Hello loves. Hurry in out of the rain. We'll try to time our chatter so at you can dash out when the rain lets up once again.
Stand here with me at the window for a moment. Doesn't it look like autumn at the moment? All those leaves that have blown off the trees, the colors of gray skies and brown and copper leaves. Sigh. It does make me happy to look out the window.
Have some gingerbread with your coffee. I made it late last week when I had the oven on to bake a banana bread. I have tried many recipes over the years for Gingerbread and I think this may be 'the' recipe. It's such a lovely dark but moist ginger bread! John likes it with a dollop of whipped cream. I like it plain. When the kids were growing up, I almost always served gingerbread with a bowl of homemade applesauce. Oh.my. It was lovely on a cold night to have a piece of spicy gingerbread with warm applesauce following our meal.
I've always loved a good spice cake of some sort. I usually start autumn with a pan of gingerbread and somewhere along about November I make a cake. I've had applesauce cake and apple cake and plum spice cake (gracious haven't thought of that one in a few years! Gotta find that recipe again!) and a spice cake with a broiled meringue frosting and another with a cream cheese frosting. I've done a pumpkin cake with a pumpkin cream filling and chocolate frosting. I've made all sorts of spice cakes but the one cake I've never made is one that Granny made for all the cold weather holidays: Japanese fruit cake.
Why have I never made a Japanese fruit cake? Because Granny made cakes in a way that makes baking...well real work for one thing. And because her recipes were not written out in such a way that you could really use them. She knew just what to do and in what amounts but mostly her recipes are a list of ingredients with a rough measurement. She beat all of her cakes by hand, though she had a stand mixer and a portable mixer. She sat down with a crockery bowl and a wooden spoon and she beat butter with sugar until it was creamed and she beat and she beat and she beat...A few of her recipes had instructions like "beat 300 strokes by hand". I've no doubt that she bought new flour, fresh eggs and butter as well as fresh spices before baking just so every last thing was of the best quality.
Japanese fruit cake included lemon juice and zest, coconut and pineapple for the frosting. It had to be fresh fruits. None of this canned or bottled or dried stuff. She cracked and grated her own coconuts, carefully conserving the coconut water to use in the simple syrup that the fruits cooked in. Had she been able to consistently find raisins on the stem she'd have bought and seed them and used those instead of that box of SunMaid . And yes, it had to be a fresh box of raisins. All those ingredients were used to frost the cake. It was an awesome thing on top of that dark spicy layer cake let me tell you. But the sheer volume of work required to make a cake like Granny's...well it puts me off.
Mama has always been of the semi-homemade sort. She could show Sandra Lee thirty or forty tricks, let me tell you. She has used a cake mix and canned pineapple and canned coconut and bottled lemon juice to make the cake and it was good. But we were all agreed when it we'd had a slice that it was good, it was nice, but it was definitely not as good as Granny's. And how could it have been? Granny's cake must have been expensive. It was definitely laborious. It was absolutely delicious. She made one at Thanksgiving and one at Christmas and that was that. No more Japanese Fruitcake until the cold weather holidays came around once more.
So I think of her Japanese Fruitcake each autumn but no, it's not one I'd even consider trying to make because I'm just not that patient!
This morning, I saw John off to work and then I got busy with the housework. I'd planned to go get a haircut today and spend time in thrift stores but it was raining. We'd listened to the weather report and we were promised heavy showers off and on all day until 5pm. So far that's been one forecast that has proven true! I changed my plans. My favorite things do not include being soaked through to the skin. Besides, I did just that two weeks ago coming out of church. I was so wet that when I got home, forty minutes later, I was still wet and dripping! Once is quite enough.
So what would I do instead? Housework was the first to rear it's head. There's nothing like proclaiming it a 'free' day to make housework glare at your hard is there? I cleaned that last kitchen wall and wondered why I'd put it off so long. It didn't take as much time or effort as I kept mentally assigning it. That's a life lesson right there. The things we dread the most seldom prove to be as bad as our imaginings.
