A southern Christmas, a little bit early…
December 13, 2012

 

A picture I love of my sisters and me, from when Mom was alive.

Thanksgiving found me once again in Alabama with my sisters…I’m so sorry we did not do this while my Mom was alive…but it would have been difficult. And I know she would love the fact that we’re all together. And this year, we celebrated Christmas early, while we would all be together! We cut down a tree by the side of the road…

All the decorations(sans lights) had to be found on the property…

You know you’re almost there when you see this….

I love, love, love all these property signs…and wow have they grown over the years!

My daughter and Tommy…she loves being with her cousins. And the pets aren’t bad either!

My sister’s Thanksgiving table…again, mostly things from the property!

For game day(Auburn-Alabama game)…we made a big pot of gumbo…omg it was so good. Lots of chicken and sausage..added shrimp right at the end. Made for great leftovers too…

The pre-game spread…lots of Gulf shrimp my sis brought from Gulf Shores…my bro-in-law is in charge of those…he’s quite particular about how they’re cooked!

We did a pool so the game would be at least somewhat interesting. (Bama beat Auburn 49-0….ouch)….I won nothing of course.

The multi colored eggs my niece brought from her very own chickens at home….Martha Stewart would be so proud!!

Went shopping in Cullman one day…thought it was amusing this particular store was NOT open. Hey, we tried.

My Grand-niece Piper…how cute is she??!!

We played a mean game of Take-away Santa….I ended up with the Kapoosh knife holder…which Cowboy found quite cozy for a post game nap….

Last but not least: No trip to the south is complete without a stop at Krystal. Just can’t be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vacation cooking….southern food, mountain style!
June 16, 2011

Pan-fried okra...one of my favorite dishes!!

I don’t think it’s wrong to start this post with a big skillet of pan-fried okra….which is in my mind, the only way okra should be fried. Yes, restaurants always batter and deep fry it…but take it from me…this takes away the flavor of the okra, and makes it too bready(and fattening). Just toss it with some plain cornmeal, and pan-fry it in a small of vegetable(or olive) oil. You will need to add a little oil as you go along….salt and pepper….done. Some people like it darker(burned), like my sister…I prefer mine a little greener, as above. Either way, you’ll love it.

from left: my sister Jan, the lovely Jennifer, my precious daughter, me, my sister Audrey, and my son!

And we cooked a lot in North Carolina….and why not? We had a huge, killer kitchen with a large island(and a 6 burner stove), so lots of people could prep(aka stand around drinking wine and peeling and inhaling 5 pounds of gulf shrimp my sister hauled from Gulf Shores-that’s what my son is doing in the picture)….and socialize at the same time, of course. My fav way to prepare a meal…not alone! Occasionally we did eat out….

Hey, can I borrow that lip gloss???

Watch the roux, or it will burn, baby!!

We made a fabulous gumbo one night….with chicken, Andouille sausage and shrimp…in a big pot. But of course you start with a roux(oil and flour cooked to a carmel brown), and add the peppers and onions and garlic..the step you see above.

Serving up bowls of gumbo, Paul Prudhomme style...

We listened to Clifton Chenier during gumbo prep…..love NOLA music…

Dinner on the porch(right after I check my Blackberry)my bros-in-law Jack and George in foreground...

How lovely is that??

Our VRBO house thru the trees….as we called it, our “big-ass house”!
Highlands….you’ll love it!

Tomorrow….”cake surgery” on a birthday cake that…ummmm….wasn’t up to code!

Football and Ice…..I flew all the way south, for this????
January 10, 2011

Covered in a sheet of ice.......note the license plate-war eagle!

Ok, here’s the thing…a while back(when it was determined that the Auburn Tigers would be in the national championship game)that we all get together to watch it. You know, it’s fun to watch a big game in the company of people who understand the significance of the event.

And while we knew there was a little weather headed to ‘bama…ummm…we didn’t quite understand the signifcance of the event.  Yeah. So we are all iced in at my sister’s house, just hoping we can get our flight out tomorrow, and thought it would be ironic(among other things) if I had come to the only place in the country I couldn’t see the game if the power went out! Right now we are watching pictures from the Birmingham airport where lots of disappointed would be fliers are sleeping on the floor. At least I have a bed.(My sister Jan just walked by and said, “Tell everybody hey!”

Now you stick that where, and then do what??

