26 January 2018

I’m not a life in the fast lane kind of girl.  I NEED  to take life slowly, whether I do or not.   Rushing around “like a chicken with my head cut off” doesn’t do me or anyone else in my vicinity any good.  I forget things.  I lose things, my phone, my keys, my purse, my  mind.  I’m half-witted, half-assed, ALL a fluster.

Apparently, speed doesn’t only affect my mental state, it affects my physical state as well.  I NEED to move slowly, travel slowly.  Quick trips makes me sick, literally, and there is no other mode of transportation that gets me there quicker and makes me sicker than flight.

Every single time I fly the friendly skies, whether on a crop-duster or a jetliner, I become ill.  Mostly I get a headache, a dull ache that is cured with a Tylenol or two.   Often, however, these headaches turn into migraines–head-holding,  pulse-throbbing, light-flashing, jaw-locking, teeth-aching, neck-stiffening, vein-tingling searing pain migraines.  Down for a day, maybe two; exactly what you don’t need on a business trip or want on a vacation.

Then there are the digestive system disorders–the rumbly -tumbly types.   You know of which I speak.

Nausea is also a frequent malady, as a tag-a-long with a migraine or on its own,  rising up every once in a while to something more, but thankfully never on a plane.

Laryngitis, colds and flu, yes I’ve gotten those too, like the time I traveled to Australia, boarding with a voice and stepping off without one.  Nary a sound could pass my lips, NARY, none, zilch, zero.  First stop:  apothecary.  Second stop: bed.  It gave new meaning to the phrase “down under.”  Down for the count and under the weather.

Perhaps it isn’t the speed that gets to me but the altitude affecting my inner ear.  Perhaps it is merely my close proximity to a hundred or more passengers breathing in and out their germs into the cram-jammed confines of the cattle car cabin.  Or perhaps it is the recycled air system drying out my nose and throat and lowering my resistance to virus and bacteria.  Perhaps it is all of the above and SPEED.  Regardless, yesterday I flew, today I’m feeling sickly.









25 January 2018

South Compass Square


As I was traveling south today I thought about all of the places in the South that I had been, the American South, the Deep South.

Large cities like Atlanta, Georgia, Nashville, Tennessee,  Richmond, Virginia and Houston, Texas.

Small towns like Petal, Mississippi, Wetumpka, Alabama and Troutville, Virginia.

Once bustling but now abandoned territorial towns in the middle of nowhere-near-anywhere-else, like St. Stephens and Claiborne, Alabama.

Beach towns and river cities, resort destinations and backwoods retreats, the foothills, the mountains, the Delta, I’ve covered a lot of the South during the first 41 years of life.

But then I began to wonder, “Where is the farthest south I’ve ever travelled?”

Sydney Australia.  (Now that’s South!)

“In Europe?”


“In The Americas?”


I’ve been able to travel to quite a number of places in this big old wide world and I count myself lucky in this regard.  Of course, I’d like to travel to many more before I finally give up my ghost and retire to my hopefully heavenly home:  South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Costa Rica, Argentina, Japan, Korea, Scotland, Ireland, just to name a few and I have a list of many.

So where am I heading today?  Well, it isn’t out of the country and isn’t out of the South, although some may argue otherwise.  It is, however, some place that I have never been and the most southerly of the southern cities in the U.S. for me to visit to date.  The destination: Palm Beach, Florida and the PGA National Resort and Spa.

palm beach

I may not have much of an opportunity to leave the resort grounds during my stay, OH WOE IS ME, but I do hope to get a taste of the local cuisine while I’m there, do a bit of people watching to see how the 1% live, enjoy an evening with my husband in a FANCY dress and visit new friends.  Heck, I might even get to glimpse the President if he’s Mar-A-Lago bound.  Hmmmm.

Wheels up!


20 January 2018

Another week, another soup, in honor of National Soup Month.

