From the Deep Freeze: Ode to the Onion

It’s hot as blue blazes just about everywhere it seems, and the Mister and I (especially I!) are big believers in the adage of “if you can’t take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen.”  So, since we are childless for a few days, we decided to get out of town for the evening.  When we left at six-thirty, the temperature was 95 degrees; 33 steep and winding miles later, the thermometer was reading a cool 70.  Ahhhhh.  IMG_2115Flowers outside a Saluda antiques shop.  I loved the yellows of the pot and the chair, perfect for the deep greens and pinks of the geraniums and vinca.IMG_2117The Mister considers mountain cabins on the market.  Someday, maybe.IMG_2118I loved these arched windows.  Most of the town’s buildings are designated historic sites.

We were eager to re-visit a restaurant we had enjoyed a few weeks ago, with friends and two of our children, for an early Father’s Day dinner.  It’s called The Purple Onion, located in Saluda, North Carolina.  Specializing in  organic, locally sourced, and sustainably harvested produce, seafood, and beef, The Purple Onion offers a casual atmosphere with lots of outdoor tables.  Near the covered patio area is a natural mountain spring, surrounded by fern and cress and other native plants.IMG_2123IMG_2124Everything served is fresh and made-to-order on site.  Choices offered the night we were there included: corn husk roasted mountain trout, duck breast with balsamic fig and red grape chutney, and an Appalachian green plate special, featuring heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, okra, greens, and beets.  Blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Strawberry and Blackberry Cobbler

Saluda itself is a sweet little place that started as a railroad town.  Originally known as Pace’s Gap, the community was primarily a stopover for traders and herders.
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As railroads began crossing the country, Captain Charles Pearson, chief  engineer of the railway,  was sent to determine the best way to traverse the Carolina mountains.  After assessing the topography, with its sheer cliffs and multiple underground streams, Pearson made the decision to have the tracks built across Saluda Mountain rather than through the gap.  The cost to the railroad and to the community was high.  Many lost their lives building the line that became known—and is still known—as the steepest mainline standard gauge grade in North America.
  
The Carolina Special painted by Howard Fogg.  The Special ran from Charleston, SC, to Cincinnati, OH, crossing the 5.3 /100 Saluda grade.

The first passenger train to climb Saluda arrived on July 4, 1879.  Soon, some eight passenger trains a day steamed into the tiny depot, occasionally bringing such notable writers and artists as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Dix, who found Saluda a restful haven.
IMG_2114Today the glitterati are long gone; a few art galleries  and antiques shops cater to the day trippers.  The summer residents enjoy cool mountain hikes and Appalachian sunsets.  And, I suspect, frequent dinners at The Purple Onion.  
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Do you have a favorite quick get-away?

From the Deep Freeze: Thumpin' Good!

Part of the Deep Freeze series, this post was originally published on June 27, 2010.

Watermelon is without question one of my favorite foods.  I have loved it since I was a child, and I used to eat it, quite literally, down to the white rind.  In addition to its low-calorie/high flavor appeal, watermelon reminds me of girlhood visits on my grandparents’ shady back porch, where my cousins and I would spit seeds into the dusky night while lightning bugs flickered around the white hydrangea blossoms.  A game of freeze tag almost always followed.

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In my 1960s childhood, a local grocery store chain advertised to a catchy tune that its watermelons were “thumpin’ good . . . red, ripe, and ready to eat; Cas Walker melons just can’t be beat!”   And, although, the best watermelons always came from my dad’s garden, Cas Walker was right about one thing: the best way to choose a watermelon is by the sound.  Oh sure, you can look at the stem, you can sniff for sweetness, but if you want a really good watermelon, put your ear close by and give it a thump!  If it sounds hollow, it’s a sweet ripe melon.  Trust me on this, and whenever possible buy a local watermelon; you’ll have no regrets.IMG_2093
So, once you have your perfect melon home, it’s time to slice it up.  During peak season, we eat at least one watermelon a week, and we seldom ever eat it from the rind.  I like to cut it into chunks and keep it cold to use in salads or to serve for dessert with blueberries. IMG_2094
Slicing the melon on an old rimmed cookie sheet keeps the sticky juice from running all over the countertop.   Clean-up, as they say, is a snap!IMG_2095
And, now you’re all set with several days’ worth of watermelon in storage containers in the fridge, and a delicious fruit salad to accompany supper.IMG_2096  My favorite watermelon recipe these days is a bit of a twist on the watermelon arugula salad that had my mouth watering a couple of years ago.  It’s simply a little more family friendly—in other words, I’m the only arugula lover in this house!
watermelon-salad-550x412Watermelon salad
baby spinach, rinsed and dried
fresh basil or cilantro, if you have either on hand, makes a nice addition
2 cups watermelon chunks
half a cup chopped peeled cucumber, optional
half a small red onion, coarsely chopped
4 ounces low-fat feta cheese, crumbled
to make the vinaigrette, whisk three parts olive oil to one part vinegar with a teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lime juice, and a bit of kosher salt and black pepper to taste
If you want to make a statement presentation with this, serve it in triangles cut from the watermelon rind. watermelonfeta-dg[1]                         Image from Slash Food
And, now, it’s time for my nightime bowl of watermelon.  I hope the lightning bugs are out!

