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

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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?

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(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.

Reflections

reflexion-of-tour

It is almost time to say Au revoir to 2016.  And Bonjour to 2017.  2016 had some tough days.  In life, though, that’s pretty much par for the course, n’est-ce pas?  That’s when we learn valuable lessons.  It’s when we learn to appreciate the whos and whats in our lives.  If we are smart.  And then we move on.  The sun comes up the next morning.  Sometimes it is difficult, if not downright nearly impossible, to let go of hurt feelings, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear– all of those emotions that can bring on a middle-of-the-night panic attack if we aren’t careful.  I know.  I’ve been there done that.  Learning to take deep breaths, forgiving myself as well as those I love, and remembering what is truly important takes practice.

Why is that those who know their days on earth are numbered teach us the best lessons? I hate to break it to you, but all of our days are numbered.  Somehow, though, those who live with it daily are the wisest. Chris Rosati.  The lessons I have learned from him.  Chris has ALS.  Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Tuesdays with Morrie. Since his diagnosis six years ago, he has taught so many of us how to be kinder human beings.  I saw Chris last night at The BIGG Holiday Mashup in downtown Durham.

bigg-mash-up

He was able to put in an appearance at the end of the show.  Dressed as Santa, in his wheelchair, speaking through a computer that is somehow miraculously connected to his eyes and types out his messages.  Many of his high school friends and classmates were in attendance so it ended up being a big wonderful funny class reunion-type event for me.  I taught so many of these “kids.” See, Chris, see what you are doing?  Bringing all of us together for the Big Idea for the Greater Good.  A lesson I promise to put into practice in 2017.

So, instead of reflecting backwards, I will reflect forwards.  Think of the all the potential that awaits us in 2017.  The BFF doesn’t like odd-numbered years, but I have assured her that the coming one will be filled with Goodness.  Kindness.  Pure joy.  Hmmm…. How do I know this?  Because I am in charge of how good, kind and joyous I will be.  And so are you. There are indeed many, many things that we cannot in any way, shape or form control.  Why focus on those?  Instead, let’s focus on what we can control.  Our own attitudes.  Our own behavior.  Terrorists will not keep me from traveling to my beloved France.  The political leadership in my own beloved state and country will not keep me from hoping that good will come from this somehow.  Because we can band together and “kill them with kindness” as Mama Mildred has been known to say.

My 2017 will include the following:

  • Kennedy’s birth.  My first grandbaby.  I already get teary-eyed just thinking about her.
  • Finding new ways to show kindness and helping others do the same.
  • Spending more time with my family, be they in Charlotte, Spruce Pine, Washington, Brevard, High Point or here in Durham.  I am incredibly lucky. My sons, a soon-to-be daughter-in-law, mama, sisters, in-laws, cousins all close by.
  • At least two trips to France.  January (20 days) and March (76 days).  Ah oui, I do indeed count it down.  Every time I board the plane it feels like the first time.
  • Showing my friends how much I love them.  I am lucky in this respect, too.  I have some amazing friends who love me no matter what.
  • Joie de vivre.  I am very fond of this French phrase.  Love of life.  Joy in living.  Ed the Head, used it in 2013 to describe me when he presented me with the Hershey Award. I laughed with him afterwards as I complimented his French pronunciation.  I vow here and now to show this joie much more often.
  • Self-improvement.  At home.  In the classroom with the kiddos and my colleagues. With me.  More walks, more quiet time, good books, good music, good food, more writing.

A good place to start.  And I think I will get a week’s head start on some of those.  Pourquoi pas?

I will leave you with a recipe to make immediately (or as soon as you can assemble the ingredients) and share as gifts and/or make for the family and friends who will come a-calling.  A big bowl of deliciousness.  I fell in love with them the first time I tasted them at a foreign language meeting.  Our Latin teacher is quite a cooker.  She shared the recipe.  Merci beaucoup, JL.

rosemary-pecans

Rosemary Pecans

1 pound unsalted pecans

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried

2 Tbsp. melted butter

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cayenne or black pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Spread nuts on baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper.)  Bake 10-15 minutes- 15 minutes for crunchier nuts.

