Small things, great things, great love

rose

It is hard to believe.  September has arrived.  It came in rainy yesterday here in my little corner of North Carolina. Hurricane season. My thoughts continue to be with the people in Texas who lost family, pets, and all of their worldly belongings. Stuff is stuff and can be replaced, but some of the stuff has sentimental value and losing it can be traumatic. And it always seems that the ones who can’t afford to lose it all, often do. With no insurance or savings accounts to help replace the stuff or even enough to find a dry place to sleep. Heartbreaking circumstances. During Harvey’s devastation, I had a small personal tie to it through Son #2’s GF. I texted her daily (and confessed to being a worrier) to get updates on her family and friends in Houston.

Bravelets, a company that sells jewelry, mostly bracelets, and donates a portion of the profits to charity, has a Texas bracelet and necklace for sale with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross Relief Fund for Hurricane Harvey victims. There will be scammers out there, I am sure there already are, but the Red Cross does good work.

bravelet

This morning during our therapy session (AKA our morning 3-mile walk), the BFF told me about a great idea I want to share.  Undies for Everyone.  This was posted on their Facebook page just a few minutes ago–

Due to your overwhelming generosity from all over the world, we distributed over 30,000 pairs of underwear today alone to Hurricane Harvey families in need! As we receive shipments, we will continue to provide new underwear to survivors of the hurricane all over South Texas.

Nice, clean underwear is something quite a few of us don’t have to think about, right? We take it for granted. I am pretty sure that Son #1 and Son #2 dashed out to Target or Walmart to get new ones more than once when they had no clean ones.

I think that it’s now time for a What Am I Reading update. I haven’t done this in a while and I have indeed been reading. Every day. Usually for an hour or two before I fall asleep. Here’s what is on my bedside table right now.

Currently reading-

Mothering Addiction: A parent’s story of heartache, healing and keeping the door open by Lynda Harrison Hatcher

The BFF is a college friend of Ms. Hatcher. She was even a bridesmaid in what appeared to be the perfect wedding of the perfect couple. As those of us who have lived long enough know, perfect doesn’t exist and Ms. Hatcher takes us through what it is really like to be the mother of a drug addict. Her perfect life and marriage crumbles. I can identify, albeit in a small way compared to the author, as the aunt of an addict who is currently sitting in jail, headed for a 5 year prison term after a plea bargain. I went with Mama Mildred to visit him this summer. Talking on a phone to a loved one through plexiglass was only a movie scene in my mind prior to this visit. Mama and Moo go faithfully every Saturday. There is a line in the book where either the author or one of the members of her “Book Club” (really a support group of mothers of addicts) says that at least she knows where her child is when he/she is in prison/jail. Mama said the exact same thing. I can’t send care packages, only books shipped directly from Amazon. I highly recommend this book. With the drug epidemic in our country, most of us are touched by addiction in some way. Addiction is difficult to understand. As the child of an alcoholic, I have grappled with understanding it my entire life.

Waiting in the wings-

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I swore to myself that I was not going to read this one. I can be a bit touchy by the label hillbilly with my background as a proud child of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I get tired of Deliverance jokes and those who whistle the tune for me. I do not enjoy comments made about those people. When you choose to make holier-than-thou remarks about dumb inbred hillbillies, you are talking about my people and I do not like it. I recently read a review of this book and had decided not to read it, but it was a summer reading choice for teachers at my school. After hearing about the discussion some of the readers had, I borrowed it from one of my colleagues. I read the first few pages and have decided to give it a go. I am still not sure that I will appreciate the memoir of a 30 something who did not grow up in the mountains, but my mind may be a bit more open now.

Recently finished-

Dimestore by Lee Smith

I have been a huge Lee Smith fan for many years. She writes with the voice of a Southern Appalachian woman. She is a Virginian, hailing from Grundy and this is her memoir. How she grew up, the demons her parents faced, and how she found that voice so many of us love. I have met Ms. Lee and attended more that one of her readings. Her voice reminds me of Arles Lucy, another Virginian. (I wish you could hear Arles Lucy say that word. It sounds as sweet as honey tastes.)

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell.

I have read quite a few books about French artists, trying to see them as real people, not just masterpieces. Even after reading this one, it is hard to wrap my head around Claude Monet as a dirt poor, struggling artist trying to support his family and sell his work, surrounded by Bazille, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro and Manet, mentored by Boudin. This centers on his relationship with his first wife, Camille Doncieux, a woman about whom little is really known. As we all know, Monet lives long enough to see his work appreciated and he is able to live comfortably in his home and gardens at Giverny. This haunting painting of Camille on her deathbed is part of the story.

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Image: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/events/exhibitions/archives/archives.html?zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1[showUid]=99997&cHash=398d90108b

I love the Musée d’Orsay and visit it almost every time I am in Paris. I want to come back as an artist in my next life.  Or a French cat.

