26 October 2017

I’m feeling under the weather.  Icky. Sicky.  Down in the dumps.

I woke up this way.  Eyes matted.  Throat scratchy.  Mind murky.  Stomach reeling.

I just wanted to stay in bed and that is mostly what I did.  Cuddled up to my next to my warm cozy; dozing, but not really resting.  Waking only to find myself feeling more and more like a lost ball in high weeds.  Heavy with fatigue.

On days like this, when my body is ailing and my mind is lagging, I want something hot and comforting to eat.  Something that can be served in a bowl and held in between my hands.  Something steamy, something brothy, something soothing.

So today I offer up a recipe that is sure to sooth the soul if not the body.  With plenty of healing rosemary, garlic, chicken broth and a splash or two of red wine vinegar, the new-found, old-forgotten  fountain of youth in a bottle, its a brew for what ails ya’.  We’ll call it Witch’s Brew, Get Better Stew.

Witches Stew

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground Italian Sausage

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, divided

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 to 2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 cups of chicken broth, divided

5 cups, stemmed chopped kale

2 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed, drained and divided

1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Pour olive oil  into to a large Dutch, swirl to coat, and place over medium heat.  Add the sausage, onion, carrots and celery and sauté until the vegetables are tender and the sausage is browned.  Stir in at least a 1/2 teaspoon salt, minced garlic, black pepper and your preferred amount of dried rosemary and cook for a minute or so.

Stir in 5 cups of chicken broth.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Once a nice boil has been achieved, cover, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Add the kale and simmer for a few minutes longer, until the kale is tender.

Place 1 can of cannellini beans and a remaining cup of chicken broth in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Add this puree, the remaining can of cannellini beans and the black beans to the stew and increase the heat until it is boiling once again.  Then, as before, cover, reduce heat, and simmer on low for several minutes.

Stir in the red wine vinegar and remove from the heat.

Ladle into bowls, serve whilst hot, preferably with fresh-from-the-oven crumbly bread, and invite your family to close their eyes, bow their heads, and breath in the rich aroma of this meal.  Oh…and say grace while they are at.

*   *  *

Discovered on www. myrecipes.com, my meal-planning go-to, I tweaked the recipe to fit my own family’s tastes and to accommodate what was growing fresh in my garden.  The original recipe can be found here.



18 October 2017


RyeToday’s Wednesday Word is two:  “blind tiger”.  I recently came across this term in the August 16, 1917 edition of the Washington County News in a humorous article entitled “Her ‘Meatless Day'”.

This is the article:

     The day after Prosecuting Attorney Horace G. Murphy and his deputies and constables made a Sunday morning raid on a Muncie “blind tiger” and arrested 59 persons found there, many of the men going to jail on various charges, the wife of one of those whose fate it was to be locked up was confiding in Billy Blamey, the elevator man at the Wyson building, in which Murphy has his office, says the Indianapolis News.
      “I’m considerably worried,” she told him “about my Sunday dinner yesterday and thought Mr. Murphy might straighten things out. You see, my husband started away from home about ten o’clock in the morning to get some meat for dinner and said he intended to stop in at the club (all “tigers” are clubs in Muncie) and get a bottle of beer on the way, like he always does Sundays. Well he hasn’t brought that meat home yet, and meat nowadays costs too much to waste.”


Other than the presumption that Mrs. Mam was more concerned with the whereabouts of her dinner-meat than her errant husband, the article makes clear that a blind tiger was a place where one could get a drink.  Not just any drink, though, one with alcohol in it.    Unfortunately, as was also pretty clear, Mr. Man’s beverage choice, the establishment or “club” he drank it in, or both was illegal.    God Forbid!

By 1917 Prohibition had arrived for the second time in Alabama, a good five years before the federal amendment banned the sale of alcohol across the entire United States.  Many thirsty Alabamians were forced underground in order to “wet their whistle.” Literally.  UNDERGROUND.  Caves such as Desoto Caverns, Bangor, Shelta and Sauta, were used as blind tigers. And they weren’t just holes in the wall, [or rather the ground], they had electricity, seating, bars,  bandstands, decorations, dining and dancefloors.


