Posts Tagged ‘Family


Biggy Smalls

Not the rapper. That phrase describes our life now- a much smaller world that feels much bigger. When we first shared the good news about our son with our friend Sarah, who is a mom and the librarian at C.’s school, she said, “You don’t know it yet, but your social life has just changed.”

At the time I sort of knew what she meant: we’ll meet a lot more parents with kids, etc. The truth of what she really meant finally dawned on me as I was driving home yesterday from school with C. and his friend James in the backseat. My new social set is made up mostly of nine-year olds whose parents are trying to get a break from them! That’s really fine with me. C. is a very social animal especially if you are a nine year old and/or willing to play Lego Star Wars for hours on end. He and James really hit it off fast at school, and C. told me that James already feels like his “cousin” (translation = best kind of friend).

I like all of the friends C. is meeting. They are most entertaining. If you haven’t spent much time with nine year old boys, you should know that they think they are hilarious and typically are, but not for the reasons they believe. I’m starting to see that nine year olds are sort of like 80-year old men in that they can be entertained by talking about their bowel movements for hours. Yesterday as we drove home C. and James were trying to top one another’s stories about who had clocked in the longest recorded number 2 effort. James said he nearly missed an an entire Reds baseball game sitting on a toilet getting rid of the remnants of a Lean Cuisine meal that didn’t agree with him. “Two hours, I was in there! I haven’t eaten Lean Cuisine since,” he said.

Even C. was amazed at that one, and that’s saying something since he’s known for taking his own sweet time in the bathroom, too. Sometimes when he’s been in there a good long while, he’ll call out for us just to make sure we’re still somewhere in the house. Even though we would probably have time for a trip to the mall and a stop at the grocery store before he emerged again, it hasn’t sunk in for him yet that we would never leave him in the house by himself.

So our home has become our world in a way that it never has before. C. is becoming a homebody, which is good news because it means he is starting to experience his home as “home.” That can be challenging for someone whose life has completely changed recently. That we are spending time at home is a good thing in a lot of ways. And fortunately, our neighbors and good friends who have a son about C.’s age invite us over for dinner and to play a lot, which is helping him love his neighborhood, too.

As our life becomes centered on the geographic locales of school, church, home and neighborhood, we are starting to notice things that we never did before, like new friends and challenges to keeping friends without kids engaged in our lives. And our eyes are ever scanning the horizon for good babysitters as John and I prepare for the day when we can have a date night. Having C. has certainly brought John and me closer as a couple. At least that’s the way I’m choosing to characterize recent comments I’ve made to him, things like “You know you can never divorce me now. I will chain you to the basement stairs before I ever let you leave me.” Could be time for that date night sooner than I think. Don’t want the world to become TOO small.


My Mamaw

Mom, Aunt Judy and Mamaw

My grandmother died last Tuesday a.m., and her passing has rattled me in a way that she would not have understood. After funerals in the past, my grandmother, one of the most genuinely generous and giving people I’ve ever known, was downright pragmatic about the last stage of life. She tended many sick people until their dying day. It was her nature to lavish them with time and with flowers from her garden. And when their life on Earth ended, she saw the scene for what it was. That person was no longer with us. My Mamaw moved on, quickly, and maybe that’s why she could care for so many people with such great attention.

The only thing that kept me from being more of a blubbering mess than I was at her funeral was the fact that she would have considered my reaction to be somewhat impractical. But when you are a grandchild who gets exquisitely loved the way we were, you are bound to go through withdrawal. I did not inherit my grandmother’s ability to see things clearly for what they are. I do tend to know, however, when I have it good and when I don’t. And now that she’s gone, I, along with a whole lot of other people, don’t have it as good as we did.

By accident I ended up traveling to Arkansas and visiting with her the weekend before she died. She had broken a hip the month before. Dementia had progressed, and it was apparent that her future in this world would be spent in a nursing home.

Mom and I spent the afternoon with her that Friday. When we arrived we found her in the activity room where someone had rolled her in her chair. She sat by herself, listening to a little bluegrass band that had come to play – a mother and her two sons who were probably fourteen and seventeen years old. Their sister and a friend drew crayon flowers on copy paper and handed them out to the residents gathered around.

We sat with Mamaw while they played. A few days earlier she had stopped speaking, eating and drinking, but somehow she was still there. And I knew she would only be there for as long as she needed to be. Mamaw never dawdled. She patted my hand and pulled my head to her. She pointed over and over to a flower that one of the girls had drawn for her. She clapped occasionally during hymns, and mom and I sang so she could hear them better. Sometimes she raised her hands.

