Wednesday, November 30, 2011


My dear online friend Kat just said on her blog that she had boxes and decorations and glitter in every room of the house and was in the “throw” of decorating (quotes hers) for Christmas.  

That one brought a smile---for first I thought of her lovely home, always perfection, always beautiful and neat, with all those cardboards and cartons and spills of sparkly stuff---probably the only clutter allowed to grace that well-ordered space all year.

THEN came the remembrance:   My first SIL and the ICICLES!   We used to buy those little flat packs of the thin-thin shredded aluminum/lead foil, to be draped onto the limbs of the tree to represent silvery, quivery shards of ice.   They came in a slim flat box, were thinner than tissue, with a dull gleam, and, since they were probably a foot-and-a-half long and folded in half around a little shirt-cardboard for convenience---they fell apart at a whisper, leaving you with a little mingy half-drape across the limb.

We’d separate carefully, taking them out one at a time---sometimes one person taking out and holding out, and the other gently removing the strand and laying it over the limb.   There were several camps on the decorating front:   Ours had careful one-string placement amongst the green, like this:

photo from jillsbooks


There were the ones who believed in decking the limb-tips only; the lavish grab of several, with the centers welded together by the pressure, placed around amongst the ornaments, and the one person I ever saw who loved the forest primeval look, and so grabbed them by the very end and squeezed an inch or so around the branch, so that they trailed down long and smooth.

And then there was SIL’s Method.  She believed in making it “look natural”---as natural as a lead-encrusted evergreen could look, with big handfuls tossed upward toward the tree, so that they fell as nature would have intended, had the skies showered great Pern-clumps of metal strings.

Whatever hit, wherever it hit---that was the intended spot.   And whatever landed on the floor was picked up, gathered into another, messier handful, and given another shot at it.  The whole thing looked like droves of drunken spiders had been spinning droopy, disconnected webs all up and down the tree.  Great bare spots were flanked by big ole crinkly wads of the things, and whole sections dropped their unbalanced little burdens onto the carpet, the tree-skirt, and all the presents below.  

And family lore still has it that you could set the Christmas Day clock by SIL’s front yard---the minute she licked the last scrape of Sweet-Tater Pie off her fork, she’d head home, and in a bit there would be a green mound out by the garbage pickup site, winking silver twinkles in the sunshine before the rest of us could finish the Dinner Dishes.

Did you ever use these?  What was your application method?

And someday----SOMEDAY---when I get to know you better, I’ll tell the story of our very first Christmas here, and the very interesting decorations on the perfectly-good little tree we pulled out of the Dumpster the week before Christmas.


Saturday, November 26, 2011


Thanksgiving was a quiet, homey day, with two slow, gentle days of getting-ready, of getting out the cloths and the goblets and which-bowl-for-what, knowing full well that the snap beans would go into Mother’s silver-rimmed little Harmony House bowl, as always, and the chocolate chess pie into Mammaw’s old chipped Homer Laughlin pieplate, brought out just for the honor, once a year, like an old faithful servant still asked to fumble a dish or two onto the table, because of their splendid service of the past.

Somehow, when I took out the two tablecloths, a sorta pinkish tan, with deep shades of fruit and flowers, bought at a yard sale several years ago for two dollars apiece, I just automatically reached for the heavy old pink goblets.   After all, they would GO, and I DO have five of them, and there WERE five adults.   Besides, the dozen bigger, older Mammaw goblets we usually use were snugged WAY in the back of the shelf, with a little sherbet dish nestled into each, to make space.

And so, Our Pink Thanksgiving table came to be---even a last-minute prink by our Sweetpea, who gently re-arranged the silverware and made sure the tea things were ALREADY set and waiting---well, those matched just dandy, too.

The plates were heavy burgundy crockery, handed round hot into our napkins after we sang the Blessing, and we had most of the old favorites from Mammaw’s and Mother’s tables.

The fresh-snapped beans, “canned” the day before by my first Mother-in-Law’s recipe of vinegar and sugar brine, then drained and cooked down low with onion and bacon:

The cornbread dressing, rich with Caro’s homemade chicken stock, studded with tiny mince of onion and celery, with the Mammaw's Kitchen scents of sage and black pepper. Two kinds of gravy peeking over the top.

