Category Archives: At Home

My Coffeepot is in the Bathroom

My pots and pans are in boxes spread between the dining room and den. My dishwasher is in the middle of the floor in the “eat in” part of the kitchen. The microwave is in the laundry room. The only thing I can put my finger on without any hesitation is my Bota Box of pinot grigio–that’s on the kitchen table next to some unidentifiable pipes and plumbing fixtures.

We’re remodeling the kitchen.

It’s something we’ve been talking about doing ever since we moved to this house about 10 years ago. At first we were just going to replace the counters, sink and stove. That grew to include cabinets as well. When it’s all done, it will be wonderful, but for now, we’re camping out in our own home.

Have you ever done this? If so, give me some tips.

I’m about the farthest thing you can find from an A type personality, but these people are driving me crazy. They either don’t show up at all, or when you least expect it. Yesterday the guy came to measure for the granite just as I was leaving for work. Five minutes later and I would’ve missed him completely–and who knows how much of a setback that would’ve been.

The cabinet guy started working Wednesday. I was under the impression that the cabinets were mostly already assembled and just had to be nailed into place. Instead, my front yard is a wood-working shop complete with power tools and an air compressor. So far he’s nailed wood over the a/c vent, created a new space for the dishwasher (but neglected to drill holes or leave room for the needed pipes) and one electrical outlet is missing.

(Fast forward a few days.)

After a week without a kitchen we’re still…without a kitchen. But we’re getting closer. The cabinets are done and they’re great. The granite is 90% done–it’ll be finished tomorrow. There’s a plumber here now hooking up the dishwasher and putting in the new kitchen faucet and the disposal. He’ll also install the microwave.

The old oven is being hauled away by Habitat for Humanity tomorrow, but the new one can’t be delivered until Monday. So something I bought Memorial Day won’t be used until after July 4th. There’s still tile work above the counters to be scheduled. But, with any luck, tomorrow will be the last day for this:

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Tennessee Walking Horses

Tennessee Walking Horses have always been part of the fabric of life in Franklin. When I was growing up, horses were all around. And not just walkers, but hunter/jumpers, draft horses and ponies of all varieties were common sights. My aunt had two walking horses–Beulah and Polly. She’d breed them once a year to one of the local studs and the money she got from selling the foals always came in handy.

One of the most famous walking worse barns in the world was just a few blocks from the square. Harlinsdale Farm was home to Midnight Sun, a legendary horse and quite literally the foundation bloodline for most champions today. From a website about the horse:

He was the first stallion to become world champion of his kind.  That was in 1945 and 1946 at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration at Shelbyville, Tennessee.   Then he sired horses that were grand champions there seven times; grand-sired the supreme winner five times;  and was the great-grandsire of nearly EVERY year’s champion since that time. On only FOUR occasions since 1949,  have horses NOT descended from Midnight Sun, in a straight male line, been world champions of this breed.

Walking Horses were first bred by Southern planters looking for an easy-going horse with enough stamina to cover large tracts of land in a day. Variations with pacers, thoroughbred and Morgans eventually led to the breed we know today. The prized gait of the walking horse is its running walk. Here’s Midnight Sun several decades ago performing the gait that made him champion. Notice how his head bobs and how the rider doesn’t even move–he’s just gliding along.

Over the years, the running walk became more and more prized and more and more outlandish. It’s known as the “Big Lick” and truly, the bigger the better. Bigger prize money. Bigger stud fees.

And, unfortunately, a bigger temptation to abuse these animals. In past couple of weeks, a video has surfaced of a top trainer abusing his horses. Harsh chemicals are put on their feet to make them lift their legs higher. Weighted shoes and chains add to the pain. Even sadder, the horses are beaten when they can’t even stand.

I hope that once and for all the abusers are disgraced. It’s easy to say that everyone connected with walking horses is part of the problem, but I just don’t believe that. I’ve been at the shows and I’ve been in the barns.

