Sunday, December 30, 2007

Max is in a big pout because I spent all day yesterday developing a new Chocolate Cake recipe and he didn't get none! None at all!

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days and that I blew off my FPF article on Friday. I'm in my post X-mas stress down period. I'll make it up to you next Friday when I take you through this Mocha Fudge with saffron orange filling experience. It tastes like a Terry's dark chocolate orange on the inside. I think the only thing that possibly could improve it is Grande Marnier.

I'm going to upload a new piece to editred tonight if it ever lets me sign in. It's a short piece, but I have plans for it so I won't publish it here. It's called "Dog Fishing" and it's about my brother and his dog, Zeke. It starts like this:

"With a fly rod, he becomes Nureyev. This man I watched grow from a gangling teen with little grace, inexplicably becomes all that is elegance in form and movement. I was not sure exactly when it happened, but there he was and we were decades older. He stands on the platform of the flats boat and becomes poetry."
It will be up eventually...I'm just not sure when since the site won't load.

Oh Yeah....Happy Sunday.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

So... I picked up my mail from the mailbox on Christmas Day. Not that mail was delivered, but I don't get down to the mailbox unless I'm driving off the land.

What should be in the mail but my very first rejection letter! Actually, it wasn't a true rejection letter, but one telling me that my story wasn't chosen to win a certain award. So that's more like saying someone else was better(totally possible and okay)....or we were in a mood to choose another story with a different tone...or you forgot to set your font to courier on your manuscript so we didn't read it.

And, ironically, the rejection comes from the same place that I got both of my degrees from. So this can only be a good sign.

I found myself sort of elated. Really, it was quite exciting. It's the first time someone has said "no" to my writing. I've been playing it safe for a long time since I wasn't sure if I could deal with all the rejection until recently. I'm glad I did this, since now that I'm actually doesn't sting nearly as much as I thought it would.

And I know...The Dark Hole is a really great story. I'm certain it will eventually get the validation it deserves. If I'd started submitting things earlier, I don't think I would have had the self confidence to feel as good as I do about being rejected.

It's sort of like a rite of passage for me. It will no doubt loose its charm after the fiftieth such letter, but for now, it's rather like a validation for me. I'm a real writer out there getting real rejection letters.

Whoo-Hoo! The training wheels are off!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

They arrived shortly after I had discovered the Christmas morning “ugliness”, clattering up my driveway in their GMC Yukon XL Denali - black HummerRed Claptrap of Death. I was just about to remove the body when they stopped me.

“Step away from the crime scene, Ma’am.”

“Uhhh,” I said as I was about to remove the mangled corpse from my backyard, “It’s a goose.”

“We’ll be the judge of that.” They said, swarming my yard carrying their black investigation bagsfingerprint kits – plucking equipment.

One of them sat down with me to go over the facts of the case and take my statement.

“Well, I let the dogs out early this morning and went back to bed. When I came back down, the goose was laying there, as you see him now. The trail of feathers shows that he was well into the yard when the attack occurred.”

The investigator took some notes and asked, “Do you have any idea who would do such a thing?”

I looked at him like he was crazy. The other members of the GF-CSI team were busily measuring the trail of feathers, stringing up crime scene tape and the coroner was treating the dead goose with way more respect than it deserved.

“Hell, yes!” I said, “The brown cocker spaniel with the feathers all over his mouth. He said he didn’t do it, but I know better.”

The investigator looked over at Max who was frantically signaling me with his topaz eyes. He tried to sneeze some goose down from his nose.

“You mean that one over there?” He asked.

“Uhhh…well yes…he’s the only chocolate cocker spaniel I have.”

“Why did he do it? Do you know?”

“Look, you can’t blame the dog,” I said in Max’s defense, “That goose has been torturing that dog for months! I gots pictures!”

“Alrighty then.” The investigator concluded. “Looks like we got us a case of justifiable goosicide.”

The investigators started to leave and the coroner started to walk away with the goose.

“Hey!” I hollered, “Where you going with that?”

“Oh,” the coroner said, shifting his eyes around, “I’m taking it to the Morgue – Volunteer Fire Department Kitchen.”

“Oh no you ain’t!” I said, taking the goose away from him. “We weren’t planning on no Christmas goose, but it looks like we got one just the same!.”

Max wagged his tail nub in anticipation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

As my gift to you, my readers, I offer the following Christmas tale...and a little puzzle at the end. Props to Friend Scot for giving me the story idea, which is a mishmash of our discussion while driving home from his family's gathering last night.

Merry Christmas to you all and I hope you are having a joyous holiday!

The Blessing

Sukey sat on her haunches with her back to the mossy side of the poplar tree. She burrowed her face deeper in the frayed woolen scarf around her neck and blew warm breath into the oily wool to warm her nose up. Her shotgun felt heavy in her hands and the barrel seemed cold. It were funny, she thought to herself, how gunmetal never seemed to warm up no matter how tight you held it to yourself.

The moon was full like a white pumpkin sitting up in the sky with its tiny star friend just down to the left of it. It lit up the ridge, kissing the mountaintops. Sukey thought it looked like quilt pieces of blue against darker blue with a little line of silver edging. For sure, the moon right filled the sky tonight.

It were the best type of night to catch the varmint, she thought to herself. A varmint can’t bear to sit home sleeping when the moon were that big in the sky. So she waited and watched over the barnyard. She just hoped she wouldn’t have to be out here half the night to catch the thieving bastard.

They’d already lost half their chickens to the winter night raider and that was how Sukey found herself spending that Christmas Eve propped against the poplar tree in the shadows looking over the barnyard. Christmas or no, they couldn’t afford to lose no more chickens.

