Monday, May 31, 2010

Hey Sista, Go Sista, Soul Sista, Flow Sista

Just a couple of pictures from this weekend that I like. ***
Liza Turner, who died five years ago at age 102 [and with keen sensibilities and stellar physical condition in tact…], was born in south central Kentucky, and there she stayed. That’s not to say she never left. She went away to college, first to Danville, and then to Lexington. She lived for a time in Somerset. She visited Europe. She famously traveled the South taking pictures, embracing the sights and enticing smells of locally-owned, eclectic culinary establishments, and writing for the critically-acclaimed blog, Pillowbook. But, after her gallivanting lost its luster, she went home to be with her family, and it was there, in the house at 9127 Glasgow Road, that she did her work and lived her life.

When you’ve had the opportunity both to read her dissertation (which she finished at age 86) and to walk through her home, it becomes clear how the two are connected. She was a writer who believed there was plenty that was interesting about small-town life, and she tried to fill her Kentucky characters with passionate convictions and dazzling intensity. The dark-haired postmaster who smiled, quietly said “have a blessed day,” and continued vacuuming the rug resting below the “Welcome Friends” plaque; the singing Dollar Store employee who without explanation, non-verbally convinced her that she did in fact need the vegetable-embroidered potholders he was stocking; her neighbor who still checked on her every other day, bringing both watermelon and election analysis, even after Willie put a hole in the knee of his pants – all are recorded with Berryian sensibilities and Austenian desires. And although Turner may have been working from home, she was no Emily Dickinson. Her life was full of friends dropping by for conversation, the exchange of books and recipes and jams, and the occasional glass of red wine. One imagines the laughter was so loud, the most glamorous of the New York literati had to wonder whether the lush life wasn’t actually farther south.
Bet you’ve lost sleep waiting for my answers to the Welty-inspired questions...
1. “Daring” implies risk, a most elementary understanding that suggests writing is unequivocally an act thereof. Even if no one ever sees what so hesitatingly flows from mind to paper, the release of otherwise hidden intellectual and creative potential carries some chance of exposure, maybe even an unwelcomed battle with emotions or thoughts the artist wants to ignore. The writer becomes more accountable to herself. The person she genuinely, and maybe without explanation, wants to become and the things she loves or finds interesting are suddenly “more real” and a whole hell of a lot scarier than they seem in the world of her imagination. Therefore, while the more obvious fear of “I don’t know how others will respond” is inevitable, it seems an equally daunting act of daring is simply the self-reflection that writing necessitates.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize the unimportance of this silly little blog – with its collection of cereal poems, pastry recipes, and rooster commentary – in relation to noble physical feats and admirable, though heart-wrenching, choices, but my short answer is, “yes, writing is an act of daring.":)

2. I could go into some philosophical discussion about my life being interesting because I am choosing it, but you’ve heard all of my random nonsense on that before. So, here are a few non-philosophical reasons why I think I’m not a total bore at least part of the time:
- I try new recipes, ranging from gingerbread biscotti to Frutti Pebble treats.
- My backyard is slowly becoming a gathering place for a variety of neighborhood animals, all of which apparently like dog food.
- I will read Tolstoy on the same day that I watch a cowboy-centered, one-star rated, romantic comedy on Netflix.
- I will risk embarrassment and the blinding of others in order to save my adopted dog, Buster. …don’t ask.
- I try to do at least one thing every day that would be worth talking about on here. Granted, the bar for “Pillowbook-worthy” is admittedly low.:)
- I truly have some of the most thoughtful and articulate friends anyone could hope for. Speaking of which, check out Lindsey’s new blog, “Chez-Soi”: (The only thing that bothers me about her incredibly thoughtful and interesting blog is that I always want to sing Lady Marmalade, and be Lil' Kim, when reading)
- I see beauty in the often overlooked and seemingly mundane. I try to capture it with my digital camera that is the probably the technological equivalent of the bag phone that weighed down the console area of my high school-era Ford Ranger.
- I am genuinely happy when I have a really delicious meal, read a witty quote or article excerpt, have an unexpected, but interesting conversation, and/or hear a new song that I like. It doesn’t take much.

3. Ordinary, but inspiring; streamlined, but meaningful; the closest to “the person I would like to think I am” as I have been in a long time

4. The “dazzling intensity” that exists in my life is not of my own doing. Instead, I have the good fortune of having friends and family around me who share bits and pieces with me: Caroline’s mandolin lessons, Lindsey’s aesthetic eye, Melissa and Dan’s fearlessness, Leigh Ann’s devotion to motherhood, Andy’s ability to both build a chicken coop and enjoy Nietzsche, Mom’s white sunglasses that “look like her,” Dad laughing in the face of the chemo and choosing to go ahead and eat pintos and cornbread, cooked cabbage, sausage, and macaroni on Saturday night. They all make my life better.

It is here I want to live my life.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Occasional Glass of Bourbon: Good for the Soul

Although I’m not a huge fan of fiction, I want to share with you an excerpt from an article Caroline’s well-read and thougtful mother, Linda Kraft, came across and shared with Caroline, and me, by extension. Read through for enjoyment first and then reread thinking about some of the questions raised. I hope that in so doing you find inspiration in Patchett's article (Caroline also recommends Truth & Beauty), in Welty’s vast collection of short stories and novels, and in your own life.

On Monday, I would like to provide my responses to these questions:
1. Is writing an act of daring?
2. What do find interesting about your own life (particularly those things that, to many, may seem mundane or uninspiring)?
3. How would you describe the mood of your home and your daily life?
4. “Dazzling intensity”…can you apply this to someone you know, something you have experienced, or an atmosphere you would like to create?

"Daring From Within: Why Eudora Welty stayed put"
By Ann Patchett | From Preservation | September/October 2006
"'A sheltered life can be a daring life as well,' Eudora Welty wrote at the close of her memoir, One Writer's Beginnings. "For all serious daring starts from within." We have too long thought of daring in terms of Ernest Hemingway taking his guns up to Kilimanjaro, or Dorothy Parker setting the pace at the Algonquin Hotel. It is a pleasure now to be able to consider daring as an art—an intellectual pursuit—that came to pass in a house in Mississippi.

Eudora Welty, who died five years ago at age 92, was born in the state capital ofJackson, and she stayed there. That's not to say she never left. She went away to college, first to Columbus, Miss., and then to Wisconsin. She lived for a time in New York City. She visited Europe. She famously traveled the South taking pictures and writing for the WPA during the Depression. But after her father died of leukemia in 1931, she went home to be with her mother, and it was there, in the house at 1119 Pinehurst St., that she did her work and lived her life.

