29 August 2009

How to Bury Yourself in the County

Well some of us love it in the country, but, actually moving to the country can be a bit daunting. For those of you who want some expertise on moving to the country, check out Vivian Ellis' witty 1960's tome, How to Bury Yourself In the Country.

"You don't know how lucky you are to live in the country -- away from it all," Ellis is told by a friend. He is appalled by that thought, as the stream is full of litter, people ask for directions, and quite often, children and grown men relieve themselves in the field. "All" seem to be right there in the front field! I know of what he speaks. My friends said, "You don't know how lucky you are to live in the country -- it's so quiet." I am here to tell you, the country is the nosiest place I have ever lived! Grant it, I rarely hear automatic weapons in West Virginia (in DC I could distinguish between a Uzi and an AK-47). Here, every drip, cricket, bird, and log truck are amplified ten-fold.

As for the neighbors around you, Ellis rightfully observes, "for the first ten years no one will recognize you officially. A stay of less than a decade means you are a visitor."

My first delivery from UPS caused some confusion for the driver. When he finally found me he exclaimed, "Why didn't you say you lived in Opal's house?" After several years, I still live in Opal's house.

Fear not, however, the country is a great place, so go out there and bury yourself! I am hopeful that one day the UPS man will utter the phrase, “Why didn’t you tell me you lived in Lucinda’s house?”

27 August 2009

Dominick Dunne, 1925 - 2009

My first stop when finding a Vanity Fair in my mailbox was to see what Dominick Dunne was up to. He was the quintessential outsiders, insider. His own story reads very much like the fiction he wrote.

In 1964, Dunne and his wife, Lenny, threw a lavish black and white ball to celebrate a decade of marriage. One of the guests was Truman Capote. Two years later, Capote replicated the idea for his famous black & white ball. He did not invite the Dunnes!

Finding himself on hard times, Dunne once sold everything he owned, including his dog.

I am rather fond of this image from Life, the way I will remember him, jaunty and inquisitive.

26 August 2009

Edward Moore Kennedy, 1932 - 2009

I was one of the thousands of people who worked for Senator Kennedy during his 46 years in the Senate. He will be greatly missed.

22 August 2009

The Reluctant Gardener

If you are a frequent reader, you will know that I have a love of all books Ethelind Fearon. Today I offer up the last in her “reluctant” series, The Reluctant Gardener. As with all of her "reluctant" titles, Fearon combines biting humor with sound advice.

“To be a real un-gardener needs a bit of skill and determination and I hope to help you with a bit of both, so you can continue playing at horticulture with pleasure and smile at those earnest hard-working folk who for all human purposes are as good as lost. Just let them go their busy ways and do not attempt to compete."
For Fearon, gardening, like entertaining and cooking should be done with whimsy and joy. She sweats the details and then reminds you not to sweat the details. Every garden should have a plan...

but it should have a good plan...

No matter how convenient it may be don't toss the compost out the kitchen door!

As a vegetable gardener who is about to embark on potato digging, I feel I should have read this passage sooner.

“You would be surprised how much of the grim toil undergone by the allotment holder is unnecessary. It is just a self-martyrdom inaugurated by Adam and hallowed by custom and tradition ever since. But you will find:

a. That half the things you sweat over are better bought than grown.
b. The ones that are better grown can be grown much more easily than you thought, and
c. Quite a lot of them will serve two purposes, thereby cutting out one operation, one ache, one moan.

Who wants to grow potatoes anyway?

Well, I wanted to grow them, and I also wanted to read Ethelind Fearon. In the end, I hope to do both, in a rather stylish hat.

19 August 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

Marion Harland was the pen name of Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune. In the late 1800’s and into the 20th Century she was force to be reckoned with. Long before the crass notion of “branding” Harland was just that – a brand. When she was growing up, her father instructed her tutor to: “Educate them as if they were boys and preparing for college,” At 23 she published her first novel, a book that sold over 100,000 copies.

