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Friday, January 29, 2010

Pickled Tink!

I am, you know. Tickled pink, I mean.

Eighteen days ago, I nervously shared some big news here. Eighteen days ago, I timidly stepped out on what I thought was a spindly, shaky little limb and asked for support in my fight against breast cancer. Eighteen days ago, I wondered if I was right about what we could do together.

Today, those same eighteen days later, I'm not wondering any more. This is one strong, proud, sturdy limb I'm on.

Together we've raised over $600 in 18 days.

I'm FLOORED. Delighted. Humbled. Ecstatic. Grateful.

And most of all ... the very most of all ... I am so, so honored.

As the contributions have come in, you've told me about the loved ones in your lives who have fought breast cancer. And I see now why walking in the 3-Day is SUCH an emotional experience. It's because it turns out that crossing the finish line on day three isn't about the walker herself (or himself) it's about the women - the Moms, the aunts, the sisters, the best friends and their Moms, the sisters-in-law, the grandmother of 3 - all those women who are loved and carried in the hearts of their families and friends, that are, in response to these donations, carried in the very heart of the one doing the walking.

So far, I'll be carrying nearly a dozen of these amazing women in my heart and dancing with them across that finish line. And that's so far the BIG AHA I've had as I've begun this journey. I'm not raising funds and walking for a cause - I'm doing it for real people, ladies (and one man, even!) that I'm coming to know and love through you. And that, my friends, makes this whole experience come alive for me.

I'm so thankful to those who have donated and shared stories for entrusting me with the chance to love and honor your friends and family members in this journey. They're women and lives that deserve the honor, each and every one of them and I am so proud to do it!

February will be a new month of fundraising for me, and I'm setting a personal goal of another $600 by the 28th. It's tax filing time and I'm hoping that before you've got your tax refund check spent, you'll earmark a bit of it for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. The widget on my left side bar will take you directly to my personal donation page on the 3-Day website. If you don't like donating on-line, you'll find a link at the bottom of my page that opens a PDF form you can mail directly to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day.

If there's a woman in your life who's fought breast cancer, tell her how much she means to you with a donation AND tell me about her in the comments section below. I want to know her and I want to bring her with me on this walk.

I'm also looking for donations of some specific items for upcoming silent auctions and raffles. If you or someone you know would be willing to donate any of these items (or anything else, by th way!), my team and I would be so grateful and in some cases if you so desired, I'd be happy to help promote your business here on FriedOkra and on my team blog cureorbust.com.

Here are a few specific items I'm looking for:

  • beautiful, handmade jewelry
  • high-end cookware
  • high-end kitchen gadgets
  • gourmet foods, herbs, spices, seasonings, etc.
  • cooking lessons in the Chicago area
  • gourmet cooking, dining or wine magazine subscriptions
  • trips or plane tickets for raffles
  • other items for raffles or silent auctions

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey, friends. I really believe we're in for an amazing ride and I know together we're going to kick some cancer bummy for the women and girls we love AND for many breast-cancer-free generations to come.


The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is a 60-mile walk over the course of three days. Net proceeds from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure™ are invested in breast cancer research and community programs.








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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vegetable Beef Soup a la FriedOkra

We're eatin' the HECK out of some soup lately. I've made about 20 kinds of soup, a few new recipes and a few old stand-bys, since Christmas thanks to my gorgeous new All-Clad stockpot that my fabulous husband gave me. OHMYGRANNY y'all I love that stockpot. Sometimes I sneak down in the middle of the night just to pull it gently and lovingly out of the cabinet and run my hands all over its shiny, sturdy, culinary wondrousness. I know this makes me a kitchen-geekish freak of nature, but I have to say that that pot is among the top three gifts anyone has ever given me.

I'm gettin' goosebumps just thinking about it. And the best part is, did I tell you this already? Well hold on let me back up here and share the whole story. See, long about the first of December, Bean and I were havin' a cup of tea when she piped up voluntarily, "Mama, I hope you want a diamond necklace for Christmas."

And why, I asked warily, do you hope that?

"'Cause that's what I told Daddy to get you."

Will it make me sound spoiled if I say my heart sank at that moment? I love diamonds. I have one in a ring that I wear on the third finger of my left hand every day and that diamond is another one of those Top Three gifts I just mentioned. It's beautiful, it's ME, it's full of meaning and memories and promises and it's all the diamond this woman will ever need. I treasure that one. Any other diamond that comes into my life is gonna have an uphill battle to make itself heard among the choruses of angels that sing whenever I look at my engagement ring. And I am not kidding.