Sukey turned her face to that night sky and wondered what sort of night it were the night Baby Jesus entered the world. She wondered if he had entered the world in the usual way, all bloody and slimy and screaming. She wondered if his mommy had hollered a lot like her Mommy had when little Wivonnie were born. They seemed to sort of gloss over that part, she thought. She reckoned there must have been a fair amount of hollering. A fair amount of blood, too. And she thought that star they was always talking about must have been almost as bright as the moon were tonight.

Off in the distance she could hear the serinadin’ going on. Usually she would have joined them, but since they moved to the tarpaper shack here on the Bessenger farm to share crop, she didn’t have near as much free time. There were a few hilltops that glowed an extra bit from the bonfires.

Sukey wiggled her toes in her hobnail boots to warm them up. Leastways she had some socks on to keep her toes a bit warmer than if she’d not had them. So there was a blessing. You had to count your blessings, the preacher man was always saying. Lord, she thought, thank you for these socks.

It were so bright that you could see everything in the barnyard. A few of the cows were eating the corn fodder they’d left out for them. They’un’s couldn’t tell it were time to sleep, she reckoned.

Sukey watched them for a moment and wondered if they would kneel to pray as the old legend said. It was the night that the animals supposedly talked, and Sukey wondered what they would say if they could. She reckoned they’d say something like, “Mmmm, these here corn shucks is good!”

She dozed off there in the cold for a moment, her head falling heavily into the warm nest of her scarf. Her 12 gauge lay on her lap, crooked open and waiting for her shell.

It was the snuffling that stirred her. She smelled it before she saw it. It was the smell of wet dog, like a hound come up from the creek and had shook all over her. But it was also stronger and stinkier. She knew that smell, did Sukey.

Quietly, she slid two shells into the chamber. It sure wasn’t what she had expected to find out here and she was pretty sure it wasn’t what was killing the chickens, but it sure would be a good Christmas if she could kill it.

She sat tensed as it ambled into the clearing. The moon tried to light it up but is showed as a great black shadow. The cattle moaned in alarm and clattered around in their pen, moving to and fro.

Sukey took aim low on the chest of the beast where she knew its heart was. The shotgun roared and Sukey felt her shoulder wrench backwards into the mossy bark of the poplar tree. The bear dropped to the ground with a bellow and then was quiet.

Sukey stood and cautiously approached the dead bear. She kept the shotgun pointed at it. She stood there for a minute to make sure it stayed down. She rubbed her hands on her pants and stomped back to the shack. She saw a light go on as she climbed up onto the porch.

Her Papaw was there as she closed the door behind her and rested the shotgun against the wall.

“Did you get it?” He asked.

“Na, but I did get a bear!” She said with a gap-tooth grin.

“Don’t you tell tales to me, girl!” Her grandfather said to her.

“Don’t believe me? Fine! But I’m tired and I ain’t strong enough to string it up and dress it, so you better get Daddy and do something afore the wolves get it.”

She picked up an orange from the table. It was a rare treat that they only had at Christmas and it was the only special thing she and her little brothers and sisters would have on Christmas morning. She dug her fingernails into the rind and breathed the tart sweetness, so rare and precious.

It was the happiest Christmas ever. Ma fixed a huge bear roast and they sat around the table with the rich gamy grease smeared on their faces, their bellies full. They ate well for weeks off of that bear. And Sukey thought, yes, preacher man is right. You gots to count your blessings. Lord, thank you for this here bear.

Many years later, Susannah Kinston sat, her eyes lowered towards her bridge hand at the Lady’s Auxillary Club. They had gone around the room telling stories of their favorite childhood Christmas experiences. Susannah shifted in her Chanel wool suit and adjusted her gloves.

“Well,” she demurred, “We always had oranges. I do love a nice orange.”

“Thank you, Lord, for all my many blessings,” she thought, “and thank you, Lord, for sending that bear. But I think I’ll keep that between the two of us.”


As an extra Christmas puzzle, I’m mentioned the name of Sukey’s little sister, Wivonnie, in the story. This is spelled phonetically according to how the Appalachian people sometimes pronounce it and has a common spelling that you would recognize. What is it?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Well, I've been trying today to de-Babe-ify the house. Since Baby couldn't be neutered due to his heart condition and was 15 when he came here... and, well, sort of senile...okay, really senile…he had no problems hiking his leg indoors. Actually, he would spend an entire day sunning himself outside and come inside to pee. Anyway, I’ve spent the last three years following him around with a mop and bleach. So, I went and got a really powerful enzymatic urine neutralizer and a black light to attack the house, now that the little old guy is watering those hardwood floors in the sky.

I was sort of afraid the first time I turned the lights off and turned the black light on. I was afraid that I’d be in one of those horrific CSI scenes where they turn the lights off and the entire room glows. Luckily, the bleach I’d been using made it so the floors didn’t glow. But I did find some interesting places on the walls. I really didn’t think he could aim that high.

I also took some time to do some cleanup on the blog template. It’s hopefully a little easier to read. I’m constantly having my content ripped off by sploggers and I decided it was time to start reporting the thieving bastards. So, the new button on the sidebar is there for them. If you are on my blogroll and I know you…we are cool just as we have been going. But if I don’t know you…or don’t like you…it’s not okay.

I don’t keep Creative Commons licenses on my site because they don’t seem to have anything that means…”It’s mine, mine, mine, all mine.” Really, I’ve had to live very close to the edge my entire life, I’ve died and been brought back, I’ve literally had my chest open to the heart for weeks, I’ve lived in poverty for the most part and all of this, and so much more, is why I can write the way that I do. It comes from pain. It’s my written expression of the blues.

When you steal my work it makes me mad on so many levels. There’s a reason they call it a “violation”. Don't be a rapist.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Scone with Clotted Cream and Citrus Glaze

Perhaps it is because my parents were Savannahians that I’ve always been so comfortable in the cozy confines of tearooms. Tea was something you would most likely have at someone’s home when I was small. In Europe, tearooms are quite common and I certainly spent my share of time in them. It may be thought the refuge of ladies, but I’ve always admired a man who handled himself with grace in such an environment. There are so few places today where you can go and enjoy a truly elegant and civilized culinary experience that is so relaxing.

