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Posts Tagged ‘South’

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday !

Scenes from my beach world this week-

Unexpected gifts continually wash up on our shores…

Baby Jesus hasn’t quite arrived yet in this scene, the fourth Sunday of Advent

Silent night ahead

Children playing outside in the courtyard, as seen through the church’s “eyes to the world”

A play on the term “Christmas Tag!”

Thank You, God, for gifts that don’t come in boxes…

…and for gifts that do. Merry Christmas, y’all!

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Here in the Deep South, there are a lot of things that are slow-cooked: pulled pork bbq, roux, Chilton County peach cobbler – and even national championship football teams (Roll Tide!), tourist season and sure-faaar, our ay-ccents.

Good things all take time to be done right.

Her heels could afford to be a little higher for the occasion, but these shall do…

And that’s why I’ve been sold for years on cooking our turkey overnight.

At the risk of hosing off germophobes, FDA officials and food/beverage professionals around the world (you know who you are!), I stand by my reasons:

1.) Cooked properly, an overnight-roasted turkey will taste like nothing you’ve ever had on Thanksgiving Day.

Cooked properly = not stuffed, placed upside-down (so all the juices drain into the parts that typically wind up drier) and cooked at a high temperature for the first stage to kill all bacteria. Then turn it waaaaaaay down (250-275 F) – let ‘er rest in a slow heat. Just like we rest hee-yuh in the South (Say-outh – 2 syllables, y’all).

2.) You will get your beauty sleep before the big day (especially important for those of you Black Friday addicts). Bless your thrifty hearts…

3.) The bird cooks itself – once it’s in the oven, you do NOTHING until you wake up – and then, it’s only to take its temperature (165 degrees F ideally). Better to take the bird’s temp than those of the budding flu cases in the nearby environs.

4.) The aroma in the house that builds overnight is simply heavenly – and smacks of all things down home, welcome and love – should you happen to awake before dawn.

5.) You are free to move about the cabin once it’s in – no muss, no fuss.

6.) Upon awakening, and only when you good & well decide to getting around to taking it out, it’s as if your imaginary maid has been hard at work all night – a perfect bird just waiting for carving. Except you needn’t carve – it just falls off the bone. Honest.

7.) The oven is FREE for the rest of the parade of traditional dishes – the sweet potato casserole, pies, green beans, pies, rolls, pies. You get the idea.

For more tips, click here,

here

and

here.

There are a few tricks to this, as you can see from the links – one is not to HURRY the process – namely, making sure to roast at a high temp long enough initially so that you can lower the temp for the remainder of the night with a clear conscience so you sleep well and dream sweet, sweet dreams. OH, those sweet dreams!!!

To bag or not to bag? Up to you – we never do, but I slice up a ton of celery, onions, garlic (crushed and minced by my hand on my cutting board, some pieces naturally less minced than others), slather it with olive oil, drench it with cooking wine and the pats of butter where the sun don’t shine, as one link recommended – are key.

Smoke rises from the eastern Damascus suburbs of Arbeen, after what activists say was an airstrike by a MIG fighter jet, November 8, 2012. Picture taken November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Omar al-khani

reuters.com

Whoops, wrong Turkey – you do NOT want yours to spend so much time in the oven so as to smoke like this. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise! No bombing necessary.

Also, after the wine bath, I season it with oregano, garlic (powder or salt, depending on your blood pressure), a dash of basil, cayenne pepper, white pepper, fresh coarse ground pepper (this is Cajun country here), and Beau Monde seasoning (from Publix – French for ‘beautiful world,’ mostly celery salt). And whatever else looks good from my spice rack. I rub my turkeys a lot – with lotsa schtuff.

Take your time.

That may mean anything from Rooster Sauce (Srirachi) to the bottle I grabbed thinking it was one thing and it turned out to be another. (It’s all good, really!).  The important thing is how it turns out internally. Lovers of spice can nosh from the edges and the blander pallets can opt for the more internal parts that have not been so seasoned.

I also cover it with foil (if it’s too big, or if it’s smaller, with the roaster lid)  to seal the juices and prevent the edges from getting gnarly.

Kinda like the pulled pork recipes which demand unchecked, unfettered cooking at low temps for suspiciously inordinate amounts of time. It’s not secret – it’s an art.

Like, when people ask for my recipes, I stutter and stammer and can’t replicate it – I have to be there to live it to cook it to create it. Otherwise, it’s just not, um, “me.” Ask any ladies’ church group that has EVER asked me for one of my recipes.

Rots-o-ruck.

