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"A thousand things went right today."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recipes for a Porch Party

How about a Porch Party? Invite some friends over, turn on a fan to discourage mosquitoes, pass some cool beverages and serve toasted pecans and a tortilla dip that will disappear in a hurry. Other necessary ingredients for a successful porch or deck party include hearty laughter and true stories. Okay, mostly true.

Toasted Pecans
Get some of your Fall pecans from the freezer and make this marvelous treat, long a requisite for any Southern wedding, tea or reception of any type. These make great gifts. A friend sends them to her son in the Navy. He shares them, thus increasing his popularity aboard ship.

1 stick butter
4 tsp. Worchestershire
4 cups pecans
1 Tab. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. Tabasco

Melt butter in 11 x 14 sheet cake pan in 300 degree oven.
Add other ingredients and pecans, mixing well. Toast for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally during toasting to evenly season nuts. Watch carefully, for they can burn quickly. Dry on paper towels. Mighty good.

Husband D. and I often send our far-away friends several pounds of cracked pecans when the season has been a prolific one. You'd think we had sent them big money!
Pecans. Southern manna.

Tortilla Dip (quite easy)

1 6-oz. can ripe olives chopped
1 4-0z. can green chilies, chopped
4 green onions with tops, chopped
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 Tab. salad oil
1 1/2 Tab. vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt

Mix olives, chilies, onion, tomatoes. Add oil, vinegar and garlic salt. Stir, chill, serve with chips. A Teach for America young man from California who lived with us for a while said this dip reminded him of home. A good recommendation. (recipe from friend Jeannie)

This past week was very productive in the kitchen. Made and canned strawberry preserves; blueberry-pineapple dessert topping; bread-and-butter pickles; and spices pickled beets. I like doing it: makes me feel like one of the pioneer women my ancestors were.

A Troll in the Refrigerator

Ugly and demented, the unseen troll who must live nearby targeted my house last week, using his malevolent powers to make our refrigerator's shelves topple one upon the other, squshing half a lemon pie and upsetting a stack of leftovers. The thingies that support the shelves broke.

Off to the nearest store, 15 miles away, husband D. and I go. Gotta' have a frig and freezer. Heck, we had strawberry sherbet (delicious) in the freezer. Certainly couldn't let that Southern delicacy thaw and ruin.

Arrived at an appliance store. Found the style we liked. Talked to young man on sales floor. Said young man: "This style comes in several colors. Which would you like?"

I: "Certainly not harvest gold again."

He: "Huh? Harvest gold? I don't know that style."

I: "It's a color. You know, like avocado green."

He: "Huh?"

As I thought about those two enormously popular colors , I realized they reflected a life style of perky young housewives in bright red lipstick, below-the-knee-dresses and standing erectly in their spike heels as they happily mopped their kitchen floor. That's what the advertisers showed.

Remember those ads? Who were those women able to take time from kitchen mopping to have their pictures taken for the popular womens' magazine of the day? Working in high heels? Huh?

My harvest gold refrigerator will be delegated to other duties as soon as D. finishes his carpentry work. The new one, about two inches taller than old harvest gold, must fit in a cabinet space designed for the hot model of 32 years ago. Tearing out a kitchen cabinet and rebuilding it will take a few days. Just enough time for my new double door white refrigerator to arrive.

Believe I'll dress up, get the mop out, and have D. take my picture as I mop my kitchen. That'll be a new picture for our new fridge door.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tomatoes Straight from the Garden? Seconds, please!

Cold, sliced or chunked, beautifully orange-red and roundly plump. Makes a Southern mouth water.
Yep, first of summer's tomatoes. In a salad dressing so good you'll drink the left-overs out of the jar when no one is looking!

Think early evening backyard get-togethers with long-time friends laughing and swapping tales; magaritas and beer or bourbon with branch water; steaks and marinated shrimp on one end of the grill, unshucked corn and skewered mushrooms and onions on the other end. Think the children at home with a teenaged babysitter, pizza, and Disney movies. Oh, yeah.

