Today’s the day…

wpid-20150329_161614.jpg

 

It’s no April Fools joke…today’s the day the house was sold. It’s been a very emotional ride since Maw-Maw passed. Isn’t it always when someone you love dearly passes? I thought I’d share a few thoughts through photographs I’ve taken these past 15 months…

image

This was the last time I looked through this window the other day with Mom by my side. Maw-Maw always had to make sure the birds were well fed, and depending on the season, the sun would come busting in, and the bay window became one of her favorite places to rest. Paw-Paw always made sure the grass was green and well manicured on his John Deere. Even though I may spend years creating a beautiful view, this will remain the most beautiful window I’ve ever looked through.  Not just because of my own memories, but because it holds memories for our entire family…especially Mom.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

I found my love of cooking in her kitchen…and maybe found my sweet tooth there as well. It was just one of the two kitchens where I truly learned how to cook with heart.  It’s where I remember making Lemon Meringue Pies with my cousin.  He always knew how to show the saran wrap who was boss.  That’s still a skill I’m working on!

image

I inherited her plants. Those poor orchids! Do you have any orchid advice for me? My green thumb does not seem to be translating to them. However, they remind me her love is alive and well in my home, and that’s alright with me.

imageimage

20141115_153045

Mom and I had fun finding all the treasures (although sometimes odd) in the house while cleaning out. Oh the life loved and lived in this house. Some of the walls even told stories.

image

image

Inspirational messages and her handwriting were found often. The days you found these little messages, were always the day you needed to read it. They became little reminders of love.

image

image

We were blessed with new bundles of joy in our family that are carrying on the legacy of lives well lived before them…yes, even the cat.

image

image

Sometimes new hobbies were good to find and take the mind off sadness. Yes, I’m a good shot! I get it from my momma.

image

image

imageimage
We learned how to cut up again, not take life so seriously, and how to put a beard on a cat without losing an arm. We also learned to smile again…that one took a while.

image

I learned it was ok to be “basic” and find the joy in the little moments of my day.

image

We made sure her homemade Halloween flag flew proudly in the wind on its final flight. They sure did love Halloween and the joy it brought to everyone around them. Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw were a blessing to many people.

image

Christmas was a time to remember a beautiful life that was taken too soon from us. I blew that candle out that night, but the memories will never extinguish.

image

I found sympathy cards on days I wished I hadn’t. Then I was reminded that people really do care about one another. Humanity is a magnificent creature.

image

Some days I just wanted to sleep it all away.
image

Some days I just wanted to play outside like a kid again. Only this time I was using fall leaves to make a heart.

image

image

image

image

image

The backyard will forever be remembered as a safe place for all of us grandkids to run around in. My first memory of the smells, tastes, and sights of grilling out. There were a few barns.  To the younger grandkids, the barns were off limits, especially when we were told snakes were in them. On the back deck, the screen door always made this loud smack when closing. You knew it was coming, so you braced yourself for the abruptness of the slam.  Never were prepared in the end.  I hope everyone knows that sound. There’s truly nothing like it.

imageimage

 

Some days I gave life a not so nice face, and some days I smiled. The smiles became more often. I’m not sure they’re the same as before though. It’ll get there.

imageimage

 

image

This woman was my second best friend. My second confidant. My second love. She was my first Maw-Maw though. There’s nothing that can replace that hole left after her death, but it helps to remember that life is still beautiful even after all the heartache. This house, it will live on in a new family.  The house has moved on, so shall we.

image

This really sad day will end, and tomorrow begins for another go at life if we’re fortunate enough. I find it’s good to remember where we came from (along with the homes we shared) and all the people who invested their heart in supporting our life. Life is truly a journey, and journeys always move forward whether you think they are or not.

image

On a final note…we left behind the Elephant Egg. When growing up, our grandparents always told us it was an elephant egg. Now, I don’t know where it came from, or its story, but that thing never did hatch. I’m beginning to think a couple of grandparents were really great storytellers as well. We’ll never know…

The Last Kitchen Tip

unnamed

This was originally supposed to have been published in Alamance Magazine before it ceased publication. However, I’d like to share it with you now. It was meant for their February run, so it’s a little aged. Still the same sentiments of love though.