This method always allows me to have enough energy to maintain our family tradition of walking the bay’s longest pier after we’ve had our pie on the porch (another family tradition, which may be eclipsed if this cold front doesn’t take a back seat this year) – after the big day.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all, from our front porch to yours!

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Hey, God, thanks for everything You bless us with, both now while we’re thinking of giving thanks and every day of the year, and even when we’re not looking. Thank You for all You give us, seen and unseen, now and in the future that we don’t know about yet, and past seeds planted that haven’t yet come to fruition. Thanks for things made known to us today that we cannot yet fully comprehend. And Roll Tide! Amen.

And thanks, readers, for this 200th blog post! I wouldn’t still be here if it weren’t for YOU. Love ya’all…

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To get to my beach, one must travel through fields of peanuts, pecans and cotton.

One day this week on my early morning commute, I couldn’t resist pulling over to capture the dew-soaked cotton, which practically drips out of its blossom-shells when it gets closer to going to market.

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Tromping through the wet grass to explore these real cotton balls was well worth trashing the heels I was wearing to work that good morning.

Each plant is, at maturity, about four feet high. Each blossom bursts forth with four distinct “balls,” each of which has a small, hard seed nestled deep inside, which you can feel when you pinch the cotton ball. It is like pulling apart stiff cotton candy to get to the seed.

It’s been a rainy season, so some of the leaves are a little browned in places. Tropical Nonevent Karen is providing us with additional sog which may hamper the harvest.

Yes, it really IS this white on the bushes! The reason they have to bleach it in the mills (to get your white t-shirts and medicinal cotton balls) is because it yellows slightly after it’s been picked and has died. Plus, the process of harvesting kicks up a lot of dust and dirt, so it goes through a lot of wear and tear from field to factory.

Here in the Deep South, we say that this is the closest we’ll get to seeing snow.

To get closer to seeing other good mornings, please click here.

 

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A debate erupted the other day about the Southern custom of children addressing their elders with “Mrs./Ms./Miss” or “Mr.” followed by the person’s last name, such as “Mr. Boudreaux” (unless otherwise instructed to use the first instead of last name after the title, as in “Mr. Bubba”).

The debate occurred in a seminar here in the Deepest of the Deep South with a facilitator from Michigan. The seminar was about parenting.

A lady in the back asked how this expert would address parents and families who run across the following scenario:

Grandson from the StarNorth comes to visit in the South. Grandma wants to take him to church and around town; grandson is not in the habit of addressing his elders with expected titles. Grandmother instructs him in what social graces are expected.

Grandson is a good sport and uses expected titles, but grandson’s parents (primarily the non-Southern parent) go ballistic when they learn that Grandmother has “brainwashed” grandson into using expected titles during his visit.

Parents’ ire stems from the non-Southern and non-military perspective that using titles is archaic, insulting and infers some level of demeaning patronization.

Grandmother’s argument was, “When in Rome…” which is what she tried to teach grandson, who got it.

Parents didn’t agree and felt Grandmother was undermining the way they had raised him.

Thus, another lovely family conflict went down in the books, providing the profession of family therapists added job security.

I sincerely hope I haven’t ticked off and scared away my commenters by using titles – culturally speaking here, it is a form of utmost respect and honor, which is of course is my intention.

In my daily life, both at home, work and at my children’s schools, little folks get in a little trouble for NOT using expected titles. I have raised my children to do so based on local custom (as well as not wanting to get a call in the middle of the day from the school informing me that my child is in detention for disrespect).

I will qualify this by saying that working with seriously disturbed children sometimes involves being the target of new and improved epithets which are anything but respectful. These children have exponentially expanded my vocabulary well beyond what my SAT and GRE scores ever reflected.

Amazingly, however, these epithets are almost ALWAYS surrounded by expected titles.

Why, just the other day a very young chap (age 7) from the ‘hood spat at me, “F%&# you, Mrs. Muse!” (this, because I handed down a 2-page therapeutic writing assignment addressing said chap’s choice to create a two-foot hole in the wall from a hearty set of donkey-kicks).

Anyway, the Michigan facilitator sided with Grandmother and her “When in Rome…” reasoning.

But what do we do on the internet when Rome is everywhere for everyone?

And how would you tackle this family conundrum, if you were the grandmother? or the parents?

StarNorth (according to the lady) = Oklahoma

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Funny that WordPress just issued this challenge, in light of our find last weekend.

You see, purple flags are flying at the beach right now. That means “dangerous sea life” can be a menace to beach-goers.

Usually the purple flags warn of something mundane like jellyfish or sharks.

This week, the flags are warning us that sting rays are in abundance – and close to shore.