This morning she and her husband Jack were struggling to light their little used fireplace….it is ‘bama after all…which gives off a nice warmth. He said something like, ” This is the reason we had a $320 gas bill a few years ago.” But to his credit he got it going.

Wait, that's a lemon?

I will tell you we are eating well…too well….pork tenderloin for dinner last night with sweet potatoes roasted with Granny Smith apples...that was an inspired combo.

We definitely need more baked goods....

And the pic above is of one of a bunch of lemons my other sister Audrey hauled up from Gulf Shores along with a cooler full of other food…they grew on Ft. Morgan road and they ripen this time of year. I’ve never seen any lemon so….. large…so orange-like…it’s bigger than a baseball.

Garden gates on the ceiling...who woulda thunk it?

I did get out to an interesting restaurant, before the ice man cometh, called the Urban Standard. Very warehousy, artsy….great food(pork hash that was fab)…..and they have these rusted garden gates hung on the ceiling…love it. Oh, red velvet cupcakes to die for, with a touch of almond in the icing.

Tommy the dog in Auburn paraphanalia.....

But of course the big event is tonight…the Cam Newton show. Will the Auburn Tigers defeat the  Oregon Ducks? Well, I’m afraid they will, with apologies to you Oregon fans…I am truly sorry for what will happen to your team tonight. And we’re having duck for dinner!! Quack.

Still Using Crap?? The Yin and Yang of Hair Products….
March 18, 2010

I love you Dove...I don't care what they say...

This whole thing brouhaha over hair products started when my daughter moved out. She took quite a few of her fave hair products out of the shower we both use…and I used whatever was left behind ….that’s how I roll. So at a visit to the hair salon for color a couple of months ago, my colorist(God, love her) was running her fingers through my hair and said, “Your hair feels really nice…soft and it’s in good shape. What are you using on it?” I knew what she wanted to hear…some expensive brand of shampoo and conditioner that usually cost upwards of $20 a pop each. But I steeled myself and told the truth….”Honestly…I been using Dove.” Come on…it is their best formula…says so on the bottle.

dregs of the pricier products left behind....

She just stared at me…actually shocked. “Dove?? Seriously??'” When I nodded yes, she shrugged, and said, “Well, it really does look good…”. And here’s the thing…I love that Dove conditioner…it truly takes the tangles out of my hair in the shower, which the more expensive brands just don’t do….at least not for me. Yes, I’ve been told it’s because there’s wax in some of the less expensive brands, that can build up on your hair…whatever. idig it.

So I was back in for color a week or so ago….and the stylist asked, again fingering my luxuriant locks….(that’s how I like to think of them), “Still using crap on your hair?”  To which I replied, “Yep.”, though I was thinkingand saving my self a bunch of money too!”  But again, she had to agree that the proof was in the pudding…ok, bad metaphor…but you know what I mean. If your hair looks good, and feels good, and is shiny, bouncin’ and behavin’….it’s all good, right?

My nephew Quint...Julie in background...

Oh, and my sister replied to my blog about my recent trip to Pensacola…she was obviously not satisfied with my level of detail….here’s what she had to say…”Hi sis–quint will be upset if you don’t at least mention beyond the piece of a sentence –his wedding and his beautiful bride–”the lovely julie”–(does that term sound familiar??)–and i think the hotel where we stayed deserves a hit on your blog—i loved the bed and breakfast feel of it–NEW WORLD LANDING INN –15-16 individually decorated rooms, wonderful staff, and great place to have a wedding and our family time~–and i know for a fact you enjoyed the HUGE jar of m&ms outside your room! i also liked the fact that it was in the historic district of pensacola–and lots was in walking distance –sooo—i guess i have just blogged about it for you! but feel free to edit! love you–audrey”

New World Inn...loved it...

OK, let me just say this….Quint won’t give a rat’s butt about what I say or don’t say in my blog….what she means to say is that SHE will be upset if I don’t say more…hey, I know my sister. And Julie is lovely…gorgeous actually…she’s the kind of girl who can fit a dress off the rack and make it look like it was custom made for her. You know the type….my nephew is a lucky man, and he knows it.  And as for the New World Inn…I really did like it, and the large glass jars of m&ms were a nice touch. And yes, sweet sister….you blogged it for me…all correctly. Love you too!

A Friday Sea Turtle Hatching…and my baby girl hatches too!
August 21, 2009

A baby sea turtle gets ready for his first swim in Gulf Shores....

