Tag Archives: Food

Four Triathlons in 2014

RenManTriAs I sit on my couch watching Rudolph on CBS, I don’t feel like a good triathlete.  However, much of this year has been devoted to training for one specific triathlon.  So how could I continue the theme of Mount Rushmore of things without first hitting a major component.  In the 12 months prior to Ironman Chattanooga, I competed in three sprint triathlons, three Olympic triathlons and three half distance triathlons.  So let examine the “full body of work” to see which are my final four picks.

Quad City Sprint Triathlon in Davenport, Iowa is my yearly pilgrimage to the home of John Deere and to race with my friend Rhonda Cox.  This was such a special race this year because of an hevent that happened later in the summer, which I am sure that will come up at some point later.  This race is run by a few other humans each year.  However, this was the second year that Rhonda, her sister Leigh-Ann and I have run this race on Saturday and then driven to Joliet, Illinois to compete in Warrior Dash, IL. The best part of the triathlon is the turn around point on the out and back run, a John Deere tractor.  The best part of Warrior Dash is Portillo’s Italian Beef sandwich.  Yes, food is that big of a deal that I would endure mud!  The Quad City Triathlon was important this year, and I am sure it will be just as important in 2015!

Renaissance Man Olympic Triathlon was probably my best run event this year. My bike was was consistent, my swim was strong and the run was HOT but I managed to finish without having a redheaded heat stroke.  This is a great event!  Florence, Alabama makes for a wonderful venue for a triathlon as it is tucked along the Tennessee River and home to many historic places.  The start and finish location is a majestic cliff guarded location which will stir the blood of most any veteran triathlete.  The bike is long and flat with some challenges but for the most part fun!  And the run energetic and historic.  I loved running by the Frank Lloyd Wright home just miles from the campus of the University of North Alabama!  If you are ready for an Olympic distance triathlon and in the region, don’t wait, sign up for this race. (Photo Credit to Katie Beth)

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh was great!  I loved the town, loved the food, loved the course and it was a fantastic road trip!  This was thanks to a lot of supporting cast.  This one probably made the top four because of the food, friends and fun I had along the way.  I struggled on the swim, liked the bike and the run seemed longer than 13.1 miles.  You can see why the adventure was better than the race itself.  However, I really like the point to point race!  Raleigh was an awesome venue and you couldn’t ask for better than the Oak City!  I really wanted to try Raleigh in 2015, however, I need to harass children that weekend!  Raleigh 70.3 was great!

Ironman Chattanooga will be a memory I take with me for many, many years.  The volunteers were fantastic and who could ask for a better swim!  This was the race I focused so much of my time on in 2014.  Hearing the words, “Ruth Marie Oliver, you are an Ironman” and having Dana DeBardelaben give me my finisher’s medal was worth all the foot blisters and long hours on the bike.  The coolest thing about Ironman Chattanooga was that people were cheering me on, event though they were not on the course.  Thanks guys! Whether you were in Chattanooga or on some social media portal cheering me on, thanks from the bottom of my heart!

That is my year in triathlon! Sprint, Olympic, half and full, these were the best four and one from each distance… couldn’t plan it any better!  Atomic Man wouldn’t make the list any year!

Mount Rushmore Style

Headed to Chick-fil-AThis is has been a really good year! Could have been great with the exception a just a hand full of moments.  This year I wanted to do something different from my normal year end blog. Since the mighty Bulldogs of Mississippi State had a great year and at one point in time were in the top four in college football, I am going to honor that top four ranking system in a series of blog post. You could call it a Mount Rushmore style to topical blogging.  All of the topics this month will be focused on the best four of 2014.

To start out, I have picked a simple topic: the most important meal of the day, breakfast!  Here is a list of my top four most memorable breakfast meals of 2014 in no particular order.

Big Ed’s in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina is a traditional country style breakfast.  They are known for their hot cakes in the morning and southern style meat and three lunch menu.  During my 38 years on this planet, I think there are only two places that had pig brain on the menu, Winona City Cafe and Big Ed’s.  Truthfully, I didn’t eat pig brain or Big Ed’s hot cakes.  I played it safe with traditional eggs, country ham and grits.  It was amazing!  Big shout out to Jen Kramer who floated in to Big Ed’s like a master culinary critic with her little man, Isaiah.  Kramer selected Big Ed’s for breakfast for me and my road tripping friends.  All there will agree she floated!