When you've had the opportunity both to read her books and to walk through her home, it becomes clear how the two are connected. She was a writer who believed there was plenty that was interesting about small-town life, and she filled her Mississippi characters with passionate convictions and dazzling intensity. The woman who lived at the P.O. and the group that came to gossip in the beauty parlor, the visiting jazz impresario and the lowly traveling salesman—all are recorded with Homeric nobility. And although Welty may have been working from home, she was no Emily Dickinson. Her life was full of friends dropping by for conversation, the exchange of books, and the occasional glass of bourbon. One imagines the laughter was so loud, the most glamorous of the New York literati had to wonder whether the lush life wasn't actually somewhere farther south."
LINDSEY AND HER AVOCADO - This makes me laugh every time I type it
This week, I went against my own advice and bought avocados that were already ripe. The bag from Sam’s Club has five avocados and all had ripened but one. I made it through the first two fine, but the last three were overripe with brown spots developing. Oh woe is me, what is Lindsey supposed to do without her perfectly ripe avocado? Not to worry, I am obsessed with several other food items, so yummy meals will go on. My recipe this week, Lindsey’s Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad, uses avocado as a garnish and has several other co-stars. My kitchen sink salad began last summer when at the last minute I remembered I needed a side dish for a church cookout. I hit the pantry, refrigerator and freezer to find anything that I thought would go together with pasta. My first salad consisted of mainly peas, cucumbers, cauliflower and fresh basil from the garden- in addition to a simple dressing. The salad was a huge hit at the cookout and a new classic was instantly born (okay, not really, but a few people did comment on how they liked it). Since the cookout, every invitation to a dinner, cookout or potluck was an excuse to experiment with new combinations for a salad. Some turned out better than others, but I always enjoyed the experience. Below, I have included my most recent recipe, a salad that can also serve as a main meal (carbs, protein, veggies and healthy fats included). Feel free to go wild in your pantry this week and experiment with your own combinations- trust me you will have fun!!

Kitchen Sink Pasta
(5-6 servings)
1½c whole wheat Rotelle Pasta
¼ small head of cabbage
1c frozen sweet corn
1c frozen peas
1 c garbanzo beans
½ c chopped fresh broccoli
1c cherry or cherup tomatoes, sliced
Enough EVOO to slightly coat your ingredients

Juice of 4 small limes
Garlic minced, to taste
Agave sweetener, to taste
Fresh chopped basil, to taste
Sea salt, to taste

Serve with crumbled feta cheese and of course, AVOCADO

For a creamier salad:
Add Marzetti Slaw dressing, enough to coat your ingredients

Lindsey’s Kitchen Sink Pasta gets 4.5 out of 5 avocados on the avocado yummy scale!

Since I feel like I have sorely neglected the avocado, I will end with some important nutritional information from Body and Soul magazine.

Avocado is a health food. Really. In fact, it is one of the healthiest fruits on the planet. How could a creamy indulgence loaded with calories and fat qualify as nutritious? It's all about the type of fat.

Although it's true that an avocado packs a lot of calories and fat into a small package -- an average California variety has 289 calories and 24 grams of fat -- only 4 of those fat grams are saturated. Most are monounsaturated (17 grams), which lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol and raises "good" HDL levels. The remaining fat (3 grams) is polyunsaturated. According to a study from Ohio State University, the fat in avocados may aid your body's ability to absorb certain nutrients. One such nutrient is lycopene, which may help prevent heart disease and prostate cancer; others include beta-carotene and lutein, which may decrease the risk of certain cancers and eye diseases.

But there's more to avocado than its good-for-you fat. Per ounce, avocados contain more fiber than other fruit; a typical whole avocado has a whopping 14 grams, which even rivals the fiber in a serving of shredded wheat and bran cereals. They also provide more protein than most fruits, making them a great energy source (since you need carbs, fat, and protein for sustained energy).

Still not convinced? Compared to most fruits, avocados have higher concentrations of many B vitamins, as well as beta-carotene, magnesium, and vitamins E and K. These nutrients support and sustain your overall health, not to mention your energy, metabolic functioning, and strong bones. Avocados are loaded with potassium -- even more than bananas -- which research shows may help lower blood pressure when part of a healthy diet. They also serve as a great source of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that fights unhealthy free radicals.

When you consider all the nutrients housed in a single avocado, the calories no longer loom so large -- especially if you give it a starring role on your plate, as you would a serving of meat or fish. So go ahead and indulge in avocado -- slice it on a salad, smash it and spread it on some bread, or try one of Lindsey’s famous recipes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Delicious Ambiguity, Part II

I opened Friday's post with a Gilda Radner quote and suggested that a more in-depth discussion would frame Monday's entry. Obviously, I then followed that little nugget of intrigue with a review of the cheese and ground cumin available at Kountry Kitchen. Here's a refresher, however, for those of you who, for some reason, don't memorize everything I say: "Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity..."

I will acknowledge upfront my uncertainties about this quote; not necessarily on the meaning, but on my thoughts regarding it. I'm just not sure which part resonates with me the most, if and how the various components even really do. I want to discuss, therefore, based on my peculiar interest in "delicious ambiguity" as opposed to some well-thought out analysis of or emotional reaction to Radner's words. First and foremost, what a great phrase, pure and simple - vague, yet vivid; arguably indulgent, yet potentially quite practical. It avoids the trappings of both tongue-twister and annoying alliteration. It sounds intellectual, but also playfully spirited. It seems appropriately said with a wry smile and scrunched nose. It is a two-word phrase I wish I had coined.

My initial interest in the quote stemmed from uncertainties in my life that arose over the past month or so. Even though at times, and under seemingly difficult circumstances, I am able to retain a "roll with the punches" attitude, this past month has been particularly trying for me. There have been pity parties - shared only with the two people who I trust the most and more so than not, with myself - where I willingly imbibed "woe is me." There has been curtness and avoidance and silence. There have been restless nights and 4:00 am frosted flakes and facebook adventures. And while the sugary, artificial grain puffs may have been, "not knowing" seemed far from delicious.

There came a day, however, when I just basically forced myself to examine how selfish I was being. I couldn't predict what other people were going to do, or what a bank representative might tell me, or even where I would be living in a month, but I still had complete control over my responses and my choices. Maybe my options weren't ideal, maybe my choices were limited, but they were mine nonetheless. Just as in the past when I have had jobs that I really didn't like, I would tell myself "you can do anything for 6 months," in this case, I told myself "you can work with what you have." I was not concluding that something good would come of it (in fact it might suck. A lot. - I 100% do not believe that things necessarily happen for a reason), but instead, embracing the sense of peace that came from acknowledging uncertainty, an acceptance that subsequently forced me to create or reevaluate paths less traveled. At that moment, I slept.

What I was doing, and what I think many people are tempted to do, was equating not knowing with having no sense of control. Let's reserve that emotion for those who may never voice it, but who so much more deserve it: those who, for example, live with chemotherapy and surgeries and doctors appointments and those who so unselfishly and lovingly support them, not a 29-year-old educated woman who may have to find another job or place to live. I realize that pain and anger and frustration can't always be relative; if something bothers us, it is a legitimate concern. Nonetheless, there's much to be said for getting over ourselves, for seeing the deliciousness, rather than the pity party potential, in ambiguity.
No ambiguousness here: Fried, sugar-coated dough can never be bad.
Doughnut Holes with Strawberry Jam
35 min (3 hrs. including dough rising); 8 Servings
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. warm water
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tbsp. milk, warmed
1 tsp. salt
3 Large egg yolks
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar
1 pint strawberries (12 ounces)
1 1/2 c. sugar, plus more more coating
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Make the starter: In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Mix in the flour. Cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 hour.
2. Make the dough: In a standing mixer (use dough hook if you have one), dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the flour, salt, egg yolks, butter, sugar, and the starter mix until dough forms a ball. Scrape the dough into a bowl (greased with cooking spray or Crisco), cover and let rise (1 hour).
3. Meanwhile, make the jam. In a saucepan, simmer the strawberries (or any berry of choice) with 1 1/2 c. sugar over moderate heat until thickened, about 25 minutes. Scrape the jam into a bowl and let cool for 1 hour.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out the dough 1/2" thick. Stamp out 1-inch round doughnut holes (in honor of this post, I used a shot glass:)). Reroll the scraps and repeat. Transfer to the baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Let stand for 15 minutes.
5. In a pan, heat 1" of oil to 325 degrees. Fry holes until golden (2 minutes - they cook quickly, be ready to turn them immediately). Drain and then roll in sugar. Serve hot, with jam.

