Spring In East Texas

March has been cool and windy with lots of rain, but things are finally beginning to bloom. Another bonus to being quarantined in the country. On a sunny day I can go outside for a change of scenery. Or I can watch the birds eating an early lunch at the bird feeder. They are probably wondering why I haven’t filled it. They eat it up so fast I have to ration it. Kind of like toilet paper these days!

Dinner and a Movie Monday – Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy won the Oscar for best picture in 1989. It was adapted from the play of the same name. It stars Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, who reprised his role in the play, and Dan Aykroyd.  

Jessica Tandy lost a bet with her agent when she said she wouldn’t win for best actress. She did an excellent job of bringing Miss Daisy to life. She plays a retired school teacher, an outspoken, independent woman living in Georgia. We get to know her by focusing on her home life, synagogue, friends, family, fears, and concerns over a twenty five year period.

Morgan Freeman brought Hoke to life with his dignity, patience and sense of humor. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. It’s a story of an unlikely relationship between a wealthy Jewish widow and her illiterate black chauffeur who become the best of friends.

In the move, when Miss Daisy backs her car over the neighbor’s hedge, she doesn’t wring her hands and cry over spilt milk. She makes up a batch of pickles! That’s a true southern woman for you!

This recipe was given to me by my sister. It came from her mother-in-law, Maxine Raley.

Lime Pickles

1/2 bushel cucumbers (20-24 lbs)

12 lb sugar

2 3/4 gallons white vinegar

1 1/2 small bottle pickling spice

Lime

Wash and slice cucumbers. Put in a large plastic container with water and lime (1 cup lime to 2 gallons water) Soak overnight with ice cubes on top to keep cool. Drain and rinse 3 times. Put in pan. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, spices and vinegar. Soak overnight. Boil rapidly until color changes. Pour into clean quart jars (takes about 20) Seal with lids and let stand about 20 days.

Coming Again Soon

After a late-night visit to Battington’s marketplace, Princess Mena vanishes without a trace. Merchants are frantic because King Leander has called for a curfew and postponed the Spring Festival until further notice. Certain his former constable is the man for the job; the mayor hires Xander to investigate, hoping he can solve the mystery in a hurry so things can go back to normal.

     But Xander’s not so sure that’s possible, because there’s romance involved, and he knows when that happens folks who are normally very sensible seem to lose all reason. In addition to sorting out truths, half-truths, and outright lies, he must deal with gypsies, love potions, and an illegal moonshine operation before he can get to the bottom of things.

Revised version on Amazon coming soon!! In the frenzy of last-minute purchases, before Battington Marketplace closed for the night, no one seemed to notice someone creeping silently along the edges of darkness, dodging pools of light shining down from the streetlamps. As the last of the shoppers gathered their parcels and left, merchants were free to close up shop.

Only then did the cloaked and hooded figure emerge from the shadows and head straight for Mercury’s apothecary shop in the center of the market. The figure stopped, darting a glance in both directions before rapping on the weathered door.

Mercury spoke, his voice thin and reedy. “I’m closed for the night. Come back in the morning.”

After a brief pause, the knocking resumed. Louder and more persistent.

Amid the rattle of the lock, squeaking hinges, and mumbling protests, the wisp of a man opened the door far enough to peer outside. He pushed spectacles up on his nose and squinted, his eyes widening with recognition when he glimpsed the velvet cloak bordered in gold and fastened with a broach bearing the royal emblem. 

Princess Mena.

“Oh. It’s you.” He poked his head out the door and swallowed, glancing nervously around the marketplace.

“Well? Are you going to stand there gaping or move out of my way?” With a snap of her cape, she brushed past and stepped inside. 

Dark shadows made the workshop gloomy despite the flames dancing on top of dozens of beeswax candles clustered in the middle of the worktable.

“If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll light a lamp…”

“Don’t bother. Is it ready?” 

Mercury wrung his hands. “My humble apologies for the delay, my lady. I didn’t get the ingredients needed until late this afternoon.” He wrung his hands. “Truth be told, after your father found out about your visit, I was unsure whether I’d ever see you again.”

“Enough of your prattle.” Her voice crackled with impatience. “Give me the potion. And be quick about it!”

Mercury pressed his lips together in a thin line as if to keep further explanations from escaping and pointed at the glass beaker filled with pale amber liquid, sitting on his worktable. “I finished mixing it only moments ago.”

The princess thrust a hand full of gold coins at the apothecary, but Mercury hesitated. 

“Are you certain you want to go through with this?”

She forced words through gritted teeth. “Of course, I am. Why do you ask?”

“This spell is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill love potion. Perhaps you ought to reconsider.”

“We’ve been through this once already. Nothing you say will make me change my mind. Now, hand it over.”

Mercury picked up a sheet of parchment sitting next to a beaker of amber liquid and cleared his throat. “You must follow the directions exactly as written. Make sure you understand them.”

The princess inhaled sharply, snatched the paper from his hand, and held it close to the candles, muttering under her breath while she read. “Midnight… candle… strand of hair… recite the verse and drink only a drop. Got it.”

“Make sure you follow the directions to the letter.”

“What happens if I don’t?”

Mercury shrugged. “Love potions can be tricky. No telling what might happen if you don’t.”

Without another word, she grabbed the beaker, bolted out the door, and vanished into the shadows.

If you haven’t read Xander’s Tangled Web, you’re missing a delightful visit to the little town of Battington, where everything isn’t quite as picturesque as it seems. Just ask Xander.

