My Southern Heart

There are days that I prepare a a very involved, full-course meal for dinner.  You know the kind, the ones you prepare hours in advance.  That wasn’t today.  Today, it’s raining (again) with only random glimpses of the sun peeking through all those dark clouds.  Today,  I was imagining what it would be like to live in a log cabin and cook on a woodstove…much like my ancestors did long ago.  I think I could do that…I really do.  Well, okay, part of the time.  I might actually like to have a backup stove just in case.

Tonight’s supper was a very simple one…meat loaf, buttery cabbage and hot cornbread.  It reminded me of growing up in the South.  Although, Mama would have added another dish or two.  I must say though, it was really good…

 

The ingredients for this really good meatloaf…

A Really Good Meatloaf

1 & 1/4 pounds very lean ground beef

1/2 finely chopped Vidalia sweet onion

3/4 sleeve crushed Ritz crackers

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Toasted Onion Herb by Victoria Taylor’s Seasonings

Mix well and form into a loaf.  Place in glass dish.

Meatloaf topping:  1/3 cup Ketshup, 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.  Combine and spread over top of meatloaf.

Bake at 350 degrees about 55 minutes or until done.

After a wonderful visit with my family in the Midwest and South (and a challenge of a return flight), it was good to be back home to the tree farm and my macho logger tree farmer.

He has been busy on the farm these past few weeks and it was clearly evident.  Trees have been removed in the pasture and “burning” complete.  Soon, the burning ban will be in effect once the “dry season” begins.  The pasture is now fully enclosed with new fencing.  I was happy to see the single gate to the pasture from our front yard…my special request.  We’re now ready to look for livestock.  The pasture is only about 7-8 acres.  I’ve been informed this number of acres can feed 9-10 goats or 2 cows.  We’re thinking goats.  Since we live in the midst of wildlife, we can’t have the Dwarf Nigerian goats which I had originally hoped for…too much temptation for cougars.  More than likely, we’ll choose Boer goats.  They’re “meat” goats but, for us, they will be lawnmowers and pets!

Gate to the pasture from our front yard…my special request.

View of the pasture from the greenhouse and garden…

There is also now a 6′ chain length fence enclosing the garden, which is now fully planted.  Without a fence, the deer would have feasted on our produce!   The beds are fully planted and will soon be finished with their “cap stones”.

Spring is well underway on this mountainside in the Callahans.  The wild irises are in full bloom and beautiful!

Just a few of the multitude of wild irises on the farm…

The “domestic” irises in the yard are also blooming…

When I left for the Midwest and South five weeks ago, these chicks were still balls of fluff and some pin feathers!  Out of twelve chicks, two are “roosters” and are being given to new homes this week (along with several of the older hens)!  No more rooster trauma for us!

 

It’s good to be back home and, now, it’s time to get busy with all the projects I’ve left unfinished over these past few weeks…

After an early morning flight from Louisville (and a three hour layover in Chicago where I treated myself to a delicious three-cheese omelet at the O’Hare Bar & Grill), I arrived in Memphis on Saturday afternoon.  As the small aircraft descended out of the clouds, it felt like coming home.  The horizon spread out green and flat below…as far as the eye could see.  The green, green grass of home.  Having lived on a mountain in the Callahans of Oregon for the past few years, I’d forgotten about this flat land of home.  How could I have forgotten that?  From this altitude, I could see the winding Mississippi River threatening to overflow its banks again, as well as newly formed ponds from the recent flooding.  I grew up here.  My three children were born here.  My sisters, nieces and nephews are here in the South.  It will always feel like home to me.

I picked up my luggage and my niece Sharon met me just outside the terminal.  Sharon is two and a half years younger than I and more like a sister to me.  We grew up together.  Within minutes, we were laughing as usual.  

On Sunday afternoon, we drove here to Missisippi to my sister’s home.  She has battled some health issues over the past few years and I’ve missed being close to her and my other sister in Mississippi.  I’m the youngest of four daughters.  We lost my oldest sister almost seven years ago and I still miss her.  Our sister time together has always been fun and special.  Tomorrow, my sister who is next to me in age and eleven years older will drive over to spend the day with us along with her sweet husband.   

Tomorrow will be a day of talking and laughing…and wonderful Southern food.  The menu for lunch tomorrow will be:  fresh coleslaw,  tender roast with gravy, Sharon’s delicious mashed potatoes, purple hull peas, Southern fried corn, hot cornbread muffins, Southern sweet tea and the Southern food I’ve been craving for months:  turnip greens!  For dessert:  Italian Cream Cake, Heavenly Hash Chocolate Cake (with marshmallows) and Lemon Icebox Pie. 

