The locksmith eyed this birdfeeder and mentioned it might attract more bears than birds...oops.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Possum O-Possum, You are a Nasty Creature

The opossum is one disgusting creature. I'm sorry. It's just true. Not many of God's creatures can't elicit oohs and ahs, when seen out in the wild. But the opossum, it's just nasty.

I was washing dishes one morning, and looked out the kitchen window. There was Annie Fannie, my black-tri Australian shepherd, taking her morning stroll around the back yard, not a care in the world, with a big ol' dead opossum in her mouth.

I leaned in for a closer look, hoping against hope it was her stuffed raccoon, inadvertently left outside, but alas, it was a big fat, long-tailed dead opossum. 

And she seemed so proud.

I opened the window and yelled "LEAVE!!!!!" (her 'drop it' command).
She stopped, looked towards the kitchen,  opened her mouth, dropped her prize, and kind of did this lip-smacking thing. 

I called my neighbor and he came right away with some leather gloves and a garbage bag. I am so ever grateful for friends with bravado and leather gloves.

Recently, while washing dishes again, (reading this blog you would think I just stayed in the kitchen washing and cleaning, washing and cleaning. You just think that, okay?), I looked out to the yard and said out loud, "What is that puffy, gray thing? A big mushroom?"

 I left the sink and went outside to poke it, but soon enough realized the dogs had gone and killed me another opossum. 

Let's just stop and ponder this for a moment. Why would an opossum come into a yard with a six foot fence to join a group of energetic dogs? Are opossums that dumb?  I'm beginning to think so.

So........there I stood.

With a big ole dead opossum in my yard.

It was too far gone for stew and dumplins. (Sarcasm. I'm southern, but not stupid)

I pondered leaving it, hoping the dogs might ignore it, but remembered how the previous dead possum had mysteriously changed locations in the yard numerous times. And the dogs, with their gooshey kisses, can leap as high as my mouth, so the opossum had to go.

I salute my girlfriend, who, upon taking my urgent call, immediately put on her latex gloves and headed out the door. 

Her husband was the one who actually buried the poor little stinky thing. Thank God for good friends. (Again!)

You may be thinking, at this point, that I'm a big girly girl, unable to take on anything that involves death, stink, rotten animals, maggots, or decomposing flesh. 
You, my friend, would be right. 

But alas, the opossum saga continued... 

My daughter, Anna, burst into the bedroom at 11 pm one night, saying, "Mom, we have a serious

Earlier that day, the dogs had killed another opossum (ANOTHER opossum) and my husband had double bagged the fuzzy corpse and we'd thrown it in the big, black garbage can on the driveway. 

Looking back, I have no idea why he didn't bury it, but I trust it was the right decision at the time. (he has now reminded me he was on his way to the airport.) However, at THIS time, the driveway and surrounding vicinity smelled like a rotting corpse and we were hosting the mother of all yard sales at 7 a.m. the next morning. Since the high temperature was expected to be 94, this would not do at all, and would surely affect sales. 
So I held my breath, reached into the garbage can, grabbed the bumpy plastic bag, and quickly dropped it into a Kroger paper bag. I popped open the trunk of my Honda and placed the cargo-of-death next to the spare tire. And off I went.  

There I was, driving around town with a dead opossum in the trunk of my car with no destination in mind.

As I drove past the Kroger and the Taco Bell, I wondered 'just what does one do with a stinking dead animal?'

I thought of driving over a rural bridge and tossing it into the creek below, but I had visions of Wayne Williams and the missing and murdered children in Atlanta and the body tossings, and could just see SWAT teams rushing the car, wanting to know what dead thing I had just thrown over the bridge.

Then, I thought of tossing it into some woods. But that seemed too much like littering, with the grocery sack and two plastic bags. And I sure as shootin' wasn't going to 'de-bag' it before tossing. 

So, I drove.

My gas light came on and I turned into a station. As I stood there, pumping gas, the first whiff hit my nose. Oh Lordy, I can smell him through THREE bags AND the trunk.

I eyed the dumpsters by the building, but they had the big, black lids closed. I didn't really want to be touching the lids to a dumpster.

Then I saw it.