Aretha Frankensteins in the north shore area of Chattanooga, Tennessee is a spot that even Rachel Ray has enjoyed.  I have eaten at Aretha’s before, however 2014 was my first chance to eat breakfast at the small twenty or so patron restaurant.  I chose an omelet with ham, cheese and jalapeños.  All was right in the world!  We had to show up before the doors even opened to make sure we secured our seat in a home that was converted into one of Chattanooga’s most famous places to eat.  I sat at the bar with friends where I could watch the comings and goings of the staff.  The place was hopping, but I feel like it is always hopping. Great breakfast… food, especially an omelet, is the fuel of an athlete!

Cracker Barrel, could be a Cracker Barrel anywhere because I always order the same thing.  However, the breakfast I remember was with a group of veteran Ironman triathletes in Nashville, Tennessee on a Sunday morning after an open water swim.  It was the same morning I saw two A-10 Warthogs fly over Nashville in formation.  For this breakfast I had my standard Old Timer’s Breakfast with toast not biscuits and gravy.  I enjoyed good nutrition that day, but I learned about   the nutrition that would save my butt during Ironman Chattanooga. I am very thankful for that meal and all the useful advice!

The last breakfast should probably be one of the many Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits eaten at Aviation Challenge on Fridays and once this summer on Saturday during a kids triathlon.  However, I remember each calorie of my Ironman Chattanooga breakfast.  I had a protein bar and Diet Mountain Dew to start the morning at five o’clock and then snacked on a pack of brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts and water while waiting for the swim start.  Might not sound like the most healthy of meals, but each portion served a purpose.  I think I have written about this breakfast so I won’t bore you.  That was a good day and each an every day is a glorious day if you keep the main thing the main thing.

There you have it! Big Ed’s, Aretha’s, the crack house and an ala cart meal the morning of a big race.  2014 has given me some great memories.  I should have been better about sharing these moments during the year, so I am now.  I hope you enjoy this Top 4/Mount Rushmore approach to my year end blogging.  If you have a topic for me to pick four on, please share that with me on Twitter @Graphitefree.  Enjoy your holiday and please be safe!

Turkey Blog 4.0

Do you know where you were a few days before Thanksgiving four years ago? Well, my answer to that question is, right here. I was sitting on this couch with my laptop computer creating my blog, GraphiteFree.  I haven’t been the most faithful companion to my blog. Life sometimes happens and it is less than eventful when you put it into print. This post is to help mark the anniversary and the Thanksgiving season.

The latest Facebook trend this month is to put what you are thankful for each day of November.  I didn’t discover this until a few days ago. I am less than observant at times. This is my futile attempt to be as cool as everyone who started on November 1st, listing what they are thankful for and desperately hoping to keep my blog relevant.

One – God:  I am very thank for our gracious Creator. Knowing that our God and Father is watching over us and loved us enough to save us is the most precious thing in our lives. This is what I am most thankful for.

Two – Family:  I have a wonderful family. Being home in Mississippi recharges my heart and soul. I love being on the farm near my family with my mom cooking in the kitchen and daddy in his chair. On top of that, I have a wonderful extended family in Madison County Alabama.

Three – Blinkers:  I love safety. I am the Be Ready Girl! Blinkers represent planning ahead… look for the safest route to your final goal… and not running into the driver next to you. Blinkers are important.

Four – Freedom:  Until the socialist take my freedom. I will be very thankful for this. Don’t believe everything you read. Thinking for yourself is the best way to experience freedom. The ability to pick and choose what you want to do on a daily basis is a glorious thing.

Five – Great Friends:  Throughout my life I have all ways been surrounded by wonderful people. Life is not much fun unless you have great friends to enjoy life with.

Six – Sports:  I am very thankful to be a fan of sports, a lover of ESPN Sports Center and a competitor in many sporting events. I love crying at sports movies and those touching “Inside the Lines” stories on Sunday mornings.

Seven – Bunnies:  This year, I was blessed by having a litter of rabbit kits. There were seven of the little guys. It was one of the coolest things ever! I now want to start a farm.

