Archive | August 2012

We’ve Got Drought…or Black Thumbs are Inheritable

Northeastern Oklahoma in all its beauty is becoming a dry and barren wasteland.  Claremore has water rationing in effect–voluntarily at this point, they say, but the end of all living things is in sight–and so my beautiful hydrangeas, hosta’s, and my prize possession and a special blessing–my brand new butterfly bush, is dwindling down to die.

We used to sneak out and offer a little comfort, we’d water in the dark late at night, hiding from the water police…but the situation seems so dire, we gave up and quit watering.

So I’ve watched the struggling, spindly plant shrivel up, turn brown and brittle, and basically die.  Besides, it’s only survived until now based on the fact that Vernon, my husband, has faith and has handled the watering.  You see, I have a huge black thumb.  I kill every living plant I come into contact with.  I don’t think it runs in my family, because my Mom on the other hand, could jab a yardstick in the ground and make it grow and bloom.  I’ve watched her!!  The great Atlanta Plant Whisperer of 1983!

My daughter Shannon phoned from Houston, Texas late this afternoon to share news of her promotion at work.  It was a real accomplishment for her, a career ‘star in her crown’.  I told her I’d love to send her a plant, but until we discover if we’re solvent or not (has to do with short-term disability payments), I said I’d just send her photo’s of the  beautiful peace lily we just received from our church following my husband’s shoulder surgery.  It would be a sort of “congratulations/plant IOU”.

We talked back and forth, touching on 43 topics in the space of 10 minutes or so–we had to be quick ’cause she was at work.  She started trying in her compassionate way to make me feel better about losing my butterfly bush, and shared a story.

“It can happen to anyone, Mom, it’s just the odds.  We planted three white oak trees that were a gift from a friend.  Two were placed in the back yard, and the third tiny one in the front yard.  We did everything exactly the same for them, yet no matter what we did, the one sad little guy didn’t make it.  So we pulled it up and threw it away.  It’s a loss, but it can happen to anyone, trust me,” she went on.

In our mother/daughter fashion, I started listing things she could have tried–‘did you water them well? Did you feed them like the directions say? Did you…’  I went on in my helpful, searching voice.  Then she began to giggle.

“Wait, Mom.  I figured it out.”

“What?  What’s different about your three trees?”

“Robert (her husband) planted the two big flourishing trees in the back yard.  It was ME that planted the one that died in the front.”

“Well, welcome to The Curse of the Black Thumb!” I cried.  Now you know why I don’t water the butterfly bush myself.The flowers of a peace lily plant.

We finished our conversation and I let her get back to work.

My next move was to take a few interesting pictures of the church family’s peace lily to send to Shan as her “IOU plant”.  I placed the HUGE peace lily with its satiny red ribbon, nestled in a woven basket on a table by itself.  It’s just spilling over with dozens of white blooms shaped like a shell, sort of a ‘jack-in-the-pulpit’ shape with the bumpy pistils each standing up in the shade of its own white shell.

I took a couple of shots of the entire plant, and then thought we needed a closeup or two of the blossoms.  As I pointed my viewfinder at first one cobra-hood shape and then another, the old brain decided to take a left turn…the plant began to come alive!  And I texted Shannon the following:  “This is a big green jungle of leaves, hard to get it all in the frame.”   “These white blooms are nodding at me.   There’s so many they’re starting to bob and weave.”    “Sheesh, Shan, I thought I heard them whispering…I think I’m going to give them names.  One just said something about ‘the neighborhood…'”  Realizing I sounded as nutty as I felt, I stopped all that and sent her the pictures…When it comes to plants, if ya can’t keep ’em, just fake it!A picture of Peace Lily along with its leaf. C...

Technology at Our House

My Toy Maltese, Miss Chantilly Lace—“Tillie” to a few of her closest friends—is a devoted old soul.  Next month she will turn 70 in dog years.  By the hesitancy in her eyes when I call her to jump onto my bed, or to dance a whirling jig on her hind legs for a chewy bacon treat like she used to, it’s evident that Father Time and aging are not being kind to her.  Her little knees ache at times, making her an excellent weather forecaster for those rainy days.  While she’s a bit slower to get going in the mornings, she still has spunk, making the rounds of her vast kingdom—my back yard—lecturing the squirrels, chasing any unidentified birds out of her territory and keeping it safe for her family.  Knowing Tillie is on the alert is a comfort and a blessing.

