Friday, August 30, 2013

A Long Ago Letter

My grandmother May, with her older brother and sister.

This week I had lunch with a cousin who brought me a copy of a faded letter written nearly 100 years ago by our great-great-grandmother, Adelaide. Another cousin had found the original among her mother's possessions. My grandmother (who was born in 1890) received this letter from her own grandmother.
Thursday, June 17, 1915 
My Dear Grandchildren,
I must first tell you about my surprise last night when they came in with the mail to find one for me, a nice picture of dear sweet little Elizabeth and you, May. Be sure to know how pleased I am to be able to enjoy looking at it very often.
"Sweet little Elizabeth" was my dad's oldest sister—the first baby in the family. Doesn't that sound just like the grandmothers now expressing thanks for email and Skype and cell phones? In many ways, we have not changed much in nearly 100 years. It is also a reminder that while we think families are more spread across the map that they used to be, that isn't necessarily so. This letter came from Massachusetts to my grandmother May who was living in South Carolina.

Since the letter is addressed to "My Dear Grandchildren" I wonder if the letter was meant to be shared with my grandmother's sister Florence (who is also mentioned in this letter) as they lived in the same town. That's just like now, when I send an email or text message to both my daughters at once.

She also writes about her house. How hard it is for us to think of hot and cold water and a tub and a bathroom as "modern improvements."
Perhaps I have not written about the changes in the old house. Now there is a new addition on the north of the house with all the nice modern improvements, as hot & cold water, set tubs, bathroom toilet room...
The letter was six pages of just chit-chat—complaints about the post office, anniversary plans, changes around town and such. Pretty much the same kind of conversation I had with my daughter just this morning when she called.

In 100 years will our great-great-grandchildren know anything about our day-to-day lives? There will be no letters saved in a shoebox and then passed down for generations. And we hardly have an actual printed photo anymore. The last time I was with a group of grandmothers for lunch, we were showing off pictures of our grandchildren on our iPads!

We won't be here to know it's going to work out, but it's kind of fun to think about.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Be Still And Know


Be still and know that I am God... Psalms 46:10

I like quiet. I am comfortable with quiet. I love the early mornings when things are still and the sun is just coming up and the sky is full of color—when the air is so still that the mist sits on the ground. Even the birds have not started singing yet. I keep my camera on the kitchen counter so that when I see this outside my kitchen door, I can capture this moment of stillness. It only lasts a couple of minutes and then the day goes on as usual.

The movie Tammy Tell Me True (Sandra Dee, 1961) was on television over and over when I was growing up and there is a moment from that movie that I still remember. When her life had gotten complicated and everything was about to fall apart, she closed her eyes and scrunched up her face. The old lady that she was trying to help asked her what on earth she was doing. Tammy answered, "I'm just gathering the stillness around me." That was how she dealt with problems. That one scene has stuck with me for many years. Funny where we learn good life lessons.

But after a few minutes of stillness it's time to face the day. Some days that includes cooking.

Crockpots came into existence when I was working as a home economist. I remember some testing being done at the university to see if foods were indeed safe when cooked at low temps for a long time. They concluded yes. I also seem to remember that we were told one of the bonuses of slow cooking was that you couldn't overcook foods. Well, that's not exactly so. Many people did not love the end result that was often overdone and rubbery. Over the years folks have come up with new recipes that yield a better product and some slow cookers have timers that let you be more precise. So use your slow cooker enough to figure out the times that work for you. (My newer crockpot seems to get hotter than my very old one.)

I made this right before Jessica and I went on vacation. I just found the photos on my camera today. The flavor was delicious. I need to adjust the cooking time when I make it again. I think I left these chicken thighs in the crockpot on LOW for close to 8 hours. I'm thinking about 6 hours would be enough.


1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used jarred minced garlic)
1 tablespoon extra vigin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
fresh chopped parsley

Combine the first five dry spices in a small bowl and spread over chicken on both sides. Set aside. Pour olive oil and garlic on the bottom of the crockpot. Place chicken pieces on top. Pour balsamic vinegar over the chicken. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

As noted, I cooked mine on LOW for 7-8 hours and I think 6 hours would have been about right. Next time I'll try this as written see how it works cooked on HIGH.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rest And Recovery

It's taking me a while to get back to some semblance of normalcy here at home. Coming back home from our trip meant a mountain of laundry needed to be tended to, along with house things needed to be put back in order. But we did take a couple of days last weekend to head to our lake house to let our fatigued bodies catch up.

It was one time that rain all weekend was perfectly okay. 

It took away the pressure to take the kayaks out.
As much fun as paddling is, it was nice to sit still.

 We sat and read and rested and listened to the rain. 
Thank goodness for our big screened porch.

