Monday, March 30, 2009

Someone's in the Kitchen

My sweet cousins Katy and Sarah took me to Easely Amused a couple of weeks ago to paint Shake your Tail Feather. It's an awfully fun place to spend with your best girlfriends, a bottle of your own wine, and your artistic ability. Bridget gives you all the supplies you need and enough direction and support to create your own masterpiece while having a great time.

This weekend my aunt Claudia gave me the idea of a test kitchen that somebody could rent to make food for resale or to have cooking classes. How awesome would that be? Cooking classes! I know Everyday Gourmet does it, but though they have awesome food there, and it's definitely gourmet, I'm not sure if it's everyday.

Anyway, I think it would be so much fun to have a few friends over to play in the kitchen and share ideas. For instance, everybody could bring their own different fruit for a pie filling, and we could just drink wine and play away. I'd learn how different flavors work together, and I could teach how to make homemade pie crust and how to lattice it.

Just a thought. My kitchen's always open!

Tiny Chocolate Mice

My aunt Claudia recently went to a party celebrating my cousin David's engagement - congratulations, David! These teeny mice were all over the cheese and fruit tray, and as soon as I saw this photo from Claudia, I instantly started trying to figure out how they were made. They are entirely too cute.

Per Claudia:

  1. Dry off maraschino cherries.
  2. Dip them entirely into melted chocolate chips.
  3. "Glue" a Hershey kiss on the front with melted chocolate, making sure to keep the stem/tail in the correct position.
  4. Add slivered almonds to make ears.
  5. Mix powdered sugar with water and affix with toothpicks to make the eyes.
  6. Allow to dry on parchment paper in the fridge until ready to go.
Now, who wants to be the first hostess in Jackson to have these precious little boogers at her party?

I Sing a Song for the Saints of God

Four years ago this Wednesday, April 1st, Dad called my cell phone at 11:40 AM to let me know that A3's headaches had finally been diagnosed. I was standing in front of the Edison Wathall Hotel in downtown Jackson, wearing a teal springtime dress. It's the first time I remember the world falling out from underneath me. He fought so hard and never gave up. I never gave up. I truly never believed it was the beginning of his end on this earth.

We recently visited the Boy's headstone.

It's an odd, smoldering grief. A good friend who works with Hospice told me that it will take at least three years to get over it, and I believe that now. I still dream about him, and I pray that I always will. I cling to and cherish reminders of him: a flower he made me, a plastic dog he put on top of my birthday cake, turtle pillowcases he picked out for me, the whistle of a train, a cardinal outside.

There are so many facets of this sadness, so many regrets on my part. To have been there more for the family, to have realized what was really going on. To have known him better, to watch him grow up, to attend his wedding, to be there for him through anything.

But I can't imagine what his nuclear family must be going through. What they will carry with them always. I wish there was something to do, but nothing will ever replace him.

So I'll type the two pieces that have followed me. They both enter my head when life gets quiet; I'll say them with the rhythm of walks with Dante, the tumble of clothes in the dryer, the tick of a timer. And maybe, just maybe they'll help fill the gap until I get to see him again.

I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and His love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
and there's not any reason, no not the least,
why I sholuldn't be one too.

They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundereds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in the church by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too.


Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004)

Photo courtesy The Plant Directory.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hannaford Farm Stones

Mike and I went up to Morrilton and Little Rock, Arkansas, this weekend to remember the life of John Robert Stallings. It was a beautiful service, and it meant a lot for us to spend that time together to reconnect as family.

We have a bare spot in the backyard in a shady area that has a hard time growing grass, and we've been concerned about the dirt washing away. I've looked all over Jackson, Mississippi, in the hunt for stones that match the ones set at the front of our house, but so far no luck. As we drove onto my family's Hannaford Farm to spread John Robert's ashes, Mike spotted some stones in the ditch that were perfect.

Grandmama said that she would love for us to take some home, so after his ashes were spread, here Mike and I go in our funeral suits, jumping out of the car and dumping some smaller stones in the trunk of my car. It was like winning the lottery! I am THRILLED to have my family's rocks in my own dirt here at home - they are truly some of my treasures, and if we ever move, these stones are coming with me.

The above pictures don't look like much now, but we're planning to plant some shade-loving grass or other ground cover in between them. It's definitely a work in progress.

We're hoping to have another mini-rock-raid at Belle Marie later this spring.

Herbed Roasted Corn

Mike and I fixed this for lunch today, and man, did it turn out well! I've posted about the plank-grilled salmon before, and the blackberry salad is pretty self-explanatory, but the roasted corn was fabu. It's now my favorite way to cook corn: something about the roasting process infuses it with great taste and makes butter and salt unnecesary.
  1. Preheat grill to 350 degress.
  2. Soak desired amount of whole ears of corn in water for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Peel the green husk back like a banana and remove the silks only.
  4. Make an herbal garlic paste with desired amount of fresh garlic, cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary, oregano, and/or mint.
  5. Brush corn with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herb mixture to taste.
  6. Replace husks around corn and tie with butcher twine.
  7. Roast in husk for 15-30 minutes, until desired doneness.
  8. Discard husks and enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Scones

This is one of my favorite recipes from A Day in the Country. I think it's a perfect hostess gift, and as I recently found I might be somehow descended from the McGregor clan, a Scottish dish is definitely in order.