Today I took a break from the frantic last minute Christmas shopping in Knoxville to enjoy just such a tearoom. When you walk in to Tea at the Gallery the tension of the day slides off your back. It is elegant and intimate with art on the walls and white linen covered tables. I’m sure there was music of some sort, but it was so unobtrusive that I’m not even sure what it was. That is as it should be.

The menu is simple and offers three selections: Morning & Afternoon Tea Services, Luncheon Tea and Signature Luncheon Tea. Your pot of tea is separate and served in a lovely designer teapot, properly brewed to order.

I had arrived late but they graciously allowed me to have luncheon tea. “The Tea Ladies” as they are called in Knoxville, are Elisa King and Colleen Hayzen, both from South Africa. They can call you “madam” and it sounds lovely and inviting and not at all forced. I felt immediately welcomed.

They have their own line of teas and if you are not a regular or experienced tea drinker, you can be assured that there will be something there to your liking. I ordered the Lapsang Souchong, a dark smoky tea that is my favorite and a bit hard to find.

With my tea, I had some lovely finger sandwiches. There was cheese, rich gourmet salami and one of the best egg salads I’ve ever tasted used as fillings. The soup was rich corn chowder. A little savory mini-quiche was offered. There were scones topped generously with clotted cream, one drizzled with a citrus glaze and the other topped with strawberry jam. A slice of decadently rich pound cake and a ginger biscuit topped off my tea tray. All of this was artfully arranged on a silver pedestal platter and the sweets were lightly dusted with powdered sugar. It was as much a joy to look at, as it was to eat.

If you are in Knoxville, I highly recommend stopping off here to catch your breath and enjoy a spot of tea. They also offer tea appreciation classes, gift baskets and a tea of the month club. Tea is served Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The store is open those same days from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for purchases of loose teas and tea-to-go.

If you would like to experience a tearoom, but are not near Knoxville, I recommend checking with TeaMap, which lists tearooms across the country. I think tea may be the next big thing in the U.S. It’s about time we got over all of that Boston ugliness.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

For Friday Ark at the Modulator

Oh, Wook! It Toofy de Cwissmas Beaver! What Toofy doin' today?

He be chewin' up lots o' sticks 'cause he gots lots o' company comin' fwo Cwissmas. All he family comin' and dey gonna dwive him cwazy! He busy.

How busy be he? He vewy, vewy busy.

I've been trying to catch at least one of the architects of the dams that have sprung up on Big Creek for some time now. Parks and Wildlife reintroduced them to the area some years ago. They've settled in quite well. There are stretches of the creek that would have been completely dry this summer had not the beaver dams held back the water in places. Near the Pink House in the Holler is an impressive series of dams.

Today was overcast and as I drove by, there he was. Now that we've had a few rainfalls, the dams need some work. He's much smaller than I imagined. Given the amount of wood he's cut and stripped, I thought he'd be bigger. Only a small section of his industriousness is shown. He had stripped wood up and down a 75 foot stretch of creek.I think he had accomplices, but they weren't out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Well, the fallout from the drought continues in the ag community in a bad way here.

I went into town today to get stock feed and the hideously expensive alfalfa that I’m giving the goats and sheep instead of the much more hideously expensive hay. My stock is hurting…everyone’s is. The guys who unloaded their cows back in June and July were the smart ones. You can barely make the cost of the auction bill to unload sheep and goats at the stock pens. Cattle are going for next to nothing. Basically, anything that eats hay is being unloaded.

I’ve been trying to sell my guys for some months now, to people who want dairy and fiber animals rather than meat animals. But no takers…no one is interested. A few people that I talked to were interested, but never got back. I hate to think about it, but I may just have to put some of them down. Unthinkable, I know, but I can’t have them go hungry.

There’s this funny joke we tell in the summer about zucchini squash. If you’ve ever grown them, then you know that they can take over a garden pretty quickly. They are so productive that you usually end up with way too many zucchini and have to think up inventive ways to get rid of them. Anyway, there’s this thing you say, a joke really, about going around your neighbors houses in the dead of night to see if they’ve left the car doors unlocked. Dump as many zucchini in the backseat as you can and hope you don’t get caught.

My favorite clerk is home from school and working in the coop today when I go in to get my alfalfa. I’m upset because they are out, but they make a few calls and will have some in the morning. This stuff comes from Minnesota or somewhere and is shipped down here year round. We talk about the difficulty with the hay situation and the drought some. And she tells me this amazing true story.

A fellow who gets his horse feed there told her that he had gone to the horse sale a few counties over a week or so ago. He took his trailer with him just in case he bought something. After the auction, he came back to his truck and found three horses tied up in the trailer.

True story.

Like horses for zucchini.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This morning at 3:45 a.m., my “Little Old Man” left me.

I took Babe on as a hospice case. He was fifteen, an advanced age for a male cocker spaniel, and had a stage 5 heart murmur. I just wanted to give him a soft place to die. He didn’t have a very good prognosis and had been brought into the shelter to be euthanized. Not because of his heart murmur, but because he had a bad case of fleas.

Babe had spent the first fifteen years of his life locked up in a back yard. He was taken out once a year to have his coat clipped down to the skin. That’s pretty much all I know about Babe’s early life.

The very first time I kissed him on the head, he grabbed me by the throat. Not hard, he just held me for a moment to let me know he was no pushover. He may be little but, by golly, he could put a hurting on me if he wanted to. I remember feeling very sad, that in fifteen years, this adorable little guy had never been kissed on his head.

