Once a mom…

sleeping in chair

…always a mom. These two little critters are now 29 and 24. When I look at photos like this one I want to turn the clock back. Please? Just for a little while? What would I do differently? Nag more? Worry less? Check homework more often? Read more stories at bedtime? Feed them more vegetables? Make more of their favorite cookies?

I try not to second guess myself too much.  They have turned into amazing young men and I am very proud of them. They both graduated from Durham Academy, where I teach, an academically demanding school.  Each had to be in my French classes in the middle school, one for three years, the other for two. They were lifers, attending DA for 14 years each. They were very good athletes, balancing homework, practices and games. Both won awards and were team captains in their respective sports. One had to play basketball for his dad. Both graduated from college, one from Guilford College, the other from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Go Quakers. Go Vols. Son #1 played college basketball, the equivalent of working a demanding part-time job. He is now a dad (hence my previous posts about the joys of grandmotherhood). And a very good one. He is moving into a new job in his chosen field of school administration and teaching. He has brought EB into our life, my chance to finally have a daughter. Buddha dog is pretty cool, too. Son #2 is in law school and has successfully interned with a real estate law firm for the past year. He has moved twice since his Knoxville days, now settling into Charleston, SC, a city I plan to visit soon. He has a girlfriend and we are already quite fond of her and her sweet pup. They recently adopted a kitten they named Charlotte after the city where they met (Charlie for short).

These darlings aren’t perfect. Neither am I. Not by a long shot. We’ve laughed, cried, yelled, played hours of UNO, SkipBo, and now Cards Against Humanity games, eaten many, many breakfast-for-dinner meals, hugged, covered thousands of miles on family road trips to Nebraska, Québec, DC and to the NC mountains and beach, watched countless sporting events together whether on TV or in person, laughed at silly sitcoms and game shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway, learned to count in español with the Sesame Street gang, sung along with Barney while wearing Barney bedroom slippers, tried to figure out the ending to several seasons of CSI, watched Disney movies from the late ’80’s to the mid-2000’s, including The Little Mermaid about a million times, eaten more than our fair share of popsicles and bags of microwave popcorn, read every single Berenstain Bears book multiple times, built lego spaceships and castles… I could go on and on, but I risk making myself cry if I keep this up. Right now, the eyes are just a bit misty. I just hope that they know that I have done my best.  (Now, I am crying.)

Some favorite photos–

 

2009beach

Jakes grad 11

beach14

I love you, Son #1 and Son #2.  You are all I could ever have hoped for in the mom department.

Son #1’s Sausage and Brie Bites

Son #1 loves to make these at the beach and on our back deck. Buy whatever kind of sausage you like- we usually buy andouille. Cut it into bite-sized pieces (but not too small). Choose a good creamy French Brie cheese and leave it out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. We usually use Triscuit crackers for our feast. Fire up the grill. Cook the sausages, being careful not to lose any to the coals! Sprinkle with red pepper flakes or any other seasonings or sauces you like.  Voilà.  Let the party begin.

Son’s #2’s Shrimp and Grits with Sausage

peeling shrimp

Grits
1 c. grits
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 c. cheese (extra sharp white cheddar or Gouda)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Cayenne pepper, paprika, Tabasco, salt and pepper, to taste (usually better to start with small amounts, taste and adjust)

Cook grits according to instructions on package.  As grits are finishing, whisk in butter, cheeses and seasonings.  Cover and keep warm.

Shrimp
3 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil
2 c. sliced leeks
1/2 c. chopped shallots
3 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 lbs. 20-30 count shrimp
4-5 grilled andouille sausages, cut into bite-sized slices
1/2 dry white wine or vegetable stock
Chopped roma tomatoes, if desired
4-5 strips of bacon fried crisp
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish, if desired

This cooks very quickly.  Be sure to have everything ready and easy to reach before beginning.
Heat large skillet until hot.  Add olive oil and butter.  As oil begins to smoke, add leeks and shallots.  Sauté until translucent.  Toss in shrimp to cover bottom of pan.  Before stirring, add salt and pepper.  Stir until shrimp just begin to turn pink all over.  Let pan return to original hot temperature.  Stir in garlic and be careful not to burn it.  Add sausages.  Deglaze pan by adding wine or vegetable stock.  Stir for about 30 seconds or until everything is well-coated.  Add tomatoes, if using, and toss for about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

To serve:
Spoon grits on to plate.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture on top of grits.  Crumble bacon on top.   Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Bon appétit to all moms and sons. To all families in all shapes and sizes. Hug each other as often as possible.

 

Another trip around the sun

kenn&mejly26

It has been quite a year. And here is the best thing that happened during my 58th year on this earth.  The birth of this darling nugget. It snuck up on me. It wasn’t something that I gave a lot of thought to– after all, it wasn’t up to me! But what happiness my granddaughter has brought to my heart in the past five months. Oh, the places we will go and the things we will do, my Little Pumpkin.

The rest of the year in numbers. In no particular order (that would take too much organization on my part):

2 Brad Paisley concerts, thanks to the BFF and her Boss, pit passes no less.

3 Wine and Design classes, with friends, colleagues, and students.

3 trips to the mountains.  Boone, Brevard, Blowing Rock, Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Spruce Pine.

Too many macarons to count. Made by me, my students, local bakeries, bakers in Paris.

