All posts by katemckeever

Homecoming

Do you remember Homecoming at your church? I’ve been to many of them, from my childhood through adulthood, but the best memories I have of them are the ones when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I’m sure I have great memories of later ones too, but when I think of Homecoming, it’s those days that come to memory. It’s the middle of summer, the season for Homecoming, hence the memories.

I remember the crowds. The church pews were always full with visiting family members, people who came to visit for the weekend and church members that didn’t always make it on a regular basis. My family’s church was a small one by today’s standards, but was moderate to large for our neighborhood. There would be a visiting pastor, usually one that had ministered our church before, and we’d have an all day singing, eating and visiting time.

The singing would be a bit discordant, I bet, but everyone in the choir (including a redheaded little girl) sang with enthusiasm. And then the preacher would spend at least forty-five minutes preaching, usually loudly. Homecoming always occurred during the summer and our church didn’t have air conditioning, so every woman in the place had funeral home fans in their hands trying to stir the air. The pungent smell of perfume, sweat and the food stored downstairs in the basement fellowship hall combined to make an interesting and unforgettable mix.

After the preaching, we’d all troop downstairs for food. Long tables were filled with food, from fried chicken to beef, chicken and dumplings, and every summer vegetable you could think of and some I didn’t dare try to identify. My favorite meal for those days consisted of fried chicken, deviled eggs, rolls and fresh cucumbers and tomato slices. And then there were the drinks. My mother and dad didn’t think soda was something you should drink on a daily basis, so a soda was a treat. The Homecoming drinks were stored in tubs of ice, so the drinks were cold and wonderful. Orange Crush was my favorite, or Grape.

And the desserts? Yum! German Chocolate cake, banana pudding, rice pudding, and pies galore. Always more than anyone could eat.

After we stuffed ourselves, we’d trudge upstairs again and have more singing. Finally, at the end of the day, we’d return home, hopefully with an extra slice of cake for the next day.

Do you remember Homecoming? What is your favorite memory?

Staycations

Like most people, I really look forward to my vacation time in the summer. Usually that means going to the beach. Now, I’m not especially a “beach person”, but I love the idea of getting away from it all, to relax and do things I normally don’t do. But this year, for several reasons, I decided to stay home, or as the modern phrases go, have a staycation.
For me, sometimes a staycation means redoing floors, catching up on chores and generally working myself into a stupor. But this year, my mom and sister, brother in law came down for a few days and we decided to go thrifting. We went to several thrift stores, both large organization and smaller ones around the area. While we didn’t cover more than ten percent of the thrift stores in the city, we had a good time searching out “treasures”.
I needed some costumes for an upcoming event that I’m going to, my mom wanted to look for vintage furniture and my brother in law for tools and craft items. My sister just enjoyed hunting around in the stores. We all have a tendency to do the “trash for treasure” thing, and I think most of the enjoyment we had was spending some time together, not having to travel to far distant locations or follow a time table. I’m looking forward to more “staycation” fun, like redoing my bedroom and crafting. Did I mention I got some furniture that needs to be refinished?
Do you enjoy staying home or are you someone who has to travel to relax?

Weird turkey dance

IMG_7366 turkey fight crop_2

I have the good fortune of living in the suburbs and have a cow pasture that borders my back yard. As a result, in addition to the cows and calves, the burro and birds that I get to watch I get to scope out a lot of different animals. Over the course of the year, I have an opportunity to watch the wild turkeys that live in my cow pasture and the woods around it. I’m used to seeing them in the winter, when they leave their usual area and branch out into the yards of my neighborhood. It’s not unusual to see a flock of birds traipsing through my yard on their way to wherever they are headed. I love just to stand and watch them strut along.
I’m also seeing them in the late spring now. I guess they are hatching and nesting, but also the males are trying to establish their own dominance.
The other day I saw something that was unusual, or so I thought. I was leaving my car after running an errand early that morning when I glanced up toward the pasture. I saw two turkeys from the neck up, their necks intertwined and engaged in something that looked suspiciously like a dance. So, of course I had to find out what they were doing.
Had I interrupted a “special moment”? A fight? Two very awkward birds? I went to the internet and started looking. It turned out that the males of the species engage in some fighting behavior to establish dominance and the “weird turkey dance” that I saw was such a fight. I didn’t stick around to see who won, but chalked it up to another interesting experience in my observations so far this year.
Do you have wildlife living near you? Do you see them on a regular basis? What are your favorites?

