Monday, October 19, 2009


There are very few things in life that sustain my existence. The love of God, the love of my family, and my dad's Etoufee (for you non-cajuns this is pronounced eh-too-fay). Dad prepares this life-sustaining creole dish a few times a year and I barely make it from one pot to the next.

The production of making Etoufee is quite an ordeal and requires a full staff of family members to pull the whole thing off. I mean you can make it by yourself if you want to but it isn't nearly as fun.
See, see how much fun it is.
The most important element in Etoufee is the roux (pronounce roo). Dad has figured out how to make the perfect roux with the least amount of effort. Add one cup of oil and one cup of flour to an iron skillet and stick that baby in the OVEN instead of standing over a hot stove for hours. If you want all the specific details of this recipe you'll have to ask him.
Chopping food in my mother's kitchen is another of my favorite things. It's amazing the things we find to talk about while cooking and drinking iced tea. Plus it always smells so lovely and it just feels good to be with family preparing a meal together.
So us girls chop and chop.
And here is the master chef himself, drinking iced tea and waiting. See, he monitors the roux and then after the women have spent hours preparing all the other ingredients, he throws it all in a pot and takes the credit. Not that I'm complaining.
and so we chop
and chop. We didn't have any shrimp or crawfish for this pot of Etoufee, so we settled for chicken and sausage.
and finally start the process of combining all these magical ingredients. This is bell pepper, onion and celery AKA holy trinity. I can't reveal all the spices or I'd have to kill you.
I'll pause while you wipe the drool off your chin. I so wish you could smell this stuff, or better yet, taste it.
Another staple for Etoufee nights, red wine.
Pretty soon the whole family starts showing up for the feast. This is one of my favorite parts. Oh and if you're wondering why Kyle is on crutches... he thought he was superman and was bringing in Granna's tropical plants for the winter and LIFTED them instead of scooting or rolling them and really hurt his back. He is better now.
This is how we serve people on the farm... buffet style. Fix your plate and go sit down.
It is at this point when Eddie puts on his most pleading pitiful face. With this many people around, he's sure to get a few morsels of that glorious food. OH PLEASE...could YOU resist??
Everybody's bowls get filled, and now my mouth is watering again.
I wish I could rewind the clock and eat this again.
I love my family and I love when we all get to be together.
Side note: This is my Mamaw's head. This is what Mamaw's head looks like on Saturday night. For as long as I can remember, she has gone through this little ritual of rolling her hair in those weird bristly rollers on Saturday nights. She is getting older now and suffering from dementia but those rollers still go in her hair and, one things for sure, the party is never boring when Mamaw is there.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hot Chocolate and Magic

Taylor was about 7 when she inscribed this recipe per her Granna's instructions. At the time, I remember looking it over and thinking..."this kid needs some spelling lessons". But now that she is 17, it is precious and sweet and actually pretty good for a 7-year-old! Feel free to use the recipe yourself, it is scrumptious.

Once, while Granna was serving hot chocolate to Taylor and Kyle, she was adding marshmallows on top. Of course she was having to count to make sure each had the same amount. Kyle mentioned that his marshmallows were "little" and after a few minutes of stirring their hot brew with their spoons, Taylor looked up from her cup and said "my marshmallows are so tiny, I can't even see them!"

We've had a few little cool spells over the past month, so Taylor's recipe found it's way out of the recipe box and onto the range-hood where it has been pinned with a magnet. She made her first batch of Granna's hot-chocolate a couple of Sunday's ago while I was napping and I awoke to the sweet smell of chocolate. While I was making me some lunch this afternoon I just happened to glance at the recipe and pause briefly to think of my Taylor. I was remembering her when she was so little that we couldn't even find clothes to fit her, and when she was that dainty, prissy toddler with a wisp of golden hair...always so optimistic and forevermore darling.