 

1 visit to the grotto of St. Bernadette near Linville, NC to pray for Mama Mildred’s health.

stbernadette

1 hug from Buddy Melton during intermission at a Balsam Range concert in Cary with Arles Lucy. I kind of snuck up on him during intermission. To quote Childhood Friend, who plays guitar, “Damn fiddlers get all the hot girls…” Flattery.

If you are interested, here is their latest video for “Something ‘Bout That Suitcase” one of my favorites from the Mountain Voodoo CD.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/225107197″>Something 'Bout That Suitcase &ndash;Dedication to Fans</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user4482073″>Mark Skoultchi</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

2 trips to France with ACIS. January and March. On the new non-stop flight from RDU-CDG. I love this, Delta.  Please, please, please keep it around.

ET1

1 dinner at La Tour Eiffel 58.

2 visits with Vincent at le Musée d’Orsay.

2 Duke football games. I didn’t bring them luck.  They lost both.  Sorry, Coach Cut.

2 trips to the beach. Sunset and Carolina.

2 sons, 2 women, 2 dogs.

Many, many beautiful roses.

2 outings to the Rooftop Bar at the Durham Hotel.

A few glasses of North Carolina cider, even a visit to Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone.

1 cemetery visit in Paris to find Lafayette and pay my respects (with a beautiful rose bought at an outdoor flower market near La Madeleine).

lafayette

1 North Carolina flag delivered to a French school, Collège Anne-Marie Javouhey in Senlis.

ncflag

5 friends, French and American, in France with me. Actually, there were 6, but AP isn’t pictured with me. Oops. I experimented with making memes just for him…

AP meme

1 Christmas.

christmas

Way too many baked goodies.  Is there such a thing as too many?? Ask the Ex-Ex.

3 reunions.  One with my 2016 France trip group, one with 4 classmates from high school– Harris High Class of ’76, one with my first class of 7th graders, celebrating their 30th reunion (the same night, Son #1 celebrated his 10th and Son #2 his 5th).

There is so much more I could add. I had a very full year. New friends made. Old friendships strengthened. A few friends and relatives lost. Adventures. Family love and a bit of heartbreak. All of the intangibles that make another trip around the sun so very worthwhile. Here’s to the beginning of year 59.

For Son #1’s senior chorus performance, he asked me to perform a song with him.  We chose the Jimmy Buffet / Martina McBride duet Trip Around the Sun. Enjoy.

I made Blueberry Skillet Cake last week.  A good use for my iron skillet (it will be the subject of an upcoming blogpost) and the fresh blueberries I had in the refrigerator.

bleuberry pie

Cowboy Skillet Blueberry Cake

from a tea towel purchased at Fort Robinson State Park Nebraska

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Combine in a bowl and stir a little to mix:

1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. granulated white sugar (I cut this down to 1/2 cup)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

In a separate bowl, whisk, then set aside:

2 large eggs

1-1/4 c. milk (I used buttermilk)

In a 10″ iron skillet, melt:

8 Tbsp. of butter

When butter has cooled, add to egg mixture and stir.  Add this to dry ingredients and mix well.

Stir in:

1/4 tsp. lemon extract

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Fold in:

1-1/2 blueberries (you can use any kind of fruit and change up the flavorings, if you feel like it- depending on what is in season or what’s in the freezer; I’ve used apples & cinnamon, cherries & almonds, peaches)

Pour into cast iron skillet.

In a small bowl, combine, then sprinkle on top of cake batter:

1/4 c. sugar

zest of 1 small lemon

Bake 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done.

Bon appétit!  Here’s to many more trips around the sun for my friends, family, and moi!  Keep breathing! Grabbing my toes like this would be fun… but I think that I will leave that to Nugget.

kennupsidedown

 

 

 

Lucky and Crippled Crow

Today’s guest blogger is the Ex-Ex.  I will let him tell the tale of our sixth day at the beach.

star2

So, when you walk on the beach with Sabbatical Chef you’re supposed to keep your head down – looking for the perfect shell.  I try.  But I often get distracted by the waves, the sand castles, the red, white and blue swim suits……of all shapes and sizes.  I really try to keep my eyes on the sand because I do want to find that perfect shell or sand dollar for her. But it’s hard. Sunset Beach is beautiful, but not full of shells…it’s hard to pay attention to the sand.  Mostly all you see are “bits and pieces.” It’s hard for me to stay focused.

Well, today as we’re walking, I spot a “crippled crow”.  An ordinary black crow that is generally a nuisance at the beach. But he’s hard to not like….he’s lame, mostly hopping on one foot along the sand. Then I see what he sees and why he’s hopping near the surf. He’s found a four-armed starfish.  A starfish on the beach is a rare sight and a major find for beachcombers like Sabbatical Chef and me….when I’m paying attention.  My interest  and concern immediately leave Crippled Crow.  I’m sure he’ll be OK.  He seems fine hopping and, after all, he can still fly.  Now I’m worried about the starfish that Crippled Crow was about to eat and, if he’s not alive, then he’s the perfect beach find.  Either way I’m going to save him from Crippled Crow.  Sabbatical Chef will love it if I can deliver a starfish to her collection….even if it only has four arms!  “Lucky” the four-armed starfish is already a goner….so he’s better off in Sabbatical Chef’s beach week shell collection than being picked over by Crippled Crow.  Lucky, I’m sure, had a good life at sea.  Even if somehow he lost an arm, I bet he had some stories to tell.  So, being rescued by me and becoming the crown jewel in Sabbatical Chef’s 2017 “bits and pieces” collection is a fitting and deserving way for him to spend his summer of 2017….and help us remember ours……

Bon appétit to all beachcombers.  Thanks for reading the Ex-Ex’s story.  Actually, I think that Lucky will become a part of the little collection of bits and pieces that I will put in a jar and save for Adorable Granddaughter to one day remind her of her first trip to Sunset Beach.

