Friday, June 27, 2008

The Gazebo

I love my yard, or as it was called in England, my garden. We have so much planted, areas laid out with broad swathes of color and texture that I think we can call the whole affair a garden and easily get by with it. I call our place Orchard Cottage, which is what our home in England was named, because of all the fruit trees and bushes that surround us here as it did there. Our place is not large, but cozy and very comfortable for the two of us and room for guests when they arrive. The front porch is large and shaded with hanging pots of broad leaf moss roses (Portulaca) petunias of every hue, mostly double and rose bushes all around. There's a Mandavillia vine curling it's way over the porch rail and a volunteer cantaloupe twining it's way alongside. There are cats sleeping on the porch rail, escaping the heat of the day, their sweet faces turned toward the front door in hopes someone will come out and sit with them. Looking over to the front drive the other day, Mac allowed as how a Gazebo would look fine up there, inviting us within it's cool depths on the way back from the mailbox. I had to laugh, he who is always accusing me of "having visions", was apparently having a few visions of his own. I told him I didn't think I wanted a Gazebo, though the idea was nice. He looked at me for a second, reached out and touched my face and smiled and said "Chesterfield's Gazebo get you spooked?" and suddenly laughed one of those laughs that only a man can manage, head thrown back, bellows of sound erupting like silly thunder. I nodded, oh yes...Chesterfield's Gazebo....

Chesterfield is such an amazing little town, the County Seat, only one street long with shops on either side, a bank at the corner by the Courthouse, the Western Auto Appliance Store directly across from the brick edifice we call the Courthouse...the old Courthouse, which is at the other end of the street actually looks like what it is. It has charm and character and stories to tell...but a couple of decades ago someone got it into their heads that building a new Courthouse and making it look like some large brick box with a flat roof might make Chesterfield seem an up and coming thriving town. So we have this nondescript brick building we call the courthouse, across the street is the Western Auto and next to the Western Auto a small grassy area that held...nothing. So the Town Council agreed to erect a lovely little Gazebo there, a place where perhaps lunches could be taken, or just a place to sit and rest and talk with friends. It was a wonderful concept.

Now, Chesterfield is a small town, as I have said. But we have more than our share of, for lack of a more politically correct word, town drunks. This is no Mayberry where Otis comes in and takes the key off the wall and opens the door, locks himself in and goes off to sleep. While we have our share of those who go peacefully down the hall to the cell block, and even those who had family members drive their beloved drunk family member to the jail and unceremoniously boot them out the door into our loving arms, for the most part our drunks don't want to be locked up. They want to drink. They want to drink in peace and quiet. And one night they stumbled upon this lovely gingerbread construction, sort of an open air drinking spot...and they thought, (I can hear strains of "there's a plaaace for us...right here a place for us...") why how thoughtful. The town has erected us a gathering place. No more will we have to hide out in the back lots looking for concrete block upon which to rest our weary drunken bones. And a trash receptacle...don't know what that's for, bottles and cans belong littered upon the ground to prove that we were here...I was on my way home from work one night and saw my cousin (who was a town cop) sitting in her patrol car, parked where she had a clear view of the Gazebo. I pulled in next to her, my drivers side window next to her drivers side window (when you see cops parked like this along the highway, they're not trying to set the radar to work both already does that in one car alone...they're chatting...comparing calls, catching up on what's been going on) and asked her what was up. She had her reading glasses on and pushed them up on top of her head and laid the crossword puzzle book down on her lap. "We've been getting complaints that the Gazebo has turned into a gathering spot for every drunk in the far I count four...I looked over at where she indicated and named two "frequent flyers" from my own experience. I asked her what she was going to do. "Just waiting for them to get drunk enough to forget I'm here and start passing that bottle around...and they'll pass it around, believe me. Then that's when I'll go get them and take them off to the jail." We sat and talked for a couple of minutes and then it happened...happy hour in the Gazebo...she picked up her radio and called the jail. She told them she was about to be 10-67 four times and to meet her under the Sally port. This was a scene that was repeated every day. Sometimes several times a day...there were male and female drunks and the worst of them were the females. I'd rather have dealt with a drunk man than a drunk woman any time of the day. I don't remember how long the Gazebo stood on the little corner lot that was intended to be a park of sorts, but it wasn't long. Perhaps two years, maybe three. But the Council in all its wisdom deemed the Gazebo no longer a part of the beautification of Chesterfield, but an eyesore. And so they tore the little Gazebo down...nothing there now but sand and small tufts of Dallas grass. A few rocks to get stuck in the soles of your shoe if you walk that way towards the Western Auto. The drunks are now relegated out of sight mostly to the back lots, going to the red dot store (ABC Store, Liquor Store whatever you call it in your neck of the woods) and scurrying quickly away so that the Cops can't interfere with what they do best. And so as I stand gazing up towards the front drive where Mac was envisioning a Gazebo, I hear the words in my head just as they came in "Field of Dreams" it and they will come...". A chill went straight through me. I shook it off and muttered under my breath "oh no, not only no but HELL NO!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I'd like to thank the Academy....Part Deux