With love,
J

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Last Kitchen Tip

It’s comforting sitting in her dining room chair right now – just feet from the kitchen. There’s so much I want to tell her, to share with her, and to enjoy with her. See, Maw-Maw passed away on December 17th. She was my confidant, my friend, my grandmother. Life changed after she passed that day. It changed in ways I would never be able to explain to you.

Her love for cooking and her family was always apparent. Her kitchen was where I learned my love of cooking. I learned an incredible amount in her kitchen. There were old Southern tips and tricks, cookbooks used, and I learned just exactly what a “pinch” and a “dash” are in a recipe. Those were tricky to grasp at first. All in all, there were tons of smiles in this kitchen. They were smiles that I will treasure forever and ever, and wish I could still share them with her today.

unnamed
~ A few of her kitchen utensils ~

The Sunday before she passed, she called me. I was busy making homemade cinnamon rolls for the first time…that’s right, from scratch. I hadn’t dabbled much in yeast. That just isn’t my thing. But, I wanted to learn. Little did I know, and I should have read my recipe thoroughly, that my dough would have to sit overnight. Being a little on the impatient side in the kitchen, I wasn’t looking forward to the waiting time. But, my best advocate in the kitchen was on the phone. I had to ask for suggestions.

I explained my predicament to her, and she offered a little piece of advice. If I placed the pan of dough on the eye of the stove that “releases” heat from inside the oven, then cover it with a large pyrex dish that would completely cover the pan, and finally a couple of towels, it should speed up the yeast and my dough would rise faster. Now I know this isn’t exactly what a Baker would do, but sometimes a little bit of good Southern tricks can come in handy. I did as I was instructed, and in about three and a half hours, my dough was perfectly ready to make my cinnamon rolls.

Maw-Maw would always send me kitchen tips through email. She was a very tech savvy Grandma. A lot of that came from us grandchildren showing her the ins and outs over the years. A few hours after the dough tip, she called again. She was reading through her emails and had another kitchen tip for me. She told me to always put a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling noodles and it would keep the pot from boiling over. Little did I know that it would be the last kitchen tip she would give me.

It wasn’t all about kitchen tips with her; there were life tips as well. While I’d love to share them with you, those are tips that are from a grandmother to her granddaughter, and I only pray that you have someone to share that bond with in your own life…to learn your own life tips.

Sadly, I’m not sure what to do in life without a grandparent anymore. But, I know I’m not the only one that has experienced this heart ache. In that thought, I find peace that life will improve and her spirit will live on with me for the rest of my days. I also find peace that I know God will reunite us all one day, and Maw-Maw will have a cookie jar full of her delicious chocolate chip cookies waiting on us – although, I may have to request some of her Apple Turnovers or homemade stuffed Oatmeal Cookies. But mostly, I’ll request a warm Maw-Maw hug for the soul. They always made everything better.

The Beauty of Pimento Cheese…

Pimento Square Plate with Names

I just remembered that I never posted the November 2012 article I wrote for the November issue of our local magazine here.  Enjoy you guys!  December will be posted in the next couple of days!  *smiles*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There aren’t many moments when I went to Maw-Maw’s house and didn’t see a plastic container of Pimento Spoons Red 2 with Nameshomemade Pimento Cheese sitting proudly in the refrigerator. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the first things I learned to make growing up – besides homemade Buttermilk Biscuits that is. It wasn’t always about the Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Cookie Jar, the paintings we would do, the late nights watching Statler Brothers on PBS, or the playing of (banging on) the piano. Part of the joy at Maw-Maw’s was that container of orange-colored goodness named Pimento Cheese.

Let’s take a look at what Pimento Cheese is for the folks that may not quite understand this Southern delicacy. It’s typically shredded cheddar cheese, diced Pimentos, a little mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. That’s it. You can eat it slathered between two pieces of lightly toasted white bread, sandwiched on crackers, or even spread into the hollow of a celery rib if you’d like. It’s one of those treats you can eat how you prefer and no one judges the method to your madness.