You're lookin' at a woman who just does not need nor want another diamond. (Did I say that outloud?)

But, oh girl, I am ALL UP IN DAT kitchen bling lately. I've been cookin' my big batches of soups and stews and bolognese sauce in this weird blue spotty aluminum pasta pot I bought with "points" I won by doing I'm certain was ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR (eyeroll) back in my OHMYGRANNY HOW DID I GET TO BE A STOCKBROKER AND WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE WAKE ME UP FROM THIS NIGHTMARE days. It was the one thing you could buy with the piddlin' little number of points I "won" and believe me, it was worth all 2 of them. Just to get that thing to boil a substantial amount of water, I'd have to get started about 6 hours in advance, and after I'd added whatever I was tryin' to "cook," there'd be another hold period of about an hour and a half. Took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 solid hours to cook a pot of angel hair. Eight of those I'd spend hovering over the stove, watchin' and waitin' for JUST THAT ONE ... LITTLE .... BUBBLE ... TO INDICATE WE WERE GETTIN' SUMM'ERS. The other two I'd spend engaged in declaring that when I got this stinkin' angel hair cooked I WAS THROWIN' THIS STUPID POT AWAY FOR GOOD, punctuated at the end each time by my favorite non-swear swear that I hurl around frequently to this day - YOU OL' STINK BUCKETY PIECE-A-JUNK!

But I never threw it away because it was the only pot I had big enough to fully immerse a whole chicken in water without flooding the entire lower level of the house when (if) it eventually came to a boil. I'm counting now and y'all? I have limped along using that OL' STINK BUCKETY PIECE-A-JUNK for SEVENTEEN YEARS.

And enough is enough. And I did not wish to hurt my baby's feelings, but I know what a diamond necklace costs, and I know what an All-Clad stock pot costs (because I have spent countless hours with my face glued to my computer screen staring at it like a love-sick 1970s teenaged girl lookin' at pictures of Donny Osmond. But not on a computer. On an album jacket or a Tiger Beat Magazine. Anyway!) and for my Santa money, I knew which one I wanted to find in my proverbial stocking Christmas morning. So I gently LED Bean in the right direction - where LED includes endless hours of "repeat after me" games, flashcards, and possibly me sneaking into her room in the wee hours of the morning chanting "All-Clad Stainless Steel Stock Pot" into her ear. She woke up mornings and I'd say, "How was your sleepy, Bean?" and she'd blink repeatedly and then spit out:

  • 18/10 nonreactive stainless-steel cooking surface that's easy to clean
  • Three-layer core of aluminum for fast and efficient heat conduction
  • Outer layer of magnetic stainless steel for use on induction, gas, and electric ranges
  • Mirror-polished exterior and stay-cool handles produced from cast stainless steel
  • Dishwasher-safe; hand washing recommended; lifetime warranty; oven-safe to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
And I would smile to myself as Al scratched his head.

And I got my pot.

But I did not come here to tell you about my pot. (Although I could sing of its quick cooking and easy clean-up forever, I assure you.)

I came, as I am wont to do, to share a recipe for some of the best soup I've made in my brand new Porsche pot.

It's shy, unassuming soup mostly - a bit of a corner-sittin' wallflower - but it there's something about it that makes me want to be around it. Pursue it a little further and get to know what lies beneath that simple, humble exterior. And like most of us introverts, if you give it time, a handful of crumbled saltines, and a couple little shakes of Tabasco, it climbs up and dances on the table!

Vegetable Beef Soup


1 large onion
2 T. olive oil
2 quarts low-sodium V-8 juice
1 cup good-quality beef stock
1 (16 ounce or larger - I'd go for at least 20 oz of veggies) package frozen mixed vegetables
4 potatoes, cubed
2 pounds cubed beef stew meat (leftover pot roast or steak works well here)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
garlic salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Optional: A little finely sliced fresh cabbage cooked in with the other veggies or some fresh spinach added a few minutes before serving.