Bangor Cave Bar

Bangor Caves operating during Prohibition during the 1930s.   (Encyclopedia of Encyclopedia of Alabama)


Now it is unclear how these “clubs” came to be known by the sobriquet, although there is some speculation.  Perhaps it was because some operators would charge patrons to see an oddity, like a real-live blind tiger, and sneak them a complimentary libation on the way out.  Perhaps it was because buyers were buying “blindly,” not knowing the identity of the bar owners or the quality of the beverages they were being served.  Perhaps, if you were drinking in a cave in Alabama and the lights went out, one would feel “blind” doddering around in the dark, murky-minded from the booze. Perhaps the why of the name is simply lost to history; and really when it all comes down to it, the name of the drinking establishment is much less important than the fact that it is there.

While the aforementioned cave bars are no longer in operation,  you can still get a drink in a cave in Alabama, albeit legally.  The Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia, Alabama offers music, dining and a unique atmosphere, where one can almost imagine they are clandestinely meeting for a prohibited drink.  The Rattlesnake is on my list of places I must visit and when I do, I’ll raise a glass to Mr. Man and his ilk.


For more information about Unusual Alabama Prohibition-Era Blind Tigers, see AL.com’s December 5, 2014 article entitled 7 Places Alabamians Bought Illicit Liquor During Prohibition, Including Speakeasy Caves, Underground Tunnels.

16 October 2017


A few years ago I became a Pinterest addict.

Yes, I admit it, I claim it, I wear it like a Scarlet Letter, only without the shame.  How could I not be?  So many great ideas, tips, crafts, articles, exercises, recipes and other marvelous STUFF I didn’t know I needed in my life but clearly did, all in one handy-dandy place just waiting for me to Like, Pin and try.  I liked ALOT, a function that is sadly no longer available, I pinned ALOT, I tried…not nearly as much as the other two, but I gave and still give it the “old college try.”

One of the first boards I created was Autumn Inspired Breads.  At the time I was searching for a new taste of Fall,  a new sweet bread slightly spicy, slightly nutty, cozy warm and filling-heavy to complement my coffee and invoke the idea of the season even if the temperatures were not cooperating with the calendar.  I found a few  candidates that I baked, enjoyed and shared, but knew that I had found THE ONE when I stumbled across a Pin for Pear Bread from the website Bake or BreakGleaned from Nancy McDermott’s 2007 cookbook Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations, this bread came with a warning from Bake or Break’s author:

“After you try it, you may never want to bake anything else ever again. It is just that good.”

She wasn’t lying!  Try it, you’ll see!

Pear bread 1Pear bread 2


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup softened butter

3 lightly beaten large eggs

2 cups sugar

2 cups peeled and diced* pears

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).

Once you’ve lightly greased and floured a  10-inch bundt or tube pan, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  Once mixed, scoop out about a quarter of a cup and combine with the pecans to coat, then stir the coated nuts and flour remnants back into the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the butter, eggs, sugar, pears, and vanilla.  Add this mixture to the flour one, stirring just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the bundt or tube pan and bake for sixty to seventy minutes, or until the bread is browned and firm on the top and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in a pan on a wire rack for at least ten minutes, remove from the pan, and place top side up on a plate.

Serve immediately with coffee, put your feet up and savor the season!

* The original recipe called for grated pear, but I like it much better with larger pieces.  Either way, diced or grated, you can’t go wrong.






5 October 2017

When I was growing up our house was really only decorated once a year–for Christmas.  The other holidays and seasons received little more than a nod in our home’s decor. We had very few Autumn decorations and even fewer Halloween ones.  Here’s what I remember:

Two straw brooms with small miniature pumpkins and fake fall leaves glued awkwardly under an  orange and brown bow.

A ceramic light up Jack-O-Lantern, a ghastly light up Haint, E.T.,  and a lidded Jack-O-Lantern, that were lovingly hand-painted and gifted to my family by Mrs. Juanita Wheeler, an old and dear friend of my maternal grandmother.

A Kitchen Witch, a small covey of brass quail, a brass pheasant and a ceramic votive-holder owl, all of which remained out for display no matter the season.

There weren’t any black cats, witches hats, skeletons, spiders or tombstones in the mix. No, not a one.

Maybe because there were so few, they made an impact on the memory.  And because a  memory just isn’t a MEMORY in my family unless it is accompanied by a tangible object, most of the objects remain.   I believe the technical term for this is hoarding. 

The straw brooms, or at least one of them, remain at my mothers.

The Jack-O-Lanterns and Haint are on display at the home of Sister the First, who graciously photographed them for me.


The Kitchen Witch is missing in action, presumably packed away in a box or stashed away in an drawer; kidnapped by a sister, but nobody’s talking, at least not yet, which probably means Sister the Fourth is involved.  She’s the quiet one.