While the pecans are baking, combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.  Add pecans while still hot and toss to coat.

Serve warm or cold.  Store in tightly closed container.

Bon appétit to all and to all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Here’s to 2017!

There are no coincidences

st-bernadette

One Girlie I am particularly fond of likes to say “Mrs. E, there are no coincidences.  Things happen for a reason.”  I completely agree.  But I am still astounded sometimes when I run across what, on the surface, seem to be totally unrelated facts or events.  Here is what happened to me yesterday.

Saturday, I went up to the mountains to check on Mama Mildred.  She has not been feeling well for a couple of months.  And when Mildred misses Sunday church services it’s serious. Last week, she saw a specialist in Asheville who did blood tests and discovered that her liver is seriously out of whack.  A blood clot maybe?  A tumor?  More tests, a scan, and a biopsy followed.  With a promise from the doctor to call her on Saturday with the results. We waited.  And waited. Mama finally gave up around 9:00pm and went to bed.  She is exhausted all of the time, but she only said that she guessed the results hadn’t come in yet and she was sure he would call on Sunday.  The phone rang at about 30 minutes later. Sister Moo answered. (She and my mom live together.)  Lo and behold, it was the doctor.  It seems that the medication Mama had been taking for an infection has caused liver damage.  Thanks to my friend Google, I found this on WebMD–

This drug may rarely cause serious (possibly fatal) liver disease, blood or nerve problems. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any of the following rare but very serious side effects: persistent nausea/vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of eyes/skin, unusual/persistent fatigue, fast/pounding heartbeat, numbness/tingling of the arms/legs, muscle weakness.

The fine print.  And as I have heard more than one mountain person say “If the sickness don’t kill you, the medicine will.”  I am not that cynical and am thankful for modern medicine, but still…

Mama Mildred will go back for more blood tests this week and enroll in a study through the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill medical school for others like her.  At least her oldest daughter has told her to. The doctor running the study will be in Asheville next week and hopefully she will go meet him.  (If she considers backing out, I will drive back up there, put her in the car and take her my own self.  Not that I am bossy or anything.)

I left Spruce Pine Sunday afternoon and decided to drive back through Linville and Boone instead of down the mountain to Marion and straight to I-40.  I wanted to see the scenery. It is good for my soul to see that stretch of road.  US- 221N and NC-105N.  Mitchell County to Avery County to Watauga County.  Through Linville, at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.

I spent three summers working at Eseeola Lodge in Linville.  They hire college students to work in the summer.  At least they did in the late 70’s and I hope that they still do.  Those were amazing summers.  I worked as a waitress and met some wonderful people.  Mr. Pottle, who ran the Lodge at the time, took me under his raspberry-colored jacketed arm and designated me as waitress to the folks who came and stayed for the summer.  Major and Mrs. Lane particularly stand out in my memory.  She had to have baby gherkins on her table.  Not much of a tipper at the end of the summer, but what a character.  I stopped at the Lodge, now quiet, and wandered around, taking lots of photos, picking up some beautiful red leaves and a couple of rocks.  (The BFF always insists on a rock.)

I got back on highway 105, heading towards Boone, with an eye on the clock and a desire to get home to Durham before dark. But as I drove past St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church something made me turn around and go back.  I had it in my head that this is where my high school French teacher, Mme Buchanan, went to church.  But she attended St. Lucien’s.  Anyway, I drove up the steep drive to the church, just to see what was behind the church.  Maybe a cemetery?   At least a great view of Grandfather Mountain and the Mile High Bridge, if nothing else.

grandfather

I wandered around, went into the chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, said a short prayer, took some photos, and went back to my car.

I left an offering and took a little packet containing a prayer and medal.

st-anthony-prayer

I am not Catholic.  I am a reformed Southern Baptist, as I like to say (but absolutely not in front of Mama Mildred).  I do believe in a higher power or powers.  I think that this Power wants us to help our fellow man and that He/She could care less about our politics or who wins a football game to be perfectly honest.  Mama was raised in a serious Baptist home. She is a bit suspicious of Catholics, but we can’t hold that against her.  She did go to the Catholic church once for my cousin’s son’s baptism. I may not be Catholic, but I light candles in every cathedral I enter and offer up a little prayer for the safety of my loved ones and thanks for the life of Mme Christiane Roze Buchanan, my beloved French teacher.  I filled in the blank of the prayer above with:

“Obtain for me good health for my mama.”  