I have always had a lot for which to thank God, but rarely have I been so grateful as I was that day for the chance to sit with my grandmother and help her celebrate with this sweet band as she took a few more steps toward heaven.

After we left her at the nursing home, Mom took me over to show me what would have been Mamaw’s new apartment had she not broken her hip. It was cozy, and we were kind of sad she didn’t get to stay with her friends at River Oaks Village longer. And had my Mamaw heard us, she not only wouldn’t have understood; she would have laughed out loud.

(The picture above is my Mamaw this past Christmas with my Mom on the right and my Aunt Judy on the left. Both of her daughters, as well as the rest of her family made sure she had visits and lots of love every day. They learned well from her.)


Edna Lewis and My Future Fortune

Edna Lewis

My grandparents were Arkansas farmers from Center Hill who raised supreme examples of everything – tomatoes, corn, peas and greens of all kinds, okra, watermelons, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and apricots, even peanuts. You get the picture. And this doesn’t even begin to describe my Mamaw’s flower garden, an acre of texture and color that might have illustrated the lushest of seed catalogues.

My grandparents’ garden at Center Hill was special, but it wasn’t an uncommon sight in that part of the world. A lot of my friends had similar garden experiences when they visited their families. At the time I never thought about what it would be like not to have a family farm. I was too busy moaning as I sat on an overturned milk crate beneath the blazing sun to anyone within earshot about having to pick what seemed like enough strawberries to fill a box car (as my great-grandmother would happily pick row after row while standing bent at the waist).

I also didn’t realize that my Missionary Baptist grandparents and their place were part of a budding organic movement back in the 1970s that had at least a philosophical connection to Alice Waters and her seminal Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, where the mantra, now more powerful than ever, was that food should be locally grown, seasonal, organic and beautiful.

On the other side of the continent in 1973, by then living in New York and calling Richard Avedon and Truman Capote long-time friends, Virginia-born Edna Lewis was writing a book I’m now reading called A Taste of Country Cooking, a memoir/ cookbook of Southern food that unconsciously extolled the virtues of, you guessed it, locally grown, seasonal, organic and beautiful food; oh, and lard.

As I read Lewis’s book I feel a nagging sense of having been cheated out of my organic food birthright. Somehow, from their outpost in White County, AR, my grandparents were swept up by the early winds of that movement–composting (God help us if we tried to throw a way a tomato peel in the presence of my grandmother), minimally invasive pest treatments, and award-winning produce to show for it. Like a Mughal prince, I was rich beyond my wildest dreams but had no idea because it was all I’d ever known.

For me, calling Lewis’s Taste a cookbook sort of misses the point, since much of my fascination with it comes from glimpsing a year in the life of a Virginia farmer’s daughter, the grand-daughter of a freed slave. Why not make the focus of a book about a day in the life from that time and place about food, since sustaining a family essentially revolved around growing it, preparing it and eating it.

Edna Lewis died last year. She left this world very well. In her later years she met a young chef from Alabama named Scott Peacock, now the beloved head chef at Atlanta’s Watershed restaurant. I say young. Like me, he’s in his 40s, and since I still feel young I declare that he is, too. For her final seven years Miss Lewis, as he called her, lived with Scott in Atlanta, deepening what sounds like a profound friendship and cooking up a storm.

Together they wrote one of my favorite books, The Gift of Southern Cooking, in which wonderful things result from the intermingling of generations and the respect Miss Lewis and Scott show for people, place and the best quality seasonal ingredients. I know from experience that folks who love people and cooking that much typically also create incredibly tasty food.

I am keenly aware that I have much more in this life than I will ever deserve, but I must confess that reading about Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s work and life together gives me a hopeful and greedy sense that someday I will be rich again, the way I used to be.


New Years Eve and a 1K Week

I checked my stats yesterday and noticed that Good Home had over 1,000 hits in a week for the first time ever (that’s a lot for my blog). It was the week of New Years, so to celebrate I thought I’d share a pic or two from our New Years celebration.

New Years Eve Dinner

We stayed home New Years Eve. Linda and Jim, and John’s brother Ben and our sister-in-law, Lise came over and we cooked non-stop from 6:00 to 9:00 when we finally ate. We had the best time. Lise and Ben brought divinity and pecan rolls they’d made with Lise’s mom. Linda and Jim brought steaks as thick as your arm for us to cook. John and Ben made Steak Au Poivre, which is steak coated with cracked peppercorns; seared, then laced with a flaming cream sauce. I think its either a Jacque or Julia recipe. If enough people say that want it (I don’t know how many meat lovers I have reading), I’ll see if he will write it down for me to post. Steak lovers can die without regret once they’ve eaten it.