This is the second award I received yesterday and it came from Sandy at IBeati ( . Her awards are her own creation and she has a friend, Mary, who helps with design. The Special Scribe Award is for writing and to say I was pleased to receive it would be an understatement. I once made the statement that I was a wordsmith. I love words, putting them together, dressing them up and throwing them down. I learned long ago that poetry doesn't have to rhyme to be lyrical and prose doesn't have to be succinct to be meaningful. I began to read further back than memory allows and was encouraged to do so by my family. I in turn encouraged my own children to read and to put their thoughts to paper when they could. I feel that blogging is perhaps the most spectacular tool for people to reach out to others with their talents, their concern , their very humanity. Through this medium I believe we can teach, learn and grow and become better people for having done so. So I thank you Sandy for this dear award and the privilege you give me of passing it on. I have three in mind who delight me with their words and comedy...I know that if I ever need a good laugh, the "bringing tears to my eyes" kind of laugh these three ladies will guarantee it.

The first of my Awardees is Sarah at or Brit Gal in the USA who never fails to cheer me up and remind me how difficult it can be sometimes to be in a foreign country, even though you love it...she'll teach you how to keep your pecker, really...

The second of my Awardees is Deb at or The Lehners in France. I once read something that Deb had written that was so funny I was wishing I had on some depends...this lovely English family living in France is nothing short of hysterical.

The third Awardee is Kari at Just Living Large or and her take on life will spin you out of control and completely out of orbit. She can throw a rant like no one else I know. And I know this little missy quite well. She doesn't call me Aunt Sandi for nothing.

So, these are the three that I would like to honor. I will say as Sandy said, please display it if you like, and pass it on if you honor shared is an honor expanded...

I'd like to thank the Academy....Part 1

Yesterday when I came in I found that two of my blogging friends had honored me with awards. Now when I say an award makes my heart sing, I am not kidding you. To have your peers think enough of you to pass on these awards means that you are doing something right. It's the pat on the back the "attaboy" that most of us relish in our lives. How wonderfully happy it made me to read about the origins of these awards and to find how hard some had worked on the award to make it special. I think that the joy we feel when someone gives you a blogging award is the acknowledgement that what you do or say is special, makes you stand out in the crowd...boosts the ego and hugs the soul. It's difficult to not say "I love you all, so anyone who reads this, this is your award..." It diminishes it somewhat, makes it not so special. So I am not saying that I don't admire each and every blogger in my faves site, it's just that sometimes, some need to be held up to public view...and I am lucky enough to be able to do that while mentioning the fact that someone thought that much of me, at the same time...So the two awards that I was so honored with are as follows:

This lovely statute is called the "Arte y Pico" award which was created to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their creative energy and talents no matter whether it be in the form of writing, artwork, design, interesting material, or contributions to the blogger community. When a blogger receives this award it is considered a "special honor" and, once presented to you, it is to be passed on to at least 5 other bloggers who meet the criteria.

