Monday, January 28, 2008

GNOG Brunch Southern Style

What's a GNOG?
It's what we call our Girls' Night Out Group.

My friend Theresa blogged about having brunch with the GNOGs at my house on Saturday, but forgot to include a picture of the crew. Just so you know we're real, here's proof that GNOGs do exist! The photo was taken in December 2007. If we all look a bit weary it's because one of our daughters had just gotten married and for the past few weeks each of us had been pitching in true GNOG style to support her mother. Between us we managed to do everything except perform the wedding ceremony. We planned, catered, directed, decorated, photographed and cleaned up after. It was beautiful. I think we may have even surprised ourselves.

On Saturday we met at my house at 11:30 for a Southern Style Brunch. I found the complete brunch menu in the Feb. 2008 Southern Living Magazine (beginning on p. 88). We enjoyed all five recipes plus a loaf of my homemade whole wheat bread. The magazine included: banana nut bread with citrus glaze, shrimp and grits, baked pears and Bloody Marys. I added Mimosas and tiny sausage and cheese balls to munch on while I put on the finishing touches. Patty brought over dessert - a decadent chocolate bundt cake with nuts and Godiva chocolate sauce. We topped that off with big two pots of coffee laced with Bailey's Irish Cream and Caramel Cream.

My friends began arriving at 11:30 and stayed until 4:20. My mama would say that's a sure sign that they had a good time.

These are a few of my favorite excerpts from The GRITS Guide to Life by Deborah Ford . . . .

Friends matter. They are sweeter than a Southern accent and more refreshing than iced tea on a sunny veranda . . . They are the jokes that make us laugh until we cry, and the music that stirs our hearts . . . Southern Girls know. . . men may come and go, but friends are forevah! They are there in good times and in bad; they comfort and celebrate; they mature and mourn with us in our own time. The greatest gift in life is to know the true value of a friend.

(food photos by Theresa)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hats 4 Heroes

Several months ago DAR chapters around the state received a note requesting help knitting and crocheting "Hats 4 Heroes". Soldiers in Afghanistan had requested caps to wear under their metal helmets to keep their heads warm. Temperatures in Afghanistan are usually less than 20 degrees in winter. Chapters from across the state began knitting and crocheting wool caps. Over 1500 caps have been shipped and another shipment is due to leave in early February. Many touching thank you notes have been received . . . one soldier wrote that he slept in his cap. Others commented on the notes from home written by those who made the caps and by school children. A favorite among the soldiers are small bags of M&Ms that are being placed inside each cap.

Young helpers assist in placing notes from home inside caps prior to shipping.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Amish Country Bread on a Snowy Day

Last night we got a few inches of snow. Things have been pretty quiet at our house since Jenny couldn't get to work, leaving she and Suzi spending their snowy day at home. I decided to do a few of my favorite things today. I tried to get photos of the cardinals, but they weren't very cooperative, so here's a pic of the birdfeeder. Then I cooked a real breakfast for a change. . . French toast and bacon . . . we usually have cereal. After talking to my "susta" for about an hour, answered my email and decided to bake some bread.

The bread recipe I used was Amish Country Bread. This is one of the simplest bread recipes I've tried. The round loaves would be perfect to use when preparing bread for Communion. The recipe calls for a mixer with a dough hook, but I don't see why you couldn't just knead it by hand. The cut loaf in the picture looks a little flat because my DH was circling like a buzzard waiting for a slice of hot bread. I cut it for him just as it came out of the oven, which left it a little squished. If you'd like to have the recipe, let me know and I'll email it to you.

I think I'm going to dig into my conversational print fabrics to look for prints for Suzi's quilt. Yesterday I plopped her right in the middle of the bed in my sewing room with some fabric to see which ones she liked. She was drawn to the blues and primary colors. Of course, I was pulling for the lavenders and purples, but it's her quilt.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quilts for Play and Learning

Several years ago when I was a full-time kindergarten teacher, I came up with an idea. I had several classroom volunteers, and what I really needed them to do was spend some one-on-one time with individual students to promote listening skills and teach basic readiness concepts. I needed a tool, a game, something to use to accomplish this task. I had made classroom quilts with my classes for years. The children were drawn to them and they loved talking about the pictures on the quilts. (When the children and I made quilts, I used their artwork as the squares.) This would be different. First, I
became a collector of conversational quilt fabrics - it's absolutely amazing what you can find on fabric these days! Then a found a quilting book that I loved -
Picture Play Quilts - it's still available. It was full of ideas including directions for about 10 games to play with each quilt. I was ready to roll. The best part was that quilts didn't have to be perfect . . . just bright and engaging for the children. I had a ball playing with stitches on my Viking that I wasn't brave enough to try on other things.