A lone trash can over by the far corner of the parking lot. Sort of set apart from the gas station, and yet convenient enough for me to casually stroll over. That was it. The resting place for my rotting nemesis.
After filling my lungs with one long, deep inhale from around the back of the pumps, I removed the bag from the trunk,  I quickly went to put the bag in the trash can but it wouldn't fit in the round opening and the thought of shoving on the solid mass was giving me the dry heaves.

I finally lifted the lid to the can and pushed in the bag. Goosebumps rippled up my arms.

Did I feel guilty? Yes.

Did I wonder about it as the temperature soared into the 90s? Uh huh.

Was I going to do a drive-by whiff test later in the day? Maybe.

I went home and had my yard sale, minus the stench, but the question remains; What do you do with a dead animal? 

(I think next time it's going in the middle of the street. That way the city can deal with it)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Black Ram

I signed the Bill of Sale today for our 2003 Dodge Ram truck.
"You just got yourself a really good truck. We're gonna miss it," I said as I handed him the keys.

I stood on the porch and watched it back down the driveway, the glossy, newly-buffed sides reflecting the oak trees as it passed by.
Had the new owner noticed the shine?

The familiar rumble faded as it disappeared around the curve. 

And was gone.

For fourteen years, that black 2500 Heavy Duty Diesel Ram stood proud in the driveway. I still remember the week we brought it home, and a friend looked under the back bumper and said, "LOOK AT THE REAR END ON THAT THING!" 

I was sure proud of that torque!

It pulled our three horses with a gray 16-foot trailer and built my confidence as I drove through downtown Atlanta with a horse yelling, "WHhhhhheeeeeeeEEEEEE!!" out the back.

I sat many an afternoon on the laid-out tailgate, singing songs to Jesus and shooing away the geldings and mares who wanted to chew on the truck out of curiosity. 

The Ram saw my new-driver, 16-year-old daughter sit in the seat like a little bunny trying to see over the dash, and was equally as gentle when my British friend (who had no license!) cautiously inched it over hills and pastures, stating with satisfaction, "This is jolly good fun!"

And my high school son, who up to that moment had been the picture of 'good', couldn't resist the lure of an off-road adventure one night when we were out of town, and if it weren't for the tell-tale bramble and brush stuck under the bumper, I'd dare say he would've gotten away with it. 

And I'm quite sure it was 'jolly fun'!

The Ram moved both children to colleges, new apartments, and new adventures. And it even tattled on my husband by giving me a whiff of a hunting trip cigar. More than once. 

It smelled of saddles, manure, cigars, gunpowder and french fries. It was the manliest truck I'd ever seen, even with rubber mats which said, "Cowgirl Up"!

Over the years, a slew of dogs, taking an afternoon nap, would wake, hearing that familiar Cummins Diesel rumble coming down the street. They'd run, skidding into the kitchen, "Daddy's home!"

But that's all over.

The last time I rode in it, I didn't realize it was the last time.

I suppose that was best.

Happy trails dear old Ram. I hope you give many memories to your new owner. We're gonna miss you.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Knitted Together.

Girl Crush.

Have you heard the song by Little Big Town? It's about a woman who is so obsessed with a man, she can't stop thinking about the woman the man is obsessed with. Got it? 

'Maybe then you'd want me just as much' confirms that this isn't about a girl-girl relationship, but more of a stalking, this girl needs to get a hobby situation.

But here, I want to talk about 'Girl Love'.

The kind of love that outlasts men and mortgages and just never, ever goes away. With so many marriages that never seem to actually weather the storm of '...from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part,' I have come to understand that 'girl love' does.


Think about this. Who do you call when you are at your worst, down to your last dime, feeling like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs? You call your very best, most long-loved girlfriend.

She listens, understands, reminds you that it will all be better one day, and agrees that the bad guy in the story is indeed a certified ass-hat. She's there for you. 

No. Matter. What.

And life goes on. We marry, we have children, we lose people we love, the dog dies, we gain weight, the kids grow up and out....but that girlfriend. She's there to help you weather the storm, no matter the circumstances.

Many moons ago, when my Grandmama died, one of my girlfriends got to Spring Hill Funeral home before me, and held my Grandmama's hand and had a talk with her. 

Did you read that? 

