Friday, November 29, 2013

Tis the Season Blog Tour!

I am so excited to be a part of the Tis the Season Blog Tour that will begin Monday December 9th and go through Saturday December 14th!

I hope you will join the bloggers listed below as we celebrate the Christmas season together. Across the Way will be on the tour Saturday the 14th, with my part being "Tis the Season -- To Set the Stage."

Monday December 9th Jemma of At Home With Jemma
Monday December 9th Chris of The Cafe Sucre Farine

Tuesday December 10th Poppy of Poppy View

Wednesday December 11th Sherri, Jess and Nel of Red Rose Alley
Wednesday December 11th Patty of Home and Lifestyle Design

Thursday December 12th Melanie of Comfy House
Thursday December 12th Brenda of Cozy Little House

Friday December 13 Melinda of The Refeathered Roost

Saturday December 14th Dewena of Across the Way
Saturday December 14th Kathryn of The Dedicated House

During the month of December I will be writing here about my Christmas Mentor. Yes, I have one. Do you? For some, 1973 is ancient history, but it was when I met Dee Hardie, my Christmas Mentor.

For me, long before there was Martha Stewart there was Dee Hardie, Mrs. Tom Hardie of Thornhill Farm in Maryland. I met her when I bought the 1973 December issue of House & Garden magazine in an article called "How To Make Christmas A Very Special Day." It was to be the first of many meetings over the years, the first of her mentoring me. I still have the tattered pages of that first article.

Timing is everything, so they say, and Dee Hardie showed up in my world just when I needed her the most. When I read her first two sentences, it became my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow:

"Christmas, if you look at a calendar happens all by itself.
But to celebrate Christmas, truly celebrate,
takes direction."
Dee Hardie

It does take some direction to celebrate Christmas, and I finally recognized in 1973 that in our family that direction had to be done by me because R.H. was busy around the clock as we were in the garden center business. He lived and breathed Christmas trees from the day after Thanksgiving through  Christmas Eve.

Over the next decade, in articles in House & Garden and House Beautiful and in her books, Dee Hardie had a lot to teach me because I had a lot to learn. Dee was, is, and always will be my Christmas Mentor. I hope you'll join R.H. and me here at Across the Way in December as I tell you more about what Dee taught me.

And please join Jemma, Chris, Poppy, Sheri and Jess and Nel, Patty, Melanie, Brenda, Melinda, Kathryn and me in the Tis the Season Blog Tour.

It's off with the pumpkins…

And on with the Christmas Season!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

For My Vegetarian Friends At Thanksgiving

This post is lovingly dedicated to all my vegetarian friends but especially to Claudia and Don at Mockingbird Hill Cottage [here]. 

Thanksgiving Dinner

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

"I will cook for my love a banquet of beets and cabbages,

Leeks, potatoes, turnips, all such fruits…

For my clever love,
who has returned from further than the far east;

We will laugh like spring
above the steaming, stolid winter roots."

A delicious Thanksgiving Day dinner to all of you! 
I hope you enjoyed the beautiful words of Edna St. Vincent Millay above.
A huge thank you to my cameraman, R.H., who went to the barn in 28 degree weather
this morning for props, spent hours arranging all my vegetables for me
and then photographing them.

[No vegetables were harmed during the filming of this post,
but they will be eaten afterwards!]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

1961--It Was Such A Lovely Year

Ah! November of 1961! As a bride of only a few weeks, November of 1961 is a very good month for me. It is autumn, with the holidays ahead to celebrate for the first time as a young married woman.

We have small paychecks coming in from jobs we enjoy. Except for our rent, utilities, food, gas and incidentals, R.H. and I have only one payment a month in these pre-credit card days--$5.25 for a 17-inch black and white television from Western Auto.

On Thanksgiving Day I will wear the going-away outfit my mother recently made me. I had asked for something like this…

Mine is a tailored red wool suit. The jacket is short, to the hipbone, which I can easily find, and Mama covered the buttons with the same red wool and made bound buttonholes. The sleeves are not fur-trimmed but for our honeymoon to the mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee she lends me her silver mink stole.

R.H. does not tell me that the white harlequin glasses spoil the sophisticated effect of the suit and mink stole. Love is blind.

When Thanksgiving Day comes, we begin the tradition that is to last for years. We have an early Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law's house and then leave to have another later in the day at my own parents' house. Neither of us wants to give up Thanksgiving dinner the way our own mother prepares it.

And neither of our mothers expects me, the new bride, to cook anything to contribute to the meal. I have just barely learned how to operate my new can opener. I am beginning to cook from my new red and white plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, mostly on weekends.

