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Sunny sides. Flowery rocks. Rocky flowers.

Month

June 2015

Dos and Don’ts for Family Road Trip Success

Ever think about taking the family on a road trip? Maybe you’re on the fence, or maybe you’re afraid you’ll all kill each other. I wasn’t sure if my children were too old, or if I had the mental strength, or if there was enough wine at the end of the day. But we decided now or never and embarked on an old-fashioned road trip from Georgia to Pennsylvania and back. We stopped in Williamsburg, VA to see the sights; Bethlehem, PA to see family; Hershey Park to ride rides and eat chocolate; and Monticello to learn and to be inspired.

Although we did wish we had a taxi-cab-esque window divider between the front and back seats (‘who are you talking about, Mom?’ ‘I AM PUTTING UP THE PRETEND DIVIDER, WHERE ARE YOUR EARBUDS?!’), no one killed each other and we found out that we actually enjoy spending time together. Pretty soon, my 9th grader is going to be driving and my 5th grader will be too cool for school, so I am holding on to these sweet moments more tightly than ever. If you are thinking about taking a road trip this summer, here are some Dos and Don’ts for family road trip success:

1. Do pass the time in the car by texting pictures of yourselves as emojis to family members. They will be the least flattering pictures of yourself you’ve ever taken. Delete immediately after sending. Or, post them in a blog.

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2. Don’t waste money on car games. As fun as they are, you will forget them by Day 2 and pack them in the way back to never be seen again. Do play Chat Pack, ignore groans from teenager, and see who can be the funniest.

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3. Do give your husband American flag duct tape for Father’s Day during road trip. Complain about glare from windshield crack so he will use it ASAP on windshield, thereby shouting to the world, “Hey y’all, we are super patriotic rednecks from Georgia!”

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4. Do join in the fun at waitress’s instruction during colonial dinner by tying enormous napkins around your neck. Make kids do it and then take miserable picture worthy of their future rehearsal dinners.

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5. Do stop at Chipotle! First time for me, since we don’t have one in town. Enjoy the fresh, yummy food and the reading material. What an ideal combo for me!

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6. Do listen to Road Trip Radio on satellite radio. Who knew there was such a thing? There’s a little bit of everything for everyone. Fight Over/Discuss “Official Song of the Road Trip,” then declare a tie between Jason Derulo/Want To Want Me and Taylor Swift/Bad Blood.

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7. Do go to Monticello. Take in the beauty. Marvel at the ingenuity of Thomas Jefferson. Definitely Do annoy kids to death by calling him “TJeff.”

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8. Do climb at least one fence or gate, or both. Introduce kids to grey areas of the law, i.e. “other people are doing it so it’s fine.”

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9. Do find at least one odd attraction, and visit it. We found two: Mount Trashmore and Foamhenge. We visited the latter, since it was on the way home, and did not involve mountains of garbage.

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10. Don’t, I repeat, do NOT ride roller coasters if you are over the age of 43. They will cause anxiety attacks, soreness, and PTSD. Pass on love of roller coasters to your 10 year old, and be happy for her.

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Kevin Hart = Me

11. Do plan Americana road trip the week of major news: two huge SCOTUS decisions and Confederate flag approval rating plummeting in the polls. Feel a love for this country and its people. It is a truly beautiful country, from Georgia to Pennsylvania. Appreciate the sacrifices that came before us. Be hopeful for its future.

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12. Do go on a family road trip. It will be an adventure, a bonding experience, lots of laughs, lots (and lots!) of togetherness, and hashtag making memories that will live on for a lifetime.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

YDC

What is Southern?

Southern is complicated.