She also happens to be a lot like her Dad (bless her heart) and tends to do things quite methodically. Once she figures out what she likes, she doesn't need to change it, thank you very much. When Taylor makes hot chocolate, she drinks it out of her "hot-chocolate-cup"
It doesn't matter if it's Christmas or not either. This is the cup that Taylor drinks hot chocolate out of. Amen. She acquired this little trinket with (who else) Granna! They were shopping around at the craft booths at Hoo-Rah days when she was just a little bitty thing when Taylor spotted this cup and had to have it. The lady working at the booth knew mom and they visited for a while and Taylor walked away with what would forever be something special.
There is another cup that resides in my cabinet which holds great importance. It's appears to be just a little jelly jar but you don't know the secret. See when Taylor was about 3-years-old, she got sick like all kids do, nothing major just a little runny nose and a cough. We paid Aunt Susie a visit, like we used to do quite frequently when we lived near her, and Susie gave her this cup. She told her it was magical and would make her well.
See the stars on the top? They are magic stars! When you drink from this cup it will always make you feel better.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that Taylor started feeling better that day, or maybe it was the power of suggestion...I'm not sure, but we are holding on to the cup just in case. And, whenever Taylor feels bad or has to down some nasty medicine, this cup is always handy to add the element of magic to her remedy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Prophetic Fruit

The topic of weather is one that is frequent among country folk. Farmers, gardeners, and the like are constantly concerned with what the weather is doing and, even more so, predicting what the weather is going to do.

Today, the topic came up while we were dumping chickens. Tim, the bus driver that brings us our chickens, mentioned that he had heard rumors of a "bad" winter. We, of course, have been hearing tell of the winter to come, not only from the people in the community but have also heard a few reports on the Weather Channel as well. Tim mentioned pensively that he had even heard that a man in Cove (a town just north of here) had found a spoon in a persimmon seed!

This was not the first time I had heard the folklore of predicting the coming winter by cutting open a persimmon seed. We began a long discussion on what the spoon was supposed to represent. Apparently there are 3 formations that the inside of a persimmon seed can take on; a spoon, a knife, or a fork. The spoon was surely representative of a cold hard winter but nobody knew for sure what the others predicted, and we were even a little cloudy on the spoon.

So, being the perpetual student I am, I began my research as soon as I had a chance. My first assignment was to find me some persimmons! I knew there were some persimmon trees on the farm but I wasn't sure where. I was already dirty and couldn't think of anything that sounded more fun than traipsing through the woods in the cold misty rain looking for persimmons. (that was not sarcasm by the way) The usual trees were easy for me to find, the sweet-gums, the hickory, the oaks and the maple, but I was having a hard time identifying any persimmons. Finally, I saw a single fruit on the ground and looked up to find more hanging on the tree. It's things like this that bring a farm girl so much joy! I had found what I was looking for.

Before I even thought about the consequences I gave the tree a good shake. Did I mention that it was misting rain? The persimmon tree bestowed upon me a lovely shower of the freshest Arkansas rain drops ever, and kindly dropped a few of her persimmons as well.
I gathered up the prettiest ones and brought them to the house. This is when I sat down and did a little research. First of all, I know you're all dying to know so I'll tell you what the traditional folklore states.

A fork found in a persimmon seed is indicative of a mild winter.
A knife means a cold icy winter (as in the wind will cut through you like a knife).

And finally, the spoon suggests a very snowy winter (plenty of snow to shovel).

I also found out through my research that in traditional Chinese medicine, the persimmon fruit regulates chi (or your life energy flow)!! I also discovered that it is used to treat constipation and I'll just take their word for that.
So, on I went with my little experiment. I removed the seed from the fruit and, yes, it is as slippery as it looks. I rinsed and rinsed that pretty little seed but it stayed just a slimy as when it emerged from it's little pod. I finally decided to try and dry it with some paper towels and eventually just held it in the toweling while I attempted to slice it open. My little paring knife has sliced many a thing, but this was a first and it handled the job beautifully.
EUREKA! And I would dare say that is the shape of a spoon if ever I saw one.
I am so anxious to see what the coming months will bring now that I feel that they have been so accurately predicted. It was intriguing to do the little research I did and besides, who is going to pass on all this whimsical folklore to the next generation? I felt an urgent responsibility and now I can't wait for Taylor and Kyle to get home to share all of this with them. Taylor may roll her eyes at my excitement but I'm sure to get an enthusiastic response from Kyle.

