31 March 2016

SALSA DANCING ON THE DECK





This morning after my chores and getting Sweet Husband off to the gym, I sat down out on the back porch with my lap-top to check out the blogs and other detritus which had piled up in my email overnight.  We had heavy rains all night, and SH had washed the porch just a couple of days ago.  I had high hopes of being able to enjoy some quiet porch time free of power saws or lawn crews since it was now so wet outside.  The rain had only slowed just a few minutes before, so I was also hoping for some relatively pollen-free air for an hour or so.

The quiet was blissful, the air smelled  Spring cleaned, and only a light layer of pollen had accumulated in the last two days on the tabletops.  I finished checking through the email, set the laptop aside and opened my book.  More on this book later -- but I was sniffling through the last fifty pages over all the promising young men so needlessly sacrificed to the egos of haughty old men-in-charge of yet another useless war, alternately smiling, too, because a love story was working out after all, when my trance was abruptly interrupted by a loud hollering.

I looked up, startled.  Across the fence at the house where those yahoos cut down all the trees three years ago, a young Hispanic woman was singing at the top of her lungs with an unseen iPod and salsa dancing two big green garbage bags across the deck!  Then she danced her way down the deck stairs singing her head off, then having deposited the bags in the can with loud clangs of the lids, back up the stairs she danced, and then back and forth across the deck.  She, too, was obviously reveling in the rain-fresh clean air of a late Spring morning just as I was.

She continued to sing in Spanish at the top of her lungs, every so often making that trilling noise with the tongue which I don’t know how to label or describe, punctuated with yips, but I hope you understand what I mean even though my vocabulary is limited here, shaking that ample booty, making circles in the air all the while with her pointing fingers on each hand.  She salsa’d to the left, then she salsa’d to the right, and she shook that booty some more, totally oblivious to her unseen audience of one.  

I couldn’t help grinning from ear to ear at her contagious joie-de-vivre.  You know, I thought to myself, if you have to be a maid, by God this is the way to approach it.  'Whistle while you work,' as those seven dwarfs sang in “Snow White.”   She certainly had the best attitude of any housecleaner I ever saw!  

I have known other people who have made the best of menial jobs, approaching them with a happy spirit, refusing to be dragged down by their life situation, maybe one over which they had absolutely no control.  However, this morning this young woman affirmed the newness of the season, the eternal hope that Spring always brings that life can be joyful in spite of one’s station in life.  





29 March 2016

THE LATEST PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT AND INNER PEACE



Just when I think I have heard everything that is just plain silly in the world of blogging where everyone jumps on the latest questionable bandwagon, here’s a new one.  There has been a book making the rounds for a year or so about organizing yourself into oblivion by getting rid of most of what you own.  Written by a Japanese person, this school of thought is supposed to bring you enlightenment and inner peace, as well as transcendence into a higher plane.  Or some such nonsense...

At any rate, I haven’t read it, and now there is another by the same writer which I haven’t read either, a followup, about how everything in your arsenal is supposed to Spark Joy in your soul.  If it doesn’t, you are supposed to just toss it.  I have been thinking for a while now that all this is just plain silly.  Now I have been validated.  There is an article in the current issue of TIME magazine by Kristin van Ogtrop which reinforces my suspicions:  this whole concept is just plain stupid.  Perhaps it is a global conspiracy to boost the economy in the long run.  Throw away your hammer because it does not bring you joy and bang in a nail with your skillet?  Because the skillet brings you joy and the hammer doesn’t?

PUH-LEESE -- give me a break.  

 Let’s back up.  I am an admitted packrat.  Not a hoarder, but I do like my stuff, and I do admit to setting things aside, in an organized fashion, I might add, because “I might need it sometime.”  This is a Thompson family trait I inherited from my father.  I very often repurpose things that I squirrel away, and it saves me from going out and buying something else.  

Personally, I think it is crazy to willy-nilly throw out perfectly good things, when the reality is that in the foreseeable future you will have to go out and buy the same item again so you can get a job done.  Just plain dumb.  I am all for donating excess items you really don’t need and don’t use to a charity so that someone can get some good out of it.  But throwing out something functional like a screwdriver because it does not spark joy?  Then trying to put in a screw with a ruler???  Really, what kind of alternate universe are you living in?

A couple of days ago, I read a post by a respected design blogger about how she had read these books and they changed her life.  She has proceeded to go through her things, get rid of most them, and now she is simply euphoric.  Here’s the thing:  she can also go out and replace anything she wants should the need arise.  Not everyone can.  

When I was a young newlywed back in the Stone Age, my MIL (at the time) said to me repeatedly, “You will never have anything if you don’t take care of what you have.”  The decades have proved her very wise.  I realize that was Depression-era thinking, but all things considered, it is still true today.  

Just my humble opinion.  (from an admittedly somewhat messy clutter-bug)

Cheers!









