Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It was just a knife

Twenty years ago, Christmas could have happened without me. On Friday, December 20, my mom had passed away - suddenly - while visiting my younger brother, in Arkansas. We laid her to rest, beside my dad, just 3 days before Christmas. 

We seldom get snow, but the morning of her funeral, we had the most beautiful snowfall. Had she been alive, she would have been in Arkansas and wouldn't have seen it. Knowing that she was now able to see our white wonderland didn't make me feel any better. 

My mom's house was in the country and my aunts were afraid that someone would now ransack her house. Because my brother and I both lived away, we had to go through  and clear out most of her things before we left, that weekend. Mom had no valuables - but it was all of sentimental value to my brother and me.

I gathered up most of the kitchen items to take back home with me. They were things that mom had used, over the years. I felt, as I held them in my hands, like I was touching a part of her. Her hands had held the old colander, the sifter, and the little paring knife with the wooden handle. Mom was now a part of my kitchen.

As the years have gone by, I've used that little knife over and over. No one else ever wanted to use it and would laugh at me, as I searched the knife drawer - looking for it. It was the knife I used to peel potatoes, cut up an onion or slice an apple. It was "mama's knife". It was as if I was holding onto her whenever I used that little knife.

A few days ago, as I was getting ready to bake my Christmas goodies, I opened the knife drawer to get Mama's knife......and it was no where to be found. I searched every drawer, but to no avail. There have been many people in and out of my house during these holidays, and I thought it might have gotten placed in another drawer. I hoped it had gotten placed in another drawer - but I was afraid it might have accidentally made its way into the trash.

I've searched, in vain, and Mama's little knife I can no longer find. Strange how small things make up such a part of our lives. It was just a knife to so many people, but to me.....it was a part of Mama.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

If only I had a cat.....

Could not sleep.......got up about 4:00 a.m. and was sitting in the L/R when I heard a noise in the Library, behind me. (We don't have mice, but it sounded like a mouse........better not be feasting on my books!!)

I, quietly, got up (don't want to alert the "whatever is in there" and was intent on letting "sleeping dogs lie"). As I got to the Library door, I was met by something....a low-flying "object" flew over my head, and then began flying haphazardly and bouncing around the ceiling.

Whatever it was/is (about the size of a hummingbird, or bat???, or very large locust)
it flew into the fake ferns that sit on top of the high bookshelves in our LR, and hid for a second. It flew above the ceiling fans...careful not to get caught in the rotating blades. I opened the French door from the LR onto the front porch....and no, it did not fly out.

Into the DR it flew.....then into the back door entry hall. I got my broom (yes, the same one I use when I put on my tall, pointed, black hat!). I opened the back door, wide, and tried to invite it out. Away it flew....back into the DR. Now, it's a little after 4:00 a.m., still very dark outside, and I'm in the house with both the front door and the back door standing wide open. I do have my broom in hand (for protection) if something else comes in!! (What am I thinking.....I can't get what's in here, out!!)

Just as suddenly as it all started ......it stopped. The house was quiet. What happened to "it"? Where did "it" go? Is "it" still inside? What was "it"? How did "it" get in, to begin with? I don't have the answer to any of those questions. 

I closed and locked both doors, and sat back down in my chair....with my now cold cup of coffee.

And then my mind turned to things we women think about. If it's a bird....I hope it didn't "poop"......and if it's a locust, please don't shed that shell in my house!!  

If only I had a cat.........

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ms Mississippi

Beauty Pageants seem to abound about this time of year. There is Miss Hospitality, Miss Mississippi, Miss Magnolia, Watermelon Queen, and many of the local towns have pageants of their own.

Some of these pageants have a Teen, a Little Miss, and sometimes there is even a Mrs. (or Ms.) Title.

In fact, I have two friends (my age) who have both won the title of Mrs. Mississippi. The winner this year was Betty Allen Aden, age 72. Betty and I were in college together. She had been a college beauty, so her win was no big surprise. She is also the Creator and Director of the Delta Rockers - a Greenwood, MS show dance group of eight women, ages 65 - 72.

Our 16-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, is no stranger to Beauty Pageants. She was the 15-18 Year old Queen in the 2013 Jones County March of Dimes Beauty Pageant, as well as the winner of the Western Wear Division. She was the second Alternate in the Taylorsville High School Beauty Pageant, this year.