Discovering new foods

grits

Each summer, when I go on vacation, I try to have something I haven’t had before. Over the years, I’ve tried various greens (kale, arugula, so on), as well as buffalo burgers, shark and eel, and a soft shell crab sandwich that didn’t go over so well.
This year, I’m having a staycation and so need to try something new here in town. Yesterday, I went to a restaurant with some friends and one of them ordered an appetizer that came with grits.
Now, I know this is the south and grits are a staple here, but I’ve never particularly wanted to eat them, though I liked similar foods (cream of wheat, for instance). But in a fit of needing something to feed my stress, I asked if I could taste my friend’s grits.
She mentioned that she doesn’t like grits so offered them to me. I tasted them and instantly fell in love. Instead of being gritty, like their name, the grits were a combination of textures, smooth with a hint of crunch. They had a buttery flavor and were an immediate solution for my stress. I had another spoonful, then another before the server came and removed the plate. Good thing, I probably would have eaten the whole serving in addition to the salad I’d ordered.
So, today, I went to the grocery and bought grits to add to my shelves. And I’ll have to think of something else to try on my staycation!
What about you?
Do you stick with the same old same old in food or do you try new things occasionally? What has been your favorite new food? What about your misses? Which reminds me, I’ll tell you about my soft shell crab experience another time!

zz/’…………..//

My keyhole garden

A while ago, during my time online, I found an article about building keyhole gardens. These are basically gardens made of stone (or whatever durable material you have) with compostable material filling three fourths of it. In the center of the garden is a compost bin, which is meant to constantly feed the garden. Finally, on top of the garden is soil or manure and then the plants.

The garden is meant to be a self sustaining, self watering garden after it’s established. Now, I live in the US south, no SubSaharan Africa, which where the gardens are most beneficial, but in the middle of summer, the lack of rain and heat can be murder on my little gardens. So, I thought, what the hey, I’ll try it.

Whew! After I cleared the weeds from my little wedge garden, I started collecting stone from around my house and property (I’d bought and used river rock as borders over the years). Here is the start of the garden after one afternoon.

keyhole 1

I didn’t get back to the garden for a while but when I did, I hit it hard. I kind of enjoyed the rock building, to be honest. I had to figure out how to stack rock without them toppling. However, when I started adding and tamping down then watering the cardboard boxes I used as compost, one section of the wall collapsed. I rebuilt it stronger and finished up with the boxes and brush. Each time I thought I had the thing filled, I got in and pushed down the cardboard with my feet and then started over. A year of collecting boxes (I thought for Goodwill) paid off. I transferred my compost bin into the metal tube in the middle of the garden, after I found out that loppers can be used to cut metal!

keyhole 3

Here is the garden ready for dirt and planting.keyhole 5

finished keyhole garden      finished keyhole 2

And here is the final product. I’ve planted tomatoes and peppers so far but the garden is supposed to be overplanted to conserve water. Maybe I’ll add some other stuff.

I’ll try to let you all know what happens as the summer progresses. But even if it is a bust, I have a conversation piece in my back yard! And guess what? I finished it just in time for a rain.

It’s Garden Time!