She loves me, has been deeply devoted to me since I purchased her as a puppy from a kindly retired veterinarian in Ardmore back in 2002.  Yet there’s a definite fickle streak in that tiny six pound body.  She will attach herself with wildly enthusiastic abandon to any visitor who comes through our front door.  Her captivating black marble eyes instantly charm, yet when sensing a new situation and not completely sure of her reception, she escalates her nervous habit  (we all have them, don’t we?).  In fact, the welcome mat at the entrance to my home says, “Beware: Dog cannot hold its Licker!”

There are those times when her lack of licker control can be a nuisance.  Yet she will always calm down, especially if you’re willing to perform an undercover operation.  Just cover your lap with one of our small fleece throws; then she immediately scoots under, settles in beside you, goes completely silent—and off to sleep.  Licker silenced.

But if you want to really see the blazing fast communications technology at our house, come around to the side gate.  Thomas Edison invented the telephone and the telegraph.  My Maltese created Tilliepathy.

Waiting for Daddy’s truck – in Colorado, 2005

I mean, just look!  The grass-worn path from our gate to the back door is getting deeper and deeper with use.  The instant Tillie sees her Daddy step out of his diesel F-250, she abandons her lookout post at the gate, makes a beeline for her doggy door, and meets him as his key turns in the lock.  Our Tilliepathy is pretty dependable; very appreciated; and a memory that I cherish, whether it kills the grass, tunnels through snow, or fills with seasonal rains…that’s love in action!

Simple Things – the Original Brunswick Stew Recipe (as far as I know)

***NOTE:  For all those who love to ciritize this simple home-grown version that I created, please see below for the ORIGINAL from the website)

When I was 15, we moved from Lexington, Ky to Atlanta, Ga.  (East Point, to be exact).  There used to be a chain of restaurants called Old Hickory House.  I don’t know if Brunswick Stew was their claim to fame, but it’s the most perfect food on the face of the earth, if you ask me.

Now, the restaurants don’t exist anymore, but the recipe lives on.  If you wanna read up on which states claim the recipe and who thinks it was first prepared in Brunswick, GA (vs Virginia), you can.  I  can list the link at the end of my recipe.  But back to my story:  I wanted to serve it to the local Ministerial Association Luncheon last year, so I searched and bribed and did a voodoo dance (just kidding) until I discovered the original recipe, or what I BELIEVE to be the original recipe.  I’m listing it for you here; if you think it’s wrong, don’t call me; just change it to suit yourself.

But I can guarantee that if you follow this recipe to the letter you will have the best one-dish meal that you will ever, ever eat.  And I’m not biased at all.  (What did we do to express ourselves before smiley faces and “lol’s”?)

GEORGIA  BRUNSWICK STEW
Yields 1 gallon   (I think it makes more but that’s what the recipe says)

FOR THE SAUCE:
In a 2 1/2 quart sauce pan, over low heat, melt:
1/4 cup of butter

ADD AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTH:
3 1/2 cups Catsup
1/4 cups French’s Yellow Mustard
1/2 cup white vinegar

THEN ADD AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTHER:
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons coarse grind black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 oz. Liquid Smoke
2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
2 oz. Crystal hot sauce or 1 oz. Tabasco
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

TO THIS MIXTURE ADD:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Stir constantly, increase heat to simmer (DO NOT BOIL) for approximately 10 minutes. Makes about 7 cups of sauce.  Set aside, or simmer on low if you wanna really make it good.  It really intensifies the flavor if you have oldies playing on the radio, Elvis is preferred.

THEN THE STEW:
In a 2 gallon pot, melt:
1/4 lb of butter  (don’t complain, this is the healthy version)

ADD TO THE POT:
3 cups small diced potatoes
1 cup small diced onion
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) chicken broth
1 lb baked chicken (white and dark) (I cheated and used a rotisserie chicken)
8 to 10 oz. smoked pork  (and here I used part of a honey-baked ham, only ’cause it was in the freezer waiting for me)
Bring to a rolling boil, stirring until potatoes are near done.

