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Easter1977

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.

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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.

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The “Do One Thing” series chronicles my yearlong effort to tackle one project every day to organize my life and home.

Day 65: Finally hung up the curtain rod for the long-suffering wall hanging that we’ve owned for years.  It came into our possession when my husband bought a Volkswagen Vanagon back in the late 1990s. (Apparently, it’s traditional to include a gift when you sell a Vanagon  — the husband left a waterbed mattress in one that he sold before we were married.)

Anyway, it doesn’t really go with anything, but it doesn’t really NOT go with anything, either. It’s handmade and unique, and I love the stylized creatures that now brighten the upstairs hallway.

Also this week:

Day 63: Made an epic find at Target. I was planning to buy a duvet and duvet cover for the guest bedroom, since I’ve found that combination imminently easier to care for than a comforter, bedspread or quilt. With the mother-in-law set to arrive later this month, it was finally time to ditch the cat-hair-laden comforter.

Anyway, I found the EXACT items I was looking for in the clearance section for half price. Woot!

Day 64: Attempted, yet again, to move the garage shelf, only to find that there was a HUGE, unwieldy pile of green wire for the robotic mower blocking the way. I spent a good 30 minutes untangling the wire and wrapping it around an empty paper towel tube.

Can it be unwrapped easily without retangling itself? I don’t care.

Day 66: Finally managed to move the garage shelf into its new place without getting hit in the head with the surfboard again or finding another tragic tangle of green wire.

Day 67: Cleared a few things out of the kitchen pantry, including a canister of breadcrumbs that expired in April 2010. It’s rather amazing how things accumulate so quickly in there.

Days 68 and 69: I spent these two days driving to Nashville, hanging out with my brother at work and then hanging out while he had knee surgery, and then driving back. Family trumps home improvement, every time.

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It’s good to have friends who help you maintain a positive attitude and healthy habits. It’s also good to have friends who urge you to make questionable choices every once in a while.

When I emailed a photo of a surprising food find — Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls — to a former colleague earlier this week, he responded immediately:  “My professional advice to you is to buy two boxes of them right now. Why two? Because you’ll eat one box on the way home from the store.”

How could a girl resist?

I grew up eating Little Debbie products at my grandparent’s house in South Mississippi — my brother and I could always find a box of the treats on top of the refrigerator. I am the Forrest Gump of Little Debbie products, with a readily accessible running list of the different varieties taking up valuable space inside my brain. Ask me about nearly any of the company’s products, and I can run down a quick review for you. Here are just a few that popped into my head this very minute:

Devil Squares: Their substantial filling and sort of weirdly textured chocolate coating combine for a unique and delicious culinary experience that made me, as a child, feel slightly more sophisticated than my tomboyish habits generally merited. (more…)

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In cooking, imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. I love it when someone else tries to replicate one of my dishes. I love it even more when that someone is my mother.

The husband and I have owned a George Foreman Grill for the better part of our marriage. (Actually, we’re on our second grill. The cats broke the first one about 10 years ago.) We used to cook burgers on it; its sole use lately has been to sear the occasional hot dog.

Last year, I saw a couple of comments on food blogs recommending the Foreman Grill as a fast, cheap panini maker. It makes sense: The device is, after all, simply two heavy sheets of metal that press together.

I made grilled cheese sandwiches with it. Blah. The only bread I tend to keep around is some brand or another of wheat bread, the kind that doesn’t go bad in four days since I don’t actually EAT bread every day, and the husband tends to like a PB&J on the weekends. It didn’t grill very well, Foreman Grill or not, partially because it didn’t really fit on the grill (it’s a smaller model).

Enter Earth Fare. Heading to the checkout one day, I saw a display of bread that stopped me in my tracks, bread that looked like it had been freshly made just to fit on the Foreman Grill.

I made an experimental sandwich when I got home, smearing honey mustard on two slices and bundling a small bundle of ham and cheese in between. Best panini ever.

When Mom was here for Christmas, the only kind of bread Earth Fare had left was two loaves speckled with pieces of olives. Best panini ever. (And I realize I have to stop saying that or my credibility is going to be shot.)

For lunch today, I grilled the last two pieces with a couple of slices of Havarti from Costco. Perfection.

More perfection: Mom texted me yesterday to let me know she had switched the plates out on her waffle maker to make sandwiches like mine. Ingenious.

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Kids love routine. You may think it’s exciting that you never know what you’re having for dinner until you pull it out of the freezer or the drive-through worker’s hands, or that you can make it to work/school on time only if you miss that first critical red light, but trust me, children want a degree of predictability.

Growing up, my brother and I had a few entirely predictable Christmas gifts, and I, for one, loved the routine. They were all candy items, and they didn’t stop until we had probably grown too old for some of them:

  • DeMet’s Turtles: Our maternal grandparents would give us each a box of these rich goodies every year. They were pretty basic: caramel-covered pecans coated with chocolate, in a vaguely turtle-like shape. They were also huge: If you ate more than two at a time (and just try to stop us), you could potentially suffer from that mythical stomachache that adults always warned us about. Meh. We were hardy children. No candy-induced stomachaches for us.
  • Chocolate mint patties: My paternal grandmother used to wrap up a box of these for each of us every year. You’d think that, given the popularity and year-round availability of the York Peppermint Pattie, these wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but they were thinner than Peppermint Patties and just more Christmas-y. (My in-laws still give my husband a box of them every year.)
  • Chocolate-covered cherries: My mom always made sure I got a box of these – not sure if my brother ever liked them. I loved biting through the thin chocolate shell to release the liquid surrounding the cherry. Looking back, I’m not sure how I ever ate so many — they may be the richest, sweetest Christmastime treat I remember.
  • Lifesavers Storybook: It was just a little cardboard box, hinged to resemble a book, but it held six or eight rolls of Lifesavers in different flavors and I was ALL about different flavors. Imagine. My favorite flavor was pineapple. I recently stumbled across a Lifesavers Storybook filled with gummy Lifesavers. We would have scarfed those down in minutes — maybe our paternal grandmother knew it would take us awhile to get through a box of hard candy.

We had other holiday traditions. We always went to my paternal grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve to unwrap presents, and left when the weatherman announced that Santa was getting close. My maternal grandmother always put walnuts in our stockings hung by the chimney with care, and we always dumped them back into the walnut bowl on Christmas morning. At some point, my grandmother started making fruitcake cookies every year, despite the face that nobody seemed to like them.

It’s funny that the goofy little things are the ones you remember the best. I can’t recall the “big gifts” that I got from year to year, but I can assure you that I would trade them all for one more Christmas with all my grandparents, swapping turtles and chocolate-covered cherries around the tree.

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Let’s face it: Thanksgiving is entirely too close to Christmas. It amazes me that people put so much effort into Thanksgiving, flying across the country or driving across the state, only to do it again four weeks later.

Having moved a good eight hours away from my mom and the in-laws, I’ve discovered that I just can’t do it anymore. There will be visits, but they will not necessarily occur on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day — I’ve moved past obsessing over dates. I’ll be just as thankful to have dinner with my family on any random day as I would on the official holidays. Happier, really, seeing as how I will likely have skipped the pre-holiday epic traffic jam that is Birmingham, Alabama.

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