I love spring planting, don’t you? Only I have a big problem, I plan more than my hands can handle. So, every year, I try to pare down. But not this year, obviously.
I planned a few things that I always plant, tomatoes, green peppers and I also added leaf lettuce. I also planted cucumbers and yellow squash, with hopes that a newfound chipmunk that lives in my back yard doesn’t find them more appetising than the seeds that are around the pasture behind me. Any ideas how to discourage a chipmunk and rabbit (which also visits my back yard) without harming them?

I also have a BIG project planned this year. It’s a keyhole garden. A keyhole garden is a raised bed garden with a compost area in the middle and once it’s finished, is a water saving garden. Sadly, it’s still in the process of being built (moving rocks from one part of my yard to another is tough) but when I’m finished I’ll post a picture. I’m excited by it. It will be a space saver and a conversation piece too.

Finally, and this isn’t gardening, I have the never-ending battle against weeds in my yard to contend with. Again, I try not to use chemicals so I constantly work at the job. Oh, well, it’s Spring and the time for growth, both of vegetables and weeds.

What are you planting this year?

Appalachian Favorites: Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge

I know, I’m late with this but it’s been a favorite for Christmas for years. My mom makes this every year and every year my diet goes south for the duration of time it takes to eat it. She swears it’s super easy. I just know it’s the creamiest fudge I’ve ever eaten.

 4 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine (my mom prefers the taste of margarine)
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk (she swears by this, says it’s what makes the fudge creamy)
1 cup marshmallow cream
2 cups peanut butter (either creamy or crunchy; I prefer the crunchy)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish, glass does better than metal, in my opinion. Over medium heat, combine sugar, brown sugar, butter and evaporated milk in a thick sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 7 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; stir in marshmallow creme until melted.  Stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Spread in pan.  Let cool before cutting into squares.The fudge is very rich so you can cut it into smaller squares.
Hope you had a very Merry Christmas! I’ll be back in the new year with more old fashioned recipes.

Southwestern Virginia Reading Council

I was a guest today at the Southwestern Virginia Reading Council Fall Conference in Abingdon. My session, Taking Memories, Making Tales talked about how to use memories to help children with writing assignments, as well as the importance of teaching our children the traditions of Appalachia. I also talked about using my memories of growing up in Appalachia and writing Granny Gathers. The forty or so people who were in my session were great, with good discussions. Thanks so much for having me, SWRC!

Appalachian Favorites: Oatmeal Drop Cookies

This may not be strictly Appalachian, but it’s one of my all-time favorite candies. My mother used to make this on a regular basis and we still asked for more when I was growing up. I guess the reason I think of these as Appalachian is, when I grew up, none of my “Northern” friends knew about it.  Mom made these in the fall and winter a lot. She nearly always had the ingredients on hand. It’s easy, quick and relatively cheap to make. Warning- it’s also addictive.

The recipe is named a cookie recipe, but, for me, it’s a dreamy, chocolate candy. Here’s the way my mother made it.

Oatmeal Drop Cookies

2 cups white granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan heat sugar, evaporated milk until melted. Add cocoa, stir and heat to boiling. Boil one minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter, oats and stir. Add vanilla and stir in at the end. Drop spoonfuls onto waxed paper. After the cookies are set, remove from waxed paper and store in a container with lid or plastic bag.

 

Appalachian Favorites- Mom’s Chip Dip

I know, there are so many dips for chips available now, with packaged mixes, ready to eat dips and so on, but this is fantastic. I still prefer this dip over any that I eat now, and I can honestly say I am an expert at chips and dip. I asked my mom where she got this recipe and she said she just came up with it one day. I haven’t looked in depth for a similar recipe, but here is the one we devoured when we were young. It’s best with kettle chips or rippled chips.

Cream cheese chip dip

1 8 oz. block of cream cheese

1/4 cup chopped onion (adjust this to taste)

1/4 cup diced dill pickles (again, adjust to taste. My mother used regular hamburger dill slices, but you can use any you prefer)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together ingredients. Don’t omit the salt and pepper, it adds just that something. Chill for at least one half hour, serve with chips. Serves 4.