WHEN THAT MIXTURE IS PERFECT AND YOU’RE TIRED OF ELVIS,  CHANGE THE STATION AND ADD:
1 (8 1/2 oz.) can early peas
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) stewed tomatoes (chop tomatoes, add liquid to the stew pot)
The prepared sauce (from above recipe)
1 16 oz. can of baby lima beans
1/4 cup Liquid Smoke
1 (14 to 15 oz.) can creamed corn
Slow simmer for 2 hours.  (I know it says 2 hours, but I found that I burned it if I cooked it this long–judge for yourself, mine took about 45 minutes.  When it’s done, it’s done.  You just can’t tamper with perfection)…

The Old Hickory House served either a small cup or a  large bowl of Brunswick Stew, in addition to a plate with BBQ sandwich, baked potato and BBQ Beans, and Cole slaw, or if you’re smart, you just save all that room for the Stew.

The link to the recipe that I thought seemed most authentic to my memory is:  http://www.officialguide.com/gistew.html  Y’all enjoy.  Come on back when you’re full……yes, it freezes well, although I don’t know why you’d want to.  Bye for now.  Always remember Whose you are.

**HERE IS A COPY OF THE ORIGINAL FROM THE WEBSITE:

Brunswick “Stewbilee”
The “Brunswick Rockin’ Stewbilee” is a cook-off between amateur and professional chefs who bring their culinary skills and secret recipes to compete for the coveted title of “Brunswick Stewmaster.” Fun-filled day for the entire family, Check back withwww.brunswickstewbilee.com for exact dates around Oct-Nov.

World Famous Brunswick Stew
stew


Brunswick “Stewbilee”

The “Brunswick Rockin’ Stewbilee” is a cook-off between amateur and professional chefs who bring their culinary skills and secret recipes to compete for the coveted title of “Brunswick Stewmaster.” Fun-filled day for the entire family, Check back withwww.brunswickstewbilee.com for exact dates around Oct-Nov.

First the sauce:
In a 2 quart sauce pan, over low heat, melt ¼ cup of butter then add:
1¾ cups Catsup
¼ cup French’s Yellow Mustard
¼ cup white vinegar

Blend until smooth, then add:
½ tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ oz. Liquid Smoke
1 oz. Worcestershire Sauce
1 oz. Crystal Hot Sauce or ½ oz. Tabasco
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend until smooth, then add:
¼ cup dark brown sugar
Stir constantly, increase heat to simmer (DO NOT BOIL) for approx. 10 minutes.
Makes approx. 3½ cups of sauce (set aside – to be added later).

Then The Stew:
In a 2 gallon pot, over low heat melt ¼ lb of butter then add:
3 cups small diced potatoes
1 cup small diced onion
2  14½ oz. cans of chicken broth
1 lb baked chicken (white and dark)
8-10 oz. smoked pork

Bring to a rolling boil, stirring until potatoes are near done, then add:
1 8½ oz. can early peas
2   14½ oz. cans stewed tomatoes – (chop tomatoes, add liquid to the stew pot)
The prepared sauce
1 16 oz. can of baby lima beans
¼ cup Liquid Smoke
1  14½ oz. can creamed corn
Slow simmer for 2 hours

Yields 1 gallon

 

 

Lightning Bugs Are Safer

It’s summer, smotheringly hot days followed by hot hot nights, the kids still out on our street after dark, playing tag and riding bikes.  It was a night just like that back in 1961, no DVR’s, no cell phones or computers, but kids entertaining themselves outside all day until the street lights came on.  Then it was time to go inside or your Mom would  come after you.  With a switch from the maple tree!

Since we were our own entertainment it often fell to our fertile imaginations to provide something really different.  We had been swimming all afternoon in the neighborhood pool; we came home after swimming  and played canasta and rummy with Dad’s playing cards and every game we could think of until Freddie decided we had to play 52 Card Pick-up.  That ended that.

Then the girls retired to my room for a bit, and dressed the kittens up in doll clothes.  They weren’t cooperating too well, so we went to the back yard and lowered them with my brother’s toy crane down into the window well (a below ground window, surrounded outside by a galvanized bay-type lining with gravel covering the soil at the bottom–a perfect little cage for errant runaway models.

This enterprise was interrupted by supper–we all had to go in and eat, or wait outside for the other guys to eat and then come back out again.  Once we were all back again, dusk was approaching, but it wasn’t quite time to catch lightning bugs yet.  We had our empty mayonnaise jars ready, with holes punched in the lids standing by.