 The sweet potatoes---not our usual custard with marshmallows, but the tiny “patties” usually only available this time of year in the “meat” aisle.  They were layered into a buttered dish and a thick-reduced simple syrup of brown/white sugar and vanilla poured on before baking.   They were still bubbling heartily when they were set down on the table, and were one of the favorite dishes of the day. 

A simple plate of steamed broccoli and cauliflower, with a little dish of cheese sauce beside, and Sweetpea’s Mac and Cheese.

Of course, the devilled eggs, the two kinds of cranberry---one homemade, the other the standard Ocean Spray, with the little can-pleats still showing, and a dish of DDIL’s famous (and that is literal---people call and want that recipe every year, and Sis says it’s become “her” family tradition in Texas, as well) broccoli/cauliflower salad, with bacon and cheese.

And that gorgeous Turkey---brined and then cooked in the just-so-regulated grill for hours that morning, to come out with the burnished mahogany sheen of a well-loved Camaro.

Shining and magnificent---the drumsticks just woggled around in the crisp skin, and came out warm and juicy: 

Sweetpea finished early, of course, and named off people around the table---"You’re my family, and YOU’RE my Family, and YOU’RE my Family."    Then she went around giving hugs all around, because “You’re my FAMILY!”

There was cheesecake with cherry sauce, and a Chocolate Chess pie, and we finger-ate all the big ole grapes out of the centerpiece.  After most of the dessert things were cleared, Sweetpea started handing round all sorts of percussion instruments:   A tomtom, a small drum, a tambourine, plus the two sets of drumsticks and odd items for striking:  She gave Caro a drumstick and a small pastry-brush from the drawer, and my big ole melmac cup “drum” was presented with a wooden spoon, so I licked my pie-fork clean and we started up the Rhythm Band.

We sang and tapped and bammed, and perhaps it was because I was getting so tired and turkey-lethargic just sitting there at the table for so long, but I started the TAP TAP KNOCK!  TAP TAP KNOCK! with all of us adults joining in and then coming in right on cue:   "WEEEE WILLLL, WEEEE WILLLL ROCK YOU!!" to Sweetpea’s bewildered, then delighted face. 

Oh, my.   Don't know the words, and never much cared for a rappy style, but nothin' like some seventies Queen to set the tone for nice genteel people, after a lovely repast, rockin’ out and banging on the crockery.  

After we wound down with THAT, she wanted the “Kitchen song” which I quickly realized was that twangy version of “You are my Sunshine” on the O Brother soundtrack---I sometimes play the CD on the Bose. 

When we all got up from the table, it was like my dream of Holidays---like the scene in The Big Chill after the big dinner, when they’re all rockin’ to music and dancing in the kitchen as they clear away the dishes and put away the food.

I hope yours was wonderful, as well.   I'm moving SLOW, but after this good family time, and yesterday's long hike, I think I'm back.


Thursday, November 24, 2011


You've all come to be like my Family, all the year round, and I wish Y'all ALL the very best blessings on this Thankful, Thankful day.

and moire non,


Saturday, November 12, 2011


Three years ago today, I tentatively sent out the first post of these almost-eight-hundred, just flinging thoughts and memories out there to the whole universe, and now here we are---later in time and life, with many changes and new happenings happened and written and shared.

Still not up to posting as I'd like to, but I thought today should have at least one little Hello and a very large Thank You to all of you who have joined in and shared the moments of our days.   I appreciate and love you all, and am so grateful for all the wonderful sweet friends who have come to be such a part of my life.

So---just a small moment---a morning walk with Sweetpea, as we walked and marveled and looked at the world with wonder---the ordinary and the marvelous.


We came upon a broken bag at the curb, bits of someone's plastic recycle scattered for several yards, the colors and the shapes splayed in the sunshine.   A paint tray, coat of pale yellow in the bottom, with a small waterline of soft blue to attest its former use.   We talked about the smell of fresh paint, how it brightens up things, how the roller rolls smooth through the thick colors and transforms walls with a swipe of the arm.   We speculated on places which might now BE those lovely colors---a cozy kitchen in the soft butter yellow of my own, or a baby's room in either that or the pale blue.

