Nov 2, 2013

Fall Back...Spring Forward

Since we all gain an hour tonight, I thought I would use that extra hour to visit with you all. The air turned very cold this evening and while snuggled on the sofa, I started to go through some old image files and clean them out. I discovered that I never shared with you  our visit to Abe Lincoln's home in Springfield, IL.

It has been a few years since that visit, and as I started to look through the images, I discovered something kind of funny. I began to notice how familiar Mr.Lincoln's home began to look to me. While it is wildly decorated (and you will understand the term "wildly" in a moment once you take a gander at the wallpaper), there is a vague sense of familiarity to it as well. I also find it ironic that I made this discovery on the night we all turn our clocks back an hour. It might be only an hour we turn back, but as I look around my room, here, I think my clock has turned waaaay back, so far so, that I am finding quite a few things in my home that are also a part of the Lincoln's home. 

I thought you might like to visit Abe's home, and maybe you might find yourself feeling a little familiar with some of the objects you see as well.

Here is Abe Lincoln's home. And while it isn't as grand or stately as many brand new homes today, it does have a feeling of purpose...shutters that actually work and close off the windows. Not like the new ones today which are just ornamental. Windows galore, as there wasn't electricity back then. A strong fence to keep IN the kids, rather than to keep out strangers. Two chimneys to house the several wood stoves...the only source of heat. Yes, a very pretty house, with lots of purpose.

Upon entering, there are two main rooms. One on the left and one on the right. This is obviously the room for visitors who came calling. For a man who is always shown wearing black, his house is very colorful. Mary Todd Lincoln, I am sure had something to do with the decor, as she was determined to be fashionable.

This is the other main room, on the other side of the house, where little light was getting. I apologize ahead of time for some of the dark or fuzzy photos. We were on a tour and had to "keep moving" along. But this room is more of the family room as you can see much plainer furniture...

The wallpaper is different in every room. And the rugs all seemed to have some sort of red pattern as well. 

The bedroom were very cozy and all had wood stoves...

But as I began to zero in on the items in the room, and not the room as a whole...that is when that feeling of familiarity started to creep in. (Who is that in the mirror? :-)

I zeroed in on the ironstone, of course. And the linens? I have some just like these right next to me almost within arm's reach.

And being married to a barber, yes, we really do have a razor strop hanging in our bathroom (and he uses it), along with a straight razor as well.

Of course, I spied the soap and the ironstone soap many times have we all spied those dishes at antique stores...and while we might like them, it is neat to think that Abe's dish is as common as those we find, collect, and even use.

And I thought how funny to see his old books on the table, and how many of us LOVE old books and stack them on the table for decoration? I really wish I had brought my big purse that day...never can have too many old books...I'm just say'n...

More old books. I tried to get a better pic of his items in the cubby holes, but the desk was too far away and I'm stuck behind the rope...but I really relate to the cubby I have cubby hole shelf on my desk, and it is filled with goodies too.

Heading towards the kitchen now, I stop in my tracks as I eye the beautiful ironstone and even smile as I realize I have very similar plates and soup tureens as well. Now I REALLY wish I had my giant purse with me...

Now the kitchen is where I really felt at home! I cook with cast iron all the time...Have a French towel hanging on my wall just like the one in the back. Jars, jugs, and crocks...yes, those too. And the cutting board, well, I love very old cutting boards.

And the mortar and pestle? Have several and I do use them. I have no doubt that many of you have these items as well. And I even have an oil lamp hung on the wall, over my stove, with mercury glass behind it that I do light in the winter. Suddenly my "stuff" seems a little bit more regal, and not so ordinary.

After my visit with "the Lincolns," and revisiting these old images, it is apparent how much we, as a culture, have changed. And yet, how many of us grasp for a bit of the past? Why? Do we want things simpler, even though harder to do and inconvenient? In my very limited knowledge of history, culture, and anthropology, it is in my humble opinion that while life may be "easier" now than back then, we do more. Period. 

With a quick flick of our finger, we have light. Back then, the lamp must be filled with oil, the wick trimmed, and the flame adjusted periodically, as well as the glass cleaned after it cools down. All for a less-than-perfect light. But the thing is, lighting an oil lamp took time. And while we can just flick a switch in seconds...what exactly do we do with all that time we just saved from not having to light an oil lamp?

See where I am going with this? Easy to flick a switch and it saves loads of time, but what exactly do we do with all that extra time we just saved? Want a hot bath? Turn on the faucet. Back then? Chop some wood,start the wood stove, heat up water, and fill and refill the tub over and over again. After our quick bath...what do we do with all that extra time we saved? 

I think since we get to have an extra hour tomorrow (Sunday), I am going to suggest we all use that time to really think about how exactly do we spend all these extra hours that we have in our day that Abe and Mary just didn't have? (Or rather, their servants, really.)