No, the night called for something really different.  We started telling ghost stories, but it wasn’t working ’cause it wasn’t quite dark yet.  Somebody got the idea to make a life-sized kid.  I snitched a pair of my jeans and an old flannel shirt of my brother’s, and a ball cap with a “P” on it–he played for the neighborhood Pirates little league team.

We got paper grocery sacks and filled them with newspaper, stuffed the pants and shirt, and pinned a pair of keds where the feet should be.   Billy brought his bike over–it was the most beat-up looking.  We perched the little guy on Billy’s bike, and Billy held onto the back of the seat as if Stuffy were riding it.  Just then a car turned the corner, and the brainstorm hit.

And that’s how we all got grounded for the weekend.  As the car drew nearer, Billy gave his bike a little push and it wobbled into the street and crashed.  Whatever possessed us to hold our heads and scream like a bunch of idiots I’ll never know…but we just about caused a one-car wreck in the middle of the street.   We all scattered and hid for awhile until the car was gone.

By then, it was too late for lightning bugs and the moms were calling us, so we called it a night.

Twirling on the Coffee Table or DON’T OPEN THAT BOX!!

I’ve been reading a book which totally fascinates me.  Granted, you always need to read with the Scriptures in mind and with your intellect intact—in other words, don’t believe everything you hear or read at face value.  Nonetheless, I’m captivated by the basic ideas in the book, “Captivating” by John and Stasi Eldredge and its companion book “Wild at Heart” which explains the same concept in relation to men (same authors).

And I saw it in action, within myself—and my childish, if femininely justified–actions this afternoon.

We need pots and pans.  We REALLY need them.  The ones we have are worn out, the lifetime non-stick coating has way outlived its lifetime, the lids don’t fit tightly anymore, in fact, some of the lids have no pots, and vice versa.  I’ve put off the purchase for 8 years, it just seems like a lot to spend on me.

I did my thing, which is researching in depth online and by interviewing my friends and reading dozens of reviews regarding this pan and that.  I finally narrowed it down to the ones I wanted–and discovered some really NASTY reviews, that made me back out.  So I started over, repeated the same process with new information and came to a new conclusion.  THESE (Emeril’s hard anodized set) had many things going for them, and although they also had a few really vicious reviews, for the most part I was satisfied that I’d done my thorough investigation to the ultimate.  I was choosing the best set.  So I ordered them.

The part of the story you don’t know is that Vernon (my longsuffering husband) saw a set of very nice pans previously that were on sale, and suggested them.  I’d read about them, did a bit of research, and ordered them.  He was in on the operation, he approved, and he was fine with that.

So the very next day when I discovered the failings of the original set and eventually found the Emeril set at $50 cheaper, I told him that I switched, and he seemed satisfied with that.  I did tell him.  Ok, ok, so he was reading a novel, he wasn’t listening with “both ears”.   But we had already decided on the purchase, this was both a savings and a switch to a better brand, so how could he complain?

A day or two later the UPS truck went down the street and I said something like, “I hope that’s my pans, they should be getting here any day now,” to which he replied, WHAT PANS?  I thought you canceled them!!

What?  You mean that little, ‘oh, we can’t really afford these, we should just cancel them and buy a cheap little skillet and a cheap little pan and let it go’ speech?  You took me seriously, you silly boy?  I overreacted and insisted that 1) he had approved the first purchase, 2) this was less money and 3) he never heard me say I had cancelled the purchase.  He insisted he heard and knew nothing, until we were barely speaking.  I was hot but fortunately not hot enough to cancel the purchase.

A few days went by and we forgot the whole thing, it seemed.  We were both looking forward to the pans’ arrival.  Vernon went to the door this afternoon as he said, “That’s UPS, I guess your pans are here,” and went out to retrieve them.

I’m female.  Hormones, idiosyncracies and all, the old “mysterious nature ” and all that.  I plead “female” as my defense.  But if you’re either female or you’ve been married to one for years you totally know where this is heading.

He came back inside the front door with the huge box when I said, “Just set it down right there” meaning the recliner that’s just inside the front door.  That way it would be at waist level when I opened it and I could get the pans out okay.  Did he do this?  No he did not.