*By the way, I had a great wrap for lunch today that you all should try: shaved pepper turkey (from the Marrowbone Marathon), spinach leaves from Mom's garden, homemade hummus from last week's post, colby-jack cheese, light miracle whip, sliced olives.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Walk A Few Feet...Maybe Tastee Freeze Will Fry Up Your Cheese

Gilda Radner once said "Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity..."

"Delicious ambiguity" might be the most intriguing two-word phrase ever uttered. I want to talk about it (well, the entire quote really) on Monday, but thought you all might want to toss it around this weekend.
I have a suggestion for those of you who live in or near Cumberland County: One weekday between 8 and 5 or on a Saturday between 8 and 4, stop in Kountry Kitchen Foods on Hwy 90 in Burkesville (across from Minit Mart, just before the stoplight; I love that I can say "the" stoplight and the directions remain perfectly effective).

I must admit, I am typically turned off, nay, disgusted, by, misspellings for the sake of grammatical or appearance alliteration. However, by the time I took my final picture and walked to the newly tired Elantra (advice: don't drive your car 30,000 miles without having the tires rotated and balanced) with deeply-hued strawberries, fresh mozzarella, ground cloves (which Houchens has been out of for about 3 months - no offense, Houchens, but it's the truth), a homemade fried apple pie, and real salt, I was singing a different tune....something reminiscent of the Blue Bell ice cream, "if you could take a rainbow," mix it with some ponies and butterflies, etc. jingle. That's how happy KKF made me.

In all seriousness, the owners (a local Minnonite family) are incredibly friendly and helpful (especially the absolutely adorable and personable 9- or 10-year-old young man who helped me check out), the fresh strawberries were fantastic, the wide variety of spices, wheats, granolas, and pastas was incredibly surprising, the meats and cheeses looked delicious, and the prices were very reasonable (in fact, much cheaper than I would have paid at Good Foods or Whole Foods in Lexington and probably equal to, if not cheaper than, local grocery stores). It's worth your time, trust me. I'll bet a red raspberry fried pie on it:)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Next Time She Asks If There Is Anything Liquid, Fragile, or Hazardous, I Think I'll Shyly Wink and Say "Maybe"

What a happy morning: sun is finally out, my adopted son, Buster/Murray (depending on who you ask), dreaming of a collar with LT's phone number engraved on the side, his vagabond in crime, Marrowbone Rooster (I'm currently accepting suggestions for names), just chillin' on my cilantro. This makes me laugh. As do the 684 commas in that sentence.

I have greater appreciation for Cumberland County with each passing day. But, this devotion is particularly amplified on those days that I have to make my way to Lexington for one reason or another; AND, especially on those purposely rare and invariably dreaded mornings that I have to patron a post office in Lexington. I've noticed that regardless if I have to speak with a post office worker about buying stamps or mailing a package or setting up a post office box, I will likely waste a good 30 minutes fidgeting in line, lost in thought of super important things like why the woman behind me insists on standing so close. It never fails that someone who has apparently never used the postal service before will be in front of me, that the frustratingly patient and laid-back post office worker will be completely unaffected by the 13 people waiting in line, that said customers in waiting will cuss under their breath or pilfer through available literature about not mailing bomb materials until they, like the other 12, finally settle for a sigh of submission. But then I get my magazines...:)

From the most recent Real Simple:
A) $2: THE AMOUNT IT TAKES TO SAVE TWO CHILDREN FROM MALARIA through MassiveGood, a global-initiative movement launched by former president Bill Clinton with the United Nationals Millennium Foundation. Head to to donate directly. Or if you're booking a summer getaway, you can simply add the amount to your purchase. I checked this out and it seems completely legitimate. I understand the importance (and ultimately, the NECESSITY) of long-term sustainable solutions, but short-term relief is valuable as well. If you are a frequent travelocity user, keep this in mind.

B) HOW HEALTH-CARE REFORM AFFECTS YOU: Although some provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act won't be enacted until 2014, such as a ban on charging women more than men for the same insurance policy, a number of crucial changes become law this year. Here's what you need to know.
*More services will be paid in full. Going forward, policies will be required to cover checkups, immunizations, and preventative tests, such as cancer screenings. You won't be charged co-pays or out-of-pocket costs, and the services are covered in full, regardless of any deductible you haven't met, says Kathleen Stoll, a spokesperson for Families USA, a nonprofit advocacy group.
*Lifetime limits are history. Insurers will be prohibited from capping what they pay out.
*Your children can remain on your policy until age 26. Previously, kids in some states were on their own at age 18.
*Kids with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage. However, it's not yet clear whether companies can charge higher premiums for children with poor health issues.
*Insurers have to spend more money on care. Starting in 2011, if they break the rules, the federal government can direct them to give you a rebate.

C) Life Lessons
* Hold hands while you hash it out.
* Pay attention to anyone who wears a tool belt. (watch carefully, ask questions, and do it yourself next time)
* ...or a uniform. (take time to "thank" waiters, sanitation workers, maids, etc.)
* You can never have enough "baggies."
* You can't go wrong with Clint. [Eastwood]
* Don't belittle the annual sack race. (Really be present during family time)
* For Pete's sake, stop worrying. Just fix it.
* Carry a hankie.
* No one's smarter than you. Don't be afraid to ask questions... "they" probably don't know either.
* You will want kids.
From Food & Wine:
Grilled Glazed Salmon
20 minutes; 4 servings
1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. prepared horseradish, drained
2 tbsp. honey
4 six-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Vegetable oil, for rubbing
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Light a grill. In small bowl, mix the mustard, horseradish and honey. Rub the salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the salmon over moderate heat, skinned side down, until lightly browned (about 3 minutes). Turn and grill for 3 minutes longer, until the salmon is almost cooked through. Turn the salmon again and spread each fillet with 1 tbsp. of the horseradish glaze. Turn and grill until glazed, about 30 seconds. Serve the remaining on the the side.
From Martha Stewart Living:
Herbed Flatbread (try with the dips below or with Lindsey's guacamole recipe!)
30 minutes; Yields 16
1 c. warm water
1 tsp. active dry yeast
3 c. all purpose flour
3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for bowl
1 tsp. sugar
1 large egg, whisked with 1 tbsp. water, for egg wash
Sea salt
1/4 c. fresh rosemary or thyme (or a combination; probably not some a rooster has walked across)

Place water in medium bowl and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, oil, 2 tsp. coarse salt, and the sugar. Stir until dough forms. Turn out dough onto lightly-floured surface; knead with floured hands about 2 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit about 1 hour (double in size). Preheat oven to 350. Divide dough into 16 even pieces; cover with plastic wrap. Roll out 1 piece to roughly 4X10" on a floured surface and transfer to parchment-lined sheet. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with herbs and salt. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until crisp (18-22 minutes). Let cool on a wire rack.