I'm intrigued how the combination of sour cream and baking soda causes the sour cream to puff up before you add it to the dough. It may be a good substitute for buttermilk if you don't have any available for biscuits.

And how good would this be with lemon zest and blueberries instead of cranberries and orange zest? I have done this with chococolate chips instead of cranberries, and the orange/chocolate combination was awesome. I like to top mine with some plain granulated sugar, but if it's Valentine's Day or another color-associated holiday, colored sugars make people smile.

1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest (I just use the zest from one orange.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg
1 cup dried cranberries

  1. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and the baking soda. Set Aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Lightly grease two large baking sheets.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt.
  5. Cut in the butter.
  6. Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened.
  7. Mix in the cranberries.
  8. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
  9. Roll or pat dough into a 3/4 inch thick round.
  10. Cut into 12 wedges, and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  11. Bake 12-15 minutes until gloden brown on the bottom.
  12. Makes 12 scones.

Photo courtesy A Day in the Country.

Bourbon Slush

Almost two years ago, Mike and I got married. Along with forty-seven bottles of our favorite champagne, Martini Rossi Asti, the Fairview Inn served its signature drink, Boubon Slush. It's one of my favorite summertime drinks ever. Peter was kind enough to give me the recipe, but it's a rather highly-guarded secret. If you want some, you'll just have to come on over to our house.

And judging by all the alcohol consumed, it's no wonder three babies were conceived that day.

Photo courtesy of The Fairview.

Missing Man Formation

Mike's dad Roy has a friend die recently. At the memorial, Roy and three other pilots performed the Missing Man Flight Formation over the service. Due to unfortunate weather conditions, Roy said they were bumped and bounced around more than he had ever experienced. The bumpiness resulted in the formation not being perfectly straight, which I'm sure bugged Roy!

Nevertheless, it was a really beautiful thing. Roy's position was the most difficult one to hold: he's on the far left in all of the photos. During this formation, the second plane from the left, the one in the ring-finger position, leaves formation and pulls up, leaving a gaping hole that resembles the hole left in the lives of all of us when someone we love dies. The apex of this plane's flight pattern is over the home of the deceased.

As far as I know, this is the second such memorial in which Roy has flown. The first was for Kerbi, the lovely lady who painted Roy's plane after he finished building it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Cleaning

So what happens when you stick a soap pump into the dishwasher when it still has a little teeny bit of Palmolive in the bottom of it?

The floors get really, really clean.

Herbed Roasted Potatoes

One of my favorites alongside a steak for three reasons: 1. you don't have to worry with fixing a baked potato, 2. it's healthier than all the stuff traditionally put into a baked potato, 3. you eat the skin, which contains most of a potato's vitamins and minerals. (Mike doesn't eat skin on a baked potato, while I'll eat the whole thing.)

I found the initial idea for this dish on the side of a bag of potatoes when we first married. Since then it's evolved to include what's in my herb garden, which is good as I've lost that recipe anyway.

You can use garlic in oil and dry herbs if you don't have fresh, but fresh is definitely better. In the winter, I'll do this dish with fresh garlic and dry rosemary only, leaving out the other herbs. Remember that there's a difference between fresh and dry herbs - the more dry they are, the more potent!

4-5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped (enough to fill a 9x9 Pyrex dish)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon salt, or less to taste
1/2 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place potatoes in the Pyrex dish.
  3. In a measuring cup, combine oil, seasonings, and herbs, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour oil mixture over potatoes, being careful to cover evenly.
  5. Roast uncovered in hot oven for about 30 minutes, turning and checking every 10 minutes.
  6. If they cook too fast (as in, if your main dish isn't ready yet), cool the oven down to 375 degrees and continue to cook until brown and soft.
  7. Serves 4-6

Fried Rice

This is my go-to dish when we have some leftover meat such as chicken, steak, or pork. It's especially good when the meat has been grilled, but roasted, smoked, or braised is good too, as long as it's already been cooked. It serves 8-12, so I guess you'll have leftovers of leftovers, but it's more creative than chicken sandwiches for a week!

All of these ingredients except for the oil, soy sauce, and Minute Rice are optional; mix it up and make it your own. I've even put a bag of frozen yellow corn kernels in it - Mike likes it that way, but Mom says it's totally unrealistic and goes against the grain of Chinese fried rice. But I'm not sold on how Chinese English peas are.

1/4 cup olive or salad oil
1 bag frozen yellow, green, and red peppers and onion
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 cups Minute Rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 can mushrooms
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1/4 to 1/2 cup soy sauce, to taste (Docta Peppa-yum yum!)
16 ounce bag frozen peas
4 eggs, scrambled dry
Leftover meat, roughly chopped in bite-sized pieces.