Saute the onion and meat in the oil in your favorite stock pot until the onion's getting transparent and the meat's browned on all sides. (If you're using leftover, pre-cooked meat, don't put the meat in yet.) Pour in the V-8, stock, and all the veggies including the potatoes. Stir in your herbs, garlic salt and pepper. Be somewhat conservative with the salt - you can add more at the end if it's needed. Bring all that to a boil and stir, then reduce the heat to a nice simmer. Cook 2 hours (or more, even!) stirring occasionally and checking the meat for tenderness. (If you're using leftover meat, add that about 30-45 minutes before you want to eat.)

Once you get that meat nice and tender, you're there. Adjust your seasonings, give 'er a good stir and serve it up with some saltines and hot sauce. Or corn bread and grated cheddar. The possibilities are endless, just don't use the good china. Good china never fares well when there's table dancing involved, I've found.

Happy eatin', y'all.






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The FriedOkras vs. The TV - Oh, It's ... Off!

I've got a cup of cawfee, a little Yo-Yo Ma on iTunes and two quiet kids reading books on the floor behind me this morning as a silent snow falls outside the office window. His tender mercies are made new every morning. Amen.

I've been conducting a little experiment this month with the chiddren. Back in December it occurred to me somewhat painfully that Bean's time in front of the TV had increased to completely unacceptable quantities. In short, she watched, she watched more, she craved more, she lost her ability to think of anything else to do, she begged, whined, and even cried for it all throughout her waking hours the times I put my foot down and said No. When I really allowed myself to think about it, which I was loathe to do, as y'all know I am a loyal wearer of the ruby spectacles, I felt SO DISAPPOINTED IN MYSELF for allowing my sweet, bubbly, bright, creative little girl to become a complete unequivocable TV junky. Coach potato. Video vegetable.

So I marked January 1 as the day I'd just turn the confounded thing off and deal with the consequences I'd signed up for by using that evil box to play mind-scramble with my baby while I got on with the business of keeping up with Peabody and running the household. I knew I was in for it, though, and as the day loomed closer on the iCalendar, I'd nearly QUAKE with dread over what was to come. If she was fighting me HARD about the TV being left in the upright and locked position for an hour or two a day, what on earth would she do when I just unplugged that bad boy for good.

I never said a word about it to her as December stretched on. I let her have her boob tube fun as she so chose - the business of Christmas did work to my advantage as she didn't get quite her normal belly-full every single day. Still, she was couch-bound for hours most days, her glazed eyes glued but vacant, her three middle fingers plugged resolutely into that saucy little mouth. But come January first, she crawled into bed with us as dawn stole quietly into the room. She reached for the remote, as was her custom, and I said "No TV this morning. We'll find other things to do."

And she balked slightly, but the panic attack I'd expected didn't ever materialize. Throughout that first day, she asked a couple of times to turn on the TV, and I said no. The next day, she didn't even ask in the morning. When she did, I just said,"No TV, honey. Go play!"

Honestly? When I look at it in the rear-view mirror, I think she's been waiting for this. A forcing of her hand and mind back to activity and imagination. She seems mostly happier this way - I hear her now playing on her own, narrating stories of FASHION GIRLS and DANCE CLASS and PRINCESSES ON UNICORNS. Yesterday in the late afternoon - a dark and cold and gray afternoon and a time I'd usually pop popcorn and let the kids watch a movie - she asked for a video and I just said, "How about if you and Peabody build a pillow pit on the floor and jump in it instead?" and she whimpered a little bit and then got busy doing just that. It is, and will always be, with Bean, I think, up to me to help her little mind see the possibilities for fun and creativity (and that takes quite a bit of time, which along with fundraising for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure constitutes my excuse du jour for not getting to blog here as often as I really, really, REALLY wish I could), but by and large, with my firmly foot down and the TV off, she's thriving and hungry for more "good stuff" than she has been since her brother was born.

I was so excited, y'all, when, about 4 days into our experiment she came to me and asked, "Mom, when can we start doing our reading lessons again?" See, about 6 months ago, we'd started working on Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Engelmann) together. Back then, each lesson with her was a 30 minute struggle and I eventually gave up and decided she just wasn't ready yet (even though my gut felt she was, and that her issues had more to do with desire than ability). Lo and behold, with the TV out of the picture, she quickly got interested on her own and continues to ask EVERY DAY for that lesson. We'll do Lesson 30 today - my daughter is READING and I'm teaching her! Those of you who have experienced this process will know what I mean when I say this is one of the most awesome (and I mean awesome in its most traditional iteration) and rewarding things I've ever done. It's AMAZING.

