Monday, February 8, 2010

An F in Cooking

I have been cooking since I was in the 7th grade. My maternal grandfather had a serious heart attack right before school was to let out that summer. My mother needed to go to Florida and help take care of him for the next month or so. My dad could not take his vacation for that long, so he, my brother and myself would stay in Huntsville while mother went to Orlando. We really couldn't expect Daddy to cook for us, as he only had one hand that worked. His right arm had been shot off in WWII. It was re-attached but he never really had any use of it after that. Cooking was definitely out. I would be expected to take over these duties pronto.

Mother bought me a small card index file and recipe cards before she left and we spent several hours plotting out the dynamics of my new cooking career. She gave me the meal plans for each day and we wrote out the recipes and cooking instructions on how to complete meals. Mother was an excellent cook and she gave me directions that were a sure no fail if followed as per her details. Back then we did not have microwaves to defrost, so she even spelled out exactly what time of day to take out the frozen meat to be prepared for dinner that evening. She thought of every detail and I jotted them down on the cards. I kept this card index all these years and only recently gave it to my daughter for her to use too.

Thus I began my culinary career by preparing the dinner meals for my dad, brother and myself that summer. We all survived and they definitely seemed to enjoy my cooking right off. The more I practiced and followed mother's cards, I seemed to get better and better at cooking and developed a real interest in it.

When mother returned home, we began working on cooking projects together that grew in complexity and I excelled in cooking more and more. We even took a Wilton cake decorating course and made birthday cakes for people. My mother could do just about anything she set her mind to and she always encouraged me to try new things too.

I loved experimenting with new recipes and especially international foods. I can't say that I didn't have some failures, but practice makes perfect. I once tried to fix a chicken curry dish for my first husband and nephew. I misread the recipe for the curry and put in 1 T instead of 1 t. Boy was that a huge mistake. The smell alerted everyone that this might not be something they should try. As I was entering the dining room, I heard my young nephew asking his uncle if they really were going to have to eat this. I knew then we would be going out for burgers right away.

But my experience grew and I seemed to really perfect most attempts that I made from pastries, beef wellington, barbeque, cooking fresh lobsters to you name it. I have grown my own vegetables and canned them. I have made jellies, preserves, homemade bread and any type of desserts, candies, cookies and cakes that you might want to experience.

I have always enjoyed all aspects of cooking from selecting the recipes, shopping for the ingredients, using unique cookware and the final presentations. I specially designed and remodeled the kitchen in my last house to accomodate all of the latest appliances and tools that one might need for a pseudo-gourmet cook. I loved my kitchen and the wonderful cooktop, double ovens, convection oven and side by side refrig. This kitchen and my wonderful screen porch were the two rooms in our home that I loved and spent the most time in. I was most desperately saddened to leave them when we moved.

Needless to say, this newer house which is only 7 years old, has a nice enough kitchen but was built with contractor grade appliances, cabinets and countertops. This has been a huge adjustment to revamp my style of cooking with. Since I have been here these past 6 months, I have had one cooking disaster after another. I can't seem to get adjusted to the heating and cooking time of the range and the oven. The microwave also cooks way to fast and I usually end up way over cooking anything that I am just trying to heat up. The dishwasher howls as it washes the dishes and they never really seem to come out sparkling and clean. I am in a total dilemma about what to do with this kitchen. Everything is too new to just scrap and replace and besides that would be a huge investment again.

Now I am hoping that it is just that these appliances are my nemisis and I will soon get accustomed to using them properly and instead not losing all my cooking abilities! Poor Andy is getting tired of eating bread that is way to hard and meat that is always too tough not to mention the expense of throwing away much of what I prepare.

Tonight was the worst yet. I caught some sweet potatoes on fire in the microwave. The smoke detectors began howling and smoke was billowing out of the bottom of the microwave and all out into the kitchen. This house has a 20 foot ceiling in the foyer right off the kitchen so it quickly filled up with smoke and billowed over the railings into the upstairs bedrooms.

Once I got the burning potatoes out of the microwave and threw them out onto the back porch, I ran and begin turning on ceiling fans and opening doors and windows to try and get rid of the smoke. It was just at this time that I also noticed that it had begun snowing again like a blizzard and the house now was not only filled up with smoke but the cold air was racing in too. I had a magazine racing around trying to fan out the smoke when Andy walked in to this wonderful welcome home atmosphere.

