Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How The Country Boy Came To Eat Prosciutto

For months now, we’ve been feeding Mama J. and Papa T. dinner every night. By “we” I mean Hula comes home from work, cooks dinner, slaps food onto two plates and sends it down the street via Hubby. Sometimes he drives the truck. Sometimes he uses the golf cart. And these nifty plastic deviled egg carriers from Wal-Mart that perfectly hold foil wrapped plates. It’s usually a race to get dinner finished in a timely fashion, so those two don’t die of starvation. Old folks like to eat early, ya’ know. And Hula doesn’t get home from work until 5pm or so, so it’s run, run, run from the minute I hit the door. When the food hits the plates I often throw my hands in the air al la rodeo cowboy and yell, “Time!” Or sometimes I channel my old Rocky Horror Picture Show days and sing out, “Masta’, dinner is prepared!” Teen Angel laughs. Hubby doesn’t. Sigh. Smart aleck humor is so unappreciated in my house.

One of the biggest obstacles we’ve had to overcome is Papa T.’s palate. The man grew up on a farm in rural Tennessee during the depression. Dinner to him is a piece of pork, two starches and a piece of cornbread. Period. He is not an adventurous eater. Wild and crazy to him is leaving the bacon grease out of the green beans. Now, the rest of us are foodies. We enjoy all kinds of foods. We like to try new things. Hubby wasn’t always that way. He takes after his dad. When we first married he ate meat and vegetables. End of story. No spaghetti. No lasagna. No enchiladas. No seasonings. It’s the way Mama J. cooked when Hubby was growing up. It took a while, but eventually I forced him to try new things, and now he eats all kinds of stuff. Except for fish. If it’s not cod or salmon, he skips the fish.

Teen Angel and I are always experimenting with new meals. Our pantry is full of interesting stuff. Nothing makes us happier than visiting Whole Foods. The closest one is two hours away from us, so when we venture to Nashville, we take a cooler for a Whole Foods stop. Other women shop for shoes. The Hula-gen gals shop for organic pasta made from corn, pasta colored with squid ink and blood oranges. And cheeses. All kinds of cheeses. When we whip up something new, Mama J. dives in, Teen Angel and I happily chew away and Hubby sniffs it warily and then cleans his plate. Well, except for that potato pizza fiasco I had last month. I don’t know what happened, but instead of crispy golden potatoes on my homemade crust, I had underdone mush. It was not good. We all scraped off the potatoes and ate the crust. Man CAN live by bread alone. At least until the next morning. We are proof.

Papa T. just doesn’t care for anything but the mundane, and I’m not making more than one kind of meal each night. As mama used to say, “I ain’t runnin’ a truck stop,” so we have to compromise. I make my fair share of pork seasoned vegetables and homemade biscuits and cornbread. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good homemade biscuit. It’s one of my favorite food groups. But the rest of us can stand only so much of that fare. We like lighter, healthier stuff and more fun stuff, so I have resorted to a tactic I used with Teen Angel when she was much younger and much pickier. I lie. I know it’s shameful to do that to a blind man with dementia, but we all do what we must to get by. If a kid thinks a talapia fillet is a chicken nugget, and he’ll eat a chicken nugget, you tell him it’s a chicken nugget and everyone eats in peace. If Papa T. wants country cookin’ we simply tell him what he wants to hear before he digs in. When I send Hubby down the street with plates of out of the ordinary, I give Hubby the “lie”. For example: Sunday night I made homemade pizza with caramelized red onions and prosciutto. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. It’s a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, and let me just tell you that homemade pizza crust recipe of hers is great. Now Papa T.’s idea of pizza is thin crust cheese pizza. If he could get rid of the sauce and eat just the crust and cheese, I think he would, so when Hubby asked was on the menu, I told him, “Homemade pizza with caramelized onions and prosciutto, but tell your daddy it’s plain pizza and country ham.” “Aye-aye,” my partner in crime said, and down the street he went. A half hour later he returned. Papa T. had gobbled up every bit of his pizza and country ham and declared it “mighty tasty”. And there was peace all over the land.

This technique seems to work well as long as we stick somewhat close to the truth. I’m just not sure he’s going to believe the gnocchi is tiny biscuits.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The color of resurrection. So fitting for Spring.