Short, sweet and to the point, St. Anthony, Saint of Miracles.  He was a Franciscan monk who lived from 1195-1231.  He was canonized only a year after his death.  It seems his body was exhumed 336 years after his death and his tongue was found to be totally intact although the rest of his body was “corrupted.” He was known for his “simple and resounding” teaching and taught occasionally at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse in my beloved southern France.  He is the patron saint of lost articles and was known for his undying devotion to the poor and sick.  Mama Mildred is both, dear Anthony, so send her some love, please.  How can it be fair that a woman such as my mother can work for at least 50 years of her life, at mostly minimum wage jobs, raise four children plus a mostly lovable but irresponsible alcoholic husband, finally retire and try to live on her social security check?  Answer that one, politicians?  How was she supposed to save for retirement?  You try it and see how easy it is, Senator or Congressman Whomever. Anyway, I digress.  Back to my story.

As I got in my car, I noticed what looked to be a statue across the parking lot.  I decided to walk up and check it out.  It turned out to be a grotto dedicated to St. Bernadette, the namesake of the church.  As I approached it, I realized that this is why I felt the pull to turn my car around and visit this spot.  St. Bernadette of Lourdes.  I have never visited Lourdes, in southwest France near Spain, but I have read about her.

55

Bernadette lived from 1844-1879.  She was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933.  She is the patron saint of illness, people ridiculed for their piety, poverty, shepherds and shepherdesses.  Thousands of sick people flock to Lourdes every year, hoping for a miracle cure.  We can’t make the trip to Lourdes, but it felt rather holy at this grotto yesterday, as I lit a candle and said a prayer.

3candles

bernadette1

As I researched Bernadette this morning, I found the quote below, written by Dr. Comte upon the 1928 exhumation of Bernadette’s body.  He published his findings in the Bulletin de l’Association medicale de Notre-Dame de Lourdes.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so.

“What struck me during this examination, of course, was the state of perfect preservation of the skeleton, the fibrous tissues of the muscles (still supple and firm), of the ligaments, and of the skin, and above all the totally unexpected state of the liver after 46 years. One would have thought that this organ, which is basically soft and inclined to crumble, would have decomposed very rapidly or would have hardened to a chalky consistency. Yet, when it was cut it was soft and almost normal in consistency. I pointed this out to those present, remarking that this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon.”

pumpkin-muffin-face

pumpkin muffin (baked in a jack o’lantern mold) with apple butter from The Orchard at Altapass.  Yum!

Bon appétit and Happy Halloween to all.  All Saints Day, Toussaint, is tomorrow.  Say a prayer for Mama Mildred or send up good thoughts to whatever higher power you believe in.  

A week of big news

announcement

Yes.  Big, big news.  I am going to be a grand-mère.  Mamie, as my Frenchies are already calling me.  Pronounced Ma-Me.  Son #1 and Mom-to-Be invited me over at 7:00 am a couple of weeks ago to take the photo.  Buddha is a handsome fellow, too, isn’t he?  Looks as if he is ready to take his job seriously.  A lot to wrap my head around and so very exciting now that I have!  The Parents-to-Be stopped by my classroom a couple of days ago to give me a little present and more big news.  I burst into tears.  Of course.

girl bracelet

And to share a photo.  (They did not have this technology when Dad-to-Be was patiently waiting to be born.)

14188631_10207741413918964_5677884629258604888_o

Oui, that’s the Little Nugget who will be known as Kennedy in a few months.  Amazing. Incroyable.

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I want happiness for them.  A healthy baby.  Love.  And more love.  A child can never have too many people who love her (nor can her parents). She needs the devotion of a sweet pup.  And a grand-mère who has been given permission to decorate Son #1’s old room in pink and Eiffel Towers for when Kennedy comes over to stay. Visions of souvenirs from France are dancing in my head.  Baking with her.  Her first apron.  Someone to inherit all my Eiffel Towers.  And books about France. Pretty exciting stuff, n’est-ce pas?