I’m storing up the wonderful sounds of the South in addition to all this good food.  I’ll return home to Oregon with a fresh Southern accent and I’m glad…

Note:  my family has interjected here that, after our meal, we will all gather round the baby grand piano on the plantation while my beautful niece accompanies on the mandolin, and sing The Green, Green Grass of Home, Dixie and Ole’ Man River.  Did I mention I come from a family with a sense of humor?!

I have had a wonderful time in Iowa, but today is my last full day here for this visit.  Tomorrow, I fly to Kentucky to spend two fun weeks with my older son and his family.  After seven years on the mission field in the Andes of Peru as a missionary doctor, they are finally back in the states.  They truly loved Peru, but this grandmother is thankful they are closer!

While they have been busy in “homeschool” this morning, I finished my daughter’s lovely linen dress for Sunday.  No doubt, she’ll think of her Mom when she pulls it out of the closet and wears it to church.  I remember the days when I was my daughter’s age and had small children at home.  I loved it when Mama made a new dress or suit for me.  Life is full of memories, isn’t it?

 

There are dozens of cookbooks in the antique bookcase in my kitchen.  There are dozens more in the other bookcases throughout my house.  I admit it – I love cookbooks.  There is one little ragged cookbook that I’ve held on to and used since the early 1970’s when my oldest two children were small.  It’s missing it’s cover and the pages are covered in drops of chocolate…but it’s still one of my favorites.  I searched on eBay and found what I think is the same little book, complete with cover of course and in a whole lot better shape than mine.  I bid on it and won it.  I’ll be looking forward to getting it in the mail to see if it is, indeed, the same little book!  It’s all about “cooking with cocoa”.  I have yet to make a recipe from this little gem that wasn’t great.

The other day I made these brownies and we loved them.  The recipe only makes a 9″ x 9″ square pan of brownies and so I made another batch this afternoon.  I like to ice them while they’re still warm and the yummy chocolate frosting slides down between the brownie and the glass pan.  Delicious! 

“The Best” Brownies

1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter (I used unsalted butter)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup unsifted all-purpose flour

1/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional) (left these out)

Blend melted butter, sugar and vanilla in mixing bowl.  Add eggs; beat well with spoon.  Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add to egg mixture until well blended.  Stir in nuts.  Spread in greased 9″ square pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until brownie begins to pull away from edges of pan.  Cool in pan.  Frost if desired and cut into squares.  16 brownies

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

1/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

3 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons Milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon white Karo syrup (optional…this makes the frosting glossy)

Combine confectioner’s sugar and cocoa.  Cream butter with 1/2 cup of cocoa mixture in a small bowl.  Add remaining cocoa mixture alternately with milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Blend in vanilla and white Karo syrup.  Either spread on cooled brownies or frost while brownies are still warm.  Enjoy!

I made a batch of these to enjoy with our jasmine oolong tea!

Southern Tea Cakes

2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking power

zest of one fresh orange

1/2 cup butter

1 & 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon milk

Icing:  the juice of one fresh orange

OOPS!  Forgot to add & powdered sugar to make it a good consistency!

I suppose you figured that out just by looking at the photo!

Sift flour, salt & baking powder together.  Whisk in the orange zest.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together very well.  Add beaten eggs, vanilla, almond extract and milk.

Combine dry and wet ingredients well.  Chill for an hour or two.  Roll into balls and flatten gently with sugar coated glass bottom (unless you’re icing them, then just flatten).  Leave cookies at least 1/4 ” height.

The above is the “easy way”.  You can also do it the authentic Southern way and roll the chilled dough out to at least a 1/4″ thickness on a lightly floured board and cut them out with a round cookie cutter.  Lightly sprinkle with sugar if you aren’t icing them. 

Teacakes are especially good with a homemade chocolate icing! 

Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 8 – 10 minutes until lightly golden.

I’ve spent the past few days attempting to restore all the photos to my blog that were “lost” in the process of changing servers recently.  I’m about half way finished with this tedious task!  During this long process, I’ve reread many of my old posts.  Thought I would share this one again.  It was originally published on May 7, 2009.  I also hadn’t realized how many of the personal life stories from my other blog I had shared.  If you come across one of them and wonder about it, for the complete story, you’d have to go to My Southern Heart…the Stories and start at the very beginning…  

I’m amazed at how our senses can take us back to another time and another place…

The taste of a delicious, hot Southern biscuit reminds me of my Mama’s wonderful cooking.  One bite of homemade banana pudding with the golden brown meringue, I close my eyes…forty three years pass…and I’m home again.