Smashed Chickpea, Basil, and Radish Dip
15 minutes; Serves 12
2 cans (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. fresh basil, coarsely chopped
8 radishes, chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice

Lightly mash chickpeas, oil, 1 tsp. salt, and 3/4 tsp. pepper in a bowl until creamy but still chunky. Stir in basil, radishes, garlic, and lemon juice. Stir in reserved chickpea liquid, 1 tbsp. at a time, until dip holds together. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
From: The Kitchen of Caroline Dale Kraft
Avocado & Tropical Fruit Salsa
2 c. finely diced tropical fruit (mango, kiwi, pineapple, papaya, etc)
2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/4" dice
1/4 c. cilantro
1/4 finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently toss in bowl.
And back by popular demand...LINDSEY AND HER AVOCADO!!
Okay, students open up your Trapper Keepers and sharpen your free pencil from Ms. Macy –class is in session. I know some of you are an Avocado newbie, so below I have included the very basics of choosing and preparing an avocado. Jackie, I hope this information will help your first avocado experience to be a positive one.

Basic Avocado Rules (
How to know your avocado is ripe:
The best way to tell a ripe avocado is by feel. Just simply give it a gentle squeeze. An unripe avocado feels like a stone. A nearly ripe avocado will yield slightly under the pressure, like a ripe tomato. A truly ripe one is as soft as the padded palm of your hand. Avoid ones that feel loose in their skin--these are overripe. Store avocados at room temperature, once ripe you can store them in the refrigerator.
How to cut your avocado:
To cut an avocado, hold it in your hand and slice to the pit all the way around, lengthwise. Twist each half in opposite directions to separate them and use a spoon to scoop out the pit.

Lindsey’s Basic Guacamole
1-2 Avocados
1-2 limes
To taste:
Minced garlic or garlic powder
Tabasco sauce, Red Hot, or a salsa of your choice
Sea salt

Cut your avocado in half and spoon into a bowl. Add your freshly squeezed lime juice (roll your lime on your countertop firmly before cutting; this makes it easier to juice). Add the juice of at least ½ lime per avocado. Slightly mash the avocado and juice together with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients; amounts will depend on your taste. Keep the chips handy and sample as you go!

Of course, since it is my guacamole I am biased to this recipe. Nonetheless,
Lindsey’s Basic Guacamole gets 5 out of 5 avocados on my avocado yummy scale. Congratulations Guacamole!!!![Back to Liza for a minute: This absolutely, 100%, cracks me up]

This week create your own guacamole, try a new “nontraditional” chip, pour yourself frosty beverage (my favorite-Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew) and party on!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Moment of Clarity: Refuse To Chaperone a Trip to Santa Claus, Indiana

" that time I did not know what kind of influence I was going to need."

Wendell Berry "spoke" these words in reference to Wallace Stegner, author and Stanford professor whose subtle, yet inevitably, profound, impact shaped the man, the writer, and the conservationist that Berry has become. In "The Momentum of Clarity," an essay reprinted in Imagination in Place, Stegner's influence is reflected in Berry's masterful, but unassuming, literary style, just as his appreciation for and acknowledgment of "place" is central to Berry's understanding of "a good life" (and of more philosophical concepts of "self," "truth," and "rationality"). If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to read the excerpt below, taken from the part of the essay that I find most thought-provoking and in some sense, inexplicably redeeming (I say "inexplicably" because "redeeming" admittedly seems an odd choice of word for an essay that traces neither moral conflict nor emotional catharsis; it nonetheless seems an accurate descriptor of what I felt while reading - as someone who has both found significance in retrospect and who has become unacknowledged bits and pieces of people whom I have never thanked, I take comfort in being in the company of Wendell Berry).
"Though I remain certain in memory and feeling of the impression this Mr. Stegner made on me, I have a hard time describing it, perhaps because he was not in any sense a 'type.' He was a fine-looking man of about fifty, gray-haired, courteous, generous, smiling (though perhaps not at something we knew), neatly and even elegantly but never ostentatiously dressed; sometimes; as the class carried on its business of reading and talking, he would smoke meditatively a cigar. He did not seem to be a professor at all, and when he was in it the Jones Room did not seem part of a school. He had, of course, been to school, but one could tell that to a very considerable extent he had not been made by school. He managed somehow to imply that the work and the interest that had brought us together were matters in some respects practical. He did not deal in infallible recipes, or guarantee results. He did not suggest that all our problems were solvable. But there was in his presence and bearing the implication that we could work at our problems, and that we should. I thought, and think still, that he was a good teacher. When I sit at my worktable now I am aware of certain attitudes, hesitations, and insistences that I think are traceable to that seminar thirty-five years ago.

I wish I could say that I then understood him as an influence - that I saw what he was about, or saw how to apply his example to my own life. But the fact is that at that time I did not understand him as an influence, and the reason was that at that time I did not know what kind of influence I was going to need. At that time I wanted only to be a writer; beyond that, I had little self-knowledge, and not an inkling of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to do it. I was living outside my life.

I got back inside my life in 1964 when I returned to my own part of the country. From that time I began a long and still continuing process of understanding Wallace Stegner as an influence, and of being influenced by him. But here again I am embarrassed. As I failed to understand him as an influence when I first knew him, so have I failed to know very exactly how his influence has grown upon me; it has been involved in my life as I have lived it."

-Wendell Berry, "The Momentum of Clarity," in Imagination in Place (2010); originally published as "Wallace Stegner and Influence," in Wallace Stegner: Man & Writer (1996)
Today I encourage you to think about those people - whether they be teachers, or family members, or random strangers whose acts or words have stuck with you - that have given credence to your passions while skillfully avoiding completely useless sugarcoating; those who have made you more accountable; those who have done wonders by simply acknowledging that sometimes things just suck; those who you would like to think are proud of you and those whom you would be proud to be; those who have simply helped you "get back inside your life."
Forget just "thinking" about them...write them a hand-written letter.:)
Recipes for Today: make someone's day:
Send them a handmade recipe box featuring designs, objects, colors, and words that could not possibly look more like them. In short: Be Alexus Tolley.

Recipe...for a good laugh:
Imagine Andy at Holiday World today with 200 8th graders. As of 7:00 am, two kids were already bus sick.

Recipe...for a smile:

Recipe...for 1) giggles; 2) followed by descriptive statements like "those are big"; 3) followed by "this is the best breakfast I've ever had; 4) followed by an unfortunate, but worthwhile, stomach ache:
Join with me in the Cream and Sugar pancake-eating competition that I really do want to plan.

