Friday, October 19, 2018

Am I in a rut?

I sleep in to make up for time lost coughing all night, wake up, open my eyes and see this....

I had taken the lace curtains down to wash and now wonder if I'll even bother to hang them again, so struck am I by the beauty of sunlight and shadows.

Must bedrooms have curtains?

I think to myself that I must be getting well to even notice this pretty artwork in my windows, when I've noticed so little for over three weeks now, including dust on every surface.

I go into the kitchen for my glass of water and lemon oil and see that the pink geranium is almost as full of white blooms as pink.

Planted perchance by the wind two summers ago when both the geranium and a shamrock plant sat near each other on the front porch table?

I think what a quaint combination they are and consider bringing in the large pot of pink geraniums from the garden before frost and next spring scattering shamrock seeds in it.

Can it possibly be that I am at last interested again in something other than watching Netflix?

I open the kitchen door to let BreeBree and James Mason out and see that our jalapeño and serrano pepper plants are loaded down with peppers. Who even thinks about jalapeños when they're sick?

But frost is coming soon and these cannot go to waste so I get the clippers and step out into the chilly morning to cut all of them. And I do all this without shivering, a good sign.

What shall I do with them? Make cheese stuffed poppers? Am I really ready to cook again, something other than nursery food? Maybe.

I walk over to check the calendar, hoping I haven't missed another family birthday as I recently did our son-in-law's. And there beside the calendar is the photograph of our beautiful daughter-in-law that I stuck up there in early September because she is picking apples and that's what they do in September.

I think about all the Facebook pictures she and our son put up last week when our granddaughters were on fall break. Each day crammed with fun things for the girls to do around their own hometown because this year they didn't go to the beach for fall break.

I shake my head in amazement at how much fun these two young parents create for their children constantly and I regret again that RH and I were such sticks-in-the-mud by the time that our last two kids came along.

I guess we're all that and even more so now. Sticks-in-the-mud. Old people in a rut.

I get mad and think about changing, someday, when I get well.

I could make a start by quitting postponing my day out with my sister....has it really been almost a year since we had a Sisters Day, seeing fabulous historic houses on a Christmas tour of homes?

For months we've talked about visiting the house we lived in as small children, or shopping in some of the cute shops and antique stores in my own little town outside Nashville.

I wonder how soon I'll be able to do that because it seems really important to me that we not put it off.

Maybe when the autumn colors finally arrive we will, which surely will happen in another week or two?

I load the dishwasher, start it and pat it in thankfulness for the flu germs it kills, start a load of laundry next and make my bed--no, I'm lying about that. I mean to but never summon the energy.

Instead I look at all the dust on furniture in every room, make a start on that until a coughing spell interferes with the chore. I decide to finish sorting my drawers of jumbled table linens.

I feel weak, shaky, tired but so happy handling all the pretty cloth napkins I've collected over the years.

Just a common variety hausfrau stuck in a rut and more happy to be in one than I should be.

Maybe I'll start small in climbing out of my rut, make those jalapeño poppers for supper. What else can I put with it that might pass as a meal to RH?

My fried onion rings! He likes them.

Suddenly a wave of fatigue washes over me and I remember the mess that onion rings make. I decide that it'll just be leftover soup with the poppers....or possibly only leftover soup. 

Maybe next week I'll climb out of my rut.

Besides, what's so bad about a rut?

Why this passion for shaking people out of ruts? I am devoted to ruts. Moreover, most of the people who are in ruts are much nicer, and much happier, than the people who are not. To speak of ruts as though they were undesirable is the sign of a coarse and callow mind. Ruts are the wise old wrinkles that civilization has traced on the earth's ancient face.
Beverley Nichols
Laughter On the Stairs 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Do Si Do

Sixteen days without posting here at Across the Way? 

On the blog that is supposed to get my attention every few days, unlike at the Window where infrequent posts are a given?

There's nothing like a bad case of flu followed by nasty bronchitis to throw up a blogging roadblock. Other than wishing I'd bought stock in Kleenex and watching episode after episode of Midsomer Murders, about the only other thing I managed was to flip listlessly through pages in my vintage magazine collection.