Bits and pieces

shells

I used to roam the beach looking for whole, perfect shells and sand dollars. I spent more time looking down than looking up. Now I just pick up whatever I happen to see that strikes my fancy.  Bits and pieces. Odds and ends.  Kind of like last night’s dinner here at the house we are renting for the week.  Cheese and crackers, blackened sausage, hummus, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and broccoli with ranch dip and leftover Frogmore Stew. Really good at the end of a long day spent sitting in the sun and trying to hit 10,000 steps on the Fitbit by walking to the end of the island.

Cooper, the Wonder Dog, was relaxing and hoping for a bit or piece of something tasty to come his way. Cooper belongs to Son #2’s girlfriend.

cooper

There has been some great first-thing-in-the-morning play time with the Cutest Baby in the World for both Granddad and Gramma.

kennedy steve

kennedy

Some fireworks in the distance, at Ocean Isle, on July 3.  All the beauty, none of the noise.

fireworks

Fireworks are illegal on Sunset Beach due to fire hazard, but that didn’t stop some of our neighbors. The police cruised by multiple times trying to find the culprits. The Ex-Ex and Brother-in-law were questioned when they decided to go out and check out what was happening, but they didn’t come home in handcuffs in the back of a squad car so I guess they were believable.

The Ex-Ex captured a lovely shot during a moonlit walk towards the pier.  Sort of Starry Night Over The Rhône-ish with the reflections on the water, I think.

pier

Son #1 and his two beautiful girls had to go back home because he has a follow up job interview this morning.  Fingers crossed. They will return in a few hours.

At this very moment, the Ex-Ex is still sleeping, as are Son #2, Cooper and his owner. Best Sister-in-law-in-the-World is checking out what’s happening on her iPad. Brother-in-law has gone out for a long bike ride.  When he comes back, he will turn on the TV to check out Stage 4 of the Tour de France. Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles.

route17

I have to admit that I don’t care who wins.  I watch for the scenery.

I am an early riser, even when on vacation. I have been washing clothes, turning on the dishwasher, pitting cherries and making muffins, and reading my beach week book, See Me by Nicholas Sparks. I am getting attached to Colin, one of the main characters, and I am afraid that something bad is going to happen to him. I will hope for the best.  It is set in Wilmington, a city in North Carolina only about 50 miles from where I sit right now.

Life comes in bits and pieces.  Not perfect, but sometimes perfect for me. My week at the beach is just that. Surrounded by the people I love, my family once again under one roof, no plans, nothing that has to be done, the smell of warm muffins filling the house. And a view of the Atlantic Ocean from where I sit writing this.  Life is good. Every bit and piece of it right now.

muffins batter

Cherry Vanilla Muffins

makes 12

1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 c. oil or melted butter

3/4 c. milk (this time I used a mixture of vanilla Greek yogurt and milk)

1-1/2 c. pitted, chopped cherries

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top, if desired, for a nice crunch

Prepare the muffin tin by lining with paper cups or spraying with non-stick spray. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle.

Add the beaten egg, milk (and yogurt, if using), oil (or melted butter). Stir just until combined. Fold in cherries. Sprinkle sugar on top, if using.

Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Bake for about 15 minutes or until muffins test done.

muffin

Sister-in-law said spreading butter on top of a warm muffin was pretty tasty.

Bon appétit and have a lovely day.  If you can’t be with your favorite people, let them know you are thinking about them. The beach is calling and I must answer.

 

 

 

 

Summer to-do list

IMG_0688 (1)

I am sort of a list maker.  Not that I always can find the list.  Or that I take it out and look at it. Or that I actually cross off everything more than two items. But I feel as if I have accomplished something just by writing the to-dos on a notepad. Mary Kay consultants are encouraged to make a Six Most Important Things list every day.  Maybe six is a manageable number?

6 most important

(photo: https://www.pinterest.com/thepinkbubbleco/)

What’s on my to-do list for tomorrow?

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Go to Responsive Classroom workshop.
  3. Read.
  4. Go to bed.

That’s all I know for sure. What’s on my hope-to-do list?

  1. See my granddaughter. (Maybe read her a story- she loves this now!)
  2. Have dinner with a couple of friends.
  3. Write.

Wow.  That’s seven things! Go me.

I guess I should think about my summer to-do list. In no particular order:

  1. Read my school summer reading book,  Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
  2. Go to the dentist (appointment made).
  3. Hit at least 10,000 steps on the Fitbit at least four days a week (maybe five?). This means lacing up the shoes and walking in the morning.
  4. Spend a week at the beach with my family.
  5. Take an on-line writing course.
  6. Try not to worry so much.
  7. Visit Chatham Hill Winery.  (I worked here part-time before The Sabbatical. I wrote an article about NC wines and Chatham Hill for the Durham Herald newspaper.)
  8. Try some new recipes.
  9. Go to the Durham Farmers’ Market at Central Park regularly.
  10. Blog as often as possible, but at least twice a week (should I make a schedule?).
  11. Work on my curriculum for the 2017-18 school year. Read the book I was given on curriculum design. (I think it is currently upstairs? Yep. Found it.) Keys to Curriculum Mapping: Strategies and Tools to Make it Work by Susan Udelhofen. We will be working on our curriculum map next year at school. Hello, Rubicon.
  12. Have lunch with friends at restaurants around town I haven’t tried yet.
  13. Read some books I want to read. (Stay tuned for an update on my reading list soon.)
  14. Write to my nephew once a week.  Send him some books.
  15. Eat as healthy as possible.

