Tuesday, June 6, 2023

What A Family!

Those dear faces! 

I love each and every one of them! 

All there recently to help celebrate my birthday.



It was a rare treat for me to go out to a nice restaurant. RH and I just don't get out nights much anymore and we stick pretty close to home instead of going downtown. 

The staff at The Optimist in Nashville served us the delicious seafood they're known for. I wish I had a picture of a granddaughter eating her first raw oyster, and then the second and third!

I felt as if I were Julia Child in her first French restaurant in the movie Julie & Julia as the browned butter pecan whole flounder was expertly deboned for me.

I think three of us ordered this dish while one ordered scallops with sweet corn and bacon vinaigrette, one ordered the New England lobster roll, and quite a few ordered the dry aged Kansas City strip with ramp butter.

The kitchen even fixed a chicken dish for this sweet young lady...

And soon we left with take home desserts, mine being a yummy chocolate pudding cake enjoyed before an early bedtime for a very tired birthday girl.

And the next day brought another gift when my granddaughter, above, and her mom and dad gifted me with this...

That's not a photo op, friends! This little one worked for hours with her dad scrubbing the siding and railing and floor on our front porch and across the front of the house as well as washing windows. 

And she claimed it was fun! She's always outside at home helping her dad and mom with yard care.


Tree limbs and holly bushes got trimmed away from the roof and hauled away.


I couldn't get a good picture of my daughter-in-law because she was bent over for hours weeding the front beds and planting seeds and pots of plants that RH hadn't got around to.


Even big sister helped out when she wasn't helping her Mimi inside!


I couldn't believe how much they all got done to help us with so much that needed doing. My front porch alone was an answered prayer and I'll try to do a post later on about that but here is one picture of my clean front porch that has been greatly decluttered now of my vintage primitive collection that had grown out of bounds until there was hardly any place to sit. 


But it was the back garden that everyone gathered in that late afternoon after more family arrived. 



I took this garden picture the next afternoon when I was in the kitchen and looked out and saw all the garden chairs pulled to the sunny patio and wished so much that I had taken one the day before of all the people who sat in the chairs.

We all talked for hours, laughing at old family stories, and going inside to the kitchen to sample food--I'd baked a double recipe of biscuits, roasted pork tenderloin, and made a green bean casserole, all thrown together while my helpers worked in the front yard.

RH had worked for days in the garden after we'd visited the family nursery down the street from our old house that was having a 25% off sale. I spent my Christmas money and some of my birthday money on pots of annuals in bloom for the added color I craved as well as herbs and pepper plants for the kitchen porch. 

Below is a picture of this garden spot when we moved here seven years ago when there was nothing but grass and trees and a few bushes. The sunflowers covered the old well.

RH has given me this gift of a garden to look out over while I'm working in my kitchen and a place for us to sit and talk and watch BreeBree and James Mason play. 

And I thank him continuously for that. 

I know this is far too long but it was my birthday and so I'll show you two more pictures taken inside my office where my daughter and grandson kept me company after granddaughters and their parents got back on the road to drive home, always an emotional time for me.

Here's a picture of my handsome first grandson and me, and my lack of smile is because I hadn't brushed my teeth yet after eating, not because I was as sad as I look.


They did coax a smile out of me for this one with my beautiful darling daughter.

We had an hour to visit some more before she and our son-in-law had to leave for the airport. And there was a special birthday gift from her that took me completely by surprise. I'll share that with you when the third part of her three-part birthday gift arrives soon by mail. 

A hint about what it is: it has to do with blogging. But no, you'd never guess it so you'll just have to wait.

I stretched out celebrating my birthday the whole month of May and now I'm stretching it out into June! 

Many thanks to my dear blog friends who left me birthday wishes in my last post. They blessed my heart!

And my thanks and love to my wonderful family, every one of you. You made it a birthday to remember!  



Friday, May 19, 2023

The Gifts of May, Including Celebrations



May is my favorite spring month, for many reasons. Partly because the view out of the living room window shows the porch covered in purple clematis, with the young Kousa dogwood across from it putting on more and more white bracts each year.