Eight – Health:  God has truly blessed me with great health. I can do all things I need to do. I have been given great endurance and I am seldom sick.

Nine – Ragnar:  On November 9th, a team of crazy friends and I ran from Chattanooga to Nashville. I am thankful for friends and for the ability run… I am still not fast, but I can run.

Ten – Soda Box Cookies:  These cookies are not made from some super secret recipe. These cookies however are the best ever conceived and my grandmother taught me how to make them. I miss my grandparents and are truly thankful to have some of the greatest to ever live.

Eleven – Electricity:  I could be one of those people who lives in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. However, electricity and technology has given us so much extra enjoyment in life. Without refrigeration our modern day Thanksgiving would not be possible.  It is great to type a blog and not use graphite to record all my ramblings.

Twelve – Cowbells:  No, Mississippi State is not known for its multiple national titles, but it is know for its cowbells. Mississippi State is a wonderful place with many happy memories attached to it. Hearing a cowbell ring gives me great joy! I am thankful for the Bulldogs and I hope they beat the University of Mississippi on Saturday.

Thirteen – Thanksgiving:  Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever conceived.  There is not a push to over commercialize it. People don’t get lost in shopping to help fuel our economy.  It is a day where we all pause and thank God for those things that are truly important in our lives.

Fourteen – Pencils:  The Dixon Ticonderoga is the quintessential American pencil.  It has been in my backpack, on my desk and behind my ear for many years. I love the pencil, because it does not expect me to be perfect like the pen does. The pencil is a non-judgmental companion that I am very thankful for.

Fifteen – Peanut Butter:  I was a picky eater growing up.  Some say I am still a picky eater.  However, if it wasn’t for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I might not have lived to see the age fifteen. Heck, I didn’t like pizza for a while. I feel sorry for all the poor souls who are allergic to peanut butter.

Sixteen – Golf:  Is there anything better than taking a club and beating the crap out of a small round object. To focus your energy on one single point in space and driving the ball beyond your own expectations is one of the best ways to release stress!

Seventeen – Math:  Seventeen is a prime number.  So is 37, which will be my age this time next year. No matter the number or age, I love math. I loved teaching math and doing math. I even like the new exhibit at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Math Alive.

Eighteen – Peyton Manning:  True, Peyton is not with the Colts anymore, but he is still my most favorite boy friend. But I am still very lucky to see my favorite Manning playing football this season! Thank you for Peyton’s health! Also, I am very happy Peyton attended Rocky Top and not Ole Piss.

Nineteen – Okra:  Delta State is a wonderful university found in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Knowing how quirky I am, you should know that I would go to school where they have a mascot like the Fighting Okra. I am an okra girl. The Statesmen is a dumb mascot!

Twenty – Salt:  What would we do without salt? It a multifunctional tool which I can not imagine a day without. It makes stuff taste better. It is used for many great Biblical analogies. And it is useful in making ice cream.

Twenty One – Antiperspirant:  Let me be honest with you all, I sweat more than most human beings do. If it were not for Degree antiperspirant I wouldn’t have friends and my Ragnar team mates would have kicked me out of the van after my first run. I am very thankful for the help I receive in the use of antiperspirant.

Twenty Two – Cotton:  I love being a farm kid. I love all the amazing memories I have either in the cotton field or the cotton gin. I loved having acres and acres to roam when growing up. I am very thankful for my farming family.

Twenty Three – Proof Readers:  I can’t spell or write very well without an army of people to help me. I need to have proof readers to make this blog thing a reality. It is fun connecting with people though my blog. I couldn’t do that without people to help me.

Twenty Four – Weddings:  This is going to seem like a crazy thing to be thankful for, but I am thankful for Anderson’s wedding last year. After the wedding my mom saw pictures of me on Facebook. She thought I was fat and told me I was fat. Later that fall she told me again after another wedding. I am thankful for this, because it was the kick in the pants I needed to get in shape!

Twenty Five – Running: I am thankful to be able to run, because it makes me not so fat. However, I wish I could be thankful for good genetics which makes me a good runner. But that is not the case, I am slow and thankful for the abilities I do have.