It all seems like play. Everything does, marriage, jobs, making a home in an attic apartment that I want to look like this…

Earlier in the year, before graduation, I sat in study hall and on television watched Alan Shepard splash down in the Atlantic Ocean after his short sub-orbital flight in space, but I am not worried about troubles building with Cuba, or nuclear testing, or about the United States aiding South Vietnam in their fight against the Vietcong. And sad to say, I am little concerned with news about the "freedom riders" coming to the South, wrapped as I am in a cocoon of suburban white wool.

It is my first Thanksgiving Day as a Mrs., and I imagine we will live the life of Father Knows Best, just as my parents have.

1961 was a lovely year.

[All pictures other than personal photographs appeared in the November 1961 McCall's magazine.]

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Not at Thanksgiving

November 1931 cover of Woman's Home Companion 
Artist: Marion Powers (1880-1963)

Just in case my quote is not readable on the beautiful magazine cover above, it reads:

"Regret should never be brought as a covered dish to the Thanksgiving Day table."

Life can be filled with regrets, can't it? I don't remember who the author was who wrote about her tendency to try to "houseclean the past," but it is something I battle too. Instead, I'm now trying to keep in mind a wise quote from Katherine Mansfield who wrote: "Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can't build on it; it's only good for wallowing in."

I had promised my readers a one sentence post today after the long previous one but felt that it needed a little explanation. Maybe you'll join me in not wallowing on Thanksgiving Day?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Second Best Tone

May I tell you about a journal entry of mine from ten years ago? It is a sign of my fondness for you, my readers, that I am able to write this, as once I would not have been able to.

R.H. and I had been invited to a large, fancy dinner party by people we did not know well socially. I was nervous, shy, and overweight. I especially dreaded going because I had just finished reading a book by a beloved author. Here is my old journal entry. I must warn you that this was written, at the time, for my eyes only, and I was depressed about my yo-yo weight.

"In Seasoned Timber, by author Dorothy Canfield (Fisher), published in 1939, there is a scene around a boarding house table in Vermont that seems as revealing of the attitude that people had towards fat people then as I imagine they do today."

"Ah, how do you do, Miss Ingraham," he said in his second best tone…"

"Immediately I recognize this tone as the tone people use for me, their 'second best tone.' Why would they waste their 'best tone' on me?"

"…for he thought her drab and uninteresting, though worthy,
and often wondered how, with all that is now known about dieting,
it was possible for any woman to go around with such a waistline."

"Miss Ingraham is portrayed in the book as a twittering, talkative lady, clearly lacking in self-confidence or self-esteem or self-control. At first I thought that Canfield was falling into the stereotypical fat woman character, but I admit she does portray an admirable character in her book, Miss Peck, as 'massive, swarthy, saturnine, with thick, straight, large features, and bushy crinkling gray hair.' Miss Peck is not considered fat but massive.

"The male protagonist of the book values Miss Peck, the owner of the boarding house, for her Vermont cooking and for her silences. Also for her 'astringent, disdainful quality, which he relished as he relished horseradish with beef.'

"I feel that the author is saying that to be put up with, fat women must keep their mouths shut or at least utter only profound words and few at that, as does Miss Peck. I have sometimes felt that society really thinks, 'Just be glad we're letting you sit in the room. Don't push your luck by talking. What credence do fat women have? After all, if they knew anything, they would lose weight. Pu-lease!'

"So we went to the dinner party and everyone made me feel bad, right? No, what actually happened was that we had a delightful time and ended up laughing so much that one man from another table stopped by ours and said, 'You people are having entirely too much fun!'

"So shouldn't this blow my theory out of the water about the way people think of fat women? Not exactly; I can't help reminding myself that our table mates were too mannerly to reveal it if they did think so. But it does occur to me that one wonderful byproduct of my losing fifty pounds in 2001 was that I forgot about me and just enjoyed being with other people.


Thank you for bearing with me sharing that ten-year old journal entry. I put you through it because it is the 12th of the month again, time for me to report on how the diet is coming, and it is not much fun to report again that, while I've kept off 12 pounds that I lost since August, I have not lost the fifteen pounds needed to reward myself with a lampshade for the lamp (and I bet you're getting so tired of seeing it here all naked!).

There have been some healthy meals here this past month. I try to have wild Alaskan salmon once a week, either fixed quickly and simply with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper:

Or one of my more complicated recipes from The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Oven-Braised Salmon where the salmon is first browned in a pan for only three minutes, set aside in a baking dish, then thinly sliced yellow onions, a minced garlic clove, bay leaves, and salt are added to the pan the fish was cooked in, olive oil added, and cooked covered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden brown, 15 minutes. Next you remove the bay leaves and stir in a little paprika and lemon juice. Rewarm and then put on top of fish. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees. It is wonderful!