If I get even a slight whiff of the perfume “Windsong” by Prince Matchabelli or of the men’s cologne, “English Leather”, it’s 1966 all over again and I’m a young newlywed.

If I hear the song “Aldi-La”, it’s 1964 and I’m sitting in the coffee shop at Mississippi College (I think it was called “The Wigwam”) with my roommate, Linda, who had just broken up with her boyfriend and we are both in tears.  If the old movie “A Man Called Peter” is playing on the classic movie channel, I think of a Saturday night in 1963 and a young man named Ross.

Sometimes our senses can even play tricks on us.  Not long after my father passed away, I was shopping at the grocery store and saw an elderly gentleman who looked so much like my father, even down to the slight parkinsons tremor and the gait.  I found myself closely following him for two or three aisles in the grocery store…it was almost like looking at my Daddy all over again.  I managed to pull myself together long enough to park the shopping cart and left the store in tears.

Touch.  What can I say?  I’m a hugger.  I come from a long line of huggers.  The human spirit can only go so long without being touched…held…hugged.  There have been dozens of studies on how many hugs a day a human needs.  As a Registered Nurse, I spent many years taking care of patients and made sure I incorporated some form of touch besides the routine care…a pat on the back or arm…a reassuring hug.    Perhaps this is also why the studies have attributed having a pet to a sense of well-being and an overall decrease in blood pressure.

Have you ever noticed how much we learn from our sense of touch?  How many times have we seen something that we’d never seen before and our first response is to want to touch it. Ever notice the sign “Do Not Touch” in a museum or exhibit?

I walk into a fabric store and my senses are overwhelmed with row after row of bolts of fabric…all different colors…patterns…textures.  I’m also overwhelmed with memories of spending time with Mama in a fabric store when I was growing up.  She was an excellent seamstress and made most of my clothes.  We’d spend time together selecting a new pattern and find the fabric for it together.  I did the same thing with my children…and, now, my daughter with hers.  Mama had so many offers to sew for payment, but she reserved those talents for her family.  She told me, “I only sew for love”…years later, after I began the tedious work of sewing for my family, I understood and said the same thing to my family.  Who knew that would come full circle?

Amazing.  Now, I must return from my travels in time and go take care of my chickens…

If you love fresh starts and new beginnings (I do), then you should love today of all days…for it is now 1-1-’11.  It doesn’t get any newer than that.  If I could, I’d give each of you a bouquet of newly sharpened #2 pencils and a brand new journal in which to record all those new year’s hopes and dreams…and maybe even a few resolutions.

As snowflakes fell late last night, I listened to the sound of the fireworks in the valley below and thought about this past year.  2010 brought blessings, challenges and answers to prayer for which I am thankful.  2010 also meant saying goodbye for the last time, on this earth, to several loved ones.  I will miss them all, but especially Bobbie, my children’s paternal grandmother.  This year reminded me, once again, to cherish each moment we have together for life turns on a dime.

This was our year to spend Christmas in the Pacific Northwest and the macho logger tree farmer and I spent a sweet Christmas with his older daughter and her precious family.  Mason is getting to be a “big boy”, and I think, he remembers us now.  I love to see him playing and laughing on the floor with his Grandpa.  At the Christmas eve service at their church, we sang the wonderful old Christmas carols and some fun new ones.  There were “light sticks” for each of us in the large church and when the lights were turned out toward the end of the service, we all waved our “candles” laughing and singing.

Grandpa and Mason playing. Grandpa is still wearing his “crown” from the Irish Christmas crackers at Christmas dinner!

A couple of days after Christmas, we all drove up to the sea port town of Anacortes, Washington.  I definitely want to go back when the weather is warmer!  From there, we can take the ferry to the San Juan Islands.  We looked around several of the antique stores there and would definitely like to return for some serious shopping in the Spring during the tulip festival.

My daughter and her family and my older son and his family were able to spend some time together over the Christmas holidays.  I love the photograph she sent me!  The only thing wrong with this photograph is Grandmom isn’t in the middle of them!  My older son and his family are now home after seven years on the mission field in Peru.  I’m thankful for the time they had there and the lives they touched in their medical mission work, but I confess the mother and grandmother in me is glad they are home!  I hope to plan a trip to the Midwest to have time with all of them soon.

Happy New Year, dear friends! 

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.