Friday, May 14, 2010

So, Mikey and Mr. T Walk Into a Bar...

I've never been someone who required a lot of sleep. In Kindergarten I would fake a deep slumber during nap time in hopes of procuring a sucker. My exaggerated snores surely fooled Mrs. Beth and Mrs. Maggie. Even after a week of hard core "sallying down the alley," canoeing with/getting stuck in the middle of the lake with Kristi Carter, and enjoying archery to the point that I convinced myself that having my own recurve bow television program might actually be a better career path than truck driver or marine biologist, I returned from 4-H camp bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. In college I could stay out all night [library time was important to me] and be up by 6:30 am raring to go (I made this up to Caroline by 1)inadvertently getting a bowl cut and 2) driving her around Danville in my little blue Ford Ranger blaring NSYNC).

Not much has changed as I near no-longer-in-my-20s years old. Nonetheless, I have been waking up surprisingly early, even for me, over the past few weeks. At first, I attributed this to the obvious: during the spring semester, I had to get up at 4:00 on T/Th in order to make it to UK on time; my body just got accustomed to that schedule. I have decided, however, that perhaps there is more to the story. ...[dramatic pause]

Revised conclusion: I just really love cereal. I have been waking up between 4:45 and 5:15 am for absolutely no rational reason. When I do, however, the happiness that results from the thought of witnessing a calming sunrise (which I do so enjoy) pales in comparison to that inspired by visions of cereal combinations I can put into my favorite deep blue, hand-thrown, ceramic bowl (I reserve the Chilly Willy bowls for ice cream). No joke, I wake up nearly as excited as Leigh and I used to do on Christmas Eve upon hearing the unmistakable sound of reindeer hooves.

I've had a lot on my mind lately and although this sounds silly, I really like the fact that little things like this bring me joy. I hope that you all have things equally unimportant to smile about.:)

So, I choose to spend today honoring neither my mother nor my best friend, but the social good that is Cereal.

Liza's Current Favorites (this changes every so often):
1. Golden Grahams
2. Honey Nut or Multi-Grain Cheerios
3. Ohs
4. Close race - Frosted Flakes or Rice Krispies
5. Trix
6. Quaker Oatmeal Squares

A little impromptu poem:
My eyes brighten when I spot the politically incorrect syrups.
Neither enticingly packaged frozen desserts, nor ripe avocados, can steal my attention.
For the syrup, so stickily alluring, implies breakfast and breakfast implies love,
love in the form of 1/2" X 1/2" squares and circles,
love in completely unnatural colored nuggets,
love promoted by stuttering tigers and impossibly waif rabbits,
love in each of those boxes so magnificently reflected in Aunt Jemima's apron.
Cereal aisle, I am home.

Excerpt from "Breakfast with Gerard Manley Hopkins" by Anthony Brode
Serious over my cereals I broke one breakfast my fast
With something-to-read-searching retinas retrained by print on a packet;
Sprung rhythm sprang, and I found (the mind fact-mining at last)
An influence Father-Hopkins-fathered on the copy-writing racket.

Parenthesis-proud, bracket-bold, happiest with hyphens,
The writers stagger intoxicated by terms, adjective-unsteadied—
Describing in graceless phrases fizzling like soda siphons
All things, crisp, crunchy, malted, tangy, sugared and shredded.

Far too, yes, too early we are urged to be purged, to savour
Salt, malt, and phosphates in English twisted and torn,
As, sparkled and spangled with sugar for a can't-be-resisted flavour,
Come fresh-from-the-oven flakes direct from the heart of the corn.


"Cereal" by Shel Silverstein
Rice Krispies stay crisp, though they now and then lisp
As they whisper their “thnap crackle pop” in your bowl,
And though you pour a tall can
Of milk on your ALL Bran,
It never will turn into glop (so I’m told).

I know Shredded Wheat will stay crumbly and neat
Though you soak it a year in the depths of the ocean,
And from breakfast and lunch
Your Post Toasties will crunch
To show you their love and undying devotion.

Oaties stay oaty, and Wheat Chex stay floaty,
And nothing can take the puff out of Puffed Rice.
But I wish they’d invent a cereal for someone
Who like it

All floppy
And drippy
And droppy
And lumpy
And sloppy
And soggy
And gloopy
And gooey
And mushy

***And, a video tribute to my morning delight***

Despite the fact that I had already had a far-more-than-one-serving-size bowl of a Frosted Flakes/Honey Nut Cheerios concoction, I decided to treat myself (because I had worked so hard watering my tomato plants and feeding my pups) to one of the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins that I in theory made for the Morgans' vacation drive. And, by the way, I love that when Leigh said, "well, we know the drive [to Destin] will take two days; we're just going to head out and drive as far as we can before Isabella gets too upset about being in the carseat," Lisa Perdue followed with, "Oh, a Celina vacation."

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
You may have noticed from previous recipes that I really love treats that remind me of fall (by far my favorite season)- scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin. Regardless of bias, however, I do think these muffins are quite tasty. I also know that they are much easier than the Pumpkin Scones or Gingerbread Biscotti. If only I had something comparable to Lindsey's Avocado Yummy Scale...

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup solid packed, canned pumpkin puree
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used regular sized, but the mini chips might work better)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or spray each cup with a non stick vegetable spray.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ground spices, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then alternately add one-third of the flour mixture and one half of the pumpkin puree, mixing after each addition. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill the muffin cups evenly with the batter using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place in the oven and bake for about 18 - 20 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins.
Note: The batter can be baked in a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan. Butter or spray the loaf pan with a non stick vegetable spray. Bake the loaf in a 350 degree oven for about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Anti-Intellectualism and An Avocado

People often assume that because one is in a certain profession, they are well-versed on most everything about that topic. So, because I am a history teacher, I occasionally get asked some obscure question about a random historical era or figure and when I respond with "I don't know," get frustrated looks in return. While I'm certain all you teachers understand what I'm talking about, I imagine this phenomena knows no occupational boundary. Many mechanics probably can't tell you what oil filter goes on a 1972 powder blue Ford pinto, nor should nurses be asked to explain why your elbow feels funny.

While we often equate a specialized skill set to vast knowledge of anything that might possibly be connected in a brainstorm web, it seems we also assume passion for all of those outlying concepts and ideas as well. I know for a fact that this is not true. I am working on my PhD in history and have spent the past few years teaching at both the high school and college level. But, big deal, there is a lot about the profession and the subject matter itself that does not interest me in the least. I have no desire to be interviewed for a PBS special; I couldn't care less how many books, if any, I publish; I will never expect acquaintances to call me Dr. Turner; I would rather work at Centre or Berea or a community college close to home than any renowned research university across the country. Most pertinent to this particular blog entry, I hope to never become the kind of historian so entrenched in archives and the dry regurgitation of facts that I forget the importance of thought-provoking and socially relevant ideas. History without analysis intrigues me very little; why produce something that does not inspire questions or make people think?