Once all the smoke was under control, we tried to salvage what was left of the meal to eat. I am really second guessing myself and my cooking skills. Right now I should definitely get an F and my cooking report card. Take out is looking better and better.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall Happenings

So much has been going on these past few weeks here in Tennessee. The fall leaves have been magnificent. We live one block from the lake and the trees reflecting in the water are just mesmerizing. The weather has been beautiful with the temperature during the daytime reaching up into the low 70's but at night we have been getting a slight frost each evening. I know that cold days are just around the corner.

Halloween was great fun with my grandkids this year. We Trick or Treated with them till we were all freezing and ready to drop. Annie Frances was so excited and just wanted to keep going and going to get more candy.

We have enjoyed going to our grandson's soccer games on the weekends and my husband's high school where he teaches football games on Friday nights. It has truly been football weather at those games. Brrrrr! And nothing has been any better than coming home on Saturday and putting on a big pot of homemade soup and settling in to watch my beloved University of Alabama play football! Roll Tide! What a great season this has been so far and we just hope to see it all the way to National Champs!!!!!

Royal Southern Baby is really starting to get busy. I have lots of sewing orders to complete which will keep me plenty busy during the cold days. Please visit my website at to see some of the projects we are working on.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's been a long time since I shared anything....

Much water has flowed down the river since the last time I posted here. Life sometimes becomes too busy, too hectic, too complicated to even sit down and absorb it. My physical address has changed as well as my life as I have know it for my 57 years. My husband and I sold our home in Alabama and have moved to Hendersonville, TN. Never had even heard of this place until about a year ago, but we had always considered a move to the Nashville area to be closer to the grandkids. Hubby got a new job here and off we came. It really wasn't quite that easy, many complications along the way, but we are now settled in our new home, new town, and I have left my sweet home Alabama for now. I can't imagine that I will never go back however. There is something there that is just a vital part of my heart. My brother came from Amelia Island, FL for one last visit with me before I moved. We rode the streets and neighborhoods that we grew up in in Huntsville; visited some of our favorite old restaurants, parks, our high school, past our old houses we lived in and one final visit to our parents gravesite. Whew! That was tough, but had to be done. He then drove with me to Tennessee to see my new house and where this part of my journey takes me. He left Alabama many years ago so his advice was to cut ties and start fresh. I am trying. The best part is that hubby and I are exploring new things together and we see our grandchildren every few days now. We absolutely love being a part of their daily lives, having them spend the night with us, taking them to school, going to soccer games. These will all be wonderful new memories, hopefully to shroud the old ones in the recesses of my mind and heart. Adieu sweet Alabama....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Granddaddy Joe

I had the great privilege of having all four grandparents on both my mother and father's sides of the family live until my early adulthood. I consider this one of the many blessings that I have had as they all played important roles in my life right up until their deaths. As fate would have it, my mother died very early at the age of 56 while I was still in my early 30's. I have always felt very robbed not having her in my life longer. Fortunately, she was always very involved in my life and very close to both of my children right up to her untimely death. As grace would have it though, I was blessed to also have had a great grandfather who lived until I was 8 years old. Even though my time knowing him was very short and I was so young when he died, the richness of this man's life likewise was a great influence on mine. My father's memories and colorful stories of Granddaddy Joe are priceless to me. I even have my father on a tape recording right before his death, recounting many early memories with his grandparents on their farm in Vernon, AL. My father was their first grandchild and I am sure, spoiled rotten by them and all of his aunts and uncles. But Daddy's vivid stories of the character of this man made him a true legend in our family. Unfortunately, my Daddy, Mama, and all the grandparents are gone to heaven to be with my beloved "Granddaddy Joe" now, so I only have the memories and old stories to recall. Last week however, a second cousin of mine in Baton Rouge, LA sent me this email with Granddaddy Joe's obituary. I don't think that I have ever seen this, but was so happy to receive it and revive in my again my young memories of this aged grandfather who smelled of Prince Albert pipe tobacco, had a twinkling little smile and soft spoken voice as he gave me and my brother little tickles and jabs and played simple little jokes on his two great grandchildren. Again, I stand in awe of the character of this great man that I didn't really get to know. I will be anxious to meet him again in heaven and re-acquaint. I know that many also have truly wonderful and virtuous relatives to bring honor to their families, but I am most proud that I can claim that Joe B. Hankins was my great grandfather -- "Granddaddy Joe".