Guess we will see how many I accomplish! At our closing faculty meeting, some silly person commented that we had 72 days until school starts back.  And we now working on week 2. But I will not worry about that.  See, I am trying. I will look at photos like these of my Darling Granddaughter:

kennedyon tummy

She can now roll over.  In the night, she was babbling and when her parents got up to check on her, this is what they found. Photo 1:  “Oops. They caught me.”  Photo 2: It’s okay. I’m cute and how can they possibly be mad? I’ve learned a new trick.” Adorable, right?

I found a recipe for Tomato Pie and gave it a try over the weekend.  Not perfect, but pretty darned good.  Especially the second night. I put pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, grated more cheese on them, warmed them in a 375˚F oven for 10 minutes, then under the broiler set to high for about 4 minutes. It’s better when it looks as if it has almost baked too long.

19275035_10212175782364039_1938866333318129528_n

Biscuit Crust (recipe from King Arthur Flour website)

To make the pie “crust” skip step 4 and go to 5. Do not cut.  Pat the dough into a rectangle on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Do not pre-bake.  Set aside.

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons sugar, to taste* (I used only 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter or shortening (I used 6)
  • 1 cup milk, buttermilk, or water (I used about 1-1/4 cups buttermilk)
  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients. With two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, cut or rub the butter or shortening in until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  3. Add the liquid all at once, mixing quickly and gently for about 20 seconds until you have a soft dough.
  4. To make drop biscuits: Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a lightly floured baking sheet; or for tidier shapes, fill the cups of a greased muffin tin about two-thirds full.
  5. To make cut biscuits: Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4″ thick. Fold it into thirds like a letter and roll gently with a floured rolling pin until the dough is 3/4″ thick again.
  6. Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter for traditional round biscuits. Or, to avoid leftover dough scraps, cut the dough into squares or diamonds with a bench knife or bowl scraper.
  7. Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.

Pie filling: adapted from South Carolina Living: 7 recipes every S.C. cook should know 

Hattie Mae’s Tomato Pie

To avoid soggy tomato pie, use every bit of the salt the recipe calls for, says Heidi Trull. “It gets all the moisture out of the tomatoes. You’re not going to be eating that salt, because you rinse it off.”  (Note: I did not rinse the tomatoes as well as I should have. So, after tasting them, I did not add any additional salt.)

Hattie Mae’s tomato pie

SERVES 8

4 ripe tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup salt

1 cup grated hoop cheese (I had to google this… sad but true. I used Vermont sharp cheddar cheese, a mixture of white and traditional)

1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise (there is no substitute for this in the south! I also added about 1/4 cup of half and half- my mixture was not pourable, but spreadable anyway)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (totally forgot to add but I did sprinkle in some herbes de Provence)

1 medium onion, diced (decided to leave off)

Salt and pepper to taste

8 mini piecrusts (or one large) – used the biscuit crust instead

Slice tomatoes, and cover with ¼ cup salt. Let sit for 1 hour. Rinse well in colander, and pat dry with paper towel. Place piecrusts in pan(s), and lay tomato slices in pie shells. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over tomatoes. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.  (Mine needed to bake for about 35 minutes- the biscuit crust is different than a traditional pie crust.)

After it cooled for about 10 minutes, I cut it with a pizza cutter.  Kitchen scissors would work also. I cut it into 10 rectangles. You can cut the pieces as large or small as you wish. This would make a great appetizer. The Ex-Ex called it tomato pizza. He liked it and he usually doesn’t like “hot tomatoes.”

Day 2

tomato pie 2

Bon appétit!  Whether you are a list-maker or not, I hope you are having a great June.  It isn’t officially summer yet… Schedule in some fun.  And try to worry less. Wherever you go there you are.

SV Day 5: Over the mountain

fog

Blowing Rock to Boone to Foscoe to Linville to Spruce Pine. That was my route this morning.  I made a stop for breakfast at Grandview Restaurant.  The address is listed as Banner Elk but it is just off NC-105 between Foscoe and Linville.  This is the grand view-

GFather

Grandfather Mountain as seen from the patio in back of the restaurant.

This was my view inside, a real Southern breakfast–

breakfast

Yep, this is how we do it.  With lots of hot coffee.

I made a quick, pull off the road stop in Linville. I spent three college summers working at Eseeola Lodge.  The photo I took  today was terrible so I found one from last fall. We thought it was fancy then, but it is really fancy now.  There is even a spa.

eseeola1

What a great place for college students from far and wide to work and spend the summer.  I was a waitress. We girls lived in an old house behind the main lodge, nicknamed The Last Resort and the boys lived in another house down the road. The gang threw a surprise 21st birthday party for me.  My first birthday party. Good times.

