Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take Me to the River

As my buddy Al Green used to say,
"Take me to the river
And wash me down
Won't you cleanse my soul
Put my feet on the ground."

My morning walks by the river do exactly that. I finish a little sweatier, but as my feet walk the ground, my soul feels cleansed. And so does the writing side of my brain.
And get this: the river that runs by our neighborhood is called the Enoree! Isn't that hilarious?
Oh, sorry, you must not speak Cherokee. Enoree = muscadine!
Yes, muscadines ARE TAKING OVER MY LIFE!

But enough about grapes. Let me show you the wonders of the river. It'll cleanse your soul, I promise.
C'mon. Tanner will lead the way.

Sorry it's blurry, but this dog means business.

Here we are. We're early enough to enjoy the mist.

As we walk the trail, keep your eyes open.

There are all sorts of wild wonders along the way.
Like ladyslippers...

And asters.


(That is goldenrod, right?)

And my two favorites: mushrooms and moss.

And this crazy looking thing, the American Strawberry Bush, also known as hearts-a-burstin'.

Feel refreshed yet? Let's walk home in the sunshine.

Wait a sec...Do you smell something familiar?

Ack! Wild muscadines. See, they ARE taking over my life!

Have a fabulous Wednesday, y'all.
Love, Becky
PS. Before you rush off, why not drop down to the river once more? The Soooooul Train is waiting to take you there!

Monday, September 28, 2009

No, These Aren't My Gallstones.

They're really not. I don't even know what gallstones look like, but I'm pretty sure that these are prettier.
In fact, they're delicious.
No joke! Let's take a closer look.

Okay, they don't look so appetizing, but that's probably my fault for planting gallstones in your brain. These are candied chestnuts, another weirdo project from my sweet husband, better known as Man-who-likes-to-cook-bizarre-foods-and-libations-that-you-can't-eat-for-dinner.
Libations that at present are plotting to TAKE OVER MY KITCHEN!

See what I mean? It's ALIVE!
Yes, it's been a grape harvesting, wine brewing, chestnut candying sort of weekend. A weekend in which the Fruit Fly Association of the Southeast decided to gather in my kitchen for their annual convention. I see much drunken fruit fly revelry in my future.

I think I'll soothe my sorrows with another candied chestnut, better known as a marron glacé.
Remember marrons glacés? That was my second blog post ever, back before I became hardened and bitter. Ha ha.

I bet you're wondering what in the world my husband was doing, making candied chestnuts the same weekend he covered my countertops with 40 pounds of muscadine grapes, plus assorted equipment. So was I. But over the years I have learned not to squash his creativity. I simply turn around, walk out of the kitchen, and go read a book.

Later, after I'd softened my heart with a glass of last year's grape, I ventured back and asked, "So, why chestnuts?"
He showed me these.

We had more, before Tanner got his share and the candying began.
It seems a farmer friend gifted Todd with a big bagful. He said the chestnuts brought back nice memories of our years in France, when we'd buy roasted chestnuts from the street vendors.
That's all he needed to say. The autumn memories fluttered around my head with the fruit flies.
I'm in love with chestnuts all over again.

I loved to find them on our Sunday walks, protected by their spiny cupules. (My vocabulary word for the day. Thanks, Mr. Wikipedia!)

The French were masters of the marron. We enjoyed them as candy, in stuffing, in pudding, and in cakes...

And roasted, en plein air!

Are you a chestnut lover? Do they say Fall to you?
Or maybe you're like Ella Fitzgerald, who thought of them in April instead. (April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom...)
Have a wonderful Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, September 25, 2009

Trading Cultures...and a Crazy Coincidence!

Welcome to Ballymena, Ireland.
No, I didn't get to go, darn it.
As usual, I stayed home with my boys and our peanut bitter--whoops, did that slip out?-- that's peanut butter sandwiches, while my husband toured around northern Ireland, solving the problems of the tire world, visiting with tons of sheep, and eating interesting breakfasts like this.

Vewy interesting.

So what did he bring me back?
Just the above two photos, plus this blurry one here.