My dear friend Jeni at Down River Drivel ( ) presented me with this beautiful award. I've been a fan of hers for some time...I told her once that I came in for the intrigue of her name and stayed for the tales of Kurtis and Maya, her two delightful grandchildren who just happen to be autistic. She helps countless other parents and grandparents with all the knowledge she has collected on this disorder, and for that I have only the deepest admiration and pride in the joy of knowing her. Please go see her, you won't regret it, I promise. And the five that I wish to honor with the award are David McMahon ( at Authorblog...this published Australian Author does so much for those of us who work on our blogs diligently, striving for perfection (or at least readability) by his encouragement that I am not sure how he finds time to spend with his family and take all those wonderful photo's he posts on his site. He is an intelligent thoughtful artist that should be honored everyday, in my opinion. If you don't go visit him, it's definitely your loss...

My second recipient of the above award is Jamie Dawn at Jamie is so insightful into the world of blogging and holds her faith up as a candle to light the way. Her Pulpit is the internet, her messages (delivered with liberal shots of humor and levity) so point on without hammering you in the head, that reading her is akin to reading "the Gospel according to Peanuts"....I'm telling you, the girl has got it!

The third recipient of this award is going to Kathy Davenport at for her ability to meet up with bleak possibilities and spit right in their eye! This cancer survivor has beauty, wit and a healthy spirit who shares her life and encourages all of us to face things head on...go over and click on her pink ribbon to pay for breast exams for women otherwise unable to afford the procedure, stay and visit with'll be glad you did.

The fourth of the blogsters I read and admire for their ability to brighten an otherwise dreary world is my wonderful friend (who goes by the name Merisi in blogland) who is so sharing with her lovely photography that you feel as if you had been there in Vienna, seen these wonderful spots, walked in these gardens and petted that dog, stroked that cat laughed at that bicyclist...My Merisi is a joy to visit, so go to and her site (which is entitled) "Merisi's Vienna for Beginners.

And the fifth recipient is actually two...sisters that is, at Ask Kari and Kijsa ( These multi talented young ladies are professional designers who share of their work and ideas so generously that all of us can look at a room and say "I can do that!" I am constantly amazed at the ease with which the girls come up with these splendidly simple ideas that look so beautifully complicated that it makes your jaw drop.

So, that is the award list, and I am so honored to be able to present it that I again must thank our Jeni for bestowing it upon me, in the first place. Later this evening I will be back to tell you all about the second award I received from Sandy at which goes by I Beati: A Meeting Place where we can share our blessings and laugh a little bit

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Woke up this Morning

I woke up this that seems like a pretty good lead in line...and this may sound, well inappropriate , but it is oh so grandmother (Nancy Douglas, we called her Mammy) had a favorite saying, and it was "everyday above ground is a good one." Being a Southern Girl (born and bred) I have thousands of those little tidbits, but that one has always been my favorite. It showed the grit in Mammy's craw that made her the person she was. A Teacher by profession, a Farmer by necessity, and a survivor by choice. I say by choice because she never gave up or gave in. She had a hard life that wasn't made any easier by the times she lived in or the health she fell victim to. But she struggled, along side my Grandfather, Dwight Douglas (we called him Daddy Dwight) rearing three children, teaching school, helping run a farm, keeping the books for their farm and writing out the checks for the farm workers at the end of each week. She had to have a goiter removed when she was relatively young, I believe in her forties .(but you can't take that to the bank, I was a kid at the time and all the grandmothers and great aunts were of an age that never seemed to change. They all looked the same to me from one day to the next, never aging in my childish eyes.) She suffered and beat lung cancer and uterine cancer. People in the South of the 30's, 40's and 50's were plagued with oddly different ailments like Goiter from lack of iodine in the diet, and other noxious little disorders that no one hears or knows about or even cares about these days. One that I remember from my childhood was called "Ground Itch". It was actually hook worms that got into your bare feet from running around in the yard after a rain when the hot sun brought them to the surface, so tiny you couldn't see them, so tiny they had no trouble invading the soles of young feet. The only thing that cleared up ground itch was a heavy spraying of what I recall being ether on the soles of the feet to freeze and kill the little varmints. It only took one dose of Ground Itch and it's ghastly cure for me to heed the "keep your shoes on" warning in the spring rains. For some reason, late summers you were safe. So Mammy had many jobs, wore many hats and had much to contend with. She was not a quitter nor a bellyacher and couldn't stand to hear anyone complain about how they felt and often recited the "man with no feet" tale from a Bible tract that she kept in the folds of her big Church Bible. You know the one, I longed for new shoes till I met the man who had no feet...So when the danged flare hit me last week (and lasted longer than usual) I started thinking about Mammy and how she fought off self pity by finding someone in worse shape than she herself was and realized how that great spirit is still teaching me today. I like to think that the steel in my backbone was genetically placed there by all my forebears who struggled and made it safely to shore. I hope my children will be so blessed, and so far I think they are. They are not whiners...they are not quitters...they just keep on keeping on...and they keep their good humor. The nut doesn't fall far from the tree.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Days upon days