Finding this cover from The Progressive Farmer magazine of February 1951 of a square dance in progress brought back memories of the square dance I went to as a child with my parents and two younger sisters. 

This square dance was the genuine thing. Given by a Nashville farmer that my father bought produce from for the Middle Tennessee Kroger stores, it was held in a huge open-air shed. Big troughs along one side held watermelons in icy water and brown bottles of beer, something I wonder about now as Nashville was surely a dry county at the time. Maybe beer was okay? 

The band was large, I remember, not just a few fiddles and banjos, and that big shed was packed with dancers. The dance was a birthday party for our host, Pap Sante, a man I remember chiefly for the large roll of money he carried in his pocket.

I remember that the band made a point of playing a special song several times in honor of the birthday man. It was Too Old to Cut the Mustard, a song I haven't thought about in decades, but when I checked on Youtube, the Ernest Tubb/Red Foley version sounds like what I heard that night.

I was in charge of keeping an eye on my little sisters when Mama and Daddy were dancing and we danced along with other children on the sidelines. 

Some guests were dressed much as those in the picture above but the majority of the men were dressed in overalls, or overhauls as they were jokingly called. But I remember my own parents looking more like the following picture, a Kodak ad in The Saturday Evening Post from October 27, 1051.

Daddy had grown up in a farming family and liked farmers and was at ease with them, but I think that his training as an Air Force officer had given him a more sophisticated air than when he had enlisted, just as it did his older brothers who also served during WW II.

Mama was a small town girl who had also seen a whole different world as she followed Daddy from base to base, with me in tow, and who always had a touch of glamour about her.

So they were both a little more uptown at this square dance than many of the others. It may have been the beginning, though, of my parents' music interest expanding from big band songs to include the music of the Grand Ole Opry.

After all, in our neighborhood we were surrounded by Grand Ole Opry stars, Roy Acuff living one street over on the Cumberland River and Little Jimmy Dickens a street over in the other direction, Jim Reeves next to our church.

These two magazine pictures reminded me also that we had square dance lessons at elementary school during physical education time outdoors, first beginning with folk songs for the beginning grades--put your little foot, put your little foot, put your little foot right in...

As I thought back to the square dance I wondered if I could find a photograph of my family at that time and was lucky to find this one from 1951 that had to be that same year. 

I'm the tall awkward child on the left, my little sisters, cute as buttons, next to me.

I look at my father and mother, our neighbors' house behind them, ours much like it and both built post war, and it's like it was yesterday. Our '48 Chevy shows barely and the slightly newer Ford must have belonged to someone in my mother's fun loving family who were there visiting.

Sometimes those days are sharper in my memory than what I did yesterday. I welcome the memories of my wonderful young parents and my grandparents, and many aunts and uncles. 

Most all of them have promenaded on before me, leaving my three younger sisters--another one added about five years after this photograph was taken--very precious to me.

Two of them my square dance partners from the past.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Goodbye

Suddenly summer's work is over, and whatever trials there were are done with. My heart is light. No, I cannot lift wings and ride the air currents, and take perilous exciting journeys as the birds do. But I am standing in a new-minted world, summer folded away like a rose pressed in a book. I am a small piece of the universe, but I can step toward the new season knowing that the world begins all over again every morning.
                                                         Gladys Taber
                                              Stillmeadow Sampler

Thursday, September 27, 2018

I Miss These

I miss beautiful fall suits...

     I miss hats and gloves being de rigueur...

Most of all I miss big beautiful cars with all that leg room.

     I miss them.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Fallen Into Disgrace

And take biscuits--biscuits had fallen into disgrace right along with cake. Would anybody eat a biscuit anymore? No way, not on your life. Too fattening! Too much cholesterol! All that white flour! All that shortening! On and on, 'til you could keel over and croak. She'd been born in the wrong century.

Jan Karon's Esther Bolick in
In This Mountain

I share your pain, Esther. I thought about you while I was basting my buttermilk biscuits with more buttermilk before popping them into the oven. 