Abe and Mary got 24 hours just like we do. But how those hours were spent in their home were so different than today's homes. Not better. Just different. But if we seem to gravitate towards the past, the antiques, the "old way" of doing some things...then maybe our heartstrings are being plucked for a reason.

Turning the clock back one hour is always a neat treat. But we don't need to turn the clock back to slow down. We can do that at any hour. We just need to decide what we are slowing down for.

May your extra hour be spent well while you enjoy the gift of time.

From my house to your house,


Oct 31, 2013

Little Lovable Lulu

Well, I never thought I would be writing this post so soon. And it is very hard...hard to see the damn keyboard, the screen and to see any real sense of it all. She was taken by cancer way before her time. So unfair.

My little Lulu has passed away early Sunday morning. Less than two months after our little Moto passed away as well. I am having a very hard time even looking for old photos of her, or going through digital files to find her because I am still in a little denial. But I know I will find the photos someday and maybe post them then. These past three weeks have been so emotional with her chemo treatments...just kept telling myself she will get through this.

But I was wrong.

Lulu was my 40th birthday present, and also one of my store dogs. She was presented to me at my surprise party and instantly stole my heart. She would have been ten years old today. 

Lulu's daddy, Anthony, took such great care of her (and Monty). I kept her for a long while after Anthony and I went our separate ways, but later, I allowed Monty and Lulu to live with their daddy. He had such a regular schedule (and mine wasn't at all). A very hard decision, but it was best for Lulu and Monty to have routine in their lives. Visiting them both when I could, made me realize just how much I truly missed them. And while it might sound weird, I loved "talking" to her over the phone (daddy would put it on speaker) and then be told she would cock her head side to side as I talked to her several times a week. Her daddy wrote such a nice memorial for her. I am posting it below:

A Memorial for Lulu by Lulu's daddy, Anthony. He says it all and more, and I thank him for sharing this with me:

I can’t always remember little details of my life, i.e., my first birthday party, a first friend, my first crush, but I can remember when I first fell in love with our little Lulu.
My wife at the time, Elizabeth burst in to the design and retail scene in St. Louis in 2001.  She quickly developed a following and we were embraced by many of the local citizens of the small neighborhood in which we lived.  Her store was a huge success with visitors coming from near and far to experience her keen eye for design and display.  Part of the draw to the store was a furry, friendly little fawn pug named Monty.  He was the cutest store greeter Elizabeth’s customers had ever seen.  Monty melted many hearts and fit in perfectly with the black and beige signature theme of the store.  

Fast forward almost two hears into the story, Elizabeth’s 40th birthday was fast approaching in December of 2003.  Like any good husband, I was searching for just the right gift for a woman who was rich in family, friends, and notoriety.  I knew a surprise birthday party would be the center point of the celebration, so I proceeded to schedule the party in the restaurant located next door to the store.  I invited many of the friends we had grown to enjoy over the past 2 years and began to count down the days to the party.  The only thing missing was the special gift I still needed to locate.
I had decided several weeks in advance that the gift would be another puppy to add to our home.  I decided the perfect complement to our home and the store would be a black Pug.  The “ying” to Monty’s “yang. “ I scoured the internet and ads for a breeder in the St. Louis area with pugs available.  I found a local breeder in the area with an 8-week old litter available and set the date to make my clandestine trip to the breeder the day of the surprise party.
I arrived at the breeder’s house and was greeted at the door by the familiar yapping of pug barks.  The breeder took me to her small kennel area where I was introduced to a fuzzy brood of black and fawn pugs.  It was the cutest site I’d seen since I picked out Monty 5-years earlier.  There were two black pugs and four fawn pugs; all of them clambering to greet me all and inflict puppy love on me.  They were all so cute, so warm, fuzzy, and so happy!  I was overcome by puppy bites and puppy breath all at the same time.  I was truly in heaven.  
Though all of the pups were absolutely beautiful, my only options were the two black pugs.  One male, one female.  Both were equally adorable, but since we already had one male pug at home, I chose the black female because she was so beautiful, warm, cuddly and attentive.  A bundle of happiness, and puppy kisses given freely sealed the deal.
I drove the little girl home, happy with the decision I made.  She had huge bulging black eyes, a huge forehead and the cutest, tightest little swirled tail.  I knew I made the right decision with this little girl, because she quickly came to rest on my lap as I was driving and began snoozing on the ride home.  The little girl was presented on a beautiful red satin pillow at the height of the evening’s surprise party.  The room went silent as the wait staff brought her in on the pillow, and the room erupted in oo’s and ah’s at the site of the little beauty.  The little girl was placed on the floor and every adult human in the room quickly got on the floor and began playing with her and cooing their best puppy voices.  The party and the little black pug puppy was a huge success!