Twenty Six – Recruiting Staff:  Yes, I am very thankful for the efforts made to recruit new staff for Space Camp. But one of the most coolest things about staff recruitment, is staff training is not far behind. Did I mention, I have the coolest job in the world.

Twenty Seven – Baseball:  Since I was 20 months old I have been fascinated with the game of baseball. I have been to many professional, college and high school games. It doesn’t matter if it is a World Series or a little league game, I love the game of baseball. Get well soon Derek Jeter.

Twenty Eight – Gadgets:  I love knives, first aid supplies, tools and electronics. I like being ready for most anything that life could through at me. I am thankful that Lysol can kill 99.9% of germs. I am thankful for those who invented these things and the spirit of innovation.

Twenty Nine – Space Camp:  I am truly thankful for being able to work at a camp that operates year around.  Space Camp has wonderful staff. Everyday is a different day! I am thankful to work at the coolest place for space!

Thirty – Turkey:  I am a turkey for some of the things I have listed. But all in all, I have enjoyed this exercise. I will enjoy my time with my family around the Thanksgiving table. Thank you so much Mr. Butterball!

God Speed Corned Beef

A few months back the Rocket City Grill here at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center changed their menu to include some yummy sandwiches.  The sandwiches were named after a few early American astronaut heroes and all were original Mercury Seven astronauts.  The glaring absence to the list of sandwich was a corned beef sandwich.  On Gemini 3 Gus Grissom and John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich in to their capsule with help from Wally Schirra.  This was the first U.S. sandwich to travel into space and it was not honored in the naming of The Grissom, which I might add is very tasty.

The Grissom is a ham and swiss on a toasted waffle with powdered sugar served with a side of raspberry syrup.  This is a yummy sandwich but doesn’t have anything to do with space flight.  I stood in shock feeling that something was not right in the space time continuum!  We need a corned beef sandwich!  Since Grissom was already honored with a sandwich I feel like John Young should be honored in the naming of the Rocket City Grill’s corned beef sandwich.  I know what you are thinking; John Young was not a Mercury Seven astronaut!  But for the love of Max Peck, we need to honor the corned beef sandwich’s sacrifice in low earth orbit by giving it a place on the menu of the Rocket City Grill.

Therefore, I have started a movement to put the corned beef sandwich on the menu at the Rocket City Grill as the Young Sandwich!  I have started a Facebook group “We Want the Young Sandwich” to help bring this injustice to the hearts and minds of the American people.  True, NASA was not happy with its mischievous astronauts.  And yes, Gus Grissom became ill upon re-entry and vomited in the spacecraft.  But this story is a part of our history.  The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a beacon of light in a dark world. This place teaches generations about the early days of space.  It is our duty to have a corned beef sandwich and to teach about this heroic feat of sandwich goodness!

Please stand with me in this sandwich protest!  Join the movement.  Tell your friends about this injustice and ask them to join us on Facebook.  Email your space geek friends, mothers, daughters, and any lover of corned beef.  I plan to organize a “Occupy the Rocket City Grill” rally at some point in the future.  I really hope it doesn’t come to that; however I will stand firm in my belief that we should have a John Young Sandwich!  Thank you for your time and God Speed Corned Beef!

Oak Creek

One little beer cap with so many stories. Let’s start with the obvious, it is from Arizona. In 2007 Snapper and I visited Arizona with little known about each other in hopes of finding Space Camp counselors. We found Minnie! All was not lost! We found beer too, at least Snapper found beer. She didn’t know much about good beer!

Thing is, this bottle cap came from Arizona 2010. However, Snapper and I would find this beer in 2008 at the Hassayampa Inn with our favorite barkeep, John, at the helm. Oak Creek Nutbrown Ale is a 2004 Gold Medal winner in the North American Brewers’ Association competition. This Arizona favorite has a consistent nutty flavor with just a hint of spice in its depths. A slowly emerging bitterness crops up along the way and is unobtrusively incorporated into the smooth flow. It finishes with a gentle nuttiness and spiciness. This beer bear is great with sandwiches and subs, as well as recruiting at ERAU.