School’s second week is coming to a close.  Almost everyone in the entire school is off on one field trip or another.  Most to the great outdoors in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

The Ex-Ex went rappelling.  I tried that once.  Scared the bejesus out of me.

SE

He is now back safe and sound.  And with both feet firmly on the ground.

I got up early this morning and baked for my fabulous 7th grade teammates.  A few days ago, Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted an update to her blueberry muffin recipe and I had blueberries waiting in the refrigerator.  One of my buddies proclaimed them the “best blueberry muffins I have eaten in my 48 years on this planet.”  That is high praise.

unbaked muffins

muffins 1

I think it’s the abundance of blueberries and the crunchy turbinado sugar on top that pushed this from good to great.

(Didn’t save any for the Ex-Ex…  oops.)

Even More Perfect Blueberry Muffins

Smitten Kitchen

(Below is Deb’s recipe copied and pasted.  I came out with 12 muffins and baked them for 23 minutes.  Her pictures are much more beautiful than mine!  Check them out by clicking on the link above.  Believe me, Blythe Danner has never commented on one of my recipes!)

This began with an adaptation of an old Cook’s Illustrated blueberry muffin but with so many changes, it no longer resembles the original. I use yogurt instead of buttermilk, less sugar, I’ve adapted it to make it one-bowl and then in August 2016 it got the biggest overhaul yet after a month of blueberry muffin studies. From Stella Parks at Serious Eats, I came to agree that a full teaspoon of coarse sugar on top of each muffin sounds crazy but actually makes a delightfully crunchy lid. If the muffin underneath it isn’t too sweet, it doesn’t put it over the top at all — it’s just right. I also found her combination of coriander (I know!) and nutmeg crazy good and worth trying if you’re curious, even if I’m still defaulting to my lemon zest only here. From Blythe Danner, I realized you could put an inordinate amount of berries in each muffin and still have a very good muffin. I ended up doubling the berries in my go-to in the last batch and regret not-a-thing. (Should you be hesitant, just an increase from 3/4 cups to 1 1/4 is excellent but not over-the-top improvement.) I found it made 9 taller and more gorgeous muffins than it did of the 10 to 11 in the original recipe; just double it for a crowd.

 

  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
  • Finely grated zest from 1/2 a lemon (previously: 1/2 teaspoon zest)
  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened yogurt or sour cream- I used Fage plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (215 to 255 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to defrost) (previously: 3/4 cup, see note up top)
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado (sugar in the raw) sugar

 

Heat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 9 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray. Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl and whisk in sugar, zest, yogurt and egg until smooth. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt until fully combined, then lightly fold in flour and berries. Batter will be very thick, like a cookie dough. Divide between prepared muffin cups and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar, which will seem over-the-top but I promise, will be the perfect crunchy lid at the end. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (you know, except for blueberry goo). Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then … on a rack. 

Bon appétit and much love and happiness to all!  This morning when I got in my car to go to school, I got my first glimpse that fall just might be on the way.  I am ready and waiting.

autumn leaf

Happy New Year!

cookies

Some people make New Years Resolutions on January 1.  Not me.  My new year starts on the first day of school every fall.  I have started school every August of my life since 1963 or 1964.  I have officially survived the first week of of  year 37.  Wow.  I am starting to sound old- even to me.  But I still love it.  New pencils and notebook paper.  Neat classroom. Smiling faces looking at me, with just a hint of apprehension and melancholy at the end of summer vacation.  Big hugs from colleagues and former students.

I don’t especially love meetings, but this year we had a faculty development day with Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee  leading us in a discussion about how to develop cultural competency at our school.  What a gifted speaker.  Ms. Lee speaks honestly, from the heart, and throws in enough humor and personal stories to keep her audience awake and engaged in what she has to say.  Diversity comes in many shapes and sizes.  Some wear it on their faces.  Some do not.  If I make a single student feel the anxiety I felt during this workshop when the question of socio-economic class during childhood came up, I must change what I say and how I say it.

