Friday, December 31, 2010

Things I Miss About Maryland

I often - well not really often, but maybe sometimes - feel guilty about trash talking my temporary home state of Maryland. Temporary? Who am I kidding? I lived there for 2/5ths of my life. The fact is it's a perfectly lovely state: some mountains, some beaches, and the Chesapeake Bay are just a few of the beautiful places there. Another fact is that sadly, I never truly felt at home in Maryland. I think it was being so close to Washington, DC. So much traffic. So much crime. So very many people, all rushing around trying to get somewhere faster than the other guy. So many politicians. Nobody who said, 'Y'all!' Just not my cup of tea. Speaking of tea, they've never heard of sweet tea there. Want to get a funny look? Ask for sweet tea at a restaurant. But I'm going off on a tangent. I do miss some things about Maryland. And here, on the last day of 2010, the last year that any of my family lived there, I thought it would be nice to make a list. So, here you go: Things I Miss About Maryland:

1) No roaches. Maybe there are a few roaches there, but I never saw any. I hate roaches. Too bad they love SC so much.

2) Snow, predictably every winter. Some winters more than others. We've been lucky since we moved back - we saw a nice 8" of snow in Batesburg this past February and of course the rare White Christmas snow just last week. My children don't understand the significance of these snows. I tell them they may not see 8" of snow here again until they are grandparents, but they don't believe me. They will.

3) The Amish market. We lived near a community of Amish farmers. Um. Are there Amish who aren't farmers? Like Urban Amish? I don't know, but this group of Amish farmers set up a great farmer's market at the Charlotte Hall library. Absolutely delicious produce, baked, and canned good. Silver king and queen corn - just melted in your mouth. We froze tons of it every summer in hopes of making it through the winter with some yummy corn, but I don't think we ever made it past Christmas. Their tomatoes were excellent, too. And their plants. I never bought a plant from them that didn't do exceptionally well, especially their herbs. Unfortunately, word got out about the little Amish market and people started coming in droves from all over the area, DC, Virginia, northern Maryland suburbs. Our secret was out and it caused a lot of traffic problems at the poor little library. Last I heard, there was a possibility the market would be banned. Very sad.

4) My herb garden. (see last post) We had a great herb garden in our yard, shaped like a wagon wheel. In 6 years, it had really flourished. I hope that guy who bought our house appreciates our herb garden. I keep trying to check it out on Google Earth, but I can't really tell if it's still there.

5) Our church. We went to a great church, St. Paul's Episcopal - affectionately known as 'Piney'. Great people, thank goodness for Facebook so we can keep in touch easily.

6) Emma. If you know Emma, you know what I mean. If you don't know Emma, you need to meet her.

7) The Navy Rec Center at Solomon's. Our favorite place in Maryland, hands down. Right on the water, great camping, great cottages, great activities, great fun.

8) Our friends. Even though the area where we lived changed greatly the last few years that we were there, and many of our friends chose to move away, we still think of them as our Maryland friends and miss seeing them.

9) The golden retriever rescue of Southern Maryland. Absolutely wonderful group of kind, caring people, who save many goldens each year, including our Ranger. There are people in this world who are terribly cruel to animals - thank God there are people like Pat, Barb, Lori, and many others who work hard to find new homes for abandoned goldens.

So there you have it. My 'What I Miss About Maryland' list. Maybe one day I'll make a 'What I Don't Miss About Maryland' list. Mostly I'm just trying to forget that part, though! Happy New Year! To misquote a verse from the Bible: "May you be content, no matter what state you're in". Dang, I couldn't quite figure out how to not end that in a preposition.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Christmas

For your viewing pleasure: for the first time since 1963, a white Christmas in Anderson, SC. Our first Christmas in our new house. Makes me wonder about all the other snows this house has seen in the last 111 years.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Granny's 'Hot Sauce'

My grandmother, my dad's mother, had an actual name. Louise. But I only ever heard my grandfather call her that. To the rest of us, she was Granny. Every now and then she would remind me that she used to be a regular person. She'd show me pictures of her first date with my grandfather so I'd see a glimpse of her life before she was Mom or Granny.

She was a multi-talented person. She, along with my grandfather, raised 6 children, half of whom were born in the middle of the Great Depression. My dad was one of those first 3 boys. Then there was a break of about 6 years before the next trio came along: Elaine, Beth, then Aubrey. That's how I ended up with aunts and an uncle who aren't that much older than I am. I had the best of both worlds: I was the oldest grandchild (and only for a couple of years) plus I had these built-in older sisters and brother. Sweet.

My Granny could put a fried chicken on the table that had been running around earlier that day (the chicken, not the table). She could milk a cow and then churn butter - she always sat by the window to do that, I guess she liked to have a view. Maybe (probably) she was keeping on eye on us at the time. She could make homemade biscuits in an oblong wooden bowl - she started with the dry ingredients, made a well, put in the milk and eggs - and off she went. One handed. She was usually doing something else with the other hand, like stirring something on the stove or making sure we were minding.

She had a lot of recipes. One of my very favorites carries the name Hot Sauce. I do not know why. It isn't hot. And it really isn't a sauce. It's more of a sweet tomato relish, perfect on a variety of vegetables, meatloaf, or cornbread. Several years ago I asked my aunt Elaine if she happened to have the recipe. She did. She made a copy of it for me, so now when I make it, I follow the recipe from my Granny's own handwriting. Especially nice since she's been gone now for 25 years. Even as I type that, I find it hard to believe. She never met my husband or any of my children. She would have loved them all, like she loved us, I have no doubt.