And an amazing coincidence. Allow me to explain.
When I tried to give Todd the third degree about Ballymena, Michelin's home away from home in northern Ireland, he claimed not to know too much. "I was working the whole time, Beck," he said. (Can't you hear the violins playing?)
Then I asked him my standard question, the one that shows I'm a glutton for punishment: "Did you have any good meals while you were there?"
He suddenly snapped out of his jet lag.
"THAT'S RIGHT! I ALMOST FORGOT!" Then he told me this story:
One night the mayor of Ballymena hosted his group for dinner and a tour of the town. One of the stops was the town's museum/cultural center. "We'll be hosting some Yanks here this fall, from our sister city in the States," the mayor said. "They'll perform on this very stage."

To make a long story short, it turns out that the sister city was MOREHEAD, KENTUCKY!
If you're wondering why I'm shouting at you and waving my arms around, the town of Morehead is just a half hour drive from my entire extended family! That's shocking enough, but get this, it turns out that my cousin Adam is one of the Yanks performing! Can you believe that?

Just last week, three musicians and six dancers from Ballymena traveled to Kentucky to perform at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at Morehead University, and next month Adam and three other selected musicians will be headed for Ireland to play there.
Isn't that crazy? What a small world we live in!

It's also crazy for me because I still think of Adam as this little guy beside my slightly milk-drunk baby.

Not this full grown man with the scruffy chin, singing and playing the fiddle at our reunion this summer.

I suppose I should stop living in yesteryear.
As you might have noticed from the reunion post, Adam is truly talented. Hop over to his myspace page and listen to his music.

He's the handsome dude on the far left.

I'd love to end this post with a video showing off Adam's gorgeous voice, but I couldn't find one on youtube. (Adam, dear, get on that, would you? :))
So let's enjoy a little Riverdance, shall we?

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!

Love, Becky

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunshine on My Shoulders

At last...SUNSHINE!
Lawsie mercy, we've had so much rain. How refreshing to see the sun again!
I do believe it has pulled me out of the miniature funk I was down in the dumps about Rudeness in the World and my endless pile of dirty laundry and how tired I am of eating food that is good for me when what I really want is a half a dozen hot Krispy Kremes. And a café au lait. And a weekend in France. All at the same time.

It's amazing what a little sunshine can do for a person, not to mention fresh air and a walk around the garden.
Care to come along? I know a cheerful guide...

But watch out. He's liable to be naughty when we're not looking.
Don't be fooled by the innocent smile.

First stop?
The grapevines.

Do you hear them groaning? They're heavy with fruit and beg for relief!
If we don't hurry up, they're liable to hire a team of midwives and harvest themselves.

We were supposed to have our annual muscadine vendange on Sunday. Our buckets were ready. My feet were clean and ready to stomp.
Alas, it wouldn't stop raining. We had to postpone 'til next weekend. Boo hoo. One more week of fruit fly free happiness.
Just kidding, maybe.

Let's move on.
Days and days of constant rain might have dampened my spirits, but the figs liked it!

Where's a Keebler elf when you need him?
(They do make fig newtons, don't they?)

Ah. We've made our way to the Pit of Mud and Anguish and Pain.

I'm sure the ground is tired of waiting for my busy husband to put in the blueberry bushes he imagined this summer. (At least my neighbors probably are. Or they're starting to wonder what my man needs to bury.)
You know what? Even the Pit of Mud and Anguish and Pain doesn't look too bad today, as long as You- Know- Who doesn't get his paws in it.

Have a great Wednesday, y'all!
And stop by Tanner's blog to see what put him in such a fine mood! (Hint: it's not just the sunshine!)
Love, Becky

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hey Rude, Don't Make It Bad / CC BY-SA 2.0

Not to play Old Aunt Persnickety, but lately I've been struck by what a rude, rude, rude
world we live in. It's sort of a wilderness of rudeness, don't you think? Somebody (several
somebodies, in fact,) needs a few raps on the knuckles and a dunce hat for punishment, not to
mention a front row seat for Manners 101.

All this bad behavior reminds me of Wilderness, a poem by the Man O' My Dreams, Carl
Sandburg. (Don't worry. I'm not about to go on and on about my boyfriend Carl, since I've
already done that anyway
Read the poem and see what you think, okay?