As a lifelong horse-lover, and someone who grew up around Tennessee Walking Horses, this abuse makes sick and sad. Because you want to know what else walkers are known for other than their stamina and naturally flashy gait–they’re known for their sweet temperaments.

Like all gentle souls, they’re easily taken advantage of.

 

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Slice of Life

We had a fancy dinner party last night. Lots of silver, crystal and china. Linen on the table. Fully stocked bar. Fussy (but delicious) little canapes. Lots of wine followed by tawny port.

About two hours before the guests arrived I was peeling potatoes. Midway through the second one I managed to peel off part of the nail of the little finger of my right hand. I would like to say that the blood spurted across the room, decorating the shiny fridge with artful splatter.

But instead it just welled up and out in a steady stream. For a couple of seconds I just looked at the blood dripping in the sink. I was hoping that there was just a bit of skin missing and not part of the nail. I held it under running water. It hurt like the devil and I was afraid to look.

You see, losing a nail is one of those things I’ve always dreaded. The thought of that exposed skin just makes my toes curl up under my feet. I have this image of exposed nerves just dangling there…waving in the breeze. Ready to latch onto whatever germ comes its way.

It didn’t stop bleeding for a while and I went through several bandages before my company came.

I managed to finish cooking. I was telling my guests about the mishap and explained that because of the accident their potatoes would be served with the skins.

“Whose skin?” one asked.

I’ll never tell.

 

 

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New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Peas

One New Year’s tradition in the South is eating black-eyed peas for good luck.

Many decades ago I vacationed in San Antonio with my parents and younger sister. Our family vacations were all about food. I remember going to New Orleans for upscale seafood–we dined at Antoine’s one evening with a family friend who had his own waiter there. The gulf coast was for shrimp. And Texas was for then-exotic Mexican food.

One night at the Little Rhein Steakhhouse in San Antonio we were served an amuse-bouche of black-eyed peas. The whole family loved them and they were the highlight of the night. After we returned to Franklin, my mother wrote to the steakhouse for the recipe.

They responded with the following:

5 lb dried black-eyed peas

1.5 gallons water

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1 lb butter

1/2 cup Lowery’s seasonall

2 1/2 tablespoon salt

3/4 tablespoon garlic

1 tablespoon pepper

Soak peas for two hours. Place in ovenproof dish with all other ingredients. Cook at 325  for 2 hours.

So–you probably don’t want to cook five pounds of peas. I cook one or two and cut the recipe accordingly. Be warned–sometimes two hours isn’t enough.And I add a country ham hock.

My parents used to make this for New Year’s–they’d have an open house-type party where people could come have a drink, some peas and watch some football. Cumin was a foreign commodity and had to be purchased in Nashville.

So–if you’re in the mood for a New Year’s good luck charm, try the black-eyed peas.

And best to you in 2012.

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Carol of the Bells

Most people I know go to church on Christmas Eve. Our tiny historic church has 3 services–each guaranteed to be overflowing. Instead of physically going to church on December 24, we listen to the Lessons and Carols broadcast by BBC from Kings College in Cambridge.

Tonight I took a walk around the neighborhood. “Carol of the Bells” by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir came on the iPod. I put it on repeat and listened for the entire walk. I don’t know the first thing about music, but I directed the choir on my walk. I’m sure my gesticulations would’ve made no sense to the choir, but they felt good to me.

A few days ago, an atheist friend told me that she was sorry that Christmas had been taken over by Christians. I had nothing to say to that.

Christmas morning is when we go to church. There’s not nearly as many people. Instead of tired children, everyone will be filled with the joy of the season. It’s a happy service.

Then we’ll make the family rounds…home by 3 or 4 to relax and read by the fire.

Merry Christmas to you all. Thanks for reading and best wishes for an extraordinary new year.

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The 2011 Kindle Reading List

I got my Kindle in September 2010. Since then, I’ve read more–and spent more on books–than in the previous  4 or 5 years put together.