On Wednesday night, April 12th, the spirit of Joe B. Hankins was called to his heavenly home after several weeks of illness. Mr. Hankins leaves a family of eight children; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren; three sisters and one brother to mourn his passing. He had lived in Lamar County throughout his eighty four years. In early life he married Miss Ada Collins and they settled near Vernon, Alabama. Here they reared their children in a Christian home, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The wise counseling and firm guidance of these Christian parents did much to help their children develop into outstanding citizens. Mr. Hankins took time to help, not only his family, but also his church, his community and his country. He was a good neighbor who was generous with his friends and who visited the sick and the needy. He accepted and practiced the teachings of Christ and time and again gave the cup of cold water in Christ’s name as recorded in the book of St. Matthew. As a devout Christian man of great faith he staunchly stood by his convictions of right, which he interpreted by an earnest study of the Bible. He was a devoted member of the Baptist Church and never swerved in his devotion to his church and its principles. He also spent time and effort for the improvement of the civic and social matters of his community. He encouraged the practice of good morals at all times. He was an excellent citizen, law-abiding and devoted to the proposition that laws are made for the protection of people and should be obeyed. He believed that “right makes might”. It would almost seem that Robert Louis Stevenson had Joe B. Hankins in mind when he wrote: “To be honest, to be kind; to earn a little and spend a little less; To make upon the whole a family happier for his presence; To help a few friends, but those without capitulation; here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.” Mr. Hankins was kind, he was discreet, he loved his fellowman, he had faith in God, he was a man if integrity and of true nobility and his passing leaves a vacancy in the hearts of his family and friends. But their loss is his eternal gain. He went as William Cullen Bryant describes in – Thanatopsis “ Sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams,” St. Paul wrote to the church of Corinth a great truth which seemed to apply to our friends demise - “ Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy
sting? O grave, where is they victory?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sweet Home Alabama

So much water has passed under the bridge since I last posted but the ripple effect is basically that we moved to Nashville in the fall when Andy became head basketball coach at Pope John Paul II High School. Our house in Huntsville is still for sale (go figure with the way the economy is). I had only been living in Nashville for a week when I had a seizure and ended up in the hospital....long story short, I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease. I am still reeling with bouts of vertigo and trying to get myself back to normal. We are currently living with our daughter, son in law and the 2 grandbabies to help me while I recover.

That just about sums up our mid-life adventure change so far. We keep praying for our house to sell so we can finally settle in and start our new life for real. Huntsville has always been home to me except for a short time in Tuscaloosa for college and a couple of years in Birmingham when I first married. I was born and bred here and this has always been my roots. Andy and I were anxious and excited to try something different for the second half of our lives when we started considering the move. I just didn't realize how hard it was going to be to leave and then even harder to stay away. Our housing crisis and my illness have only complicated the experience. I know if we can sell the house and finally get all our furniture and belongings back together we will be able to start building a new life.

In the meantime, I came back this week for a little sabbatical. This is the first time I have been able to drive by myself. I loaded up Arthur (our cat) and off we drove down I-65 to Sweet Home Alabama! As I drove into my driveway, I saw my redbud trees blooming and the scattered daffodils were peeking out all over the front yard. Wow, what a difference 100 miles makes!

The house was ice-cold when I came in as we had the furnace turned as low as it could go with out freezing the pipes. Arthur was anxious to jump out of the carrier and quickly began running up the stairs to investigate his familiar territory. I must admit that I spent the first hour also roaming throughout my house remembering all my things and just enjoying the experience. We have had the cable tv turned off, so the house is quiet and peaceful. I've been here for 2 days now and this afternoon was the first time I even thought about having any noise in the house. I turned on the stereo and adjusted the surround sound and listened to some of my favorite cd's. It was breezy but wonderfully warm at about 66 degrees so I sat in the sun in my favorite wicker rocker on my screened in porch for several hours this afternoon. This has been the best therapy for me since I got sick.

