to work.    We’ve been for a long trike ride---forgetting that THIS was the day we were going on a Discovery Walk, with her spy-glass (magnifying) and her new little basket (her first-ever purchase at a Yard Sale).

The neighborhood is full of little findable objects, from pretty rocks to fallen leaves to tee-ninecy strawberries, small as a pea, peeking through the freshly-mown grass of the median.  We intend to go back out in a bit, since it’s ONLY 87 right now, compared to the 98+ of the past few days.  

But right now  we need a MOMENT.   It’s been like Barney in Raleigh today---just Go-Go-Go every minute.   We didn’t even stop for breakfast, so Ganner just took us out for a lovely lunch.    I had a really good chicken-breast half with some tasty collards and a jalapeno/corn muffin, Ganner had a Barbecue-Baked Pork Chop, and Sweetpea had Mac and Cheese and cantaloupe.

We took the “scenic route” home just now, riding through the ups and downs of the tunnel of trees on a side-road, with Our Girl’s request on the CD player---“Play Number ONE Again!!”  We rocked to Adele all the way home, with those Irish drums booming and our hands clapping and all of us doing such vigorous chin-thrusting head-nods to the music---I’ll bet the cars we passed just caught glimpses of what looked like a carful of big deranged chickens.

We’re all of Irish ancestry back along the line (and on my side, American Indian, as well), so I think drums are in our blood---the heartbeat of millennia, with the Celtic rhythms all the way back to the Firbolg’s sticks and rocks, and the centuries of hide-covered logs and pots serving as dance tempo and work beat and ceremonial flourish.  

Anyway, we’ve had quite a morning, and it’s time for a little cool-down on all fronts.

So,  while we take a little break, try a moment with Adele---just discovered a couple of months ago, and highly addictive for listening.   She is who she IS, and that's WAY cool.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I'm really wanting just the HAVING of a REAL Lawn Tea---I've planned bits and pieces and cloths and platters and menus and flowers for three Summers now, and just never seemed to get it together. 

But some days, late in the afternoon, when the air's like water on your skin, and the sun has that only-in-late-day golden slant on the green lawn, and the huge hostas are the shade of the ocean depths, I think how much I wish I'd been working on it, and had everything ready, and the guests were soon to arrive---I think, "Oh, I wish it were TODAY."

I SO much want to have one soon, and perhaps on our Anniversary, or even better---Sweetpea's birthday, now that she's learning the refinements of tea parties and how ladies behave.    She's always had good manners---it's just the stubborn that we're working on.

We had a few REAL life lessons yesterday, on minding and not saying no, and it had gotten past a baby thing, into the area of safety.   So after a good warning Monday about what would happen, yesterday she had to choose a toy and put it in the garbage.   I’d explained that it would go on the big truck and she’d never see it again. 

She took a long time, and I didn't see her approach, and then, like some kinda whale-spouted altar-girl in a skort, she held up both cupped palms, offering up Fuzzy-Pup's ONE toy---his ratty, dog-eared-in-every-sense little pink stuffed MOLE which used to have the cutest tiny black felt flaps for his little foot-diggers.  

  Smart, I knew about, but that level of calculation bespeaks a career in con games or politics, or both.

She finally returned to the kitchen with her small pink piggy-bank (the one with the bottom plug missing, so the coins fall right through) and consigned it to the eggshells and coffee-grounds.   Then she inquired wistfully, “When will the truck be here?” 

She re-visited the trash several times during the course of the afternoon, gazing into the depths and sighing deeply, and a couple of times I heard her whispering to herself, "And I'll never see it again."

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Chris came in with a dozen golden roses yesterday afternoon---just because "It's June!"   Here they are sitting downstairs beneath a bright painting, just after they went into the vase.      When I asked if he'd take a few pictures for me, he gladly grabbed the camera, took lots indoors, then took a few shots upstairs in the sitting room corner:    The light is a rosy pink (a carved block of salt), but it shows up as almost the same color as the roses in the late sunlight.

Then, with many cautions to be careful, he took the vase outdoors, to the little not-yet-pruned sitting nook out back: 

And then out into the sunshine---couldn't you just bury your face in these?

Off into the needs-weeding hosta beds, with the big Garden FairyGirl:   She seems to be admiring, as well. 

Then out into a patch of sunny lawn---Y'all, this vase is the most-guarded piece in my whole china cabinet.   I got it out in honor of the big bouquet of roses, but it's treated VERY carefully.    Sis had it shipped to me from the Waterford factory on her trip to Ireland.   I think you have to call it a VAAAAAAAAHZZZZZ.

And if I'd known he was gonna wag it all over the back yard, setting it down harum-scarum in the mud and sticks, even out by the old grindstone---I'd prob'ly have had a conniption, but he got some lovely shots.

And a yard-sale haul from Thursday ---it was sitting on the front seat beside him when I went out to meet him at Suppertime.    We DO love the old-fashioned flowers, as well, and good ole hardy petunias are a showy lot---these magentas are about to bust out singing, I think.     There's a "mate" to this across on another shepherd's crook---it's the same color, but just a big cushion of tee-ninecy flowers, from Sweetpea and her Mama and Daddy on Mothers' Day.

We just got the yard pretty-well cleaned up yesterday, and there's SO much more to do.   It was really nice to get the tree-trimmin's hauled off, and the garden circle cut, now that we can tell where all the herbs have come up.      Of course, dragging the big damp patio rug way out into the driveway to dry all day, and having the patio swept and blown---well, you KNOW how that looks after the wind and rain of last night.

But it's a start, and not like you can't get there from here.

Friday, June 3, 2011


R. I. P.,  Marshal Dillon.  You stood tall---always.