Oh, and I would have posted these LAST night if Blogger hadn't been such a complete and total doo-doo head.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fun Monday-Spring Photo Challenge

I haven't done Fun Monday in a while, but I am this week because it involves two of my favorite things: Spring and photography. Jan is our lovely Hostess with The Mostess this week, and she wants us to take a picture of what Spring represents to us. Well, I've been all over the Spring blooms this year, and I have a ton of photos to choose from, (I think I'm up to more than 100) but I went back into the archives and selected one from last year.

It's one of my favorites, and it sings Spring to me for several reasons. It was taken among my peony bushes, and peonies are one of my favorite flowers. I love that you can cut three or four of them and have a beautiful bouquet. I don't even mind the ants that usually follow the bouquet into the house. The flowers are big and bold and beautiful, and I truly love it when they bloom. I'm actually hoping we don't sell our old house where they're planted until after they've bloomed.

I love the colors in this photo, too. Spring is so full of pastels and vivid greens. To me, there is no greener green than that of brand new grass and foliage as it pushes through winter's mask in March. It makes me feel good to look at the greens and yellows and pinks and purples of the season, and I smile at the colors in this photo. I smile at the bloom that's barely opened, too. Kind of symbolic of the season, don't cha' think?

I also like it because of the raindrops. What's Spring without rain? Lots of rain any other time of year would annoy me. But not in Spring. That's because I know what follows: sun, glorious sun. And warmer temperatures. Spring gives me hope, and that my friends, makes the rain worth weathering, I believe. Pun intended.

Now, trot on over to Jan's and see everyone else's pictures. That's where I'm headed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hot Diggity Dog!

My child. She’s a wonderful child. She’s smart and compassionate and witty. She has goals and dreams and ambition. But she has her vices. She loves shortbread. And texting. And The Food Network. All of which she can walk away from at any time. But the one thing, she absolutely, positively, without a doubt can never EVER resist….is a cardboard cut-out.

Seriously, it must be an illness, ‘cause I don’t know where else she would get it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Psst! Down Here.

I think I know why I like the macro lens so much. It allows me to see things that aren’t normally visible to the naked eye. Or at least easily visible. I shouldn’t be surprised since microscope work was some of my favorite work in high school and college science classes. It certainly wasn’t chemistry. I’d rather pick my toes than do chemical equations. I love how the magnification opens up a whole new world that seems to silently go on under my nose every day. For instance, have you ever looked closely at the lowly dandelion? See all those little curly things in there?

Pretty cool, huh? And pretty beautiful when you really examine it closely. It makes me wonder who deemed it an unfit flower for the yard.

Sometimes I find that the small stuff is actually pretty similar to some of the big stuff we readily recognize. Take the little white flowers that are popping up all over yards around here in this Spring time weather. They’re easy to overlook. I took a wide shot of them with a robin so you can get an idea of just how small they are.

From a distance, they’re not much to look at, but up close? They remind me of Asian lilies.

Look at the centers.

And the bend of the petals.

This is my favorite because it looks like a painting and aside from a little cropping this photo is untouched. If I never showed you how small these flowers were, you probably wouldn’t know by looking at these pictures. Fascinating. It makes me appreciate the fine details of God’s handiwork. It also makes me wonder what I was doing in botany class, ‘cause I can’t seem to remember half the names of the stuff I’m shooting lately.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Heart Faces Photo Challenge-"Angles"

"Daddy's Little Girl"From a wedding I shot last year. Check out the other entries here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Don't Even Want To Hear It

My friends with older daughters told me this day would come. I blissfully ignored them. I pretended it might not happen to me. I actually avoided the conversations whenever possible. When it comes to parenthood, denial is sometimes necessary. It’s better self medication than vodka or Cymbalta. Not that there’s anything wrong with Cymbalta. It’s just that Lawsie Mercy; I seem to be the only female between the ages of 35 and 50 in a sixty miles radius that DOESN’T take an anti-depressant, so I’m thinking they could be a little overused. Just a personal observation. Anyway. My friends all said, just wait until your daughter is old enough for prom. Then you’ll really go into debt. I laughed. Foolishly, I laughed. Until a week ago.

Teen Angel is going to prom this year, and we talked about a month ago about dresses and price limits. I told her I would pay no more than $200 for a dress. Anything above that was up to her to figure out how to pay for. She agreed. I smugly praised myself for that bit of parental warfare. And I swore I could hear my mother giggling thirty miles away.

Flash forward to last weekend, when Teen Angel and her BFF went dress shopping. I warned her not to commit to anything until I saw it. I have to do the IYACP review and the TSBNEC check. (Is Your Arse Covered Up and There Shall Be No Extreme Cleavage) About two hours into their shopping adventure she called me, exclaiming she had found THE dress.