THERE is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat …
and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the
wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I pick things out of the wind
and air … I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers …
I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery for eating and grunting … a
machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the
wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates … I scurried with shoals
of herring … I blew waterspouts with porpoises … before land was … before the water
went down … before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … yawping a galoot’s hunger …
hairy under the armpits … here are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond
and blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … ready to snarl and kill …
ready to sing and give milk … waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains
of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird
warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my
Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the
eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve
heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father
and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—
For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the
world: I came from the wilderness.

You know, it really isn't fair to the wolf and the fox, the hog and the baboon, and any other wilderness creatures to compare them to couth- challenged humans.
We may have the fangs and the snout and the hairy armpits, but I think my cute boyfriend is right. We also have a (wo)man-child heart within our ribs. We could try to be better zookeepers, to say yes and no. And to bite our tongue once in a while.

And if that doesn't work, we could always watch this!

So what do you think? Have the wheels of all civility fallen off our wagon? What's a world to do?

Have a great Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, September 18, 2009

Let's Spoon

Just so you know, I'm in love with that spoon.
I was over at my dear friend Susie's house the other day and she showed me one just like it. Just a rainbow colored wooden spoon, but we both stood there staring, letting it make us happy.
We probably need to get out more.

What about you? Do everyday things (especially when done in a different way) charm you?

If so, you might enjoy the wondrous spoons I found on Etsy.

Photo by
Get it?
I just love that thing. makes it, along with all sorts of other cool things.
Things that might make a fun Christmas gift for a grandma.

Photo by

Ordinary, yet extraordinary.
Kids are great at finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.

See what I mean?

Youngsters aren't the only ones that like playing with spoons!
How about a full grown bald guy in a kilt?
Enjoy, everyone, and have a great weekend!
Love, Becky

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's Raining...Men?

Yesterday I was researching the meteorological phenomenon of frogs falling from the sky (don't ask) and it got me started thinking about how much I LOVE weird idioms. You know, even overused ones like it's raining cats and dogs. When we lived in France, I started my own French idiom collection. Here's a few for your enjoyment:

Je suis chocolat! (literally, I am chocolate) = I've been swindled!
C'est la fin des haricots! (It's the end of the beans!) = That's the last straw!
On a fait chou blanc. (We made white cabbage.) = We drew a blank.
Appuie sur le champignon! (Press on the mushroom!) = Hurry up!

But back to the raining cats and dogs business...
Good ole Monsieur Wikipedia directed me to a wonder-full list of all sorts of idioms to describe a hard rain.
Check these out, won't you?

What are you waiting for? Press on the mushroom!

Det regner skomagerdrenge.

Danish for it's raining shoemakers' apprentices.

βρέχει καρεκλοπόδαρα.

Greek for it's raining chair legs.

Het regent pijpestelen.

Dutch for it's raining pipe stems.

Padají trakaře.

Czech for it's raining wheelbarrows!

Padaju sekire.

by Chris Campbell
Serbian for it's raining axes. Ouch!

And here's my all around favorite...
Det regner trollkjerringer.

Norweigian for it's raining she-trolls!
Love that one! Do they all come with miniature flamingos?

Have a super Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Weirdo Dog Wants You!

Can't you see it in his wild, nutball face?
I'm sorry, but I can't contain him any longer. Tanner the Slobber Dog is getting a blog of his own. But don't you worry. I will serve as his Chief Blog Warden, just so things don't get too out of control.
And since I'll be in charge of the keyboard, I get to name the blog. I've chosen My Dog Is So Weird.
Appropriate, don't you think?
Won't you please swing by for a visit? Feel free to bring any friends who like weirdo dogs. Even become a follower, if you want, though that might give Tanner the big head--and earn you a slobbery kiss with that freckled tongue of his.

Today, he and I are posting a video in which he demonstrates the art of operating a doorknob with doggy paws. (Just warning you...Be sure Fido isn't watching, unless you want to hear Bad Dog Reports the next time you pick him up from a weekend at the kennel. But that's another story...)

I'll still be hanging out here too, keeping track of the wonders that inspire me. Knowing Tanner, he'll pop in now and then. I couldn't stop him if I tried!