She held my Grandmama's cold hand and had a talk with her

Even I didn't hold Grandmama's hand. (I do recall staring at Grandmama's hands and thinking they looked like wax. I've always been fascinated with funeral hands and just this very year, bid adieu to a gentleman whose hands looked completely alive and normal. It was actually quite disturbing, like maybe he was just in a coma. I wanted to poke him...) 

Another girlfriend stood by me when many 'friends' stopped speaking to me after my divorce. She said 'Of course I'm still here. Why would I leave? I was here before your husband and I'll be here for the rest of your life.' a friend. The others, they embraced judgment. I learned from that.

And as my mama-heart cried recently, I tearfully asked one friend, who had patiently listened, how was it she was so sympathetic. 

Without hesitating she said,"Because I love you."

God has blessed me with several very close, very dear girlfriends. Some have stood with me for 19, 28, 45 and even 55 years. I count myself blessed indeed.

Brenda and Dana. Still by each other's side 52 years later.

Recently, I've been pondering the loss of intimacy in our culture and how no one seems to have long phone conversations deep into the night or write pages-thick letters anymore. Our most vulnerable and intimate expressions of love get saved up for a funeral or, quite possibly, a bedside talk in hospice. The art of the letter has been lost to a bright, digital screen and a font called Courier.

This past weekend, as I watched another birthday creep closer on the calendar, I received a legal-size envelope in the mail. It was from my dear girlfriend, Mary Ruth. We became fast friends at the age of ten, and not a day goes by without some form of communication.

Mary Ruth and Dana, wearing hand-sewn dresses at 7th grade graduation, spring 1973.

 She often sends me articles about aging parents and other informative medical bits of advice. I stuck the envelope in my cookbook stand, next to the Smoky Pumpkin Soup recipe, to read at a later time.

Friday night, Dirk and I were heading out to meet friends for dinner and I grabbed the envelope. I looked forward to reading whatever she was wanting to share. (Once, she advised me to avoid giving french fries to my dogs because a frenzy ensues and they might mistake my finger for a fry. Her own pooch did just such a thing and bit her finger clear off. CLEAR OFF. Well, it dangled, but it was bitten off just the same.) 

I put on my reading glasses and tore open the seal, but what I pulled out wasn't the latest findings from a medical journal.

I held in my hands a three page letter, single spaced that started at the top of page one and ended halfway down page three. 

"What on earth?" I said out loud.

As I began to read, my eyes welled up and my nose began to burn, and my heart did a flip in my chest. 

This letter wasn't about aging, or dogs, or the best way to preserve ten pounds of muscadine grapes your Daddy keeps dropping off on the front porch....

It was a love letter.

A deep breath and a gush of every single feeling of love she had felt for me over the past forty-five years. Girlfriend Love. 

"Not a day goes by that I don't think of you and smile. No night goes by that you don't pass through my mind. To say I value our friendship sounds too petty. Your heart and soul are part of me. Without you, I would not have the two children I do have..." 

(Yes, I introduced both of my closest friends to their husbands on blind dates so if I ever want to set you up, be prepared to meet your spouse.)

I read the letter out loud and Dirk and I both cried as we drove towards Frank's at the Old Mill. 

Who puts their heart out there and stands right smack dab in front of you all vulnerable and raw like that, writing words for God and everybody to see? These weren't sentiments spoken that I could forget, or a gift that ends up stuck on a closet shelf. These weren't take-back words or left up for a rephrase words, "What did you say?", "Um,actually let me rephrase that.."

This was heart talk in permanent black ink that made an intentional mark on the paper that would stand and say the same thing forever and ever and ever. 

I got to hear her heart and it wasn't even my funeral. This letter, this gift, wow..what a gift!...made me feel more loved, more valued, and was better than any wrapped present, even that box of Boll & Branch organic cotton sheets I had waiting back at the house. 

She wrote a letter. A simple letter. But it was my love language and it will stand the test of time and remind me, on a day when I might be feeling sick, poor or worse off, that I am well loved.

So I write this letter to you, my friend reading this blog, and ask - When was the last time you put pen to paper to give away your heart? 

Each sheet breathes life into the lost art of the letter. Each word is a pulse from your heart. And a willingness to give what can't be bought or taken. 

Write that letter.

Share and be shared. 

It doesn't cost a dime but it is worth a king's ransom. 