This week’s soup, French Onion, was inspired by and made for a friend of mine who purchased a bag of onions a few weeks back with the intent of making this soup for herself.  Alas, she never quite got around to it.  So with her onions sprouting in a colander on her counter, I offered to make it for her.  She obliged with one condition, that I make enough to feed my family too.

Yes Maam!

French Onion Soup is a labor of love.  Although made with the simplest ingredients, a complex taste results BUT only if you cook it low and slow.  Like a relationship it requires patience, time and attention.  And like a relationship, with patience, time and attention it  turns into something rich and wonderful. The acrid becomes sweet, the sweet becomes full-filling.

This is a recipe that is perfectly suited to the winter when the larder is bereft of fresh vegetables and all that’s left is the long-lived onion, the lowest of the lot.  Despite its mean base this scrumptious soup is often reserved for special occasions, Valentine’s Day especially.  But don’t save it for a special day, make it a special day by serving this soup, sharing it with friends and family.



French Onion Soup for a Friend


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of large yellow onions, halved and sliced into half circles
  • 3 large finely chopped garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 quarts beef stock (I make mine with beef bouillon and water)
  • 1/4 cup cognac (a rich red wine or sherry will do in a pinch)
  • Your favorite hearty bread, sliced
  • Shredded Gruyere, mozzarella or provolone cheese


  1. Heat the butter and oil together in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions (It is going to look like A LOT at first, but I promise you they cook down.) and cook, COVERED, for ten to twelve minutes,  stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and cook, UNCOVERED, for approximately one half hour or until the onions turn a deep, golden brown; stirring occasionally at first and then  more frequently as the onions begin to color, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan as the onions begin to caramelize.
  5. Sprinkle with flour and stir to blend.
  6. Stir in the white wine and bubble for 1 minute.
  7. Pour in the beef stock, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the saucepan and stirring well to combine.
  8. Reduce the heat to low, add the red wine or brandy and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  10. Slice your favorite hearty bread to fit your bowls and top with  shredded cheese.
  11. Toast your bread for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  12. Place a piece of cheese toast in the bottom of each bowl, ladle in hot soup and serve.
  13. Share.




18 January 2018

The weather has passed, the ice has thawed, the snow has mostly melted, and we have crawled out of our hermit holes and resumed daily life.  While we are sad to say goodbye to the diminishing white, we are happy to be able to move about in the wide world once again.

Where did we go?

The Huntsville Museum of Art.

My children love creating.  Drawing, coloring, painting, sculpting, beading, sewing, taping, gluing, cutting…you name it, they do it.  Perhaps they get this proclivity from me, the source of most of their good and bad habits, because seeing is generally doing and they SEE ME DOING A LOT!  It could be that they are biologically inclined to pursue arts and crafts, their bloodlines infused with artsy inclinations from painter- ancestors like Julian Onderdonk. More likely, they simply relish the opportunity to “get out of their own heads” for a while; escape all of the studies that focus solely on abstract thought in isolation of the body, and actually engage their hands in the manipulation of the physical.  I know  I do.   Regardless of the why, they are interested in art of all types.

During the holidays, therefore, I signed both of the children up for a six-week course in building and sculpting in clay at the museum.  They’ve done a bit of this before with our beloved Mona Dunson, art teacher extraordinaire from a few years back under whose devoted guidance they were introduced to all kinds of media:  yarn, paint, pastels, plastic, cardboard, wood, canvas, cloth, and even clay.

These were the children’s pinch pot creations back then.

Today was the first day of the course.  Beginning with a tour of the museum’s current exhibits, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera and Cut Up/Cut Out, the children and I were shown some incredible art and given a peak into the sometimes extensive creative processes behind its production.  Brimming with fresh ideas and fresh inspiration, the molding and shaping of their own lumps of clay began.

In a few weeks, I’ll be able to see what their hands produce and what their minds imagine.  I can’t wait.


17 January 2018

Snow Day, Part Two.

“Real” school has been cancelled for today, so our snow day continues despite the lack of fresh snow.  It is cold, FREEZING COLD, and now ice is the concern.  So before we delve into next week’s school work, we are enjoying another day of homebound rest.

