Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Friday, December 5, 2008
Poor Jim. He's a good sport. We did feed him better than this while he was with us.
One of the best things about hosting house concerts is the people that you meet. You open your home to folks you don't know from Adam when you host a show. It's stepping out on faith that they are nice people, and they are! Jim says that people into folk music are almost always kind and always have cats. Anyway, we made some new friends from Montgomery, Dave and Diana, and a couple of days ago we received this wonderful folk art doll from Diana in the mail. What a dear heart, and a brilliant artist. And it made us glow all over that she had such a good experience, to be so inspired as to create this:
"I Can't Get the Wren's Nest Off My Mind".
The nest on her head is full of wee brown eggs. It's the kind of thing that makes you do a happy dance. I cried when I read the sweet note she included; what kindness! Thank you again, Diana!
THEN....here comes Thanksgiving! We had Marcella's oldest brother Buddy and his girlfriend Mary come from California to stay. Buddy is a sweetheart, and we hit it off with Mary right away - funny, and a textile artist to boot. We talked about crafts all weekend. She's done alot of things like glassblowing that I've never tried and it was fun to hear about her experiences. Now if only she didn't live so far way. I was sorry to see them go home.
We're currently getting ready for Christmas - watch for pictures soon. Eleven trees of various sizes....
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
September 29th is the Feast day of St. Michael the Archangel (and All Angels). Being good Catholics, we are always up for a party. We began to celebrate Michaelmas some years ago in honor of our Scots and English heritage, and of course, like everything else we do, it got way out of hand, and now I find myself sculpting dragons out of piecrust every Michaelmas Night.
A bit about St. Michael - every good child knows that Michael the Archangel was the fellow who cast Satan out of Heaven. Around the 6th century, his day became a proper Feast day on the church calendar. Now, St. George (the dragonslayer), who is the patron saint of England, was St. Michael's earthly representative. So now enters the dragon (wasn't that a film?). But I'm getting ahead of myself...
The Sunday before Michaelmas is the day for bringing in the carrots and other root vegetables from the fields to be stored away for the winter, known in Scotland as Domhnach Curran - Carrot Sunday. So tradition would have us going out into the garden and digging them up...instead, we hied awa' to the supermarket and bought ourselves a bag full.
Now I hate to admit it, but I'm not that fond of carrots, so I hide them in a stew. Just as long as you have carrots, I don't think it matters how. After all, Michaelmas is also a day to go out and steal horses, and you don't see me doing that either.
But now for the best bit......in honor of dear old St. George, who slew the dragon and saved the good English folk....
It being the harvest time, you get yourself some nice apples and mix up your favorite apple pie filling. And this next part is very important! The youngest female of the household must stir the apples thrice around (for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) saying,
Progeny and prosperity of family,
Mystery of Michael,
Protection of the Trinity.
In Scotland, you would say this while stirring the struan, a cake made from all the grains grown upon the land during the year. (We like apple pie better.) When the filling is all mixed up, we put it into a piecrust and then comes the wonderful part...
THE DRAGON!!! Yes, there he is, right on the pie. St. George would be proud. Poke three slits in the crust, again for the Trinity. Bake him right up and he comes out lovely and golden.
And then you must do as St. George himself would have done....
Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -by the Divine Power of God -cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
More about Michaelmas and some traditions and folklore surrounding it:
Saturday, August 30, 2008
We're notorious for it, and this time, the brown walls in the kitchen are going down. We finally got rid of the harvest gold 1970's countertops, and the chocolate walls were just too dark. I realized, after the gold counters were gone, that the kitchen had looked like the interior of a Reese's peanut butter cup. Dang. Oh well.
We're going back to white, which will be lovely with the black countertops and bits of red and sage green furniture and accessories. So that's where I've been lately...I'll post photos of the finished kitchen VERY VERY SOON. I can't take the mess much longer. It's going to be all done by Monday evening.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The window in the picture is my favorite window in the whole house. And it's in, of all places, the bathroom. It's small, and set high in the wall above the bathtub. If you want to actually look out of it, you have to teeter on the side of the tub and hold on to the shower rod. We do this in order to spy on our back-fence neighbors, who are mildly interesting at times. The police have not been there for a long time, though. I think Bubba has settled down at last and I know his mama is grateful.
The view is the top of the hackberry trees, and it's like an ever-changing painting that depends upon the weather and the season for its tone. Every morning, I look out of it to see what the day is up to. That's my weather report.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Buy me a corndog, and get you one too!
More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/celtsong/
Sunday, July 6, 2008
We are also going to be attending the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, and meeting up with sweet friends from Scotland, Jim and Susie Malcolm. Jim is a very talented traditional singer/songwriter - check out his music.
So I'll be back in a week or so with lots of tales to tell, I'm sure. God bless and keep you all, and make sure you take a vacation of some sort this summer or at least do something you love. You NEED it!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
So now my summer break begins, and with it comes various summery delights......
Fancy Pears, anyone?
Now my friend Noreene's husband Dave, who is from "up north" (which should be said with a sad shake of the head and a note of pity in the voice, followed by "bless his heart") thought she was lying when she told him about Fancy Pears. No one, he said, would eat mayonnaise and pears together. Well, here's proof! Some folks call it Pear Salad. It's a staple of family reunions and a suitable and proper Funeral Food. You take a can of pears, preferably in heavy syrup. They have to be the halves in order to sit like they should. Put a dollop of mayo in the little hole (that's why they have those little hollowed-out places, to put mayo in) and then sprinkle with grated cheddar. That's all there is to it. A friend from Chicago actually shudders when he thinks about Fancy Pears. But then, he's never had one. I have to admit that I don't eat much of the mayonnaise though, just enough to flavor the pear a bit.
