Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Pictorial Thankful For Our Patriotic Neighborhood Party

I live in a really cool neighborhood. In fact, it was recently included in 417 Magazine's article entitled "Neighborhoods We Love" (my house is the Tudor that is referred to in the first paragraph). The area is officially called Roanoke, unofficially called Northtown, and even MORE unofficially called Snob Hill. According to, the area, tucked into the northwest corner of town, was developed into a residential neighborhood in 1907, with tony street names and expensive lots. Each home is different, from cottages to colonials to everything in between. 

On the morning of the 4th of July, my neighborhood gets together for a celebration. It's a tradition that started in 1964 and includes patriotic music, speeches, a flag raising, food, drink, conversation, and holiday attire that (some, thankfully) only comes out once a year. My neighborhood takes its patriotism seriously, and that is my Ten Things of Thankful this week:

The flag raising ceremony.

Emma as the 2006 Miss Liberty.

Left, the speaker's podium. Center, Glenda
playing "God Bless America" on a keyboard,
with the entire crowd singing along.

Some of the crowd. 

Little girls in patriotic attire.


More food.

The "adult" drink station, across the street.

A couple of the bicycle parade participants.

See what I mean about thankfully
only seeing these pants once a year?

Happy birthday, America! I'm thankful to live here.

Ten Things of Thankful

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fall: A Six Sentence Story

He attended college that fall in an area with a rich history of limestone mining, quarries, old and new, dotting the landscape. The abandoned quarries eventually filled with water and became recreational areas for local families and college students, where they swam and scuba dived, and brave (or foolish) ones, usually college boys, would even dive off the high sides into the deep, deep water. He never joined his friends at the quarries, as a childhood accident left him terrified of water, but it never bothered him that he could not, or would not, swim.

College students being what they were, they were drawn to the quarries at night, where under the moon and the stars, they would gather in the parking lots to drink beer to the sounds of Tommy James and the Shondells and the Turtles and Sam & Dave drifting from someone's car radio, and after much begging from friends, he finally joined them there one crisp night, putting off studies in favor of beer and laughter and maybe a chance to sway to the music with a pretty young thing. Eventually, nature called, and he excused himself for a moment and stepped into the darkness to relieve himself, but when he hadn't returned after several minutes, his friends began to call for him, casually at first, then more and more frantically, turning on car headlights and digging flashlights out of glove boxes, his name echoing over the rocky walls of the quarry.

His body was found by divers the next day, floating in the cold water of the quarry, and an autopsy revealed that there was no water in his lungs; he died of fright, his heart stopping before he ever hit the water.

Linking up with Ivy at Uncharted for Six Sentence Stories with the prompt "fall."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Very Pinteresting: Silk-free Corn On The Cob

One of my favorite things about summer (besides that it isn't cold outside) is fresh corn on the cob. I love corn on the cob; in fact, I think I could eat a dozen ears in one sitting.

What I DON'T like about corn on the cob is the silks. No matter how carefully I shuck corn, I never can get all the silks out. Then they get caught in my teeth and it feels miserable and detracts an awful lot from my corn on the cob experience.

While flipping through Pinterest the other day, I found this pin for corn on the cob:

The pinner claims you can cook corn in the microwave and it will fall right out of the husk, leaving the silks behind.

No. Way. Game on.

I bought a dozen ears of corn (for the whole family; I wasn't going to try to eat them all, at least, not this time) and set to work.

The directions said to microwave two cobs at a time for 8 minutes on high, then cut about an inch off of the end opposite the silks. Using a hot pad or towel, hold the cob and squeeze a little as you pull out the cob. Out it will pop with no silks.

Color me skeptical.

I cut the tip end of the silks off the ears, removed any blatantly loose outer leaves,and put the ears, two at a time, into the microwave.

After 8 minutes, I removed the ears and chopped off the end of each one.

Then I squeezed a little.

And delivered a bouncing ear of silk-free corn.


When they were all done, I gave them a little shot of cooking spray, and my husband put them on the grill just long enough to brown them a bit. 

They were scrumptious!

A few notes: 

It was time consuming to do only two ears at a time, so I tried doing four at once. The problem I found was that the last two of that batch didn't pop out as easily, maybe because they had cooled down? I did check another site where that pinner said she microwaved eights ears at a time. Either she was quicker at delivering ears of corn than I was or she had help with the shucking.  I wasn't as concerned about the ears cooling off, since I was putting them on the grill, but it would certainly be much more efficient to do more than two ears at a time. Be prepared to work quickly or enlist help. 

Freshly microwaved ears of corn are hot, hot, HOT. Make sure you use hot pads or towels to hold onto them.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Be Okay, Be Thankful

Earlier this week, I didn't believe by the weekend I could sit here and write a post about being thankful. 

