Sunday, October 30, 2016

You So Fancy

As a child, my family headed down to Florida on bi~annual summer visits to see my paternal grandparents MeeMee and Tee. MeeMee was originally named Meemaw by my older cousins, but then I came along and could only say MeeMee and it stuck.  I have no idea how we started calling my grandfather Tee, unless it was somehow derived from his middle name which was Lee. Everyone on my dad's side had weird nicknames. My great grandmother Laura was called Moonie, my grandmother's identical twin sister Louise was Boo and Moonie's sister was known as Auntie John but her real name was Ruth. Tee used to call me Mabel and my sister Mildred. I loved being called Mabel because it was sweet and pretty. To this very day it drives my sister crazy that she was Mildred because it's just not as nice as Mabel. Weird names aside, my grandparents must have been able to only take so much of 4 rambunctious kids because visits were bi~annual and we would never stay at their house. They would always rent us a condo right on the beach somewhere in the Clearwater area. 
All day long we would bounce between the pool and the beach begrudgingly coming inside between 12-2 pm because our mother was terrified our pasty pale Irish/Scotch bodies would burn to a crisp under the hot Florida sun. Family legend had it that one of our cousins once stayed outside between 12-2 and paid the price with a very bad case of sun poisoning. After the danger of being scorched by the sun had passed, it was back to the pool where cannonballs and spitting water abounded or down to the beach where you could safely pee in the water without being discovered. In the late afternoon we were once again dragged back inside kicking and screaming while spit shined, dressed up and loaded into the wood paneled station wagon for dinner over at MeeMee and Tee's. Dinner would be an hours long affair that began with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Every single night. 
My very petite grandmother who spent her days in slim, tailored ankle pants, cardigan twin sets and loafers would have slipped into something more dressy like a perfectly Floridian flowy caftan. She served Old Fashioneds and Tom Collins in her fancy crystal while my parents tried in vain to keep us from devouring an entire platter of pigs in a blanket. A few cocktails in they stopped counting how many hot dogs we had eaten and would usually share the booze soaked fruit leftover from their drinks. If not, there would always be an abandoned glass somewhere in which you could scavenge a slice or two of whiskey soaked orange and some maraschino cherries. That friends, is why my brother Tom and I both call the Old Fashioned our favorite drink. Those delicious memories run deep.
When dinner was finally served it was at the dining room table under the watchful eye of Grandfather Taylor whose portrait hung over the giant mahogany buffet. We never misbehaved at that table because no matter where you were sitting in the room he was watching you. He had been a Methodist minister in East Tennessee and I don't think anyone ever gave him a nickname simply because he was terrifying. We would never go into that dining room alone and God forbid you had to and the lights were out. Holy shit. You just knew that he would climb out of that painting and get you. Ironically, he now presides over my dining room table and I've become quite fond of the old fella. Oddly enough, he doesn't watch me anymore. Maybe because he's happy I brought him back to Tennessee after all these years.

My mother's family was the exact same way, minus the strange nicknames. I grew up firmly rooted in the notion that you always ate at the dining room table on the fancy china and if there was company, booze must flow first and little hot dogs rolled up tight in some lightly browned and slightly puffed breading should always be served. It wasn't because we were raised by amazingly talented chefs who entertained to show off their cooking prowess. The food was always good but not Michelin starred meals. This was just how they lived. Elevating the everyday into something just a little more special even if it was just with the people you love most.
I am fortunate that aside from all the ancestral oil paintings, I also inherited the entertaining gene. I'm no professional chef, but enjoy nothing more than feeding people I love at a beautifully set table. After over 20 years of doing it myself, I've found that there is no need for fancy crystal, floor length tablecloths or mini hot dogs. Just plenty of booze and a watchful ancestor will do. Although the hot dogs are always a nice touch.

Our deck is hand down the best spot for all of my entertaining aspirations. I did not find outdoor furniture I loved this summer and while sad at first that it cramped my style, it was actually serendipitous because we discovered that many of the boards on the deck were not cut long enough to safely support weight. Charlie discovered this standing in front of the smoker in the front left corner. Horrifying. Imagine if I had loaded a table, chairs, bar and the outdoor sectional I dream about on there? I shudder to think. By the end of September the boys had replaced all the offending boards and even added the posts and lighting I asked for. Now Charlie and I enjoy the deck most evenings sitting under the lights on our fold up camp chairs. Hey, if those camp chairs were good enough to serve as living room furniture in the apartment then they are good enough to serve as deck furniture too. For now at least.

Now that cooler weather is finally upon us I decided that I cannot wait for proper outdoor furniture or a freshly painted deck and posts to entertain outside. Life's too short. We invited some good friends over to share a meal and reminded them to bring their own camp chairs.
I lugged a fold up banquet table out of the barn and threw a huge piece of striped fabric and a denim remnant over the top just like I did for the pop up market. I not only grabbed mix matched vintage glasses, flatware and napkins but even dining chairs too. We served Joan's fabulous pot roast, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans from the farmer's market followed by an amazing apple pie that really deserves it's own post.
There was an epic game of Catchphrase with the kids outside as the sun set and I'm glad that we didn't worry about the level of fancy ~ we seized the moment and just did life.


  1. Haha we are REALLY on the same wavelength as I have a post coming up called "Celebrate, regardless". Love it. We have a bunch of the creepy ancestor paintings but I haven't made my peace with them. It's weird because one looks so much like me except he has brown eyes and a bad attitude. One of them has a bullet hole through it that is said to be from the Civil War. Now how that became the legend or if it was ever remotely verified, I doubt it. I always figured it was because someone got creeped out and shot him when he was looking! Our days were much the same when we went to Naples to see my GG. Though she favored just Canadian Club with a splash of water.

    1. Sometimes my grandparents had Canadian Club with orange juice ~ we call it a CC and OJ and I occasionally make them if we have breakfast for dinner or brunch or something similar. Too funny!
      Grandfather Taylor used to hang in my office in the NJ house but as I decorated the new house I felt he would prefer to be back in his rightful place presiding over all the dining.Civil War bullet hole?!?!? How amazing if you could get that verified!
      Years ago when I first decided to use all the family oil paintings in my own decor my daughter thought it was just as Halloween decorations. When Halloween came and went and the paintings stayed put she was totally dismayed. Fortunately, she's gotten used to them all keeping an eye on her. :)