Excerpt from Edna Lewis’s (1916 – 2006) essay “What is Southern?,” http://www.gourmet.com:

“Southern is an early spring morning shrouded in a thick mist. The warmth of a bright sunrise reveals shimmering jewellike dewdrops upon thicket and fence. A large spiderweb glistens, a spider trying desperately to wind its prey into the web. My father set out to prepare for planting corn. The first day, I walked behind him while he was plowing and singing one of his favorite hymns. For me, it was a great moment. Walking along, pressing my bare feet against the warm plowed earth. All of the chickens were behind me, picking up the earthworms and bugs. He turned up roots of sassafras bushes2, which we took to the house for the next morning.

Southern is a spring breakfast of herring with its roe. It is the most delicious of the first-caught of spring. Shad is more advertised. They both are spring fish, then they disappear until the next spring. Herring roe is of a finer quality than the shad and wonderful sautéed in garlic, lemon juice, butter, and herbs.

Southern is a meal of early spring wild greens—poke sallet3 before it is fully uncurled, wild mustard, dandelion, lamb’s-quarter, purslane, and wild watercress. These are greens that are looked for as the first taste of spring, boiled in pork stock and served with cornmeal dumplings. The next delightful green vegetable is wild asparagus, delicious and tender, found around fence posts where birds drop the seed. They are picked at the right time, steamed and served on toast, with a rich cream sauce spooned over. Southern is a midday dinner of potted squab, tossed until done in a covered iron pot. Served with those first wild greens, a casserole of white potatoes4 baked in chicken stock, and a delicious strawberry shortcake of biscuit dough.

Southern is an evening of turtle soup. We would find the turtle, having been washed out of the stream in a thunderstorm, crawling toward the house, so we would pick it up, keep it for a few days, then clean and cut it up. There would be great excitement if it contained eggs, which we would add to the stew. After cooking the turtle slowly for hours, we would strain the broth, season it well, add good Sherry5, chop up some of the meat, and make dumplings to add to the soup with the eggs.

Southern is Truman Capote. When dining at Café Nicholson, he would request that I make him some biscuits. Southern is a guinea hen, a bird of African origin. They live in trees around the house and make a big noise if strangers come around. Like any game bird, they have to be aged before cooking. They have a delicious flavor and are best when cooked in a clay pot with butter, herbs, onions, and mushrooms.

Southern is Bessie Smith. Give me a pig foot and a bottle of beer. Southern is a great yeast roll, the dough put down overnight to rise and the next morning shaped into rolls and baked. Served hot from the oven, they are light as a dandelion in a high wind. Southern is a sun dog6—something like a rainbow, or the man in the moon—on a late summer afternoon.

Southern is a mint julep. A goblet of crushed ice with a sprig of mint tucked in the side of the glass, a plain sugar syrup the consistency of kerosene poured over the ice, then a jigger of bourbon. Stir and bruise the mint with a silver spoon. Sip and enjoy. Southern is a hot summer day that brings on a violent thunderstorm, cooling the air and bringing up smells of the earth that tempt us to eat the soil. Southern is Tennessee Williams and Streetcar. Southern is a springhouse filled with perishables kept cool by a stream running through. And a spring keeper7—a salamander—is there, watching over.

Southern is Bourbon Street and Louis Armstrong. Southern is a seafood gumbo of crab, okra, tomatoes, scallions, onions, green pepper, bacon, garlic, and herbs. Southern is fresh-made corn fritters, light and crisp enough to fly away. Southern is an okra pancake in a cornmeal batter. Southern is a platter of deviled crabs prepared with soaked slices of white bread torn and mixed with chopped onion, fine-cut scallions, melted butter, fresh-ground black pepper, cayenne, eggs, and the best crabmeat. Baked in the oven, served hot, a morsel to die over. Southern is a pitcher of lemonade, filled with slices of lemon and a big piece of ice from the icehouse, and served with buttermilk cookies. Southern is a delicious chicken salad at a bride’s luncheon.

