Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy new year!

If you come around here tomorrow you can have some ham, black-eyed peas, cabbage and cornbread. We tried Hoppin' John one year and it was the most troublesome year of our marriage. The Carolinians can keep that stuff to themselves. One water heater, one riding lawn mower, one air-conditioning system and one huge oak limb destroying the north eave of the house were the aftermath of that creative foray.

Truthfully, I don't associate luck with food unless I am sitting at Antoine's in New Orleans eating Les escargots a la Bordelaise. Then I think "Lordy, I am one lucky girl."

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Bless her heart, Lucy has been trying to keep up with the big boys and it's worn her to a frazzle. She was blissed Christmas Eve when one of the boys' friends took her from the cage and kept her on his shoulder while he conversed with the group. She was in the center of the flock with her big brothers. I can't blame her. It's an aspect of Christmas in this house that I like. Ours is the gathering point for the friends when they tire of "home". They come here to plan the next step of celebration.

When I was far younger our little pack would gather on Thanksgiving night or Christmas night when we were surfeit of food and quality family time and go do something -- usually see a movie. I saw "Alien" one Thanksgiving evening with our pack, including the gay paperboy (now dead of AIDS these eight years) and Robert (hey, honey), and such assortment who didn't have girlfriends or boyfriends or some compelling reason to stay home. Lack of money wasn't a good enough reason to stay behind. We'd scratch up our loose change to pay someone's way.

Now the boys are down in Baton Rouge disrupting each other's homes, and Lucy Belle is decompressing along with her middle-aged minders.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Uplifting holiday conversation:

"I see in the paper that the Million Dollar Club (in Dallas) is advertising for the Cotton Bowl."

"That's a strip joint, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I went there for lunch once. It didn't do much for my appetite to have a skanky girl dancing on the table."

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Oh, dear. Older son has come home saying "I want to gain some weight while I'm here." How's that for a challenge? Or is it a threat?

Whatever, he's come to the right place.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Someone needs to point out that the whole Lott-Thurmond fiasco might have been avoided if the Senate had imposed some reasonable mandatory retirement age on its members before Thurmond turned 100. At least, it wouldn't have carried over into a new millennium.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

You know you're getting old when your son's childhood companion is now your dentist. That's a little better than the gynecologist who looks like a high-school drum major, though.

Zone ... When the hygienist cleans my teeth I use deep-breathing techniques to reduce the flinch factor. As a result, I am zapped for the next hour or two. Who needs drugs?

Sunday, December 15, 2002

6 tea glasses, 6 cocktail glasses, 6 soup bowls, 12 service plates, 6 salad plates, 6 dinner plates, 5 coffee cups, 6 dessert glasses, and three tired hosts. Sounds a little like the Twelve Days of Christmas. Nobody knows the words to that song anyway.

It pleases the parents who, at 83 and 82, have the rights to some gifts in their lives. My mother-in-law is thrilled when I bring out her mother's china. As she was leaving the other day, she surveyed the used dishes collected on the bar and said "Look at that. That china is pretty even when it's dirty."

Oh, you note, there should have been dishes for 8. Nada. I don't ever plan to eat like that at 12:30, and the logistics of getting a five-course meal for six out within an hour and a half or so prevents the cooks from eating at that time. (Menu: shrimp cocktail, seafood gumbo, garlic bread, Antoine's mixed salad, Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Bienville, chocolate mousse, iced tea and coffee). I have waitressed in the past, but never had the collected responsibilities of cooking, waiting and bussing for one table in my life before my marriage. Another reason not to eat -- our dinner table only seats six comfortably. But everyone was happy with the food, if not the indigestion. My fingers have finally rehydrated after all the dishwashing. It was an overcast and cool day, so we had a fire in the fireplace, Lucy was a good girl, and the first day of Christmas at our house was "a good thing". Even if it was on Friday the 13th.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Out-of-state pundits can relax their fingers now. Here is a useful story about Landrieu's victory in Louisiana. Geez, I didn't know Donna Brazile was from Kenner (suburb of New Orleans).

Turnout, turnout, turnout -- the good political operative's mantra.

What universe does Trent Lott think he lives in? As a white southerner I am appalled that a man or woman in a position of power (or not) would make a statement that might even be misconstrued as support for Jim Crow policies. Instapundit is all over this issue and I'm too lazy to link, so go there to follow the controversy.

Lott is the sort of smarmy, paternal, southern conservative that I do not like in the first place. He should make an opportunity to explain his comments pronto. If that doesn't calm the furor, then he should step down as majority leader.

We will never deliver ourselves from the past at this rate.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

10:15 am, first recorded political call for today's election, Mary Landrieu's voice. Telephone courtesy limits phoning in Louisiana to the hours between 9 am and 9 pm. The phone databases must have been activated at 9 am on the dot. Who's next?

For the record, I don't mind reminder calls on election day. Sometimes, especially when the boys are home or projects are underway, things get hairy here and civic responsibilities are put off. I nearly missed a vote to increase spending for the parish public libraries a few years ago, and was grateful for the call that reminded me to go to the polls that day.

3:15 pm, second recorded political call, John Breaux's voice.

Landrieu wins.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Eeeek! 'Twas a mouse all right, and he has friends!

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Tomorrow begins the seven-day countdown to our family Christmas luncheon and I haven't lifted a finger in this house since I returned from Texas. Two days of solid rain and today's chill have dampened my already sorry enthusiasm for housekeeping. In solidarity with the coastal elites suffering heavy snow and ice, I took a nap this afternoon. Don't let it be said that we in flyover country don't feel their pain.

Maids work at a reasonable rate around here, but of course I couldn't let a maid see this house as filthy as it is, so I would have to do all kinds of cleaning before one came, which defeats the purpose.