Well housework was done and then I meant to settle to write in my journal and do Bible Study. But first, it was time for 'second breakfast' something I only have on work mornings. I get really hungry by 9am when I've had breakfast at 5:15am. So I made myself a cup of hot tea. Despite the fact that the AC was coming on routinely, the gloom outside and the heavy wind and rains cried out for hot tea. I rambled through my stainless steel tea box, a neat little antique booth find, and decided upon a beautiful Raspberry tea from Teavana. This was something Katie gave me earlier this year. Oh how pretty it was! I might well have been wishing just this weekend for Emilie Loring's yellow breakfast service but my pretty morning tea suited me, well. It satisfied my craving for something special and lovely.
John bought the yogurt for me yesterday after church because I was so very hungry. It was lovely with four types of berries and granola to sprinkle over it. I did eat a half banana yesterday after church but I saved the yogurt which I thought was too much when we'd be eating in just 30 minutes or so. This photo pleases me no end. It's all just so pretty. My mistake as a novice tea drinker? Putting half and half in the raspberry tea. It curdled. Immediately. Lesson learned, I poured it out and started again and this time I tilted the pot too far and the lid fell into my cup splashing hot tea everywhere. I got about three good sips. It was delicious, truly it was, but not nearly enough. I suppose I could have started over from scratch but it seemed pointless, lol. Sometimes the effort surpasses the desire to enjoy it.
I still haven't written in my journal. I've allowed myself to be distracted by innumerable things today. I put on some praise music, a song I love but with an artist I'd never heard of before. Apparently popular considering how very many songs came up by her. I felt it was a safe choice. Oh the distraction of the "oh-oh-oh"s and the wails and moans that went on. I made it through my prayer list and my Bible and devotional readings but I finally admitted defeat with the music. It was meant to be uplifting, to bring me in, but oh the failure. I'll know better next time and choose something else!
I gave myself a manicure this morning, something I generally don't do much about, though I do love pretty nails. I am more often to be found giving myself a fresh pedicure. It's just that I tend not to take the time to take care with my hands but I was inspired by the Jamberry Party I'm hostessing this week to show off a pretty manicure.
As I sat there choosing my wraps and determining if I would combine with an accent wrap or polish, taking time to push back my cuticles and shape my nail and not rushing through, I realized that this is one little thing more I could do for myself that costs little and which I truly enjoy. I have accumulated a lot of wraps over the past year or so. I share them with the girls and accept shares from them and friends like Rhonda occasionally surprise me with a little stash they've had on hand. I have a lot of wraps and I do use them but sometimes I feel more like I collect them. I tend to tell myself I don't have time. They cost too much to just use randomly (ack! they cost more to not use at all!). That I will only mess up my nails if I stop to do them. Then there's the silly thinking: the wraps might not 'match' my outfits in the week. And what if someone thought I was too old for such silliness? Oh goodness, the head talk that does go on inside my head.
Well...You'd never know we'd had a rainy morning. Looks like it's all moved out earlier than the weather man said it might. Look at that blue sky and those fluffy white clouds! It's a sure sign of the season that I can see the sky through the leaves of the pecan tree...I wonder how many more pecans are on the ground now that the wind's blown so nice and hard?
When we came in from church yesterday I told John I'd just take a look to see if there were any pecans. Maddie had been following John to the porch but when I said 'pecan' she came running and took one up in her mouth. I saw a few that were chewed into, so I know she's been helping herself for a day or two at least. I picked up roughly two or three dozen yesterday in a few short minutes of time. I knew then that we needed a good tree shaking wind to blow the rest lose and sure enough we've had some heavy high winds that should have shaken the tree beautifully. I'll let the breezes dry them out before I pick them up again. Perhaps this year we'll get enough for ourselves and some to sell as well. I think I'll put the money towards restocking the pantry/freezer this year.
John and I talked it over the other day and we're pretty much agreed that we can wait another week before we shop for groceries. I have a full gallon of milk, two dozen eggs and plenty of fruits and vegetables. If we're short on anything at all it's lettuce and that's it. I'm content to live off what's in the house where fresh fruit and produce is concerned. I've plenty of both at present.
