Wednesday, January 24, 2018

PAXTON PEOPLE: MISS CLEMMIE STONE


Paxton People---from a long-ago musing about a friend from the past.   The views and opinions expressed are those of the participants, and not mine, A'TALL, but I DO see her point.


Miss Clemmie Stone is a nice widow-lady with a small neat house, the same car they had when Mr. 'Clellan was alive, and a lifelong yen to travel.  Her travel plans have been curtailed for quite some years by seeing to grandchildren.  Her two daughters and one son have five children amongst them, but the daughters live some distance away now, so she mostly only “sees” them on weekends and holidays. 

Her son’s kids she sees almost every day, because even before the first one was born, they just kinda expected Mee-maw to pick up the reins and “keep the kids” when Suezette went back to work at the Chevrolet place.   And so it has been for little Stevie, age six, Clella, who is closing in on five, and baby Arden, who has almost reached his second birthday.     

Miss Clemmie loves and adores those children, but sometimes, you know, she just gets TIRED.  Until they came along, she’d never much heard of allergies or gluten-free or so many grains she has to keep a notebook. Nobody IS Allergic, but   Suezette and Mack are very particular about every bite that goes into the kids’ mouths, getting lots of tips and information from various parenting blogs.    That’s a hard row to hoe for Miss Clemmie, whose cooking has won Fair prizes and whose abundant table has been the pride of the family for all her housekeeping years.   But she keeps up, with special steel-cut oats and organic fruit, and making sure the fresh-picked vegetables in her own garden have never seen hide nor hair of an insecticide or improper fertilizer. 




And you know, that’s a bit of a tiring LIFE, when you come right down to it---even if you DID choose it for yourself and your family and adhere religiously to your own standards.   For somebody who loves to cook, and mostly must refrain from a great long list of really good ingredients---well, you can make a task out of any enjoyable endeavour.   And Miss Clemmie tried, she really did.   She abolished things from her pantry, like Vanilla Wafers and Eagle Brand, and she shopped way over in Greenvillle at the Whole Foods, coming home with quinoas and berries and bitter dark macaroni.  She read the backs of stuff til she just about went blind.   


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And she just flat QUIT cooking anything for herself when the children were there, because it was just not right to tempt those little fellows with all those good scents from the kitchen, when they had to sit down to yogurt and hummus and fruit.   Sometimes she’d put a good stew or casserole in the crock-pot and plug it in out in the potting shed, just so she could have a good supper once in a while, and not have to eat at midnight cause she got started cooking so late.  

Food was not the only persnickety thing Meemaw had to worry about---there was a TV ban, a certain time for arts and crafts, a time for reading, and other activities planned for Meemaw to teach and conduct during the day, with special lesson plans and equipment and books recommended by “the experts.” Suezette spent more money on stuff from the “smart kids’ store” than she did on their shoes, and it all stayed at Meemaw’s “to give them something  educational to do.”  


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 Things rocked on for some several years at that pace, with this restriction and that new article that Suezette had found online, until finally Nature itself changed the course of the whole thing. 

Mack and Stevie went to their first Guys and Dads overnight camping with their church group, and came home with some sort of oopsies that flew through the other kids like wildfire. And that Monday, Suezette brought them to Mee-Maw’s as usual, still pale and and pitiful, throwing up and needing lots of care and juice and bankies-on-the-couch.     They had quite a day of it, with lots of whoopsing and cleanups and fresh clothes, and every kiddo into the tub at least once, so Miss Clemmie was absolutely give ka-dab OUT.   


She had just turned on a video of Big Trucks to keep the not-puking-at-the-moment two entertained while she bathed the third one, who just had---Again, when Suezette breezed in late for the umpteenth time.   Suezette ignored the damp towels, the pile of her children’s fresh laundry on the table, ready for folding.  She swept right by those, stepping over scattered books and crafts and empty Pedialyte bottles.

 And as soon as Suezette caught sight of the TV on in the daytime, she rounded on her Mother-in-Law as if she’d caught her with the kids duct-taped to chairs.

“Naaow, MEEE-Maw,” she said, in that fake I-like-you voice of hers. Cocking her head and looking at Meemaw over her glasses, she made a fatal error. 

 “I THAWt we SAY-ed no TEEE-Vay.”

Condescending is one thing. Talking Down To is another, but Condescending in a Southern Accent is too great a cross to bear---worse than shouting or lies.      

And that was it.   The moment when Miss Clemmie had Had Enough.  And though she loved and adored those children with every bit of her being, she just couldn’t do it any more---not all that careful watchful diet stuff, that every-minute-an-activity stuff, that raising their children for them  for free in such strict confines that she just couldn’t.

And so now Miss Clemmie travels.  She arranges little day-trips and weekends on those wonderful buses that run from up at Clarksdale to Memphis and the casinos, or to the coast for a little relaxation, and one time to Gatlinburg.   The children come visit her for a lot of weekends.  And sometimes for Sunday Dinner.