This stuff is on my mind because I've been (re)reading work by Richard Hofstadter, a former Columbia University history professor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and cultural critic whose political leanings were invariably nuanced throughout most his life. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are many historical narratives and styles that make me want to poke my eyeballs out. Hofstadter's work does not. I appreciate the fact that he is an intellectual historian who allows ideas, not archival minutia, to ground both theory and thesis (this is the primary critique of Hofstadter, that he did not rely enough on primary research). Even when I don't necessarily agree with a stance or interpretation, I so enjoy reading his work. It is occasionally biting and irrefutably smart, yet the writing itself is relatively understated and approachable (it seems a good sign when the arguments and wit speak for themselves without need for pretentious presentation).

Hofstadter has been on my mind because I have been trying to put some of the stuff I talk about on here in context of historical scholarship (I'm trying to push myself to write more on the dissertation rather than on Pillowbook). While I don't think it imperative to justify why my community or family makes me happy, I also see the value in occasionally stepping outside of my subjective experience. There just comes a time when tiny eyebrows and dreams of being Beyonce just don't cut it.

In Age of Reform, Hofstadter's 1955 publication that is perhaps his most renowned and influential work, he explains Populism within the context of "the Agrarian Myth." Basically Hofstadter suggests that Populism, the late 1800s political movement associated with agriculture and localized politics, has been evaluated by audiences in rose-colored glasses. His point: the self-sufficient, innocent, yeoman farmer didn't exist in the Gilded Age; instead, Hofstadter warned of putting too much stake in sentimental concepts of republicanism (pick yourself up by your bootstraps type stuff), the democratic potential of the local in wake of industrialization, and of democracy itself.

Hofstadter's argument could be easily applied to modern politics, just as it could to my blog. Occasionally, I think I border on, if not completely embrace, romanticism. I see the local as a bastion of comfort and goodness, but tend to ignore those qualities I would characterize in any other circumstance as narrow-minded and/or regressive. Is there a danger (and if so, what is it) in propagating my own agrarian myth?

With that being said, here's more "Adventures of the Yeoman Farmer" for you:):
When out mowing my yard today, the gentleman who happened to be mowing the Carhartt lot came over and introduced himself. Before asking why I had never grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for he and his coworkers instead of making them eat their bologna sandwiches for lunch (have you all noticed how bologna seems to be a part of many stories?:)), he got to telling about how he used to help my dad on the farm. In fact, he knew "Curtis Lee and Miss Jackie" even when they "were just courting," recalling how he used to drive Mom's blue pinto when she would come down from Glasgow to visit dad for a few days.
This conversation made my day.
And now, the long-awaited debut of (and the obvious segue way from Hofstadter)...
My avocado recipe for today is a pretty traditional use for my favorite fruit - my version of Starbucks Huevos Racheros Wrap. I somehow had myself convinced that statewide testing=trips to Starbucks for Mrs. Devore. This was working out quite well until my SB gift card ran out and I had to choose between my new morning fix (wrap and green tea) or gas in my car. I decided to attempt the wrap at home today. Thanks to my friend Terri, I have a new found love for corn tortillas and decided to use those instead of the whole grain flour used by SB, otherwise I used most of the same ingredients. Cilantro would have been a great addition to this dish (I am strangely fond of this herb and really think you can never add enough to any salsa or Mexican dish).

Lindsey’s Huevos Rachero Mini Wraps
Two eggs, scrambled with salt, pepper and garlic powder
Add shredded cheese, tomatoes with lime juice, diced avocado
Add black beans (optional)

I put the wraps in foil and ate them once I arrived at school. They had time to “steam” in the foil and I think this improved the taste and the texture of the corn tortillas. I had Salsa Verde at school and added this to my dish (I am also strangely fond of salsa verde- “keep pouring it on”).

My wraps were quite different than Starbucks, but satisfying all the same. I give Lindsey’s Huevos Rachero Mini Wraps 4.5 out of 5 avocados on my avocado yummy scale.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm Not Bossy, I Just Have Better Ideas

On Friday I mentioned that my grandma likes stuff. Amongst actual antiques, none of us are ever surprised to find giant stuffed rabbits, baskets of seashells, Rhett Butler postcards, pictures of grandkids with significant others who have not in fact been significant others since 1993, Reynolds wrap – not encasing something, just the wrap itself, Christmas garland, or cutlery just nonchalantly hanging out as if there is no other place for it to logically be. This past Christmas, I sat down on the red leather couch in the living room and quickly realized that I had crushed something, possibly the pickle that would be hid in the tree later in the evening (and that Leigh would inevitably win $20 for finding…don't ask) or a small child. A typical segue way here might be “But to my surprise,” however, nothing could be farther from the truth; making complete sense, I stood up and realized that I had sat on a knife handle. A steak knife, not a butter knife. With furrowed brow, a result of curiosity as to what she had been doing with it, not with the fact that a potentially deadly weapon was in the couch, I took it into the kitchen. Grandma, with the laugh that it unmistakably Lois Nunn’s, grinned and said, “Well, there’s my potato peeler."

This is the kind of stuff that makes Grandma’s so incredibly fun though. One literally NEVER knows what is going to happen, what someone is going to say, or what funny little trinkets will be stumbled upon by overworked eyes. Furthermore, all the “stuff” that is so worthy of conversation, good-natured eye rolls, and “collective stare, silence, ‘huh’” is matched only by the absolutely gorgeous assortment of roses so meticulously maintained outside the house and by the laughter and love inside this relatively small brick abode. It just wouldn’t be “Grandmas” if order and time management abounded.
I say all of this simply because I love my grandparents and want to share them with you all, but also because the inspiration of today’s entry comes from one of the newest decorations in G-ma’s den. Now resting in the pale pink fabric-covered antique chair that Grandma and Granddaddy have owned since they got married (57 years ago) is a navy throw pillow with the invariably wise mantra used in today's title. ...
So, here is me, not being bossy, just having really great ideas:):

1) I’ve mentioned this before, but I want to reiterate (basically because I received
really thoughtful gifts this weekend and need a way to tell you about them): really think about the gifts you give. This weekend Mom handed me a cheery pink and red heart bag (I fuss on her for not recycling so she made a point to say “See, I recycled it from Valentine’s Day”) and inside I found my beloved Birthday Care Bear and a note that said “Dear Liza, I found something that you once cherished. I can still see you with this in your arms.” Mom had found it in her attic and cleaned him up for me. I love it. Perfect Gift #2: Leigh Ann and Isabella sent me a “thank you” letter accompanied by a bag of goodies. First and foremost, the card itself was incredibly meaningful: the outside, beautifully austere and streamlined, the inside, two pages of words that took time and thought – my favorite line: “Isabella and I ‘shopped’ around the house this morning and found a few things that ‘look like you’…and probably a few that don’t, but she thought you’d like the nail polish anyway!” In addition to the nail polishes, the bag contained herb, dip, and drink mixes (see recipe section), soaps, and even a shirt (that I, in fact, have one just like, but in a different color). What wonderful surprises.

2) I mentioned this on facebook, but I think it bears repeating here. If you have a chance, find Love Me If You Dare on DVD. This French film was made in 2004 (I think) and stars Marion Cotillard (who was in last fall’s musical, Nine; scenes from her film Public Enemies were also shot in one of Caroline's old apartments) and Guillaume Canet. I watched it yesterday and fell in love with, yet, still feel unsettled, by it. The cinematography is beautiful, it is well-acted, and there are definitely traditional elements of love story. However, it would be nice to talk to someone about, and think through, the dark humor (which I appreciated, but that turned off some reviewers), and the questions raised about responsibility v. all consuming love.