I made it to Spruce Pine and Mama Mildred’s by mid-morning.  Sister Moo is using three of her vacation days while I am visiting.  We goofed off. Pedicures first.

toenails

A stroll around downtown- Lower Street to be exact, BFF. The old train depot.  Not many trains pass through any more. Sad.

traindepot

I got to hang out with the Grand Nephews and their mom, my niece. The boys love my baking so I decided to make them some blueberry scones.  I wanted cherries, but at almost $4 a pound I decided to go for blueberries instead.

A good day.

BBscones

This recipe for scones is from my friend and colleague Daniela Harrell. It is so easy and so good. I prefer using yogurt instead of milk.

Quick Scones

makes 12 small scones
Use whatever fruit is in season or the currants (or other dried fruit) that the recipe calls for.  Or plain. Up to you. I used blueberries and added the zest from a small lemon. I added the fresh berries after kneading the dough.  I separated the dough into two balls, flattened each one out, placed the berries on top and gently folded the dough several times to incorporate the berries without smashing them.  Not easy and it’s okay if you smash a few.

2 c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. cold butter
½ c. currants, raisins, or other dried fruit, if desired
1 egg
2/3 c. milk or ¾ c. (175 ml) plain yogurt (the yogurt produces a moister scone)
egg yolk for brushing tops
granulated sugar for sprinkling or fruit preserves

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter and cut in until crumbly. Stir in dried fruit, if using. Make a well in the center.

In small bowl, beat egg until frothy. Pour into well. Stir in milk or yogurt slowly with a fork, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn out on lightly floured surface. Knead 8-10 times. Divide into 2 equal parts. Pat each into a 6-inch circle. Transfer to greased baking sheet or a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush tops with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar (if desired). Score each top into 6 pie-shaped markings. Bake in 425F oven for 15 minutes until risen and browned slightly. Brush with fruit preserves after removing from oven, if desired.

Bon appétit to all families!  I hope that you all have a chance to spend time with your loved ones and get back to your roots!

The end is in sight

macaron and tex

It is the eve of my exam.  Wonder how much the kiddos have studied?  Foreign language exams are last this year… the only thing standing between my students and 10 weeks of freedom is me.  And pages of verbs, adjectives, object pronouns, etc.  You get the picture. Hope you aren’t having flashbacks.  We still have practice for the closing ceremony for the 8th graders followed by lunch tomorrow.  The ceremony is on Thursday. A couple of days of meetings for the weary teachers.  Exams to grade.  Grades to enter into Veracross.  Progress reports to write.  Then freedom for me.

Today I received the beautiful plate of homemade pink macarons from my room parent. One of the 8th grade girlies gave me the armadillo.  I use a website, Tex’s French Grammar, put together by the University of Texas-Austin. The main character is Tex, an existentialist poet who just happens to be an armadillo.

char_tex

Yes, he smokes.  No, I do not approve.  Yes, he indulges in a glass of red wine from time to time.  The kiddos know that they cannot do this legally until they are 21. The grammar explanations are great.  The kiddos love to listen to the voices, especially Joe-Bob, the squirrel from College Station.

char_joe-bob

I am partial to Paw-Paw, Tex’s Cajun granddad.

char_paw-paw

I really want to go to Austin and meet the geniuses who created this website.  And now I have a little stuffed Tex to keep me company in my classroom.  Merci, EM!

I will make a trip up to the mountains to visit the relatives and hopefully see a few friends from the Class of ’76.

13394185_10208697261963203_6023966738898579714_n

Last year, before our reunion, some of us got together at Spoon, a great little place on Upper Street.  It’s the craft cocktail slingin’ counterpart to knife & fork restaurant, to quote the website.  Knife & Fork is on Lower Street, by the way.

beach

We will have our annual family week at Sunset Beach.  We all really look forward to a week when the most important decision we make is who will go back to the house to refill the cooler and make sandwiches for lunch.  Guess it was my turn that day since my chair is empty?

I have a few projects to accomplish around the house.  Organizing the notecards that I have made from my photos, go through bookcases to see if there are some books I can give away, clean out my closet.  You get the idea.  I also plan to write.  I have a new idea.  I’ve taken some notes and have the beginning of an outline.  That’s all I have to say at the moment.

18739757_10211973752233412_2998096486326180624_n

The BFF and I have pledged to get up early and walk before she has to go to work and before it is too damn hot and humid to do much besides sweat.  I am thinking 6 am, but I am an early riser.  We’ll see what the BFF thinks.

18921807_10212039069786310_6304379461593097636_n

I plan to hear some music.  There are several spots around town where the concerts are free.  We went out to Southpoint Mall last weekend to hear Big Time.  Mr. BFF is in the band.  A talented fellow.  I can’t help myself when he is singing Love Shack or Give It to Me Baby.  Just got to dance.  And attempt to embarrass him.  Not possible, but I won’t give up!  Mr. BFF, Tracy King aka Sweet T, was a member of The Castaways back in the day.  I can’t help but post this photo… (top row right)

18813303_10155075613318432_2881681093684024765_n

Last, but by no means least, I will play Gramma and spend more time with the Most Amazing Girl.  She is already 3-1/2 months old.  I cannot wait. Bonding time. Oui, elle est belle!

kennedyJune

Today’s recipe, just in time for summer so that you don’t heat up the house by using the oven.

chicken salad

Chicken Salad

adapted from Inside Brucrew Life

Shredded chicken from 1 rotisserie chicken

1-1/2 c. finely chopped pecans or almond slivers (I toast them to bring out the flavor)

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 c. halved red seedless grapes

Salt and pepper, to taste, if desired

1 c. sour cream

1 c. mayonnaise (today I used a mixture of Duke’s mayo and Just Mayo Chipotle flavor)

I c. finely chopped fresh dill, if desired (I left this out)

In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, nuts, celery, and grapes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

Whisk together the sour cream and mayonnaise.  Add the dressing to the chicken mixture and gently toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate.  It’s best if allowed to chill for 2 hours so that the flavors can meld.

