Easter 1977: The year before we blended flowers and plaid.
The year that at least one of us didn’t want his photo taken in suspender shorts.
December marked the 10th anniversary of my father’s death, meaning that I’ve lived a full quarter of my life without him.
I’ve learned that it’s not the big things in life that you really miss talking about when you lose a loved one. I don’t need job advice (OK, I totally need job advice, but from a higher authority than my dad). I don’t need him to answer the Big Questions.
Instead, it’s the funny little topics that make me want to talk to him, the goofy questions that pop into my head with some regularity.
Would his love for horror and sci-fi films from the ’50s and ’60s make him a fan of the current cultural obsession with zombies? (I can tell you with certainty that he would have little tolerance for sparkly vampires.) Just how flawed is the Alien prequel? Why did he like dachshunds so much? Doesn’t he think it’s time for a black actor to play Batman? Doctor Who: Still totally awesome, right? Why are there no Tom Waits albums in his music collection, when it simply BEGS for Tom Waits?
It’s the seemingly forgettable one-off chats that I miss, the perfectly benign conversations over coffee (Diet Pepsi for him), not the big, earth-shattering talks that we all think must be so important.
I also miss the dachshunds.
Posted in As Pictured Below, Family, Photographs, tagged As Pictured Below, Atlanta, childhood, coins, grandparents, mississippi, Photographs, piggy bank, Smithdale, toys on February 25, 2013 | 1 Comment »
If I had a nickel for every time I deftly shook all the coins out of this little piggy bank when I was a little girl, I would need a WAY bigger bank for all my nickels.
Like the old glass measuring cup and my grandfather’s blue denim jacket, it’s one of the few items that I simply HAD to have from my grandparents’ house. I seriously played with it for hours at a time when I was younger, shaking out coins, counting them, stacking them and carefully putting them back in again.
It’s made it all the way from Smithdale, Mississippi, to Huntsville, Alabama, and then Atlanta.
It’s still doing its job beautifully, holding the coins fished out of pockets and the bottom of my purse. The only difference is that I don’t really have the urge to shake them out and sort them anymore.
Not much of an urge, that is.
Posted in Eats, Family, tagged bacon, cast iron skillets fear, childhood, cooking, eggs, eggs over easy, food, fried egg, fried eggs, grandfather, grandmother, grandparents, grits, kitchen, souffle, turkey bacon on January 13, 2013 | 4 Comments »
I realized this weekend that I have successfully made a souffle, but can’t make a fried egg.
My grandmother made delectable fried eggs, and made it look easy. The everyday breakfast options at her house included bacon (turkey bacon after my grandfather’s heart problems were diagnosed), toast (or biscuits, on occasion) and eggs, either scrambled or fried (note: fried eggs, over easy, became known as Paw-Paw eggs, because they were his favorite, and to this day I can barely order them in a restaurant without calling them by this nickname).
I should have paid more attention, I guess. I should have offered to cook the eggs instead of going for the easy job of making toast or microwaving turkey bacon. (Or making the grits. I can’t believe I forgot about the grits option.)
I might not even have this ongoing fear of cast-iron skillets.
Matching jumpsuits for Christmas: My family was multiple shades of awesome in 1976.
Actually, we’re still pretty awesome, even with fewer matching jumpsuits.
Posted in Atlanta, Family, Home, Huntsville, tagged cooking, custom cabinets, food, French door refrigerator, kitchen, kitchen organization, organiztion, refrigerator organization, refrigerator shelves, refrigerators, salad spinner, side by side refrigerator, side-by-side, side-by-side refrigerators on October 12, 2012 | 4 Comments »
I’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out how the heck side-by-side refrigerators got so popular in the ’80s.
I grew up thinking my family, with our old-fashioned one-door, freezer-on-top model, was missing out, that somehow the families with side-by-sides were enjoying better meals and tastier snacks. They were certainly enjoying hipper, more modern kitchens.