3) Buy a 12-pack of Clover Valley Diet Cola for $2.50 rather than a 20 oz. Diet Dr. Pepper for $1.70. You all know my affinity for both DDP itself and the convenience store experience, but even I, have finally drawn the line (that cliché doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean). On Friday, I excitedly placed my soda of choice on the Marathon counter only to realize that it had gone up $.12. “That’s it,” I thought, “No more.” Later that afternoon, I picked up a pack of CVDC at the Dollar Store. It is bad. But, it does alleviate my caffeine cravings a bit and more importantly, it is making soda seem less and less appealing. Before you know it, I may, to my horror, be drinking water for fun.

4) Visit the Tastefully Simple website for tons of ideas on using the spice and dip mixes: . Even if you don’t have the Tastefully Simple products, you can still adapt the recipes to things you normally cook with (most of the mixes have basic things like basil, dill, rosemary, seasoned salt, garlic salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar). Here’s one I plan to try tonight (I’ll get back to you with results on Wednesday):

Balsamic Pesto Smothered Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasoned Salt
2 servings of Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto Mix, prepared
1 tsp. oil
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Balsamic & Basil Dipping Oil

Pound out chicken until about 1/2 inch thick and lightly dust with flour. Sauté chicken in oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to an oven safe dish; sprinkle with Seasoned Salt to taste. Spread with prepared pesto. Top each chicken breast with chopped tomatoes and cheese. Drizzle lightly with Balsamic & Basil Dipping Oil. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

And don't forget, The Adventures of Lindsey and Her Avocado (not sure if that should be italicized or in quotation marks. hmmm.) starts on Wednesday...!:)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Adrienne, Get Your Markers Ready: Presenting Jackie Turner!!!

Some holidays baffle me. I don't wear an American flag shirt on June 14 (but now that I've typed it, I think I will this year just for kicks); I have no desire to be a catholic school girl or naughty nurse on October 31; I know not how to spell Ponksetawny nor really care if the great oracle groundhog sees its shadow; James K. Polk has not once crossed my mind on any President's Day.
Suggestion: This Halloween, if you do choose to dress up, please pair a plaid skirt with a groundhog t-shirt. Stand outside in the sun and watch the shadow of the American flag you are waving.

With that being said, cynics who pretentiously complain that sentimental holidays are nothing more than fabricated, money-generating, ploys geared toward the melodramatic baffle me as well. Are Mother's, Father's, Valentine's, Labor, and Memorial Day made up? Well, sure. Is there a positive correlation between these days and consumerism? Yep. Do they have the potential to spawn indulgent poems and gaudy flower arrangements? Most certainly. But, let's get off our high horses for a minute. While I agree that we should honor and be mindful of those people and those relationships who/that make our lives better everyday, what does it hurt to have a particular 24 hours devoted to them? At the most elemental level, acknowledgment is nice, even if it is unnecessary.

I admit, however, that perhaps I would not embrace these holidays quite so much if I didn't have people in my life so deserving of recognition. As I mentioned in Wednesday's haiku, my father honestly is one of my heroes. I have grown up around people who have worked incredibly hard to provide for their families; sure, Labor Day is a welcomed reprieve from work, but I think it does have a more ethereal value as well. Paying tribute to people whom we have lost seems a healthy sentiment and simply, the "right thing to do." I thus decree these holidays can stay.

As Sunday draws near, however, Mother's Day is obviously the designated holiday on my mind. And, without question, I will spend the day honoring one of the most unselfish, most giving, and most hilarious people I will ever have the honor of knowing (and I say this out of no sense of obligation). Jackie Turner is the one who makes sure everyone else is comfortable before she worries about herself; the maker of the homemade bread that is enjoyed at every family get-together; the entertainer who ensures both a sense of ease and funny conversation among company; the shopper who would let her daughters wear something she just bought, saying, "Oh, when will I ever have a chance to wear it anyway?"; the retired teacher who still inspires stories of "remember when Miss Jackie did a cartwheel?"; the open-minded giver of hugs when I chose/choose paths less traveled; the masterful stater of the obvious who finds a way to still be really, really funny; the dancer from whom I have learned all of my awesome moves AND, the reason why Isabella will be "raising the roof" when her Kindergarten teacher suggests a fun activity; the devoted replier to all emails and forwards and the typist who has decided that "LOL" means "lots of love"; the utterly unselfish wife who, I genuinely believe, has contributed as much to my Dad still being around as the ten years of treatments and surgeries.

I truly feel fortunate to be able to line the pockets of greedy company CEOs on this commercialized, manufactured holiday.
Leigh Ann and Nonna both epitomize all of those qualities and sentiments Sunday should honor. I have the cutest parents in the world. And just FYI, this is my grandmother's house, not my parents. Mom likes "stuff," but she has never had plates in the Christmas tree, used the dishwasher or vents for storage, and thankfully, shuns doll collection. Time means nothing to Grandma. Yet, Mom will still take her antiquing. I told you she was a good woman. Bet Mom would never throw Tucker out of the kitchen for spilling his milk. I can't believe my belt loop was still attached to my pants. I'm telling you, she's foolish. These sunglasses "look" like Mom.:) This was the same day we paid a bunch of attention to I-65 as we merrily made our way to Opryland, entertaining ourselves with versions of Jason Mraz Christmas carols.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Euell Gibbons Probably Didn't Eat Enough Wraps

Random #1: I know the whole "Caroline is wonderful" shtick is getting a little old, but too bad, here's another one for you. I've told you how much I love getting mail, new music, things that "look like me," and the stories told through handwriting. Sometime in between pillow shopping and gardening, Caroline managed to combine all of these into the perfect gift. This is what was waiting for me in my post office box yesterday:
I love this CD cover. Sometime over the next few days, use old cards, contact paper, or magazine ads/articles to do a CD cover for someone you love. Trust me, it will make their day.
Caroline's renowned handwriting. And a CD title that just makes me smile.

Random #2: I think I first had to do a "haiku" when I was in Mrs. Judy Frederick's (and our KET rep, Liz) Arts & Humanities class in high school. Although I don't remember the specifics, the content was likely both sophisticated and thought-provoking. ... (for those who don't remember, a haiku is a 3-line poem; the first line has 5 syllables, the second, 7, the third, 5). They can be a useful tool to relay a message to someone who you care enough about to be creative for, but in a situation where time and/or embarrassment do not allow for an all-day "ode to X" preparation.

Suggestion: Write one just for fun. Don't take it seriously, just jot down something that makes you laugh. Or, consider writing one for someone who is on your mind (maybe it can be the case cover for a CD). Perhaps you'll find that the friend will reciprocate with something like the following - a girl I know received this last Thursday; it was too sweet not to share.