Monday, November 10, 2014



One thing I really love about Autumn is the thick, rib-sticking food I get to cook that would seem oh-so out of place in the warm, honey-suckle sweet summer. 

Cause truth be told, the food doesn't actually stick to our ribs, but more typically our thighs, and we surely don't want that! 

 Last year, I decided to pull out my dusty, old pressure cooker and play around with a stew recipe that would have a bit of an Irish accent ~ a Stout Beef Stew. I paired peppered parmesan popovers...POPOVERS...using a pan I'd bought for just such a time as this (twenty years ago to be exact). It was so good, divine in fact, that I made it over and over and over again. 

Today, I'm making the Stout Beef Stew again, but without the popovers. My thighs will thank me later! 

The ingredients are stew beef, small can of tomato paste, carrots, potatoes, thyme, a bottle of Stout Beer, mushrooms, beef broth, onion, garlic cloves, worchestershire, bay leaves, paprika, salt, pepper, and flour.  You can play around with the ingredients but this is how I like it.

(Do you see that gorgeous turkey all-things-fall platter in the background? It's a William Sonoma platter I found on eBay. It's not part of the recipe. I just placed it there so you could enjoy it's beauty and wish you had one. Tell the wondered where I got it, didn't you?)

Your first step is to take your stew beef, sprinkle some salt and pepper, a little flour and stir it around with a fork and drop it into about one tablespoon of hot olive oil down in your pressure cooker. Oh! I forgot to tell you you'll need some oil. 

Wait...what? You don't have a pressure cooker?? Well, lands sake, get onto amazon right now and order yourself a pressure cooker! This beef stew recipe only has to cook 20 minutes. TWENTY MINUTES! It's like a kitchen miracle! (not the browning step..that will only take about 5 minutes or so) You can save all kinds of time so you can watch things like Call the Midwife on tv! 

While your beef is browning, chop up a big ol' onion. I only had a ginormous onion so I chopped and chopped. What's up with me only having a tiny cutting board?  Now there's a good wish list item for Christmas! Also dice up about 3 cloves of garlic.

Remove your now nicely browned meat and place it in a holding bowl. Add the diced onion  and garlic to another spoonful of oil and brown away. 
There's just nothing as wonderful smelling as caramelized onions and garlic. Hence, the title of my blog!  Caramelized anything is a culinary gift from heaven!

When the onions are just about a browned mess, add about half the bottle of Stout. I bought Guinness even though my husband said, "Don't buy Guinness!" Honestly, I'm not a beer drinker and I get distracted by all the fun names and colorful labels. The Guinness was the only one that actually said 'Stout'.

 It's a good thing that 'Fat Bastard Winery' doesn't make a beer or I'd have chosen that one.  Then my stew would be 'Fat Bastard Beef Stew'!  

"If you had Jesus to dinner, what would you serve?"

"Why, my famous Fat Bastard Stew, no doubt!" 
Jesus would laugh, I know he would. 

Stir it all around a bit and scrape up all those yummy bits on the bottom of the pan.

Now, add a quart of beef stock. I went ahead and got the regular one instead of the low sodium one, cause come on, admit it, saltier is usually better. No, always better. 

Then, add the rest of the stout.

May I back track just a moment? I wasn't sure just how to open the beer and I first grabbed my rubbery lid thingy.

That metal top wasn't budging.

 Okay, now don't laugh. I only considered this for one second. Maybe two. But closer to one. I finally found the bottle opener and viola! The metal top flew across the kitchen. 

Next, comes a small can of tomato paste. Stir this in.

Add some roughly chopped carrots.

Then some peeled and chopped taters.

Some sliced mushrooms...

Two bay leaves, some fresh thyme and....

some pepper, salt and a pinch of sugar (just cause my grandmama said to always add a pinch of sugar if vegetables are involved). And then a bit of paprika for color.

(by the way, that blue thing on my wrist is a fitness tracker. The way my schedule has been going, the only exercise it's been tracking is me lifting a fork to my mouth, but I digress..) 

Add about a tablespoon of worchestershire. You may notice I'm not measuring anything. I know folks just hate that when they ask for a recipe, but you didn't actually ask for this recipe, did you? Anyways, I'd most likely just make up measurements to make you happy and when it turned out all wrong you'd accuse me of culinary chicanery. 

