Saturday, February 28, 2015

Perfect Snow and Robert Frost

On Wednesday, we had the perfect snow.  It started here at three in the afternoon, much later than the promised noon, and by four, the world was white.  We could hear children and adults all over the neighborhood having fun in the snow.  Forest Hills Elementary, which we can see from our house, became a ski resort of people sliding down the hills in front of the school.  Snow is so rare here it causes great excitement when it finally shows up.

I always think about the lovely Robert Frost poem, Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening, anytime we have snow. We had to memorize this in high school, and my best friend and I thought the part about the little horse was hilarious.  It has stayed with me almost fifty years, so we must have learned it well.  Just in case you have forgotten it:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Why, you are wondering, do I think it was the perfect snow?  We watched it falling, we played in it, we had a snow day, we made snow cream, and lots of pictures. Then, before we had time to get tired of it, it melted away.  By three o'clock on Thursday afternoon, it was just a memory.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, John Steinbeck

                         Wikipedia Image

Today is the birthday of the John Steinbeck (02/27/1902-12/20/1966), the author of 27 books.  His works include Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, The Pearl, and The Red Pony. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1962. 

I have read several of his books, but my favorite is The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck's story of dust-bowl Oklahoma tenant farmers migrating to California.  The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940, and sold millions of copies during Steinbeck's lifetime.  Of course, I have seen the movie starring a very young Henry Fonda.

My first-born son is a voracious reader, just like his mama.  This year, we are planning to read as many Pulitzer Prize winning novels that we can.  I've read three already: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty.  I plan to read this great Steinbeck book again soon. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 25 Snow

Snow in the South is wonderful.

It has a kind of magic and mystery that it has nowhere else.

 And the reason for this is 

 that it comes to people in the South not as the grim, unyielding tenant of Winter's keep,

 but as a strange and wild visitor from the secret North. -THOMAS WOLFE

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Quilting Class Week 5

Our class did not meet last week.  We are all smart ladies, and when there is freezing rain, snow, and sleet falling and the wind is bitter, we go home after work and stay there, usually with some warm jammies on.  Being stuck inside last week turned out to be very productive for me.  I finished a crib quilt and a full size quilt top that I had been working on for a while.

Last night, everyone came, and we sewed and pressed and trimmed happily for two hours.  We also talked about the next winter storm on the radar.  We are winter weary and will be thankful when spring gets here.  Spring always comes, but it is easy to forget that after last week's roller-coaster weather.

Remember this scrap windmill quilt top I showed you a few weeks ago?  I finished another one this week using the same blocks and the same pattern.  I changed the fabric to a solid red.  Can you see a big difference? 

In the meantime, our stacks of blocks keep getting higher and higher.

This class is made possible by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  Thank you!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Apple Quilt

It was the seventies.

We lived near Savannah, Tennessee, a small town full of factories. They made uniforms, women's clothing, and shoes. All of the factories are long gone now, moved with NAFTA to places far removed from that sleepy little river town. But in the seventies, the factories hummed with women (and a few men) who didn't need a career, but money to buy groceries.

Scraps of fabric left after cutting out the garments were thrown away, or given to employees if they wanted them. Friends and relatives collected them, sometimes filling the trunks of their cars when they finished the day, bone-weary but glad they had made another day, another punch of the time clock that meant more money on Friday. Some didn't sew at all, but having been raised by depression-era parents who threw nothing away, they collected the scraps to share. Sometimes, they gave them to me!

It was thought that I wouldn't ever amount to much, because I 'kept my nose in a book' most of the time. One of the books showed a picture of a glorious quilt, with squares and apples. With my factory scraps and the book, I decided to make that apple quilt.

There was always quilting going on around me, with my mother, aunts, and grandmother working on them with every spare minute. The apple quilt was my first attempt to make it completely 'all by myself', and I did it. It was my first attempt at applique, and I was so proud of it. My quilting has improved somewhat over the years, and now I cringe when I see some of the work I did then.

We have used it over thirty years now. After we were blessed with grandchildren, it became the picnic quilt. Some of my better quilts are not allowed to be used at all, much less at the park or in the woods on the ground. The apple quilt has been shared by ants and sweat bees as we lay on our backs, naming the clouds. We have eaten fried chicken and funnel cake on it, then wrapped it around us after the sun went down and the night air cooled.

I must have made it really well, because it is still in wonderful shape and regularly taken on outings.

A few years ago, my ten-year old granddaughter and I were housecleaning, and straightened up the stack of quilts with the apple quilt on top.

"Oh, the picnic quilt! You know, we are always going to use that for the picnic quilt, even after you are gone."
A plus-thirty year old quilt was going to last longer than me? Something made with scraps and strings of cotton would exist after I did not?

Everything decays, everything dies. Over time, the tallest mountain winds up in the sea, one grain at a time.

This gift, this act of living, is dynamic, doesn't sit still for anything or anybody.

Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and some trace minerals make up our bodies, the houses of clay that we live in now. None of these elements will last forever. All will decay, some faster than others.