From the Deep Freeze: Summer House

Part of the Deep Freeze series, this post was originally published on June 19, 2010.

With July quickly drawing to a close, I thought it was high time to bring a touch of summer to the T&C house, other than wet bathing suits, damp towels, and discarded flip flops, that is.
IMG_2078      Scallop shells gathered on Anna Maria Island, Florida take their place on the side table in the kitchen.IMG_2079Treasures found all along the Maine coast fill a bowl in the front hall, reminding us of one of our favorite family vacations.
IMG_2081Fragments of giant scallop shells and starfish (purchased) collected on Saint George Island, a most beautiful and remote spot on the Gulf.IMG_2085Olive shells, the state shell of Florida, are a sweet summer reminder of great family beach visits all over that beautiful state.
IMG_1955Add in a few bowls or vases of these beauties, and the house definitely feels like summertime.

This year we’re returning to one of Charleston’s beaches, much closer to home than our usual choice of St. George Island in Florida's Big Bend.  Middle, and Little are looking forward to the Atlantic surf instead of the tame waters of the Gulf.  The Mister and I are thinking that we are going to enjoy spending some afternoons in Charleston, despite the no-doubt torrid temperatures we will face.

What's your favorite beach?

Tales From the Pool: The Deep End

From the deep freeze summer re-run series.  originally posted TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 2010

I have a baby book in which I carefully detailed each “first,” including all the typical ones like first tooth, first step, and so on.  It’s harder to keep track of the “lasts”; one day you just sort of realize,hey, I haven’t had to drive him anywhere in months, and then it kind of starts to sink in that somewhere in the busyness of life I must’ve spoon fed him, helped him dress, checked his homework, washed his jersey, dropped him off, watched his team play for the last time.
I was thinking about this yesterday while sitting by our pool, watching young mothers with toddlers bobbing around in water, trying to have a conversation with one another.IMG_2087
Meanwhile, Little was practicing her diving from the blocks and coolly assessing  some older middle school girls.  And I wondered when the last time was that I hadto get in the pool.  It’s been a few years, but for a while now I’ve been able to lounge and sun and read, getting in only when I wanted to cool off.  Admittedly, I have enjoyed sitting poolside leafing through magazines and glancing up only to count heads or to acknowledge a Momwatchthis moment.  Sure, occasionally I had to referee a disagreement over goggles or some such, but for the most part it was a blissful respite from the demands of the day.IMG_1876The Mister and I took Little to the pool late Sunday afternoon.  He, of course, jumped right in and swam and played and admired all her handstands, dives, and splashes.  I read.  When he came over to dry off and stretch out for a bit, he said, “She’s going to want you to come in.”  And I said, “Oh, I don’t think so, she hasn’t said anything,” and I began to think of reasons that I didn’t want to get all wet, namely that I needed to stop at the grocery on the way home. IMG_2086And then, she didn’t swim over to ask me to get in with her.  For a long time.  She was just fine.  Without me.  Finally, she glided over and said teasingly, “Why don’t you come in, Mommy?  Are you afraid to get your hair wet?”  I know, sadly, from experience, that I could have begged off and she would’ve shrugged and swam away, but I think I knew that if I didn’t go in this time, it might be the last time she invited me.

So, I walked to the edge of the deep end and jumped.Pool-Splash
I’ve had enough lasts for a while.

Eating out of the freezer

Writing a blog is a lot like making supper.

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It’s easier, healthier, and tastier when I have a meal plan and a grocery list, when the pantry is full and the fridge is stocked.  Sure, every once in a while I can pull a rabbit out of my hat and make something delicious with an onion, an egg, some pasta, and a frozen vegetable, but generally speaking, I like a plan.  And, lately, although I’ve been feeding my family, I haven’t been feeding my blog.  It’s possible that working full-time, helping out at the store, and, last but not least, wife-ing and mothering, are using most of my creative resources. retro-housewife

Truth is, I’m not willing to give up this little blogging endeavor just yet, but I’ve got to re-stock the inspiration pantry, so to speak. So in the meantime, while I get my blogging meal plan together, I’ve thawed out some dinners from the deep freeze. retro-cooking That’s right, for the next week or so, I’m serving leftovers.  I’ll understand if you’d rather go out, but I will be back with some real home-cookin’!

And now, straight from the deep freeze . . .

Simple Summer Pleasures

It seems there are a few foods that are made for summertime.  I’m not talking about juicy watermelon or ripe tomatoes or even fresh corn, although my family enjoys those throughout the season.  I’m thinking more of foods that--although available year round--we set aside for summer—sort of like eggnog is only served from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  After all,  the ingredients in eggnog are always available.  It’s the same with one of the T&C household’s favorite treats— homemade frozen bananas.  We started making these a few years ago after Little picked up a recipe for them in the grocery store.  I like to think they’re a bit healthier than ice cream bars, and they taste amazing even if you’re not crazy for banana-flavored treats.