 Another gift of May is the gift of birthday cards arriving that I display on the kitchen shelf to enjoy all month long. Some of them are Mother's Day cards but even more birthday cards will be added when I celebrate it again when out of town and out of state children come in on Memorial Day weekend. 

I love stretching out a celebration, don't you? So don't feel sorry for me when I show you what I had for dinner on my actual birthday, frozen pizza. 

 That's right, I asked RH to pick up a frozen Screamin' Sicilian Pizza and fresh arugula because it's a favorite treat. I pile on the arugula as soon as the pizza comes out of the oven and drizzle it well with Greek olive oil and tons of freshly ground black pepper. And I think I had Cherry Garcia ice cream for dessert. 

It was a wonderful birthday full of cards in the mail, texts and phone calls and FaceTime visits, and one in person visit from my firstborn son who joined me for lunch. Didn't even think to get a picture then or when two grandsons dropped in on me that week

I had another birthday treat a few days later when my favorite way of entertaining occurred--when family brings the party to me! All I had to do was set the table.


Zack and Stacey brought my birthday dinner to me along with beautiful flowers for the table!

The dinner from Carne Mare in Nashville was fabulous, the Salt-Baked Florida Red Snapper for me (seafood lover) and various cuts of steak for the others. We had potatoes with rosemary and parmigiano and broccolini with garlic and oil and delicious salads.

And the signature bread along with birthday greetings from some of the restaurant staff. The bread is to die for!

And the most scrumptious 17-layer espresso cake with chocolate caramel mousse I've ever had, gilded cherry on top. I stole a picture of it from their website.

 I stretched out my piece for three nights and then RH gave me half of his. 

Even better than the dinner were the birthday hugs and conversation at the dinner table for hours. It was so much fun, something that even those of us in our eighth decade need. Maybe even more so, lest we forget. A big thank you to Stacey and Zack for a delightful evening!

 God willing, I'll soon be posting here in a couple of weeks about my second birthday dinner. Stacey, lucky girl, will be in Italy then so RH and I will be looking forward to seeing pictures of her trip when she gets home. Meanwhile, this mama is looking forward to having all her chicks come home to Nashville for another celebration. 

Because those are the best gifts of all, right?

Thank you, beautiful month of May!


Thursday, May 4, 2023

Old Fashioned

 Take my word for it, you can't find a synonym for old fashioned that makes it sound any better. I know, I tried. There's stodgy, musty, passé and worse. The best I could come up with was timeless.

I'm not talking about the cocktail but did find it interesting that the Old Fashioned remains the top selling classic cocktail internationally. No, I'm talking about myself.

Every year during high school Prom season I think about posting this picture of me before my senior prom. This is the year I do it.


Taken in 1961 in my parents' living room, here I am in the dress I begged my mother to make after not finding one I loved as much as I had loved the one bought for my junior prom. Prom dress styles were becoming less bouffant but I still wanted an old fashioned one. 

I asked Beth, a talented girlfriend, to draw the one I dreamed of and she nailed it.


My 23 inch waist (up an inch since my junior prom) didn't do justice to Beth's design but Mama did her best and combined two Vogue patterns and yards of material. My curly hair didn't do well in a french twist so Mama's hair stylist pulled it to the side in the best Southern Belle style she could. RH had the florist make up a pink rose wrist corsage and one for my hair.

I  adored it and thought Mama was a genius but it has to be said, none of my three younger sisters ever wore it to their proms.

If you need proof that I am even more old fashioned now, here's a picture that proves it.


That's right, I collect Vera Bradley purses. Hey, they used to be popular with women other than grandmothers. High school girls even carried them!

I bought the black and purple one on the bottom years ago in Dillard's because my shoulder was hurting and I couldn't take the weight of a leather handbag. And it wasn't cheap!

By the way, that's our dear Otis and Milo there beside the purses, in heaven since 2017.

Last year I found the green and black one, shown on top, at the Goodwill and decided it was just right for spring, and retired the black and purple one for winter's use. And then last summer I found the white and blue one at Goodwill and it became my summer purse. It has a few worn spots but then so do I.

Next came the purse that would complete my seasonal collection, an autumnal olive green and brown Vera Bradley, brand new and found at Goodwill.

Notice the pretty birds in the pattern and the cute tortoiseshell-like toggle?

