Lunch In The Car

With the current situation in play and all the cancellations of activities, I have come to realize how often I went out to lunch.  Quilters, I now know, are a noshing group.

Every meeting I went to was followed by lunch.  Every sewing group involved a meal or some snacks.  Every gathering of our Bee included breakfast AND lunch.

And then there was the occasional social event which was always centered around food. Eating was a big part of all my activities.  How did I not know this before?

I guess I knew it but just took it for granted.  It was always there, available, easy, reliable, comforting.  Adding a bit of spice and good taste to every occasion.  Giving every event a time for us to bond and be relaxed.

But two weeks ago everything changed.  Eating establishments began to close or sort of close.  Gathering places weren’t available.

Then my friend Lynn called.  She already had cabin fever and wanted out of the house. “Let’s go to lunch!” I suggested.  She was excited to go.

We met at a Mexican food place.  As soon as we entered, it was obvious no one was eating inside.  We could do take out.  But go where?

“Let’s eat in my car,” Lynn said.  So we did.  We sat in the front seat of her car eating tacos and quesadillas.  We talked.   We laughed.  We cried. (Lynn had lost a relative recently).  We made plans.  We shared sewing projects.  We spilled salsa on ourselves.

All the things we would normally have done at any lunch, we did in the front seat of her car.  It was wonderful.  Magical even.

I think when this virus quarantine is all over, Lynn and I will go out to lunch again.  And we’ll eat in the car, for old time’s sake.

Childhood Christmases

When I was a child, Christmases were a lot less commercialized and a lot more innocent. Gifts were often homemade and so were ornaments and decorations. More children believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him.

It was just a more innocent time. There was no TV or very little TV for most of my childhood. So we weren’t overloaded with all the Christmas stories and animated movies that we have now. We had to make our own entertainment.

The season started in about September when Mother began baking cookies and breads and making candy. She gave some to everybody she knew in little Christmas tins she collected all year. Everybody looked forward to their little tin of goodies every year. Some people returned the tins to get them refilled the next year.

Then the decorating started. Every room had its own theme. It took days to get the whole house done, but did it look spectacular. My Mother had some decorating favorites in those days. Lots of candles and lots of angel hair.

I remember the year the angel hair on the dining room buffet caught fire. My Mother was always in charge of noticing problems and sending out the alarm. My Dad was in charge of fixing said problems. And so it was with the fire. Mother saw the fire on the buffet and began screaming. Daddy, knowing his job, immediately jumped up and threw his drink on the fire. It worked and the fire was instantly out. To which my Mother responded, “Well, that’s going to leave a stain!”. Ah yes. That was a good year.

But most years were not so “firy”. Usually we just decorated and put up our tree like normal folk. Well, maybe not so normal. We never had a green Christmas tree my whole life. In those days, tinsel trees were very popular, so that’s what we had. A tall sparkly heartwarming silver Christmas tree. Every year. My entire childhood.

Oh it looked great when it was decorated. It really did! And we all decorated it – the whole family. Then we had our Christmas tree picnic.

We would turn all the lights off except the tree lights. Put a picnic blanket down by the tree, where we would all sit. Then we would eat cookies, drink cocoa, talk and sing Christmas carols. It was wonderful fun and sometimes would last for hours. It’s a tradition I carried on with my family too.

No one ever peeked at their presents before hand in our family. I’m not sure why. I guess it would have spoiled the fun of Christmas morning.

Mother would carefully wrap each present. She was gifted at that. She could tie beautiful bows and the tape didn’t even show. Her presents were works of art. I hated to unwrap mine because they were so beautiful.

We opened gifts on Christmas morning – at o’dark thirty actually, when my brother woke up. He was a real early bird.

Mother had coffee and OJ ready for us. We usually all got new pajamas to wear for the pictures. First the stockings were emptied. There was always candy and an orange in the toe.

I never understood the orange, until I was an adult. My parents lived through the Depression when fresh fruit was so hard to come by. To have an orange all to yourself then was a real treat and my Mother was just passing that on to us.

Then we got to open gifts one at a time, so everyone could enjoy each one. Sometimes one child was designated as “Santa Claus” and would hand out each present from under the tree

Most years we had more than we knew what to do with but I remember one year when I was pretty young. Christmas was little sparse. But a week later my parents told us that Santa Claus had brought some gifts that he had “forgotten” the previous week. We were beside ourselves with excitement. And were we ever popular in school that year. Santa Claus had come to our house TWICE!