The ceramic votive owl is at the clubhouse with my daddy.  I’ve claimed him, but so has Sister the Third, so I’ll probably have to duel her for it; then in a gesture of benevolence gift him to Sister the Fourth.

Votive owl

E.T., unfortunately is no longer with us, he phoned home!

I have the brass quail.


Sister the Third has the pheasant.

brass pheasant (2)

Perhaps because of the scarcity of decoration growing up or maybe because I’m a prime example of rampant consumerism, each year I’ve added a new Fall bauble to my own collection.

Here is a small sampling:

And since nothing goes away, my children will one day receive them ALL,  memory-imbued objects to duke it out over or dispose of at their whim.  Of course, since they are my children and are already a murder of crows distracted by anything shiny, I’m pretty sure they’ll keep it all.  Good thing they have to split it!



4 October 2017

Today’s Wednesday Word is “Nandy.”  Nandy isn’t technically a word.  You won’t find it in a dictionary.  But it is one I grew up with.  A word, that my ear heard over and over again, until it became REAL.

This is the story.

My maternal grandmother Marie taught my sisters and me a bedtime prayer.  Every night that I can remember spending with her, nestled under covers in her big comfy bed, we prayed that prayer.  And it began, or so I thought, with Nandy.

Nandy Lord,

Lay me down to sleep.

I pray, dear Lord,

My soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake,

I pray, dear Lord, my soul to take.

God bless, Mama and Daddy, and Maw Maw and Paw Paw and Nanny….

On and on we asked for blessings for our family and friends.  Sometimes we made it to Amen, but sometimes not, drifting off before we reached the end.  The ending wasn’t as important as the beginning.  As Nandy.

It wasn’t until my twenties, when once again, cuddled under covers in her bed, that I asked her what Nandy meant.  She was befuddled.  “Nandy Lord,” I queried.  “Where did it come from?”   The answer.  Not Nandy, Now dear Lord!

Now dear Lord.  It made sense, but it was all wrong.  It sounded too urgent, too uncomfortable, too demanding.  It didn’t feel right on my tongue.

And so years later, I still find myself saying this childhood prayer, eschewing the correct for the familiar, invoking the Nandy Lord, my nighttime boon, to please lay my weary head down to rest.   This mistake of years, this heard misheard, makes me smile and think of her, my Maw Maw, my Marie, my Mirandy and each blessed day and night I got to spend with her.




2 October 2017

Monday started, as most Monday’s do, with a stumble-step to the coffee pot.  And just like most Mondays, a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, I turned on the news, or at least what masquerades as news here, to see what was happening in the world.  What was happening was horrific.  Another mass shooting in another U.S. town.

One more after one more.  I watched stricken as the story unfolded, as the death toll rose.  I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t believe it had happened again.  Of course it could.  It did.  Over and over again, month after month.

When the world rages, when the senseless occurs, when humanity tears at itself, I retreat.  I gather my chicks.  I feather my nest.  I seek the quiet, the natural, the simple, the good.  I make a meal. I count my blessings.

After the school work was completed and the books put away for the day, dinner simmering on the stove, my children and I gathered our assortment of apples.  Together, worries and cares slipping away,  we pared, cored, chopped, measured and placed all in the pot to gently blend the flavors and release the  comforting aroma over the remaining hours of the day.  To make applesauce from the ingredients.  To bring peace to our hearts.

Apple peeler Continue reading

1 October 2017

Why I like October

October is possibly one of my most favorite months of the year.  There is finally a hint of cool on the breeze, a promise that the humid heat is at last coming to an end.   The leaves of the hardwoods, maple, oak and hickory,  all shades of red, yellow, orange and brown are beginning to release and scatter on the ground.  Apples are ripe in the orchards, wild persimmons in the woods, adding hues of gold, red, green and orange to the cultivated and the natural.  The aromas of cinnamon and pumpkin and pecan and caramel fill our home and flavor our food.  Occasionally, a hint of wood smoke from an early morning fireplace “chill-breaker” or the remnants of an evening pit fire waft on the foggy morning air.

Chittering squirrels shore up their drays, spotted fawns nestle in the straw, and birds v-form in flight toward even more southern climes–all clear signs to the keen observer that winter is coming.  Nature knows.  I know.

But for now, it is October, finally Fall.  And in this season, surrounded at the same time by the abundance of the harvest and the dying of the leaves, I prepare my nest.