Friday, February 26, 2010

An Open Letter to the House

Dear House ~ ~

It's me, Love.

I'm back.

I don't blame you for the way you avoid eye contact or your cool, guarded civility around me.

I've treated you like a jilted lover. I understand your reserve.

Can I just speak two words? Basketball. Season.

We go through this every year, and it never gets easier on either of us; does it?

I've seen the cobwebs back behind your bookcases, mysterious stains on the office carpet, and the spoonful of grape jelly someone inexplicably flipped up onto your dining room ceiling.

I've noticed a dark splatter of uncertain origin on the upstairs wall, lint from a million spins of the toilet paper rolls collecting on bathroom surfaces, and finger prints around every light switch, door knob, and hand rail within your walls.

I just couldn't do a thing about it.

Until now.

Now, that it has reached its end.

Basketball. Season.

Surely you noticed my excitement at the end of the last reverberation of the last buzzer at the last second of the last game? I raced home, peered through your streaked front glass door, caressed your dusty bannister, and got . . . down . . . on . . . my . . . knees and kissed your dull wood floors.

I do love the games, the adrenalin, the fun, the excitement. But I always miss you, and you . . . well, you show the full extent of my distraction . . . neglect . . . abandonment.

But I've got plans for us! Have you seen the fabrics for the bedroom?

Have I mentioned the redo of the half-bathroom?

Have you heard of Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint to spruce up your old mirrors?

I'll make it up to you. I promise I will! We'll fall in love all over again. We'll be so happy together.

Until next . . .

Basketball. Season.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Craving Green Beans!

This past weekend, the sun peeked out; the clouds parted; and the air felt downright balmy. The Man of the House was quickly dispatched to grill burgers for supper . . . out on the deck . . . in the balmy air.

I, for my part, had a seen a recipe for Lemon Butter Green Beans with Pine Nuts. And the spring air pushed me right over the edge into a total craving for green beans. And, by the way, not the kind that comes in a can or a frozen bag. No, the early feel of spring in the air had me longing for the fresh kind of green beans that come succulently out of My Mom's garden.

Unfortunately, green beans of this sort are not currently growing in South Carolina and don't look to be any time in the near future. The closest I could come was green beans grown in Mexico and shipped to South Carolina.

Yes, expensive and definitely not the politically-correct-eat-local-produce-in-season choice. Barbara Kingsolver would not be happy.

Have you read her book? Great book, and I totally agree with her views that we should be eating local produce. I really do.

But sometimes, when you get a little sniff of spring you've got to go out and do something wild and crazy . . . like . . . like . . . buying up 2 pounds of fresh green beans shipped all the way from Mexico.

In this recipe, mild, sweet shallots are diced fine, and sauteed with butter.

(Yummy shallots waiting to be diced.)

Pine nuts are then added to the sauteeing shallots and are toasted in the delicious shallot-y butter for a minute.

(Yummy pine nuts waiting to be added to
yummy, buttery, sauteeing shallots)

(And here it all is waiting for the addition of
the over-priced, imported, fresh, craved-for
green beans.)

The green beans are cooked in boiling water for only 3-4 minutes.

And then plunged into a nice ice cold bath to stop their cooking.

This is called "blanching" and leaves the freshest, half crisp, half tender, all delicious green beans ready to add to the shallots and pine nuts.

The green beans get several minutes of warming and tossing with the shallots and pine nuts, and then they're ready to pop on the table . . . just as the burgers are coming off the grill.

Then you place the warm and buttery green beans right where the warm and buttery sun is pouring in the window. And you smell shallots and hear the sizzle of the burgers and know that for a small moment in time all is right in your world.

Lemon-Butter Green Beans with Pine Nuts (serves 4):

1 pound fresh green beans (ends trimmed and blanched in boiling water)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (that's what ReaLemon is; right?)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Drain blanched green beans well and pat dry. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring, for an additional minute. Add the green beans and toss to coat evenly. Cook just enough to warm through, about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice, salt, sugar, and pepper and toss to combine. Remove from the heat and serve.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Driven to Distraction

When Oldest Daughter turned 15, she announced with finality that she would NOT be getting her driving permit any time within the next decade.

