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.








Saturday, October 29, 2016

Life Goals


Every night I set my alarm clock for 4am with the intention of rising early in order to have some me  time before the crazy of the day begins. If I'm up at 4, I have enough time to sip my coffee, relax a bit in front of the computer, exercise and maybe even blow out my hair because sometimes I like to look presentable when I go to work.
I am a visual person so as I doze off I mentally walk through what the next morning will look like; from boiling the water for the coffee to the healthy lunch I will pack myself to the six pack abs I will have as a result of all that hard earned exercise. I think of ways I can be good to others and how I can leave the world just a little bit better off than it was the day before because I always like to do my part. I eventually drift off into dreamland happy, confident and proud of how ambitious and on point I am.
The reality is that every single morning I hit snooze until 6:30/ quarter to 7. When I am finally able to drag myself out of bed I am super stiff and achy because two dogs lay by my feet limiting my movement for a solid 8 hours. I let them out, hobble into the kitchen to put the kettle on and head downstairs to feed Frankie. By then the kettle is usually boiling and as I pour the water over the coffee grounds I will sometimes remember a forgotten load of wash that now smells like mildew so I have to rerun it on the sanitize option in order to get the stink out. You know it's bad when your family inquires if their clothes smell when you come carrying a freshly folded pile of laundry into their rooms.
By the time the carafe is filled it's light enough to let the chickens out so I throw on wellies and head out to the barn and the coop. The ladies come dashing out and wildly prance around getting their morning exercise while I am out of breathe with legs that feel like jelly just walking back up the hill to the house. So much for that six pack. I maybe have 15 minutes to sit and suck down my coffee before jumping in the shower and getting dressed. My super curly unbrushed hair that I have been shoving into a bun everyday has dreadlocked itself which means I will have to spend extra time trying brush them out someday soon or maybe I say the hell with it and just start wearing my nose ring again and going with my own brand of a 40 something punk/ alternative look? Decisions, decisions.
Breakfast tends to be a pack of animal crackers or fruit snacks eaten in the car on a generally long drive to wherever I am working that day. After a "healthy" breakfast like that it only makes sense to eat some kind of fast food for lunch so there's that. If I'm lucky sometimes I make it home before the sun sets, figure out if we will follow through with our meal plan for the night or just have what we have dubbed a "fend for yourself" night  (because thanks to all the highly nutritious stuff I consumed during the day I am sometimes not even hungry). I maybe have about 2 hours to hang out with the family before bed time and setting that alarm for 4am because tomorrow will surely, surely be different, right?
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result isn't it? Just checking.....
My follow through to these best laid plans may be pathetic but a few Sundays ago as we drove to church I decided out of the blue that I was going to treat them all to kick ass grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch when we got home. No one got their hopes up thanks to my recent track record of follow through. This mildly annoyed me because I am an ambitious woman who can do anything she puts her mind to. I would show them. A few hours later I fried bacon, sliced tomatoes, saved a gorgeous loaf of artisan baked bread from molding and took great care to layer an extra slice of cheese on each sandwich (because melted cheese of course) when I realized that I may not cross things off on my to do list, be on top of everything I want to be on point with or to even be the upstanding social citizen I wish I was (sometimes recycling is annoying and I don't let people pull out in front of me when driving because they might be too slow), but dammit: when push comes to shove I can make one hell of a grilled cheese sandwich when I want to.
That my friends, is success. I'll take it where I can get it.
(Just turn your eyes from the dirty dishes that are probably still in the sink)