And don't get me wrong, I don't think TV is 100% evil or even bad for children. I will reintroduce it in very small doses as I see appropriate beginning next month, now that we've got her detoxed from mindless viewing and me detoxed from not having to invest my energies into guiding her in her quest for entertainment. I see the value of educational programming (good heaven's after watching 962 hours of Word Girl, the child has a vocabulary that rivals mine!) and I LOVE it when we all sit down as a family and watch a good movie or an hour of the Food Network together. But I will keep TV to a bare minimum from now on and watch my kids' minds bloom with creativity and imagination. Too much joy to be missed by doing it any other way.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find Out What It Means to Me.

I never know quite how to react when the vulnerability I willingly accept along with the many wonderful and life-blessing privileges of blogging crosses that line from friendly and engendering to confrontational. When you write about your life and your loves and your worries and trials and laughter and joy for all the world (or any small part of it that so chooses) to share, you know you're opening yourself up to both the beauty of connection and empathy and friendship but also to, well, that OTHER STUFF. Thankfully there's been so very little of that OTHER STUFF as I've opened up my heart and soul here that when a bit of it comes along it always takes me by surprise and disappoints me.

The blogging community I've happily stumbled into here brings me so much joy every day (well, every day I have time to join in, anyway!) - so many laughs, so many tears, sad and happy, so much support in the rough times and so many virtual hugs and high-fives and happy dances in the times we all celebrate. Wow, when you stop to ponder, it's just plain phenomenal, isn't it? I know y'all who blog (and even some who don't blog but have developed strong, real relationships and a firm place within the community anyway) know what I mean. We are all so alike in many respects, and yet each such unique individuals. And in our similarities and differences, we share and support and build up and love one another and one anothers' families. We don't agree on everything, but we respect and support each other as people and friends.

And we do it willingly and we do it SO WELL. I LOVE THAT. Don't you?

I JUST LOVE IT. I crave it. It's something I can't imagine giving up, now that I've got it, you know? I'm fully-invested in this -- whether I can find time to read and write daily or just weekly, it's so rewarding -- I'd even say it's crucial or vital to who I am. Makes me a better mother, wife, friend and person.

So last night, when my email alerted me to a new comment on this post, which really isn't a post at all, just a link to my regular Monday feature over at 5 Minutes for Parenting, and I opened it and read the harsh and completely unwarranted comment, I felt betrayed. Hey, I understand a difference of opinion, oh yes ma'am I do. I don't bring up controversial subjects here (or at least I don't do it willingly!) but in real life, I'm not afraid of a debate and I do hold strong opinions about some things. We all do. But I am a woman who believes what she believes AND respects the right of other people to believe what they believe. I might not agree with you, but you won't catch me insulting you or dismissing you because of that. And if I'm ever led to engage you about our differences (which is rare, let me assure you), I try do it gently and in the spirit of two mutually-respectful adults trying to find common ground. (I've slipped up and fired a bullet of my own here and there, but I'm human, too.)

I expect others to show me that same respect. That's the conduct appropriate for our community (and society in general, I'd argue) and I don't think, despite the fact that we're all FREE to say what we want on-line or elsewhere, (which I suppose is a wonderful freedom, but also always seems to be the leading justification for people who write and say hateful and offensive things), it's too much to ask. If you're thinking of shooting off a comment that because of its nature or content you aren't comfortable owning it or attaching to your true identity, just don't do it. If it must be said, then email me, or if you know me, call me. Whatever. Just don't try to turn my little corner of the blogosphere into a place of conflict and disrespect.

This is not that kind of place, and these, my family, friends and I, are not that kind of people.

And that's the end of that little episode.

Have a great day, y'all!



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Monday, January 18, 2010

Little Bit of Light, O Lord

Hey Y'all!

I posted over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today about what a Mama like me feels on a day like today. Come on over!

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Monday, January 11, 2010

My Big PINK News

So here it is, y'all.

This year, after two years of sittin' on the bench, cheering on as a group of my neighbors and good friends spent months raising funds, training, and walking in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure while I gestated, birthed and cared for my tiny baby Peabody, I'm lacing up my pink New Balances and hittin' the pavement. Sixty miles in three days. I can do this!

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YES MA'AM. I'm participating in this year's 3-Day in Chicago August 6-8, and I can't wait to get walkin'!