As hard as I try, sometimes, that silver lining is hard to find, and the glass looks a little more half empty than half full. Sometimes, Pollyanna is hiding in a corner, crying, sure nothing is going to be right again. And that, my friends, is exactly why the Ten Things of Thankful is a necessary part of my weekend. 

Here's what (and whom) I'm thankful for this week:

Many emails have gone back and forth between me and Lisa from The Meaning of Me. We had a very, VERY meaningful conversation about...kitty litter. Valuable information was exchanged. You WILL be updated.

I received a picture that made me laugh out loud at a time when I REALLY needed a good laugh. Ivy from Uncharted, you made my day!

I had a missed call from Christine at In The Coop on my phone the other evening. Pretty sure I had been butt dialed (things like that happen, don't they, Lisa?), but I called her back and found she really DID mean to call me! I got to be the first to hear about the newest member of "The Coop." 

My brother sent me a little gem from Mandolin Kamp (kid you not) to add to my collection. 

This week was oncology appointment week. Everything is going just fine on the oncology front, which is a thankful in its own right, but while there, I got to see my favorite nurse, Sue Ann. I met her at one of my very first appointments three years ago. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year before me, had the very same reconstruction surgery by the very same plastic surgeon, then had chemo and radiation, all while STILL WORKING. She's pretty amazing, and while we have become Facebook friends, we rarely see each other in person, as our schedules never seem to collide. This week, it collided so hard that she was the one who gave me my injection. We talked and laughed and hugged. Nothing like a comrade in arms!

I know there are many people out there who won't agree with me, and may we respectfully agree to disagree, but I am thankful for the Supreme Court decision that makes gay marriage legal in all 50 states. 

And let's not forget the Affordable Care Act was also upheld once again by the Supreme Court.

Friday afternoon, Facebook profile pictures began popping up with a rainbow filter over them. My daughter and I wanted one, too, so I asked Jen from Driftwood Gardens how in the heck did she do it, and she got back to me immediately with the low down (turns out it was ridiculously easy).

This is my jam. 

Join us in the Ten Things of Thankful by linking up YOUR thankfuls below. If I can do it, you can.

Ten Things of Thankful

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Park: A Six Sentence Story

When our son was a toddler, we lived in a pleasant neighborhood, built into the California hills west of Los Angeles. There was a small park within walking distance of our home, and we went there frequently. Above our neighborhood, there was another park, with playing fields and playground equipment and a paved walking trail that wandered along the hillside.

We went to this other park once. Once.

After being greeted by this sign, we never went back:

Linking up with Ivy at Uncharted for Six Sentence Stories with the prompt "park."

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ten Things of Significance

Piper at Talk About Cheesecake started a game or challenge called Ten Things of Significance, wherein you take pictures of things that are, well, significant to you that you could put in an imaginary box. She tagged Sarah at Amycake and the Dude, Sarah tagged me, and now it's my turn. These shall become my Ten Things of Thankful for this week.

(Before I go further, let me stress that it is VERY DIFFICULT to pick only 10 things to go in this box. And that these are by NO MEANS the MOST significant things in my possession, which leads me to think there may be a Part 2 in my future, because this feels rather like Sophie's Choice.)

Here's my imaginary box.

Picturing it? Good.

1. This is an oak secretary that once belonged to my two great aunts. I'm not sure of its age, but it was around when my mom was young, and she's 83. They kept things that they treasured inside it, and I do the same.

I am including a large sub-category to #1 on my list which may or may not be cheating, but I'm doing it anyway, because there are several very special items inside this bookcase that you can't see.

These are my favorites of the favorite items in here:

My mom's Shirley Temple doll. My mom got this doll for Christmas in the mid 1930s. It was an expensive gift, and the whole family went together to get it for her, but she never liked it or played with it, preferring soft baby dolls over this hard doll. It is in excellent condition because of that.

This is Sunshine. She belonged to my mom's brother, my Uncle Bradley, and I played with her a lot when I visited my great aunts (can you tell by the lovely dress I once made for her out of scraps of fabric?). When my great aunts both died, my uncle didn't want Sunshine, because it always kind of embarrassed him that he had had a doll, so he told me I could have her.  

This is my great aunt Daisy's kidskin doll. She LOVED that doll, as evidenced by her holding it in the photograph, where she is about 2 years old. When I was a child, she talked about getting her fixed up with a wig, but she (fortunately) never found one that suited her when she would look at the Ben Franklin store. I love her. (By the way, this is the same Daisy who had a pet chicken as a child, said chicken being allowed to roost on the back of a dining room chair at night, newspapers spread on the floor under her.)