The last thing to add is the browned meat. 

Now, at this point, you want to turn the heat up to medium high and bring all the stew to a boil...WITH THE LID ON TIGHT. This is where folks get killed...I trouble with pressure cookers. You need to make sure the lid, with the rubber gasket is on correctly. Lock it in place and bring it to boil. The little metal knocker thing on top will start to rock back and forth at this point and you gently turn the heat down a wee bit to where it is still hissing and rocking, but just so...

Oh, alright...I'm not gonna lie...

I like to keep a close watch on things from a safe distance. If only mama and daddy hadn't had that most unfortunate ceiling accident with the turnip greens...

Don't let this discourage you! Pressure cookers rarely blow up anymore! Technology has improved and they're just as safe as any other thing in the kitchen. More folks get killed driving down the freeway than cooking with a pressure cooker, so ease your fears sister. 

After 20 minutes, turn off the heat and push the metal rocker top thing to the side. It will release all that pressure with a wicked hissing, but be not dismayed. This is your time to call the youngins to dinner. Give it about 3 minutes to spew out all the built up steam and your Stout Beef Stew is done! And it will taste like it's been cooking for hours!  And you lived! Yay for pressure cookers and getting dinner cooked in less time than it takes to drive to the restaurant! 

Monday, April 7, 2014


A few years back I wrote a previous blog on colonoscopies. Here is the 

I remember that day well. I laughed and laughed as I wrote my funny little story because at the time, the only recent colonoscopy victims were my friends and my husband. It's easy to laugh when you aren't the one wearing the backless gown with a hose up your bum. My own test had been years prior and I was at a safe enough distance to laugh. And laugh... Oh, how I laughed...

But I'm not laughing now.

It all started with a phone call from the insurance company. 
"Now why would United Healthcare be calling me?" I wondered.  I hoped they weren't wanting to ask about that charge from the urgent care when my elbow got trapped in the body frame of Dirk's car. I wasn't wanting to get the car insurance involved in that little freak incident, so to be safe...I didn't return the call.

But they called back. 

"We see it's time for you to get a colonoscopy. In FACT, it's been 12 years since your last one"

You can run, but you just can't hide. Who would have thought the insurance companies had people whose jobs were to keep track of who needed a colonoscopy!  Can you imagine the power trip? 

"Hey John, my neighbor uses United Healthcare....he won't stop parking on my curb. Check and see when his last colonoscopy was."  

Death, Taxes and Colonoscopies.

They all get'cha in the end.  

So I scheduled this dreaded test, or at least I left a message and said I was ready to set a date. They called and called but had the worst time catching me at home and I just kept forgetting to call back. Finally, my running was done and I found myself speaking to the scheduler at the doctor's office. She wanted a firm date and I had no more excuses.

I chose a Monday morning early, in order to get it out of the way. 
The plan was, I would spend all day Sunday only drinking liquids. Tea, lemonade, eating lime jello...only liquids and then at 5 pm, I would mix up my first laxative preparation. I had seriously explained to the nurse I needed the latest and easiest laxative due to the intense stomach trauma from the last time. 

"We have just the thing!" the nurse assured me. "It's new and is only 5 ounces taken twice!"

Hey, that sounded pretty easy! I could swig 5 ounces lickety-split, and then sip on my favorite lemonade ice teas. I can do this!  And! I might even drop a pound or two on this liquid diet! 

I'm feeling good about my plan and got up Sunday, ready to start the day. I attended a baby shower with my huge Zoe's Kitchen drink cup in tow and just looked away from all the wonderful delicacies....fresh fruit, chicken salad with cranberries (!), cheeses and all sorts of yummy concoctions. I made a plate and covered it with foil for the following afternoon's post-procedure lunch. This would be my reward! (And if there was EVER a time for a reward!)

Five o'clock rolled around and I tore open the first packet of prep. The powder fizzled as it hit the cold water and turned into an orange crush...sort of. I drank it down quickly, proud of the start to my little adventure. Now all I had to do was drink down 40 ounces of liquids over the next 5 hours.

The evening was chilly so we had a fire, and watched TV. I sipped my drinks and waited. It took about one hour for the first, occur. I ran by my husband, yelling, "GET OUT OF THE WAY OMYGOSH!" as I just barely made it to the bathroom.