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet or wok and add frozen peppers and onion and scallions. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until peppers are thawed and soft.
  2. Add Minute Rice and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add broth, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and soy sauce.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the liquid cooks down.
  5. Add eggs, meat, and frozen peas for the last 4-5 minutes: the peas will cook, but they should stay whole and firm.
  6. Add more broth or soy sauce if necessary according to taste to keep dish moist.


I've heard that the Japanese language does not have a word or phrase for "hot flash" because women simply do not have them. This is largely contributed to eating soy, tofu, fish, and the other healthy stuff the Japanese eat.

I might never order edamame in a restaurant again. It's as easy as boiling the beans for 5-6 minutes and sprinkling some kosher salt over them!

Yep, that's steam rising. Oh so delicious.

Friday, March 13, 2009

To Teach Someone to Read

Yesterday was a big day! Mike received recognition for a good job done at work, and as always, I'm so proud of him I could bust a gut. Of course I've always known he's great at his job, but it's nice when somebody at work tells him so.

And I was officially inducted into the Walter Leake Chapter of the DAR. I totally Obama'd the oath, saying "I will" at the wrong times and stumbling over myself. But I'm excited about being the youngest member and keeping those traditions alive, and I'm looking forward to getting more involved. This year I'm chairing our Good Citizenship scholarships with Clinton High, Forest Hill, and Mt. Salus, and I think it's a selfish project for me as much as it is volunteering. I've been so discouraged with behavior of kids lately. Kids these days. (Sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair, with my trusty cane next to me.)

Anyway, there's also a program in which I teach an illiterate adult how to read. That really excites and scares me at the same time. The idea of teaching somebody to read! Wow! What a gift to give! But at the same time, yikes. Um, how do you do it? Do they give a curriculum? What if I can't do it? It's something to think about. Have you ever done it or know anything about it?

This afternoon my sweet neighbor, her mom, and her three little girls came over to our house for a quick visit. It was just loverly. Mike's working a little late tonight, but then we're having supper at Walker's. He's on call this weekend, so he'll have Monday off!

So that's about it. We're pretty boring, but I suppose that's preferrable to the alternative.

Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Daughters of the American Revolution.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Flowers at Twilight

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Here We Go Again

Mike asked me to marry him on July 11, 2006. Mom was diagnosed with B cell, abdominal, non-operable, non-hodgkins lymphoma on August 6th of the same year. It's classified officially as stage 4, but just barely, as only little spots of cancer were present in her marrow. So we call it stage 3 1/2. Later in 2006, she underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy - cytoxin, vincristine, and rituxin - but the lymphoma didn't budge.

So her oncologist decided that we would wait to pour more toxins into Mom until the cancer was once again on the move. Cancer reacts to chemo when the cells are dividing, so a slow-moving cancer like Mom's doesn't react as well as fast-growing cancers do. So Mom would do scans every 3-6 months to see what was going on, and so far, so good.

Pessimists see a glass as half-empty. Optimists see a glass as half-full. I see a glass with something in it.

On one hand, yay! No chemotherapy! On the other hand, Mom still has something in her that's not suppposed to be there. It's kind of a catch-22.

Around March of last year, Mom developed a spot on her right cheek. After visiting three dermatologists (and asking each one of them to biopsy it, which they wouldn't), she was finally referred to a plastic surgeon to remove what all the doctors thought was a subaceous cyst. Yep, it was a manifestation of the lymphoma. We went straight to her oncologist, who was rather frustrated that she didn't get to take a stab (no pun intended) at it, but we figured it was a one-time deal. It was gone, and now we just had to deal with the scar that was left.

Last week another spot came up on Mom's face. It's just above her left temple. She happened to have a follow-up appointment with one of her surgeons on Tuesday, but he said that we can't remove this new spot surgically: it's too big and in a spot on her face that doesn't have much fat. We went to Mom's oncologist on Wednesday morning. Her scans all show a stable status: the lymphoma in her body hasn't moved. But Dr. Shumaker believes that Mom's symptoms are enough to consider treatment as opposed to maintaining the status quo.

Dr. Shumaker put Mom on Keflex, an antibiotic, Tagamet, a histamine 2 blocker, and Benadryl as needed when she breaks out in hives on her arms and legs (this happens about once a week). She also upped Mom's Lexapro because Mom and her oncologist have a suspicion that maybe the stress from tax season leads to these nodes popping up on her face. I'm not convinced of that but hey, at least she'll be happy about what's going on!

So we're going to wait the 6 weeks until tax season is over and have a follow-up on April 20th. If the spot is still there, we'll have it biopsied. If it turns out to be lymphoma, we'll start on a systemic chemotherapy for reoccurrent lymphoma, even though Mom's cancer has always just sat there and hasn't really occurred again.

Her last chemo was relatively easy - one day every three weeks. If we do go in for this new chemo, it'll be more involved - five mornings every three weeks, depending on her cell counts. Again, on one hand, yay! She may get rid of the lymphoma! On the other hand, boo. Chemo.


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