It is the real me, the God-breath, that is eternal, that will live in my real home long after every material entity on this earth is gone.

It's all part of the plan; it is all good, even when it doesn't seem so good to me.

Let the children laugh when their grandmothers tell them about the picnic quilt, and about the woman who made it.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Scripture: Goodness

I would have despaired unless I had believed

that I would see the goodness of the Lord In

the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be 

strong and let your heart take courage; Yes,

wait for the Lord.

 ~Psalm 27:13-14 

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Not my image; unknown source

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the 

souls of those who had been slain for the word

of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried 

out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy 

and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our

blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then 

they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little

longer, until the number of their fellow servants

and their brothers should be complete, who were to be 

killed as they themselves had been.

~Revelation 6:9-11

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and
judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

~Revelation 20:4

Friday, February 20, 2015

Winter, You Aren't Welcome Here

~Florence Main Street photo

                          I do not like the cold North breeze
or temps low enough to freeze
the pipes, the plants, and the parts
of motor cars that make them start.

I do not like the freezing rain
that makes the roads a major pain
to try to get to work and school.
I do not like it, and I’m no fool.

I do not like the mushy snow.
It doesn’t set my heart aglow.
Instead, it just makes me mean
as I pine for something green.

I do not like the low, gray sky.
Sometimes, it makes me want to cry
when I think of all the blue skies gone
and weeks of winter yet to come.

I do like the summer, humid and hot;
long lazy days and temps that do not
fall below seventy, even at night!
Hurry up, Summer! It’s nowhere in sight.
~Wanda Stricklin Robertson

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings are a staple in the South.  It is amazing that anything so good could be so easy to make.

My mama was famous for her chicken and dumplings, and while mine might not be quite as good as the ones she made,  they are rather tasty.  I don't think we have ever had any left that had to be thrown out.

Start out by putting some chicken and broth in a large sauce pan.

Sift two cups of self-rising flour in a mixing bowl.

Add about 1/3 cup of lard.  Yes, lard.  All my family and ancient kinfolks were raised on lard.  I don't use it much, but for good dumplings and pie crusts, you have to use lard.  You can use Crisco, but they won't be as good as mine.  You could use corn oil, but I wouldn't even bother.  Just buy some of those hard, yellow dumplings in a package at the store.

Add the lard to the flour and mix with a pastry blender.  When it is thoroughly mixed, add cold water a little at a time until the dough is the right consistency.  Sorry there are not photos of this; it is hard to take pictures when you have flour and dough stuck to your hands.

Turn dough out onto a floured board.  At this point, you can wash your hands and take pictures.

Use a dough roller (or rolling pin) to roll the dough about 1/4" thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into small strips.

Drop the dough a piece at a time into the boiling broth/chicken mixture.

Continue until all the dumplings are used.  Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

We like ours with lots of black pepper and salt to taste.  We don't add any sides to this; just lots of chicken and dumplings.  They are good warmed over, too, if you are fortunate enough to have any left.

It would be hard to beat chicken and dumplings on a cold, icy night in February.  Or any other time, ever.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rotisserie Chicken

Rotisserie Chicken Container High Combo 100/cs
I don't usually buy food that has already been prepared; the one exception is rotisserie chicken.  At Sam's Club, this approximately three-pound chicken is $4.89.  They are cooked there, not in some foreign place that I can't pronounce, and they are always fresh and good.

At most places, a good hamburger is more than $5, with extra costs for sides and drinks.  

Here is how I stretched one rotisserie chicken:

On the first day, Hub and I had the legs and thighs with salad and cantaloupe.
On the second day, we had sliced breast sandwiches with jalapeno cheese and pickles.
On the third day, we chopped up the remaining breast meat and made chicken fajitas.

At that was left was the carcass, At one time, I threw them out at this point, but not anymore.  I use it to make broth.  Here is how I do it.

Put the chicken in a large sauce pan, 

and cover it with three or four pints of water.  If I'm using raw chicken, I would add salt and pepper.  Because this chicken already contained spices, I didn't add anything.

Bring to a boil, then simmer about thirty minutes.  It doesn't take as long because the chicken is already cooked.  It will fall off the bone at this point. Remove the carcass from the broth, 

When it is cool enough, pick the chicken off the bones. 

From these bones that I used to throw away, I saved from 2 to 3 cups of chicken meat.

At this point, there are a million and a half recipes you could make with this chicken and broth.  Decisions, decisions!  Whatever I decide, the bottom line is this: Hub and I had four nutritious and filling meals for $4.89 plus tax and the cost of the other ingredients.  If we had eaten hamburgers, fries, and drinks for four days, it would have cost about $60.

I'm offering unmitigated proof that you can eat well and eat cheap at the same time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ice Storm 2015

These photos were made late Monday, 2/16.  It is way too cold to go outside to make more this morning.  Thankfully, we did not lose our electricity or heat.

Walking to class yesterday in the icy rain, I was thinking that it might be time to retire. . .