And won't we be even more astonished when the first snowflake of the season falls.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Doggy Daycare

When Taylor and Kyle were little, before they started school, I was a stay-at-home-mom. In order to supplement our income, I also kept other people's kids in my home. There were days when I had as many as 7 children under the age of 5 in my house. It's a wonder I still have my sanity...and even that is questionable.

Today, things at Jenni's house are a little different. However, this morning as I was going about my daily morning activities, I realized they are, in a way, pretty much the same. The only difference is, instead of dealing with small people, I'm dealing with my four-legged children.

I am still required to keep the peace when arguments break out.
Ask people to use their inside voices
explain that it's rude to stick out your tongue
remind people to share their toys
make sure everybody gets ample playtime
clean em up when they get dirty
give kisses when somebody gets a boo boo.

and, what every mother looks forward to, nap time.

It makes me a little sad that Taylor and Kyle are at the age now that they are needing me less and less when in comes to this kind of stuff. Sure, I am still needed for laundry, dinner, and cash, but even more importantly, they need me to be there for them. See things have gone from the overwhelming task of meeting their physical needs, to being the person in their life with whom they need the big stuff; mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. In a way, these can be even more demanding than the physical...but I find if very rewarding to be walking hand-in-hand through our life's journey. See, (and don't tell them this) they teach me too!

And while I dread the next step, which is when they leave my little nest, I am excited to see what God has planned for them. And... I will still have my dogs. (and Rodney)

Monday, October 5, 2009


Like the butterfly pictured above, I am drifting on the currents of life and occasionally landing on random flowers. I am hoping and praying that this is just a phase, even though it is something that I've battled my whole life...I'm optimistic enough to believe that the "phase" will pass and I will become a normal person.

There is absolutely no direction in my life. Aren't you glad you visited my blog today? No direction I'm telling you. It is easy for me to blame my state-of-confusion on A.D.D. and I've often used this excuse. Truth is, I don't allow, nor have I ever allowed, Kyle to use this as an excuse. "You're just going to have to work harder than everybody else, but in turn you will appreciate your accomplishments more because it didn't come easy for you." Yep, I have spoken these words to my son while I myself am battling to merely keep my head above water.

I feel as if I stumbled into a marriage, tripped into motherhood and fell head first into farming. Looking around me now, I wonder how in the world I got here. I know I love me life, I know I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world but boy would I love a little structure.

Those people like Martha Stewart, who so many of us love to hate, have always enticed me with their organized (or seemingly organized) lives. How do they do that? How do they have all of these things to do and do it so gracefully and efficiently? Why can't I be like that?

I know what my creative capabilities are, but I have no idea how to put them to use. I think I need some therapy, or one of those professional organizers to give me a plan, or maybe a drill sergeant to whip me into shape. Although a drill sergeant would just make me cry and want my mommy. Am I the only person that feels this way? Please say it ain't so.

What I am hoping for is that this "low point" in my little life will spur me on to grow and be better. I want to grow into one of those women that is up early, making breakfast in a CLEAN kitchen, who sends her family off for their day with bellies full and with kisses on their cheeks and a song in their heart. To go about my day with fully structured chores, feeding animals, making soap, taking photos, paying bills, fixing fence, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, preparing meals, visiting sick people, working in the garden, buying groceries, filling prescriptions, helping my parents, building cabinets and on and on. Now, mind you, I DO all of these things...but I do it more like the tasmanian devil leaving a path of destruction in my wake. Clumsy, crazy, completely unstructured little me, trying to be ethereal and light and methodical.

So, I am pondering what to do with all of this insanity that is in my lap. Do I wrap it up in a tight little ball and embrace it? Or do I pull myself up by my boot straps and "get with the program"? Maybe that drill sergeant isn't such a bad idea...does anybody know where I can find one of those? One thing is for sure, no matter how crooked and winding my path may be...I AM moving forward (or falling forward). There is no stopping the train I'm on and that baby keeps going faster and faster. Perhaps I'll find a little peace along the way maybe even a glimpse of order and structure and figure out what in the heck I'm doing.