Oh, the misguided assumptions of youth. I finally got my new-fangled side-by-side refrigerator when we moved to Huntsville (at the same time, I might add, that the hippest homeowners were purchasing refrigerators with French doors and freezer drawers on the bottom).
I quickly ascertained that side-by-sides are virtually useless for anyone who actually wants to USE a refrigerator. I was constantly rearranging things to try to make other things fit. The freezer was a disaster, with two extremely deep, extremely narrow drawers that quickly turned into a tumbled mess of freezer bags and containers no matter how careful I was to try to keep them organized, and shelves that were difficult to navigate despite their small size.
Organizing the refrigerator shelves was like playing a game of culinary Tetris. A gallon of milk and a container of orange juice was pretty much all the top shelf could handle. My love for greens fresh out of the salad spinner required a dedicated bottom shelf. The small salad spinner, mostly reserved for fresh herbs, sometimes had to reside in the crisper, a problem given that the drawer usually already contained an array of veggies.
We never got around to getting another one, partly because someone had kindly custom-built the cabinets around the refrigerator, severely limiting the potential replacement models.
Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’m once again living with an old-school, freezer-on top refrigerator with one non-French door. Only this time, I’ve decided that old-school is pretty awesome.
The refrigerator shelves offer wide, open spaces — currently, the salad spinner is residing alongside half a gallon of milk, a carton of goat cheese AND a jar of jelly. The freezer’s a huge open space — no shelves, but a couple of small plastic boxes can help sort a LOT of frozen foods. It even has a working ice maker, an innovation that I have, until now, not enjoyed in my own home.
The whole setup is so much more usable than the side-by-side that I’m not even curious about freezer drawers on the bottom anymore. I just want space that makes sense.
I guess the moral of this post is to be careful what you wish for, because you might be stuck cursing at it for five long years when you finally get it.
Posted in Family, Photographs, tagged cursive writing, family, farm, grandfather, grandmother, grandparents, homemade keychain, keychain, keys, knickknacks, padlock, pawpaw, pawpaw, photograph, spelling on October 10, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
My mother collected this keychain from my grandmother’s house last year. I had made it for my grandfather in, I don’t know, maybe fourth or fifth grade. It bears evidence of my tragic attempts at cursive writing, which honestly has only degraded over the years.
And Papa should be spelled Pawpaw. I have yet to actually picture it spelled the correct way in my head, however. (We all picture words spelled out in our heads, right?)
Am I impressed that Pawpaw kept this knickknack for some 20 years? Sure. But it’s easy to just toss little things like this into the top drawer and never happen upon them again.
The attached keys are what’s really impressive. At one time, somewhere on that reasonably sized farm, was a padlock that could be opened only by hauling out the keychain that I made.
Knowing that my grandfather held on to this item for so long gives me warm fuzzies. Knowing that he actually found it semi-useful simply thrills my inner utilitarian.
Posted in Eats, Family, Photographs, tagged cinnamon, cobbler recipe, grandparents, individual cobblers, peach cobbler, peach cobbler in ramekins, peach recipes, peaches, peaches and cinnamon, ramekin desserts, ramekins, Southern Plate, steel cup oats, steel-cut oatmeal, steel-cut oats on August 9, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Among this summer’s Lessons Learned: Do not forsake your grandmother’s recipes.
Facing a peach glut a few weeks ago, I decided that it was cobbler time. I’ve always loved peach cobbler, straight out of the oven or the refrigerator, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or eaten plain.
Peach cobbler is, quite simply, the dessert of summer.
It’s also the dessert of chaos. Done right, it’s a gooey mess, making it a less-than-friendly offering at the office, and I certainly didn’t need an entire peach cobbler haunting me every night at home.
Ramekins to the rescue.
I LOVE making things in ramekins. They can make individual servings out of almost any recipe.
The plan: Make six individual peach cobblers. Two for me, two for the husband and two for the generous co-worker who shared his peach bounty.
I’m not sure why I thought that my grandmother’s cobbler recipe wasn’t up to the task. It was probably a decision brought on by over-research, since I was originally trying to find a cobbler recipe that gave instructions for ramekins. At any rate, I finally narrowed in on Southern Plate’s recipe for peach cobbler.