It's been a rough few days here in Jefferson. Oh yeah you know we had heat but that broke earlier in the week, and it's been in the mid 80's which is down right chilly to us now. I haven't been in the best of shape for typing (or keyboarding, whatever you call it these days) because the RA has flared and every joint is on fire. But you know what, I'm getting through it. I'm not having to worry about my home washing away from flood waters. I worry about my friends all along the Mississippi and wonder how they're getting along and praying that they are safe from the swelling river. Hoping against hope that help has arrived with sand bags or boats...that they had time to put things that are precious to them where they won't be lost. My knees decided they didn't want to bend well long about Monday but thank God I don't have to outrun a tornado or a forest fire encroaching on my home...I worry about my friends who now find themselves living in Tornado Alley or in the middle of a fire plain. So, while my fingers may ache my knees may creak and my head may bend with the pain in my neck, I can still laugh at Hound's antics and know that I am safe. I don't worry about any returning illness that is much harder to fight then Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I worry about my friend who is waiting for word and praying that the word is benign. So, I'll be back in fighting form soon...and praying you are all safe from storms, flood fire and illness...I love you all...

Friday, June 13, 2008


Last Sunday the town of Ruby did something special to honor their Doctor (who just happens to be my father). Daddy first came to them in October, 1963. He left a good job in the city, as the song goes...a very large city. He had been working at DC General Hospital in Washington and we lived in Falls Church, Virginia. My sister Holly had just graduated High School (Bishop DJ O'Connell a Catholic High School we both attended) and my parents had just sold the house we lived in to the State of Virginia. Where our house once stood, Route 66 was going through. Now, my Dad swears this is what happened. Knowing Mama, I have no doubt of it whatsoever. He says that after the house sell Mama called him at work and told him "Daddy is here with the truck, we're packing up and moving to Chesterfield. " Most men would not be quite so obliging as to pack in a career and move South on a whim...but to say he loved Mama is an understatement. He talked to the other Doctor's with whom he worked and they told him that if he had to go, then he had to but if he changed his mind his place would be available for him. We'd only been back in Chesterfield a week when the job offers started coming in. He had his first patient after having been a guest of my Grandparents for a day. He asked my Grandmother how this person had known he was there and that he was a Doctor. My grandmother replied, "this is Chesterfield, everyone knows everything about everyone." He was asked to work in Charleston, SC, he had an offer from Jefferson and my Uncle Gary (Douglas) persuaded him to take the town of Ruby up on their offer. The new Doctor they'd hired had backed out at the last minute and the new Clinic stood empty. This is how we arrived here all those years ago. When Daddy was taken suddenly ill a few weeks ago and had to have emergency surgery, so many people from the Town and outlying areas who had been his patients for so many years, became alarmed that this stalwart servant of the people was lying ill in hospital and only his family had known. Some of the patients became so upset that they called the Sheriff's Department to report him missing. Just as the door was about to be broken in someone called my brother on his cell phone and reported that there was a "mob" of cop cars parked in Daddy's yard and wanted to know if everything was okay. I in turn called the Sheriff's office to ask THEM what was going on. Okay, we got that cleared up and the Law left happily. Since he has treated most of them (or any who stopped in) for free for years, I'm sure they were glad to know that he was alright, too. After Daddy arrived home from the hospital my sister Toni told me that the town was planning a big "surprise" presentation for him at the Ruby Baptist Church. I thought about this for about a week and then I called Daddy and let the cat out of the bag. (Okay come on, you knew there'd be a cat in this somewhere). I didn't tell anyone I was spilling the beans, I didn't want anyone talking me out of it. I just decided that you didn't pull a surprise like that on a 95 year old man who never considered himself anything other than a Doctor doing his job...he didn't want thanks and couldn't figure out why they (the Town) wanted to do anything special like this for him. I called Toni and told her that he knew what was going on and she was so glad. So all his family (see photo and click to enlarge) and friends were there, there to tell him that they appreciated all he had done for them over the years and that they loved him. It was a beautiful event for an unassuming man. It made us all proud.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