Now. About the dressing: I call it "Frances' Superb French Dressing" for the family friend, Frances "Red" Taylor of Como, Mississippi, who brought it over to my Mama's house as a "little summertime pick-me-up" when my Mama was ill. The just-a-teeny-bit-sweet dressing on tomatoes may not cure ills, but it does produce moans of palate pleasure. Here's the recipe:

Frances' Superb French Dressing
2 cups oil
1 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tab. salt
4 Tab. sugar
1 small onion, grated
dash pepper
Combine all ingredients except oil in blender. Add oil then blend again for a few seconds.
Makes 1 quart. Keeps indefinitely in refrigerator.
Delicious over freshly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers or onion slices. (Can be drunk straight from the quart jar!)

This recipe was included in High Cotton Cooking, a cookbook edited on my dining room table some years ago to benefit a local school. The book has gone through six printings, sold more than 25,000 copies, and includes back-home, like-Mama-made recipes. Extra features are extensive sections on breads and preserving section.The 348-page book is still in print and sells for $25 plus $5 s/h. It's a good buy.

Recipes soon: Mississippi Tomato Aspic? Dede's Fig Preserves? Quick Cranberry Nut Bread?
Blueberry-pineapple Preserves? Decisions, decisions.

To buy a cookbook, contact averydear aka:
Grace Henderson
PO Box 727
Marvell AR 72366

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cute Pests? the other side of the story...

Some years ago I was miffed at my neighbor for trapping the dear little squirrels that lived in the biggest oak tree in my back yard. After the three or four squirrels sped into his yard for a tasty pecan treat, they came back home (to me, of course) to enjoy their dinner in the safety of my sanctuary. Precious things. How could the neighbor, who has a pecan orchard for Pete's sake, miss a few pecans.? Shame on that mean old neighbor.

I am a gardener, happy when my hands are in the dirt, my shoes muddy and the caladiums opening and swaying in a gentle breeze. The caladiums last summer were magnificent, eliciting praise for their beauty from passersby. They framed our rambling front porch and were my garden's eye candy. So, naturally, I sorted them by color before the Fall's first frost and kept them in mesh bags in a dark closet. Those bulging bags were the promise of future beauty.

After a month of rain in early Spring and my being out of town for three weeks after the rain, I heard the caladiums begging to fulfill their destiny in the dirt, not in the closet. I hoped they would thrive even being planted several weeks later than the optimum time, so I spent a day pulling up the detrius of fall and winter in the flower beds. I cheerfully and eagerly made soft beds for the now sprouting bulbs, watered them in gently. I had really done a fine job, I thought.

Two days later, I inspected my fine job and saw that the precious squirrels had dug up and chewed up nearly every bulb. Nearly all the fifty or more that I'd tended so gently. Add to that a pesky mole had done a real number in the lawn, but this is not a mole story.

Retribution is swift. I am looking for a squirrel trap.

However. The squirrels also like corn. Had I considered the needs of other animals that live in and around this yard and kept the corn feeder filled, perhaps my caladiums would be pushing up today.

. Karma.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What a Night It Was

Last weekend I slept with a wild man. He slept so close to me he almost pushed me out of the bed, and today I am worn to a frazzle. Every time I moved, he sat up and asked where I was going.

I'm so crazy for him I'm taking a day off without pay just to be with him this weekend, too, even driving 200 miles to pick him up. He doesn't drive, primarily because another woman in his life won't let him, making him sit in the back, buckled up for safety. My daughter, who is my wild man's mother, has said that when he has his third birthday in July we'll have a big party!

I call him Angel Man or Monkey Doodle. He calls me Dede. Sometimes I call him Little Frog. He doesn't like the latter, and reminds me indignantly, "Me Brooks Thomas Baston; me not frog." (Sometimes he says "Baston" when he really means "Batson.")

Not at all bothered by humidity and the occasional rain drop, my wild man gardens with me. He especially likes me to turn a spade of dirt to disclose worms, the bigger and more wriggley the better. Unaware that worms are considered lowly, disgusting creatures, my Little Frog tries to soothe their wriggling by gently stroking them. Trying to catch one of the abundant red squirrels is another of his favorite back yard games. He's still red shirted in that sport.

Being a grandparent is not something I thought much about until the first grandchild was born. As soon as I met the first one, I fell in love, I fell into unconditional love and that has happened seven times. The two oldest grandchildren live 3,000 miles west; two live in Alpharetta, Georgia, eight hours east. Little Frog and his parents and two older brothers are only two hours north.

As "Dede" I'm far more relaxed, more lenient, more forgiving that I was with my own children.