In 1882, Harland wrote Eve’s Daughters or Common Sense for the Maid, Wife and Mother. It was a detailed tome on raising a daughter from her birth to the death of her husband. Presumably, if she had a husband, she would by now have children, so her life was mapped out from her birth till his death. In 1882, that was the only chosen course, lest, as one young woman put it, "Think of the disgrace of having one's maiden name inscribed upon her tomb-stone!"

“Your career is mapped out for you by Sex and Circumstance.”

Mrs. Harlan does not mince her words.

At birth we hear the popular refrain, "It's nuffin but a girl-baby! It ought to be drowneded." And you thought this utterance was only heard in India and not from the mouths of good Christian husbands in Pennsylvania! Yet, there it is. The awful truth.

Once you have this child you must remember to feed it carefully, lest you turn it into an idiot or worse a copse. A woman comes for a ball-room and gives her breast to a 3 month old. The child is taken with spasms and in two hours, "is a confirmed idiot and epileptic." So much for Dancing With the Stars!

Follow these steps and you will be fine as will your daughters.

About Hygiene:

" Every girl and every woman should wash thoroughly, down to the waist, at least once a day."

"There are seasons when, as every old woman knows, the cold bath must be omitted."

About Food:

"Salt is a sovereign styptic that, if taken in large quantities, can dry up the blood."

"Black pepper is highly inflammatory. Cancers have been formed in the coat of the stomach by lavish and continued use of black pepper."

About Clothing:

"We wear flannel next to the skin, plenty of loose undergarments in winter ...and educated women no linger lace tightly."

She should...wear black or sober colors, and shun the, to some people, easily-besetting sin of gaudy trimmings."

Mrs. Harland's book was a success, prompting Oliver Wendel Homes to write,:

"I am glad to see that your counsel to your sex so marked by discretion and based on knowledge of the complex elements of the problem you have to deal with. It is needed and will be very useful, especially coming from a woman who knows what she is talking about."

It is easy to find humor in such a book on a morning that most women got up, washed above and BELOW the waist, headed off to work in a brightly colored shirt and in some cases sign in with their maiden name, even though they are married.

So take pause today, and thank that woman who burned her bra so others could rest happily under a tombstone bearing her own name.

Check out Marion Harland's cookbook at Coobookoftheday.

18 August 2009

Zelda Fitzgerald's Paintings

It’s very difficult to be two simple people at once,
one who wants to have a law to itself and the other
who wants to keep all the nice old things
and be loved and safe and protected.

Zelda Fitzgerald

In her novel, Save Me The Waltz, the character, Alabama Beggs, utters the above. To me, it is the quintessential definition of Southern women. At a tag sale several years ago, a friend looked up to see me walking with my purchases -- a pair of motor cross boots and a sifter painted with roses. "You are too confusing," she said. She never read Zelda Fitzgerald! My explanation: I might need to bake a cake and rush it to someone on my motor bike.

Save Me the Waltz
is a flawed book, though we don't have the original manuscript of the novel.
Scott Fitzgerald believed that "their" life was "his" property and when he found out that Zelda's novel used the same material he was mining for Tender Is the Night, he forced numerous changes before he allowed it to be published. The original manuscript and well as the revisions have been lost.

Fortunately, we sill have Zelda's paintings. This weekend, Harry Lowe and I were talking about artists from Alabama and he mentioned Zelda. It had been a while since I had looked at them.

Times Square

A series of her images of New York City were turned into note cards several years ago. These are the images.

Grand Central

Fifth Avenue

Central Park

Brooklyn Bridge

In 1996, Eleanor Lanahan, Zelda Fitzgerald's granddaughter, collected her painting for publication in Zelda: An Illustrated Life.

It is well worth the price of admission. It is also very difficult to be two simple people, but it can be a lot of fun.

16 August 2009

It's A Boy...

And my name is going to be...


