Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Love Is In The Details

Thanksgiving is about family. The family in the photo is my grandmother's. Most all of the women in the photo are her sisters or her nieces. My grandmother is standing. My brother and I are up front and center.

You can't really tell by the photo but my grandparents didn't have much. But on occasions, such as Thanksgiving, my grandmother went all out. She pulled out the dishes that were for special occasions - they all matched. They were not china and from what I remember, she got them with S&H green stamps. But they were special and only used for special occasions.

The serving dishes came from estate sales and flea markets. But they were beautiful and were well cared for. And the food was plentiful and tasted so good. My grandmother and her sisters were all amazing cooks.

My mother followed in the tradition. Special occasions were treated with special care. My parents also did not have a lot early on but while they were stationed in Germany, my mom was able to purchase a set of china and some silver goblets. She always set the table with a beautiful table cloth and matching napkins. She made an arrangement with small angel figurines in the center of the table. We used our best manners. Friends of our parents visited one year for Thanksgiving and one of the children surveyed the table once my Mom had worked her magic. He innocently shared "My momma sets the table real pretty too but we ain't got no statues or tin cups."

I cook Thanksgiving dinner every year. I could use paper plates and plastic ware. It would be so much easier. But I use special stoneware in fall colors or my mom's china she gave me several years ago. I use my grandmother's serving pieces. I put a table cloth on the table. I make everyone's Thanksgiving favorites. Does it matter to anyone? I don't know.

But it matters to me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Honda Accordian

My daughter had an accident Thursday night. She was leaving work, pulled out onto one of the busiest roads in town and merged into the traffic. She called me on her cell phone to tell me she was leaving work. I was driving back from Nashville.

She got about a mile down the road, still on the phone with me, and let a fellow driver in a mini-van, who was signaling, into her lane. Such a courteous driver. A few seconds later, the mini-van driver slammed on her brakes and my daughter, after slamming on her brakes, went right into her rear end. I heard the whole thing, still on the phone. The lady said she was trying to avoid hitting someone in front of her. Everyone was fine, no one hurt. But my daughter's Accord is now an Accordian.

She cried. It was her first accident. It scared her. She handled it well. A friend of mine went to the accident site to help her. Thank goodness for friends. Once I got home, she called the insurance company. They are sending an adjuster but advised us that it was probably totaled. No kidding!

So we got on the internet and started looking for vehicles. She used to have an SUV and has wanted another one for a while.

We test drove several pre-owned vehicles this weekend and she tried to make an intelligent decision rather than an emotional one. We found a great deal on a Jeep Grand Cherokee. She checked out several Explorers. She called a friend's dad who is a mechanic to ask for advice. She researched reviews online and in consumer magazines.

She signed the papers last night. She is now a Jeep owner and is a car-payment-making-grown-up girl too. New responsibilities.

I know she has a lot ahead of her. I am glad she wasn't hurt. I'm glad she was able to purchase a vehicle so quickly. I am proud of her for thinking through her purchase. And the look on her face last night as she drove off in her new Jeep was priceless.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Comfort Food

I think it's the cold weather.

The weather affects so many things in my life. I have become pretty inactive, vegging out in front of the TV or computer. It affects my attitude towards work, how I spend my weekends and what I choose to prioritize.

But most of all, the weather affects what I want to eat. Mostly it's comfort food.

I have shared recently my obsession with macaroni and cheese - that's ongoing. My most recent post was about country ham, bacon, and homemade biscuits. Last weekend I made beef stew and vegetable soup with cornbread. Do you see a pattern here?

Last night, I decided I wanted to make cupcakes. Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I started about 7pm and finally got them iced at about 10pm. But it was worth it. They were yummy. I shared some with work friends today since there is no way that my daughter and I could eat (or NEED to eat) so many. I didn't take a photo to share with you but the recipe for both the cupcakes and icing can be found here at Patent and the Pantry. Try them. I added pecans to the cupcakes just because I love nuts.

I guess this time of year is good for comfort food. Thanksgiving cooking is all about it. I am looking forward to next week. Call me a happy couch potato.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cookin' It Old Skool

I occasionally become obsessed. Usually with a type of food or a process.

I am on a never ending hunt for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe. I have tried many and have not found the *perfect* one yet. We have been through a LOT of cheese.

My latest obsession is doing things the old fashioned way. I recently ran across an article on Benton's Smoky Mountain Hams in a national magazine. Benton's cures hams and bacon the old fashioned way - smoked in a smokehouse and then aged for 8-10 months. Their meats are used by famous chefs at famous restaurants all over the country. And they can be ordered over the internet. But they happen to be in my back yard.