“Are you sure,” I asked.

“Yes. Positive,” she said. She also quickly added, “Now, it’s strapless but don’t judge ‘til you see it ‘cause it’s not that low.”

“How much,” I asked.

“It’s beautiful, mom. It’s the one.”

“How much?”

“Um, $423.”

“That’s WAY more than $200.”

“You HAVE to see it.”

And my stomach churned. And so, despite my raging sinus infection and my desire for a nap before we dragged Mama J. and Papa T. to Cracker Barrel, I hauled my butt into the van and drove across town to see the dress. The whole way out there, I thought of arguments against this dress. I was armed with all kinds of reasons, mostly price, when I walked in the door. I kept pushing away those memories of a certain blue and lace dress that captured my heart in the spring of 1982. “Be strong, Hula,” I kept telling myself. “Flex that parental muscle. You do it all the time. You’re the no-meister in this family. Just say no and be done with it.”

And I rounded the corner, and there she was, dressed in the gown, standing on the podium in front of mirrors, looking radiant. She was beautiful. She looked like a princess. “Snap, I’m buying a dress,” I said. She was right. It was THE dress. I reserved much comment while I looked it over and checked the fit. (Pardon the quality of the phone pictures.)

All it needed was a tuck here or there to contain the cleavage and a hem. We discussed the portion she would need to pay and the amount I would allow her grandmother to chip in. (I wasn’t the only phone call she made.) And I said yes. And I heard my mother giggle thirty miles away.

But the shoes and the hair and the accessories are all on Teen Angel’s dime. Definitely. No doubt about it. I mean it. Hush up, mother.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This is Going to Require the Sanitizer Cycle on the Dishwasher

Fined for unlawful use of the KitchenAid mixer paddle:

I'm just not sure who to charge, the dog or the husband.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Blooms-Part Deaux

Or why I laid on the back of the car under a tree for my neighbors' amusement. It's surprising how many ways you can shoot the same blossom. Oh, and there's a purple weed thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Blooms-"A Study of Daffodils"

"Daffodils that come before the swallow dares, and takes the winds of March with beauty."-William Shakespeare

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Somebody Pinch Me

The new lens? So cool, I can’t stand it. Which is kind of a relief given the cost. I was hesitant to buy it because of the price tag. For weeks, I had a debate in my head about buying one excellent expensive lens or two decent lenses that were cheaper. I finally decided to go big or go home, and I’m glad I did, ‘cause I can’t get enough of the macro.

The first night I sat in the living room and photographed anything and everything, just to see what it would do. The condensation on the tea glass.

Hubby’s Styrofoam cup.


Granted, it’s a difficult lens to master because of the extremely shallow depth of field, and it requires manually focusing on macro shots, but it really was the right choice. It recently had me lying on my stomach in the yard to capture weeds, laying on the back of the car to shoot the buds on the trees and squatting beside the road in a patch of wild daffodils to take pictures of yellow blooms. Hang on to your britches. I’m fixin’ to wear you out with photos of spring blooms. I just can’t help myself. The world up close is so much fun. We might even have a couple of “Guess What This Really Is” posts. In the meantime, if you see a woman in old jeans and muddy boots in a ditch with her head close to a bunch of blooms slow down and wave. It’s probably me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Real Dilly

I love a good church sign. The marquees that advertise services often include some very witty sayings, and around these parts, smack dab in the Bible Belt, you never know what’s going to pop up on a sign. It’s rather fun, actually.

Yesterday, as I was driving across town, I passed a bar that has a brand new sign. This place has a reputation for being, as my daddy would say, “a lively little joint”.

Less than a block away, the neighboring church had this message, and while they’ve lost an “N” on the word “in”, I think they get an A+ for cleverness.

Well played, Bethel. Well played.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Price I'm Paying for Suddenly Warm Weather

My persnickety sinuses are out of control. They hate big swings in the weather. Crap, crap, crap. I woke up Thursday with congestion and a zit the size of Mt. Hood. I figured it wasn't going to be a good day. The hot water heater died about two hours later. I usually like it when I'm right. Not so much on Thursday.

Yesterday, I woke up with a fever and signs in my tissues that a sinus infection had set in. I get about one sinus infection a year and never get over them without medication, so I headed to the walk-in clinic after sleeping until about eleven o'clock.