A baby sea turtle gets ready for his first swim in Gulf Shores....

My sister(my OLDER sister I always like to say, much to her chagrin), sent me this video of a sea turtle hatching where she lives in Gulf Shores Alabama. It’s almost 10 minutes long…but if you watch to about the midway point, a hundred  tiny turtles come scrambling out of the nest. It’s a big event for people who live at the beach, and they are very protective of the nests and the hatchlings…the nests are marked, and have a wire covering on top of them, so nothing can get to the nest before they hatch, and people keep an eye on them…111 turtles hatched that day!  So sweet, as they all paddle their way to the water, by instinct. As you’ll see, the residents even build a little “autobahn” for the baby turtles, a kind of  “turtle chute“to make getting to the Gulf of Mexico less laborious. And off they go…, into the waves….to their destiny.

And speaking of off they go, to their destiny….I’m almost afraid to say the words, lest I jinx it, but…my daughter… has a job. In a bad economy, a real, live job….with a wonderful non-profit organization in town that does such good work. I’m really excited/relieved/hopeful/ for her….after the first day she came home and flopped on the sofa with an, “I’m exhausted!”.  And I know exactly how she feels…it’s overwhelming when you’re at a new place, learning new things, trying to be what they want you to be, when you’re not sure what that is, and knowing that everyone is watching the new girl. I’ve been there too…many times. It is exhausting. I was unbelieveably tired my entire first year here at WBAL-TV…just exhausted when I got home, until I got used to the pace, and the work.  That’s just the way it is. But I bought her a pretty little case for her cards, as a small first week on the job present…she was so pleased. And I’m proud of her…my own little hatchling, off the to the sea.. to her destiny. You go, girl! And sis Audie…thanks for the video…I could listen to the waves all day.

Weekend Wrapup: Cake and Popular Girl Syndrome
July 20, 2009

My non-view of Cake...not so sweet...

My non-view of Cake...not so sweet...

For those of you who went to Artscape late Saturday afternoon hoping to catch a glimpse of the band Cake, as they performed at 6:30….I hope you got there a whole lot earlier than I did. By the time we found a parking space (got a $27 ticket…thanks Baltimore City), and wiggled through the crowd…the amphitheatre was totally packed…seriously, not a place to sit, or even stand where you could see them. So, we heard a few songs(though no Short Skirt, Long Jacket)…briefly considered a looooooong line for food, and peaced out for home and leftovers and Beyond Rangoon on Netflix. The leftovers were good, the movie …not so much.

Owl cake made from split oreo cookies, icing, and m&ms....

Owl cake made from split oreo cookies, icing, and m&m's....

Sunday afternoon  my daughter and I went to a gathering of …wow, I’m not sure how to put this…ex-sorority girls? No that’s not right, because once a sister always a sister…so, umm…mature sorority girls maybe? Oh, I don’t know, but we all used to belong to the same college sorority from schools all over the nation, and now live in Baltimore and occasionally have a little meet and greet. It’s usually people you don’t know at all…which is a little nerve wracking for almost anyone. Add to that you don’t know what the ages of the group will be for the most part….it can be girls who are just out of college and recently moved to town….to those in their 30s and 40 with a couple of kids… to women who have retired. Let me say that yesterday, I was the oldest sorority girl there…and I would not have attended this gathering( I suspected it was a pretty young group) except that I was my daughter’s security blanket.  It was a potluck…and she made this really cute owl cake that she saw online…me…pulled pork barbecue.

But the whole gathering made me think about how it almost felt like rush…going into a room full of girls you do not know…who are all there, to judge you and your worthiness. Not fun. So there is an element of this still present when you go to a party where you don’t know people. Will they like me? What should I wear? Am I overdressed? Underdressed? OMG!!! It takes you right back to the days when you wanted to be the popular girl. And indeed, there is still that wannabe in most of us. Even at my Mom’s retirement home, there are cliques and the cool people…”Oh, she has lots of money and she doesn’t mind you knowing it!”, she will say about a seemingly nice lady who is dripping with jewelry. So my Mom would never dream of sitting with her…she’s a popular  girl. I was talking about this very thing with a “sister” who is a math professor at a local college….(math whiz?)…about how insecure going to a gathering where you don’t know anyone can make you? She commented, “It’s interesting that with you being on tv and doing what you do, you still think about what to wear…”, but I’m no different than her.  I believe that people are all the same on the inside….even those you see as self-possessed and confident… they still worry just as much as anyone else about who likes them. Maybe more. Anyway, it ended up being  a fun couple of hours…nice young women, a couple of husbands, two kids and one dog. And how was your weekend?