She has begun to think about entering another pageant - one that also has a "Mrs." category. She and her mom were discussing pageant dresses and all the additional accessories required. I had just recently read about my old college friend winning the Mrs. Mississippi Pageant.

I said, "You know, I just might be interested in entering that pageant with you, in the Mrs. Category, of course." I saw the looks like passed between mother and daughter (my daughter and granddaughter). It was one of those "she isn't really serious, is she?"

I continued with, "I'll need to shop for a pageant gown and some high heels that I can walk in without stumbling, or falling, and I'll need to start working on an attractive hair style." I continued with what I would need, additionally, and how much fun it would be to be in a pageant at the same time as my beautiful granddaughter. I was kidding, but they didn't know that, and I was really enjoying getting them all "worked up"!  

They looked at each other, again, and this time I'm sure I saw raised eyebrows, and granddaughter Olivia might even have exhaled deeply. Daughter Gale took a deep breath as if she was weighing the consequences of what she was about to say...and then came..."And you're gonna' need some Spanx!"

I smiled and thought (to myself) "there's not enough Spanx, on the planet, to make me look like Betty Allen Aden!" I have spent too many hours, on my front porch, in a rocking chair!  And that, my friends, was the day I knew that the one Mrs. title I already had was enough!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It took a Village

Fellowship Cemetery, on the outskirts of Taylorsville, is home to over 2,300 gravesites and three Magnolia Trees The largest tree, almost in the center of the cemetery, has stood watch and shaded the graves of some of my ancestors for 90+ years. (Thanks to an article in Southern Pine's monthly 'Today' paper, I was able to determine the approximate age of the tree.)

My mother's Aunt, Missouri "Zude" Hester Fewell, to shade the final resting place of her parents and siblings, and finally her own grave, planted the old tree.

Magnolia Trees while beautiful are also extremely messy, and the trees in Fellowship Cemetery are no exception to this rule.
Recently, while searching for tombstones for the Find A Grave website, it was apparent that the people paid to keep Fellowship Cemetery mowed were ignoring the areas under the Magnolias. Not only was the area covered with dried leaves, and dried seed cones, an undergrowth of weeds, briars, brambles, small bushes, and smaller trees had begun to take over the ground and the graves.

As I began to try to pull up some of the weeds, I knew this was a project bigger than I was. I turned to Facebook to post photos and spread the word, and volunteers soon began to emerge to offer time, tools, and much-needed help.

Marilyn Woodard was the first to offer assistance. Larry Robinson and all his equipment, Sammy Scoggin who drove down from Brandon, and Darren "Tuttie" Prince from the Mineral Springs community quickly followed suit and within a few hours, the areas under the trees were almost pristine. Danny Woodard completed the task of hauling away the almost 40 bags of trash and armloads of limbs.

Graves long covered by the undergrowth were now visible. The old cemetery and it's "residents" could now rest in peace. People had come together to restore the area. It had taken a village. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Know the time, your name, and the right temperature.....

I think today's entire debacle started last night, when I watched the weather on the wrong television channel. The high, for today, was supposed to be only 53 degrees so when I dressed to go to the doctor, I put on a sweater......yes, a warm winter sweater.

When I left the house, it was pouring down rain so it was a little chilly. As I drove down the road, I noticed it was 69 degrees. It definitely wasn't winter sweater weather, but it was too late (I thought) to turn around, go home and change. I had been praying for warmer weather.....my prayer had to change!! Instead of a heater, I needed air-conditioning!

I drove through some "can't see the car in front of you" rain and arrived at the doctor's office about 20 minutes early (I thought). I signed in, found a seat and proceeded to read the new true mystery "The Legs Murder Scandal" book that I had bought, on Saturday, in the neat little Hattiesburg family bookstore.

In just a minute, the receptionist motioned to me to come back to the desk. "Mrs. Gorrell, you do realize that your appointment isn't until 1:45?" (It was now about 11:25.) What!!! Most people are late and here I am, two hours early. Why hadn't I checked the calendar before I left home? (And I had to rush to get dressed!) The doctor was running late, so "No, they can't work you in any earlier." It had taken two months to get this appointment rescheduled, so "No, he has nothing open anytime in the near future. I suggest you go have a leisurely lunch, and keep this appointment." said she, with a nice "I'm sorry" smile.