The upside to this situation? I went to the clinic during the UK SEC tournament game and had no wait because apparently everyone else was at home or work watching or listening to the game. I breezed in and out of there in thirty minutes.

The downside? I woke up this morning with dried snot on my face and a zit the size of Mt. Hood that just won't go away.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hula-gen Family Fun Fact #96

Teen Angel is really interested in going to culinary school after she graduates from high school. The cooking gene apparently took hold of her before she grew out of her sippie cup.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can You Feel It?

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

How many times have I sang, said or heard that and really thought about it or really meant it? Probably not that many if I’m really honest with myself. It’s like a lot of other phrases that are easy to use to the point they become rote or trite. That phrase rambled through my head at 5:45 this morning when I was walking the dog, and I realized late today that I really meant it this time.

I hate getting up at 5:30am. It’s an absurd hour for a naturally slow riser like me, but it’s the small price I pay for a wonderful job that I love and allows me to put my child through college. Every morning, I stand in the semi-darkness, yawning and waiting for the dog to choose between the light pole and the mailbox (how can it be THAT difficult), and I listen to the silence of that hour. In the winter, it’s so quiet it’s sometimes eerie. This morning though, I noticed the birds. They’re back, chirping and warbling their messages between trees. They tell me spring is on its way. I’ve missed them in recent months, but they arrived sometime in the past week, and their noises were good.

On my way to work I saw a marvelous sky, foretelling the warm weather and sunshine that lay ahead on this day. Louis Armstrong’s version of It’s a Wonderful World shuffled through my iPod and it seemed to fit the moment. It was good.

As I was running at lunch, I saw three tiny yellow blooms on a forsythia bush on one block and on another a patch of crocus in full bloom, its tiny purple blossoms washing their faces in the sunshine. And it was good.

A few minutes later, I passed the glistening steel letters on the sign in front of the Jewish temple. They seemed extra clean and shiny. That was good.

We’re having an unusually warm spell. Our high temperature was near 70 today. I ran in shorts and a t-shirt (sorry about the bright white legs, passersby), and I was hot and sweaty when I finished. Really sweaty. It made me feel very alive. Even that was good.

An unexpected bout of nausea I felt near the end of the run made me slow to a walk, but even that was good. It forced me to slow down and really notice my surroundings like the bright shoots of fresh grass popping through the ground and the elderly man gently pushing a baby in a stroller.

My work day was extremely productive. I finished some chores I really needed to get done. That was good.

Everything about this day, except for some chronic sinus issues, made me feel good. Everything around me sings of spring right now. I know we’re bound to have another cold spell soon. We always do near the end of March, but the end of winter is near. I can feel it. The signs are popping up everywhere. Even the air smells different these days.

I think God gives us spring to remind us to be hopeful. Springs teaches us that there is always another chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. That life is cyclical and eventually our troubles pass, giving way to patches of pleasantness. That good eventually follows bad. Spring is hope, and that’s why we like it. I believe each spring day is meant to be savored and appreciated for what it really is.

This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A few Miles From my House

The little cemetery sits on a hill, tucked off the main road as if it’s shyly hiding from the gaze of passersby. If you didn’t know it was there, you might not notice it. It rests in the shade of tall oaks and scrub pine, with small streams of sunlight boring through the branches and kissing the tops of stones. Flowers withered by winter's wrath dot the landscape.

The cemetery is old. Many of the dead resting there saw the turn of the last century, fought in the Spanish American War or lived through the Great Depression. Some newer stones mark the graves of the recent dead. A baby. A soldier. A mother. Someone’s grandfather. It is a quiet place, within a stone’s throw of a barn and a few old farmhouses.

Barbed wire keeps out the horses and makes a rambling, sharp boundary along the cemetery’s perimeter.

It’s a humble place, never calling attention to itself and yet, boldly displaying the life and love of the people buried there. There are markers with pictures of the dead. A stone adorned with a weathered floral arrangement and a handwritten note with faded sentiments. The words are so personal they make you turn away, embarrassed to have seen the inside of someone’s grieving heart. There are markers made of hand poured and lettered concrete and others made with even simpler materials.

They speak to the poverty of those left behind. And they make you sad.

Everywhere you look; there are personal touches, some that leave you wondering why they were placed there.

And for whom.

It is in that little country graveyard that I sat and watched the sun slide into the horizon and wondered about the people who walked this land before I did and the people left behind who tend to their memory. It is a quiet place, within a stone’s throw of serenity.