In the South, we prepare for imminent danger by stockpiling the essentials.  For hurricanes, we buy bottles of water, bread, and canned goods that can be opened and heated on the grill once the electricity goes out.  For wintry weather, we add milk to the list.  Honestly, I don’t know why and I don’t think anyone else does either, but it IS a requisite.

Since I have a stash of extra milk in the refrigerator and a couple of wind-flushed, numb-limbed icicles masquerading as children in need of warming on my hands, the day calls for a mug of Hot Cocoa–the slowly-heated on the stove kind courtesy of Hershey’s, not the kind I mostly grew up with, the minute-microwave powder variety produced by Swiss Miss or Carnation, made with water not milk.  Hmmmm.   Sometimes it had little dehydrated marshmallows in it.  Sometimes it did not.  As a kid it didn’t matter, it was good either way, but then again I was a child of the 1980’s when most anything good started with a powder: Tang, Nestle’s Quik, Ovaltine just to name a few.

The first homemade Hot Chocolate I remember having was made by Mrs. Voncille, my sisters’ and my last afternoon, summertime, and almost every other time caretaker.  It was wonderful, rich, creamy, chocolatey, calorie-laden, smooth without all the pesky undissolved clumps one can never quite stir away when using packaged powders.  It was a true treat and a memory-maker, albeit the only memory retained by my middle-aged mind is the fact of the beverage not the occasion.

These days I don’t use powders and I don’t use Mrs. Von’s recipe, although I really should get it from her.  Instead, sometime along the years I came across the Favorite Hot Cocoa recipe on the Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa container, made it, and never  used another.    It’s so much better than a powder, reminiscent of Mrs. Von’s and easy-peasy to make, as long as you don’t mind stirring.   Plus, it has the added convenience of being printed right on the package, thus never getting lost in the recipe book, box or, in my case, manila folder.

Hot Cocoa Cat2


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups milk (I use 5 cups of whole milk)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in saucepan; stir in water.
  2. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; boil and stir two minutes.
  3. Stir in milk and heat.  DO NOT BOIL.
  4. Remove from heat, add vanilla.
  5. Serve hot in your favorite cup, topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate shavings, peppermint sprinkles or whatever tickles your fancy.  Drink immediately.


16 January 2018

Well it is official.  Today is a snow day.  A day to bundle up with hats, mittens and scarves, to play in the snow, to sled down a hill and to build a snowman.  It is also a day to cozy up indoors, read a book, watch the weather drifting down, sit by a fire, and warm up one’s frozen insides with a mug of hot cocoa.

On Friday last, we had experienced a few flakes of the fluffy stuff, and although the rest of the city had shut down, including the schools, my kiddos were not very happy.  Yes, they were excited to see the falling snow, but because they attend a homeschool hybrid, only attending a “real” school two days a week, they didn’t feel like they had the day off as homeschool homework continues even when the rest of the world shutters its doors.

In this regard, today is no different, but being the day before their “real” school is back in session and with most of the week’s work completed, the kids took advantage of the wintry weather with the other neighborhood children, who rarely come out to play, but who were also lured out of doors by the snowfall and slightly more than meager accumulation.

In Alabama, we natives, especially those of us who originated down near the coast, are taught to appreciate a snowy day.  It is a rarity, a gift, and a terrible dangerous bit of wintry weather that shouldn’t be trifled with.   No matter how little the accumulation, it is not a day to brave the roads or engage in the normal work-a-day routine, it is a day to remain near hearth and home.  With plenty of bread, milk, coffee and booze on hand from the previous day’s run on the store, it is a time to hunker down.

So if the snow is falling where you are today, take advantage of it.  Enjoy a day away from the hustle and bustle of normal life and revel in the home-spun activities that only a good dusting can bring.  And when the dusk closes in and the days adventures are done, gather together warm indoors and give thanks for a snow day.



12 January 2018

I didn’t read nearly as many “adult” books as I had planned to in 2017.  In fact, I didn’t even come close.  It wasn’t that my goal was particularly high, it was simply that I wasn’t as motivated to read books for myself.  Bedtime Story Time books were pretty much all I could muster the energy for.

This year, to get my own reading back on track, I decided to do something different: join a reading challenge.  After looking at several options, I joined the challenge sponsored by Modern Mrs. Darcy.For the month of January, I chose to read a book in the ninth category, a book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller, in my case the latter.  Although, it wasn’t recommended by a PARTICULAR Indie bookseller personally known to me, I figure it still fits the bill, because I discovered it on www.indiebound.org, an online community of independent and local bookstores.   The book: Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days. 

Stock Photo

Stock photo of the cover of Christmas Days as found on http://www.indiebound.org.

In the weeks before Christmas I was looking for a few recently-published Christmas-inspired books to include in some of my family gifts. As usual I started my search at Indiebound, formerly Book Sense, which has been my go to for recently-published books for over a decade.  Of course, I found more than a few that fit the criteria, including Twelve Days, which I purchased for myself.

As I’m still reading Twelve Days, I’ll simply refer you here to the information, the book’s description and the National Public Radio author interview, that lured me into personal purchase during the season of gifts, rather than writing a half-read review.  But I will share that it was mostly the recipes and the author’s remembrances surrounding them that made me want to read, because as is probably evident,  I’m a sucker for meal-bound memoirs, my own and others.

To end, I’ll simply say, if you are looking for a reading challenge that isn’t limited to a particular genre, that doesn’t dictate what you read, or that isn’t based on silly criteria like the color of the binding, then check out Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge.  AND, if you aren’t familiar with Indiebound, I sincerely recommend that you spend some time perusing their January 2018 Indie Next List recommendations and their archived lists dating back to July 2008, and if you can shop independent.  AND, if you would like to share what you are currently reading, then I would love to hear it, because I am always looking for the Next great read.


11 January 2018


As I mentioned here last week, January is National Soup Month.  So in continuing celebration I am posting another of my favorite soup recipes.  This time Chicken Noodle.

Chicken Noodle is my oldest and arguably still my most favorite kind of soup.  Although I grew up on the heat-and-serve variety in a Campbell’s can, these days I often make my own, from scratch.  This week, with the winter wind bearing down and the possibility of  at least a few flakes of snow, I decided that the frosty forecast called for a warm steaming bowl of noodle soup.

The recipe I use is one I’ve used for at least the past ten years.  Back in the day, Southern Living, the iconic monthly magazine and sacred purveyor of Southern life, had an at-home-party business called Southern Living at Home.  Women, and probably a few men, became SLH “consultants” and encouraged their friends and acquaintances to host a party where the merchandise was displayed and most often than not purchased, because if Southern Living had its name on a product you knew you had to have it.

While living in Kansas, I hosted one such party, and much to the chagrin of my husband purchased more than a few home goods we didn’t need.  As a hostess gift, I received a cookbook, Everyday Menus.  Unlike most of the goods I purchased that day and at subsequent parties that I attended, I still have that cookbook and I still use it, which gets us back to the recipe for noodle soup.

Except for occasionally deleting parsnips, that are for some reason always hard for me to find, this is a recipe I follow exactly.  It is great as is.  Quick and flavorful it is the perfect winter night warm-me-up, especially when paired with that oh-so-Southern mealtime staple of cornbread


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (3, if you can’t find parsnips)
  • 2 medium parsnips, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large celery rib, chopped (2, if you can’t find parsnips)
  • 4 skinned and boned chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups chicken broth (I use 5 bouillon cubes and 5 cups of water)
  • 4 ounces uncooked wide egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (1 teaspoon of dried parsley can be substituted if fresh parsley is hard to come by)


  1. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add carrots and next three ingredients; sauté five minutes.
  3. Add chicken and sauté five minutes.
  4. Add flour and pepper (dried parsley too if substituting for fresh), stirring until blended. Cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add broth; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Add noodles; return to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, ten minutes.
  7. Stir in fresh parsley.
  8. Serve and Enjoy!