I went to the Pet Store, and bought a surprise for "the girls", and then to my favorite 'Books-a-Million'. Might as well get coffee and catch up on my reading of the latest Genealogy mags.

At about 1:10 p.m. (13:00 if you do military time), I reappeared at the doctor's office and signed in, once more.  In 10 minutes (I hadn't even read one full page of my book), the nurse opened the door and said "Miss Sarah" (I thought). She was a different nurse than the one he usually had, but this one might just be filling in for her (I thought). I also noticed that her badge didn't have my doctor's name......nope, I didn't say a word! They were probably just helping each other out (I thought).

She had weighed me, measured my tallness (made me grow 1/2 inch......that, I questioned!), checked my blood pressure, and questioned why my heart rate was so low. About that time, the door opened and the "regular" nurse looked in and said "You've got my patient!" The 'fill-in nurse' got a panicked look on her face and said "No, I don't!" Sherry (my doc's nurse) said (very emphatically) "Yes, you do!" At that point, I spoke up and said "I'm Sarah Gorrell" and she said "I called Tara!"   Sarah/Tara, it all sounds the same. (As it turns out, Tara was a new patient so this nurse had no idea who I was supposed to be!)

As we were leaving the examining room to go to my doc's room, the other doctor (had a Hispanic name but looked Asian), came in looking very confused. Where was his "new" patient going? Maybe the "new" nurse explained, I just smiled and kept going. I had already caused enough confusion for one day.

Finally, I saw my own doctor, and his first question was "Did you try to change your name?" Do they tell everything!!!

When he heard I had been in the hospital with heart issues, he said "I didn't cause it." I responded with the first thing that came to mind "they said you might have". Now, he looked panicked....so I quickly said "I'm joking!" I don't think he has much of a sense of humor, he didn't smile.

I'm still going to blame the weatherman it never did get cool enough for that winter sweater........

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Kodak Moment.......

This morning was truly a "Kodak moment", and thank goodness there was no camera.

Bob and I went out to walk the dogs, and just as he closed the door (too late), I asked "did you unlock the door?" Of course it wasn't unlocked, and the "hidden just for emergencies like this" key wasn't where it was supposed to be. (Granddaughter Olivia had warned us about that one!)

Living in the country, as we do, everything is locked up tight. The only thing unlocked was the small window, above the kitchen sink. It sits several feet above our back deck and isn't easily accessible because of a gap between the deck and the wall.  I had turned the cooler that I found in the carport storage on end, to make it a little taller, but it was very unsteady.

I wasn't at all thrilled with the idea of Bob climbing onto that cooler and trying to get through the window, and I was even less thrilled about doing it myself! I was actually relieved that he couldn't manage it. I climbed onto the cooler and there I hung, suspended in air, head above the sink and the rest of me, outside.  Bob was telling me what to do with my left leg, and I was thinking "does he not realize that I'm 72 and these bones no longer move like that!" (they never did!)

About that time, the little black dog came into the kitchen and looked up at me......with one of those "what are you doing, now?" looks.  I wondered why I hadn't taught her something more useful than bringing me a toy to throw. The keys were on the counter......if only she could reach them!

It was at this point (actually it was when I climbed onto the cooler) that I knew I wasn't going into that window. I suggested it was time that I go next door and awaken my much younger cousin. Brian didn't seem to mind being awakened early, on a Sunday morning.

He came over - looked at the open window and commented "Piece of cake!"  And, quick as a wink, he was onto the cooler ....through the window, in the sink...and the door was open!

Thankful for sweet, younger, agile cousin/neighbor Brian Tom Sullivan!! This wasn't the first time he has helped us, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easy Chocolate Bundt Cake

1 package Devil's Food Cake Mix                        
1 5.9 oz package Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Vegetable Oil
4 eggs - beaten
1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together dry ingredients (cake mix and chocolate pudding). Add all other ingredients to the dry mix, in a large bowl.

Bake for 50 - 55 minutes in a well-greased Bundt pan or until a toothpick, inserted into the cake, comes out clean.