I was grown before I figured out that my parents had to wait for the after Christmas sales to get us Christmas gifts. How hard that must have been. But they made it so wonderful for us.

My parents always did that. They made every holiday special. They ept a positive attitude when it wasn’t easy to do and protected the children from adult concerns. Even though they must have had many Christmases when they were uncertain how they would manage, I never felt fear or worry.

My childhood Christmas memories are filled with fun, laughter, good food, family, bright colors, a silver tree, and an occasional fire (but no one was hurt!). I hope my children can say the same.

Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!

I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  I’ve always loved a little dessert at the end of every meal, even it’s just a mint (no, not a rock!  See earlier blog entitled “Don’t Eat The Rocks!”) And believe me, if dirt was covered in chocolate, I would eat it in a heartbeat.

In my world nothing can be too sweet or too chocolatey.  Nothing soothes my taste buds like smooth gooey chocolate or dark chunky chocolate or even creamy white chocolate.

My favorite dessert is a hot fudge sundae, which in my mind is the perfect combination of textures, temperatures and colors.  And the perfect sundae ends evenly with no leftover fudge or ice cream.

My favorite wine is always sweet too.  The sweeter the better.  And let’s talk about chocolate wine, shall we?  Can it get any better?

Chocolate-covered anything is a great snack.  Put the perfect coating on nuts, raisins, fruit or, dare I say it, more chocolate and you have a food you can’t stop eating.  I mean it.  I’ve tried.

And are chocolate chips not the greatest invention since. . .  well, since chocolate sauce. Chocolate chips are the cutest little items that can be eaten by the handful or added to almost anything.  Think about it.  What wouldn’t be better with a cupful of little chips added to it?  I can’t think of a thing that wouldn’t improve with chocolate chunks.

Chocolate is such a useful substance.  It can be the center of a celebration on Valentine’s Day, anniversary, or birthday.  It can be your friend in times of stress.  It can be shared during a movie or be the highlight of a reception or gala.  It can be solid, gooey or liquid.

It very seldom spoils and will last a long time. . . except at my house!  Some people have allergies to chocolate and they are much to be pitied.  A life without chocolate is very small indeed.

Chocolate is most definitely a central part of my life.  And why not?!  I love it.  It could be worse.  But it can’t get much better.  I understand chocolate is even good for you.  That’s what I want to believe anyway.

Pardon me while I lick my fingers.  M&M’s eventually do melt in your hands, you know.  But they go down well with chocolate milk.

Oh my, I feel so good right now.  Chocolate high!!!

My House, My Home

I’m a real homebody, a nester, so my home is especially important to me.  I love everything about it.  From the front door to the back door to the garage to the yard, it’s my special haven.

We bought the house in foreclosure, which meant it required an immense amount of work. Every surface needed some sort of work, replacement or refinishing. The labor nearly broke us physically and emotionally.

It was much better when we decided to hire out the jobs.  And the nice part was we got to make the house ours.  We added our own touch to every corner of every room.

Now the house is a real home – it’s ours.  Gramps and mine.  The original black front door (really? black?!) is now a welcoming cream with a seasonal wreath hanging on it.  Come on in!

The front foyer greets everyone with horizontal blue and white stripes with blue and white plates scattered all around.  The large chandelier is named Elizabeth.

I know that’s strange but grandson Mac and I where very into naming things when he was younger.  Several things in my house have names.  Don’t judge!

The rest of the house is also very blue.  Blue is my favorite color.  I can’t get enough of it – in all shades and hues.

We have a dining room because we had to have one.  I love having meals with loved ones all around me at the table.  Most of my memories involve meals, so this is important to me. And, of course, all the blue and white dishes.  Enough said.

The family room is, steady now, blue with a fireplace.  It’s very cozy and has two blue recliners for Gramps and me.  We are like a pair of bookends on either side of the table with the lamp.  Gramps does a lot of reading in his chair and I do a lot of sewing in mine.

We are surrounded by several collections of family antiques.  They mean a lot to us and give us comfort.

The kitchen is white with a blue backsplash.  It’s very country in style.  I have a large cast iron sink and an island with a marble top.  The old chopping block from Aunt Gladys is there too.

The kitchen eating area is surrounded in beadboard paneling with, you guessed it, blue walls.  It’s a lovely sunny corner with windows on two sides.

The master bedroom is, careful now, yellow with blue accents.  Our bed is over one hundred years old.  My grandmother was born in that bed.  The room has many antiques, which I love.

There’s a guest room and an office.  The guest room holds many of my quilts. The office is mostly Gramps’ space.