This year, for my first Christmas back home in my own home, I made a big batch of Granny's Hot Sauce and took them, along with our Christmas card and copies of the recipe, to my cousins and aunts and uncles. Just a little touch to remind us of a really great lady.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Decorations

I really enjoy looking at Christmas decorations in magazines like Southern Living and on lots and lots of blogs. I admire the sophisticated, organized look. Then I look at our house and well, it's just not. Our Christmas tree is covered with decorations our children have made over the last 17 years - plus others my aunt Elaine has given them every year and some I've made or found along the way. When we travel, we try to find a little decoration that will make us smile and remember where we were when we spotted it. We also collected Christmas village buildings for years, so even now with *5* mantels to decorate, they are mostly filled with the Christmas houses, churches, and shops. Maybe one year I'll pull together a sophisticated, together look for the holidays - but knowing me, I doubt it. So here you have our first Christmas in this 111 year old house. Makes me wonder about all the past Christmases spent here. The O'Donnells, who built the house and lived here for about 80 years, were devout Catholics, so we feel pretty safe in assuming that Christmas was the winter holiday celebrated here.

Here's one of the reasons my house never quite has that Southern Living look. There are usually 2-3 science experiments sitting around somewhere.

Here's the very dark mantel at night.

Here's the little table in the back room. Some jingle bells and greenery from the yard around the candle..

The gate to the backyard.

The front porch. We went for a simple look, wreaths on the windows and candles in the windows at night.

The front of the house. I'm pretty sure the squirrels are nabbing some of the red ribbons for their nests. We keep having to replace them.

Here we have some berries from the yard in red fiestaware. This pitcher was my Valentine's Day present to myself one year. Chris and I have never spent Valentine's Day together since we were married - maybe next year.

Here are a few special Christmas decorations. Our Chitra angel - given to us when we were waiting for our first little girl, Chitra. She died in India right before we expected her to come home. The little gold container holds the bottoms of some of our Christmas tree trunks. Chris cuts off a slice every year and writes the year on them. Then we have a little Santa we found years ago. Brianna's senior portrait is in the background. The picture on the left is my dad and me at Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy's grave.

We have two special nativity scenes. The top picture shows the nativity from my grandparents' mantel every Christmas for my entire childhood. The second picture is the nativity set that Grammy, Chris' grandmother, sent us from her house in California.

This is some kind of little iron thingymabob that we found at the Antiques Shop on Black Friday. I have no idea what its original purpose was, but I put some bright ornaments in it and put it in the phone alcove.

Here's an ornament wreath I made last year when we were in Batesburg. We didn't have many of our decorations last year, it was a tough year, but at least we were all together for Christmas and it makes this year in our own home that much sweeter.

Here we have the old and the new: old Santa from Chris' childhood and brand new sleigh from Hobby Lobby.

The family room mantel.

The whole fireplace, not a great picture but hopefully you can get the idea.

The tree. In the daytime. On a gloomy day. I'll try again at night with the lights.

Here's one of my very favorite ornaments. When Jacob and Lauryn were little, we painted their fingers with white paint, then pressed them against these clear ornaments. Then we decorated the fingers as a snowman family. Too cute!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookie Day at our house

Usually, we make fudge and candy cane cookies and orange balls for Christmas goodies. We haven't marked those deliciousnesses off our list this year, but we have added a few newbies. Yesterday we tried this recipe from Jamie Cooks It Up. Wow! Everything on her blog looks so delicious!

They were a hit! We shared some with our neighbors across the street, but mostly they disappeared as fast as we could frost them. We didn't have any red food coloring, so we used green - which worked since these have a minty flavor. Yum!

The cookies are super easy since you make them from devil's food cake mix:

Here's Lauryn's favorite part: putting on the peppermint-y icing!

Here's what they look like all finished. I'm glad I took a picture because they were gone so fast I would have forgotten what they looked like!

I was excited to find this recipe from Aarti Party. We love just about any food with an Indian twist (for obvious reasons!) We even make Curried Latkes every year during Chanukah. These gingerbread cookies use garam masala - our favorite blend of Indian spices. It's very subtle in the cookie - and they aren't overly sweet like so many holiday treats. I made these with ingredients we already had: didn't have any molasses, but had some sorghum syrup which worked well. We also didn't have any fresh ginger, but I used powered and the cookies definitely have a good ginger flavor.

Here's Lauryn cutting out the shapes:

Not a great picture of the finished product - and my poor cookie sheet obviously gets a lot of use! We used mini chocolate chips for the eyes and buttons and a little blue icing. Like I said, we used what we had on hand, but they were yummy!

More cookies to come! Especially since Brianna will be home from college TOMORROW!!

One more recipe! These chocolate cookies have an Andes mint melted on top - so yummy! There were a big hit at Jacob's Court of Honor - much to the dismay of the other Arnolds when there were none left to bring home. Chocolate Mint Cookies

Monday, December 6, 2010

Frogmore Stew

A big pot is a plus..

A big bowl helps, too!

Please note: No frogs were harmed in the making of this stew.

The first Christmas that Chris and I were together was 1989. We'd decided to get married about a month before, around Thanksgiving. We were next door neighbors. (a story for another post) and decided to get a tree together. Then we decided to make Frogmore Stew for dinner that night. Little did we know that we were starting a tradition that would be a necessity every year after on Christmas tree-trimming night. This year's version was made in our new kitchen of our new house, our first holiday season here. And may I add that I love cooking on a gas stove? Water heats up so much faster! Quickest Frogmore Stew ever!

Ingredients: potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes, small corn on the cob (this year, from our aunt and uncle's garden, safely tucked into the freezer all these months), kelbasa - sliced, a bag of crab boil seasoning, and shrimp.