 Through the course of events the little girl was named Lulu, after the city of St. Louis.  The city and thought of naming her after her birthplace provided us much happiness.  The name fit her because of her dainty stature, and because she was in fact, a lulu of a pain!  She quickly grew to pester her new found brother, Monty.  Monty hated the little girl with a vengeance for weeks, until he had to succumb to the reality that she wasn’t just a bad dream.  Unlike her brother, Lulu was not born for retail work.  She was taken to the store daily, but had to be placed in her kennel for fear of running out the door, pestering customers, or raising too much Cain.  She was a very intelligent girl with lots of energy…sometimes too much energy, but she quickly won my heart and became the consummate “daddy’s girl.”
Fast forward again through divorce, a move to another home, a move to Illinois, and then back to St. Louis, two more home changes, a move back to Texas, a new apartment, dating a wonderful woman, moving to Durham to be with the wonderful woman, a marriage, a new kitty brother named Nico and a new home, and countless memories, experiences, challenges, and losses in between, Lulu grew into a beautiful and vibrant pup.  When we arrived Durham, Lulu was a mature 7-years old.  Still a character and bundle of energy, Lulu grew to be the alpha in the home and still had daddy wrapped around her paw.  
Lulu aged gracefully and maintained all of the character I fell in love with when I picked her out of the litter.  Her beautiful black eyes, bright with wisdom and adventure; her beautiful black coat shiny and peppered with grey; and her love for her brother, Monty and step-brother Nico evident in her daily interactions with them.  Her daily routine included greeting daddy in bed by bursting through the bedroom door to announce it was time to eat breakfast, keeping a keen eye out on mommy as she sliced strawberries for breakfast, leading her now blind and aging brother through the yard to “do their business”, and waiting for daddy to return home from work.  All of which Lulu excelled at as she aimed to live her life to the fullest.
On September 9, 2013 Monty finally decided to leave us.  His 15-year old body had finally had enough and decided it was time to rest.  Lulu was by his side when we were saying goodbye to our faithful pup.  Lulu knew her brother was no longer with her.  She roamed through the house with little enthusiasm and direction.  Nico felt the pain as well meowing through the house as to look for the ever present Monty.  
A week after Monty left us, we took a planned trip (Monty was going to join us) to the NC coast to enjoy the last of the summer weather.  Lulu still seemed to be in a funk, but we made the best of a hard time, and she enjoyed her first trip to the beach.  She played in the sand, I carried her into the surf (she didn’t like it), and took a beautiful 3-mile walk on the beach.  She walked the entire 3-miles without effort, enjoying the cool sand and water on her paws.  We returned home two days later and continued on with our normal routine.  
Shortly before Monty left us, Lulu’s eating habits changed.  Some vomiting and lack of appetite, and a little lethargy, which we had originally attributed to nerves and after Monty’s passing, depression about his loss.  Blood tests showed a slight decrease in albumen protein levels, and her vet and I chose to take a conservative approach and change her diet to rule out food allergies, etc.  Over the course of two months we changed her diet twice, with albumen levels increasing and then decreasing at her last blood test.  We decided to run an ultrasound of her abdomen to see if protein levels were being lost via bleeding.  Unfortunately, the results were more serious and horrific than expected.