Speaking of how you prefer your Pimento Cheese – there are many different ways it’s prepared. Some like more mayonnaise so it’s creamier. Some like it thicker and chunkier. You can use Mild or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, depending on your preference. Some like it hot and add jalapeno, or even get adventurous with green olives and pecans in theirs. There are just so many tasty options when you start with such basic ingredients!

This brings me to my point – Did you know there are three different Pimento Cheeses that start with the letters “St” made right here in Alamance County? We have Stan’s, Star’s, and Steve’s. Out of curiosity, I went on a tasting spree the other day, and I wanted to share with you what I discovered with each one.

Before we start this, I think you need to know that I’m not one to be swooned by elaborate wrappers and labels. I’m a no-nonsense kind of Southern Gal. So, these were judged strictly on taste, and these are my Pimento Square Plate with Namesown opinions. Let’s go over each one’s high and low notes, just like at a fancy wine tasting.

· Stan’s (Burlington, NC) – Other than Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese, this one was the other staple in our house. There are nice large shreds of the cheddar cheese which gives it a thicker consistency, but still creamy. The coarse grind of black pepper in it helps balance out the mayonnaise twang. Pimentos are scattered evenly throughout the container, and the label even says it has Texas Pete in it. It’s a little higher in calories, and the high fructose corn syrup may contribute to that. However, I’ll make the sacrifice for a nice overall flavor.

· Star’s (Burlington, NC) – The “cheese” is quite a bit more processed in this one allowing it to be a thicker and creamier spread. The fact that it has a creamier texture would make it easy to pipe into cherry tomatoes or onto crackers as an appetizer at a holiday gathering. It’s definitely sweeter than Stan’s. The only thing that I found to be a negative about this one was the ingredients read “imitation” cheese, and this might explain the much embellished orange color of the spread. I guess this is why they call it Pimento Spread and not Pimento Cheese.

· Steve’s (Graham, NC) – You buy this little gem at Steve’s Garden Market in Graham, so that makes it a Pimento Cheese Bowls with Namesnice buying experience with the super friendly staff and great looking produce. If you’re a mayonnaise fan, this would be your choice. The first ingredient listed is mayonnaise, and it’s obvious why it’s listed first. The texture is very smooth, almost runny, with large chunks of cheese throughout and plenty of pimento. This was the only commercial one without High Fructose Corn Syrup as well. It ended up being pretty tasty. I personally prefer a little less mayonnaise with a thicker texture, though.

· Maw-Maw’s (Burlington, NC) – You knew I couldn’t leave hers out! Even though you can’t purchase it, I added it among the taste test so I would have my constant. Maw-Maw’s has always had Sharp Cheddar Cheese in it to give it a very cheesy deliciousness. She leaves the pimentos somewhat chunky so you can see and taste them. Very little mayonnaise goes in it, and just a hint of mustard. Salt and Pepper of course join those ingredients, and you end up with a nice chunky Pimento Cheese. What was that you asked? Any negatives about Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese? Only one negative…that you aren’t able to enjoy it with me.

Who would have thought they would have such similar names, but have such different flavors? Now I’m not one to tell you which one to go out and buy. I am one, however, to tell you to go taste them all. Life is about making your own decisions and enjoying the variety of options that you have in front of you to feed off of. Fortunately for you, food is one of the easiest decisions in life. I’m just here for guidance, and right now, I want you to smile. For the simple reason that you just read an entire article about the Southern delicacy that is Pimento Cheese. Say CHEESE y’all!

Pimento Spoons Words

“You can be an adult and still kiss your Grandma.”

Whoever said cartoons can’t teach you a life lesson?  I sure didn’t.  To this day, I completely enjoy watching cartoons.  Some though, I haven’t quite caught on to.  Sometimes nothing beats flipping to an old channel and catching some Tom and Jerry, Foghorn Leghorn, or if you’re lucky…Mighty Mouse.  A lot can be said also for Netflix.  We have been able to see a lot of our old favorites through Netflix…He-man, She-ra, Voltron, G.I. Joe, Care Bears, etc.  Kudos go out to Netflix for offering these streaming over the Wii.  We can just turn it on and find something to lighten our day immediately.  But…I will be the first to admit that nothing compares to SpongeBob for me.  Go ahead you naysayers, give me your best.  You won’t be able to deter me from SpongeBob. 