Then there’s my sewing room.  The HQ of all fabric-related jobs. It is my favorite room. Lots of lighting.   Lots of storage. Lots of fabric.

One whole wall has shelves of fabric.  And yet that is never enough.  Somehow every project I start requires some fabric that I do not have.  I hate when I have to go to a fabric store.  NOT!

There’s a wonderful cutting table in the middle with an ironing surface.  My sewing machine sits in the corner facing out so I can see everything.  Sewing projects are stacked everywhere.

On the outside, Gramps has singlehandedly made our yard a green haven.  He has added grass, trees, bushes and walkways.  There is now a wonderful patio and a colorful yard beyond in the back.

The front has a welcoming walkway with lights, trees and shrubs.  Our sunset walk always starts with an inspection of the front yard grass for weeds and other stray growing things.

I love my little bungalow of a house.  It is my shelter, my haven.  It is sweet and welcomes me home every time.

It has become like an old friend.  Always there.  Always comfortable.  Always reliable.

It’s getting dark out now.  I need to go turn on the front lights.  Yes, even Elizabeth!

A Good Book

Reese Witherspoon has written a wonderful book “Whiskey In A Teacup” about life and recipes from the South – Nashville to be exact.

But it’s not just a cookbook. Although the recipes are truly fantastic. I mean, who can pass up great tips to making Southern favorites like sweet tea, lemonade, pecan pie and fried chicken.

And all the other wonderful tried and true recipes from her family and friends. You can’t beat those special meals handed down from generations ago. They are each a small treasure to be guarded, enjoyed and passed on to the next generation.

Added to the recipes are the touching stories of her childhood years  in Nashville and the impact of her mother and grandmother They are priceless!

After such good training from such strong women, Reese can and does give us all appropriate advice on how to be beautiful and proper on the outside, and fierce and warrior-like on the inside. Hence the name of the book, “Whiskey In A Teacup”.

She shows how Southern friendship and community breeds women with good manners, hospitality and a sense of decor who will fight for the rights of others, see that everyone is fed and will never lose an argument.

Included is a list of Southern Expressions and a Southern Pronunciation Key so we can all understand each other. Although since I’m from Texas, I didn’t have any problem “talking’ Southern”. My favorite, of course, is “Well Bless Your Heart!” which, as Reese points out, has many meanings. The tone of the voice will tell you which version is meant.

A good portion of the book is devoted to how Southern women deal with entertaining especially during all the holidays. Of course, a Southern woman will tend to overdo everything, so Reese’s best advice is to try to simply as best you can. Good luck with that!

I really loved reading this book .It is charming. It is sweet. It is comforting. It is like a big hug from a friend. In fact, some people I know will be getting this book as a birthday or Christmas gift.

Shh – don’t tell them!

 

The Best Part Of Waking Up

I am not a morning person.   Never have been.  Probably never will be.  If I never see another sunrise, I am okay with that.  I understand there are pictures of sunrises in books and online.

So waking up in the morning is actually the hardest part of my day.  I don’t rise with a smile, eager to greet the bright sun.  I don’t look forward to jumping out of bed.  (Did I say “jumping”?)  And I certainly don’t start each day with joy in my heart and a lilt in my step.

So what is the best thing for me when I wake up in the morning?  The smell of food cooking, breakfast on the stove, nourishment wafting from the oven – especially BACON!!!

Ah, that wonderful all-around food, go-with-everything concoction, should be on everyone’s diet, bacon.

The smell of it cooking can pull me out of a full blown coma and carry me into the kitchen without my feet even touching the floor.  I believe it might be able to raise me from the dead.  It is that good!!

My friend Kelly has a T-shirt that reads, “There are two kinds of people in this world.  Those who love bacon and those who are wrong.”  I so believe in that shirt and stand by its truth. I am, of course, one the “right” people.

There can’t be too much bacon at any meal either.  At least I have never discovered the limit.  We just ran out of bacon, that’s all.

Now, the taste of bacon is an experience all to itself.  Wonderful, salty, fatty, hot, crispy. Need I say more?!  The perfect food, really.

Then there is the licking of the fingers and on to the next slice of greatness.  On and on it goes, until all the bacon is consumed.

There is never any left.  That would be against the rules.

Enjoying bacon is a full body sport.  Take your time.   Don’t rush.  Be thoughtful.  Lick every morsel off every finger.  Leave no crumb behind.

Bacon – the best part of waking up.