(This is what we will be gigging this weekend – cut fins off, peel skin off fins, filet meat off cartilage, spice up, cook & enjoy)

In order to avoid being stung by a sting ray, one must shuffle one’s feet as one walks along the sandy bottom of the sea.

Or simply swim. Or paddle board. Or whatever.

Hiding under the sand, our careful shuffling unearthed this exquisite specimen of a sand dollar:

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The top-side of the (unbroken) sand dollar. Notice its cilia skirting and coating its body and crevices. The cilia are very fragile and break off if you barely breathe within 5 feet of it. In the sunshine and out of the water, the cilia are alive, waving and moving and desperately trying to relocate the sand dollar back to the sea, causing the sun to reflect in the moistness, resembling the sparkling surface of the sea. It is a very curious sight…

 

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On the underside, notice the mouth of the sand dollar, right in the center, like a cross-stitch. The fine-haired cilia are in greater abundance on the bottom, like thousands of tiny legs. These glisten with brilliance in the summer sun, and like a tiny microcosm, reduce the bigger species to humbled awe in considering the art of survival and place in the universe.

 

As of today, I was tremendously insulted when my camera indicated its memory was FULL. And right when I was in a historically, architecturally, visually exuberant place.

Fiddle-faddle.

Thank goodness these were the last pics I took…hello, new memory card, and hopefully before tomorrow’s gig-fest.

Well, at least it lasted a good 2.5 years – that’s pretty awesome.

Part of what filled it up was trying to capture the same scene in two ways – always well worth it!

Thanks, God, for the little mysteries of life which go on even when we’re oblivious – help us always to consider the magnitude of Your omnipotence well beyond our realm of knowledge and awareness.

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foreshadow of four fine, fiasco-less flights on Father’s Day weekend:

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2013 Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival

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1.) (at 7:38 pm) “Hey, Mom, the band director said we needed a tuxedo for tomorrow’s competition in the city…”

2.) (from dear mother with advancing Alzheimer’s) “Well, I’ll just hitchhike if you can’t take off work to take me where I want to go tomorrow.”

3.)  (sequestered in the corner office with all windows and lots of top brass) “Nobody else can do what you do here…please don’t accept that promotion! We’ll adjust your schedule, whatever it takes!”

4.) (from a post-rehab mom in treatment) “How dare you tell me I’m showing too much cleavage with my breast tattoo!!! Now, what were you saying about my son’s sexually inappropriate behavior?”

5.) “Your four-year-old scored a zero on the assessment – he refused to initiate any effort.” (this, after warning the Pre-K assessor he has stranger anxiety and would not perform in a room alone with her – duh).

6.) “Please accept and wear this honorary pin commemorating your 25 years’ dedication to the profession…” (‘and in doing so, ‘fess up to everyone just how antique you are) (Therapisauras Rex, here!).

7.) (from 4-year-old recollecting in utero) “I don’t wanna go back in your tummy…I was ‘fraid of the big splinters.” (what big splinters?) “The big, black splinters – they were owchie. They were your poopy. They hurt me. I gonna stay out here now and make san’ castles.”

8.) (CPA conversation) “For some reason, the IRS hasn’t put out a refund calendar.” (“So, what, they’re trying not to be accountable now?”) “No, the IRS has never been accountable…”

9.) “Your (disabled) child won’t stop bolting toward the elevators and pressing the alarm button…”

10.) “The court date has been postponed until July. But we’ll need a deposition later this month. We want you to be there in case anybody lies.”

11.) “We’re out of wine.” (or was it ‘whine?’)

I swear, this all bubbled forth THIS WEEK.

Welcome to the merry-go-round of my life.

Even so and despite it all, here’s a pretty bunch of blooming azaleas against a field of soon-to-be-harvested winter wheat that I saw this Sunday whizzing past a neighbor’s farm:

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Spring rocks!!!

 

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Sammiches

Good, good stuff…even if the hog wasn’t the only thing that got butchered!

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A visual summary of this season’s Mardi Gras in my neck of the woods (er, beach):

Taking advantage of a well-situated city planter along the parade route, this poor gentleman pooped out before the parade even began. I like the reflection of the tree lights in the bank window, and the fact that the man is ready to roll (in theory) with beads around his neck. But somehow his body language speaks to a different drummer:

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Awaiting one of many big events (small town version, as evidenced by only by “two-deep,” as opposed to bigger cities which are “8-10 deep” on the sidelines):

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Truth be told, it may be a small town and only two-deep, but the reason is because the parade snakes around all the main venues in the small town. So everybody lines up near the start to see the parade, then when it passes, everybody stampedes around the corner and down the next main drag to catch it a second time, and when it passes again, everybody stampedes toward the last street to catch it a third time. So not only does everybody get practically a front-row spot, they get it three times in succession. This is especially handy if you know someone in the parade who is looking for you on the sidelines and wants to throw you something.