There was very little cooking that happened last weekend except for the one meal that Daddy-O grilled. Our grill is under a covered area, so he could cook in the rain. Grilled pork chops are a favorite at the lake. (Why do we never make them at home?) And I found some perfect peaches at Piggly Wiggly and decided to grill them, too. We had never done that before. 

I googled recipes (there are many) and finally found one that used what we had on hand. We have a minimalist cupboard at the lake.

Here is my version of the recipe I found online. We will definitely do this again.


2 or 3 ripe, but firm peaches
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Mix honey and vinegar. Wash peaches thoroughly. Gently pat dry. Cut in half and remove pits. Grill peaches, cut side down on the grill for 3 or 4 minutes, until they develop good grill marks. Turn and brush cut side with honey glaze. Grill for another few minutes until tender. Brush with more honey glaze, if desired. Serve warm.

The only secret to this simple recipe is to choose the right peaches—ripe enough to have good flavor, but they should still be firm. Not hard, but just have a tiny bit of give when gently pressed. We also found a good quality honey on our Piggly Wiggly outing. I will admit that it tastes much better than our usual grocery store honey. It made a good glaze. The original recipe called for feta cheese. We didn't have any, but I'd like to try that another time. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Back At Home


I don't know if anyone noticed, but I've been gone. Jessica and I went on vacation and I just got home last night. Laundry is in progress right this minute. She and I went to visit Little Sister and her family. We wanted to see the area and be there for a 3rd birthday party.

Our hotel was also a museum. One that included green penguins everywhere. The fun part was that they constantly popped up in different places around the hotel. 

We even had one join us for dinner one evening.

We took in the scenic areas and made notes to give Mommy so she will know places they might enjoy visiting later. For once I looked more and photographed less, so there are just a few pictures to share. Wish I had photographed the candy shop we found kind of in the middle of nowhere. Outstanding handmade candies. We wondered who buys them. Surely they ship it.

A chapel in the middle of the woods was worth a short detour.

And then there was the hiking. Understand that I usually measure my walking by how far I have to walk through the parking lot from my car to the store. Whatever made Jessica think I could hike with her? But I did it! The view was worth it. 

I knew I was not good with heights but this outcropping confirmed it. I don't really know what you could see from the edge. I still get queasy just thinking about that ledge. I just enjoyed the view while hugging the trees far back from the edge.

It was that second hike—right after the first hike that I thought was the hard one—that was nearly my undoing. It involved steep inclines, loose rocks under foot, soaring temps and some not-so-good trail markings. I won't go into details, but I'm just happy I'm still here to write this blog.

An easier walk later in the week was at the beautiful botanical garden. My grown child enjoyed the children's garden as much as the little kids there.

There was a wonderful museum to visit.

And an excellent yarn shop. (Only visited one this trip.)

And we found so much good food—a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant, fine dining in an old college dormitory, a kolache bakery we found by accident one afternoon (so good we went back two more times), the ice cream shop on the town square and good meals cooked by Mommy and our son-in-law. Maybe the most fun places to eat were the food trucks across from our hotel. 

But the real reason for our visit was family. Jessica had not visited her sister's new home since they moved. She was treated like a celebrity by Little Sister who only wanted to do what Aunt Jecca did. Like, wearing stripes like Aunt Jecca...

...and doing "planks" like Aunt Jecca. The only problem was that Little Sister wanted ALL of us to do planks with her after this.

The week ended with a party. Since Little Sister had spent most of the summer with us at the farm, having a farm party for her friends was perfect.

Mommy found a fantastic local baker to make a farm cake for the party.

Little Sister and Aunt Jecca had the perfect footwear.

Just a few minutes after this photo, the house was full of small children who asked after every activity, "Cake now?" By three, they all know that you get cake at parties. We were so happy that we could be there to eat cake, too. 

Yes, we did spent time with the other family members—who all successfully dodged the camera. Big Sister and I knitted. She learned how to do the mattress stitch to seam up some mitts she's working on. Our son-in-law cooked chicken masala one night and it was delicious. Mommy baked a blueberry coffee cake for us that was so good. I'll share the recipe as soon as I get it from her. And Daddy-O drove out to be there for the party. He also put together Baby Sister's new "big girl bed" while he was there.

Our last night out there was Little Sister's first night in her new bed. When we stopped by to tell them good-bye early the next morning, we asked how Little Sister did without her crib. Mommy told us she slept in the little bed all night, got up early the next morning and wandered into the kitchen, looked around to see where everyone was and then announced, "I'm going back to bed."

Everyone worried about her freedom to get out of bed. No one thought about that freedom also meant she could go back to bed by herself! She's growing up.