All of that was three years ago. He was only supposed to live for maybe three months. But, I guess, after getting used to being indoors and many head kisses later, he decided to stick around for a while.

I’m really glad that he did.

He started losing weight and muscle tone about two months ago. He’d done that before. It was sort of his “Fred Sanford” act. A canine version of grabbing his heart and saying, “You hear that Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you, honey!” I’d give him more food and he’d usually snap out of it. Well, he didn’t this time.

He had a few collapses over the past few months. I mentioned the first one to my vet. She was surprised that he hadn’t died. I’d pick him up and prop him up so he could breathe better…and he would recover. But a few days ago, he began developing ascites, a build-up of fluid in his abdomen. So, I knew he was serious this time. I was planning to call the vet today and take him in to evaluate whether or not “it was time”. Evidently it was.

He never lost his appetite and he had plenty of cookies and a bowl of mac and cheese yesterday as well as his dinner. He was bright right up to the end.

I fixed him a bed in the closet where I could elevate his front so he could rest better. He had a collapse at around 3:30 when we turned in. I sat there with him petting him as he left.

I told him, “Go on to the Bridge, Baby. Go on and wait for me there. I’ll be coming along before you know it.”

I’m burying him close to the house instead of where the other more active kids are. Babe was nearly deaf and blind and slept very deeply. Sometimes, he’d wake up and I would have left the room. He would track me in the house until he bumped into my feet. Then he’d look up and seemed to be saying, “Oh! There you are. I lost you for a minute there.”

I don’t want him to have to track too far to find me.

I guess, once more, it’s time to dig a hole.

Memoriam submitted to the Friday Ark at The Modulator.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No Strings Memes
Note: I do not play by the rules of memes. Instead of passing these things along per instructions…I offer tag clouds of free link love. NO ONE is under any obligation to pass these things along! Please don’t send me a snippy comment that you have already done this. I don’t care and I’m not interested. Just accept the link love graciously and don’t do the meme if you don’t want to.

If you do want to participate, generally speaking, memes ask that you link to the person linking you to the meme (in this case that would be me) and further they ask that you send it on to five people. Sometimes more, but I say five is enough. Just because I've caught someone up in my link cloud, it doesn't mean you can't also tag them. The only reason I do a link cloud is so that more people get the exposure from the meme. In fact, you don't have to link to me at all! No strings! Got it?

I’ve been meme’d so I’m going to take care of both of those today!

First, Karen over at Art in the Garage tagged me for a Christmas Meme.

“When people say ‘Christmas’ you immediately think…”

Psycho killers and stalkers. (Please see this post to find out why....I'll go into the stalking thing at another time.)

“Favourite Christmas memory…”

There are so many, all of them having to do with my mother. She really made sure that Christmas and all of the holidays were very memorable for me as a child. Gathering the most fragrant cedar and most perfect smilac vines for decorating, the ritualistic polishing of the tortuously ornate silver, pulling the decorations out of the attic, my dad’s yearly cursing of the Christmas tree lights, getting the Christmas gallon of oysters, the Christmas Eve squirrel hunt. But mostly, I remember the baking and my mother and I sharing that tiny kitchen space and creating all that that wonderful food.

“Favourite Christmas song/carol…”

The Holly and the Ivy

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

“Favourite Christmas movie…”

A Christmas Story

“Favourite Christmas character…”

The elf who wants to be a dentist in “Rudolph”.

“Favourite Christmas ornament/object…”

It’s a battered little lamb that has been passed down through my father’s family.

“Plans for this Christmas…”

Got some invites…nothing special planned here at the house. Don’t even have a tree yet. May do some baking.

“Is Christmas your favourite holiday?”

As a child, I think it was. Holidays are a family thing and I think children are such a big part of it.

Keeping with my tradition of the “No Strings MEME”…I offer the following tag cloud…

Absence of the Mind and Body
Appalachian Writers
Bad Alice
Carolina On My Mind
Cubby Goes Digital
Daisy's Dead Air
Ducks Mahal
Farmgirl Fare
Fetch me my axe
Fun in Flatland
Glastonbury Farm
Hidden Haven Homestead
I think I have a recipe for that...
Karen Road Chronicles
Last One Speaks
Leslie's Omnibus
Lyric Flight
Mamma Loves...
Marsha Loftis
Mommy on the Floor
Moonmeadow Farm
no school, just learning
Northview Diary
Original Faith - Blog
oya baka mama
Ruminations Of A Country Girl
Simply Chumly
Straight White Guy
SusieQ's Place
Tennessee Jed
The Gods Are Bored (Or Yule, as the case may be...)
the root cellar
Tossing Pebbles in the Stream
Welcome to 12 Happy Chickens
Nancy's Garden Spot
The House of Flying Monkeys
ruminations from the distant hills
Ruminations Of A Country Girl
Tennessee Jed
the Contrary Goddess

Moving right along….

My dearest Erica has bestowed upon me the following award/meme:

The Colors Of Friendship Award

I have no idea what this means, but Erica says Mrs. Who at House of Zathrus said:

“I read their blogs because whether they are simply taking care of family or working to make others’ lives better, they do it with grace and dignity despite any roadblocks along the way.”

I'll expand that a bit to include tolerance and contributions to community, either the net or in life.

I offer the following tag cloud of recipients.

Karen Road Chronicles
Appalachian History
12 Happy Chickens
2 B Sophora
Farmgirl Fare
Glastonbury Farm
Hidden Haven Homestead
Home in the Highlands
Moonmeadow Farm
Poetic Overthrow
Rooster Hill Farm
Hobo Stripper
Original Faith
The Gods Are Bored
DC Comictician on Star Trekiology
Sue Doe-Nim
SusieQ's Place
Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

So sorry if I've left anyone out that I should have included. If you are really wanting to be tagged, just let me know and I'll edit you in.