Dinner And A Movie Monday – Troop Zero

Troop Zero is a 2019 American comedy-drama, starring Viola Davis, Mckenna Grace, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps, Charlie Shotwell and Allison Janney. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on February 1, 2019 and was released in January, 2020 on Amazon.

It takes place in rural Georgia in 1977, where a group of elementary-school misfits led by spunky outcast Christmas Flint join forces form their own troop in the high-and-mighty Birdie Scouts youth group in order to compete in a talent show. The winning Birdies will earn the right to have their voices included on the Voyager Golden Record, which Christmas believes will be heard by her deceased mother – if they can just win the show.

My sister and I watched this last month. It was a delightful move. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. Viola Davis and Allison Janney are two of my favorite actresses, but I have to say Mckenna Grace, the child who played Christmas, held her own. The scrapes she and her friends find themselves in trying to earn their badges are hilarious. Each one of them is quirky, peculiar and a little strange, but they learn to lean on one another. I live in the south and the references to life there during the seventies took me down memory lane. You’ll love it.

Fried Chicken

You don’t think about the south without thinking about fried chicken. I don’t cook it now, but this is how I did when my kids were growing up.

Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast (My family preferred white meat)

Eggs

Milk

Salt

Pepper

Flour.

Wash the breast. Split them in half lengthwise. Salt and Pepper them. Coat them with flour. Dip them in a mixture of milk and eggs. Then coat them with flour again. Fry in a cast iron skillet on medium heat until golden brown. Serve with mashed potatoes and brown gravy, fresh green beans or green salad and bread to sop up the gravy.

~Into the Unknown~

This is something I posted a few years ago…

While channel surfing a while back, I happened to catch the end of Close Encounters. Never see that movie that I don’t think of my husband. Especially now that he’s gone. It was one of his all-time favorites. I never really thought about it until today, but now I understand why.

In the movie Richard Dreyfuss plays Roy Neary, an average middle-class guy who loves his family and works hard to provide for them. Only there’s another side to his character. He still believes in magic. In the movie, when Roy experiences a close encounter, he doubts his sanity. But he can’t let it go, because deep down inside he wants it to be true. So he makes up his mind to prove it.

My husband was the same kind of man. He worked hard, took care of his family and lived a quiet life. But like Roy, there was more to him than met the eye. The casual observer never saw his keen sense of adventure. He had a fascination for the mysterious, the unexplained. The idea of travelers from another world was intriguing to him.

He would have loved the chance to do what Roy did. So it isn’t hard to visualize him standing on the runway at the end of the movie, all smiles. Reluctant to leave his life on earth, yet filled with nervous anticipation at the thought of going on an adventure beyond the stars.

I like to think that’s exactly what he’s doing right now. And I’m certain he’s enjoying every minute.

And someday, I’ll join him.

Thank you, Mama

One of my early childhood memories is the torture of nap time. I rarely slept. Instead, I spent my time looking out the windows, whispering to my sister, and willing the time to pass so I could go back outside and play.

It wasn’t all bad, though. My mother used to read to us. I truly believe that’s where I learned to get lost in a good story. With my eyes closed, the blinds drawn, and snuggled under the covers, I visited other countries, other times. Magical places that stirred my imagination.

I’ve never forgotten those stories she chose to share. The beginning of my love of reading and the desire to become a writer.

A Yummy Breakfast

My sister, Kim, is a great cook. She’s always trying new recipes. This is one of hers. Nothing better than coffee and a hot muffin on a cold winter day!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups Cranberries, Fresh
  • 1 tbsp Orange, Zest
  • 2 Eggs, Large
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Granulated sugar
  • 1 cup Powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup Orange juice
  • 6 tbsp Butter, Unsalted
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk

Mix orange zest with sugar in small bowl. Set aside.Combine BP, flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.Mix buttermilk, oil, orange juice, eggs and vanilla. Combine all ingredients. Fold in cranberries. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Mix flour, melted butter and sugar to make crumble. Spoon on top of muffins. Cook 18 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean. Combine orange juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Pour over cooled muffins. Crumble and glaze are optional. Can be stored in airtight container for 3-4 days.

~The Pyrex Bowls~

I have a lot of keepsakes. Most of them aren’t antiques or collector’s items, but they’re special to me. Why? Because they come with memories attached. And what is more precious than a memory? These Pyrex bowls belonged to my mother. They may have been a wedding present. She used the largest one when she made potato salad. Every time I use one of them, I think about her.  

Dinner and a Movie Monday – Awakenings

Awakenings is a 1990 film based on British neurologist Oliver Sack’s 1973 memoir and directed by Penny Marshall. In 1969 the doctor discovered the beneficial effects of the drug L-Dopa when administered to catatonic patients who survived the 1916-28 encephalitis lethargica epidemic. Leonard Lowe and the rest of the patients were awakened after decades of catatonia and have to deal with a new life in a new time.

Robert DeNiro was nominated for Best Actor for this role. He plays Leonard Lowe, one of the patients. After a trial run with L-Dopa produces astounding results with Leonard, it is administered to the rest of the catatonic patients. In my opinion, he should have won.

He did a remarkable job of bringing the man to life. Through his portrayal, we see the despair and isolation of his condition, and the attitude of wonder he adopts when awakened. We watch his struggle to relearn, his fight to find a place in the world, and the heartbreaking realization that the miracle is only temporary.

It will move you to tears, but it is a poignant movie with a lesson for everyone. Enjoy the wonder of living. Appreciate it every minute of your life.

Apologies. Instead of a recipe like I usually share, this I leave you with this quote. In a way, it’s the same. Call it food for the soul.