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Friday, December 29, 2017

SILVER FOIL AND STAPLED LIMBS



 A little remembrance in these days of Taking Down The Tree:  

For several years in my childhood, silver-foil Christmas trees with their skeletal limbs encased in sparkly tinsel like Reynolds Aluminum’s dream of Heaven spent their nights in picture windows. 
   The trees came in a long narrow box, like maybe a big umbrella would come in, and you had to put it together.   It was like poking immense scratchy, frilly cocktail picks into holes in a broom handle, and about as attractive---I thought those spindly sparse things were ugly as sin, and not even the lights would save them.  It felt to me like dressing up an old scraggly twig doll in a crinoline dress---I’m sure it was SOMEBODY’S magic; it just wasn’t mine.





Sitting on the floor beside each tree would be a motorized color-wheel flooding the room with green, red, blue, gold in a never-ending carousel of color.


It was like living  inside a perpetual traffic-light, with the addition of a blue section adding a bit of underwater whimsy to one turn of the projector.





Folks watched their Motorolas and Zeniths, absorbed in black and white Kraft Theater and Hallmark Hall of Fame, whilst their faces, bodies and living-room furniture were hued in that succession of four shades of light.  

I suppose we all had one of those trees at one time or another, and we just sat right down with the curtains open, eyes fixed on the comedy of Milton Berle whilst we were turned into clowns ourselves in that revolving rainbow.   People rode around to look at the lights, meeting and greeting out rolled-down windows, as we looped the blocks of our town or one of the nearby ones for that seasonal display.   As cliché as the trees are, we’d ride several miles, turning corners and following the glow, with the only variables being the size of the windows, the family visible through them, and what show was on TV.






After the heyday of those silver trees (possibly coming along and leisurely running into a  trend-blend  like cream clouding  into coffee) came the quickly-spreading fad (at least as fast as the thorny limbs would grow) of Christmas pyracantha.      

Espaliered Pyracantha, to be exact, and for everybody who had one, there were two who couldn’t pronounce it.   Thoughts ranged around the Espa-leered range, with a few ventures into variants, and some of the most posh assayed the French---Es-Spale-Yerd or Es-pelli-aid. 






 Pyracanthas were exotic, beautiful things, claiming a place not given to the boxwoods and Burfordii, with their lush red clusters and  branches staple-sculpted against walls and trellises.  They were lovely plants---bright with berries and rife with thorns that would do you mischief if you handled them wrong.  


Displays ranged from big bushy berry-covered beauties, to little short scrawls like a child's first cursive.   



Husbands were pressed into service to brave the thorns and train the limbs into two-dimensional shapes with staples driven into the wall.     Half the houses in town had a Rorschach-in-red on one wall or another---chiefly the one with the 300-watt bulb pointed at it from its little stob stuck into the ground, and wearing a kite-tail of heavy extension cord.      These beauties had the lagniappe of serving all year round, for when the berries were not in season, just that silhouette against the bricks was like the shadowy trees on Asian screens, or the profiles of evergreens inside-painted on glass lampshades---ethereal, ghostly shadows.


Having a nicely-shaped, good-sized Pyracantha crawling up your wall gave you bragging rights, of a sort, with as many hair-dryer and bridge club discussions of fertilizer and pruning as were devoted to yellow cake mix.   Often the plants were embellished with other art, ranging from suns to moons to the ever-popular lavabos. 





And familiarity did NOT always breed correct, for the pronouncing still wavered into odd and lofty and downright uppity territory, mostly amongst the ladies, causing snickers and re-tellings of the grandest and silliest, and on more than one occasion, causing one thorn-scarred and fed-up husband to ask, “Dang, Woman---coutten you just say ’STAPLED’?” 




I cannot seem to close up the above big space---every time I try to delete or move it, it jumps farther apart.   Feel Free to fill in with anything you'd like.   A plant of your own, some musings on Christmas, pictures of your pets.   Label your ornament boxes, like you've been meaning to.  
Talk amongst yourselves. 






Monday, December 11, 2017

SWEETS OF THE SEASON---REDUX

Today’s Fudge-Making Day, so it can cool and be cut for delivering around town to clients, so I’m “fudging” with the posts and using  this one from Christmas, eight years ago.  Wish I still had as much time and energy as I did then, when I was looking after a two-year-old three days a week.  She’s quite adept in the kitchen now, herself, and I’m sure she could show me a thing or two.

From LAWN TEA, DECEMBER, 2009:

This time of year, I wonder if the Revenooers might think we've got a still in the basement, turning out 'Shine. That's the way they used to catch a lot of bootleggers in the South, by the amount of sugar they were buying, going from store to store for a hundred pounds here, and fifty there. And we haul it home with the wagon draggin'---like we're driving Thunder Road.

Just plain Fudge, creamy and chocolatey---I love its colour and shine:



I'm the candy-making Elf---Kahlua Fudge, with a couple of shots of Espresso Syrup and Kahlua. Chocolate coffee beans atop.



Cappuccino Fudge, with a shot of Espresso syrup in the recipe:





Reese's Loaves---the bottom is the old-fashioned recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge, with extra-crunchy, left to sit in the pans til cool and firm, then a small pour of plain fudge on top.

The platter has to be empty by Christmas Morning---that's where the Banana Bread by my Mother's recipe goes, with a little dish of soft cream cheese alongside.