My great aunts had an aunt who lived to be 99 years old. She lived on the farm she had lived on most of her life up until her last five years or so, when she moved in with her son and his wife. When we visited my great aunts, we would often go visit Aunt Bessie. She lived in a two-story house that had two front doors, sitting at right angles to each other; one going into a parlor and one going into another room, but for the life of me, I can't remember what room that was. Dining room, maybe? We always entered through the back door, into the kitchen. She kept a pan on the back of her stove where she scraped plates and gave the scraps to the barn cats outside, which I thought was pretty fascinating, as we just gave OUR cat canned catfood. She lived on the bottom floor only by this time in her life, but the upstairs was just as she left it, with bedrooms that had ornate beds with enormous, fluffy featherbeds on them. We loved going up there and rolling around on those featherbeds, and when she moved to her son's home, I BEGGED my parents to get me one of them. They didn't for many reasons, the least of which was that I'm pretty sure the headboard would have touched the ceiling in my little bedroom, if not gone right through it. Oh, one time, my friend Lynnette went out to Aunt Bessie's with us, and she and I dared each other to lick a salt lick block we found out in the pasture behind the house (which we both did). 

This little cup was Aunt Bessie's mush cup, and she drank her mush out of it every morning when she was a child. She gave it to me, and it is a precious possession.

The raised glass is a bear. It didn't photograph well.

These are my great aunts, Edith (or Ecie, as we called her) and Daisy. This is one of the last pictures of them together before Ecie's health began to fail (she died in late 1978, Daisy in 1983). I still dream about them being alive and visiting their house, where I spent so much time and have such warm memories.

2. and 3. This also belonged to my great aunts. This is a real, honest-to-goodness telephone switchboard. My great aunt Daisy was the telephone operator in the small town of Urich, Missouri, from 1929 until the office closed in 1960 and the town went to direct dial telephones. Her sister was the night operator from 1939 until the office closed, and when they retired, the telephone company gave them the switchboard. My brother and I have many happy memories of us playing on the switchboard at their house (they kept it on their glassed-in porch). 

The dog is mine. It's Nipper, the RCA mascot, and when I worked at RCA Records in Nashville, EVERYONE seemed to have one of them in their office but ME. When artists would visit the offices, they would always stop and sign Nippers, and I REALLLLLY wanted one. My office was across from the mailroom, and one day, I came in to find a Nipper sitting outside the mailroom door. It sat there for a week or so, and no one seemed to have a plan for him, so every day, I would move him a couple of inches further down the hall and closer to my office, until one day, I grabbed him by the ear and pulled him inside. He's been mine ever since. He isn't signed by very many artists, as I acquired him about a year before I left the company and moved to LA, but he is signed by Eddie Arnold, Lorrie Morgan, Clint Black, Martina McBride, Aaron Tippin and Restless Heart, among others. Aaron even gave him a palmetto tree tattoo like the one he had on his own arm.

4. Books. We have a lot of books. This entire wall is a built in bookcase, loaded with books and photos and other nice things. These shelves hold mostly my books, like my Sue Grafton collection.

5. As many of you know, Joplin was hit with an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011. Over one-third of the town was damaged or destroyed, 161 people were killed, and over 1,000 injured. The dance studio where my daughter spent much of her time was one of the many businesses that was destroyed. Her beloved dance teacher, Miss Karen, had passed away from cancer less than five months earlier, and all of it was quite a blow to Emma. We were able to salvage a few things from the studio, and this is my treasure: Karen's reading glasses were still in the drawer of her desk in the office. I keep them in my kitchen window and wear them when I'm needing to read something smaller than the big "E" on the eye chart, and I think of her every time and miss her.

6. This is also a memento from the dance studio. Miss Karen used it as a prop when the little girls were doing the "Monkey See, Monkey Do" dance. It was still in a cabinet in the studio, covered with tornado snot but otherwise unscathed. It sits in my living room, on the floor by the fireplace.

7. We took a delightful family vacation 12 years ago to eastern Pennsylvania to visit my husband's sister and her family, then drove through upstate New York, visiting the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario, and Niagara Falls before heading for home (you can read about the story of how my son was involved with the big blackout of 2003 here; go ahead, I'll wait). While driving along the shore of Lake Ontario, we stopped to visit Golden Hill State Park and got a tour of Thirty Mile Lighthouse. It was such a delightful visit that we bought this watercolor print before we left.

8. When we got married almost 22 years ago, my husband bought me a dozen roses and had them waiting for me in our hotel room in Kansas City on the first leg of our honeymoon. He also gave me the hobnail jar and told me that, when the roses finally dried out, we would put the petals in the jar and have them always. It was very sweet, until I had to fly back to LA from Kansas City with them between my feet the entire trip. My husband took the picture of me in our backyard in Ventura with the wedding license and the roses in my arms before we left for Carmel for the rest of our honeymoon. I found the framed print of 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, which were included in our wedding ceremony, in the gift shop of a restaurant in San Luis Obispo where we stopped on our way to Carmel. 