Southern is a bowl of shrimp paste, rich in butter, shrimp, Sherry, spices, and lemon juice. Blended to a soft consistency and served over a plate of grits, a delicious breakfast treat. Southern is a barbecued pig that was cooked for hours and served with a tomato- or vinegar-based sauce, as well as coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, hush puppies, and iced tea. Southern is a bowl of homemade peach ice cream, served during the peach season. Southern is Richard Wright and his “Bright and Morning Star.” Southern is an oyster roast. Guests are presented with white gloves for shucking and pots of melted butter. Southern is leftover pieces of boiled ham trimmed and added to a saucepan of heavy cream set on the back of the stove to mull and bring out the ham flavor, then served spooned over hot biscuits, with poached eggs on the side.

Southern is hunting season, a time that men take off to hunt rabbits, squirrel, opossum, deer, quail, partridge, plover, and dove. We used to trap snowbirds8 and enjoy a pan of them baked. Southern is a Brunswick stew of squirrel or rabbit, beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, herbs, fresh-ground black pepper, and salt. Long cooking results in a great stew. Southern is a wild pig served with pork liver sauce, peanut sauce, rice for spooning the sauces over, and spicy sauces for the sliced pork.

Southern is Thomas Wolfe and Of Time and the River. Southern is Craig Claiborne, for more than 25 years the distinguished food critic of The New York Times. Southern is a country steak smothered with onions on a Sunday morning, with gravy and spoon bread to spoon the gravy over. Southern is she-crab soup, thick with crab eggs and crabmeat, served with benne biscuits. Southern is a lemon-flavored pound cake served with brandied peaches and homemade blackberry wine.

Southern is a moss rose, a camellia, a buttercup, a tea olive tree sending its fragrance through the air and into the kitchen. Southern is the call of the whip-poor-will at midnight.9 Southern is Reynolds Price discussing his mother’s cooking.10 Southern is a pot of boiling coffee sending its aroma out to greet you on your way in from the barn. Coffee was always served piping hot, so much so that if someone talked too much, they were told, “Save your breath to cool your coffee.”

Southern is a walk along the streams in September to find out if the fox grapes are ripening. The aroma they send out is a sign of where they are. Southern is Scott Peacock, one of the South’s most creative young chefs. Southern is weeks of canning, pickling, and preserving—cucumber pickle, artichoke pickle, pear pickle, tomato pickle, watermelon rind pickle, citron preserves, green tomato preserves, fig preserves, cherry preserves, grape conserve, crab apple jelly, wild blackberry jelly, fox grape jelly, quince jelly, guava jelly, wild plum jelly, wild strawberry preserves (the best).

Southern is Christmas, a wonderful time of the winter. In the early history of the South, there was no Christmas tree. Beautiful flowers such as camellias were used in Charleston. And it was a German professor—a refugee—who, while boarding with a family in Williamsburg, brought them stories of Christmas decorations in his native Germany.Our house was decorated with running cedar branches with juniper berries. Red tissue-paper bells were hung throughout the house, lending a festive air. On the sideboard were the Christmas foods such as fruitcake, home­made candies—divinity, peanut brittle, and ribbon squares—nuts, oranges, and coconut made into confections.

Christmas was ushered in before daylight with the thunderous noise of Ro­man candles—our father waking the community from its sleep. Southern is a delicious of sautéed oysters, cream, Sherry, salt, cayenne, fresh-ground black pepper, salsify, a spoon of butter in the bottom of the bowl, and a garnish of chervil. Southern is hoppin’ John—black-eyed peas cooked in hog’s-head stock —served with a dish of greens on New Year’s Day. This is to bring good luck in the new year to come.

Southern is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with a dream.

Southern is William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust.11 I met him in Café Nicholson. Upon our meeting, he wanted to know if I had studied cooking in Paris. Southern is a beautiful dish of fried chicken, cooked carefully in home-rendered lard and butter with pieces of country ham added, then served with a brown gravy spooned over spoon bread.

Southern is Elizabeth Spencer’s writing in The Light in the Piazza.12

Southern is desserts galore—coconut cake, caramel layer cake, black walnut whiskey cake, groom’s wedding cake,13 fig pudding, mince­meat pie, lemon meringue pie, fried apple pies, damson plum pie, rhubarb pie with orange zest, peach cobbler, blackberry cobbler, blackberry roly-poly with blackberry sauce.