I think one thing I notice most about autumn is that the days seem short, even before time has officially switched back to daylight savings. It will be dark in a couple of hours and I can't help it...when it's dark, I naturally gravitate towards reading and watching television and putting on my pajamas and generally getting ready for bed, even though technically on most days it's ours away yet. On these nights when John is at work, I often slip off to bed around 9 or so.
I think it's another of those seasonal things because in summer, I find I think at 6 or 7pm that I might still run over to the area where we shop and make it home again before dark, but this time of year, I look at the clock at 5pm and feel as though the door is shut on that.
Do you do the same? Or is this just a seasonal sort of thinking that I am alone in?
I was looking across the field Friday at nothing in particular and I noticed the sedge grass had turned blonde. I remember that Big Mama always had a nice sedge broom that she'd make up fresh each fall which she used to sweep off her porches and steps. She'd gather if from her field and bind string about the upper stalks, usually a bunch about 2 inches thick and then she'd trim the ends meant to brush the floor with a knife. That broom would last her until the next year.
When we moved here, the fields hadn't overgrown entirely yet but were starting to do so. There was sedge everywhere and to see it this time of year, waving in the autumn breeze, blonde as ripened wheat, would make me feel autumn couldn't be finer. Now that the trees have grown up so on the land, there's little sedge to be seen, but I still appreciate the graceful movement of it in the breeze, and the usefulness of it should I care to emulate my great grandmothers, because both of them used what was at hand to make something that was necessary.
I was very lucky growing up...Not lucky, but blessed. There were so many women ahead of me, aged women but strong and gentle and beautiful in their own ways. I knew two of my great grandmothers. Big Mama was Granny's mother. She was thin as a rail and old fashioned and modest almost to an extreme. She seldom wore anything other than cotton stockings and I do mean cotton, not nylon and she preferred a long sleeved dress. Almost every photo I have of her shows her in long sleeves and I think with cotton stockings. She had long hair that she wore in a low bun on her neck and when I was a child she'd take it down and allow me to brush her hair when I visited.
The only books I ever found in her home had to do with spiritual development. I wish now that I could sit and talk over my faith with her and hear what she had to say from her own perspective. The pastor who preached her funeral, when I was in my mid-twenties said she was the most knowledgeable person on the Bible that he'd ever met. I was told that when Jehovah
Witnesses came to the door, Big Mama invited them in and had a nice long debate with them, backing up her thoughts with Bible verses and that oftentimes they returned just to have that sort of talk with her again and again.
I've never stopped to count up her grandchildren and great grandchildren and even the great great grandchildren she lived to see but it must have been a grand number altogether because she had six children and not one of them went without having children of their own.
She saw such a lot in her lifetime, as did Grandmama S. The advent of the automobile and planes and telephones, radios, movies, televisions, the invention of vaccines and penicillin and later antibiotics. Man walked on the moon in their lifetime for goodness sake! What must they have thought to see so very much change? She experienced so much of loss and gain. She lost her husband when she was about 60. I can't imagine what that must have been. She'd married him when she was 15. What is it like to have someone in the bed next to you for 45 years and then one night he's no longer there? He worked the farm, they worked together wherever they lived, they weren't separated more than a night or two in all those years.
Big Mama didn't much like her telephone. Mama told me once that she was always a bit afraid of it but I don't know that as truth. She talked to Granny daily on the phone and I was often privileged to be asked to dial her number when we were visiting, even when I was an adult, which always gave me the chance to speak with her. Big Mama never sounded afraid. I think perhaps, if she had any opinion, it was more that it wasn't altogether necessary, a bit like I feel about my cell phone. It's nice to have but I shouldn't miss it too much if I hadn't got it, you know?
She lived in the country all her life, in the county where her ancestors had settled, amongst her aunts and uncles and grandparents and parents and cousins. I never heard her say she'd like to be anywhere else, though she and Papa did move to Florida for a very short while. It was her desire to come back to what she'd known for always or so the family talk goes. But who really knows? That she felt herself to be part of the soil on which she stood, I've no doubt. She gave you that sense of herself when you met her.