Also, if you are following "Porn and Donuts"...there's another installment over on Editred.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Looking up from the crazy stretch of the 15th to my road, there is a caravan trailer that the mountain reclaimed. It grew trees around it, embracing it, and lovingly decorated it with vines. There are many old bones of human habitation here. Some are old cars, sentinel chimneys and steps to nowhere. They stand, waiting for people long since dead, long since gone. And in the spring, their few living legacies, the flowers and alliums, will poke their heads above ground and weep for dead gardeners.

I woke to blowing snow that could not stay this morning. The weather, like the people, is transient here. It comes and goes, and while it is here, it pounds the earth. And when it is gone, it melts into the streams and springs and is never seen again.

It is folly to think that we make a lasting impact here. We are but snowflakes blowing on the mountain. The mountain doesn’t care that we leave our footprint here. She will lovingly cover it and take it into herself. Just as she does our bones, our lonely bones left in holes on the hillsides.

Happy Sunday.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The knock comes at the door. You answer it. Oh, goodie! A Christmas package for you! Yay!

You open it hastily. Peering inside you find…Oh NO!

(“Jaws” music plays ominously in the background)


Once again, dear hearts, it’s time for me to upbraid you for your lack of sophistication and jejune disdain for that most amazing of cakes, the fruitcake.

Hopefully, the fruitcake you just received is one of the Collin Street Bakery cakes or another such one, or even better, a homemade cake.

Let me explain to you why you hate fruitcake. No doubt you were given a slice off of some dreadful rectangle of doomed compressed dried fruit as a child. You bit into it, only hearing the word “cake” and discovered a desiccated piece of faux citron in your mouth. In all of your young life, you never experienced such a traumatic food related event, except, perhaps, for the time your Uncle Kenny told you habaneros tasted just like cherries.

Fruitcake isn’t a child’s treat. It’s serious adult food. It’s most definitely an acquired taste. Preferably acquired under the influence of a very fine single malt scotch. Scotch and fruitcake go together like nothing else, except perhaps, a really fine brandy and fruitcake. Anyway, you get the picture. Tippling is required.

But first you must prepare the cake. The cake needs to be well soaked in alcohol. Cryer’s Creek’s DeLuxe page has an excellent guide to how to “doctor” your fruitcake. Basically, you wrap the cake in cheesecloth, putting extra in the “well” of the cake and soak it over several days with your favorite spirit or wine. Personally, I like to make my fruitcakes with the locally available spirits.

So, when that fruitcake shows up at your door, don’t run and hide. Wrap it lovingly with cheesecloth and soak it with your favorite strong spirit, wine or port.

Another fun trick is to take it out on Christmas Day, spread it with marzipan, douse with brandy and light it on fire. That’s what the Brits do with Christmas pudding, which is basically just a steamed version of dark fruitcake.

This is my favorite recipe for fruitcake. It came from my best childhood friend’s mother and it was the first fruitcake I ever tried that I loved. If you must feed children fruitcake...this is the one to give them. No trauma involved...honest.

Mrs. Helmly's White Fruit Cake

1/2 pound butter
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour, unsifted
8 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 coconut, grated
2 pounds white raisins
1 pound pecans
1 and 1/2 pounds pineapple
1 and 1/2 pound cherries
1 cup sherry or wine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract.
Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs, one at a time. Add sherry, flour, fruit, nuts and coconut. (Flour fruits and nuts with extra flour). Slightly grease and flour bread pans or tube pans. Place foil on the bottom of the pans. Bake at 250 F. 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours). When cold, wrap and store in airtight tins.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


These ducks have been camped out all summer at this one cow pond. The ducks came first and the drake eventually arrived. They've stayed even through the drought. Even when this pond was nearly dry. They seem pretty happy now that the water is rising a bit. I wonder if they will stay all winter? They say that the weather has the bears confused. They think it is spring. This is evidently a problem in Sweden too. I'm not sure what it will mean for our bears. We are just wrapping up the bear hunting season.

But the ducks are nice. They are quiet, happy neighbors. It makes me feel good when I drive by their pond and see them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I’ve been walking around all day today snickering at myself because of this crazy dream I had last night. Thanks to illicit late nights, staying up to watch Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with my brother, I don’t remember my dreams very often. One or two vivid nightmares at a tender age will cure you of remembering dreams. With me…it was the “Ear Wick”.

My mother was well known for her crazy dreams. I think the most memorable one was the “Alligator Skin Cadillac”. In this dream, my mother was chauffeured around our hometown of Bluffton, SC in a Caddy that was covered entirely in alligator skin.

It’s well known that I have a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain. It has nothing to do with his bad boy smirk, his impossibly long legs, his lean mean tobacco chiseled physique, or his eminently jumpable bones. How dare you think such a thing! No…it is an entirely chaste admiration for his adventuresome spirit as it relates to all things food. Yeah…it’s a spiri-tchu-al thing.

See, I’m reasonably sure I could dish up Uncle Arthur’s scrambled squirrel brains, shallots and eggs to him and he would actually eat them. I never ate them, but Uncle Arthur just couldn’t get enough of the damn things. We had to kill thirty or so squirrels every Christmas Eve morning just to get enough brains for that dish.

So, in my dream, I am in a television studio. This is a very familiar setting to me, though it has been quite a few years since I plied my trade in one. I’m out in the hallway and I’m on my way to the make-up room (‘cause that’s one of the things I used to do...make-up artist).

For some reason, I’m gnawing on a head of raw broccoli. I guess I didn’t have time to get my breakfast burrito from the canteen that morning. I’m holding it by the stem and inelegantly chewing the florets off like a dog with a lamb shank(or…me with a lamb shank for that matter).

One of the doors leading into this hallway opens in front of me and out steps Anthony Bourdain! I’m not at all surprised to see him. Like me, he belongs there. Perhaps I am there to do his make-up. He seems to know me too.