I was delighted. One thing to cross off on my "Things To Worry About List." No teenaged driver in my home for a while.

When Oldest Daughter turned 16, she announced with finality that she would NOT be getting her driving permit . . . ever.

However, by the time Oldest Daughter turned 17, Oldest Son had turned 15 and had announced with finality that he would be getting his driving permit just as soon as he could talk me into getting him to the DMV.

And so as not to be left in the proverbial dust, Oldest Daughter decided that very day that she would also be getting her permit.

I smiled smugly. This parenting thing was working out like clockwork. Two kids learning to drive at the same time. Two birds with one stone. Easy-smeasy.

We did the requisite driving around the neighborhood. They missed all the mailboxes; they made perfect complete stops at the stop signs; they stayed within the 25 mph speed limit. They were adorable. Piece of cake.

It was time to start driving on the road. I, for my part, made a mental check of all the things I had observed in other mothers and that I would be avoiding: i.e., pointing out every little flaw, gasping around curves, hyperventilating, etc. I would, of course, show total confidence in the fabulous drivers I knew these two would be. If there ever was a cool mom, that would be me.

Oldest Son slid in the driver's seat, plugged in his Ipod, and we headed for the open road. Cool moms do not complain if their child's music is louder than they prefer. I was silent.

We cruised smoothly down the road. Great job. Up ahead I could see a car headed the same direction as we. I saw his brake lights come on. Our car did not slow down. We were now approaching quickly. I was cool. I was silent. I trusted my child's abilities.

When beads of sweat started appearing across my forehead, I finally spoke up, "Oldest Son! Put on the brakes!" We slowed . . . we stopped.

Oldest Son looked at me scathingly. I hadn't told him that he needed to look for people's brake lights to come on to tell him to slow down.

As in a dream, the terror rolled over me. What else did I think he knew that he didn't? What else would I forget to tell him ? What was I doing in the passenger seat with this mere kid . . . this maniac controlling a large motorized vehicle. This kid who had missed the memo about brake lights.

And in that one instant I became the most uncool mom there ever was in the passenger seat of a teen-driven car. I watched the road like a hawk. I mentioned every rule I could think of. I looked for bumps, pedestrians several streets over, stop signs two blocks away, and flashing blue lights in our back window.

We returned home with my nerves strained and mild heart palpitations. There on the front steps stood Oldest Daughter. "My turn now!" My lips stretched into a thin, tight smile. "Sure, honey!"

I immediately mentioned to her that she must look for brake lights in the cars ahead of her to warn her of their slowing down.
She gave me a sideways glance, eyelids half-closed. "No kidding, Mom." Ahem. We moved out onto the open road.

I never knew our roads were narrow. They're two-lane roads everywhere we go. One coming, one going. Oldest Daughter was terrified. The car seemed, to her, as wide as a HumVee. She clung nervously to the shoulder of the road. She knew she was poised to sideswipe oncoming traffic at any moment.

The problem with this was that I was in the passenger seat. I was right on the shoulder of the road . . . poised over ditches and dropoffs . . . the right shoulder of the road that in South Carolina has no gutter and no curb . . . the crumbly right shoulder of the road that butts right up to grass, mud, and the occasional clump of dandelions. The tires slid and spun, kicking up black chunks of asphalt and spewing mud and sod. The car lurched. I clung to the door handle. "Oldest Daughter, you're too close to the side of the road." Words squeezing out from my constricted throat.

And so it has gone. The mom who was going to be very calm, cool and collected is instead hyperactive, very uncool, and scattered. I have gasped; I have clutched; I have flinched; I have nit-picked; I have lectured; I have hyperventilated. And, please forgive me, but I have dug my nails into my son's leg and screamed at the top of my lungs as he slowly turned across oncoming traffic right . in . front . of . a . car.

You may have noticed I have not mentioned the Man of the House in this post. He will not, at this stage, get into the car with our teen drivers at the wheel. "Too stressful," he says, simply.