Her home wasn't fancy but it was solid and had the loveliest cross breezes one could want. She had three bedrooms with a bathroom built onto the back porch and she had a living room and a kitchen with room enough for a big solid rectangle of a table and plenty of chairs and a pantry. The Hoosier cabinet between the pantry and the refrigerator was filled with her dishes and glasses.
Like Granny she gardened. I remember her planting a vegetable garden in her 80's, wearing the same old fashioned sun bonnet she'd worn as a girl, made by the same pattern, and she always had flowers about the place.
Grandmama S was a lovely woman with beautiful blue eyes and a smile that warmed you inside out. She was my father's mother's mother. She lived in South Carolina and we didn't get to see her as often as we did Big Mama. She lived more of an old fashioned a life but didn't dress as old fashioned as Big Mama. Her house was a four room unpainted structure that set just barely off the road. She had a narrow front porch. I remember standing on that porch, but I never remember sitting upon it, so there must have been no chairs as many folks have. There was a log bench in the yard, near the old well where she drew her water daily until she was 80 or so and I clearly recall sitting out there under the tree with my cousins. It must have been where the family was accustomed to gather. Later the family decided that the trek up and down her steep (oh so steep!) and rail free back steps was too hazardous to make several times a day to fetch water from the well and bring in loads of wod and go to the outhouse and such so they put in a bathroom in the spare bedroom and gas heat and running water and that was about as modern as she ever got.
Grandmama S. had a bed in one corner of her front room and a couple of chairs facing a big old wood stove, but guests were invited to go into the kitchen to sit. There was a wood stove in the kitchen, that she cooked on. My goodness could she cook! Plain good food, just like Big Mama made, but it was homegrown, too and the chicken she fried was likely culled out of the flock in the hen house that attached to the outhouse.
The second proper bedroom was packed to the gills with furniture. She'd moved all the parlor furniture out of the front room into the bedroom and there were two full beds in the room as well. It wasn't a very big house so you'll understand that this room was beyond crowded! I'm sure one of us children was bedded down on the old sofa that was turned to face the old fireplace in that room.
I remember Grandmama S.'s smile and her spirit and her capability in carrying on with a life she'd always known in the way that she'd always known it. I don't remember if there was a telephone nor a TV in her home, nor yet even a radio. She lived simply even in the 1960's and I suppose you might say she lived poorly but she didn't act poor nor talk poor.
I want to tell you more about her but I don't know enough to tell it. And everyone who might help me know her is dead, as well...I think I'm reminiscing about her because this past week when I picked up the genealogy papers this was the line I followed. She lost her mother when she was 8 and she married before she was 16. I didn't know her husband though he lived long enough I might have. I understood that they were not living together but I don't know why nor when the marriage came apart nor how she felt about it. Grandmama S. didn't die until Amie was 9...but I hadn't seen her since I was 17, I guess. She didn't travel any longer and there were no funds for travel in my household .
Funny thing is that as near as I know, neither Big Mama nor Grandmama S. ever drove a car. They walked to see the neighbors and to church too at times, at least Big Mama did. They were driven to places to shop and to make visits but they never drove. Now there's something I can't imagine doing with out and living out in the country as they did; as we do! I may be old fashioned enough to think three times before hopping into the car to go anywhere and you know how I love to combine my errands so that my trips out account for something, but to be completely without a car...No, I can't see that at all. I could live with just one car but I can't imagine no car. That is beyond my thinking.
But you see how blessed I was...To know these great grandmothers, to have known them, and to be well into my 20's before either one died, to see the way they lived and how hard they worked and know they were mine to claim. And more, to feel deep down inside the privilege of their genetic deposits into my life even when I was too young to understand that was what I felt. To know that that same DNA was being pushed forward into my children, especially my daughters and now into their daughters, as well. They were extraordinary, with little schooling yet they kept accounts and read and spoke well. They did more than pinch a penny and yet they had this sense about them of considering themselves privileged, not hard pressed, not ill used nor unlucky but blessed and they passed that sense of blessing right on to me.
Well now, I'd best be quiet. We've talked the sun right down to sunset and you must hurry home before it's dark. It will be late suppers for us tonight but how good it's been to visit with you all!