The rollers, some small bright cylinders which had been the V-legs of what looked like a child's easel, bits of crumbled pearly egg cartons scurrying in the breeze, a deep quad container which had held four hefty pots of new plants, long blue ribbons of painting-tape, dotted with color and furled into the bows and twists of Mardi Gras---all testament to New Beginnings---lay sprawled on the pavement like scattered toys.

I explained how it was to be refurbishing a house, trying to imagine the cool silence and vast expectant rooms, stripped to the echoes, awaiting transformation and renewal.    And I tried to imagine all those NEWS---the starting outs, the clearing aways, the brightenings and the cleanings.   

We came home and sat down at the dollhouse, which has accumulated WAY more than its share of needfuls---there always seems to be a new denizen for the never-ending backyard menagerie flowing from Ganner's pocket, and what started as a few little farm animals has progressed past farm, through Noah, and into Open Range/Jungle/Pampas/Veldt stage.   The little herd of cows, the couple of chickens, the goat and the lambs---those have blossomed, beginning with the yak, I think.   After all, after a YAK, the sky's the limit.

And now we have monkeys and an elephant and a raccoon, many cats, from snobbish little pillow-puffs to a whole fleet of fast jungle ones, a dozen dogs, a kangaroo.  All sizes of fat pink piggies, a whole stableful of mis-matched horses, with such a giant steed standing eaves-high guard outside the patio, folks are gonna be driving up craving Dan Dan Noodles.  

The latest is a white tiger, which she triumphantly claimed and crowed, "A SNOW Leopard!!"  And could not be dissuaded, though we explained spots and stripes, so Ganner proposed that perhaps this leopard got caught out in the rain and his colors ran.

We scooped everything out of the bright plastic rooms; we put our faces deep into the tiny spaces, shouting  a little HAH! into each small emptiness, as she always does when we enter a building, to hear the resounding in any vestibule, especially those little entry-ways with two sets of glass doors and nothing but space between.

A little Pine-Sol spray, a few paper towels, a pretty piece of border from a sticker-book cut into a cunning carpet-runner and matching valance and stuck in the little dining room, and our tiny house is refreshed.

And so, with several days since to work on my own house,  I have been slowly going floor-to-ceiling, round the room down here, scattering debris, putting the fear into dust bunnies, finding a lost brooch, the top to the tiniest teapot, a long-despaired-of shoe---in rightening these rooms for the great arrival of five-to-stay and more to visit.   

Moving slowly, and looking forward, still shouting a little "Hah!" out into the world, hoping for an echo.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


 Another memory from the past---from when I first began posting---this is an "old family" recipe, by default, anyway, by dint of having been used by FOUR generations already (though actual time elapsed is only twenty years or so).   I hope to be back when things quiet down, when the world is not so much with us, and when I can post without cussin' the molasses in the gears of this machine.

Thank you all for your prayers and good thoughts---I can feel the lift.

 +++++++++++MOTHER'S APPLE DUMPLIN'S++++++++++++

I don't believe I've made my Mother's recipe for Apple Dumplings in several years. My memory of the date I cooked any given thing is not so keen any more---I do remember the Thanksgiving the year after her death, when we had all gathered back at the family home for one last time.   Daddy had called us all and said that he had sold the house, and he'd be back in town for a wedding that weekend, so if we wanted anything out of the house, we needed to get a truck and come on down.

And so we gathered, the ten of us, and packed and remembered, losing time and work in the reminiscences, and the stories attached to many of the things of our upbringings. My sister's son is a chef, so he and I cooked the Thanksgiving dinner, beginning sort of long distance, with my bringing a lot of the ingredients and several dishes already made and in coolers, the five hundred miles down the Interstate. He and I stood at the same stove, on the same gold-patterned linoleum on which which I'd stood to bake and stir and fry all those years that I lived there, and where his tiny pamper-bottomed self had scampered amongst our feet. 