Southern is Eugene Walter,14 deep in Alabama, a Renaissance man, a gourmet, always with a brilliant thought. Southern is Marie Rudisill,15 author of a cookbook that emulates the friends she grew up with, cooked with, and loved. Southern is Carson McCullers in The Member of the Wedding.16 Southern is all the unsung heroes who passed away in obscurity.

So many great souls have passed off the scene. The world has changed. We are now faced with picking up the pieces and trying to put them into shape, document them so the present-day young generation can see what southern food was like. The foundation on which it rested was pure ingredients, open-pollinated seed—planted and replanted for generations—natural fertilizers. We grew the seeds of what we ate, we worked with love and care.”

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www.gourmet.com/magazines/2000s/2008/01/whatissouthern_lewis.html

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken, #CookingLightDiet style

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Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken: You know I like my chicken fried. A cold beer on a Friday night. A pair of jeans that fit just right. And the radio uh…uh…up. Zac Brown and I both do. But this was delectable! Flavorful. Moist. I didn’t miss the fried and I don’t think Zac would have either. **Rosemary- homegrown. Also like Zac. (see what I did there?)
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Tomato, Watermelon, and Feta Salad, a la Pinterest. Hydrating, cold, sweet, tangy, salty…perfect for a 95 degree summer day! **Mint- homegrown!

The Healing Garden

When the news is so bad and your heart and soul are broken, go to the garden.

Peace. Bounty. Beauty. Nourishment.

God is good.

I feel rich.

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Cherokee Purple baby tomatoes!
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A thriving garden!
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Pear Tomato plant we raised from seed. #ProudMama

Kale and White Bean Linguine (Again), #CookingLightDiet Style

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Local, organic kale from New Leaf Community Garden. Yes, please! Harvested Friday night, purchased Saturday, cooked on Sunday…doesn’t get much fresher than that! Add to a bunch of garlic, linguine, white beans, and parmesan and you’re good to go. #kaleyeah!

What Does Your Life Smell Like?

I have a superhero sense of smell. I don’t know why I was given this gift. It started when I was pregnant and 14 years later, it’s still a thing. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps it is a primal skill that somehow keeps me safe from danger. Perhaps it is a writer’s skill designed to give me details. Or, most likely, it is simply the only sense that has actually improved in my middle age, whereas my sight and hearing seem to already be on the wane.

It is what it is. I’ve made peace with it. I’ve decided to use it, for whatever it’s worth. When I meet someone, I smell them. I try to be subtle…I hope no one ever notices me smelling them because that might be a lil weird. I feel like a person’s smell is part of getting to know them. Most people smell like perfume/cologne, shampoo, and soap. That’s the good news.

After work, my husband smells like airplane exhaust. It’s very manly and I love it.

When I smell fresh green beans cooking, I think of my mother.

When I smell freshly mowed grass, I think of my father.

At one time, whenever I smelled Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew perfume, with the gold bow elastics that my cousin and I wore in our hair, I thought of my grandmother.

I love the smells of cooking. After many years of cooking, I can smell when things are done in the oven.

I smell rain coming.

I love the smell of a gym, from when I played years of basketball. It may be a lot of sweat and socks and shoes, but to me, it’s hard work, friends, and pure joy.

When people have no smell, it really throws me off. A lot of people don’t have a smell and I guess that’s actually a good thing, but I like for people to smell like shampoo, or the restaurant they ate lunch at, or something.

What does your life smell like?

Warm Tortellini and Cherry Tomato Salad, #CookingLightDiet Style

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I LOVE summer meal prep! These beautiful ingredients (who grew that pretty basil? I did!) plus whole wheat cheese tortellini, spinach, parmesan, and a vinegary dressing equals the most lovely summer dinner.

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