I guess my chest pains, neck rash, and twitch at the corner of my left eye may have tipped him off.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Weekend Plans

Oh, I am soooooo looking forward to this weekend! I don't know how long it's been since I've been this filled with this much longing for the weekend!

Would you like to know what I have on my agenda?

Well, first of all, I'm going to spend considerable time flat smack dab in front of the computer screen enjoying Teresa McFayden's new E-Zine on freestyle embroidery. She calls it "embroidery where you can break the rules." Oooh, sounds like my kind of handwork. Look at some of her beautiful work:


And then when I've had my fill of that, I'm going to sit in my comfy leather chair and read some more of this book that I'm really enjoying:

And then I'm going to approach this pile and see what I can make of it. Maybe something fascinating, challenging, and slightly edgy . . . like a couple of crocheted dishcloths. ::sigh::

It's going to be a weekend full of creative endeavors and quiet contemplations.

"Wait a minute, didn't I hear that Youngest Son has an end-of-season basketball convocation this weekend?"

Oh, wow, that's right. Okay. Well, still . . .

"And didn't Oldest Daughter say she needs you to go buy Office Professional 2007 for her computer labs on Monday?"

Ah, yes . . . ahem . . . I do have to do that.

"And didn't Youngest Daughter say her pajamas were getting too small, and Oldest Son has run out of deodorant, shampoo and toothpaste all on the same day, and Middle Son has no pants to wear to church tomorrow that come down any longer than the bottom of his calf muscle?"

Yes, yes, yes, you're right. All that does need to be done . . . this weekend.

"And didn't the Man of the House say he has circus tickets for Saturday night and you'll get home about 10:30 p.m."

(silence . . . followed by a large, resigned sigh)

Oh, I am sooooo looking forward to next weekend! I don't know how long it's been since I've been filled with this much longing for the weekend.

Would you like to know what I've got on my agenda . . .

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Inspired by Spring

It just wasn't fair.

Over the weekend we had heavy grey cold skies; thick, bone-chilling air; and 4 inches of snow. And the lot of you were e-mailing me everything you were looking forward to for spring. Oh, my goodness! It just about drove me to distraction. The wonderful, fresh pictures you painted of just exactly you were dreaming of, anticipating in the coming of spring.

So, turn about is fair play. I was totally inspired to show you what everyone was looking forward to! This will probably prove a little too painful for those of you in Minnesota . . . or Nebraska (sorry Lori and DoJo) who have about 2 1/2 months of winter yet!

Rebecca is looking forward to warm sun, cool, wet dirt, and the smell of upturned earth in her garden. Mmmmmm!:


Gena escapes to the beach in April!!

Sherry wants those Florida breezes blowing through the house. And Laura wants open windows and fresh air. (Does this look like your front porch??)


Missy is waiting for the campus of Furman to burst with blooms:

For Lori, spring is blooming trees:

Lacey doesn't want to have to constantly bundle up the kids:

And Gerry is sick of bundling up herself. Is this more how you picture yourself in the spring, Gerry : ) ??


MCA can't wait to get to the Cincinnati Zoo.


Serena wants to be out hiking (only I don't think she has a husband and 2 kids . . . don't mean to freak you out there, Serena!):


DoJo just wants the snow to finally melt:


And Jan is ready to see daffodils:

This is a cute one. From Missouri, Anna Marie just doesn't want to have to warm her side of the bed up with an electric mattress pad! How's this as a bed for spring, Anna Marie?


Paggre has a unique spring wish. She's waiting for the fragrance of grapefruit blossoms. Now I've never smelled a grapefruit blossom, as far as I can remember, but doesn't that sound just heavenly? Lucky Floridian.


And finally, since there has to be at least one in a crowd walking to the beat of a different drummer, there's Debra down in Australia. And you know what she's looking forward to in that Land Down Under, down in the southern hemisphere? She can't wait for autumn leaves!