This recipe is just as written down for me by DS #2, who has made this old standard for our Christmas Dinner for a long time, now; I had made it before, and had it memorized, but that’s faded, and I wanted the exact measurements.

Way back then, in that old familiar kitchen, with its Brady-orange countertops and copper EVERYTHING, I dictated quickly to the tall young man---now a chef in his own right:

“Make a Simple---1/3 white, 1/3 brown. Melt stick of butter in pan. Peel, quarter, wrap, pour, 350, 35/45.” And his chef’s training took over. He made a lovely pan that we enjoyed one last time around that familiar table, all of us together under that roof for a final Thanksgiving before the house belonged to other people, other traditions.

Mother’s Recipe, written down for me by my son, who makes them for all our occasions:

Granny Smith Apples---4
2 packs Pillsbury Rolls---Pack makes 8
Brown sugar 1/3 cup

Sugar 1/3 cup
Stick of Butter

A cup of juice or Cider
Melt stick of butter in 9x13 Corning ware pan. Core and peel Granny Smiths in 1/4th. Separate rolls.  Wrap and pull rolls around ¼ of apple.    Place in pan. 

*Evenly Sprinkle brown sugar and reg. Sugar over top and around Dumplings. Take a spoon and drizzle a little water over each one. Pour about a cup of cider or apple juice into the bottom of the pan to make the syrup and it will thicken around the bottoms of the rolls. Bake on 350 for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown.

This is exactly what I want to do---bake these wonderful pastries with DS next time he's here---when days are not so entwined, and the scent of Old Times can fill the house with memories.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Thank you all for the kind words and thoughts and prayers.   While things are still down here, a re-run from the blog's beginnings.   We could all use a fresh start now and then:

Deep Roots, March, 2009

I've been looking into some of the names of my forebears, just Googling a surname now and then, running an eye down the lists and the branches, finding kin, finding even from this remove an unexpected sprinkling of names of friends-back-home whose lineage parallels or channels with my own, merely by dint of a far-ago marriage in the place we both are from.

Memories kindled, smiles of recognition and astonishment at our links in the long chain---it's been fun to scroll across the names of old friends and acquaintances whose names echo mine in the long past. Something about being from the South, of the near-and-dear relationships, the kinship of place as strong as of family---it's a heart-thing, absorbed through the air and the heat and the long vistas of flat Delta gumbo, from that primal scent of first-plowing to the nip of Fall, with Winter delineated by getting out jackets and gazing on the drab scape of gray fields shorn to stubble.

My own raising, deep in the moist heat of that fertile flatness, was centered around family gatherings---Sunday dinner and birthdays and holidays and reunions and sitting together in the shade, waiting for the ice cream freezer to do its magic to the custard whose recipe was older than anybody present. The old recipes and jotted-downs and clipped-outs and the mainstays---we repeat the gestures, the measures, the tastes.

I cook Southern, but have been known to throw foie gras or caviar onto a table with crawfish, catfish, mallard, mountain oysters, rooster fries, buffalo and wild hog. I cook whatever we feel like at the moment, whatever is freshest from the garden or the Farmers' Market, or whatever was just brought back from a trip South. Food and cooking and the cultivation of both have been a greater part of the Southern perspective for time beyond memory, and the dedication and methods from the old ways have hung on longer in the South, it seems.

I own white gloves, lacy hankies, opera glasses, a well-sharpened hoe, a TALL ladder and a Troy-Bilt. A lifetime of food raising, hoeing, picking, canning, pickling, freezing and preserving has given me a deep appreciation for all methods of hunting and gathering. Deer, duck, crappie, barbecue and gumbo have appeared as often on our table as pasta, hamburgers or Mapo tofu.

The ladylike rosy shade of my own nape was earned honestly, bending over the beanrows, pea-vines, cornstalks and squash hills in that extremely HOT Delta sun. Redneck is as redneck does, I reckon.

But sometimes it would be nice not to have to waste so much time dispelling the notion that the lowest IQ in the room necessarily must belong to the person with the Southern accent.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Still out of kilter/touch/abilities right now.   Hope all is well out there.

Any prayers and good thoughts sent this way greatly appreciated.