I know you did finally keel over and croak, Esther, many books later, but I blame that on all those orange marmalade cakes you baked over the years, not the much maligned biscuit. 

After all, my mama baked them her whole life and she's in her 90s now, and she basically used the same recipe I still use, found here.

Sometime I might write a post over on Dewena's Window about my two months of cooking from the pantry...

fridge and freezer...

supplemented with cornbread...

and gifts from our mini-garden...

and generous garden gifts from a brother-in-law...

(our 4th bag of fresh cut okra that gave us many dinners of fried okra...)

(and fried okra salad...)

(and Okra Creole)

And mighty good eating it all was, still...

When I finally was making up a grocery list this weekend, what did RH and I both crave?

Ham and Biscuits!

And was it ever good for Sunday dinner!

I figure that big ham will give us many suppers and breakfasts, with a ham bone left for another big pot of pinto beans. 

[yes, I like ham the color of red mahogany,

And there's leftover buttermilk so I'm thinking of James Beard's Buttermilk Basil Bread and maybe the sweet tea buttermilk pie that looks amazing on the current cover of Garden & Gun magazine.

Now I need to figure out what to do with odds and ends of things left in the pantry. What can I do with a can of condensed milk, a can of cherry pie filling, a box of cake flour, more sardines, and a jar of orzo?

I'll google it.

Friday, September 14, 2018

An Ordinary Day

Just east of Tennessee, these September days are far from ordinary. With friends and family living in the Carolinas and having to cope with Hurricane Florence I think about them all day long, even when I turn the television off.

Here in Middle Tennessee we're experiencing Longfellow's bright September morn so there's an unsettled feeling from it being so very normal here while on the Carolina coast it's far from ordinary. 

Is that why these ordinary September days seem such a gift?

Yesterday morning I went out to our garden to collect tomatoes and two kinds of peppers for the night's salad and a handful of parsley. 

BreeBree and James Mason went with me, the garden their playground, their favorite game hiding from mama's camera, not counting chasing chipmunks and gifting me with dead moles.

We came back inside and did all the ordinary things we usually do, no surprises, nothing that would normally be exciting. We just went about our business taking care of the house and each other.

I put chicken on to poach, the basis for tonight's chicken chili but some reserved for last night's supper of chicken sandwiches. 

I made the beds and put the washing machine and dishwasher through their paces and sat down to pay bills and then do some typing, the kids napping between trips outside to go potty. 

And so our day went.

RH came home and watered the garden and we sat down to supper and our next episode of West Wing on Netflix.

Chicken sandwiches with tomato slices and red bell pepper and the salad we have about every third night during the summer, of Ismail Merchant's chili tomato salad, recipe here, scallions added to his recipe.

Keeping us company was a little person our granddaughters left behind last weekend.

I'm hoping they will come back soon to collect her. 

The Gourmet cookbooks were a gift from my firstborn and the fennel green Le Creuset Dutch oven, a Mother's Day gift long ago from my children, is on the table to remind me to find out where I can send it to be repaired.

I turned it on one day and forgot to add the olive oil to sauté vegetables for soup and suddenly heard popping sounds, tiny flecks of enamel popping loose. 

We watched a beautiful sunset as we ate supper and watched a Christmas episode on West Wing.

Stripes of pink and blue sky grew more vivid while we ate.

It was just an ordinary day.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

September Dew

Dusk Dew. There is a quality to Autumn dew that cannot be found in the dew of Spring or Summer--it sharpens the nostrils, the way a dish of bloater paste on toast edges the appetite of a cold morning. Dusk is the time to enjoy it. In the valley the mist softly gathers and mauves steal across the farther hills. From the ground rise faint and penetrating fumes--the honey aroma of late Phlox, the spice of Yarrow foliage and of Helenium flowers from the near-by border, the saccharine fragrance of a late Clematis star, and overlying all these subtleties, the persistent, sweaty spice of wet soil and damp fallen leaves.

Richardson Wright
The Gardener's Bed-Book