authorblog: Weekend Wandering

authorblog: Weekend Wandering

Damn the Weatherman, Full Speed ahead!

I want to thank Deb over at for this lovely award for my story about Digby. It's called the A Beautiful Heart Award and I feel honored for our Digby that she has thought of me for this. I would love to pass it on to Teresa at Living the Life ( for her loving care of people and animals that enter her life either by accident or design. She has a beautiful heart for sure.

I'd like to award it to Lee at Chrysalis Dreams ( ) who has thrown herself into Christian Life and is uplifting others through her example.

I would also like to award it to Seamus at who shows us his warm caring side with every photo of the domestic and wildlife he feeds and takes such pleasure in. These are my top three, although each and everyone of you deserve it, I'm sure. Again Deb, thank you. And now on to my Weekend Wandering answer for this week. My first, or I'm mistaken.

You know David McMahon over at Authorblog does this Weekend Wandering (for wont of a better word) Suggestion, meaning he'll throw something out there and ask us to answer the question in our own words. This week the Weekend Wandering question is "When was the last time you complained about the weather?" When was the last time? Well, that lying weatherman is in there right now on the Eyewitness News (Channel 9, Charlotte...the Queen City)...telling us that while yesterday the rain chances for today were 40 % and sorry, but now they are down to 30% and how Doppler Radar (pinpoint accuracy my arse) always gets it right...well if the Doppler got it right yesterday why was it that Monday the rain chances for today (Wednesday) was 50%? Seems the closer we get to today in the late afternoon, the less our chances for a simple shower. Apparently a cold front moved in overnight though because it's only going to get up to 92 degrees today. How lucky are we? Well, the past week it's been over 100 degrees with 103 being the highpoint of Monday's weathercast. We went to Hartsville Monday so we could go to Lowe's to get the quik set for the fence posts before the rain we were supposed to get on Tuesday (which changed to Wednesday in the blink of an eye). While there (and mind you we were only thirty miles from home) it rained so hard that they CLOSED DOWN THE GARDEN DEPARTMENT AND LOCKED THE BIG GATES! Yes, they did! It poured for like fifteen minutes and Mac looked at me and said "I hope we're getting this at home." "From your mouth to God's Ear," I answered, all the while knowing that we would be lucky to get one of those "the devil's beating his wife" showers. You know those, not a cloud in the sky but suddenly rain falls out of nothing and the sun is shining. So we finally get loaded and head back home and it's raining all the way to the county line when what do my wondering eyes perceive? Why, dry pavement. No rain puddles. No wet patches in the highway...just bone dry pavement with heat oasis's shimmering upon the surface. Doppler Radar...I've got your Doppler right here!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Pantry comes to Fruition