He looks at the head of broccoli in my fist and says, “What is that?”

“It’s a head of broccoli.” I say. I feel self-conscious because I’m pretty sure I have broccoli in my teeth in a fairly major way.

“No,” he says, looking curiously at it. “What exactly is it?”

I realize at this point that Anthony Bourdain has never seen a head of broccoli. For some reason, this doesn’t strike me as odd.

“Well,” I reply, “Broccoli is a green vegetable of the brassicaceae family. Look, are you sure you’ve never heard of broccoli?”

He shakes his head slowly.

At this point, I offer him a bite.

I don’t know what this dream means, if anything. I’m not even sure if it is as funny to you as it is hilarious to me.

But I’ve been laughing my ass off all day and thought I’d share.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It must have been seventy degrees today. I was out on the porch in shorts and a tank top. No lie. So, while I’m hurting for the folks in the Midwest, I’m sort of enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. We have an entire week of it ahead they say. We’ll prolly have a big old snow following it but it won’t stick.

I don’t have much for you today except a foggy picture of the herd in the mist….So let’s see what’s going on in The Plain Talk’s From the Record today…

I like:

Suburban goes on submerged safari

Dovetail trailer leaves the nest


Chevrolet chicanes off road

There’s also one item that I think should have been more properly titled:

Damn…that’s a big purse!

But they played it safe and titled it:

More than $10,000 worth of items stolen from purse

Now, I know that my buddy Sue can easily cram that much value in her Fendi, but it would be challenging for me. And I have a really big clunky purse. Not a Fendi, obviously.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I didn't wake up until 1:00 p.m. today. I had some help...namely in the form of 3 elavils that I took. My sleep cycles have reversed recently. I have a history of that during highly creative periods. When I was in college, I had the reputation of the person most likely to be up in the very wee hours of the morning. Not because I was partying, but because I'd just be up. It's not really insomnia, though I sometimes call it that. But I did need to sleep. I felt pretty crappy yesterday.

So, I'm up to part six of Porn and Donuts. I've finally gotten to the "donut" part. I'd like to remind everyone that I've had this story plotted out for months and that the donut thing was in no way inspired by this story. Indeed, it was inspired by an entirely different high speed chase involving a Krispy Kreme donut truck. It was just very serendipitous that a guy with the name of Whitelightning got drunk and stole a donut truck and led police on an 80 mph chase through the streets of Madison, Wisconsin while I was writing my story.

I will completely vouch for the fact that Krispy Kremes are delicious when you are wasted and they make great coffee so it's the perfect place to go to try to sober up. Stealing the van is a bit over the top though. Dude! 80 mph? Not even Lucius and Kellie would push a step van to those speeds. If I had written it like that it would have been completely unbelievable.

So, there is a new installment of "Porn and Donuts" up on Editred if you are interested. Though, it's a bit anticlimactic now that this idiot actually did go steal a donut van.

The van lurched forward into the street and the jolt threw him into the back of the van. Lucius landed heavily on his rear and sat there confused in the back of the violently lurching step van. A palette of chocolate-iced crème filled fell on him. One of the boxes spilled open smearing Lola’s front with icing and crème.

He picked up a blob of crème from Lola’s nipple and sucked it off his finger. Kellie looked back briefly and snorted at him.

“Lucius! Now might be a good time to…uh…disengage yourself from your…friend... there while I’m getting us out of here.”

Lucius considered the problem of Lola’s attachment to him and decided the best way to deal with it was to remove her garment. That seemed to be the root cause of the issue in that the transparent synthetic material seemed to catch on everything. He squeezed Lola out of the teddy with some difficulty. The task required that he bend her in startling and unexpected contortions. He could see why some men might find her irresistible.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ummm...Isn't she a bit young?!!! SPECIES?

Now that we have all had a good giggle at the sheep's expense...Let me direct you to Northview Diary where there is a wonderful story about Toots, The Miracle Christmas Calf. It's a much better Sunday read than looking at my depraved sheep.

Happy Sunday

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Okay, it's not like I didn't see it coming.

It’s been a hugely gray day, today. Actually we’ve been having an entire week of gray. I don’t really mind days like this but it should at least have the decency to actually rain. A nice day to curl up by the fire and do not much. Though, since Wee Willy Wood Boy cheated me this last go round...I'm fast running out of wood for my wood stove. So...the search is on for another wood supplier.

Nothing much going on so I stuck Father Ted (Drink! Feck! Girls!) in the DVD player and plotted more chapters in the novel. Only 9 more chapters to plot…then I can write.

Anyway, the big excitement was that Max finally snapped. After over a week of non-stop goose torture, it was time for a smack down.

Let me tell you about Max. This is Max. Adorable, isn’t he?

When Max first came into rescue, there was no shortage of homes for him to go to. I should have known something was wrong when I saw the amazed look on the faces of the folks handing him over to me as he trotted quite happily beside me and jumped in the jeep. I’m like that with cockers. I’m the cocker whisperer.

Anyway, when I got Max home, it wasn’t long before I realized something was really wrong with him, temperamentally. I pissed off I don’t know how many people refusing to place him. One lady got really, really mad at me, but she had a gang of shih tzus and I’m pretty sure they would be shih tzu tartar by now had Maxie gone there. Max would be dead...put to sleep.

When he gets upset, he can’t calm himself down and he goes ballistic. In short, he becomes “Mr. Spike”. He’s still up for adoption and I still hope that the right lady dog psychologist is going to come along and it’s going to be a perfect match. Because he really is a lover boy when he’s in his Dr. Max stage…about 99 percent of the time. But that 1 percent means I can't let him go to just anybody. It wouldn't be ethical.