It was tasty, but it wasn’t the peach cobbler I was looking for.
Two weeks later, facing another pile of peaches, I didn’t even turn on the computer. I went to my recipe collection and flipped straight to my grandmother’s peach cobbler recipe.
The results: Six individual peach cobblers that tasted like a carefree summer afternoon on my grandparents’ farm.
Nanny’s Peach Cobbler
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease six ramekins with butter.
Stir together the peaches, sugar and 2 tbsp. flour. Divide the mixture evenly among ramekins (you can probably stretch it out to eight if you want slightly smaller servings). In a medium mixing bowl, cut 1 cup flour in with butter; stir in milk. Spoon mixture evenly on top of the peach mixture in each ramekin.
Bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes until the crusts are golden brown.
Note: I like cinnamon with my peaches, so I sprinkled probably 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in with the peaches. I also sprinkled a dash of cinnamon sugar on top of every cobbler before baking; as you can see in the top photo, this really just resulted in some darker spots on the crust. I’ll probably add an entire teaspoon of cinnamon to the fruit next time.
And the peaches that don’t get turned into cobbler? They get chopped up and stirred into a simmering pot of steel-cut oats with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and a spoonful of brown sugar. Best oatmeal ever.
Nearly everyone I know who has kids spends tons of money and time striving to plan the perfect summer. A host of activities, from vacations to camp to traveling sports leagues, quickly pile up on this short stretch of calendar, seeming more like duties than recreation.
My childhood summers were pretty unstructured. Maybe we’d take a dip in a tiny plastic pool, or maybe just run through sprinklers. Maybe I’d get to go with my grandfather early in the morning to pick tomatoes or beans, or — if I was REALLY lucky — I’d get to dig up potatoes.
As I was shelling a small bagful of English peas from my CSA box yesterday, it occurred to me that some of my best summer afternoons weren’t spent waiting in line at Disney World, running to the next slide at a water park or shaking the sand off my towel at the beach. My most enjoyable summer moments were spent in my grandparents’ den, shelling peas or snapping beans, enjoying an episode of Woody Woodpecker or Tom and Jerry or, better yet, the carefree, Not Very Serious conversations that adults indulge in when they’re pleasantly engaged in a repetitive task with no real deadline.
If I could choose one childhood moment to relive now, it would be one of these afternoons.
I don’t think you can make memories like this on purpose; really, I think my grandparents probably thought I’d rather be off doing something else. But I do wish that more families would slow down a little this summer and spend a few afternoons doing a little of nothing together.
It’s important, and it may be more memorable than anything you could possibly plan.
Posted in As Pictured Below, Cats, Family, Home, Photographs, Uncategorized, tagged Amazing Otters, animal books, Animals of the High Mountains, Animals that Build their Homes, As Pictured Below, books, Books for Young Explorers, brother, cat books, Cats: Little Tigers in Your House, childhood, children's books, kitten books, Paddy Paws, sibling rivalry, Toddly on April 23, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
On Sunday, I posted this photo to Facebook, noting that I had owned this book since I was 2 1/2 years old.
It took a friend approximately three minutes to name two of the kittens (Paddy Paws and Toddly) featured in the tale. He also quickly found a link to the series, titled Books for Young Explorers, on LibraryThing.
Looking at the inscription date — December 1974 — and considering the fact that the book was from a branch of the family with whom we did not usually exchange Christmas gifts, I can only reason that this book was offered to me as a consolation prize after my little brother was born.
A kitten would have been more appreciated.
My real question is how I didn’t manage to obtain this entire series. Because a quick look at some of the titles (Amazing Otters, Animals of the High Mountains, Animals that Build their Homes) tells me that this series was written specifically for me and my kind.
It’s made it through a lot of moves and book purges, I think because I love the title so much: Little Tigers in Your Home. I also must admit, however, that flipping through page after page of kitten photos never gets old.