28 March 2016

EASTER DINNER



I do hope you all had a lovely Easter yesterday.  Ours was really wet and dreary, but I didn’t really mind at all.  Not that it would have mattered a whit if I had, I suppose...

I read my book a great deal of the day, and I finished up dinner right after breakfast because I had done a lot of the prep work yesterday.  While I was lost in the adventures of a small village in Sussex in THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR, (WWI) by Helen Simonson, the leg of lamb roasted while I savored the aromas.  I have to tell you -- I think this was the best lamb I have had in a long, long time.  The last two times I bought a leg at Costco, it had a very gamey taste, although the little lamb chops from there are very good.
I got this one at Sprouts a couple of days before, and it was already deboned, as I prefer.  I used the Julia Child method of rubbing (or more like massaging) the lamb with olive oil, Dijon mustard, 6 cloves of chopped garlic, the leaves of several sprigs of fresh rosemary and a whole lot of sea salt and cracked pepper.  The reason I like for it to be deboned, aside from the obvious ease of slicing, is that you can work this rubbing mixture down into the center of these bigger muscles where the bone was.  I then dry roasted it in a deep ceramic dish at 325 degrees.  This piece of meat was 2.65 pounds, and I roasted it for about two and a half hours.  (I do not like my lamb rare.  If you do, shorten the roasting time.  It was very juicy so it was not overcooked.)  It rested for a while covered in foil while  I cranked up the heat and roasted the cauliflower and asparagus.  Note to self:  start the cauliflower first next time.  The asparagus doesn’t take as long.

We also had potato salad and deviled eggs, along with some little heirloom tomatoes.  


Dessert was a riff on the traditional Strawberry Shortcake, only the cake was the lemon bunny cakes I had made a few days ago.  I whipped real creme with a little bit of sugar and a couple of  tablespoons of dark rum.  I used about a half cup of sugar in the quart of strawberries when I hulled and cut them up. You could adjust this to your own taste.  

There was some good TV last night, too.  Aren’t you glad Alicia Florick finally asked her RAT of a husband for a divorce?  Could you just faint over Jeffrey Dean Morgan?  And I really love that feisty little Madam Secretary, too.  She doesn’t let anybody get the best of her!   She always pulls the U.S. back from the brink of disaster each week.  And Sherlock finally has a girlfriend.  

My son called me -- have I told you he is moving to China soon?  He has promised to come visit on Mother's Day weekend.

So all things considered, it was a very nice Easter.  

















24 March 2016

RAINY MAUNDY THURSDAY




Peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips and pecans - Yummo!
There was butter everywhere!



It is raining outside, as it has been most of the day.  You know where I like to be on days like this:  in my kitchen.  There is not much on TV except the godawful attacks in Belgium two days ago, so I was quite grateful that our satellite conked out that same afternoon.  Yesterday, the Direct TV guy showed up, and fixed it all.  We had another situation of a bobble-head satellite dish.  Second time.  We now have something called Genie boxes, too, although I don’t know that I was necessarily dreaming of Genie.  I might have been if I had known what it can do.


Now there is capability to watch my recorded shows anywhere in the house, not just on one TV.  While I have concocted cakes and cookies today as it rained outside, I caught up with Fixer Upper.  The picture is so bright now on the kitchen TV!  Of course, it may just be my newly improved eyes.  On Tuesday morning, I had a laser procedure on my left eye to get rid of a cloudy membrane which sometimes forms behind the implanted lens after a cataract surgery which was nearly three years ago.  Now I see better, and things are generally lighter and brighter.  I still can’t see print out of my left eye clearly, but that is supposed to get better.
Spooner!
While the cakes baked, I polished my new find from my recent trip to Fairhope.  I bought a silver spooner at Antiques and Uniques, the same place I found my dining room chairs, because I have admired them in the homes of other bloggers who collect silver for years.  


This one is a sugar bowl with docks for 12 spoons.  I did not know how well it would polish up, but it looks better than I thought it might.  It was quite tarnished.
There is a place on one side of the lid where the silver has come off.  The backstamp says Oneida Silver Quadraplate.  I presume that means plated four times?  I am on the fence about getting this replated.
I am not an expert, so any of you who know more about this than I do, please weigh in and enlighten me.  
I got out 12 teaspoons from my Granny Jones’ set of silverplate which are also Rogers.  (One spoon is missing from the set - I knew there was a salad fork missing, but I wonder what happened to the spoon?)  I couldn’t get spoons into a few of the hooks, so I got out my trusty needlenose pliers to spread them slightly.  Naturally, I managed to break one.  I see a soldering gun in my future.  

At any rate, I think the spooner is pretty.  I don’t know if it will ever do more than grace the surface of a cabinet in the dining room, but you never know.
I have made two batches of bunny cakes today.  One batch is just a yellow cake with Butterfinger bits, and there was enough batter to get twleve cupcakes, too.  These all need a chocolate frosting.
I also made six lemon bunny cakes again.  They are waiting to be glazed, but I think I forgot to snap them.  They went into the freezer.  Two of them will be served with strawberries and whipped creme for Easter dessert.