Alabama A.K.A. "Bama"

Ashley Wilkes A.K.A. "Wilkie"

Murry McMurray A.K.A. "Macky"

08 August 2009

Drip Dryin'

The Two Man Gentleman Band is by far and away one of my favorite things. More than raindrops on roses! I feel EVERYONE should be listening to them and I am SHOCKED, simply shocked that they are not featured in some nifty commercial so everyone will hear them.

I love them because:

1. There are so few places one can find TWO gentlemen on one place and the gentlemanly arts seem to be on the wane. Here's to their revival!

2. Guitars and drums are so passé. We need to hear more bands featuring banjos and kazoos.

3. They wear hats. I love a man in a hat!

4. They write about food...OK maybe it's not about food and that, in and of itself, makes them the best double-entendre band around. You have to go way back to the 1930's to find such fulfilling food songs.

5. They are witty. Not funny, witty (in that Cole Porter, Stephin Merritt vein of wittyness) and they make me smile and in today's world there is really no more to be said.

So here's to the two-man resurrection or invention of nouveau--vaudeville. Go, right now, and buy a CD. Seriously, buy a CD or send them a dollar! Check out their blog at Dear Internet.

Click and listen to my favorite Two Man Gentleman Band Song from their CD, Heavy Petting .

Dippin' Sauce -MP3 Two Man Gentleman Band

The next time you run across the two gentleman, give them a doff of the hat and a dollar...each.

07 August 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Sting

Today, we took the Cookbook of the Day, post! It's only fair as they are always stealing our Famous Food Friday posts.

Down the road about two miles from Stonehenge is the Lake House, not so much a “house” as a castle. In 1991, Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler bought the Lake House and spent 5 years restoring the house and grounds.

Now they have a lovely house (castle) with lovely gardens. Of course they have gardeners and greenhouses and a kitchen staff and well, she is married to Sting, he makes $2000 dollars a day from the royalties to Every Breath You Take, alone. Think of what he makes with Roxanne thrown in.

So now Trudie has a castle, a garden, and a cook so the natural progression is to write a cookbook. Aside from the fact that I don’t have a gardener or two or seven and that I stand in the kitchen alone, I really like this cookbook. And I really aspire to Trudie's kitchen garden! The cook, Joseph Sponzo, is credited as the co-author, though Styler gets top billing. The food is good and reasonably easy for those of us sans staff.

Fire Roasted Onions

2 small red onions, peeled and trimmed and each cut into 6 wedges
3 slices smoked bacon, each cut into 4 pieces crosswise
12 small sprigs marjoram
6 teaspoons olive oil
6 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 400 F or prepare a charcoal grill that is medium hot. Cut 12 pieces of kitchen foil measuring 8 inches square.

Place one wedge of onion, cut side down, on a piece of foil. Top with a piece of bacon, a few grinds of pepper and a sprig of marjoram. Drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1.2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Pull the edges of the foil together to make a generous parcel and seal the edges. Repeating with the remaining ingredients

Transfer the onion parcels to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Alternately, place the parcels on the grill of a medium-hot fire and cook until the onions are tender.

Even without a cook, you can make these....

For more on the Lake House check out his Architectural Digest spread from 2007.

I knew I should have married Sting when I had the chance! Instead, this month, Sting and Trudie will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary. The "traditional" gift for the 17th anniversary is furniture. Frankly, I am at a loss as to what to get them.

06 August 2009

Fair Pies

Yesterday was the big Apple Pie contest at the Tyler County Fair. I was a bit late getting my act together but I entered two pies.

An Apple Cardamom Pie in the "use a store bought crust" category.


A Carmel Apple Pie in an Herbed Crust in the "make your own crust" category.

It was my first "Fair" entry and I place second in both categories. I was shut out of First Place by Lynn "The Pieman" Burns. For the second straight time, Lynn swept all four apple pie categories! I heard his "Best in Show" ribbon was already hanging over the coffee pot. Congratulations, Lynn.

Just wait till next year!
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