This is NOT the time for a belt. Or buttons. If ever there was a time for elastic pants, this is it. 
Speed is key here.  Sliding into the bathroom wearing socks will earn you another half second. And in the world of explosive diarrhea, that half second can be the difference between keeping that cute bathroom rug or throwing it out. 

 Pliny the Younger gave an eyewitness account of the 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius eruption, reporting deadly eruptions to a height of 20.5 miles, spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second.  You actually find yourself thinking on this very thing as molten lava begins burning the flesh of your bottom. My friend, Beth, warned me to get vaseline and to have it ready. I had to call out to Dirk to make an emergency run to Rite Aid. "For the love of God hurry, man, HURRY!"

The rest of the night was filled with intermittent bouts of explosive diarrhea. After awhile, I just got used to it. This was my life right now and I was going to make the best of it. I admired my flattening belly in the mirror. Oh yes, this was working out nicely!

I retired about 10:30 pm. but found sleep was not waiting for me. My stomach was beginning to hurt and I could only sit upright, waiting for the 1 a.m. laxative appointment. However, at 12:30 Mount Vesuvius came calling and I threw the covers aside, tossing the cat across the room. My feet hit the floor running and I was about three feet into the hallway when I realized....I was falling. 

Falling, as in my entire body was going to cease being vertical and was going to slam into the floor in a horizontal position. Before I hit the ground, many thoughts came to mind -

' How will I land? Am I too young to break a hip?'

'Will the crash wake up Dirk?'

'Will the jolt of the fall cause a 'release' to occur on the carpet? Lord help mercy...'

My knees took the brunt of the fall and I kept my face from hitting the tile. I quickly scampered to my feet and ran...RAN to the toilet. As I sat down, I began feeling tingly, like I was going to pass out. My stomach began convulsing and I tried to put my head between my knees, ready to vomit, all the while 23,797 gallons of liquid was exploding out of my bum.

 The thought of lying face-down on the cold tile sounded so tempting, I actually considered it. As it was right now, I would be passing out while vomiting and having diarrhea. This was just not working out well at all. At all. 

I had a moment of reprieve, got a cold wash cloth and stumbled to the bed. I tried calling Dirk to come help. He'd taken refuge in the guest room at my insistence but how I needed him! He came (after several phone calls and hollerings) and gladly prayed over my very nauseous stomach. In thirty minutes, I was going to need to drink more laxative and 24 ounces of water. The thought of even swallowing saliva made me convulse. 

There is something so wonderful about a praying husband. He sat next to me and prayed over my tummy until I finally found peace. I gathered myself up and fixed the next dose of prep. I gulped it down and took my large water bottle to bed. Sip after sip, I slowly downed all 20 ounces of water. I needed 4 more ounces, but that 20 wasn't sitting too well, so I sat very, very still and waited.

And waited. 

My stomach began to churn and lurch and my mouth filled with spit. Oh my ever loving good grief...I was going to throw up. I CAN'T throw up because then everything will be ruined and this whole thing will have to be rescheduled. OMG.

But here it came. I projectile vomited into my mouth. I love my bed quilt too much to spew all over the bed, so I leapt to my feet and ran towards the bathroom. Unfortunately, I threw up a second time in a violent explosion and this time, spewed vomit all over the carpet. 

Let's just stop for a moment while I say, this is not a proud moment for me. Here I am, projectile vomiting all over the room, and this after Lord knows how many hours producing a cacophony of sounds from the bathroom for my husband to hear. If there was ever a time I felt a need to hand over my southern lady card, this was it.

I made it to the bathroom, vomiting again on the floor, and proceeded to throw up every single ounce of required liquid...AND the prep...into the sink. It seemed as if my stomach was turning itself inside out.  I wretched until there was nothing left and stood there, looking at the mess I'd made. 

Good Lord God Almighty. What have I done? I've gone and throwed up (Daddy's term) everything I needed and now they're going to want to reschedule the test.

Well, THAT wasn't happening. In fact, this TEST wasn't happening ever again. Ever, ever again. I gargled and cleaned myself up and crawled back into bed. 

There was no sleep. Only a purring cat, and thunder and rain and the occasional dog bark. 