This is something I've been wanting to do for over ten years, and good old life has always gotten in the way. This year though? I WILL NOT LET ANYTHING STOP ME. I'm DOING IT. Why? Because I’ve become more inspired than ever to deliver my own lasting blow to breast cancer as I’ve watched my sweet, amazingly strong friend and neighbor Meagan fight this disease since her diagnosis in September 2009.

It's for Meagan, her daughter, Skylar, my own Bean and all of the other beautiful women and girls we all love that I’m walking this year. I want to help get Meagan well, and I don't want ANY MORE OF THE WOMEN I LOVE TO GO THROUGH WHAT SHE'S GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW. EVER. Because even though Meagan is a total trooper and the most positive, hopeful, inspirational person I think I've ever met and she hardly ever lets on how bad things are, I can tell you from where I sit, it STINKS.

In order to participate in the walk, I've agreed to raise at least $2300 in donations. But I have wonderful, generous friends and a supportive family, so I know I can raise even more than that, and have set my personal goal at $3500. I'm going to need help to reach that goal from EVERY SINGLE PERSON I KNOW BOTH INSIDE THE COMPUTER AND OUT!

So. Will you? Can you? I am so terribly bad at asking for ANYTHING from anyone, y'all. I'd rather do it all myself than to trouble another soul for a thing. But this time is different - here's a situation where I have to stick my neck out and ask for sumpm. I need your help. Women all over the world need your help. Women just like you, like me, like our daughters and our Moms and grandmothers and aunts and cousins and our besties and the lady with the cheerful smile at the deli counter who always gives your kids a slice of cheese when you go to buy your smoked ham.

We're all in this together, us gals. (And guys, Dad.)

Please. Will you PLEASE support me as I take an amazing journey in the fight to end breast cancer? You can donate to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in my name by clicking HERE. If you are not a fan of on-line transactions, you'll see a link at the bottom of the page for a form you can fill out and mail with a check.

DONATE HERE. CLICKETY CLICK CLICK!

The pink and black 3-Day "I'm walking..." widget on my sidebar over there leads to a donation page, as well, and it will be there. IN PERPETUITY. Until we blow my fundraising goal out of the water next August and we all scream and yell and hoot and holler and jump up and down as we write a big fat check to Susan G. Komen and Co. and BREAST CANCER's ugly wart-covered behind is finally TOAST.

I will be sososososososooooooo grateful for absolutely any amount you can contribute. There's no such thing as too much or too little. What matters is getting involved, making a difference, in any way that we can, y'all.

I'm going to be updating y'all from time to time about my fundraising efforts, my team's training progress, special events and other things we're doing as a group to raise nearly $30,000 by August. I'm looking forward to having you along for the ride, and sharing this amazing experience with you!



The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is a 60-mile walk over the course of three days. Net proceeds from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure™ are invested in breast cancer research and community programs.




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Friday, January 8, 2010

These Wonderful Things are the Things We'll Remember All Through Our Lives

(I thought up that title BEFORE Christmas and didn't ever get to write this post until now. I can't think up another one, so we're stuck with it, outdated and past-its-prime or not. It's still true, even if it's a little bit dusty now.)

We snuck off to Florida back before Christmas so Al could attend his graduation YES I SAID GRADUATION as in he's DONE (for now anyway, but it IS Al we're talking about so I imagine the DONE-ness won't last long) from Florida Atlantic University.

You know, he got a degree in Forensic Accounting, and that makes him pretty smart, I agree, but you know what makes him look the smartest of all to me? That he figured out to go get that degree at a school located in Florida, warm, sunny, tropical Florida, not 30 miles from where my sister and her family would spontaneously up and move (I know, it didn't FEEL spontaneous to the people involved in the move, did it?) and organized it so he'd graduate in DECEMBER.

In my book that qualifies him for an honorary membership to MENSA, right there.

I have a huge project I'm working on, which if you have spent any time looking at my left hand side bar you might begin to suspect has something to do with breast cancer and pinkness and kitchens and all sorts of other girly, frilly stuff, and it does, and I'll tell you all about that REAL SOON, I promise, but I still have stuff to do before that's all set for The Big Reveal, so for now I'm just gonna show y'all some pictures from the beach trip, which sadly do not include a picture of Al in his cap and gown this time, which is another story for another day, or not, because it really isn't a story so much as a DOH! moment that'd take about 45 minutes to tell you and about 5 seconds for you to determine from it that I am a complete DUFUS. That is if you are not already in full possession of that particular tidbit of information.