9. These are the graduation plates each of my kids made when they were in pre-k. I love that both of them included a cat in their picture; Kyle drew Helen, who died in 2003, and Emma drew Fletcher. It's also interesting to me to see the difference in their skill levels, as Kyle was 6 months younger than Emma at this same point in their pre-k years, and you can see it in the details of the pictures.

10. We might have, at some point, gotten carried away with refrigerator magnets. It started with just a couple of them, because everyone needs some magnets on their fridge, and escalated when we started buying them every time we traveled. There are also a few pictures on there. And a lot of fingerprints. Don't look too closely.

I hope you imagined a REALLY BIG box.

According to Piper's rules, I'm supposed to nominate two bloggers to take this challenge, so I shall nominate Marisa at SquaareKat and Kristi at Thankful Me. No pressure, ladies, it took me 6 weeks to get mine done (sorry, Sarah!),plus I still have an outstanding post to do for Vanessa (I haven't forgotten, really!).

Link up your Ten Things of Thankful, right here, right now.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Very Pinteresting: Strawberry Brownies

The Pinterest Challenge is baaaaack!

I loved the idea of a monthly Pinterest Challenge post when it was suggested to me, but fresh off of 26 Pinterest posts for the A to Z Challenge, I guess my wee little brain needed a break.

Break over. 

This week is show choir vocal camp week. Last year, there was no money in the budget for snacks at camp, so I volunteered to bring them every day, and I offered to do it again this year, because even though there's money in the piggy bank now, there are better uses for it than to provide a snack for STARVING TEENAGERS who are spending three hours each day learning the vocals for next season's competition songs (in other words, they really aren't there long enough to NEED anything to eat, but they're still kids and like to get a snack, just like preschoolers). So, yeah, I volunteered again.

Monday was brownie day, and I chose four different kinds: chocolate fudge, peanut butter blondie, butter pecan, and strawberry. Three of them are Pinterest finds (the butter pecan bars are a family tradition), but that strawberry brownie had me more than a little skeptical.
Enter the Challenge:

It started out with a strawberry cake mix, which made me like it a little, because all the other ones were scratch recipes, and I could sure use something easy. 

And this was easy: strawberry cake mix, vegetable oil and eggs. Mix it together and done. The recipe says to use a hand mixer, but after making these, I think that would have been a mistake, and I'm glad I already had the Kitchen Aid out and ready and raring to go.

Sticky, but it smelled good.

The preparation of the cake pan wasn't difficult (until I cut my finger on those mean little teeth on the box of parchment paper and nearly hemorrhaged), but it was (literally) a bit of a pain. The directions called for the pan (I used a 9x13 pan) to be lined with parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray. Parchment paper does not lend itself to the lining of a pan with sides very well, but I made it work.

See? Doesn't fit very well.

The dough resembled playdough in color and texture. Sticky playdough. Or taffy. Melty Laffy Taffy. I plopped it into the pan, then couldn't get it to spread with a spatula, because it stuck to the spatula and just rolled around. I finally dipped my fingers in flour and patted it into the pan, and that worked fine, plus it allowed me to mush the dough into the corners of the pan where the parchment paper was carefully arranged. 


Yes, the picture's sideways. No, I can't fix it.
I've tried. Tilt your head. 

The brownies only baked for 15 minutes, and the recipe cautioned not to let them cook too long, so I pulled them out after exactly 15 minutes, let them cool for 10 minutes, then lifted them out of the pan. Tried to lift them out of the pan. I didn't leave quite enough of rim when I measured out the paper, so lifting was a bit tricky. Also, the brownie is very, very soft and I was really afraid it would break when I lifted it out, but it didn't, although it hung down like a hammock as I moved it from the pan onto a large baking sheet to glaze it.

See? Didn't leave enough of a rim to
lift them out. Not easily, anyway.

I will confess that I didn't use the glaze recipe provided; I made my glaze with a little bit of butter and vanilla and a dash of salt in it, because I don't like the taste of a glaze with just powdered sugar and milk (bleh). When they cooled, I cut them into squares, put them on a platter, and took all the different brownies to the high school for snacky time for the choir.

All glazed.

And the verdict?

They were pretty darn good! 

In fact, I heard, "These are fantastic!" (Thank you, Michaela!)

"They don't taste a little like playdough?" I asked.

"No! They taste more like candy!" was the reply.

Makes sense, since the dough was so taffy-like.

Pinterest win, as long as you're careful with those piranha teeth on the cutting edge of the parchment paper box.

Does it make you nervous that the plate is hanging
over the edge of the buffet? Me, too, now that
I've noticed it. Do you have any idea how ticked
I would have been if I'd dumped it all on the floor?