I don't know if I've mentioned it in passing, but for Mother's Day, Mac had a pantry built for me. I have complained for years that I never have room for anything in any house we've lived in. Mainly it's the myriad pots, pans, cooking gadgets and canning apparatus that have been the troublemakers. It got to the point that when I saw a new cooking gadget (like my wonderful rotisserie ) I get questions like "and where do you plan to keep that, under the bed?" or statements like "just what you need, another piece of equipment that doesn't have a home". But you must understand, these are not just things I need, but things I must have. Like my wonderful KitchenAid food processor with the multitude of attachments and my kitchen aide mixer with just as many plus the juicer...well you get what I'm saying. Anytime I wanted to bake a cake, prepare a fancy salad, or roast a nice fat hen it became a production as big as Oklahoma...I hated it when Mac would say things like "where are we keeping the chips this week?" I think that was the statement that sent me off on a tangent. I remembered the pantry in the house in England and longed for the days when everything had a place and everything was in it. I pointed out the cabinets that were few and far between and the cupboard that really didn't qualify as a matter how much it had been touted as the "pantry of tomorrow". If that's what I have to look forward to tomorrow, then as Gilda (Radner) would have said..."never mind." So on Mother's Day the plans were laid for the pantry. The back porch is 12 feet wide and 30 feet long. We closed in the last 12/12 area where a back door leads directly into it. It has lots of shelves and plenty of floor space underneath the shelves for the large items that up til now had to be left in the shed til I needed them (and so much trouble to dig through the crap that had accumulated in front of it that I seldom felt the need for their use). The work began on Friday after Mother's day and was finished last weekend. I stayed up til past midnight loading it in. And as I took stock of what all it contained, wondered at my filing system for these things , bp (before pantry). I had to have been pretty darned creative to have found space for all this stuff in my small kitchen area. The next project on our list was the Ridge Vent roofing project which was completed yesterday...more on that later...right now I'm going to go play in the pantry.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Summer Rerun

We all know it's summer, but summer has hit us with a blast from hell and so I am posting, for lack of a better name, a rerun. It was entitled "Crazy Cat Lady" and seemed fitting to repost it after the Hound article. It will bind me forever with quite a few other "crazy cat ladies" that I often read. So hope you'll like tonight's rendition of

Crazy Cat Lady

Here goes.
I am not sure when I became a Crazy Cat Lady. It was apparently a slow process that took over my life (and my porch, ) . I allowed myself to be talked into bringing one abandoned little stray from hell inside by my son. "I'll take care of him, feed him change his litter box..." Famous last words that any mother in America or elsewhere has heard. He was named Bela Lugosi, Bela for short. Bela spent the next year terrifying my parakeets. It got so bad that I did something really stupid. Instead of finding a home for the cat that I never really wanted, I found a home for the birds which I did (want). I think that is when the malady first took root.So it started with Bela. One day I went out on the porch and there sat a pretty little fuzzy grey cat. I am not sure where she came from, but she stayed. I warn you, feed them and they never leave. This fuzzy little grey bundle became known as Crazy Kitty. You could be petting her and she would be enjoying the comfort of affection when suddenly she would nip at your fingers or slap you while you were in mid-pet. Hence the Crazy Kitty label. She had other names, but none fit for public publication. Crazy Kitty bestowed a couple of litters of kittens on us. The porch was becoming a second home to every stray in the county. Some I found homes for, but most I just fed.Crazy Kitty disappeared one day, we never knew where. Then Jane Wayne took her place as resident queen. She walked like John Wayne and bossed the other two that hung around like John Wayne. Jane was there for a couple of years, never producing any progeny and we were down to two cats. One day I watched as Jane walked across the roof of the house bringing with her a kitten. We were never quite sure where she had kidnapped the, what turned out to be two, youngsters from, but they definitely were not hers. She raised them, tho. One we named Tommy, the other Pyewackit. Tommy was sooty black and Pye was a beautiful Siamese. Inside, we had Bela and Ariel. Ariel had been rescued from the County Camp after my husband had watched helplessly one day and two of her siblings were run over. Bela ruled the roost inside and appeared to have gone slightly mad after the death of our beloved Old English Sheepdog, Digby. While no relation to Crazy Kitty that I know of, he was definitely unhinged. I was quite happy to pack his little bag and send him off to live with his true owner, my son, at college. When Bela left for College, Pyewackit ,the Siamese, became an inside cat. Tommy ruled the outside, Pye was ruled by Ariel. We were all ruled by Ariel.Now here we are in Jefferson and the porch is once again a haven to cats. We have Wonky and CeeCee who apparently lived here before we did. We have the three kittens whose mother Midge was killed by dogs. There is Baby the big grey and white cat. Bat Girl and Peanut Butter are mostly outdoor cats who sleep inside at night. After bestowing us with two litters of kittens, they have had their little operations and just run roughshod over all of them , now. One day we noticed a big black cat with a white bib standing back waiting to eat. He is since known as Big Purty. The grey tiger cat that showed up we call Stranger. Suffice it to say there are no shortage of cats here. Of course they help to keep the population of snakes and rats down, too. I guess you would say they earn their keep. The other night we noticed two opossums on the porch eating cat food while the cats stood by and let them. I hope this doesn't become a trend. I don't want to be known as the crazy opossum lady.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Release the Hound