Vacationing With Thirteen Year Olds, Part 1

It started out like any other camping trip. No serious problems really. Day 1 both propane tanks turned up empty, so we had no hot water or refrigerator cooling on the road. Day 2 was a quick stop for propane, then we had our obligatory flat tire on the way to the airport to pick up grandson Shawn. (Grandson Mac was already with us.) That makes about five flat tires we’ve had on camping trips now. It turned out to be a blessing though, as we were able to limp into the airport, and Gramps was able to get the tire changed there in the time we waited for Shawn to arrive. Perfect!! (We are actually getting pretty good at changing flat tires after all those previous flats!!) Like I said, no real issues!!!

So on Day 2 we had two 13 year old grandsons in the back seat of the truck. Now that was an issue! I’m talking entertaining two teenage boys in a vehicle for 8-9 hours. Yeah! (Thank goodness for I phones, Netflix, earbuds, video games, chargers and just plain sharing of devices.)  That turned out to be a long day, facing an enormous thunderstorm all the way to Iowa City, but we didn’t reach it.  Arriving at 11pm, we were fortunate that the one remaining spot in the campground was ours – reserved.

Next day was shorter, and after setting up camp near the Mississippi, we enjoyed a great day with relatives, but only after Shawn fell trying to spin the bicycle in the RV campgrounds and gouged his left knee. Who says thirteen year olds are coordinated? But the boys were lucky enough to see a river barge pass through the locks in Dubuque.  When out tour continued at the riverfront, our wine-tasting was made more memorable by a severe thunderstorm and a tornado warning.  The boys held the restaurant door closed!  Perfect ending to a perfect day!

How about keeping enough food and milk to feed said boys in a refrigerator the size that would fit in a Barbie Doll house? Uh huh! And then there’s keeping enough sun screen on two teenagers at a water park, so I don’t have to explain to their mothers why I am sending home two crispy fried critters. Now that is a real problem!!! Can I get an AMEN to that?!

Day 4 – we arrived in the Dells and chose a list of activities.  First was the famous water skiing show, so we didn’t spend much time not having fun. That night we started a rousing game of Monopoly that wouldn’t end, so we put up all our individual holdings to finish the next night.

Of course, I have to mention here that our RV space was right next to the railroad tracks. Now I personally love the sound of a train going by. The rest of the family, not so much. Some sleep was lost due to the frequent passing of the loooong trains carrying grain south.

Day 5 the two boys spent the morning testing their Go-Kart skills. Pretty good actually! They sped around passing each other, waving each time they went by and smiling from ear to ear.

The rest of the day was spent at the Mt. Olympus Water Park (Just so you can get an idea of its size). Now I’m talking in the sun, in the wave pool, being buffeted by a 9 foot wave every two minutes for 5 ½ hours!!! Who can do that?!! Well, two thirteen-year-olds can! And of course, Gramps and I in chairs with cameras taking pictures of both boys the whole time.

What a day! We all looked rosy and sunkissed, were exhausted and starving. Back to the RV for dinner. Now just so we all understand . . . “starving” to a 13 year old means eating while dinner is being fixed, eating dinner and then snacking all evening until bedtime. No kidding!!!

In the evening, while snacking, we resumed the Monopoly game from the previous night. Tension was high! No one had a monopoly! Trading was about to begin! Everyone had a plan! Everyone was determined to win! Then the dice rolled – cut-throat Monopoly began!

But, as usual, Gramps had the best properties, the most money and won by a huge margin. He always wins- we can’t figure it out. This is a game of chance, right? So how come he ALWAYS WINS!?! Ah well, we had a great time. I found being in Jail to be the safest place – no rent to pay to Gramps and his many houses and hotels!

Day 6 started out slow, We slept in, late breakfast. Then took the boys to a hands-on science laboratory. Lots of interactive fun there and we even learned a thing or two. Took a video of Mac on the Gyrotron, spinning around. He did fine – I got a little sick just watching him turn every which way but up.

We ate lunch while watching women’s soccer on TV. We hit the proverbial tourist’s wall about then and came back to the RV for some rest. As my Dad used to say, “Having that much fun can kill you!”

As I look around the room now, everyone is on their mobile device, in a reclining position. One is playing a game with a scowl on his face, another is watching a movie, laughing out loud and the third is playing solitaire with a look of satisfaction. Does it get any better the this? Surrounded by my family, feeling such contentment and love, and so completely ignored by everyone!!!

I’m going to end this now and check in with you all later when I have recovered my dignity.

We are planning more activities, July 4th fireworks, a Drum Corps performance and of course, daily trips to store for food.

Check in later for the rest of the story.

Granny