""XYZ's" Thursday morning haikus:
my heart hangs like grapes
suspended from your trellis
made into fine wine

In the words of twins
I would walk 1000 miles
To fall at your door

I’ve written haikus
To my love because she is
My best friend and muse"

For those of you who aren't gagging, my own haikus and, surprisingly, even more randomness lie ahead.

LMT's Haikus
Spinach, where are you?
I put you out weeks ago.
Sprout right now mister.

Cowboy boots and hat.
Curtis Lee is my hero.
Ironing wranglers.

Red is the new black.
Zucchini bread is divine.
Teaching has its perks.

Incredibly Important Random #3: I love wraps. And, I would argue that A) nearly all food tastes better when nestled neatly inside a bready something and B) Point A is a definitive and universal fact (see Russian blini post; citizens of one individual country tend to choose these rather than McRibs...point proven). See, I told you this one was super important.

I found these wraps at the grocery today (bread aisle next to the bagels and english muffins) and no joke, they are fantastic. They are easier to wrap than regular tortillas (they're longer and thinner) and seem to be healthier for you as well. Today for lunch I had one with the following: deli-sliced chicken, colby cheese, spinach leaves (from Mom and Dad's garden), tomatoes, sliced olives, kraut, and mustard. Sounds gross, but it was delicious. Plan to grill some burgers tonight and will use the wraps again; I am currently debating topping combinations (spinach, havarti, tomato; avocado, sprouts, salsa; homemade pickles, colby, ketchup; mushrooms, mozzarella, Italian dressing). If any of you have suggestions for unique/unexpected/tasty filler options, please share!

Random #4: I mentioned in one post that I mentally keep a list of celebrities with whom I think I would be friends (at least I haven't written it down; that makes it a little better, doesn't it?). Lauren Graham was on that list and solely because, for six seasons, she played Lorelai Gilmore on one of my favorite shows of all time. Alongside The Cosby Show, the mere mention of Gilmore Girls makes me hold my hand over my heart and sigh. It is the show that I will watch on ABC family with Adrienne, the show that I would get in a fight over if someone claimed it was "guilty pleasure," the show that combines quirky music, witty conversations, and great character development.

I will pull a Sandra Bullock and give you copies of my DVDs if you insist it is bad. I will then win the academy award for distinguished and really important blog entry the following night.

In each of the DVD season collections, there is a "Your Guide to Gilmore-isms: The 411 on many of the show's witty and memorable wordplays and pop culture references." Here are a few from Season 2 (maybe my favorite - the one where Jess moves into town)

* Baz Luhrmann - Film director of Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom and William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
* Cher, Greg Allman - The singer Cher was married to Allman Brother Greg for nine days in 1975. They later reconciled, then divorced in 1977.
* The Damned - English punk band formed in 1976. Their debut album Damned Damned Damned was released six months before the The Sex Pistols' debut Never Mind the Bollocks.
* Euell Gibbons - Spokesman for the vegetarian lifestyle as being beneficial for longevity, died of natural causes in his early sixties.
* John Cleese - Member of British comedy troupe Monty Python. Amongst his stock of characters was "The Minister of Silly Walks."
* Mensa - Mensa is an organization for people with high IQs.
* Napoleon and Elba - French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Elba in 1814.
* Vicious Circle - A term often used to describe the members of the Algonquin Roundtable, the group of literary greats that included Dorothy Parker.
* "Who's on First" - Popular Abbot and Costello routine concerning a baseball team and the confusion over player names.

See, bet you're missing those "ode to Caroline"s now, aren't you?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Presenting Liza Turner!!

Well, there was that one time that I threw my sage green hairbrush at Leigh Ann (and I'm pretty sure that despite my best hiding attempt, Dad found and subsequently spanked me). Oh yeah, and that time we basically got into a fist fight over wrapping paper in the downstairs hallway. Her friend Kristi used to pretend beat me up. She watched and giggled.

Once upon a time, an eight year old wanted to sing the national anthem at her older sister's last high school home basketball game. Upon finding out (just a couple of hours before the game), older sister yells something along the lines of "I know she's eight, but I don't care, she sounds horrible." Dreams of superstardom crushed right alongside the self-esteem of a 3rd grader. Oh, but you know what they say about karma (who is "they" by the way?). Years pass and I found myself subjected to eye rolling and exasperated sighs and huffs. C'mon Adrienne, I put my make-up bag on "your" bathroom counter, I didn't ask to perform "Single Ladies" at your college graduation.
This weekend was a good time for reflection and reading. Sure, I did my fair share of piddling - watching both movies and the Marrowbone Creek rise to ridiculous levels - but I also spent some time contemplating, thinking about my hometown, my house, Caroline's explanation of community, and my family. I pulled bell hooks' Belonging: A Culture of Place from my bookshelf and reread a few passages that I had marked over a year and a half ago:

“We are born and have our being in a place of memory. We chart our lives by everything we remember from the mundane moment to the majestic. We know ourselves through the art and act of remembering. Memories offer us a world where there is no death, where we are sustained by rituals of regard and recollections."

“Living away from my native place I become more consciously Kentuckian than I was when I lived at home. This is what the experience of exile can do, change your mind, utterly transform one’s perception of the world of home. The differences geographical location imprinted on my psyche and habits of being became more evident away from home."

“I have returned to the world of my childhood, the world in which I first sowed the seeds of my being and becoming, a seeker on the path, the contemplative intellectual choosing solitude, ideas, choosing critical thinking. Here in my native place I embrace the circularity of the sacred, that where I begin is also where I will end. I belong here.”

I went through the boxes and bags I had moved off of the basement floor. In my old green high school backpack (which I rarely carried because in 1998 - my gosh, I'm old - having a backpack at Cumberland County High School wasn't cool. The fact that my senior picture outfit choices suggest a very low threshold for "hip" is beside the point), I found a collection of memories, seeds of my being and becoming, that reminded me why I belong exactly where I have ended up. The drawings, letters, and cards speak of silliness and happiness and love. In the handwriting, I see not hairbrushes or wrapping paper or the dawn's early light; I see how much love I have for my sisters. Notice how Leigh even put a "stamp" on it.
Last year's birthday present was a great success.
This must have been before I crushed her ego with the "you're a horrible singer comment." (00 was my basketball number)

I intrinsically "get" hooks' notion that exile makes one more consciously a native of that place that will forever be considered "home." I experience and appreciate Cumberland County in a way now that I could have never done had I stayed after high school or even if I had returned a few years ago. More importantly, however, I think I am more consciously a sister, daughter, and granddaughter than I have ever been in the past. Semantics are incredibly important to me; I get so frustrated when I can't think of the exact word or phrase that would accurately describe my thoughts or feelings. But, this is one of those instances. I don't want to call it "obligation," as this seems to denote a sense of burden and/or unwelcome responsibility, but I do feel some desire to establish a particular role in my family, a desire to more openly "be" in the family. And this is not to suggest that I have ever felt disconnected or disinterested. Instead, it is an acknowledgment that sometimes we don't do enough to make our appreciation, compassion, and love known. I think it would do us all some good to wear our various hats in a more purposive manner.

I am thankful for all those things I get to be, sister, daughter, aunt, and granddaughter. Drawings like this one are merely icing on the cake... Adrienne made me look pretty.