PICTURES. From the BEACH.

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Peabody likey the beachy.


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My kids and my sister's kids. Together. Do I even need to tell you that Bean was in heaven the whole time? And that the second night we were in town I brought some PJs and one set of extra clothes for Bean with us to dinner at Jackie's JUST IN CASE Bean might want to spend the night? (Hahahahaha. Just in case. Hilarious!) and that I got a text from my sister the next morning saying, "Pls bring more clothes for Alex. She says she's staying."

Cousins are one of life's richest blessings, don't y'all think?

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The lighthouse at Lighthouse Point, where we stayed in Florida, which we searched for using the GPS in our car, Google, Google maps and iGPS on our phones, and several local maps to no avail but finally discovered by accident while driving around waiting for Peabody to wake up from a car nap.

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Since Bean had moved in with Aunt Jackie and all the cousins, I had my two boys all to myself and loved it. I wanted to capture what that looked and felt like. I think I did a pretty darn fine job of that here. Even if I did crop off the top of Al's head. Sorry, hon. Didn't hurt much, did it?

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I loved the vivid colors of the townhomes we stayed in against the blue sky. The place was super nice, if not quite right for a family with kids so young. Three stories - three flights of stairs for a certain little boy to attempt to kill himself on - marble floors everywhere and WHITE furniture. OHMYGRANNY. But we all survived and I spot-cleaned the heck out of that place before we left. Oh, and Bean would like me to tell you that there was a HOT TUB. ON THE ROOF. Which was awesome, indeed. Al and I had his graduation AND our sixth anniversary to celebrate while we were there, so we drank some champagne out there in that hot tub and sat and reflected and made goo-goo honey-pot eyes at each other for HOURS until our feet and hands were little prunes.


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Bean and me burying each other's feet in the sand. I love to capture pictures of our hands and feet together.

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See what I mean?

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The ubiquitous palm trees overhead shot. Actually it might be a coconut tree now that I look at it. Deerfield Beach-goers do you know which?

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Peabody enjoying the flora of Deerfield Beach. And me, enjoying his red shoes, which make me go all squishy inside. This picture DELIGHTS Mama. It really captures Peabody and toddlerhood beautifully. He is a boy who loves to explore and discover new things.

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Just my sweet Beanie-girl, diggin' in the sand.

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And diggin' on my new shades.

(The new picture up there on the side bar, the one of me cheesin' for the camera while Al pretended to be a FASHAWN photographer, is from our trip as well. When I look at that picture and IGNORE THE HIDEOUS ROOT GROWTH AND OVERALL BAD HAIR ISSUES, I see the woman I wish I were ALL THE TIME. She looks relaxed and happy and like someone who would ignore the SPAM nuggets and strawberry bits all over the kitchen floor and just enjoy the day for what it is. I put that picture up there to remind me: THIS IS THE YOU YOU WANT TO BE. PUT DOWN THE MOP, UNFURROW YOUR BROW, AND GO BE HER.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Few Things Y'all Might Need Today, Hint Hint

Happy Twenty-Ten, Y'all. (I've been waitin' all decade to say that.)

Look, I know it's a football and snicky snack day today, but a good Southerner will tell you you've still got to find room for your fried pork chops and your collard greens and your black-eyed peas and your cornbread to ensure you'll have a happy and prosperous New Year.

I'ma make this quick so in case you've arrived at JAN. ONE without your necessary supplies, you can hie yourself hither on down to the Piggy Wiggly or the Dubya D or the Bi-Lo's or the Jewel-Osco and pick up what you'll need to get your Kulinary Karma right. (Are there still Dubya D's down there? You know WD? Winn Dixie?)

Do y'all know how to fry a pork chop and make some nice rich onion gravy with the pan drippings?

NO!?!

Sigh. I have so much to teach you.

Now, I'm not going to write out my whole recipe here because my own kitchen beckons, but here's a link to a recipe very similar to how I do it:

Fried Pork Chops and Creamy Gravy
On this one, I would definitely NOT use half and half in the gravy because there's rich and then there's "OHMYGRANNY THIS IS CLINGIN' TO MY UVULA AND CLOGGIN' UP MY THROAT GAGGITY GAG GAG" and to me, gravy made with anything fattier than whole milk falls into the latter category. I might even use a two to one milk to water ratio here myself. And because Al's Mama, Grandma Carrie, did it this way, I use a bigger onion and just cut it into rings instead of dicing. But other than that, I'd say you can just go with this recipe and you're covered, fried pork choppily-speakin'.