Lulu was diagnosed with lymphoma of the colon only a month after Monty’s passing.  Lymphoma of the colon is a scourge found in only 17% of all dog cancer cases.  Colon lymphoma is a rare and typically fatal form of cancer that is persistent and fast moving.  Left untreated, a dog usually succumbs to the cancer 2-weeks to 2-months after diagnosis.  Though unsure of the timetable we were dealing with, we immediately set an appointment with the oncologist at the local pet specialty clinic.  The oncologist met with Lulu two days later and went through options available to us in battling the cancer.  We started chemotherapy on Lulu the same day.
Three weeks passed since her first chemo session.  It’s been an emotional time with many peaks/valleys.  Although, even with the chemo, most days have been good.  We pinpointed her typical bad days as Wednesdays and Thursdays.  By the weekend Lulu would be happy, energetic, and she would have a voracious appetite.  We took these all to be signs of great hope and promise of recovery.
Lulu accompanied me to work on Friday, October 25, 19-days into her chemo.  Since chemo, Lulu’s mornings would start off pretty slowly, but then she would bounce back and be closer to normal.  This day, she was not bouncing back.  She was very lethargic and did not want to move from the spot she usually lays when she’s with me at work.  I called the oncologist and they advised me to bring her in for a blood test, since anemia is a concern due to disruption of cell production from bone marrow compromise.  As suspected, Lulu’s red blood cell count had dropped from 14% to 8% in the course of one week.  Lulu was critically anemic, with the only hope of raising the levels being a red blood cell transfusion.   I made the decision to administer sub-cutaneous fluids and an anti-nausea, in order to take Lulu home to be comfortable.  She had been through enough already.
When we arrived home, we made the decision to make Lulu as comfortable as possible.  We started by feeding her steak; a treat she has never enjoyed in her entire life!  We also discussed feeding her liver, kale, and black strap molasses, all of which are high in iron in the attempt to raiser her red blood cell count.  Friday evening we watched with great hope as Lulu ate her entire steak dinner.  She was alert, walking in the house, though she was visibly weak.  Saturday morning, she ate her remaining steak and again was alert and walking in the house.  She weakened throughout the day, and we continued to make her comfortable.  We wrapped her in our pets’ favorite blanket and loaded her into our pet/garden wagon and took her on a walk of the neighborhood.  She laid in the wagon and seemed to enjoy the bright sunshine, breeze, and crisp fall air.  We stopped several times to allow her to do her business and also found a nice patch of green grass to lay in and take pictures with our girl.  It was a wonderful time to walk her…she truly seemed happy and content.
Saturday evening Lulu was still very weak.   She laid in her bed in the kitchen and watched intently as I made dinner.  She knew that the kitchen equals goodness and she was bright-eyed and alert as I fed her bits of liver we had cooked for her earlier.  She joined us wrapped in her favorite blanket in the living room as we had our dinner.  Again, knowing that she should be with us waiting for any morsel to fall on the ground.  She happily spent her last evening in our presence, in the home she loved, with the people who loved her.
As I laid on the floor with her that night, Lulu weakened to the point where she was struggling for air. Her red blood cells were not providing the necessary oxygen to her lungs and brain to recover.  She woke me with a poor cry to tell me she was ready to be relieved from her misery.  We called her vet at 4:30 a.m. who came to help Lulu rest comfortably.  My wife and I laid on the floor with Lulu as the doctor prepared to administer the medication.   As I held Lulu tightly in my arms and the medication was traveling through her frail body, Lulu looked at me and began licking my nose…a final gesture of love and respect for her best friend of ten years.  Within seconds, Lulu stopped breathing and her little heart went still.  
This is in memoriam of Lulu.  A tiny and beautiful little pug who knew her place in the world.  She loved everyone who she came in contact with and trusted without question.  She was a brave girl who was challenged many times in her life, but always faced her days with vigor and positive attitude.  Like all cancer patients, whether human or animal, Lulu did not deserve her fate, but she trusted in us to at least try to make her whole.  And then trusted us to take her pain from her.  Lulu will always be my special girl.  She will be missed every minute of the day and will continue to be my most special and trusted companion.  Peace to you our Girl, until we meet again and we can run and play together in the Kingdom of Our Father.  

I want to thank all of those who loved my little Lulu over the years. She loved you all right back. Especially want to thank her daddy and her new NC mommy. It made my heart rest easy to know that she was so loved, given the best care, and especially treated well and really loved by her new mommy, Liz, as if she had known Lulu from the first day we got her. That meant so much to me. Lulu was very blessed to have such a doting NC mommy.

I miss you a lot my little Lulu. But know you are forever planted deeply in the many hearts you so lovingly touched.



Oct 24, 2013

Cool Weather Cooking


The weather is cooler, and for me, that means more time in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking, but in cool weather, I like it even more so.

I am very  honored to be in the current Where Women Cook, not once, but twice! 

I did the Ingredients of the Season feature (my ingredients were apples and pecans) and Where Women Cook also featured my Christmas Stollen.

I was extra surprised, as I shot the stollen feature more than a year ago, but I think the publication knew the perfect time to present it. If you aren't familiar with Where Women Cook, I sure wish you would  take a moment and click on the link and get a little familiar with it. They feature just ordinary cooks like me, famous cooks like Ree Drummand (Pioneer Woman), while offering tons of great tips, recipes, and ideas for entertaining. You can also order back issues for those of you who may be new to the publication. 

I thought you might enjoy a few images from the publication as well as some that didn't get published.  

This is an apple/carrot soup with apple peel rose as a garnish.

Spicy lime and chipotle pecans.  

Praline Apple bread and pecan honey butter.

Baked spicy apple slices and salted caramel dip.

Surprise spice caramel core apple:

And some Christmas Stollen images....old fashion German sweet bread in an old fashion setting: 

I love this time of year. It is a season of spectacular, or simplicity. Either way, it is scrumptious. The recipes are in Where Women Cook and as well as many, many more!

I would like to thank Jo Packham (editor) for allowing simple cooks, as myself, to grace the pages of her fab magazine. I love to learn from those who are so much more experienced than me, but also knowing that the publication also recognizes those of us who just enjoy the art of cooking, well, inspires me because I can point at the recipe and think, I can do that too!

Until next time, may your ovens be warm, your rolling pin floured-covered, and your hands sticky with something scrumptious.

from my house to your house,

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...