So, today, the geese, emboldened by the success of the goose para sail adventure, went after Max in a big way. My sweet boy snapped and all of a sudden, I had Mr. Spike out there in the yard with the goose by the neck doing that savage shaking thing. And I didn’t have my spray bottle of ammonia water. (Yeah…we already tried vinegar...straight, no less…don’t work.)

So, I’m standing in the yard saying calmly but firmly, “Max. Max. That’s enough, Max. It’s learned its lesson. Max. Stop now, Max.”

And, amazingly, he stopped. Very, very upset little dog. His sides are heaving and he still can’t seem to get the adrenaline under control. His eyes are rolling and wide. I venture a pet on his back and call him into the house. He’s grateful to go in and still so very upset. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not like he’s angry…it’s like a toddler that can’t stop crying or having a tantrum.

You know that scene in “A Christmas Story” where the kid beats the crap out of the red-headed bully? That’s what Max does when he’s upset. And you have to handle the situation pretty much like the Mom did in that movie.

The other amazing thing is… that damn goose was just fine. There was no maniacal goose laughter though. I’m hoping they’ve learned their lesson and will resist any more Darwinian urges to attack Max. 'Cause, I got a feeling he's not going to take any more goose crap from those two.

Friday, December 07, 2007

This is a reprint from 2005...but it's that time of year again. I don't have photos, but you'll have to trust me that these are gorgeous. But I do have a sweet bit of prose for you. I think they would be a perfect Hanukkah cookie too! At least I think so...I don't want to make the dreaded Hanukkah Ham faux pas. (Really, I thought Erica would be all over that story, but it looks like it's up to me to be the bearer of all ham related news.)

Skillet Cookies

My family's traditional Christmas cookie.

1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 package chopped dates
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 box Rice Crispy cereal
1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in a large iron skillet over medium heat. Cream eggs and sugar together. Pour into skillet with chopped dates. Stir constantly until caramelized mixture is a dark brown. Add vanilla. Remove from heat and whip by hand until cooler (5 minutes). Add rice crispies and nuts to mixture then form small balls and roll in powdered sugar or coconut.

I have been making these cookies for as long as I have memories. In my mind's eye, I can see my chubby little four-year old hands in front of me, covered in stickiness and powdered sugar. I can feel the heat of the mixture of crisped rice, nuts and caramelized dates and creamed sugar.

I hear my mother's voice. "Be's still hot!" or "You're rolling them too big!"

I liked to roll them big. That was because later, after they were chilled, I would slyly select the largest ones when they were offered. Munching into that cold sweet crispiness and getting powdered sugar all over my shirt. My face. I loved it when my mother would look exasperated and dust me off with her hand.

"I swear!....," she would say.

The recipe was lost for a time. My sister had gotten rid of the cookbook that the recipe was in. I was devastated when I realized this particular book was gone. I thought I was being fair by leaving the sugar-stained tattered book behind for her. It was particularly hard for me to do so. She did not see the old book as the pearl of great price that I did. My brother and sister have often been bemused by the things I deem valuable, but I think they are coming around to my way of thinking. History is important. Even the history of one family is important.

I reconstructed the recipe from my memories. My dead mother whispering in my ear the entire time. She often whispers to me.

I make them alone now to send to my family and friends. It doesn't seem right somehow, they are the sort of treat that really needs tiny sticky hands to form the warm melange into the little sugar-covered balls. If you have such little fingers in your house, you may want to give these a try.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Well, I got nothin' today, so I thought I'd bring you up to date on the local news.

Maridmitch asked about the big fire. Yes, it's true, we had 200 acres burn just down the road from me. It's the second time this particular stretch of kudzu has burnt up since I moved here. What happens is the kudzu that covers just about every uncultivated stand of property and makes this place so green and kudzu-ey during the summer, dries to a brown ugly mess right after the first frost. It joins the mass of equally flammable material left over from the previous years. When it catches “afire” it is sort of like a grass fire. Swift and scary. So…200 acres of it went up in one night.

They suspect arson and are offering rewards for any information regarding who set the fire. Arson is a hugely trendy crime here.

Remember my little Food City bomb threat experience on Monday? I was indeed correct, it was a bomb threat. Well, they caught two teenagers who called it in. It evidently took two of them to call it in. One to dial the number and another to talk into the phone. I really don't want to see what happens when these two have to change a light bulb.

I will now conduct an informal poll as to which of the following headlines from the Newport Plain Talk’s From the Record section in yesterday’s paper is the most creative.

Would it be:

A. German Shepherds herded away
B. Caravan driver “Dodges” Payment
C. Ranger finds deer
D. Infinitely intrepid fender-bender

Personally, I'm torn between A and D.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Well, they say we may get some snow tonight. I'm not sure if that is the truth, but it certainly has been awfully gray today and sort of mild. That's usually what happens when it snows. I doubt we'll get much though.

Max continues the stupid goose thing. What is puzzling is that Max has been here for a year or so...and the geese have been here even longer. So, it's not like all of a sudden there were geese and they were something completely new in the Maxiverse. I, unfortunately, did not have the digital for yesterday's most amusing moment. I evidently broke Max's concentration by stepping out onto the porch and he took his eyes off of them for a second. Bad idea. The biggest gander grabs Max by his tail stub and hangs on for dear life. Max screams and high-tails it to the porch. He's going so fast...screaming the entire way...that the gander has to take flight...still hanging onto poor Max's tail. It looked like a goose-dog para sail for a moment there. The gander finally lets go rather than follow Max up on the porch where he cowers behind me. From a point of safety he utters some rather aggressive sounding barks at the geese. The geese laugh maniacally and do something that can only be described as a goose "high-five".

I've had my nose buried in the laptop all day finishing "The Ghosts are Dancing". I think it's pretty good, but its still too new for me to really be objective about it. The story tops out at 5,500 or so words. I have the last installment up on EditRed. I'll be combining all the parts in a few days for the first edit. Let me know what you think. I think this story merits a "hanky" alert.