(Numbers 6: 24-26)

This past weekend was perfect.  The weather could not have been more beautiful, sunny days with clear blue skies.  Another reprieve from the inevitable rainy season and for that I was thankful.  We took advantage of Saturday afternoon to drive north of Eugene to the historic town of Coburg, Oregon.  There are many antique shops in Coburg and, thankfully, they were all having a 25% off sale!  This was our second trip there.  If you’ll recall, we came home last time with some wonderful finds!

We decided that whatever we found in the way of antiques had to be an “oh, wow!” for both of us…and, of course, had to fit the budget.  Both of us fell in love with a few 1930’s floor cabinet radios that had been totally reburbished to accept ipods and play the music through the radios.  Each of the radios had an amazing sound and definitely brought back memories of a radio my family had many years ago.  The sounds of the big band era filled the antique shop and we loved it.  Unfortunately, the radios didn’t fit the budget!

I fell in love with a beautiful, oak 4 drawer J. C. Coates thread cabinet.  Perfect condition, but I refused to pay $400 for it.  Although, checking out eBay, that seems to be the going rate.  Nevertheless, I’ll keep looking and will, hopefully, find one just like it that will fit my budget.

We came home with some wonderful finds that each of us really liked.  First of all, a 1700’s (supposedly…it does look very old) antique yarn winder with the square pegs.  I commented to the macho logger tree farmer that “Oh, good!  Now I can wind my yarn”!  He looked at me and said “Honey!  Did you check the date?!  Don’t think so!”  This will look very nice situated on the ledge above in my studio/workroom…and much too inaccesible to even tempt me to use it!

Antique yarn winder, supposedly dating back to the 1700’s, but definitely the 1800’s.

 I will be using the antique glass rolling pin I happened to find!  I will fill it with ice and keep my dough chilled just like the cooks who possessed this rolling pin did many years ago.  I have no idea if the cap on the pin is original, although I doubt it.  I wasn’t able to find any information about it online.  The glass does look very old with the bubbles and imperfections you’d expect.  Wonder what stories it could tell?

antique glass rolling pin

We were both excited to find this amazing 1922 New Home treadle sewing machine in such perfect condition.  It even has all the attachments and the machine manual!  I’m tempted to see if I can sew on it.  I know Mama had one of these many years ago and sewed my sisters’ clothes on it.  Mama would have loved all of these…

1922 New Home treadle sewing machine…

My sisters, brothers-in-law,  two of my nieces and I were sitting around the table after we finished lunch at my sister’s house in a small town in Mississippi.  I was enjoying my second glass of sweet tea and the conversation that I would remember and miss when I returned home to Oregon.  As I’ve shared with you before, I’m the youngest of four daughters…born when my parents were forty-one years old.

My parents bought a farm in the small village of Rena Lara, Mississippi, in 1935.  I’ve always thought that I lived on that farm.  I’ve heard the stories (I thought from my parents) that I had never been scared of the chickens and would march into the barn and tell them to “shoo”.  I was told that I had wandered away from the farm and got stuck in the mud up to my little brown high tops at age two.  It was my understanding that my big sisters had pulled me on the cotton sack as they “picked cotton”.

My sisters are 11 and 15 years older than I.  My oldest sister passed away several years ago.  SHE is the one who would have remembered all these little details.  I sat down at the table with paper and pen and informed my family that we were going to do a “time-line” and to put their thinking caps on.  An hour or so later, there was a very detailed timeline right there in front of me…a timeline that spelled out clearly that I had NEVER lived on that farm.

Evidently, all those stories really pertained to the sister who is eleven years older than I.  Maybe my parents memories were a little fuzzy.  Maybe they just didn’t want me to feel “left out”.  I don’t know.  They sold the farm in 1945 and moved to Clarksdale, MS., where I was born.  My sister remembers pushing me in the stroller on the sidewalks of Clarksdale.  There were no sidewalks on the farm.  My niece Sharon was born in Clarksdale in September 1948.  Not long after that, we moved to Memphis, Tennessee.  I was almost three years old.

And so, for now, I have a bit of an identity crisis.  For 64 years, I’ve thought that…at one time in my life…I was a farm girl.  I rather enjoyed that picture.  Me with the chickens, horses, cows and the big cotton fields.  Evidently, it just didn’t happen.

Maybe it makes the fact I live on a farm now even more special…

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My Southern Heart...the Stories blog is about my life growing up in the South in the fifties and sixties. It was an amazing time...a time of falling in love, getting married, having a family. A time of history in the making, political unrest, rock and roll. Come along on my life's journey. It's a chronological story, so be sure to start at the beginning. It will make a whole lot more sense that way. Check out: My Southern Heart...the Stories