I'm hoping everyone remembers the kitten in the well house that we found the third week in April...if I was smart and knew how to say "see here" and have the link pop up, that's what would be going on right now. Smart people have tried to teach me. Smart people have failed. Other than keeping my sons here full time to "ghost" for me, I'm afraid you're just going to have to take my word for it...we found a two week old kitten in the well. Mac and I took loving care of her and bottle fed her (every two hours the first two about tired, my own babies weren't that much work). Like all kittens or cats, she was easily litter trained, so at least there were no nappies to change. She grew so attached to me, she would run across the floor when I entered the room and climb up my leg to get to my shoulder. Now that was all well and good when her highness was 4 weeks old, weighed a feather, and no one had put the steel in her claws. Now I need to don chain mail to enter a room. She plays rough, too. She has no siblings to learn how far she can go, therefore she goes as far as she wants. She bites the hand that feeds her. All in play, of course. Like a lot of people I know, she doesn't know her own strength. I was on the phone with Evil Sister the other day and the wee one was fighting with my jump on the couch, attack my hand, run back down to the floor...repeat...and I said "ow" quite loudly. Evil Sister said, "what happened?" "I think she may have drawn blood," I said. Evil Sister told me to take two fingers and tap her sharply on the forehead. "That's what the mother cat does to correct the kittens," she said knowingly. They had adopted a four week old motherless kitten named GrayC...and believe me, I'll be writing more about that, sweet kitty at a future date. So anyway, I take two fingers and tap her sharply on the forehead. As I peeled a pound of fury off my arm, I asked ES "any more smart ideas?" "It didn't work?" she asked, and I swear she didn't believe me. "Not only did it not work, I think I may need stitches!" Even now, as I sit in the office and write this, I can hear the thundering herd that is my sweet baby as she runs from room to room looking for fresh meat. We named her Lady Wellington, isn't that precious? Now, in the mornings when I arise, Mac lays in bed and says in his best Basil Rathbone voice "release the hound!" which means to let the baby come in and jump on the bed and gnaw him till he's bloodied or says "calf roe". So guess what? Her name is now and forever more will be, Hound.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tomato Gravy Sunday