Cool completely before turning onto plate.

Dust with powdered sugar, when cool.

My Recipes.......

(To view all Recipes, hover over Recipes and click on the various category and sub-category.)

I usually, almost always....okay, always.....use Self-Rising flour.

Most of my cake recipes are made with Cake Mix. I often add Sour Cream and/or Instant Pudding.

I create my recipes "the easy way" whenever possible.

I often find recipes, online, but make them my own by adding (or subtracting) ingredients.

My cooking oil, of choice, is Olive Oil.

I never knew that I loved to cook - until I retired!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Baked "Fried" Apple Pies - with canned biscuits

1 can of biscuits (I use the Grands)
1 can of Apple or Peach Pie Filling (Comstock is good)

2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp butter
Sprinkle of cinnamon - to taste

Approx 2 Tbsp melted butter
Additional sugar

Empty Apple or Peach Pie Filling into saucepan.
Add sugar, butter and cinnamon.
Heat, on low, until butter is melted and pie filling begins to bubble
Mash pie filling with fork or potato masher

Dust each biscuit with flour, so that you can flatten them, without them sticking to your Rolling Pin.
Flatten to about a 5" circle
Fold in half, making a crease across the center

Put a tbsp (or a little more) into the center of the biscuit.
Fold in half and crimp edges together with a fork

Place on baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

Brush butter on pie and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for approx 20 - 25 minutes - until lightly browned.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Searching for Allens

Rambling through cemeteries, and searching for tombstones, was always a favorite pastime for my mother and me, when I would come home for a visit. For over 30 years, I've been researching my family - the various branches on the many trees of Walker, Anderson, Allen, Gibson, Duckworth, Miller, Hester, Langford, and the list goes on and on. Going back just 10 generations, to your 8th great grandparents, you have 1,024 ancestors from which to select. In addition, if you choose to track some of your indirect lines (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.); you will have a database with thousands of names.

My mom and dad's grandmothers were sisters, making my parents third cousins. My mother had a great memory and seemed to store as much information in her head as I do, on my laptop. She knew as much, or more, about my dad's family than he did (and was a lot more interested than he was!)

On one of my trips home, mother had a cemetery trip all planned. Dad's grandmother, on his mother's side, was an Allen. Someone had told mom, that there was an old Allen cemetery, in the county, and she wanted to find it. She pulled out the directions she had been given, and we headed out on our adventure. We were just certain this was to be a great day for collecting names and dates of ancestors.

Up Hwy 531 we went, and from there, I have no idea what country roads we took or how we finally made our way back home much later that same day. We stopped, several times, to inquire about the "Old Allen Cemetery" and were usually met with blank stares and shaking heads. Finally, we found someone who thought he knew where it might be.

We found the burial ground (it was no longer a cemetery). The few graves, many of the stones were broken and destroyed (reminiscent of our family's Old Miller Cemetery) sat in the middle of a pasture filled with cows AND bulls. Not being a brave soul, anyway, I was not sure just how interested I was now. My family tree might have to exist without these Allens!

Mom had a brilliant idea. I was to stop and let her out of the car on the road at the far corner of the pasture. Mom would call the cows, and bulls (as far as I was concerned, the bulls were the ones I was worried about) to the fence. While she had them "cornered" I was to get into the pasture and record the information. Now, mom was an old farm girl, and knew how to call the cows in, so I had no doubt this would be a success.

After mom was in place, I turned into the little road to the pasture and stopped just short of the cattle gap. As we had planned, I tooted the car horn to let her know I was ready to go in. As soon as I heard mom calling and saw them turn to go to the sound of her voice ......I began to make my way over the cattle gap and the downed, but treacherous, barbed wire fence.

I was wandering slowly, with my pad and pencil, through the few remaining stones when I heard mom yelling (quite frantically) "Run, Sarah, Run"! My feet didn't stop until I was over the barbed wire and across the cattle gap. Now, I'm sure cattle gaps keep bulls in, but I didn't feel safe until I was back in the car. Staring at me and pawing the ground, on the other side, was a very mad bull. 

When I stopped to pick mom up, she asked "Did you find many Allens?" My reply "Not a one! It wasn't an Allen Cemetery."