This did NOT work out well at all. 

After getting up at 6:45 a.m., I found that I was still losing things out of my body that did not resemble clear liquid. I prayed to God above that the doctor would be able to do the test properly. I almost cried at the thought of rescheduling. My friend had had to do just that and I shuddered at the thought.

The ride to the hospital was a tense ride, after having spent the night with a diarrhea volcano in my pants. I stuffed two wash rags in my britches just in case and spoke very little on the drive in.  Dirk dropped me off while he parked and I entered the elevator. The doors shut, I pressed 4th floor and immediately the overhead light began flickering and flashing and the cranking and clunking sounds from the mechanics filled the air JUST LIKE the Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios! How apropos!

I made it in and well, the rest went fine. The test itself is over in a flash because you're asleep and you're home before you know it. I spent the rest of the day binge watching 'The Good Wife' and eating from a tray.

The doctor said my next test will be in five years. Five. Years. Sixty months. 1800 days. And next time, he said, I can get an anti-nausea pill to take with the prep. 

I don't know if I'll be over this little adventure in 1800 days. I'm barely over the one I had 12 years ago. Well, at least I know the insurance company has my back and all I can say is, " Catch me if you can!" 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Miss Edna's Coconut Cake

When I attend country church funerals, I can usually count on three things: sweating, singing hymns I know the words to and eating good food. 

Being that these churches are often quite old and not air-conditioned, the temperature depends on how fast you can swish the church bulletin back and forth. You wouldn’t want things getting too comfortable though, or the preacher wouldn’t know when to quit talking.

 It’s not like on Sunday, when he has the parishioners for one whole church hour. A funeral crowd is a captive audience and, like the guest-of-honor up there in the casket, no one’s leaving till the preacher’s done preaching.

I love singing the classic hymns to music that needs no electricity or fancy pipes. All a funeral needs is an old, slightly scratched upright piano and a retired Sunday school teacher with Ben Gay on her arthritic joints playing Amazing Grace. It’s pure, sweet, and a bit simple. It seems appropriate… we didn’t have organs and synthesizers comin’ into this world and we sure don’t need them goin’ out.

Oftentimes, there’s an attached building behind the church. This is where the ladies place the after-the-funeral food. All of the church tables are put end to end and are weighted down with platters of deviled eggs, coca-cola ham, watermelon rind pickles, and homemade banana puddin’.

  It was in one of those buildings, where I first tasted Miss Edna’s coconut cake.

I had noticed the commanding cake at the end of the table and was struck by the height and abundance of flaky coconut. The knife was a mess, all covered down to the handle with icing. I cut a piece and sat down to eat. After swallowing the first bite, I lowered my plastic fork and said, “Oh my.” 

 Several local women were pouring iced tea in the kitchen, so I casually approached them and inquired about the cake, indicating I’d love to have the recipe. Knowing some recipes are prized family secrets, I tried to appear quite innocent and appreciative.

 “Oh, you must mean Miss Edna’s cake!” the preacher’s wife said“, She brings that to every funeral. You just missed her though.”

 There was no rolling of eyes at my audacity or snorting at my ignorance. I took that as a good indication the recipe just might be available. 

I thought about the cake a good deal over the next week and finally decided to call Miss Edna. I tracked her down and she seemed quite happy to send me the recipe. Almost too happy.  

I waited until Christmas to bake the cake. Following the instructions to the letter, I poured the creamy batter into the pans but something didn’t look right. The batter seemed a bit scant. I was beginning to feel uneasy and remembered Miss Edna’s glee at sharing the recipe. 

Undaunted, I baked the cake and applied the filling and icing. It was quite pretty and didn’t taste bad either. However, it definitely wasn’t Miss Edna’s famous coconut cake.

That was many, many years ago. I had forgotten about the cake until the recent passing of an elderly loved one, when I found myself back in that old country church. So much time had passed, I doubted there was any chance of seeing Miss Edna or one of her cakes, but I couldn’t help wondering during the service as I swished the church bulletin back and forth.

 When the service ended, I quickly made my way to the back building and couldn’t believe my eyes when there, down at the end of the table, was a tall, grand coconut cake! 

This time, there was no hesitancy, no call for discretion. I headed straight for the kitchen.