The loaves cut into giving-size portions---you can see they're in thirds, with little rounded corners on some---this is a VERY rich candy. I advise cutting it in little short-ways slices, rather than the big ones on the platter above.




Caro made Miss Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies, with oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut and pecans:




Some crisp, salty snacks to counteract all that sugar---Caro's Chex Mix:





Rocky Road, with roasted peanuts and tiny marshmallows tossed with melted Ghirardelli:





Here's the tableful of goodies for clients and friends---not nearly all of what we made, but it looks pretty, all arrayed like that. We swap the pretty cloths for an old red vinyl picnic sheet, and use a lot of Windex on the two glass tables, for candy-making is messy work.



And one more look at the shining, lovely original, from which all the recipes spring:



Wishing y’all ALL the SWEETNESS of this Blessed Season!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

COOKIE HOUSES, REMEMBERING

Linking with Beverly's PINK SATURDAY.  


From LAWN TEA BLOG,  December, 2008

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Today’s the day---the First Sunday In December---forever to be known in our family as Cookie House Day. Not Gingerbread Houses---no baking involved, and the scope and variety of cookies and decorations knew only the bounds of the local Sunflower, Kroger, and Fred’s Dollar Store. We bought whatever took our fancy---salty or sweet, just so the shapes were interesting, or they LOOKED like part of a Witch’s Architecture. Or a Fairy's, perhaps even a Gnome's. We used candy corn for window-trim and pretzels for fences or tiny sugar-dusted shredded wheat pillows for thatching---anything goes in a child’s eyes, especially one armed with a big cup of sugar frosting. Imagination is ALL.

We'll have a very small version this year, at our breakfast table, with only one little girl and a pair of one-year-olds to participate. So we'll have safe candies and their kinds of cookies and a lot of help from Moms and Dads and us Grandparents. And probably baths in the pink TeleTubs for the two small ones.


The first year---the late Seventies, I think, we started out with about five little ones from our tiny church, who came over after Sunday Dinner, and we made up the rules as we went along. Pretty much, the rules were: You had to be three, or no older than twelve. Past participants were welcome to come and assist the little ones in their own creations.

I had cut little cardboard patterns, maybe 9x9x7 boxy shapes with two triangular peaks, duct-taped the forms together from the inside, then taped those to thick cardboard squares, a couple of inches bigger all around to make room for a little lawn or woodpile or some Christmas trees (or a moat---that's what I'd opt for). 

Sorry---that outburst was surely caused by endless afternoons in close proximity to twenty or so three-to-six-year-olds with unlimited access to sugar.

On the long bar, paper plates of all kinds of "bought" cookies and candies and pretzels, gumdrops and canes and crackers stood ready. I usually made a gallon of the butter/powdered sugar/flavoring frosting we used for birthday cakes, but for this one, I always used a drop or two of orange extract and a tiny sprinkle of salt, so all that finger-licking wouldn't be so overpoweringly sweet.

Each child got a paper plate or platter, to choose all the building materials and attach them to the roof first---it was a rectangle a bit wider and longer than the housetop; the hangover made neat eaves for applying icicles. A gentle score down the center, and the flat board bent in the middle to set neatly onto the house. The finished roof dried while the house was decorated.


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Everyone also got a plastic punch cup filled with icing, and a small plastic spatula for spreading. You could smear it on the cardboard and attach stuff, or smear the backs of the cookies to attach, or however you could fulfil your dreamhouse. And when, at time for icicles and other decor, we handed each a filled decorating cone, eyes widened and faces lit up even brighter. Children just LOVE being trusted with pleasant grownup tasks, and this was not the TIME for "no, you can't do this; it's too messy." They strewed icing with merry abandon. Licking fingers and arms for stray icing, even an experimental squeeze into an open mouth---that's what the BIG bowl of homemade dill pickles and the bowls of salty pretzels and all those pitchers of ice water were for.

When all was finished, handfuls of the leftovers, the broken cookies, the unused candy, pretzels and other edibles, all were distributed inside the houses, and the roofs were set on, the weight of icing and cookie-shingles keeping them in place. We made pictures, Mamas returned to carry the sticky carpenters home, and we cleaned the kitchen. And I never waxed my floors for the holidays until after the party.

After about the third time, several adults requested to come make a house for their dining tables or for an upcoming party in their home, or to relive or just LIVE some childhood moments once again. So several years, we had a wine-and-cheese party on Saturday night; everybody brought bags of goodies to decorate with, I made the icing and cardboard forms, and when it was over, they all helped clean up and set out the decorations for the children the next day.

This got to be so popular over the years, we had people calling in October to reserve a place, and we finally had to move it to the Fellowship Hall of the Church. Several Moms in other churches around the county called for instructions; I gave out the icing recipe, drew them the pattern, and they started having parties of their own.

I haven’t been there for Christmas in years---I wonder if they still do. And I really hope some of the children remember.


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Friday, December 1, 2017

GOMER SAYS "BYE"










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R.I.P. Jim Nabors.


Sweet spirit, simple soul, incredible talent.  


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Can you imagine that trio in Heaven right now?