I learned that I said "No!" or "don't" or Stop!" or "in a minute" or "not now" far too often over incredibly unimportant things when I was a young Mama instead of an older and wiser Dede.

I don't say "No" much these days.

Teenagers: Something New Every Day

As a high school school teacher for more than 28 years, I often think I've seen and heard it all from teenagers.

But no, today I have a new "happening" and I must share it. Actually, this story was passed along by a Teach for America comrade (who taught in Arkansas with me a few years back) who is now teaching in Ohio.

"I love teenagers," she wrote. "Today a student told me that another girl wants to fight her (off school grounds so they don't get suspended). My student said she doesn't have a ride so the other girl offered to pick her up."

Teenagers. You gotta' love em.

Friday, April 17, 2009


We were talking, Scarlett and I, about how quickly the years have flown since we were together: almost twenty-five. Her son had become a man, as had mine; we'd both changed vocations. She'd moved 3,000 miles west and back to the South 20 years later. We had wrinkles and gray hairs. We were no longer young career women.

That night I wondered what I needed to learn from getting old. The answer came to mind spontaneously and in a voice not my own: "That it is a blessing. Not all people get to become old."


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring and Easter

My beloved mother has been gone from this Earth now
35 years. Her birthday is April 12.

On April 12, the dogwood in our front yard was at its fullest bloom. More beautiful than it has been in many years. April 12 was Easter Sunday.

Is it any wonder, then, that I felt the hundreds of blooms were sending me a message?

Lessons From the Garden

Back and leg muscles complained and wanted to rest last week after an afternoon of unaccustomed work during a warm early Spring day, but aches are a small price for a bountiful backyard garden in not too many weeks. The bare beds are clean now of storm-tossed limbs, pine cones and molding leaves that kept them blanketed, safe and warm during below freezing-temperatures.

Today the beds look proud and perky. They seem to anticipate early blooming from bulbs and the tentative thrusts of ferns uncurling. They look forward to robins scouring for worms fattened by months under the rich Delta soil.

The beds look vulnerable, as well. I wonder if their blanket was torn from them too soon. Clean yet bare gardens expect sunny days ahead and adornment of color and growth. If winter's last cold breath reaches them, these beloved gardens still wear their best faces and stand stalwart in a temporary misfortune.

We take lessons from our gardens. Many lovers of the soil and stewards of gardens, especially those devastated by Katrina, have experienced delight and surprise that a toppled and beloved live oak or magnolia has been mysteriously replaced by new plants sowed by howling winds and receding water.

Unlike plants, we forget that the sun not only rises again after a storm, but it also seems to shine brighter and further.
--Avery Dear

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle is My Hero!

First came chills along my arms, then tears in my eyes, then aching in my cheeks from standing rooted to the floor and grinning at the television screen for seven minutes.

Susan Boyle caused my elation. Susan Boyle, a woman from a Scottish village, a woman nearly 48 years old, never married, never been kissed, unemployed but job hunting, a church volunteer who lived with Pebbles, her beloved cat.

If you've not heard her, please go to YouTube...just type in Susan Boyle in the search button and you'll
be stunned. Or Google her.

This unassuming and refreshingly unsophisticated woman with her rather plain face and inexpensive dress and shoes brought sneers and snickers and rolling of eyes when she strode confidently onto the stage before Simon Cowell, his fellow judges and a packed audience for the first round of auditions for Britain Has Talent.
The young and hip audience, who laughed loudly when she nervously answered a rude question from Cowell,
was, within five seconds after Susan Boyle began to sing, standing, applauding and cheering like crazy, for this woman who "had never had a chance before." The judges were astounded, two apologizing for their cynicism, and Simon Cowell was open mouthed, stunned by her range, her depth, her innate understanding of the meaning of "I Dreamed a Dream," a most difficult song from the Les Miserables.

Since the audition on April 11, more than 14 million... 14 million..persons have watched the YouTube video of Ms. Boyle's audition. She has been given three "yes" votes from the implacable judges, thus will advance to another of the three more rounds of auditions.

Today the BBC reported that bookies in Great Britain are saying Susan Boyle will be the winner over the thousands who have tried to gain a spot in the talent contest.

I smiled all day. I showed the video to all my high school classes. Many of them grinned and had moist eyes, too. Susan Boyle is a hero. Mine for sure.

Don't you just love it when the underdog wins!

Sing, Susan.