He marched straight into the combination kitchen/dining room and put the box squarely on the dining table out of my line of sight.  Disturbing? Yes.  I’d just have to go get them and bring them back in the living room so I could open them.  THEN he proceeded to OPEN the box, and take out each pot and each pan, exclaiming over them.  I was livid.  How could he open my pans?

Ever seen a little girl of 3 or 4 playing dress-up, or all dressed up in her Sunday best, and climbing onto the coffee table to twirl and whirl, and have her Daddy tell her how beautiful she is?  That’s just natural, isn’t it?  That’s the way each of us is made.  We want to be unique; we want to stand out; we want to shine and bask in our Father’s approval.  Many of the typical passages in life for a woman are momentous in her mind, in her heart.  Her first pair of high heels; her first real date; her first purchase of a sofa or dining table, those material things that show she is a woman with taste and individuality—simply a grown-up version of the little girl saying, “See?  Aren’t I pretty?”  “Didn’t I do well?”  (This is the jist of the book “Captivating”).

And here was this….this boy getting into my things.  Opening what it so happens is only the second set of pots and pans I have ever actually picked out by myself.  He OPENED them!  He took all the wrappings off, even read the instructions out loud to me…(I was good, I didn’t cover my ears and go yeayeayeayeayea the whole time).

Now I could have been the grown-up, mature woman I’m supposed to be at 59 years of age and said, Sweetheart, I really wanna open those all by myself.  Leave them for me, please?  And he might have done so.  Most men would.  Most.  But I just didn’t believe that he would have stopped what he was doing.  But like I said, I could have done the adult thing.

You’re waiting for the punch line, aren’t you?

I jumped up, ran to the guest room and proceeded to make up the bed while seething, little rivulets of smoke coming out of both ears.  He came down the hall behind me and asked me something.  (this reminded me of that poor little goat they lowered over the raptors’ fence in Jurassic Park, victim waiting to be devoured) I don’t remember what he asked, something like, “What are you looking for?” and I snapped at him.  I kept making the bed (funny it didn’t need making before, it’s now 5:30 p.m. of course we had to make it right now) and then saw the vacuum, so I grabbed and proceeded to vacuum THE ENTIRE HOUSE.  He knew something was wrong.  He HAD to.  But did he stop me?  Did he apologize?  Did he ask me what he had done wrong?  Or what he could do to help me? No.  He just kept out of my way.  (Big mistake, guys.  Jump in and take your punishment, get it over with).

When I vacuumed our bedroom I saw a basket of laundry that I had folded earlier and set on the bed.  I dumped it and proceeded to hang up and put away the clothing there.  He brought a load from the dryer into the bedroom and to his credit, began to fold his own clothes, although he lost points for tossing towels and my things out of his way and ignoring them.  I oh, so virtuously folded them, too, before he had a chance.

I wish you’d had a bird’s eye view of this, the two of us standing on opposite sides of the king bed, folding clothes and not speaking.  In retrospect it’s hilarious.  The toy maltese and chihuahua were cringing, peeking from under the edge of the bed.  Smart dogs.

Now I said I could have (and should have) chosen the adult behavior.  But I’m sorry, he’s a 55-year-old man, he’s been married for years (before me) and should know better than to usurp a woman’s pleasure in opening her new tools.  Would I have run to the garage and opened and set up his new drill?  His new thingy to fix the truck engine?  I know better, that’s his thing.

So, this little girl has lost the chance to open her treasure.  To ooh and ahh and carry on about how pretty they were, and how delighted I am that we finally were able to purchase them.  They’re sitting on the dining table still, waiting for me.  Yuck.  I told him he needs to put “his” pans away somewhere.  And so it continues.

I even thought of something to use them for and went to the kitchen and chopped an entire onion in preparation for making French onion soup, my favorite (which takes 3-4 hours to simmer).  Yet then I realized I’d been making my snotty remarks about “he” should put away “his” pans now that “he” had opened all of them himself.

If I chose the large saucepan, pre-washed it, dried it, and used it, it would water down the whole big hissy fit that I put so much energy into.  Wouldn’t it?

So although I’m starving, and the soup sounded SO good, I just got out a zip lock bag and quietly put the onion slices away, washed the cutting board and utensils, and left the kitchen.

Some days, you just can’t win.

Maybe I’ll make soup tomorrow.   But not until he uses a pan first.