HEIRLOOM SPARKLERS!!
February 16, 2009

My Moms Austrian crystal earrings....

My Mom's Austrian crystal earrings....

You know, I never properly thanked all of you who wrote when I was in Birmingham, helping my sisters move my Mom into assisted living, so let me do it now….thanks for all the kind thoughts and stories of your own…I enjoyed all of them .

Her move meant yet another downsizing…a big one….which also means finding  new homes for lots and lots of stuff. Including the earrings in the picture. Both my sisters urged them on me, saying, “You take them….you wear jewelry a lot and we don’t!!”….that’s not really true, but anyway,  I ended up with them. And a necklace that goes with them. I made a point to call my Mom this morning to let her know I was wearing them today….she had confided to my sister the other day, “I just don’t know what happened to all my things…”and maybe we were wrong not to do it all in front of her, but we were trying to protect her from the dismantling of her life’s possessions…but perhaps she should have been witness, so she did know where things ended up. But that moment is gone now.

So I did call this morning and let her know I had them on…she said, “Oh, I’m so glad! I remember your Father and I were in Chattanooga Tennessee, and we passed by this shop with Austrian crystal jewelry on sale. I got a necklace and earring set for me and one for Katie Mae  (my paternal grandmother). I don’t know what happened to her earrings, she did wear them sometimes. But I remember buying those…”  And there is a matching necklace, which Mom always liked wearing with a black dress, as it set off the sparkle nicely. I haven’t had a chance to wear it yet, but I will. And my mother knows where at least one more thing is…and perhaps you can see them sparkle on the air tonight at five, and now you know where they come from….see you then!

Back from ‘bama….tales of junk and romance….
January 26, 2009

See anything you want??

See anything you want??

I’m not gonna lie….it was 3 and half days of  somewhat grueling labor, physically and emotionally…moving my Mom to a single room in  “assisted living”. That said…it needed to be done…. my sisters were there to help and make it fun, we had a lot of laughs and a few tears, and bottom line, Momma is now where she needs to be.  Some of the larger pieces of furniture went into storage, temporarily, we promise ourselves, a few she’s using, and lots of others we gave away. But all the bric-a-brac, china, pots and pans, drawers full of old watches, thousands of pens, check stubs from 1995, old magazines, just …..the flotsam and jetsam of life….arrrrgh!!! Thursday night was the worst…my sister Jan and I standing in the apartment after getting Mom settled in her place, surrounded by mountains of stuff. Where to even begin….overwhelming.

Drawers full of keys to nothing, old watches, matches.....

Drawers full of keys, old watches, matches.....

 But we just started separating it..definite keeps, maybe keeps, and definite giveaway or Goodwill, and definite trash. And little by little by little, it all got done. I flew home mid day yesterday, and my sisters finished the rest of it yesterday…called last night giddy with relief, saying “It was the last load…we gave the keys back and it’s finished!”  It was so hard, truly it made me think about all the stuff in my house. If we were to die suddenly, I seriously don’t know what my kids would do….probably throw up their hands in disgust and walk away, or set a match to it all. Just kidding, but do you know what I mean?  It makes you think. At one point, My sister yelled over the phone to my husband, “There’s a lot of junk headed your way!!” She was laughing but she wasn’t kidding.

But, good news of romance blossoming ‘bama. My dear Father-in-law, who lost his wife(and the best Mother-in-law ever) several years ago, seems to have found love again, at the age of 80! I went out for lunch with him and his new sweetheart…he actually called her that…it was kinda odd, but lovely. And I do take a little ownership in this new relationship….he and I have talked about him one day, meeting someone he liked…even if it was just someone to go to dinner with or see a movie…companionship, you know. Anything else is just gravy. He told me about this woman who was taller than him, but they had spent time together as seat mates on a a church bus trip. And he wanted to see her but was unsure how to proceed. I advised him(advice for the lovelorn) to just casually ask if she wanted to meet at a restaurant for lunch one day…not a big date with a pickup…just lunch. And then meet for a movie one day. Very casual. And that was something he thought he could handle. And look where we are. He told me privately, “I think I’m falling in love..” with real wonder in his voice. And she told me, “I can’t believe out of all the women in the church, he picked me!” Isn’t it lovely to think that even at 80, life can hold surprises..good surprises…for us. Gives one hope for the future, doesn’t it?