I do love seeing all my colleagues/friends again after 10 weeks away from them.  The middle school faculty spent some time sharing photos of our summer adventures.  I didn’t leave North Carolina this summer, but I was fortunate enough to visit the mountains and the beach.  I read (The Nightingale and City on Fire were my two favorites, for very different reasons), baked, walked for miles and miles on the beach with the Ex-Ex, Son #2, and my sister Moo looking at the waves and searching for shells, stuck my toes in the Toe River, zip lined in Plumtree, visited Mama Mildred, and just generally goofed off.  We teachers call this “recharging our batteries.”  Because after 10 months with middle schoolers, they run real low.

On the first day of school, Son #1 and EB surprised me by leaving goodies on my kitchen counter.

bags

EB works at Bull Street Market and they have all kinds of deliciousness there.  She knows me well, from Costières de Nîmes rouge to sea salt chocolate to Big Spoon peanut butter.  I even found a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies on their blog, but the question is, will I use this jar for cookies or just open it up and eat it with a spoon whenever I feel like it?  Hmmm.  I will try to decide by the time I finish this blog! (But I have an egg out warming to room temperature just in case.)

Son #2 surprised me with a bouquet of flowers.  (Shocked would not be too strong a word, but I don’t want to sound as if I would never have expected this in a thousand years.)

flowersG

I confessed to him that the Ex-Ex and I saw a charge for flowers when we checked his bank account 10 days ago or so.  I thought he had a secret girlfriend, but I was forbidden to be nosy and ask him.  Lol  was his response to that.

I have such good boys.  I love them more than life.  And EB is our added bonus.  I love her, too.

I look at these faces everyday.  Son #2 turned 24 this week. How did that happen so fast?

jake and g

One of the girlies in my new advisory group brought me three of her homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I shared one with the Ex-Ex.  They were excellent.  Bravo!  She told me that the recipe is a family secret and I respect that.  I did find an article just today, though, on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie according to your own preferences using the Nestle Tollhouse Recipe.  The Science Behind Baking The Most Delicious Cookie Ever. Some research of my own may be necessary.

An 8th grade jeune homme, returning to my class for French 2 this go around, brought me the colorful  macaron erasers pictured above.  They look good enough to eat, but I think I will leave them to decorate my desk.  Such sweet kiddos.

Back to the resolutions part of this post.  I don’t want to set myself up for failure and I like to keep it manageable so that I am not riddled with guilt.

  1. Walk more.  Try to get that 10,000 step Fitbit buzz every day.
  2. Continue my Gratitude Project, expressing my thanks daily to someone who has helped me.  Who doesn’t love cookies?  Or a thank you note?  Or a hug?
  3. Keep things in perspective.  First World Problem or a genuine crisis?
  4. Look for silver linings.  There almost always is one.  Blessings in disguise.

And now, back to cookies.  Can’t resist trying a new recipe and warming up the oven.  I will take some to Son #1 and EB for a taste test.  The Ex-Ex will miss out this time.  He is off on an adventure for the next few days.

 

big spoon

Amazing Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Big Spoon Roasters blog

24 cookies

INGREDIENTS

One 10 oz jar Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Butter  I used Vanilla Peanut Sorghum– minus a couple of spoonfuls- I admit- one must taste one’s ingredients, people, Quality Control, you know
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar  I was a bit short and used Spices and Tease caramel sugar to make up the difference- a gift from one of my girlies
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda

INSTRUCTIONS

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
– Mix all ingredients together in a mixer until well blended.
– Scoop into even-sized balls (well compacted – the dough is crumbly and a bit oily)
– Flatten each ball slightly with a fork (we make a cross-hatch).  I tried the cross-hatch thing but my fork kept sticking to the cookie dough so I just flattened the second tray with the back of a spoon; I sprinkled some Hawaiian Island Salt Company’s Diamonds of the Sea salt given to me by Judy C aka Joan of Arc aka IronWoman on top of the second tray– definitely a good idea!
– Bake on parchment paper at 350 degrees F for 11-12 minutes.  Mine were done at 10 minutes.
– Leave on the tray for at least five minutes after removing from oven (the bottoms should not burn) as they are delicate until slightly cooled.
– Make friends.  If you decide to share, that is.