Ok, let’s cut the bull! At one point in time Safety would retrieve a resupply of Oak Creek for people in Alabama. As he drove cross country to work at Aviation Challenge. This beer is so epic that it has followed me on two canoe trips in Tennessee. When Oak Creek made the trip on the Elk River, only Red Bull and Snapper enjoyed the Arizona beer. This year as I was off recruiting in Arizona, Nemo was trusted with the care of my puppy. She shared in the goodness of Oak Creek beer by drinking the last of Safety’s beer.

However, the best way to drink Oak Creek Nutbrown Ale is to drink it in a small chilled glass at the Hassayampa Inn with one of your best friends. Prescott, Arizona is special place and that is why this Arizona blazoned bottle cap is on my cork board. This beer, these memories, and Arizona it’s self are special to me!

Single Again

In my Blogging for Blog Sake I recalled a trip to Jack Daniels and Miss Mary Bobo’s that resulted in a job change for my husband Chris. He moved from the prestigious firm which counts the Oscar ballots to Booz Allen Hamilton which forced us to be married for the first time in five years. Don’t get me wrong, with the exception of the in-laws, I love being married to my wonderful husband! However, today I am here to report that we are single again. Chris is back working for PwC and traveling around the country in search of platinum status on Delta and to find the perfect concierge lounge. Unfortunately this break up will not keep me form Christmases at the Key’s, though it does mean my husband gets chocolates on his pillow each night.

To look back at out brief life together, living each day under the same roof, sharing the same shower, and using the same toilet paper, I will give you the five things I will miss having Chris around and the top five things I will enjoy being single.

Things I will miss while Chris is traveling…

1.  Dinners with my Chris! I know Chris will enjoy having chicken fingers from room service, but I will miss cooking meals from him. I would make chicken and rice, or pot roast, or PB&J. He wanted to take leftovers to work to save money, because Booz Allen didn’t pay for him to eat out in Huntsville. See PwC pays his expenses while on the road.

2.  I will miss having someone bring all the stuff I left at home to me at work. See, I forget stuff all the time. It was nice that my husband left for work after me. Hey Punkin, can you bring my keys, badge, or phone to me when you come in? It was wonderful! God bless my pokey little husband!

3.  My Bartender! I will miss having someone to make my Jack & Coke. True, this will mean I won’t drink as much, but it is always nice to have someone to make a drink for you after a long day. Especially when the drink comes with a kiss.

4.  I will miss having someone to watch Glee with! Yes, it is a morally bankrupt show about teenagers who can sing and dance. However, having someone to get addicted to the show with is worth something in the world of 10,000 TV channels. Remember, I only watch one TV show per season.

5.  Cuddling… enough said!

Things I will enjoy while being left all by myself…

1.  I will really enjoy parking in the middle of the garage. I know this seems like a small thing, but having to squeeze on one side of the garage is a strain on my free spirit. I want to park wherever I want.

2.  I will enjoy not having to fight over the TV. I, like all women should, enjoy watching Sport Center in the morning, Mike Rowe whenever I can, and the Food Network in between. Heck, I bought Chris a TiVo and Sling Box, does he really think I should watch Chuck with him every Monday night?

3.  I get to have the whole bed! Which means no one is snoring in my ear… well, there is the dog.

4.  I will enjoy be able to keep the house clean during the week. Unfortunately, I haven’t cleaned the house for the ten months Chris lived here.

5.  All the Marriott points which will lead to great hotels in cool vacation destinations!

Good luck Chris! I will miss you during the week, but I know you are really happy at PwC. Heck, they count the Oscar ballots!

Great Deep South World Tour

Tour MapEach Christmas Chris and I venture across the state line several times to visit family. Chris calls this journey the Great Deep South World Tour 2009! I call it crisscrossing the Southeast in hopes to find sanity at the end of the trip, or somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! However, it is a little crazy if you break it down. Try and follow along.

Wednesday 5:05pm I complete a shift at the Barn. Chris, Boo and I drive feverishly to Winona, Mississippi 4.5 hours away. We unload the vehicle share a few stories and off to bed. We wake up at my parent’s house and prepare for a day of celebrating my father’s and sister-in-law’s birthday along with our Oliver family Christmas. Mom is not feeling well so we placed her on injured reserve for the day. Walter and Christy led the food prep team as Chris entertained the little ones and helped out where needed.