Drat!  These don't look like bunnies any more!
Just big chocolate blobs!
Fiddle-dee-dee!


Long ago, when I used to make all my own bread, I always made hot cross buns on Good Friday and Greek Easter bread for Easter Sunday.  It has been a long time since I had a family to cook for, and now I don’t usually go to such lengths.  Most of these cakes will go to the neighbors.  

The new issue of Southern Living arrived in today’s mail, so I am off to read Rick Bragg’s column this month, Spirit of the Mockingbird.  (It did not disappoint.)


We have to have our tea -- decaf in the green, regular in the red

This is what I have used twice for the lemon bunny cakes.  I use butter and buttermilk plus lemon extract and lemon juice in the glaze.   We'll get to these on Easter.

They are quite tasty!




22 March 2016

THE INNOCENT

There we all were, total strangers in an elevator, in a building in downtown Birmingham, the eye hospital in the UAB medical complex.  Already on the elevator when we got on were an attractive, slender young African-American woman in bright yellow pants, holding the hand of her little boy with golden-toast curls, about 14 or 15 months old.  As the car stopped at each floor and more people boarded, this little fellow was so fascinated with each and every one of us, his beautiful eyes open and friendly, not knowing a stranger among us, just seeing people he didn’t know, his curiosity naturally peaked.  His smile was infectious, and of course we were all were smiling back, and exclaiming how cute he was.  

He was wearing a cover-all type of knit one-piece suit with a sports number on the left shoulder in the colors of UAB.  He checked us all out each in turn, smiling, showing us his pretty new teeth.  When we reached their floor, all of us total strangers, called out in unison,  “Bye-bye!”   

He answered looking over his shoulder, loud and clear, smiling cheerful as a little bird, “BYE-BYE!”  Off he went on his merry little way, holding the hand of his Mama.  

We all remarked once again how cute he was, how he didn’t know a stranger.  As we each exited the elevator at our various stops, we all said “Goodbye!” or “Have a great day!” like old friends.  

I thought about it all the way to  lunch, during lunch, and now while writing it down:  what is it about an adorable innocent little moppet, trusting in the whole wide world which is his oyster at this point in his life, which can bring an elevator full of adult strangers from all walks of life, together in a single instant of joy, crossing all color and socioeconomic lines as though they do not exist?  
This moment in time was a gift, especially after the terrible news this morning about the terrorist attacks in Belgium.  






21 March 2016

BREAK'S OVER



Sometimes you just need a break, you know?  We ran off to Fairhope, and when we got back, there have been “things” to deal with.  Some of those things have to do with our house and some with our lives.  Not to get too serious here, let’s  talk about the house today. 
The armoire is finally painted!

There is a new cover on the kitchen lounging sofa



Real life going on here...

glad to see the sun

A while ago, I bought this quilt and shams at HG, thinking I would possibly try to make a slip cover for our kitchen sofa.  I seem to be less than motivated these days, so I just got it out and did the drapey/tuckey thing.  I can live with it.  It looks like Spring to me, almost an exact match for the chairs and the walls.





Spring took a nosedive, or at least the temps did, and although everything is greening up and blooming, let’s just say  -- I am glad I didn’t pack up the sweaters just yet.  




A little Easter on the shelf






and a bunny or two landed in the LR


and in the foyer




Now I have to recoat the floor with some fresh white paint, but that’s OK.




The red/creme striped wool rug in the breakfast room went away.  You may remember it.  I bought it on one of those mail-order sites like J&M or Wayfair or something, and the blooming thing will not stay smooth in spite of a rug pad.  So it went bye-bye (and I will sell it to you for a wonderful price if you would like to buy it).  As long as chairs are not being slid back and forth over it all the time, it would be fine.  Not so fine under the kitchen table!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a little vintage piece of artwork I ordered on Etsy from a sweet lady in England.  I had it put into an old frame that my father had had a piece put into years ago.  Unfortunately the matte was cut incorrectly, so I still can’t show you that.  Another week or so, they said...




I have done the outside of the armoire, finally, so here it is in all it’s glory.  I have not done the inside yet because we are shopping for and pricing flooring, and when this sucker gets unloaded to do that, then I will finish up the inside.  Meantime, there is too much cwap in there to unload it twice!  This process was fairly easy, just a little time consuming.  I used ASCP Old White, two coats, then craft paint in two shades of green for the grooves.  I sealed it with two coats of satin poly mixed with some more Old White, which kind of works like a glaze, and toned down the green somewhat.  




Next time I will share a little goody I found in Fairhope.  I have to polish it first, and I am not sure if it is just tarnished or beyond help.










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