Blogger aside: Aren't these beautiful plates? I collect old Italian fish plates so I jumped on these on eBay a few years ago. Does anyone know what form of sea life these plates could be?

I've been using luncheon plates while on this diet so I would think I was getting more to eat and love these, even if I wouldn't dare put them in the dishwasher. 

Back to dieting. Most of my meals have not been exactly unhealthy…

Roast beef, carrots, onions, and potatoes:

Pork loin chops on sauerkraut (and yes, there are mashed potatoes on the plate too):

One night after hours of cooking, we ate Lee Bailey's Beef Stew with Rum and Olives:

It was supposed to have been served on buttered noodles but I used whole wheat rotini. I didn't think this dish was very good but R.H. and our son Gurn liked it. 

Then there were some meatless meals like sautéed mushrooms and parsley on potatoes with a new whole grain cornbread that I made without remembering to put in the butter that was melted in the microwave. It tasted more like a corn pudding and was a happy accident.

I'm not giving up on this diet. I'm still not eating sweets except for my one time a month slips: 3 pieces of R.H.'s chocolate-peanut cluster candy in August, at midnight; 3 fig newtons in September, at midnight; and an entire Haagen-Dazs container of pineapple coconut ice cream in November, the other morning at 1:30 a.m. 

I will not give up, but what I am ending is this 12th of the month reporting on it because I want to feel that my readers are my friends, not my wardens. I may moan and groan some about dieting in my future posts, and sure, if I happen to lose six dress sizes you can bet I'll tell the world about it. 

But I don't want to begin to imagine that you, my beloved readers, are using your second best tone for me. So the monthly reporting is ending.

And, I plan on following the advice of a dear reader in Oklahoma who neither blogs nor comments but who does write me the nicest emails. Dianne advised me to go ahead and buy the lampshade and I'm going to take her advice. I am getting pretty tired of seeing it sitting on my kitchen counter without one.

You are troopers if you've gotten through this long post, and I promise you that my next post will be a one-sentence original thought that might help someone as they gather with family and friends at the Thanksgiving Day table.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saluting Our Veterans

As a daughter of a World War II Veteran, I salute all our Veterans, but this year I would especially like to  thank our women Veterans. As you can tell from my old Town and Country magazine cover illustration above from February 1943, women in the Armed Services were once more of a rarity than today. Even so, over 500 American women during the Second World War lost their lives in service to their country.

Today, according to my online search, there are more than 200,000 women on active duty. Sixty-nine of them are generals and admirals! Many of you reading this probably know a woman in our Armed Services. May I tell you about one I met briefly who left a lasting impression on me?

This summer I was standing in line at a department store when I noticed that the beautiful petite woman ahead of me, wearing a tailored suit, was holding a fabulous white ruffled blouse. I, the shyest of women, spontaneously said, "Oh, what a beautiful blouse!" She smiled and said something about knowing she would enjoy wearing it as she wore suits to work.

The sales clerk who was ringing up another woman's stack of purchases said, "Don't you get tired of having to wear suits to work." My fellow shopper said, "Well, since I wore camouflage and combat boots to work for thirty-five years, I don't mind."

Immediately I thanked her for her service to our country and asked her where she had served. She named several places and then modestly mentioned Afghanistan. In fact, every sentence this woman spoke was said in a soft-spoken modest manner. She talked about her work in Afghanistan,  and I responded emotionally, "Oh, I hope they can all come home soon." Probably babbling, I talked about all the news stories of men and women whose lives are forever changed due to injuries, those "Wounded Warriors."

She smiled sweetly, pointed to her chest and said something like,  "That's one of my main jobs, to try to help them. I'm head of Veterans Affairs in Tennessee."

We continued talking until it was her time to pay for her ultra-feminine blouse, and I was conscious of having been so blessed by this conversation struck up with a total stranger that was so unusual for me. I would not have missed it for anything.

Of course when I got home I went to the website for the Tennessee Veterans Affairs, and there she was, my girly shopping companion. Col. Many-Bears Grinder, Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs! Oh, my goodness, I had been talking to a Colonel. What an honor and one I would have most likely missed if I'd known she was a Colonel because I would have been too shy to speak to her.

Here is a link that tells you more about this amazing woman, the first woman in Tennessee ever appointed to that post. Commissioner Grinder is an Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran.

But she is a woman as well as a soldier and likes ruffly white blouses with her suits!

Don't forget to thank a Veteran soon and remember those who are no longer with us.

[Pictures are from TN Department of Veterans Affairs.]

Friday, November 1, 2013

Our First-Year Blog Anniversary

R.H. and I have completed one year of blogging here at Across the Way,
 our marriage intact.

Think of that!