I have enjoyed visiting with my son and daughter in law for dinner the first night I was here and then Drew came again this afternoon for a little visit. Last night I had dinner with my best friend and we just curled up on the couches at her house and watched American Idol and talked and talked. So much fun. I also went out to my old office and visited with all my old work friends.
Today two other dear friends came by to see me and we laughed and chatted just like I had never gone away. Andy drove down this evening after work and we went out to dinner with two of our best friends tonight. Great dinner, wonderful conversation and company and just like we had never been gone. Life is so short. Don't take the little things for granted. Smell the roses everyday and thank God for all your blessings. Tomorrow we will pack up and head north again for Nashville. My little vacation here for only 2 days has refreshed my spirit. It is suppose to snow tomorrow in Nashville. I will take back warm memories of today on the screened porch. I thank God that I could come home again for this little visit. I plan to come back and do this again until the house sells!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Snakes Alive!

Sundays are always great days to be lazy. Sleep late (we missed church today),watch lots of movies on the couch, veg out on junk food and just take it easy. Nothing exciting. Nope, that's not exactly the way the day played out here. We did laz around most of the day as it was so hot and humid and a big storm was moving in. We just sat around and waited on it. But late this pm, I was watching the wind start to blow in when I noticed that my flag was still up on the front porch. Now this is not just any flag, mind you. It's my Halloween flag that has been up since October. Why you ask? Well, I have tried several times to remove the pole from the holder, but everytime I did, it was stuck. I kept forgetting to ask Andy to help me get it down, but today when I saw the wind blowing it, I yelled for Andy to help. He did much to his regret. We both tugged real hard on it from both sides and it really seemed to be in there. Andy was barefooted and and standing right next to the brick steps going down the front porch. One more really good tug and the pole popped out, but down Andy went off the porch with it. Now, for those of you who know my husband, you know he is very athletic and agile. With momentum going down, he flew over most of the steps but never fell down, righting himself on the bottom step. Or maybe we should say his toe righted itself on the step! Momentum still intact, he is now jumping and running up the sidewalk in much pain. Almost as fast as he is going foward, suddenly he is stopped and coming back again. You see, he was just inches from stepping on a 4 foot rat snake sitting in the sun next to our front flower bed! WHOA!!!! I screamed, he yelled and headed back up the steps to the front porch. Now we noticed that his toe was bent up perpendicular at a 90 degree angle to his foot. I didn't know just what to look at.....his toe or the snake. I immediately thought we should get a shovel to kill the snake, but Andy was more concerned with his toe. I asked if he needed a trip to the ER and he said no, so I whipped down and jerked his toe out straight to get it back in line. A little yelp and we watched the big snake slither back into a hole in the wall of the flower bed. Andy's toe is all bandaged up tonight. Drew, my orthopedic rep son, thinks he needs a little pin put in it. But I have broken my toe twice now and both times I just pulled it back out and wrapped it up tight with surgical tape. That does the trick even though now my toe is very crooked and looks like someone ran over it with a car. Guess Andy's will be too. Now, I just need to take care of some moth balls and the snake tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ode to Kenmore

Last night was a sad night. My 29 year old, (yes, I said 29 year's old) Kenmore dryer finally cranked out it's last load of clothes. If this is not a testament to Kenmore appliances, I don't know what is!!!! I got this dryer when Erin was 3 years old and she is 32 now. It has been an incredible appliance. We have had to have the belt replaced once or twice, the element replaced years ago, and the timer control that turns the dryer off when the timer is up has been broken for about the last 10 years. We treated the dryer with great regard and would go down and open the door to turn it off when the clothes were dry.

Last year the little catch that holds the door shut broke. My son in law rigged me up with a big bungee cord to hold the door shut. Then the dryer was back in business. Matthew then looked up on the internet and found that little part for the door and replaced it. That gave us another year of use. But last night, after drying 1 load of clothes, it ran and ran, but never warmed up to dry the clothes. I knew the element was once again burned out. I checked with Kenmore today, but unfortunately, they do not make this part for this model anymore and cannot fix it. So, we will finally have to purchase a new dryer and I guess we will have a departing ceremony as this one is hauled off to it's final resting place. I hate to add to the landfill with something that has been in our home for 29 years, but we don't have a choice. I am really consciously thinking "Green" now with everything I do. I guess I could research what the appropriate "Green" thing would be to do with the dryer first. Anyone have any suggestions? Now I will have to start researching new dryers and what we want to get. I'll say this however, it's definitely going to be a KENMORE!