Fancy Pears, macaroni and cheese, and pulled pork courtesy of my sister Jackie. Bless her heart.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
This has long been a mecca for truck farmers from all over Alabama, and you can get truly wonderful, right-from-the-vine Sand Mountain tomatoes (finest in the world) and peaches from Chilton County (also finest in the world), and most any other fruit or veggie you might desire. And it's open seven days a week!
A good number of truck farmers are setting up at our Saturday morning market known as Pepper Place. They do a nice job of it too, with arts and crafts, cooking demo's, and live music going on. Mount Laurel, south of Birmingham heading down Highway 280, also has a nice Saturday market. It's so important that we support farmers' markets whenever possible, not just for the benefit to ourselves, but also for the fact that it's getting even harder to be an independent truck farmer. Gas prices keep going up and up, making for expensive "food miles" on the farmers' end. The drought last year was catastrophic for small farmers as well. The very tired and hot, but very kindly man whom we bought a watermelon from was almost apologetic when he told me that the melon would be $6.00. That's still a bargain for a large, locally grown watermelon, considering that the insipid, flavorless little green basketballs they sell at the grocery store are running $5.00-6.00 right now. We try to make it a point to find out where the farmers we patronize are from, too. Not only do we like knowing where our produce is from, it gives us a little glimpse into a very different world from our own and we meet some really warm and interesting people.
So, don't forget to pray for the farmers, go out to the markets, and BUY LOCAL WHENEVER YOU CAN!!!
I have a confession to make.
I don't really like peach cobbler.
I know! I know! How can a Southern girl like myself even admit to that? I LOVE fresh peaches. I just don't really enjoy cooked fruit of any kind. I don't know why. Hopefully, I have enough other redeeming qualities which will allow me to be forgiven. I do love peach ice cream, does that help?
We also bought a case of tomatoes for homemade sauce. We chose the hottest day of the year thus far upon which to do this. Hours in the kitchen with a huge pot of boiling water in which to blanch the tomatoes so the skin would slide off easily, then an eternity of seeding and chopping, then hours of the finished product simmering on the stove. They say Southern ladies don't sweat, they glow. If that's the case, we were lit up like radioactive Christmas trees. The sauce is divine, though; completely worth the effort. We got the recipe from the Alabama Co-op website. Rich and with a little bit of a kick, and it "freezes beautifully", to quote Steel Magnolias. My next post will have the recipe - it needs a post all its own.
Of course, the day after we bought all those tomatoes, we hear on the news about salmonella poisoning connected to tomatoes.
Luckily, ours were local and the FDA said Alabama tomatoes were fine.
Yes, they are VERY fine!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
MAMA'S GREEN BEANS
Buy about 6 good handfuls of regular-size green beans, not the little skinny ones. Those don't work for this recipe. Go home, wash the beans well, and sit someplace comfortable because it's going to take a little while. (She usually sat on the sofa and watched "General Hospital", especially in those heady early days of Luke and Laura.) Snap the beans into pieces around 1" long, discarding the ends. When General Hospital is over, go into the kitchen and put about a 3" piece of salt pork (cut into strips), or 4 or 5 strips of bacon, into a big pot. 8-quart size is good. Render it down til it's just getting brown and DO NOT DRAIN OFF THE GREASE! Throw in your beans and add enough water to cover by a couple of inches. Add 1 and 1/2 tsps of salt to start, and you will need to check for seasoning while they cook and probably add more. You may also need to add more water as it goes along. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover (put the lid on the pot slightly crooked so some steam can escape) and let it cook for at least 2 hours, or more if you have time. Give it a stir once in a while. If you like, drop some peeled new potatoes into the pot for last hour of cooking. You MUST have cornbread with these or the sky will fall on your head and all your children will grow up pigeon-toed.
This next recipe is so fast, you wouldn't have time to watch General Hospital. It's also very very yummy.
BAREFOOT CONTESSA'S GREEN BEANS
Yes, we stole this recipe. Or is it stealing when you've bought the cookbook?
1 pound of the skinny green beans that don't work for Mama's recipe
2 tblspns unsalted butter
1 tblspn olive oil
3 large shallots, diced up chunky (to me, the best part of the whole thing)
Wash the beans, break off any stems, and trim the ends off if you like. I trim them if they look tough, otherwise I just let them be.
Blanch the beans in boiling salted water for 90ish seconds. Drain and throw them into a bowl of ice water right away to stop them cooking and set that beautiful greenness.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a 12-inch saute' pan and add the shallots. Cook them over medium heat til they're nice and brown. The fragrance will make you giddy with hunger. People will come and knock on your door and beg for toasty brown shallots.
Drain the beans and toss them in the pan with 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Heat them only until the beans are warm.
You can blanch the beans early in the day, and then cook the shallots at the last minute. They also reheat really well. They are actually good finger food for parties. They're like green french fries only better than french fries. You could eliminate the unsalted butter altogther if you wanted a more heart-healthy recipe, and I've made it with just butter when we've been (Heaven forbid!) out of olive oil, which is pretty much the only oil we use except for baking.
These are really good with pan-seared steak (made in Mama's ancient and perfectly seasoned black iron skillet) and mushroom ragout...another recipe to come...but I've never had them with anything that they didn't compliment.
So, there are many schools of thought when it comes to green beans. I like to plant a foot in both worlds and keep my options open. Now, go cook something, y'all.
Monday, June 2, 2008