I combined photos of the children and conversational prints to make the contents of each quilt as interesting as possible. On each quilt I tried to include blocks that could be used for picture, letter and numeral identification, counting and finding pictures that began nor ended in certain sounds. The quilts can be used at the earliest age just finding things . . "do you see the butterfly?" . . ."point to the butterfly" . . . and later "find something that has wings" . . . "find something that begins with B". The real fun starts when the child is able to use their verbal skills and become the "teacher". My volunteers enjoyed having something special to do and the children responded positively to the one-on-one attention, learning things daily from our look and learn quilts. Just think how much fun parents and grandparents could have with their grandchildren and one of these quilts.
When my cousin's grand child was born, I decided to make a special quilt for her. On this one I made 49 snowball blocks using Steam a Seam II to place the pictures before I stitched them to the blocks. The blocks alternated on each row - every other picture was a family member - the others were conversational prints.

I'm getting ready to start Suzi's first quilt. I think I'll pull out all my conversational fabrics, sit her in the middle of them and see which ones she's drawn to. We're going to have a great day!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Visiting Mama and Jenny's New Project

Photo - Mama and Me - 1949

I paid Mama a visit this weekend. I had wanted to surprise her and just show up, but she's such a busy lady I decided I had better let her know my plans. Mama would be upset with me if I put anything personal online about her, so I'll keep this very impersonal. She is not like most 84 year old ladies. How many 84 year old ladies do you know who still have jobs? Mama says she's still working half days because she likes having someplace to get up and go every morning, and because she loves what she's doing. She loves the people she works with, and they have all adopted her as their second mama. I love them too, because they are so good to her. In addition to her job, Mama is busy with church activities, garden club, DAR, bridge club, exercise class and daily walks. She also volunteers at the local hospital, crochets caps for our soldiers, and meets once a month for lunch with a group of "girls" she graduated high school with in 1942. She even washes her own car - no carwash for my thrifty mama! I can only hope to to follow in Mama's footsteps as I get older - the trouble is I can scarcely keep up with her now!

When she was in her fifties she discovered that she had hidden talent. She could paint! She took up china painting. Here are two of my favorite pieces :

I was at Mama's when Jenny rang me on my cell phone. She was creating something new and wanted to borrow something from my sewing supplies. She wouldn't tell me what she was making, but she has it posted on her blog now, so you can see for yourself. Jenny told me she had sketched this thing and so forth. I told Mama I couldn't understand it - here 's my daughter getting ready to sew circles around me, drawing her own patterns, etc. Mama told me to remember who raised Jenny. Sure made me feel better to think that just maybe I had a little something to do with her creativity, but I'm sure she had to inherit the artistic part from her daddy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

39 Pints of Pickles on the Counter, 39 Pints of . . . . .

My house smells like . . . I'm not sure I can describe it, but to me it's an aroma for the Gods. Add to the cabbage and onions of yesterday the pungent scent of apple cider vinegar and spices, make it strong, very strong . . . . When you're in the kitchen working around it, it's not too noticable, but when you go outside and come back in, you can't miss it. This morning I finished up the artichoke relish. As the title says, "39 pints of pickles on the counter." It was a lot of work, I'm tired and I ache, but it was worth it. My DH is always a jewel, but he has been an angel the past couple of days - changing diapers and entertaining Suzi a more than usual so that I could spend more time in the kitchen.

Mammie's photo overlooks the 39 pints of Jerusalem artichoke relish. The photo of her came from the local newspaper when her fruit cake had won first place in the county fair for the 51st consecutive year. She won for the first time in 1925 and in 1976, when she was 78, she entered for the last time. I went to the newspaper office to get a copy of the picture and snitched the blue ribbon sticker to have them framed together for her. She was so surprised. It came back to me when she passed away, and has been hanging in my kitchen ever since. I think I'll take a little time off now. I'll be back the first of the week.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jerusalem Artichoke Relish - Day 1

These are Jerusalem artichokes. They don't look too appetizing in this state, but by tomorrow this time they will be a Southern delicacy. Just in case you're wondering, artichokes are tubers and cousins of sunflowers. My mother-in-law once old me that she put some of the flowers from her artichokes in a flower arrangement and received several compliments on them.