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the electronic goodness–you see, it delivers instant gratification, via Whispernet, in mere seconds. I can sit in my favorite blue club chair by the window in the bedroom upstairs and have a new book at my fingertips in an instant.

This past year I’ve read best sellers and old favorites. My Kindle has been across the Atlantic twice–to England in January and to Switzerland in May. It will go to the Keys next month and to France in April.

What I realized tonight is that I have a perfect record of everything I’ve read in the last year. In case you’re wondering why I’ve been reading instead of blogging, just check out these books–they were all fabulous. This isn’t the complete list–I’ve left out the chick lit and mass market pablum.

1. Swamplandia–a mystical tale of alligator wrestling, faux Indians and Florida swamps.

2. A Season of Darkness–true crime story about a famous murder mystery in Nashville

3. All That Is Bitter and Sweet–Ashley Judd’s surprisingly moving memoir

4. Winter’s Bone–My work pal Seth and I often trade book recommendations. This tale of a family in the Ozarks was great.

5. Heidi–Downloaded this on a train in the Alps. What else could you read in Switzerland?

6. Eiger Dreams–Another Swiss inspired purchase. Jon Krackaeur is the master of real-life adventure stories. Please read Into This Air if you don’t believe me.

7. The Swinger–a thinly disguised story about the downfall of Tiger Woods by a Sports Illustrated reporter. Great fun.

8. In the Garden of Beasts–the only nonfiction. It’s about the U.S. ambassador in Berlin in the years leading up to WWII. It’s by Erik Larson who also wrote the terrific Devil in the White City about a murder during the Chicago World’s Fair a century ago.

9. The Women’s Room–an oldie I first read in college. Just one of those books that sticks with you.

10. The Hunger Games trilogy–I had been resisting these books for a couple of years, much like the Twilight offerings. But once I read the first one, I was completely hooked.  I loved all three–read them in two weeks.

11. English murder mysteries–I went on a little English murder mystery spree courtesy of G.M. Malliet. Personally, I think that heaven may just be an English village with a cozy pub at one end and a Norman church at the other.

12. Death Comes to Pemberly–P.D. James meets Jane Austen. The queen of English murder mysteries writes a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Love, love, love.

13. Rules of Civility–the story of a girl with no family connections and no money making her way through high society in New York in the last days of the Depression. A great read.

14. The Marriage Plot–I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything by Jeffrey Eugenidies.

So that’s my self-indulgent list. If you can only read one or two, please make it Swamplandia and Rules of Civility.

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Making the Dressing

For the past several years, I’ve had my family over for Thanksgiving. I love having Thanksgiving at my house. Thanksgiving is at the beginning of the eating, drinking, dressing up extravaganza known as “the holidays.” At Thanksgiving, people aren’t burned out with parties.

Expectations are still possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. But Christmas comes with lots of baggage–all wrapped up with bows and ribbons–but baggage, nonetheless.

I’ve been shopping for the big day for a while now. I thought I was done after my first grocery store visit today. But I forgot a couple of needed items and now I can say that my dinner came from 6 different purveyors of food and drink.

And I’m only making three items–the turkey, dressing and a green veg: asparagus with saffron aioli.

Which all brings me to tomorrow. It’s dressing day.

I love making dressing.

Not stuffing. I don’t put anything in my turkey except herbs, onion and lemon.

I make dressing.

Cornbread. Toasted white bread. Sausage. Sauteed onion and celery. Pecans. Chicken stock. Herbs.

People say they like it. I hope so.

I only make it once a year, but it’s my favorite thing to make, ever.

So on Thursday 17 people will gather at my house. They’ll bring green beans, squash, hummingbird cake and apple pie, cranberry salad, rolls and wine.

My sister is in charge of gravy and everyone will help along the way.

The table still needs to be set and the silver needs to be polished.

But first, I have to make the dressing.

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