So I took a little road trip yesterday down to Madisonville, Tennessee about a 40 minute drive from where I live. They have been in business since 1947 but things look about the same as they did in 1973 when Mr. Benton bought the business and moved it to this location. It is one room with a white board on the wall with the strong smell of the wood smoke used to cure the meat hanging in the back room. Look at the white board, tell 'em what you want and they cut it for you. I asked for 3 country ham steaks and 2 lbs. of bacon. I had to resist getting some bologna. For those of you not from the mountains, thick country bologna on saltine crackers is like hillbilly crack.
This morning, I got out the iron skillets. To cook country ham, pour some coffee in the skillet, toss in a spoonful of brown sugar, throw in the ham steak and cover it to let it steam for a while on medium-high heat. Once the coffee cooks down, take the lid off and turn it several times to let the coffee/brown sugar cook down and caramalize on the ham.

I also cooked some of the bacon. It is thick and smoky, almost chewy. Yum.
I whipped up some homemade buscuits and then made ham biscuits and bacon biscuits and poured myself some fresh coffee. I am a happy girl.

Is it healthy? No, not terribly. Is it good? Absolutely. And I fed my obsession for old fashioned processes - iron skillets, homemade biscuits, smoked meats from someone that shares that passion for doing things the old way.

Now, let me get back to my blackberry, cell phone, and DVR.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Autumn and Acorns

I moved a lot when I was young & I still ache a bit at the thought of all those autumns in new & unfamiliar landscapes.


I love autumn. It is right up there with spring as my favorite time of the year.

The colors where I live have peaked and now the leaves are starting their descent from limb to earth.

The acorns have descended upon my roof, pinging off the eaves and resting under the oaks for the winter, looking up to see what they will become. They are cute but they are loud.

I sit in my sunroom, reading or catching up on tv and I snuggle under a fleece blanket. I drink hot tea. I get out my socks and put away the flip-flops. I love my sweaters. And comfort food.

Autumn asks you to slow down. To savor the moment. To spend time with family. Autumn asks you to appreciate beauty.

I am listening.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Rare Moment

It's been a while since I took pictures of my kids. They have grown up with a camera in their face since they were born. So to go more than a few weeks with no pictures is kind of unusual. We see my son about once a week lately and my daughter has been busy at work. Time together has been rare.

The other day, it all came together perfectly. I was done early at work. My son stopped by for a visit. My daughter was getting off early. The weather was perfect. The fall colors were unbelievable - at their perfect peak. They agreed to let me do some portraits. We headed out to find the perfect spot.

It took a while as the perfect spot seemed quite elusive. Where the trees were beautiful, there was not a good place to pose. We drove around for about an hour and ended up in a local park by a lake. The leaves were bright yellow and beginning to fall from the trees.

They posed. They laughed. They swung on the swings. They found piles of leaves and threw them. They pulled on the branches to get more leaves to fall.

We had fun. They had fun. And I got some fun shots.

Those moments are just wonderful. They are also rare. I guess that's why they are so special.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Red State or Blue State, Whatever!

My condolences to Senator Obama whose Grandmother passed away today.

I generally don't discuss politics on my blog. This political season has been vicious at best and I do not need people telling me how to vote or what they think of me for how I vote. I also don't like to try to tell others what to do, think, or how to vote or to be perceived as doing such. And I feel very strongly about an American's right to keep that private. But I do love to talk politics. And I have some thoughts.

This election has been historic. The use of technology, the changing voter, the way the media has covered the campaigns, the influence of Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show.

I have been more interested in this election than in any in the past 30 years since I became able to vote. I have never watched a debate in it's entirety in my life. I watched all the televised debates with fascination. And with my daughter. Without tying her to her chair.

I have been so impressed with my daughter and her friends. They know where each candidate stands on the issues. They have spirited discussions and sound intelligent. They leave emotion out of it. I wish everyone I know could do that.

But I am truly fascinated by how Obama has made me appreciate the American people. I sat on an airplane next to two gentlemen the day after the debates at Belmont University. One was an older man, kind of a geeky pencil protector scientist looking guy. The other was a redneck from way back with his trucker hat and cowboy boots who asked if I minded if he dipped some skoal. I eavesdropped as they began to discuss politics and I quickly and judgementally sized them up as McCain supporters. Then I listened. They began to talk about his calm demeanor, the way he handled the questions, the down to earth way he interacted with the crowd. They both said they were originally for McCain. His choice of Palin was an issue for them. His attack ads frustrated them. They were voting for Obama!!!

That is what I am finding everywhere. The American people, stereotypes that we are, are making a statement. Even those I know who would never vote for a black man say they are voting for Obama because they know we need him to regain our place in the world and to move in a new direction. Tennessee is projected to be a red state. It might be, but I think it will be much closer than the polls show. And I actually think it might go blue.

I already voted, well over a week ago and yes, I voted for Obama. And I am proud of it.