So early in the day and I've already found something I slipped up on. Two days ago I misquoted Jeanie's message to me. It should have read, "Dug and washed with love for my susta!" See the picture above. This collection of vegetables will make about 32 pints of artichoke relish. My job today is to scrape all those artichokes with a little knife before chopping them coarsely. I chop everything else in my Cuisinart food processor, but we like the crunchiness of little pieces of artichoke in our relish, so I'll use the new chef's knife my son Paul gave me to chop the artichokes. Hours from now when it's all chopped I'll sprinkle salt over it, cover it in ice cubes and let it sit until tomorrow. If someone comes to visit they'll ask what they smell. The combination of all those onion, cabbage and other veggies produces an aroma you won't soon forget. To me it's a trip down memory lane into Mammie's kitchen and I love it!

By the way, Suzi and I did make the newspaper's photo gallery. Here we are at the Military Heritage Plaza at CU waiting for John Edwards to arrive.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Blueberry Muffins and John Edwards

Today was Jenny's day off so she and Suzi came over to visit. Knowing that they were coming, I baked blueberry muffins. When we had blueberry muffins a few days ago Suzi had wanted it, but I wasn't about to feed it to her without her mama's permission. Today Suzi had her first blueberry muffin. As you can see she really enjoyed it. We just put it in front of her and let her have at it. I imagine that if you scooped up all the crumbs from the tray, chair and floor and put them back together, you'd see that Suzi may have actually ingested about a teaspoonful. After her adventure with the muffin, she had some of the homemade applesauce I had made for her with her cereal.

After breakfast we decided to get out into the sunshine and 65 degree weather. We rode up to the Military Heritage Plaza at CU to see John Edwards. Suzi's dad, Jordan, took his lunch hour to come down and join us. Suzi was bouncing on my knee, enjoying the music when a reporter snapped a photo of us. We may make the paper tomorrow. Suzi was wearing an Edwards 2008 sticker on her back and turned around to grin at the reporter. She knows how to pose alright. Before John Edwards arrived, all the applause made Suzi nervous, so I walked her away from where we were standing. When we looked up John Edwards was coming out of a door in Tillman Hall. I juggled Suzi in one arm and the camera in the other hand so that we could show you just how close we were. Are you impressed?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Time to Make Jerusalem Artichoke Relish

Last night Jeanie called to tell me she was sending me a treasure - a peck of Jerusalem artichokes! This morning when I got them there was a note enclosed -"Dug and washed for you with love by your susta." Jeanie isn't actually my sister, but my husband's. We couldn't be closer if we had been born and raised in the same family. She and I are both low country girls raised on farms and have so much in common.

Back to the artichokes . . .My maternal grandmother "Mammie" taught me how to make her famous Jerusalem artichoke relish (some folks might call it chow-chow) while I followed her around the kitchen. I was honored to be the one and only entrusted with her recipe. She sat me down one day when she was in her eighties and jotted down the list of ingredients for me on a used envelope. It started with "2 heads of cabbage the size of grapefruits" and progressed in like terms throughout. She spent a good hour going over the details of the procedure until she was sure I had it down. I still have that tattered envelope with Mammie's handwritten list on it.

I believe that the most important thing Mammie taught me was to share, so I shared a jar of my relish with Jeanie and her DH. He went wild over them. Not only did he eat them with greens and peas , she caught him in the refrigerator in the middle of the night eating them on Ritz crackers or just by the spoonful. I was thrilled and more than a little proud to have such an avid fan of my relish. I continued to share with them until Jeanie asked if I would teach her to make relish, which tickled me pink as an extra pair of hands at pickle making time is wonderful. We have made pickles together for years now and enjoy every minute we spend together in the kitchen. Mammie passed away in 1982 having shared with me her most secret recipe which was "not to leave the family." It hasn't left the family, Mammie - Jeanie's my susta.

My DD Jenny helping make relish last year.