Gustav tales from the Gulf Coast….
September 2, 2008

Gustavs big blow....

Gustav's big blow....

As many of you know, one of my sisters lives on the Gulf Coast…Gulf Shores, Alabama, to be exact. She and her husband live in a charming home that sits on stilts, high in the air, right on the intracoastal waterway. She and I have spent quite a few pleasant hours sitting on her screened porch, overlooking her pretty garden (on which she has worked very hard), and the waterway…watching brown pelicans, pleasure boats and big barges loaded with coal glide past, to parts unknown.

They’ve had to evacuate several times…of course…The very first time, my bro-in-law George had tied their boat up under the house , every which way from Sunday, when an old timer came along and said, “Son, I don’t care how you tie it, if the water comes up, that boat is gonna be in your  living room.” They moved the boat. And since then they have a “list of what must be done” when they leave….such as, take up every other plank on the pier in hope of saving it, putting all their potted plants(and there are lots of them-too many George says) in a trailer and haul the trailer to someone who lives on higher ground, carry all the lawn furniture upstairs into the house, move everything on the screened porch into the house, take the blades  off the porch ceiling fans, empty the freezer and fridge in case  the power is out for a while….you get the point. It’s exhausting. Hurricane Ivan was their worst hit in Gulf Shores….they lost their pier when a big barge got loose from its anchor in the canal, and careened wildly downstream, knocking out piers along the way. They had lots of water under the house, of course the cars and boat were moved…the windows were boarded up so the worst of it was they couldn’t get back to their house for at least a week or so, because the roads were covered with trees and refrigerators and boats and everything you can imagine. And even though that was three years ago, there are devastated houses there that still look it happened last month.  And her garden wasn’t the same for a year or two, after being soaked in sea water.  Since Katrina, they’ve been lucky along the Gulf Coast.

I called sis this weekend as they were making preps to go to their son’s house…she was agonizing about how much to do …as Gustav really wasn’t really expected to hit there, but you don’t want to be sorry, what if it changes course…you can imagine. And everything that you do, when you come home, must be undone. Boards back on the pier, furniture thumped back downstairs, …another day or two of labor. She says it’s worth it to live there…right now anyway…though their insurance has skyrocketed to the point that if they get another big hit, they really might not be able to afford to stay.  And they have talked frankly about leaving, even though she loves it there…they both do. That has been the scenario for lots of folks in those parts….just too much trouble and too much money to stay.  Same for New Orleans. But this time….this time, they were lucky. Lots of people were.

The Redneck Riviera
April 18, 2008

Yep, that’s where I’m headed today….leaving the fam and the cats behind(ok, cats are part of the fam)….getting on a  plane and flying to B’ham. There my little sis and I will throw our elderly Mother in a car(I mean with great effort and care,  get her and her wheelchair and all the stuff she needs), and head south to Gulf Shores…..L.A.(lower Alabama), the Redneck Riviera, baby!

This is our yearly jaunt that we started 5 or 6 years ago, that has now become a tradition. And some people wonder how a tradition gets started. Easy. You do it one year, and then just keep on keepin’ on… I look forward to this trip….my Mom loves it of course, and I love being with my sisters. Whenever I meet people who don’t get along with their sisters, or indeed barely speak and haven”t seen them in ages, I feel sad for what they’ve lost, and so fortunate for what I have. A close friendship that even when I haven’t seen them in six months, when we get together, it’s like I saw them yesterday. That’s very nice.

I think I wrote about this trip last April, about the chaos that ensues when it’s time to clean out the condo frig….who’s taking the butter? What about the leftover shrimp and grits? Who am I kidding…there won’t be leftover shrimp and grits.

And if you’ve never considered the Redneck Riviera for a holiday…think about it. Gorgeous beaches, good shopping, good eats, and great golf.  We’re staying in a different place this time…not overlooking the beach but a condo on the bay overlooking a marina. Since I found it, I hope everyone likes it…rented this time through homeaway.com. I’ll let you know how it is. In the meantime, I won’t be around a computer, but know I’m having a great time, and I hope all of you enjoy your weekend and some long overdue spring weather as well.

Who knows, maybe the sisters will get in a fight this time! Naw……R.R. here I come!!