Bridey pulled her mother from the back bedroom and led her towards the porch. Lurlene got as far as the screen door before looking out into the morning.

The Pigeon had risen beyond its bounds and the little white house was now an island. The water foamed and surged around the house. The rake that Roger had left out had long since been carried away and the martin house tilted drunkenly at an angle. Her world was being swept away.

Lurlene stepped onto the front porch and realized the seriousness of the situation. A crash sounded on the far side of the house and she peered around the corner to see part of somebody’s roof floating crazily down stream. It had crashed into their back porch, taking with it a corner of the building. Assorted flotsam came crashing down the river, now flowing through her yard. She strained her eyes over to her neighbor’s house that was even closer to the banks. The water had already risen as high as the windows and was rushing into the home. There on the roof of a small shed stood a miserable sow bellowing for her piglets, her udder swollen with milk. Lurlene watched as the sow lost her footing and plunged into the rapids. The sow rushed by them, her panicked human-like eyes met Lurlene’s and begged in rolling terror.

Lurlene had no idea how long the little white house could stand there on its foundation before joining the tumbling buildings and livestock. Bridey put both of her arms around her mother’s waist and buried her head in her side.

Lurlene stroked the girl’s hair and looked out into the coming day. The rain was ending, but the torrent continued to rise.

“Dear Lord, Jesus,” Lurlene prayed, for the first time in a very long time. “We gotta get out of here.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

For Joyce

Yesterday was an odd one. It was my research day and library day and the day I sort of get out into the world. I think I got more than I bargained for. I'm a slow processor of experience.

My friend lost someone. I stood in the cold place he calls home and listened to the answering machine. We had planned a happy day, but that was not to be. And it took me a while, to realize, that I had lost someone too.

I stood there stupidly, not really hearing the name. Searching my brain for the person behind the syllables. I'm not sure exactly how long it took me to realize who she was. To fit her loss into my personal experience, but it was longer than usual. And it felt like hours, though I'm sure it was only moments.

She had given me a great gift when I met her for the first time. It was something very special though it may not seem so to others. I live here in the mountains, secluded from the beauty and fury of the literate world.

She knew exactly who Flannery O'Connor was. And I felt in that moment the excitement I feel when I find kindred. I'm sure my eyes must have lit up , when I realized she understood.

And she was gracious and lovely and all things civilized. There was not a rough edge on her and I realized how much I miss that.

Later in the day, I wandered around Newport. I went into the Food City because I was out of Cool-Aid. As I stood in the store, still not processing completely what had happened, they asked us to drop our purchases where we stood and leave the store. It was odd. And I realized that there most likely had been a bomb threat.

I didn't go back. I guess the Cool-Aid and eggnog sat there until they realized I wasn't coming back for it.

It took me a while to realize, as I drove home, that a bomb had exploded in my life. That a bomb had gone off in so many lives that day when she died.

For she really was all things gracious and lovely and civilized. Not a rough edge about her.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Today was one of those dirty gray days where the light fell like over-used mop water being thrown from the sky. So, I dug around in my photo archives for the sort of sparkling clear winter morning that it really should have been. But wasn't. But we can pretend.

Max continues his interaction with the geese. A few stray tail feathers tell me that he has won a few of the encounters. But every time I see him, he is running for his life with a goose attached to his rear end. The other goose is usually making a ruckus while this is happening. I interpret this as hysterical, mocking goose laughter.

It has come to that difficult point in the year where I ask myself, "Decorate for Christmas? ...Or don't decorate for Christmas?"

Please understand that I have become a bit superstitious about this. Every time I've really done this in a big way, something drastic and calamitous has happened.

I think it began during that memorable Yuletide fifteen years ago when I, thrilled that I had someone in my life I could do this for, went all out with the Christmas thing. For whatever reason...perhaps my family's intensity when we do the Christmas thing is just way over the top or something...I awoke in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to find my lover standing over me holding a butcher knife. What followed was me depositing said lover at a mental ward for a forced period of confinement and ended up with me using my chainsaw to cut down the Christmas my living room...and then stomping on the delicate glass balls with my k.d. lang boots. My friends walked in about that time. They are still laughing.

And no...that's an entirely true story.

So, I approach this season with caution. Lest someone go all cuckoo-for-cocoa-pops just because I opened a big ole can 'o Martha Stewart all over their ass.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In the year of our Lord 2007, December 1.

It is Day Four here in the remote wilderness where we find ourselves. It is inhabited by strange beings of a feathered clan that we are unfamiliar with.

I have tried in vain to discourse with them and learn something of their strange language. They seem to communicate in odd neck stretches, hisses and various honks.

Unfortunately, these natives are hostile. We have had to erect a barrier to keep them out. Even with much voltage coursing through the wires, they broach it and attack us, forcing us to flee for our lives.

I am forced to conclude that we may never be able to understand their language. Further I conclude, that they are dangerous…and possibly delicious.

We can only pray that help will arrive soon.


New Porn and Donuts being served up hot and fresh on EditRed.

Mistress Mona’s Lingerie and Adult Emporium was tucked away on an industrial side street on the north side of Knoxville. It was the sort of place that you had to know was there. Mistress Mona kept a large selection of plus-size lingerie and a special section of fuck-me pumps in sizes up to 14DD in stock. The clientele was a mixture of drag queens, strippers, working girls and lately, some fairly straight-laced couples. The couples were the result of the proprietor’s most recent marketing brainstorm, an entire back room devoted to Christian marital aides called “The Grotto of Earthly Delight”.

Prominently over the door leading to the Grotto was a sign that said, “Please! Married Couples Only!!!”
So, come on over and meet the newest character in the Porn and Donuts story. Bubba Rubin is big, orange, Jewish and he's got a gun.