Murder in Saint Germain by Cara Black

Probably my favorite series, the 17th book takes place in a neighborhood I have recently been roaming around in as much as possible when in Paris. I love Aimée and have watched her struggle with love on all fronts, from being deserted by her mother, to losing her father in an explosion to her relationship with her godfather to the bad boys she chooses as boyfriends. She gets herself in hot water in a different neighborhood in each book.  Keep them coming, Cara. S’il vous plaît.

Play Dead by Harlan Coben

Several years ago, I fell instantly in love with Coben’s character Myron Bolitar, a former Duke basketball player drafted by the Boston Celtics. Bolitar blows out his knee, has to give up his hoops career and becomes a detective. Play Dead isn’t a Bolitar novel, but it is a slam dunk. (Clever, n’est-ce pas?) Basketball is front and center, with a star Celtic and a super model as the main characters. I couldn’t put it down. Lots of twists and turns and an ending that I didn’t see coming. M. Coben is very popular with my Frenchies. One of his books, Tell No One, was made into a movie in France, Ne le dis à personne. I even saw Coben interviewed on French TV once a few years back! (He had a translator.)

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

If you’ve read any of his novels, then you know that his stories are good escapes. And hard to put down, at least for me.  This one takes place in Wilmington, NC and revolves around a wealthy reformed bad boy and the successful daughter of Mexican immigrants who own a local restaurant. Some bad guys are out there and threaten their hard found happiness.

The One Thing More by Anne Perry

This novel is set in France in the time of Louis XVI with his execution on the horizon. There are those calling for his head and a few others who think that worse will happen if they do indeed send Louis to the guillotine. Célie, the main character, gets brought into the secretive fight to save the king. I thoroughly enjoyed this work of historical fiction, my favorite genre.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This is the best book I have read in a long time, maybe ever. I gave a copy of it Mama Mildred for either her birthday or Christmas last year (who just this morning tried to tell me that she thinks she read it– not believing she really did, she probably lent it to someone or someone “borrowed” it)

From Picoult’s website–

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

As I was reading this book, I attended a workshop on racial equity here in Durham which coincidentally was held on the morning of the white supremacy march in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Groundwater- Intro to Race Equity workshop was sponsored by the Racial Equity Institute of Greensboro. I fully intend to take another of their workshops to learn more about how to be a part of the solution.

Picoult is an amazing writer. She takes real events and turns them into stories told from all sides, even if you do not really want to know what white supremacists think and how they recruit new members. At one point, I thought that I would not be able to finish the book because of the couple’s hatred based solely on the color of Ruth’s skin. Ruth has done everything “right” in her life and is working hard to provide for her son and teach him that the world is fair and the color of his skin doesn’t matter. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Here you can find an excerpt and also Jodi’s story of how the idea of the book came about. The title of the book comes from a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way” 

It also reminds me of a Mother Teresa quote:

“There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.”

I have read other books, but I will end with that one. I hope that Mama Mildred finds her copy. If she doesn’t, she will probably get a new copy for her birthday this year.

Today I plan to make a new recipe, one that I’ve been thinking about for a while.  I’ve been thinking about it since I ate this dish at Luna Rotisserie in downtown Durham. Every time I go there I promise myself I am going to try something new, but, no. I cannot resist the sides– black beans and coconut rice, spicy bacon collards, pan-roasted succotash with smoked bacon and my favorite…pimento hominy “mac and cheese.” There is no “mac” in this dish nor does there need to be. I ate a lot of hominy growing up, but not once did it occur to me that you could add cheese to it and bake it. I wonder why. I have found a recipe and am off to the grocery store to get some hominy now.  Back in a bit. Oh! But first… do you know what hominy is? Do we only eat it in the South? Just in case, here you go– basically, it is corn soaked in lye. It turns white and soft and plump. My Granny used to make her own. If you want the long, drawn out, actual scientific explanation, click here.  It is also ground up to make grits, another thing we love in the South. Now I’ve made myself really hungry.

I really am going to the grocery store! See you soon.

Okay, back from Food Lion.  I cheated. My favorite brand of ready-made pimento cheese was sitting there waiting for me… with bacon already in it, no less.

pimento cheese.jpg

 

Baked Pimento Cheese Hominy with Soul

by The Nutty Vegetarian at food52.com

4-6 servings

(I apologize to the NV in advance– I plan to put bacon in mine…)

8 ounces Cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I only use Duke’s)

4 ounces Pimentos, diced into small bits

2- 15.5 ounce cans of Hominy, cooked

Crisply fried bacon

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter an ovenproof baking dish.
  2. To make the pimento cheese, combine the shredded cheddar, mayo and pimentos in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and gently mix in the hominy.
  4. If adding the bacon, crumble it up and mix it in with the hominy and/or sprinkle some on top.
  5. Spoon into the baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the top is browned.

baked hominy

 

Bon appétit, mes amis!  Keep reading good books and serving up good food to your family and friends.

 

 

 

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.