Despite the hours I've spent on blogging instead of on things I really should have been doing, like cooking a good supper, or even making it to the grocery store, folding laundry so that clean underwear would actually be in his drawer, or remembering to pay the electric bill on time, we made it.

Despite sometimes having a blank look on my face, my nose in the laptop, when he returned home from work and asked, "Did you feed the birds?"

 Birds? We have birds?

But we survived and so did the birds.

One year ago today, Across the Way magically appeared on the World Wide Web, all because of one dear, patient woman in Oklahoma who so many of you out there know as Brenda of Cozy Little House blog. She literally walked me through each step--I take that back. She literally took those steps herself, setting it up for me by phone, recognizing me for the tech ignoramus I was, but also understanding that I had a longing to be part of this wonderful world of blogging.

So again, and forever, thank you so much, Brenda of Cozy Little House [visit her here]. 

Not only did my first post--Our Fledgling Flight [click here]--about how we found this old farmhouse with barn and outbuildings and 24 acres appear, but Brenda included me in her Welcome Wagon Friday the next day, such an exciting thing for this new blogger! And everyone who knows Brenda knows what that meant. It meant that so many sweet people came by and visited Across the Way and welcomed R.H. and me to blogging. And that was the beginning of many cyber-friendships, the hidden treasure of blogging. [And please forgive me for not answering those comments by email as it was weeks before I knew that I could go to the email and find them.]

Why have I been showing you these pictures today? Because Brenda is responsible for them too. She just doesn't know it yet. A few weeks ago she showed a sideboard of one talented blogger. I commented that my own sideboard was such a problem child because it sat, not centered, under two high, narrow windows and I had such trouble making it look good. Brenda emailed back and said to feature the windows instead. I wrote back, "But they're so ugly!" I told her I would study on it though, maybe paint them purple. She answered, "You go, girl!"

I did not paint those ugly windows purple, but I did study on it, a lot. I stared at it from my place at the kitchen table.

I stood in front of it despairing. What a sideboard needed was a blank space above it to work with, not two high narrow windows with an air conditioner in the wall beside it and a skylight above that to add more confusion.

The good Lord must have taken pity on me because all of a sudden I turned around and looked at the tall wall opposite the sideboard where a green china cabinet stood. Why not switch the two pieces of furniture? The next rainy day our two sons, Gurn and Zack, who live in Nashville, one right next door to us, showed up for work, helping me first empty out everything from both pieces of furniture and then moving them out from the walls, washing down the walls and cleaning the floors before switching the china cabinet for the sideboard.

Then they took down an old window that R.H. had made into a mirror that was hanging in the office by my desk--which only reflected the mess of paperwork--and rehung it above the sideboard.

Then they polished the insides of both pieces of furniture and helped me replace the dishes in both.

Do I have great kids, or what!

Next came the fun part, just in time for October's beautiful pumpkins. This was my inspiration picture:

I don't remember what magazine this came out of as I tore it out years ago. Maybe some of you will recognize it and let me know so I can credit the magazine, please. The writing on it says: "…with no needles to drop, Annette's alternative tree…lasts well into the New Year."

I intend to do just that, keep it up through the New Year, but after Thanksgiving I will remove the pumpkins and substitute something more Christmasy.

R.H. found the branches in a small shrub tree at the edge of our hillside wood lot. He filled a pottery vase he found at Goodwill with sand after the branches had been put in and we enjoyed the beauty of the green leaves first. And I had the fun of arranging October's bounty around it.

Then R.H. patiently removed each one of the green leaves (probably while I was doing blog business.). 

The next day I began pruning off unnecessary twigs.

Then came the tiny little LED lights around the branches and the vintage Shiny Brite orange ornaments. Last came the little glass ornaments that were to represent all the wonderful wildlife we enjoy here at Valley View, the birds and owls, squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, and raccoons. I couldn't find a glass deer ornament so they're represented by the statue at the base of the pumpkin.

I'm still looking for an opossum and a not so welcome wildlife, the coyote. I did throw in a brown bear for fun.

I have one last ornament to show you, a very important peanut.

Yes, we do buy raw peanuts in the shell for our wildlife but this peanut is in honor of my dear blog sister, Tammy from The Peanut on the Table blog [click here] who has been very ill but is now getting better every day. Hugs and love to Tammy of The Peanut! 

Thank you, to my readers out there! You are the best!

And finally, a huge thank you to R.H., my cameraman, who puts up with me saying, "Quick, grab the camera. The light's just right now." And, "No, I mean from this angle." And "Don't get the floor in the shot. It needs mopping." 

And the one he most hates to hear, "Why can't you get the steam coming off the soup?"

Thanks, baby, for all the football games I've interrupted.

Thank you for all the time your food got cold while you were photographing it for me.

Twelve months!

Think of that!

Thank you so much for visiting Across the Way,