Often the maskers will taunt the people with a particularly large or coveted throw, gyrating and teasing the crowd as they roll by with the throw, making everyone think they will be the lucky one. Arms outstretched, this second-floor masker has just rewarded a fortunate fan with her prize. Maskers typically shop for and pay for their own throws, so they reserve the right to be particular with who gets what. And it helps if they have a good throwing arm. Or arms.

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All Mardi Gras parades have a theme. This one included books-turned-movies. I thought they did an excellent job on this float:

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Because many horses parade as well, the obligatory pooper-scooper duo follows up the equine display. This pair includes one in a gas mask and one with a wig so thick, he’d never be able to smell the fruits of his labor. They were pretty good dancers, too.

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Mardi Gras etiquette dictates that if there are children or tourists also viewing the parade near you, you should offer some of your throws to them and share some of your loot, although people can get a little weird when it comes to the trendy throws. Each year there is one flavor of Moon Pie that somehow gets tagged as “IT,” a new or improved flavor that may be harder to come by.

These, when caught, are quietly pocketed and enjoyed in secret like a good prayer. This year, the crunchy peanut butter Moon Pie was “IT.”  This little one couldn’t wait until he got home to indulge in his curbside cuisine:

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Maskers in action:

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Two Rear Admirals (no, wait, they’re Marines!) see up the, uh, admirable rears of two mermaids:

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The front view of the float:

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A hug between two bff-maskers about to take place (at least that’s my assumption…perhaps the float jerked to a stop suddenly and it was catch as catch can):

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Orthopedists must love the long-term damage done to fragile necks at a generous parade:

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“Laissez les bon temps roulez,” is French for “Let the good times roll” and is the official Mardi Gras motto. The culture here is steeped in French tradition. And when we stomp another team in football, it is not uncommon to see the score written as “21-Zereaux.”  Here, these gals are having some very bon temps while they roulez (pardon my improper verb agreement, fellow Frenchfolk):

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Aftermath:

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Parades roll each night and day as the season progresses. Here are a few of my fun-wacky neighbors as we wait for our home-boy neighborhood parade to begin:

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Our humble little neighborhood parade near the water is pretty laid-back. And pretty slapped-together, but always a bucket of fun! This was my view:

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So the neighbors rig up trailers towed by their trucks, or ride their boats in tow for our little parade:

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I had gotten up for only 5 minutes to assist our disabled child in catching throws, and returned to my seat to find it littered with goodies in that short time:

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No proper Southern shin-dig would be complete without a topless drummer backing a down-home, up & coming band (note cup holders stationed precisely within arm’s reach):

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Even Elvis makes it to Mardi Gras! Mr. Presley knows that you get more throws with a large net:

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And what do we do with all those beads? They look very festive when hung in strategic places such as on the front door, around the mailbox, on the rocking chairs or in the trees as decoration. When the children grow tired of playing with them, they are recycled for next year. Krispy Kreme has a wonderful bead recycling program where you can trade pounds of beads for boxes of doughnuts. Wonderful, anyway, if you didn’t give up doughnuts for Lent.

Thus, herein ends the season of mirth…

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One of my favorite things about the beach is the number of surprises you can discover, both with and without tourists. Of course the surprises WITH tourists are always interesting and sometimes challenging – traffic, parking, finding a good place to set up, sand kicked by careless feet, thumping music, forbidden glass containers and trash.

On the upside, it’s fun to meet strangers and get acquainted, fun to share the wonder, and fun to help them find ways to enhance their visit with local advice, sharing know-how and, of course, good ol’ Southern hospitality. People always seem grateful to meet folks who have vinegar on hand for jellyfish stings or who know how to embellish sand castles. We always make a point to broaden our horizons with trips to the public beaches a few times during tourist season so as not to isolate ourselves on our favorite, more deserted beaches.

It’s been a fairly warm winter, and January left its mark on me with a couple of mild sunburns. Here are some of the highlights of these winter walks:

Twin tide pools, one stagnating and one crystal blue, separated by a narrow natural bridge:

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Locals get first dibs on the big shells in the winter, even if we don’t get out there until high noon:

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Big, fat jelly fish washed up:

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Fun with homemade blow darts/gun:

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No tourists were hurt in the making of this blog:

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Shells-eye!

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Castles under the boardwalk:

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Winter sparkles:

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Treasures in the waves and on the shore…and a mini-rip tide:

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…and a mermaid with a shelly-belly button?

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Next time, I’ll cover the part of the beach walks that cover me…

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