Bon appétit and happy summer to all.  Bonnes vacances!  Be sure to slow down a bit, if possible, and smell the flowers.  Gardenias are presently blooming in my corner of the world.  Heavenly.

gardenia

 

 

This & That: March 2017 Edition

dirty-dishes

Dirty dishes?  This is a great photo because this is all I had to dirty in order to make two loaves of banana bread this fine Sunday morning.  I found a new recipe, located the overripe bananas that the Ex-Ex had stashed on top of the refrigerator (the man detests messy countertops), and stirred up something that is still baking and smells heavenly.  Excuse me for a minute– the oven timer is beeping.

banana-bread

Voilà.

So, random stuff this morning.

Kennedy, the cutest baby in the world continues to grow.  She is almost two weeks old. Gramma and Granddad are totally in love.  As are Mommy and Daddy.  Seven pounds of perfection.  Pretend Daughter #1 just gave birth yesterday to a bundle of baby boy.  I am thinking arranged marriage.

kennedywaving

I am preparing for my annual student trip to France.  This will be my 30th anniversary trip. How the heck did that happen, I wonder?  Anyway, the checklists are growing, but I am crossing off as much as I am adding.  I think.  I have 22 kiddos and 2 other teachers going with me this year.  Delta began offering a non-stop flight to Paris from my hometown airport last May and, although this crop of kids cannot fully appreciate it, they are so lucky.  I will be a much happier traveler which means they will, too.  No running through airports to catch a connecting flight that may or may not have left already.  (I have been known to beg for the doors to be opened to let us on.)  We leave on Thursday.  Paris, Normandy D-Day sites, including a tour and wreath ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, a visit with our pen pals at the Collège Anne-Marie Javouhey in Senlis, a macaron-making lesson at L’Atelier des Gâteaux for part of the group, éclair-making at La Cuisine Paris for others, and a tour of the Stade de France for a small group of boys.  And the usual sites in Paris– the Louvre, Notre-Dame, the Musée d’Orsay, Sacré Coeur and Montmartre.  Throw in some crêpes, Berthillon ice cream, macarons from Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, and shopping at Galeries Lafayette and Monoprix while in Paris, course. Falafel in the Marais, strolling along the Seine, a boatride on the river, gliding under the Pont Alexandre III and Le Pont Neuf, making wishes under the Napoléon bridge,  finding at least a couple of passages to wander through, a trip to the top of the Eiffel, bien sûr. Then Avignon bound on the TGV.  The Palais des Papes and perhaps the Pont du Gard on the way to Arles, “my” French town.  Only two nights there unfortunately, but two is better than one or none.  A morning drive through the Camargue on the way to Aigues Mortes, a visit to a salt-harvesting facility (a first for me), and a few hours at the Arles Saturday market before heading back to Paris.  I will get to see all of my favorite Frenchies while I am in France.  My heart is happy at the thought of this.  Time to drag my suitcase out of the closet where it has been since January and start filling it. Sticking to my list, of course. Hahaha- I am a terrible packer.

What have I been reading lately?  I just finished this one.

swann

I am in love with Henry Swann.  This is Charles Salzberg‘s latest in a series featuring Swann.  Charles and I are email pals.  I hope/dream about/would love to attend his writers’ workshop in NYC someday.

I get daily emails from BookBub offering up inexpensive (and sometimes free) books for my Kindle.  I am reading Blackbird Fly by Lise McClendon right now.  It is the first in a series about the Bennett Sisters.  This one features Merle, whose husband has just died, leaving her a pile of debts, a unknown mistress and daughter, and a house in France.  I cannot put it down (translation:  I have stayed up way too late the last two nights reading) because Merle is a believable character.  A 50 year old, intelligent, non-glamourous woman whose life takes quite a turn after her husband dies of a heart attack at his desk. And before you even wonder, yes, I have downloaded the next three books in the series.  I am addicted to authors that way.

Quick coffee and banana bread break…

bread-and-coffee

Another book at the top of my list– dear darling Pat Conroy‘s final novel, published posthumously.  A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life.  Says Amazon:

Final words and heartfelt remembrances from bestselling author Pat Conroy take center stage in this winning nonfiction collection, supplemented by touching pieces from Conroy’s many friends.

I’ve loved Pat’s writing since I picked up The Great Santini years ago. I even talked the Ex-Ex into reading it and he never reads fiction.  However, so much of Pat’s life is wrapped up in his writing, that it’s not really fiction.  We have both read all of his novels, ending with The Death of Santini.  Santini was Pat’s dad.  Thank you for the recommendation, Miss Anna T!

I am not really a shopper.  I loathe trying on clothes.  This week, however, I happened upon two bargains.