Start with a bunch of not-too-ripe bananas.  They shouldn’t be green, but they should not be fully yellow either.  And definitely no speckles!

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Find a cookie sheet or baking pan that will fit easily in your freezer and line it with waxed paper.

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Cut the bananas in half and insert food-grade wooden popsicle sticks.  (If you are only going to be serving these to adults, you can use wooden skewers if you have them on hand.)  Place on the wax paper-lined baking pan and pop them into the freezer for half an hour or so.  (Leaving them in longer is fine, too, but you might want to cover them.)

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While the bananas are chilling, melt one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave oven or in a double boiler.  Microwave temperatures vary, so start with 30 seconds.  Chocolate that has been melted in a microwave holds its shape, so be careful not to burn it.  I microwave my chocolate for one minute, then add a teaspoon of cooking oil (even a light olive oil will work in a pinch) and stir until the chocolate is smooth and the oil is incorporated.

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Remove the bananas from the freezer and quickly dunk them in the warm chocolate, which will harden immediately.  Store covered in the freezer.  A paper muffin liner slipped over the stick makes the perfect drip catcher. For young children, be sure to add sprinkles!

What’s your favorite summer treat?

9:30 in Greenville, or Midnight in Paris

The Mister and I finally got around to seeing Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris last night.  Although it was supposed to be a date night, we took Middle along, too, as he has been an only child all week.  Middle has already seen The Green Lantern  and Transformers this summer, and he made a few noises about seeing Zookeeper, the new Kevin James vehicle, but thankfully the Mister held firm with “this is what your mother and I want to see, and you are invited to join us.”  midnight-in-paris-poster__oPt

I knew I would like it—Paris, the 1920s, writers, artists, Owen Wilson, playing a writer.  I knew the Mister would like it—the 1920s, Rachel McAdams, and sweetly, the fact that I would like it.  Surprisingly, Middle liked it, too.  I doubt he will tell anyone he liked it , but he did.  I liked it so much, I might take Little to see it.  I would definitely see it again!

Have you seen Midnight in Paris?  What did  you think?

Old Dog, No Tricks

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve gone back to work.  Full-time.  In a real office.  Doing something I like.  There are many pluses—obviously a paycheck is nice.  I have my own office, and apart from the usefulness of having a place to do work, it also affords a place to decorate and make welcoming for volunteers.  And, of course, I’ve been able to add to my wardrobe a bit, too.womanwithbagsL_A4

So far, the negatives are traveling in a rental car for four days of training in a rather unattractive location led by a rather uninspired presenter.  And, as one might expect, there’s been a little bit of office drama for the new “girl.”secretary I think I mentioned that I hadn’t worked full-time for 17 years, and to be honest, I’d forgotten how women sometimes treat other women in the workplace.  It pains me to say that—it really does.  But being almost (gulp) 50 makes it all a bit easier to swallow.

You see, this little anecdote sums up well the perils of messing with “an old dog.”  Regrettably, I could not find any attribution for this tale, although it has been published multiple times.

One day an old Collie starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that she’s far from home. Wandering about, she notices a panther heading rapidly in her direction.collie

The old Collie notices some bones on the ground close by, and she immediately settles down to chew on the bones with her back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old Collie exclaims loudly, ‘Wow, that was one delicious panther! I wonder, if there are any more around here?’

Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack and slinks away into the trees.panther

‘Whew!’ says the panther, ‘That was close! That old dog nearly had me!’

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.fox-squirrel-1a

The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.

The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, ‘Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that canine!

Now, the old Collie sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, ‘What am I going to do now?’, but instead of running, the dog sits down with her back to her attackers, pretending she hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old Collie says…

‘Where’s that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!

Let’s just say I’ve identified the panther and the squirrel, and wisdom, skill, and kindness will prevail.

Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?  Job 12:12

Have you ever encountered workplace drama?

Happy Birthday, America!

Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document.  It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions.

Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man—these are not elements which we can see and touch.  They are ideals.  They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions of our forefathers.  They belong to the unseen world.  Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish.

We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.  If all men are created equal, that is final.  If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final.  If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.

No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.  If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.

Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress.

                                        --Calvin Coolidge, July 1926

video by Steelehead Productions

Calling all Patriotic Prep Bloggers and Readers!

Okay, friends and prepsters, I need a favor.  

Middle, by far my preppiest progeny, is hoping to win a patriotic photo contest sponsored by Southern Tide, makers of the classic Skipjack polo shirt. If you have a minute, please be kind enough to click here first and "like" Southern Tide.  Then click here to vote for Middle, also known as Joe, standing in a blue shirt in front of a long row of American flags!  Thanks, and I owe you one!



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