 Life was complete. I now had a Vera Bradley purse for each season. There was no reason to go by the handbag section at Goodwill. Until they moved it right by the checkout lane.

And there she was, a like new gorgeous purse that surely had to be a Vera.

Oh, it was lined with red cherries and poppies!

But where was the Vera Bradley tag?


There it was, my July and August Vera Bradley purse! Just when I thought my search for Vera purses was over, it occurred to me that there could possibly be a MONTHLY collection out there waiting for me.

Yes, I'm old fashioned--stodgy, musty, and passé. But I still go weak-kneed when I look at pretty clothes and confess to following three or four YouTube fashion influencers.

Do you do that? It's not that I watch them for ideas of clothes to buy. I'm too stodgy for that but a girl can always dream.

Here's a dream dress I fell in love with last fall when it was shown in a Garden & Gun November issue (from Lela Rose in Dallas).


Who knows why a particular dress wins the heart of a woman just about to leave behind the seventh decade of her life, but this dress won mine.

Notice how the neckline falls just below the collar bone (clavicle)? Once upon a time, for my senior prom, I had a pretty collar bone, one you could see, and a 23 inch waist. 

I may be old fashioned and have misplaced my waist and collar bone but I still love a pretty dress.

Wear one for me, will you?


Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Books and Baking


Hello dear friends and family! This blog post was meant for early March when hyacinths were in bloom in our garden but March slipped by and then I hoped to publish it near Easter.

Then my old Mac aged out and I've been fumbling around on the new one. Finally my priorities changed when we expected a visit from our two charming granddaughters and their parents. The girls took this selfie on my phone when they were here and left it to surprise me--see why my priorities changed! Can you blame me?

 But waste not, want not, so here goes with one book and the other two will be covered at Across the Way. I'll try linking to it, here. If it doesn't work I'll try to correct it after both posts publish.

 Confessions of a Closet Master Baker, One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker is by Gesine Bullock-Prado. And yes, she is the sister of Sandra Bullock.

 I enjoyed this account of how Gesine went from being a lawyer to Hollywood executive to owner/baker of Gesine's Confectionary in Montpelier, Vermont. 

It was interesting learning a little background of the sisters' family life with their father and opera singer mother.

I enjoyed learning about the life she shares with her husband who illustrated her book. 


Since our grandson Drake and his wife Emily have been  sharing eggs with us from their olive egger hens this spring, it was the perfect time to try Gesine's recipe for Golden Eggs. One morning I set out the eggs and gathered my ingredients. 


By mid-morning the scent of freshly grated nutmeg and vanilla was in the air. That's the last little bit of vanilla I made in a bottle of cognac last spring so I hope it lasts until the new bottle ages for six weeks.

What makes the cupcakes extra special is that you dip them in melted butter and then roll them in cinnamon-sugar. So scrumptious and they make a nice Easter treat.

Here's a link to Gesine showing how to make her Golden Eggs on YouTube.  Gesine's are prettier than mine but I don't believe hers could taste any better than these. 

I sent this dozen to son Zack's crew at the job, froze 4, gave 2 more away, and that left 6 for RH and me. 

Thank you to Drake and Emily for being so generous with these eggs. Here's a picture of them and our two precious great-grandchildren!


I also made a huge bowl of potato salad with a dozen of these eggs and it was a beautiful color with all of those orange yolks. I shared big jars of that with family too. 

Thank you for reading. Please hug your children or grandchildren tight and tell your loved ones you love them every chance you get. If you're from the Nashville area you're even more aware of the importance of that ever since the morning of March 27, 2023. 

I listen to the Sunday services from the Covenant Presbyterian Church have felt so heartbroken for the tragedy and loss affecting the church and school family as well as all of Nashville. 

I admit I've felt hopeless about anything ever changing to prevent more children from being slaughtered in mass school shootings in the United States of America. But with thousands of students here in Nashville and across the states protesting--future voters--some day this may stop. 

I pray so.

Playing poker with PawPaw and making sure he doesn't cheat.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Capirotada for Dessert and The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders

Capirotada is Mexican Bread Pudding and traditionally eaten during the Lenten season but I learned about it in The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders. While it officially was written by mystery writer Nancy Pickard, the book was based on the notes of Virginia Rich who passed away after writing three of my favorite mystery books.