#1

Pale pink linen from Chico’s.  My favorite color.  I was at The Stock Exchange, a consignment shop in Chapel Hill, and it caught my eye. It was already on sale, I had a $10 gift certificate from my last shopping adventure there, so I ended up spending $1.63. Can’t wait to wear it.

#2

Navy blue and white polka dots from Crown and Ivy at Belk’s.  I am normally a black dress/pants/skirt/sweater kind of girl, but this caught my eye.  I have a thing for polka dots.  Once again, on sale.  Around $10.  Go me.  I look forward to wearing it with jeans in Paris.  Très chic, n’est-ce pas?

Lo and behold, I just found out, thanks to a text from the BFF and CBS Sunday Morning, that berets are back in style!  I have never worn one, but I think I may change that. Being the snob that I can be, though, it will have to be one made in France, the traditional way.  Laulhere is the gold standard in France, it seems. Perhaps Bertrand, our French ACIS tour manager will be able to help and give advice…

beret-on-mannequin-head-620

(photo: CBS News)

My goal for Lent this year–  place one item of clothing into a bag for each day of Lent. This will be given to The Salvation Army after Easter.  Admit it.  Most of us have way too much.  There are many out there without enough.

Enough randomness for this morning.  I will leave you with yesterday’s photo of Granddad and Granddaughter.

granddad

As I wrote yesterday on my Facebook page:

I love this photo. The beginning of a very important bond. My Papa was a major influence in my life from my birth to his death. I was lucky to live next door and spend many hours with him.

New life.  New beginnings.  New love.

Easy Sunday Morning Banana Bread

adapted from Simply Recipes

makes 1 loaf, 4 x 8

  • 2 to 3 very ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I also used rum flavoring)
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (I added about 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the flour)
  • I sprinkled turbinado sugar on top to give it a crunchy finish

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), and butter a 4×8-inch loaf pan.

2 In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas with a fork until completely smooth. Stir the melted butter into the mashed bananas.

3 Mix in the baking soda and salt. Stir in the sugar, beaten egg, and vanilla extract. Mix in the flour.

4 Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour at 350°F (175°C), or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. (Mine was completely done at 50 minutes.  Be sure to test and not overbake.)

5 Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. Remove the banana bread from the pan. Slice and serve.

 

Bon appétit.  Bon dimanche.  Have a lovely week.  Be kind.  Be brave. Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Or even better.

Love at first sight

16938765_10102698893078728_2214398691361661566_n

I can be a bit cynical.  Oui, moi.  But love at first sight does exist.  It’s the love you feel the first time you hold your child.  Actually, this may be the purest form of love.  I felt it twice. And I have now fallen totally in love with my beautiful granddaughter.  Yes, I am a grandmother/grand-mère/mamie/grandma/grammy/mimi/whatever she wants to call me. This little angel came into the world at 7lb 7oz not quite a week ago. And she has stolen our hearts.

Not many moms go into the hospital to deliver a baby knowing what’s in store. We all have a basic plan, be it breathing or epidurals, but it just doesn’t always go the way we plan. This bundle’s arrival ended in a C-section after her mommy labored, labored, and labored some more.  As a result, she has a perfectly shaped head.

sleeping

Mommy is mending, Daddy is doing all he can to keep his girls happy and comfortable, and I (to be named at a later date) am totally in love.  She is loved by many.  Can you be loved by too many people?  Absolutely not.

Life will never be the same.  That’s the wonderful news.

I plan to be a Cookie Jar Grand-mère.  My own Grandma Bell had a Humpty-Dumpty cookie jar.  It’s funny, I do not remember her ever baking cookies.  Coconut layer cakes and banana fritters… oh my goodness yes.  But I remember that cookie jar.  Papa Bell would buy what we Crumbcrushers called Fuzzy Cookies- coconut marshmallow concoctions.

stock-photo-coconut-and-colorful-marshmallow-cookies-245294632

This is the closest image I could find to match the memory in my head.  A cookie bottom, squishy marshmallow covered in coconut.  Pink and white.  I doubt these cookies ever made it into the cookie jar.  They were consumed too quickly.

I googled Humpty Dumpty cookie jars to find out if one is out there waiting for me.  Oh, one is, but at antique collector prices.  I don’t know who got Grandma’s after she gave up housekeeping.  Pas moi, sadly.  Maybe someday I will come across one (even a knock-off) in a thrift shop.  Once can hope, right?

18229-1l

(image from chasingadventureorg.ipage.org)

I did make cookies for the now mom while she was still a mom-to-be.  She said there is no such thing as too many chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies.

dough

The dough was pretty tasty.

prebake-best

As were the finished products.

baked

Someday, I will have a little helper helping me make cookies…

Mimi’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 4 dozen (depending on the size you want them!)

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur’s)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired

Fleur de sel or other flaky salt, to finish, if desired

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk to combine. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed of mixer until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed until thoroughly combined.

Gradually mix in dry ingredients, in thirds, until combined.  (Towards the end, I usually switch over to a wooden spoon to finish the mixing because the dough is thick.)  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using).

Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least one hour.  (I often leave mine overnight.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375˚F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop by teaspoonfuls (I use a small scoop) onto the baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt, if desired.

Bake 8-1/2 to 11 minutes, depending on how soft or crunchy you like your cookies.  I find that cookies baked for about 9 minutes will be crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside.  Cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Eat a warm one, just to make sure they are pass the test, though.