And I'm still searching for Allens!

The Double Yellow Line

As I stared up the narrow dimly lit flight of stairs ascending almost straight up, I wondered if this had been a poor choice. As a “Road Warrior” who spent every week on the road, I had thought that maybe switching my routine from a hotel to a Bed and Breakfast might be an inviting change.

My client was near the Chesapeake Bay in such a beautiful area; surely, there was a wealth of places from which to choose. After searching the Yellow Pages, I discovered that there were not that many choices. After deciding on the one that seemed to be the closest, I made the call to get reservations and directions.

In giving directions, the owner of the Bed and Breakfast told me to “follow the double yellow line”. Not wanting to appear stupid, I didn’t question “What yellow line?” I figured it would become apparent. And finally, it was. You know those lines; the two down the center of the road! I had informed him that I would arrive late in the evening. His instructions had been that the key would be left under a flowerpot by the front door. I had also been told that there was only one other guest in the B&B that week.

I drove down the darkened street, passing row after row of apartment buildings, always following that double yellow line. I thought that this certainly didn’t look like an area where one would find a Bed and Breakfast. Suddenly the street, and the double yellow line, came to a dead end into another street. Either I had seen no B&B, or I had missed it. Being right-handed, whenever I am given a choice, I usually turn to the right. Thankfully, for some reason, I turned my car to the left. There, in front of me, loomed a dimly lit, monstrous house. It would have been just perfect for televising the old “Addams Family” show.

I slowly drove forward and pulled into what had once been a driveway, but was now beginning to be overgrown. The yard looked like it was several weeks past the scheduled mowing. Every part of me knew I should turn around and head back to town, but my adventurous side said "go for it." I parked, in the grass, and walked up onto the unlit front porch of the old two-storied Victorian style mansion. Looking into the foyer through the antique frosted, beveled glass door, the subdued lighting reminded me of a funeral parlor! 

I had not gotten a complete description of the house, and in the dark, it would not have mattered. I did notice that there was a flowerpot, in the grass, by the front steps. I experienced mixed emotions as I groped under the pot, in the dark. Why couldn't they have left a light on? I hoped this was the house, for I did not relish having someone call the police because a stranger was plundering in front of their house. I also did not know how I felt about going inside this darkened old relic. Was it going to be as scary on the inside, as it was outside? When my fingers touched the key, I didn't know whether to feel relief or fright. Should I pick up the key, or just get in the car and leave? I knew I had to see what was inside!

I went back to the car and took out my briefcase and luggage. I came back to the front door and followed the instructions given by the owner. I went inside and began to search for the back staircase. As I passed through the high-ceilinged living room, dining room, and kitchen on my way to the backstairs; the rooms were furnished with wonderful pieces of antique furniture. 

As I lugged first my luggage, and then my briefcase up the narrow, steep stairs I decided to score one for hotel elevators. From the description I had been given, I knew I had arrived in “The Baltimore Room.” It was a beautifully appointed room with green and white striped wallpaper, an antique four-poster bed, and an adjoining bath containing an old bathtub with claw feet. I went through my “week on the road arrival routine” and unpacked all the essentials. All the while, I had one ear tuned to listen for any other sounds in the house, and I heard nothing. Score two for the noise in hotel corridors.

After I finished unpacking, I decided it was time to call home and let my hubby know that I had arrived safely. I looked around the room and found that there was no telephone (this was before cell phones). I had left the room door open while going through the unpacking routine, I closed the door ready to lock up for the night, and I discovered not only did the room have no phone, the door had no lock!  At this point, I decided that hotels were not so bad after all. My score pad was leaning heavily in their favor.

The antique four-poster bed was very comfortable, but it did not matter. A good night's sleep, in a room with no phone and no lock on the door, was not in the cards for me that night.

I was relieved when daylight came, after a sleepless but uneventful night. A bountiful and delicious breakfast was on the table by 7:00 a.m. The other guest and I heard the story of the house, which was on the National Historic Register. It truly was a beautiful home, and would have been a great choice had my husband been traveling with me.

In later years when I began to tire of hotels, I only had to remember my night in the house at the end of the double yellow line. I reminded myself that those continental breakfasts came with phones and locks on the door!