Lyman tells me we have a mouse in the pantry, so I guess we need to set a trap. I asked him if he was sure it was a mouse, not a water bug (this being Louisiana), and he said he wasn't sure, but whatever it was scared him. We'll set the trap tonight with peanut butter. Big as some of these bugs are a mousetrap might be an environmentally sound alternative to insecticide.

We are greatly annoyed by the number of phone calls, automated and live, that we are receiving in the runup to the Congressional runoffs Saturday. Some stupid credit card company has seen fit to interject their ads into this flow, which strikes me as a waste of money when people are already hanging up once the recording clicks in. My mother-in-law called today to say that she received a call from Rudy Giuliani. We could top that, since President Bush had called around noon. His mom called yesterday. This should all cease at 8 pm Saturday. Ah, well, the parrot is getting practice at answering the phone.

I have been thinking about Possum's mother-in-law today, hoping that all goes well during her surgery and recovery.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Larry Anderson of Kudzuacres has introduced his friend Billy Joe Bob to the world of blogging and the result is Compleat Redneck, a compilation of down-home observations and opinions from Billy Joe Bob, proprietor of a local barbecue emporium, and his woodsman and helper Cletus. I can promise them one avid reader.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

O Possum, not a plastic Christmas tree!

My mother wanted a poinsettia for her coffee table for the Christmas season, so I went to a Calloway's Nursery for a pretty specimen. There they had two large spaces of Christmas trees, one of beautifully flocked natural trees with "Winter Wonderland" playing over the speakers. In the back they had another lot of plain natural cut trees. I walked up and down rows of firs, pines and spruces breathing their scents. A handsome young male clerk asked if I needed help. "Oh, no," I said. "I'm just snorting your trees." "I love working here," he said. "Good for your soul," I replied.

About seven years ago, being a grown up household and all where we don't stack packages under branches (tip: grown boys like cash), we started using live Norfolk pines as Christmas trees. We lost our first one last year to frost. We couldn't bring it in because it was 12 feet tall. This year's is about 4-1/2 feet tall, having started as a runt last year. It needs to be repotted, but might have to wait until after Christmas since we have rain this week. This year we will start a native pine for future needs. I don't like losing the Norfolks. After a year or so they become members of the family, and we are coming to the need to replace some pines in the yard that have been lost to beetles and age. A little pine that will eventually whistle in the wind is a Christmas tree I can live with.

The H.E.B. food chain has opened a new group of upscale supermarkets in Texas called Central Market. There are two in the Dallas area. My sister and I visited the one in Plano. I have a good working kitchen, but can't be classed as a "foodie" because it's just too frustrating living so far in the outland. We have to drive 80 miles for the nearest bottle of white truffle oil. But were I near Central Market . . .

The produce department was large and stocked with most everything imaginable: white asparagus, lotus root, 15 varieties of potatoes, a multitude of greens, a dozen kinds of mushrooms, 10 kinds of radish, bulk vanilla beans (I bought three), a vast cornucopia which workers would chop for shoppers on site. The meat and seafood department was beautiful, and included pre-prepped or marinated portions which could be cooked at home. There were at least a hundred brands of olive oil on the shelves, 30 kinds of vinegar, ranging from $2 bottles to $169 bottles of balsamic kept under lock and key. The breads were gorgeous rustic loaves baked on site, ryes and pumpernickels, olive loaves, multi-grains, Italian, French, English. Wines and beers, salamis, hams, pates, hundreds of varieties of cheese. Oh, the lovely lunches of a baguette with pate and a piece of fruit! Flowers! Roses and lilies and daisies and exotics! Arghhh!

All only seven hours away.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Well, now, that wasn't so bad if you bypass the incident of the dog losing the "Beat-the-18-Wheeler" game. Poor trucker couldn't do a thing except veer enough so that the dog was bonked by the undercarriage rather than a wheel. Poor pooch. Two more seconds and he would have had a gap in traffic wide enough to make it. Overall, traffic on the interstate was civilized, which was partly the result of planning travel on off days. I-20 is sticky on off days, but a thrilling free-for-all on Wednesday and Sunday around Thanksgiving.

Lyman and Lucy stayed home this time. My mother has severe respiratory problems and keeps her home at about 60 degrees, which is not optimal for either of my warm-blooded companions. Conditions are survivable in heavy sweats and double socks. I was happy to be a designated cook so I could hang around the stove.

Our group was the smallest ever. Just five of us were present -- my mother, my brother Charles, my sister Patricia, her daughter Erin and I. Our other brothers and sisters are dispersed and have their own grandchildren to attend. In a sense it was sad, since my mother thinks this might be her last holiday season, but a large group would have overwhelmed her.

Soon we will all be orphans. I wonder what vestiges of the family will survive then?

I meant to come home Friday, but was talked into staying over a night with my sister whom I haven't seen more than a few hours in the past two years. Her divorce after 29 years of marriage has recently been finalized, just in the nick of time for the birth of her ex-husband's twins with another woman. O happy freedom.

We talked and giggled until time to sleep. I love that silly woman. She and blogdaddy Possum together would be too much to take.

I came home to a freshly vacuumed and mopped floor and a neat kitchen, for which I am truly thankful.

Now it's on to preparations for our Christmas luncheon which will take place on Friday 13. Lyman's parents, brother, sister and spouses will attend. Cleaning, shopping, decorating and cooking will take up the next two weeks. The basic menu is set -- shrimp cocktail, Antoine's salad, seafood gumbo, oysters Bienville, oysters Rockefeller and Gambino's garlic bread -- but I still need a dessert. Last year's was Emeril's sweet potato flan, which was unusual, pretty, light and very tasty. Maybe a mousse?