Case and point:  I flipped to Nickelodeon this morning and was happily offered one of my favorite episodes of SpongeBob ever…”Grandma’s Kisses”.  For the unfamiliar, the episode goes like this.  SpongeBob visits his Grandma.  He enjoys the normal Grandma treats, and Grandma drops him off at the Krusty Krab for his work shift.  You know how it goes, you must have that last kiss from Grandma before parting…so, she plants a big pink lipsticky kiss on his forehead.  You know that shade…the shade only a Grandma can get away with (fortunately, my Maw-Maw has a great lipstick color by the way).  Well, SpongeBob walks into the restaurant only to be greeted with laugh and ridicule about his Grandma kissprint on his forehead.  After being humiliated, SpongeBob storms out.  Patrick, his always misguided trusty sidekick, explains to him that you have to be adult now.  No more Grandma kisses for him.  SpongeBob then returns to Grandma’s house.  He acts like an adult and misses out on all of the wonderful Grandma treats.  Patrick caves and begins acting like a child going nuts with the Grandma treats.  Long story short…SpongeBob gets jealous, breaks down, and Grandma explains to him that he can still have all of the Grandma love he wants and still be an adult. 

How many times do you feel like you can’t give in to that Grandma or Grandpa love because you don’t want to be embarrassed of the emotions you would show?  Do you know how many of us are out there that truly wish we could indulge in that love?  There are many of us out there that are down to three, two, one, or no Grandparents at all.  Walking into the Grandparent’s home was always a safe haven.  If you were having bad day, they would make it better.  You knew you could eat anything at their house.  You could do anything.  You could tell them anything without repercussions.  Nothing would get back to Mom and Dad…you were safe and secure in their arms.  I will be the first to tell you that me and my cousins pushed the limits at our Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw’s house.  But, they almost always (unless we truly deserved the punishment…which we did sometimes) met our misbehaving with love and understanding.  They had been there.  They remembered how nice it was to escape as a kid to the Grandparent’s.  I remember learning to play the piano at their house.  Happy Days are Here Again was one Maw-Maw always used to play with me.  It was played out of this old green and paisley songbook, which I still have.  We would pluck or bang on the piano for hours, depending on which cousin was sitting on the piano bench.  We could go out in the den where the old television was and watch cartoons in our little “hideaway”.  We could cook whatever we wanted at their house.  We could have a HUGE bowl of ice-cream with all of the toppings…Hersheys Fudge Topping never tasted so good!  Or, we could have a plate of nachos with all of the topping…cover it with cheese and pop it in the microwave to heat everything up.  We could make a Lemon Meringue Pie after riding the bus to their house after school (my cousin Justin used to love doing this – if he were still around, I bet he would be winning awards with his Lemon Meringue and his lust for life).  When Maw-Maw would make up a fresh batch of her homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies for us (best in the world I must say), we could always lick the mixing spoon and bowl.  What I wouldn’t give to walk by that old blue chair at Maw-Maw’s and be swiftly grabbed and be thrown into the lap of my Paw-Paw for a quick hug and kiss. 

Well, now that I am writing this in love and admiration (and in tears now of remembrance), remember that your Grandparents are who helped mold who you are today, and who your parents are.  I pray that your memories of your Grandparents are as beautiful as mine were.  Yes, I got in trouble too.  Yes, I was spanked by them.  Yes, I remember being yelled at a couple of times (ok, so more than a couple – I blame it on the redhead in me).  But, it was all in love and in hope to mold me into the beautiful young woman I have become. 

In closing, enjoy the time you have with them now.  Sadly, they won’t be around forever (as some of us can attest to that).  Don’t be afraid of the emotions that seeing them may evoke.  They are your history, and you are creating your future based off of things you have learned from them…

Couldn’t have said it better myself…”You can be an adult and still kiss your Grandma.” ~SpongeBob’s Grandma

This slideshow requires JavaScript.