Have a great Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Class of 1940 invites you... / CC BY-SA 2.0

Miss Minnie Pond's* house is the last stop on my Meals on Wheels route, which is a good thing since she usually has plenty to talk about. She's 87 years old, white headed with a bit of a beard, and she walks with the help of a walker. Sometimes she wears a bow in her hair, and sometimes she answers the door with her shirt unbuttoned and I tease her about putting on a show again. We both laugh. Usually she tells me the latest news about the sneaky lady at DSS and how that woman is conspiring to make Miss Minnie leave her home of more than fifty years. And then she tells me how she ISN'T MOVING no matter what anyone says. "My mama and daddy's long gone, so I don't have to listen to NOBODY!" She can get along fine, she says, even though we both know that I help her write checks when it's time to pay bills, and back in July she needed me to come in and plug in her fan because she couldn't see the outlets and was burning up in the heat.

On my last visit, she came to the door waving a letter and asked me if I'd read it to her. I thought I'd share it with you. I just can't get it out of my mind.
I unfolded the stationery to find this in shaky handwriting:
The class of 1940 invites you to a reunion at The Fork restaurant on Sept 25. Please let me no if you can come so I can see how many is left and reserve a table big enough. Please call at... Your classmate...
"Oh," she said, stroking her collar. "I don't know if I can make it to that."
"Do you think you'd like to go, Miss Minnie?"
"I don't know," she said, fingering her hair bow. "No. No. No, I won't be going to that. None of us look the same anymore. I wouldn't know a soul."

I keep thinking about her. I wonder if she dreams about the the old days with the Class of 1940, when life was so new and full of mystery.
Miss Minnie inspires me, chugging along as she does, refusing to give up, finding something to laugh about in just about everything.
Have a great weekend, y'all!
Love, Becky

*Not her real name, of course.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Call It Out! (And Get Ready to Drool!)

Hey y'all! Guess what we did Labor Day weekend!
We went to The Beacon and ate hamburgers as big as canteloupes, while making pig noises at each other. Well, actually, I could only manage to eat half of mine, and the pig noises were accidental--they just come out naturally at The Beacon. Try it and you'll see what I mean.

Do you know about The Beacon? Maybe you saw it featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It's in Spartanburg, South Carolina, about a half hour from our house, and it's sort of famous around these parts, by politicians (John, Fred, Mitt) and everyday folk alike. We went to Spartanburg on Saturday morning to watch this bald boy run a race...

And let me tell you, all that standing around and spectating made us hungry.
"Why starve" my man said, "when The Beacon is in town?"
I do love my man.

The Beacon isn't much to look at from the outside.

But on the inside? It's amazing. And a little overwhelming. Or should I say STARTLING!
You'd think so too, if you walked over to a mild mannered blind man taking orders and he started yelling at you.
See what I mean?

That loud talking sweetheart is JC Stroble, sort of the Guardian of The Beacon's Garden of Eating. He's been there for years, and is famous for yelling out at customers, "CALL IT OUT!" which means Hello, young lady. What would you like? If you don't know, he yells (nicely, but still it's a bit startling) to step aside and let the others go first.

As soon as you order, either he or one of these guys yells, "MOVE ON DOWN THE LINE!"

No problem! I'll do it!
Here's the rest of the line.

As soon as I moved eight feet to where that blue shirt guy is standing--I'm not kidding--my plate of Beacon Burger and fries was handed to me! Exactly as I asked for it!

Ooh boy. I didn't know it would be that big.
And look at the Sweet Tea!

Nice and dark. Strong, like I like it.
The Beacon is famous for their tea. Really famous. They make more sweet tea than any other restaurant in the USA. They even sell it at the Piggly Wiggly, Winn-Dixie, and the IGA. If you have a chance to try it, you'd better. It's amazing.
So are the fries.

That's my plate after I finished lunch (yes, I'd already eaten plenty of fries) and wrapped up the other half of my sandwich to take home.
Don't pat me on the back for showing restraint yet. I've got one more thing to show you...
Are you ready?
Get a napkin. This may make you drool!

That, my friends, is the best peach cobbler I've had in years. Oh my Lord, it was so, so good.
I must try to make some more like it this week, before all my fresh peaches are gone.

So that's The Beacon, my sort-of-local favorite Garden of Eating. Aren't local places wonder-full? What's your favorite local joint for a burger or taco or tofu wrap? I've got napkins handy, so tell me all about it!
Have a super Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky