Monday, December 28, 2009

Corn Chowder

Earlier this month, just before the holidays, a dear, close friend of mine shared with me that she was in charge of her entire family's Christmas dinner and expressed a smidge of trepidation over the affair. I have the luxury of a relatively small family, so cooking for 15+ over a holiday has never really been an option for me, but I do remember the Flynn Family Christmas Eve Extravaganzas, with a huge house filled to the brim with laughing adults and screaming children.

Hmm, now I'm shaking in my boots too.

But even though those were some of the happiest times of my life, they were also the most simple. I vividly remember the drunkenness of a child's pure happiness, glee, and delight. Everyone shared the feeling, and the Christmas spirit of my memory will keep me warm through to Spring.

But you know what else? Cha-Cha, my grandmother, never brought out the fine china on Christmas. And we didn't have help in the kitchen. We had a selection of corn chowder, chili, and taco soup on the stove. There's the pot. There's the ladle. Help yourself. At best we used the somewhat chipped or cracked white octagonal beaded-lip bowls of her everyday dishes, but usually we used paper plates, bowls, cups, and utensils.

And that was just part of the fun.

The happy part, the real part, was honestly loving and enjoying the people around me. Furthermore, we had the bonus of not worrying about breaking a piece of crystal or tarnishing the silver.

So for the rest of your celebrations, simple it up. Not like Sandra Lee. Take it back to your grandmother, your great-grandmother, or another lady you know who is better at conversation than cru d'ete.

My Unc' called the other day to let me know he was making this dish, and it instantly brought back the best memories of youth at my grandparents' house. He wanted to let me know that he was using the meat thermometer that we gave him a few Christmasses ago to set off an alarm before the chowder boils. Ingenious.

Corn Chowder

1 pound ham, cubed
3 pieces bacon
3-4 green onions, chopped
2 large cans creamed corn
1 small can kernel corn
1/2 quart half & half (MUST be half & half. Anything else doesn't taste right.)
2 large cubed potatoes
White pepper and salt to taste
Optional parsley for garnish
  1. In a big pot, cook the 3 pieces of bacon until crisp.
  2. Take out of pan & crumble.
  3. Drain off all but 1 1/2 Tablespoon of grease for flavor.
  4. Fry 3 or 4 green onions in grease.
  5. Add ham & bacon and fry slightly.
  6. Add corn & stir well.
  7. Add half & half and mix well.
  8. Add potatoes.
  9. Top off pot with plain milk until desired consistency is achieved.
  10. Cook gently - DO NOT BOIL - for 30 or 45 minutes until potatoes are done.

Photo courtesy of Dinner and Jam.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I treasure our Christmas ornaments. From the most plain ones Mike had when he was a bachelor to hand-carved ones made by Tom Brooks, to the most intricately-painted ones by Gay Street, to the sparkly mercury ones that belonged to my grandmother, each and every one has a story.
On Christmas Eve, as we were getting ready to go with Mom out for supper at the Fairview Inn, where we had our wedding reception, Mike came in to our room and told me there was something outside that I really should see. My first thought? Honestly?

Lord, I love my car. Please don't let him have bought me a car for Christmas.

But this was even better (under the circumstances, as I do love my car).

Wow. It was actually a full double rainbow with a second one over it, so that's what, a quadruple rainbow? What a promise and a blessing. We had the most fabulous dinner and then headed to visit with friends in Madison.

Christmas Day was truly lovely this year. So much warmer, cheerier, better than either of us expected. I still had sad and blue moments, especially thinking of and missing Alan. Last year it seemed like he was just out of town for his birthday and the holiday, but this year it seemed much more sadly and unfortunately permanent. Mike was a support that kept me going and pulled me up when I needed it and let me cry when necessary.

Dante received a special Frogger, which he really loves.

Kearney received some great toys too.
At first Dante and Kearney were unsure of the motorized ball sent to them by Roy and Judy. But pandelerium soon ensued. And Bill and Nancy sent us the gorgeous carpet in the top right corner of the photo. It fits perfectly in our foyer. And Roy and Judy sent the package behind Kearney while Mike festively wrapped it up for me.
Mike and I had our own Christmas celebration together, and later on in the day Mom came over for another gift opening. I'm not sure which was the bigger hit: the Ryobi hedge trimmer, or the box.
Content puppy dog in front of the fire. Yes, that is a fire extinguisher on the left. Roy and Judy were good enough to send me one to keep in my car. They know me too well.
Santa brought Dante his very own snuggie! It's a little big though, so we're going to have to exchange it for a smaller one.
Santa was way too good to me. Entirely too good. Mom gave me the last of my set of dishes and a beautiful peacock feather shawl. Mike gave me an exquisite pair of earrings. He wrapped them in a soap dispenser box, but what a surprise when I opened the box!
Dante loves the pillows Mom made for me. He approves.
Santa brought Mike a tripod for the camera, so he decided we should take a "cheesy family photo" of us in front of the Christmas tree. These were the best two shots. Dante and Kearney were not enthused.

For Christmas Evening, we went to Dad's house and had egg nogg and gifts. We had the best time playing Apples to Apples, watching episodes of Office Space, and just hanging out together. It was the best day ever, and I am so thankful for God above for giving us such family and friends.

Project: Gross Green Room

Before (with blue painter's tape)
Ever since we moved in, Mike has despised one room of our house. It has been called several names: the green room, the extra guest room, the cat's room, the gym. But we could never call it a pretty color. I'd assume it was supposed to be a nursery, but this house is French Acadian, and that color in no way goes with or compliments the rest of the rooms in our house. The dining room is Audubon Russet, most of the public rooms, hallways, jack and jill bedroom and bath, and the study are a wheat color, and our bedroom is chocolate brown.

So where did the painters come up with this Lily-Pulizter green?

We have tried to come up with a good color for it since we moved in, and our recent adventures in antebellum homes have inspired me to use a slate, Federal, indigo blue that we found in many of the Creole homes on the Louisiana River Road.

Dante was a big help. The paint was a much lighter, brighter color when it was wet, and for a few hours I was terrified it would forever be called the "smurf room."

But I think it worked out rather well.

Through the day, the color changes from faded denim to a Creole to French to nautical to a Federal blue to a navy and indigo at night. Now that I stand back, I think a more gray and less saturated color might have been better, but there is such a thin line between the resulting color and a country blue, which I really don't like. And I am truly happy with this one. I like the rich saturation.
At first Mike thought I was crazy. Now it's his favorite room in the house. Especially after we moved in our old larger TV.

2009 in Review: December

Shut the door. Not that it lets in the cold but that it lets out the coziness. - Mark Twain
December has been another lovely month. We had an uncharacteristically heavy snow through the night of the fourth that stuck through most of the fifth.
Mike was called down to New Orleans to work, so I spent the first day exploring the River Road by myself. By the second day he was done, so Mike joined me on the River Road on the way back home before the snow started. I enjoyed it so much that I took Mom down the next Friday, and we explored Oak Alley, Laura, Evergreen, and Nottoway Plantations.

Then Mike took me back to Rosalie to get the tour that I was never able to have back in October during the pilgrimage. I am proud to be a co-owner.
With the exception of Christmas Day, I have spent an extraordinary amount of time in the kitchen this month. With a challenge from Asher, I was able to construct a pretty good bouche de noel. My croissants were rather abysmal, but the English toffee will rock your world. Chili, cinnamon rolls, chicken & dressing, spinach madeline, oatmeal cookies, brownies, grilled chicken, and macaroni & cheese round out a menu to keep us warm. Mom brought us some corn chowder and trash on Christmas Day so it felt like Christmas.
And the animals settled in for a long winter's night.
So that's it for 2009 in review. Thank you for remembering every month along with me; I'd forgotten we have had so many good times and extraordinary adventures this year. Here's to happy memories and that 2010 will be the best year yet.

2009 in Review: November

[We] have achieved [our] seventy years in the usual way, by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else.... [We] will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: That we can't reach old age by another man's road. - In the words of Mark Twain, at his seventieth birthday dinner, in 1905, as quoted in Saving Your Brain by Jeff Victoroff

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. - Mark Twain

Let's just say that Mike and I both had milestone birthdays in November. We figured that we had celebrated enough in Europe in September, so we stayed home and took it easy. Mike had to work late again on his birthday, but at least he didn't have to work 17 straight hours like last year. But all of our friends and family took us out for various lovely intimate dinners, so we were eating out all month long.
We took Dante down to Rocky Springs to snap a few photos. He loved exploring and running through the forest, but the damp river bed was not his favorite.
Kearney stayed home. This is his latest trick: playing mind games with Dante by getting his stink all over Dante's bed. We tried giving Kearney beds all his life, but he never had anything to do with them until we brought home a dog.

I made the last harvest of the garden, preserved the last of the peppers, cut off the dead tomato plants, and gave the tomato cages to Laura, who made Christmas trees out of them.
We had a house full for Thanksgiving, including us, my mom, and Roy and Judy.

2009 in Review: October

Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. - Mark Twain

October was full of dressing up and good company. I kicked off the month with a trip down to Natchez to host pilgrimage tours on the front porch of Rosalie. This was my first time to do a pilgrimage, and I have to admit that I didn't want the front porch. But the tourists were very nice and put up with my cheat sheet - Rosalie is on the National Historical Register, so I had to be careful what stories I told - and I met very nice people from as far away as Australia and Japan.
On the 20th we headed up to Little Rock to attend my cousin David's beautiful wedding. Mike forgot his pants.
And on the 3rd we drove up to Starkpatch to see Tech whoop up on MS State. Made it worth having to endure those damn cowbells and the temporary deafness they caused. Of course all of our friends were State fans, and we appreciated their generous company and letting us Techies tailgate with them.

Mike was Clint Eastwood's character The Good from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Halloween. I was a German bar wench, complete with authentic costume purchased in Munich. Dante loved playing with Mike when he was wearing his poncho.

Mike and I attended homecoming at Millsaps. The bloody marys were delicious.
And we went to the Maize Maze in Canton for the first time. It was a hoot. A big hoot. I laughed myself silly.

2009 in Review: September

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain
And oh, did we catch the wind in our sails during September. We started the month off with salsa dancing at a local club.

We drove to Pensacola to remember my uncle Forrest.
And Dante had his first-ever boat ride. Poor little dog really didn't like it. You might not be able to tell from these photos, but we both had a death grip on him, which he gladly returned. When Mike first took the boat up on plane, I thought Dante was going to dig a hole in the hull.

And we went to Prague, Munich, and Venice.


Made by Lena