Bon appétit!  Here’s to falling in love, babies, cookies, and all grandmothers!

 

 

 

 

What I am crushing on right now

When I wore a black dress with white polka dots last fall, one of the young (and dare I say handsome) teachers at school said he was “crushing on my dress.”  Ever since then I have wanted to use that expression.  So, here goes.

What am I crushing on right now?

#1  My great nephew Caleb’s photos– he showed me a few of them when I visited at Christmas and I asked him to send some to me.  He has quite an eye for beauty, n’est-ce pas?   Here are some of my favorites:

And last, but by no means least, Max, Caleb’s mom/my niece’s dog-

max

Keeping taking photos, Caleb!

#2  My new mascara–  Am I vain?  Oui.  I do not leave my house with mascara.  I search high and low for just the right one.  Waterproof is a must sometimes, but it is so hard to remove.  Lancôme’s Hypnôse Drama does not cause raccoon eyes and it washes off easily at the end of the day.  Merci, Lancôme.

mascara

#3 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer– I just finished reading it last night (actually early this morning) and cannot stop thinking about it.  It is a story told in letters about a writer who decides to go to Guernsey to interview people about the German occupation of their island during WWII.  It’s a subject I am very interested in, but I didn’t know anything about this book until I saw it on a list of must-read stories.  I fell in love with Juliet.  You will, too.

#4 Balsam Range’s latest album, Mountain Voodoo— I have loved this band of bluegrass musical magicians since Sister Moo and I heard Buddy Melton sing at a barbecue festival in Asheville, NC about 10 years ago.  The group was formed in 2007 in Haywood County and has been winning awards ever since.  I go to hear them whenever possible, most recently at the American Tobacco campus in downtown Durham last June.

Something ‘Bout That Suitcase is my current favorite.  Probably because mine is sitting in the corner of my bedroom waiting patiently to be filled with the stuff I will need for six days in Paris.

suitcase

#5  The direct non-stop flight I will take from RDU-CDG later this week.  That’s right, step on in Raleigh, step off in Paris.  Merci mille fois, Delta.  Je vous aime.  The first time I packed my suitcase to go to Paris (and to get on a airplane) was in September of 1978.  I flew from Johnson City, TN to New York to Orly airport in Paris.  I do not remember much about the flight except that it was a charter. Many trips later, I still get excited.

#6  The stories of Sean Dietrich aka Sean of the South—  I’ve written about him before and I continue to love him more with each and every story I read.  I follow him on Facebook and start my day with his daily storytelling.  He has recently started to tell them by video as well.  Go ahead, click on the link and read a story for yourself.  See if you don’t feel better instantly.  While laughing and crying at the same time.

#7 An American in Paris— I just saw the play here in Durham with about 15 of my 8th graders, the BFF, some parents, and a couple I am especially fond of, Steve and Dani.  The Ex-Ex and I saw it on Broadway in July 2015 (I won a trip that included tickets to a show). The story is set in Paris at the end of WWII.  Gershwin music, dancing, beautiful costumes and scenery, love…

american-in-paris

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I will leave the list with photos at seven.  I prefer sets of 14 for some reason so I will quickly list seven more.

#8  Snow days– I been given the gift of two of them this week so that I can get my grades and comments written before boarding that Delta jet.

#9  Our new sofa and “chair and a half”– the Ex-Ex and I gave them to each other for Christmas.  Blue.  Comfy.

#10  Bold Rock Blood Orange Cider– seasonal and I just got my hands on some.  Delicious.

#11  Sister Moo’s peanut butter fudge– so much for giving up sweets after Christmas since she sent a tin of it home with me.

#12  Hallmark movies on the weekend– sappy, yes, I know, but they always have happy endings.  One set in Paris will premier later this month.  Love Locks– the mayor of Paris may not like it, but I have a feeling I will.

#13  Bravelets bracelets– I have collected a few of them and love them.  The company donates a portion of each sale to a cause, 2.6 million dollars to date.

#14  The beautiful glass bird that EB gave me for Christmas– It’s a magpie.  The Chinese term for magpie means literally “bird of joy.”  And joy is what EB has brought to our family.

mantel

I texted Nephew Caleb to ask what his favorite food is and he came back with shrimp.  I am with you, Caleb. I could eat my weight in it (and probably have!).  Here’s one of my favorite ways to eat it.  This reminds me of summer at Sunset Beach…

Uncle Beano’s Frogmore Stew

In memory of Ben Philpott, the BFF’s brother and Frogmore chef extraordinaire

Shrimp
New Potatoes
Corn
Sausage (Chorizo, Andouille, hot Italian or some other spicy grind)
Limes
Lemons
Red Onion
Old Bay Seasoning
Hot Sauce
Minced Garlic
Allow 1/3 to ½ lbs of shrimp and one ear of corn per person. Cut corn in halves. Chop sausages to half inch or so. Cut potatoes in quarters.
Bring big pot of water to boil with slices of lime, lemon, and onion. Add minced garlic and a few jabbers of hot sauce (also some beer, if you like), and a few shakes of Old Bay. Add potatoes, corn and sausage. When potatoes are on verge of being done, add shrimp and cook for about 3-4 minutes until shrimps are done.
Spread on newspapers (the cooked food, that is), dust heavily with Old Bay, and serve with cocktail sauce, butter, or whatever moves you.

Bon appétit and here’s to talented nephews and crushing on stuff.