 

Bon appétit and Happy New Year to all students and teachers!  Be your best self and make it a great year!

Parenting

daddy army

Father’s Day 2016.  Daddy Tommy when he was no more than a kid.  Sons #1 and #2 are older than he was in this photo.  I keep this one on my refrigerator.  I love to look into his smiling eyes.  I wonder what he was thinking?  I don’t know where this was taken.  Daddy joined the Army and left my mom and Spruce Pine around the age of 19, I think.  Mama left Spruce Pine to join him in Louisiana at not quite 16 years of age.

My BFF’s house was robbed not long ago and the one thing that she wants back is a card from her dad.  It accompanied a string of pearls that she was given on her wedding day.  “I love you, Dad.”  He was a victim of Alzheimer’s. She says it was clear that he had a great deal of difficulty writing those four words on that card.  It is probably the last thing he wrote.  She knows that she will never see it again, but it meant more to her than the jewelry that was taken.

I have a letter that my dad wrote back home to my Grandma Bell.  I promised Mama I would take good care of it when she gave it to me last year.  It is a big part of our family story.  It is the only thing that I have in my dad’s handwriting.  Hand-written letters are very personal and prized possessions.  The postmark is 1956, the year my dad turned 20.

daddy's letter

Although he wrote it to my grandmother, he mentions my grandfather several times.  We lived next door to my grandparents for all but two of my first 18 years.  My dad and grandfather did not get along very well for many of those years, as I remember it.  That still makes me profoundly sad.  I loved them both so very much.  Parenting isn’t easy.  It is the toughest job out there.  Bar none.  My dad was hardheaded, as we say in the South, and I am pretty sure that he bucked all of my grandfather’s advice.  20-year olds are pretty sure they know everything and that they do not need parental intervention.  I wish that I could sit them both down right now and ask them all of the questions that have been swirling around in my head all these years.  They will both be in my Heaven, so I know that someday I will have the chance for a heart-to-heart talk with these two men who played such a prominent role in my childhood.

Daddy’s letter ends this way–

end of letter

Did he ever call Papa?  I have no idea.  When he was discharged from the Army, he built a house next door to my grandparents and I was born in 1958.

Daddy loved country music, watching police serial shows, gangster movies and golf on TV, the Washington Redskins, Duke basketball, eating pimiento cheese and bologna sandwiches, camping and taking his boat out on Lake James in the summer.  He loved to tease me.  I hated it, of course.  He loved his dog Bowser, although that dog chewed through the bathroom door.  He loved Kentucky Fried Chicken and we would often stop in Marion on the way to the lake to buy some to take with us.  He loved my mom and his crumbcrushers, as he called us.

Life with Tommy wasn’t easy, though.  He was an alcoholic.  And not a funny or laid back one.  Quite the opposite.  It took me a long time to talk about this part of my childhood and to forgive him.  I wrote a letter to him towards the end of his life and I hope that I conveyed my love and the beginning of forgiveness.

Parenting is a tough job.  You want the very best for your children.  You don’t want them to hurt, either physically or emotionally.  However, although there are shelves and shelves of how-to books out there, parenting does not come with a fool-proof manual.  It is a combination of trial and error and doing the best you can.  It’s not about being perfect or making life perfect for your child.  Life is tough.  It’s not always fair.  It’s about trying to provide for all of your children’s needs and a few of their wants.  It’s about listening and admitting when you are wrong.  It’s the purest form of love.

This quote is also on our refrigerator–

refridge

It has been there for 26 years.  Son #1 recently used it when he spoke about his dad at his dad’s induction into our school’s Sports Hall of Fame.  Hopefully, someday it will be on Son #1’s refrigerator.  Hasdai Ibn Shaprut was a Spanish-Jewish physician and poet/writer (915-975 A.D.).

I found this recipe and plan to make it for the Ex-Ex and Son #1 today.  Unfortunately, Son #2 can’t be here with us.  Tommy Bell would have liked this sandwich, I’m sure.

Patty Melt Sandwich

from Leite’s Culinaria

Makes 4 sandwiches (you know your eaters, though, and how much they eat, so adjust quantities, if necessary!)