YUM, my people.

WHAT?! It's only once a year. It's not like I fry up a batch of pork chops once a week or anything. So chill out on the artery-cloggin' lecture and the crossed arms and the foot-tappin'. I TOLD YOU TO OMIT THE HALF AND HALF DIDN'T I? See? I'm reasonable!

Now y'all DO know about hoppin' john, right?

OH, TELL ME YOU KNOW ABOUT HOPPIN' JOHN!

In my world (which is the only one that matters for the purpose of this illustration), hoppin' john is white rice with black-eyed peas on top, all smothered up with some salsa or spicy tomato relish (been known to use artichoke relish on occasion but never on New Years Day because that wouldn't be right) on top, perhaps also with a smattering of diced raw sweet onion. Personally I throw my collard greens into the mix because I like to start out the New Year right there on the razor's edge, but some people around here (the more conservative, rule-followin' people) keep the collards in a small bowl on the plate, separate and distant from the hoppin' john. And I just try to go along and smile and keep the peace with those people even though I think they are missin' out on a real flavor-fest. And who wants to start off the year a quart low on flavor?

Still I just keep the peace.

(Did you hear my halo twinkle just then?)

I'ma level with you people. I love collard greens when they're cooked right and I've eaten collard greens prepared by other Southern women that will make you want to slap your Granny they're s'good, but me? I'm still casting about for the right collard recipe. I've made 'em pretty good, yes, but as yet my Granny remains summarily unslapped where home-prepared collard greens are concerned.

My grandmother, not surprisingly, is happy with that arrangement.

I am not.

Thus I'm trying this recipe this year, by a woman who knows and loves food so well she took a flyin' ham to the face and lived to laugh and joke about it. Didn't even break her nose. That's a woman with a solid and loving (and reciprocal!) relationship with smoked pork products, right there.

Paula Deen's Collard Greens.
I have the ham and seasonings simmering in the water in my BRAND NEW ALL-CLAD STOCKPOT that Al gave me for Christmas and if the aroma of that broth is any indication, I b'lieve we may have ourselves a winner.

*** Edited to add that we've now consumed all but about a half cup of a full recipe of these greens, about 2 hours later, and not only were they the best I've ever cooked, they were the best I've ever eaten. Al says they magically transported him back to South Georgia and the suppers they used to eat, served outta the trunks of church members' cars which were parked under shade trees in the church's back yard, after Big Meetin' of a hot August afternoon.) I would highly, HIGHLY recommend this recipe for collard greens. HIGHLY! ***

And now you're gonna need you some black-eyed peas!

My Friend Courtney's Recipe for Black-Eyed Peas

And make you some white rice, too. Mahatma is my favorite brand, but it's hard to find up here (they only have it at WalMart, which is no suprise, is it?) I just follow the package instructions because RICE IS PERSNICKETY AND YOU CAN'T MESS AROUND WITH IT OR YOU END UP WITH RICE-FLAVORED HUNKS OF RUBBERY, GUMMY, GROSSNESS.

And lastly, you'll be needin' some corn bread. I've made a lot of corn bread in my life time, concentrated heavily here in the years of my marriage to Al, because he LOVES him some corn bread, and Bean? OHMYGRANNY that apple fell squarely at the foot of the corn bread-lovin' tree. I secretly suspect her passion may stem at least in part from her love of butter, but all the same, she can put the stuff away just like her Daddy. This is the BEST recipe I've found so far. I follow it TO THE LETTER except I generally split the batter between a prepared 12-muffin tin and my good old cast-iron skillet. This corn bread is just the right consistency, crispy on the outside, tender, moist and a little tiny bit cakey on the inside, and just the right balance of sweet to salty. Put you some softened sweet cream butter on a piece of this stuff and you've got yourself a little slice of heaven.

You try it and see if I'm not right.

You won't be disappointed.

If you like corn bread, I mean.

Which, who doesn't like corn bread?

Homesteader Cornbread

Okay now I have to scoot. My ham broth is ready for the collard green simmerin' and I've got a mess of pork chops to fry!

Happy New Year, Y'all!

Enjoy it, whatever you end up eatin'.






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