Virginia Rich's sleuth was Mrs. Potter, Genia to her friends, and Genia was older than me when I first began reading the culinary mysteries in 1982, The Cooking School Murders, and now I am older than she was in the books. That's how long I've been reading these culinary mysteries!

Rich, a chef and newspaper food writer, is credited with writing the first mystery book in the culinary genre unless we count Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe back in the early 1930s. When she passed away her family found folders of notes for future books, including for The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders. Nancy Pickard was asked to continue this one and went on to write two more Mrs. Potter mysteries. 

I tried the recipe for chili but honestly like my own better. This has been such a cold winter that chili has been almost a weekly staple here.

But for the night I tried this fabulous bread pudding recipe I made my vegetarian tortilla soup.


That's basically where I chop onion, bell pepper, red bell pepper and garlic and saute before stirring in Rancho Gordo chili powder (absolutely fabulous chili powder), cumin, paprika (also Rancho Gordo and so pungent), and oregano (you guessed it, their Mexican oregano, excellent since I used all of the truly superb oregano from Crete that Poppy sent me). I add a box of low sodium vegetable stock, fill it again with water and add, canned tomatoes, some Bob's Red Mill pearl barley, rice, and frozen organic corn and green beans, and sliced frozen okra (that adds such a great consistency to vegetable soups), jar of Trader Joe's Salsa Verde, and as little salt as I can get by with, plus freshly ground pepper, naturally. 

Top with chopped cilantro, scallions, jalapeños, and lime juice. I don't even miss the meat but RH prefers meat in his so when I make chili I put plenty of beef or chicken in it.

I made this meal in January while our Christmas trees were still up. I didn't quite make it to February 2nd this year but took the trees down on January 25th. 

And of course the poinsettia was fitting with the dessert of Mexican Bread Pudding where I used my two favorite plates for Mexican food of any kind.


I've had this small tablecloth for decades and remembered to pull it out of my tablecloth closet--yes, I have one where they all hang.

And here is the scrumptious Mexican Bread Pudding that was in the book, where people seemed to eat it even as an entree.

I found other recipes for Capirotada online but the one in this book was the only one I found that used a loaf of raisin bread in the recipe. 

I'll type out Nancy Pickard/Virginia Rich's recipe as it is in the book. I'll be making this again and by the way, the book that takes place in Arizona near the border on Mrs. Potter's cattle ranch is full of interesting characters and I felt that Pickard did a nice job of carrying on Mrs. Potter even though I'm partial to Rich's first three, Nantucket Diet Murders being my favorite.

If you have a favorite culinary mystery author please tell me her or his name!


To one quart boiling water add 2 cups brown sugar, 1 whole clove, 1 stick of cinnamon, and 1/4 cup butter. Simmer until a light syrup forms, then remove the clove and cinnamon.  Cut one loaf of raisin bread into cubes and dry in 250 F. oven until crusty. Rinse one cup of raisins in hot water, then drain. In a large buttered baking dish, continuously layer the bread cubes, raisins, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 pound grated Monterey Jack cheese and 1/4 cup grated longhorn cheese until all ingredients are used. Spoon the hot syrup evenly over the bread mixture. Bake in a preheated 350 F. for 30 minutes. Serve either hot or cold.

From The 27 Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders by Nancy Pickard:

Juanita's capirotada could pass for either a dessert or a full meal, depending on one's appetite. Made with half a pound of cheese (a quarter pound each of longhorn and Jack), one whole loaf of raisin bread and a full cup of chopped walnuts, it boasted everything from calcium to fiber, especially when made with multigrain raisin bread instead of ordinary raisin bread. Some people ate it straight, Ricardo liked it with real whipped cream, Lew Porter had preferred ice cream, but Mrs. Potter was always happy to slosh it around in plain old milk.

The recipes in Virginia Rich's Mrs. Potter mystery books always work and I make some from each of them often. I still want to try another one from this book, the Chili Rellenos, because it calls for using a can of condensed milk. I'm trying to picture how that would taste.

What do you think?