10 January 2018

Today’s Wednesday Word is snoozer.

snooze, as you probably already know, is any light, short nap generally taken during the daytime.  Likewise, a snoozer is any person who has the luxury of taking and/or the wherewithal to claim a period of daylight repose.  And while today’s word is about napping and nappers, I grew up with a slightly different variant of the word.

snoozer is what my maternal grandmother, Marie, called the mid-afternoon nap.  It was never just a plain “nap.”   She didn’t doze, she didn’t catnap, she TOOK a snoozer.  

My grandmother’s snoozers mostly occurred in the afternoon after the daily installment of the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, because the Good Lord knows we had to keep up with that red-headed firebrand Sally Spectra.  And mostly they took place in her recliner, the one on the right, although on occasion she retreated to her bedroom.

I don’t know if she ever went a day without one, and if she did I can assure you it was not by choice.  She was dedicated in that way.  Perhaps it was a holdover from her younger days spent in the fields of South Alabama when one needed a bit of rest from the early mornings and hard labor before the afternoon and evening chores began.  Maybe, it was because lunch (which she called dinner) was usually the largest meal of her day, and being “full as a tick” she needed a bit of time to recover from the heaviness and lethargy of a carb-packed meal.  Possibly, she just liked to rest and felt invigorated by it.

Of course, like most children, I hated snoozing and snoozers (the thing not the person), and generally required much shushing, a bit of bribery and a fair amount of holding onto.  Nowadays, I relish the idea of an afternoon snoozer, that beautiful mirage of rest and refreshment to the world-wearied mind, but alas, the chance of that happening is slim.  And even on the rare occasion when it does happen, I find myself wishing I hadn’t indulged, because apparently I’m not a snoozer (the person not the thing), feeling groggy and disconnected for the rest of the day.  (There is a word for this:  sleep inertia.)

Today, however, I actually took a snoozer.  Not on purpose, but because I nodded off while sitting idly.  Not long, just thirty minutes or so, but long enough to make me wish I could go crawl in bed instead of tend to the children and to get a crick in my neck.  Yet, it made me think of my grandmother and snoozers and also a good cup of coffee, because the Good Lord knows I’m going to need it to get through the next few hours.






8 November 2017

My first cousin Casey taught me how to cross stitch back in the 1980s.

CaseyClose Up Casey was intelligent, musical, crafty, horsey, popular, and an all-American blonde-haired, blue-eyed teen beauty, a Lady Diana.  When I was a child, I  wanted to be just like her when I grew up, or at least grew into “teen hood” and so I shadowed her, interests and all.

Casey sketched and I did too.  Casey rode English and I followed suit.   Casey went to a Women’s College, so did I.  Casey stitched.  I stitched.  She was the best role model a girl could have: good-natured, well-mannered, patient, unflappable and kind.

Unfortunately, as the years passed most of the interests I cultivated in mimic of my cousin fell by the wayside as adulthood and its demands, pressures  and responsibilities took hold.  I sold my horse, I rarely drew and I stitched less and less, until there came a time when I  just didn’t stitch at all.  Yes, I had enjoyed all of the activities,  I just no longer made time for them.

Fast forward a few years shy of a decade.

In November-ish, I believe, I  “happen-chanced” on a blog called The Amateur Librarian, which regularly features updates of the author’s cross stitching works-in-progress.  Inspired by her posts, I broke out the dusty bin of cross stitch materials, old cross stitch books, and leftover ornament kits and decided to stitch a bit.  I started small, a few partly-finished Christmas ornaments and a few specially selected by my daughter.


I don’t see my cousin Casey much anymore, perhaps once or twice a year, but I think of her often.  I don’t know if she still cross stitches, or, if like me, its a pursuit she just hasn’t pursued in a while.  Perhaps, it was just a passing fad.  Regardless, I’m glad she did way back when and that she took the time to show me how.