For the onions:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium Vidalia onions
  • 3 pinches salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine (SB note:  I didn’t have any white so I used rosé!)
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter

For the patty melt:

  • Cooking oil
  • 1 pound ground beef 
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • 8 to 10 slices crusty bakery bread  (if you want to make a traditional patty melt, rye bread); SB note:  I used potato hamburger rolls, flattened
  • Sliced American cheese

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.

2. Slice the onions into fairly thin rings or half rings and add them to the skillet, stirring to coat with oil and continuing to stir  around until onions become limp, about 7 minutes.

3. Add salt and stir.

4. Add the wine and raise heat to high for 1 minute, stirring constantly until liquid evaporates, then return to medium, add butter and stir until melted.

5. Cook, stirring the onions in the pan frequently for another 15 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown. [Leite’s Note: Just to be clear, the onions are not going to be caramelized after this short amount of time. And that’s okay. Although if you really want caramelized onions, be our guest and let them cook at least another 30 minutes or so.) Remove the pan from the heat.

Make the patty melt

6. Preheat another skillet over medium heat and add cooking oil to coat the surface.

7. Make  4  balls of ground beef.

8. When the skillet with the oil gets hot, place the balls of beef into the pan, one or two at a time. Season with salt and mash them flat with a spatula so that each patty is just smaller than the slice of bread. Cook the patties, without touching them, for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip them and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more for medium-rare, more for medium or well-done. Place the burgers on a wire rack placed over a plate.

9. Heat skillet to medium heat.  Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Place 1 slice of bread in the skillet, butter side down. Add a slice of cheese on top of the bread, followed by a cooked patty, some of the onions, followed by another slice of cheese and a second slice of bread, butter side up. Cook for 2 1/2 minutes. Keep an eye on the sandwich so that the bread doesn’t burn. Then flip the sandwich and cook for 1 minute more. Using a spatula, remove the sandwich from the skillet and place it it on a plate. Repeat with the remaining patties, buttered bread, cheese, and onions. Serve hot.

 

Bon appétit and Happy Father’s Day to all!

 

 

28 Mother’s Days

 

I am attempting to move my old blog over to WordPress.  I think that I will now attempt to copy and past over the last post.  Cross your fingers…

I became a mother in 1987.  Son #1 came into the world as a perfect textbook baby, according to his pediatrician.  I had no other frame of reference.  He ate every four hours, rarely cried, slept through the night at four weeks, and made me feel like the perfect mother.  I actually had very little to do with it.  Other than the feeding and changing diapers.  The first thing the Ex-Ex and I did when we brought him home was to take him upstairs and change his diaper.  We were scared to death and really didn’t know what else to do.  I had zero to no experience with baby boys and their parts.  I managed to let him pee all over himself before I could get the diaper back on.  Live and learn.  I learned to always keep a diaper in place so that wouldn’t happen again.  I’ve come to the side of the camp that believes we are born with a certain personality and temperament.  If we are lucky, we have a spouse who loves us and helps us and understands that the bond between a mother and child has nine months to take hold and that it never lets go.  We are also lucky if we have enough resources to provide for all of this little bundle’s needs and a few of his wants.

I became a mother for the second time in 1992.  Son #2 was completely different.  He seemed hungry all of the time (my parts hurt just remembering that).  He cried with a gusto I didn’t know a little bundle could muster.  He rarely napped (anything under an hour doesn’t count, in my book).  And he suffered from night terrors off and on for a few years.  Our pediatrician, Dr. Will London, informed me that he was a “normal” baby.  Now he is as calm as can be.  A couple of years ago he asked me if he was an accident since there is almost a five year difference between him and his big brother.  No, he was planned.  We were thinking ahead to college tuition probably.

Mothers want their children to be happy.  It is as simple as that.  When they are heartbroken, so are we.  I am not a hover mother or any of the other titles that have been given to mothers who want to fix everything and make their child’s world perfect.  I know that you cannot do that.  Mama Mildred taught me that.  There will be some stumbles and probably some falls.  That’s how you learn self-confidence and resiliency.  Life comes with happy and sad.  You have to learn not to get too high on the happy or too low on the sad.  Balance.  It isn’t always fair.  Asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness.  Each of us is a work in progress.  For our entire lives.  Not everyone is meant to be a doctor, a five-star general or the head of a corporation.  As Abraham Lincoln said “Whatever you are, be a good one.”  Abe knew adversity.