I love this picture of Ben and John stoking up the cream sauce. We love fire in the kitchen.

Heh, Heh, Fire

Linda recreated a salad from a description Ben and Lise gave her of one they ate a restaurant in Dallas. Ben, what was that place called? It had candied pecans and blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. I think apples, too. We improvised the candied pecans, which were tasty as snacks. I keep thinking one day I’ll make a huge batch and give bags of them out as Christmas gifts.

Since we were eating hunks of meat the size of dinosaurs, and pan fried potatoes, too, I roasted pears for dessert, a simple and light recipe I adapted from one we heard on NPR’s Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetta Kasper (She doesn’t know it, but I claim Lynne as my radio girlfriend. I love her.). The recipe is below. It’s easy and pretty, too. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures.

Everyone left by 11:30 p.m. and we were snug in bed by 12:00. A perfect New Years Eve!

Roasted Pears

Adapted from Sally Schneider’s book The Improvisational Cook. Sally recommends using lemon juice (instead of orange juice), and didn’t include the orange zest, but oranges were what I had. I’m sure the lemon version is very good, too, but the orange wasn’t bad if I say so myself. And the zest is pretty.

Serves 6

6 not-quite-ripe pears such as Comice, Seckel or Bartlett, halved (with stems left), peeled
and cored, except for stem (The stem looks nice and I think helps hold things
Juice from one fresh orange
Zest from one fresh orange
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Balsamic vinegar (Optional, but I highly recommend it, especially if you use orange juice. The tanginess will spice things up a little.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F
2. Arrange pears, cut side down, in a baking dish. Drizzle with fresh orange juice. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with the tip of a sharp knife or a small spoon then mix the seeds with some granulated sugar and the orange zest. Sprinkle lots of the orange-vanilla sugar on the pears. Dot with butter.
3. Roast the pears until caramelized, for about 40 to 50 minutes turning them over half way through baking. (I actually guessed on this time, the recipe doesn’t really say how long to bake them.) Baste pears with liquefied sugar mixture before returning them to the oven. If desired, just before serving, drizzle a few drops of fine aged balsamic vinegar on the pears.

Serve one or two pear halves with a scoop or two of good vanilla ice cream. Drizzle the sugar mixture from the pan onto the ice cream and pears. Orange peel makes a pretty garnish.


Home For Christmas

John and I drove to Arkansas for Christmas with my people.

As my niece and cousins demonstrate, we’re a loungey family when it comes to Christmas.


Most of the time we like to sit around under one of the 20 throws my mom has, read, talk, and eat. We could hike, but doing that in the hills of Arkansas this time of year is likely to get you shot by hunters.About the most active we get is setting off fireworks on Christmas Eve (we had to blow ’em up Christmas night this year and the big ones we bought were less than stellar, but the neighbors still seemed appreciative even though they and their young kids had waited up until 10:30 the night before for them). We also sing Christmas carols, which we did a lot this year both at our house (mom’s tip jar is next to the “juke juice” aka, wine glass, on top of the piano),

Christmas Singin'and at our friends the McClain’s house.More Singin'

We popped in on Christmas eve to drop off a few gifts. Luckily (at least for us) we got there just in time for the saingin’. We don’t look like we’re having fun, but we are. We just had to concentrate really hard because Jennie is so good she can play really challenging arrangements.This was a special Christmas because both my sister’s family and we were able to be there at the same time, which hardly ever happens.

Christmas NightAND my aunt and uncle and cousins came down with my mamaw.Mamaw and the Cousins

This is my mom and Aunt Judy. Aren’t they cute?

Mom and Aunt Judy

I really miss getting to see my cousins. We did some prelim planning for a camping trip on the Buffalo River and I’m hoping we can make that happen.

On Christmas Day we drove back up to Mamaw’s retirement village, which had just gotten a major facelift. She was so proud of it and despite not feeling tip-top she insisted on giving us a guided tour.Check out this ice cream parlor. She said residents can come down for free dessert anytime.

John and Christie

Art and live plants lined the halls. She showed us the plants she donated, waters and takes care of, which I think is great since she would be miserable without plants to care for.She also likes the new sun rooms with views of trees and outdoor walkways (she walks for exercise almost every day).

Family Tour

There was also a cute cafe with a library attached, which is great, but as John walked by one of the shelves he noticed this bizarre title:

Eek!  Retirement village reading?

Then we saw this one,More good reading

Just across the hall from this poster:


Well, at least the mix is interesting.Merry Christmas to all of you who we didn’t get to see this year.  Hope to get to hear about your holidays soon!