 “Excuse me, is that Miss Edna’s coconut cake over there?”

 The lady pouring the tea smiled and said, "It sure is, honey.”

 I stationed myself next to the cake and mentally willed some rude child to start the filling of the plates before all the guests were present. I didn’t have to wait long. My own son, bless his heart, began heaping massive amounts of food on a plate. 

Soon, others followed and in less than five minutes I was closing my mouth over a fork and shutting my eyes in ecstasy…oh, yes, that was it and this time I would get the real recipe! 
Unfortunately, when I went to find Miss Edna, I was told she had just left!

I received a phone call the next day from some local ladies who had attended the funeral and eaten the coconut cake. Was it true I had acquired the actual recipe years ago? 

Oh, dear. I realized I couldn’t rightfully share the recipe I knew to be …how should I say, incomplete. If I shared the recipe I had, the Baptist church ladies would think I had pulled the leave-out-one-ingredient trick on them!

 I didn’t want to speak ill of Miss Edna, so I was all the more determined to get the real recipe.

I waited two days, and then called Miss Edna. I could sense the hesitancy in her voice, as she wasn’t sure she remembered me from years ago (or was that guilt I was hearing?) 

I poured out compliments and exclamations of her absolute celebrity status in regards to this cake. We discussed the recipe and I spent at least 25 minutes going over every detail….questioning the pan size, oven temperature, flour type, milk-fat percentage, coconut brand. I finally felt I was ready to try baking the cake again. 

“So, Miss Edna,” I asked, “do you think that’s it? We’ve got all the ingredients right, the time, the pan size, the temperature?”

“Weeeell…” she paused, “I rightly believe so”.

Then I could’ve sworn I heard a giggle.

“Actually, you know what I do?” she began. “I set out my eggs, six for the batter and three for the whites in the icing and I just go ahead and add those extra three egg yolks into the cake batter.” 

There was that giggle again. I distinctly heard excitement in her voice as she continued, “And then do you know what else I do?”

From there the whole recipe changed.

Daddy always told me wise, old cooks leave out ingredients so nobody can fully duplicate their original recipes and yet here I sat, probably the only person in the entire universe to witness the actual admission of the omission.

 Elderly cooks all over the south probably paused just then. They furrowed their brows and uneasily twisted their checkered aprons. For just a moment, there was something amiss in the sisterhood of cooks…they could feel it. Somebody had told.

I must admit I felt honored and just a little bit guilty. I got out a new piece of paper and rewrote the entire recipe…including all the little extra things she forgot to include the first go-around.

So that coconut cake recipe isn’t just a cake recipe. It’s a bit of a confession, a true willingness to share and a tiny glimpse into the secret society of elderly southern cooks.

I was feeling quite triumphant when we finished the conversation, but I must admit, I had to wonder… as she placed her phone in the cradle did she laugh out loud and say, “Heh, heh…that’ll keep her busy for awhile!”?

Miss Edna’s Famous Coconut Cake
1 cup Crisco                                     3 cups White Lily self rising flour
2 cups sugar                                    1 ½ cups milk (2 % or whole)
6 eggs plus 3 extra yolks                 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Grease with Crisco and flour three 9-inch pans.   Cream Crisco and sugar till blended well and add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla, then flour and milk starting with flour, then adding some milk, then some more flour, milk then ending with flour.  Mix a little more.  Bake about 20 minutes for the 9-inch pan.  (Edna uses an electric oven)
As soon as the pans go in the oven, start on your filling.
3 cups of sugar
2 cups of milk
7 oz. Baker’s angel flake coconut (buy the 14 oz. bag as the other 7 oz will be used over the icing)
In a heavy pan, cook sugar and milk over medium heat.  Let come to a boil.  Add coconut and bring to second boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  When cake layers come out of oven, let sit for a minute or two then remove from the pans.  Poke holes with fork and slowly ladle filling over all three layers.  Let layers cool before covering with the never fail icing.

Never fail icing:
3 egg whites                                     1 teaspoon water
¾ cups sugar                                      ½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cups light corn syrup
Put ingredients in double boiler over boiling water and beat with mixer for 7 minutes. Take off heat and let cool. Ice sides and top of cake after assembling layers. Cover outside of cake with another 7 oz. of coconut.