Many family traditions and family recipes begin with a single person. I'm not sure exactly who began the fabulous tomato gravy one, but as far as I can tell it was on the Sealy side of the family. Mac's mother was as fantastic a cook as my mother, but coming from different areas of the South their recipes were decidedly different, too. Mac's Mama made a plum cake that was so simple yet so delicious that people requested it by that name...Plum Cake. Basically it was a yellow cake put together with home made plum jelly and topped with the same. Sort of a jelly cake extraordinaire. I've made plum jelly but the only Plum Cake I've ever tasted was Mama McBride's. It seemed a sacrilege to make it while she was still living. She used to talk about her mother making "Shadow Gravy" during the depression. To make it they put some lard (not Crisco, but pure rendered down hog lard) in the frying pan (about 2 tablespoons) threw in about 2 tablespoons of flour and hung up a piece of side meat (fat back with a streak of lean through it) to throw a shadow on the pan...there wouldn't be enough meat during the week to go round, you see. Okay, that was probably a tale that got told, but tales always have a basis in fact. After Mac and I were married we would get to Alabama as often as we could, but with work and deployments (the Navy sure liked to float those boats) it was usually only about twice a year. Unfortunately visits were rare, life got in the way. The first time I had Tomato Gravy was shortly after becoming a McBride. We arrived in Shreveport, La late on a Friday night, I was introduced to the clan (Mac just sort of threw me in to sink or all husbands do that?) Saturday was a normal cereal breakfast and his sister Kathy taught me how to eat Grape Nuts with hot milk instead of's how I eat them to this day. But that was a breakfast to write home about. There were hot thick buttered grits, large portions of sausage patties, the most beautiful home made biscuits I have ever seen (apologies to my mother but the truth is the truth) perfectly fried eggs, each turned lovingly yolk unbroken and a steaming bowl of Tomato Gravy. The bowl was white and had a yellow rose with just a hint of the leaf showing...the gravy was smooth except for the bright red chunks of tomato that poked out of the surface like waves of ambrosia. Mac's Mama looked over at him, love shining out of her eyes and said "I made Tomato Gravy for you," and his Daddy said "why do we always have Tomato Gravy when the kids come home?" "Because they like it, " she answered simply. we like it! Soon after, his dad retired from Cival Service where he had worked closely with the Air Force as a Crash Scene Investigator, they moved to Papa's home town of Selma, Alabama. That meant we got home a little more frequently and when my older son was two, we were stationed there (Mac was a Navy Recruiter). I watched carefully every time the Tomato Gravy was made and since we now lived close by, was often there to help in it's preparation. My boys learned to love it and soon it was an extension of the family tradition. Though we didn't have it every Sunday, more like once a month, it was something to look forward to. I didn't want to make it so frequently that it lost its specialness. I wanted it to be something they would look forward to when they came home. The way it was special to Mac when he came home. Even now I can picture our niece Kari's mouth watering...and I intend to make it this morning...I wish she were close enough to come join us. I'm going to call my older son and daughter(in_law) and tell them it's Tomato Gravy Sunday...maybe they'll come join us.


fry enough bacon or sausage to feed your family

empty a large can (14 ounces) of stewed tomatoes into a sauce pan and add 8 ounces of water and 1/2 tsp of salt...bring it to the boil and then cover and simmer till you're ready to use it. Put on a pot of grits and let it cook longer than the required cooking time...if it says it's done in five minutes, I hate to tell you but they're liars...let them cook at least fifteen minutes...and for those of you who have no idea what grits are or how to prepare them, I am so sorry for you...but just take this advice...never mind, you can't miss what you've never had...make hashbrowns instead.

Make a pan of biscuits and bake them till they're can use frozen biscuits or canned biscuits if you're so inclined, it won't hurt the flavor of the gravy...

If you have an iron skillet, please use it...this is what God intended the Iron Skillet to be used for. If you have fried the sausage in it (please tell me you fried the sausage or bacon in it) pour off excess fat drippings, leave at least two tablespoons in the bottom with any "crusties" that might be left...two heaping tablespoons of flour to be added to this when the pan is nice and hot...stir the flour in and make a roux, let it get chocolate brown...pour the simmered tomatoes into it all at once, stirring constantly...turn on low and cover while you're getting the rest of the breakfast (eggs) prepared the way you like them, scrambled or fried...if you don't like eggs, don't bother...pour up the gravy in a bowl grate fresh pepper over the top, give it a stir and call everyone to the table...split a biscuit open and ladle on the gravy. You're about to taste heaven. Oh, and a little side note here...seems they stick all kinds of extra spices in tomatoes these days like oregano or basil, NO NO NO...just plain tomatoes! Don't mess with success!