There are no perfect mothers.  We are human.  We cry.  We stumble.  We take detours.  But we never stop loving our babies or wanting the very best for them.  Our worst fear is that our babies will leave us before we leave them.  That’s not the natural order of things.  We will always feel the need to fix things, even though we know we can’t.  That’s when we pull out a frying pan or a mixer and try to feed them something we know they love or at least they used to when they were little.

Someone gave me us the children’s book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch when the boys were little. This became their favorite bedtime story because it always made me cry.  (I am tearing up just thinking about it.)  On his website, the author says the book started out as a song.

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

as long as I’m living

my baby you’ll be.


I know that somewhere I still have that book.  It’s in a box of treasures in a closet, I am guessing, with the Batmans and Thomas the Tank Engines.  It’s the story of a little boy and all the stuff he gets into (as you can see from the cover).  It ends, however, with the grown up little boy taking care of his mother and singing:

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

as long as I’m living

my mommy you’ll be.

Click on the link above and listen to the author read the story.  You will understand why Love You Forever is a best seller in retirement communities.  I am not just tearing up at this point.  I am a lucky mother.  Dripping tears and all.

Son #1 was (and still is) a big fan of Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Wings back in 2002.  The internet was around at that point and he found the recipe on the Top Secret Recipe website.  I found the recipe yesterday while straightening out my cookbook shelf.  It’s actually a bookcase– I have a lot of cookbooks.

Top Secret Recipes version of Chili’s Boneless Buffalo Wings 

by Todd Wilbur

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 chicken breast fillets

4-6 cups vegetable oil

1/4 cup Crystal or Frank’s Louisiana hot sauce

1 tablespoon butter (the recipe calls for margarine, but I am a purist and only use butter!)

On the side:

bleu cheese dressing (for dipping)– we prefer ranch

celery sticks

  1. Combine flour, salt, peppers and paprika in a medium bowl.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk together egg and milk.
  3. Slice each chicken breast into 6 pieces.  Preheat 4-6 cups of vegetable oil in a deep fryer to 375˚ F.  (I use my deep cast iron frying pan.)
  4. One or two at a time, dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture, then into the breading blend; then repeat the process so that each piece of chicken is double-coated.
  5. When all chicken pieces have been breaded, arrange them on a plate and chill for 15 minutes.
  6. When the chicken is done resting, drop each piece into the hot oil and fry for 5-6 minutes or until each piece is browned.
  7. As chicken fries, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl.  Microwave sauce for 20-30 seconds or just until the butter is melted, then stir to combine.  You can also use a small saucepan for this step.  Just combine the hot sauce and margarine in the saucepan over low heat and still until the butter is melted and ingredients are blended.
  8. When chicken pieces are done frying, remove them to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels.
  9. Place the chicken pieces in a covered container such as a large jar with a lid (a tupperware-type bowl will work just fine).  Pour the sauce over the chicken in the container, cover, and then shake gently until each piece of chicken is coated with sauce.  Pour the chicken onto a plate and serve the dish with bleu cheese dressing (or ranch or whatever you like) and sliced celery on the side.

I also found a cookbook that Son #2’s fourth grade teacher and class put together.  The Comet’s Cafeteria.  Son #2 was (and still is) a fan of cheese sticks.  I remember searching for a recipe and having occasional success with it.

Fried Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1-1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 quart oil for deep frying

1 (16 ounce) package of mozzarella cheese sticks

In a small bowl, mix the eggs and water.  Mix the bread crumbs and garlic salt in a medium bowl.  In another medium bowl, blend the flour and cornstarch.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 375˚F.  One at a time, moisten each mozzarella stick in the egg mixture.  Then dip into the bread crumbs, and finally into the flour mixture.  Then fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

Bon appétit to all mothers.  Happy Mother’s Day!  Our babies might not be able to be with us, but they are in our hearts and souls.  Now and always.  As long as we’re living our babies they’ll be.