And now may we all cheerfully return to our grey skies, bare trees, and icicles and wait patiently for spring. ::sigh!::

And hopefully, while we're waiting, we'll even find a haunting beauty in the stark chill of winter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine Vignettes (And Giveaway Winner!!)

It's 10:00 p.m. here in the Eastern time zone, so I have exactly 2 hours to post the winner of the Giveaway and still keep my word to post today : ) !!

But first, I'll show you a little peek into our Valentine's Day.

Piped chocolate hearts ready to be popped into the freezer:

So that even strawberry jello can look festive:

The Valentine I made for the Man of the House:

Favorite pink tulips for the lunch table:

A Valentine's place setting:

Youngest Daughter's handmade cards for her friends:

Aaah, yes. And therein lies the beauty of blogging. I can show you all my sweet, romantic, happy pictures.

And I don't have to show or tell you that I had to get up at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning to get the bathrooms and kitchens company-presentable. Or that I completely forgot to buy napkins for dinner and when I mentioned that we had no napkins to my sophisticated dinner guest all the children chirped up, "But Mom, we never have napkins for dinner!" I also don't have to show or tell you that I had to stop at the grocery store on the way back from church because the entire household had run . out . of . toilet . paper! Or that the Man of the House and I had words . . . words the night before Valentine's Day . . . that sacred day of all that is loving and sweet and tender. Not nice words.

Nope, I don't need to show you all of that. I can just show you the sweetness and light and beauty and romance.

But of course you know the messy and the imperfect and the struggle are there. Just like at your house : ) !

That's where we all are. Cleaning the messes . . . enjoying the flowers . . . speaking the truth in love . . . making chocolate hearts . . . letting love cover faults . . . gluing on sparkles and glitter and sweet sentiments . . . hurrying to buy toilet paper before the guests arrive . . . receiving warm hugs and kisses . . . living with imperfection.

And that's where the joy is. Not just enduring or slogging through or muddling along but living! Always and only with His grace . . . always and only!

And now for the winner! The Random Number Generator tells me it's #5, which is

Check out Sue's blog. It's beautiful! Send me your address, Sue, and the package will be on its way.

Thanks so much to all of you for participating! Here's to another fun year!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Very Happy Birthday (and another Favorite Things Giveaway)!!

"Happy Birthday to You!"

"Happy Birthday to You!"

"Happy Birthday, Dear Little Blog!"

"Happy Birthday to You!"

Yes, one year ago today I pushed "Publish Post" for the first time with great trepidation. And 170 posts and one year later, I'd have to say it's been an equally wonderful ride!

So, to celebrate, let's have a giveaway. I'll call this a Favorite Things giveaway because there's nothing more fun than sharing your favorites with your friends.

Here's what you'll find in your package should you win the Giveaway:

A 24-bag sampler of The Republic of Tea's wonderful teas.
It has 17 different flavors in it . . .
including my all-time favorite, Ginger Peach.


Luscious Herb Garden soaps made right here in town.
All natural, nothing chemical-ish at all!
I picked up Kiwi Kicker, Lemon Sugar,
and White Tea Ginger for you!


The Egg and I
by Betty McDonald.
A hilarious book first published in 1945
about the reluctant wife of a chicken farmer.
Sweet, funny, and heart-warming.


No, I didn't knit these myself. They're from
the Firefly Farm shop. Deb blogs at
These are the absolute best knit dishcloths
on the planet! I'll send you 2!
(no, vintage sugar canister not included!!)


A sweet little quail egg nest.
No, it's not real. It's from a favorite
gift shop in town, Satter's Creek.


The way I see it, this is the perfect package to get one of you sweet things through the last of the winter: hot tea to warm you up on a grey, drizzly day; delicious, sudsy soap for a long bath; a book to curl up with under a blanket; a bold shot of color to wake up your kitchen some morning when you wish you could see anything but grey out the window; and a little nest to remind you that spring truly will come . . . and soon!

Just leave a comment and tell me what you're most looking forward to about spring and I'll enter you! Winners announced on Monday, the 15th!!

And thank you to all of you for such a fun first year!