After we finished a wonderful meal of meats and carbohydrates, Daddy read Luke 2 from an English Standard Version of the Bible. He threw in a few thee’s, thou’s, and a goeth here and there to be reminiscent of the King James Version. Unfortunately, there was a Bible misplaced during set up for the day. No worries, we made it through the day! We made out like a bandits with Mississippi State Cheese, silverware, and a really cool flash light; all useful gifts. The night ended early because Santa was nearing North America in record speed. Did you know that you can track Santa on Google Maps? Very useful in getting kids to go to bed!

Boo the Traveling Dog!Christmas morning started at 5:30am with several, “I don’t want to get up” and a few “really do I have to?” Chris and I did have enough time to empty our stockings Santa had left for us before we hit the road heading for Hoover, Alabama and the Land of Houndstooth! We stopped by my brother’s house to check out the damage Santa and the reindeer caused to the roof of their house. By the way things looked under the tree, Santa landed well over his weigh limit, dislodging a few shingles in the process. We were back on US 82 at 7:20am an in Hoover, Alabama by 10:03am.

There is a great contrast between Chris’ family and my family. Chris would describe my family as loud and I would describe his family as quiet, reserved, almost boring. His family’s house feels like a very sterile place. His family has moved all over the US following their father’s career in the coal mining industry. So their home doesn’t really have the same lived in feel that the farm has. My parents still live in the home they built just before I was born. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the new grandparents placed plastic under the 10 month old granddaughter’s high chair. This is the best comparison I can give. I am sure there are still hidden green beans in my childhood room from when I was stubborn and wouldn’t eat them; meanwhile Chris’ parents are a little worried about macaroni and cheese on their Persian rug.

We exchanged gifts at his parent’s, which is contrasting from Christmas on the farm. In Hoover, we all unwrap gifts at the same time. If we chose this method with my parent’s we would lose track of who gave what to whom. Did I mention we are loud on the farm? I got bath gear and Chris received three or four flash lights. I am not sure what message this sends, but useful gifts, so bonus points for both families this year. Great gifts given to me by my quiet mother-in-law… a THONG! Yes, thong! However, it wasn’t what you would think; it was a “Book Thong” bookmark. Why name it a book thong? I don’t know, but it is funny!

We left Hoover at 1:34pm headed north to Huntsville, Alabama and back home for Christmas on the creek! Chris and I chose to exchange gifts at home; this hopefully starting a new tradition for us. We enjoyed leftovers and hanging out in the peace and comfort of our own home. But wait; the weekend is still not over! I worked at the Barn the day after Christmas to find out that everyone visiting the Barn wanted items we didn’t have. We were out things which we had been sold out of weeks ago. I ended my Barn session at 8:00pm on Saturday.

Christmas Game of TossThe last leg of our journey was back to Mississippi to visit my mom’s side of the family. The Land clan gathered in Ridgeland, Mississippi to visit and share gifts. My cousins and my brother reminisced about epic backyard football games of our childhood as we tossed the football back and forth with the next generation. Things like that make zig-zagging across Mississippi and Alabama all worth it!

We ended our trip at 10:09pm Sunday night (just a few minutes ago) traveling 1,290 miles visit all of our families. We stopped for gas five times along the way. Boo peed on seventeen trees and lost tons of hair during the stressful trip (most of which seems to have landed in the vehicle). We passed Tuscaloosa’s Chipotle twice, stopping to eat only once. We crossed the state line four times and traveled through four area codes. However you slice it or dice it, Chris and I love our families and we enjoy visiting them. We shared homemade Kahlua with the reserved Key family. This would be the play of the entire tour! The combined trip time of nineteen hours in the TEV was worth the time spent with family! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Cookies

The Messy KitchenRemember the Friends episode with Phoebe’s cookies? Monica wanted Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe as an engagement present. After realizing Phoebe had lost the only copy of the recipe, they slaved in the kitchen for hours trying different combinations (“Don’t try batch 16”) of egg, sugar, butter, and flour to recreate the recipe. At the end of the episode we learn that Phoebe’s grandmother’s cookie recipe was actually the recipe found on the back of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips. There is nothing wrong with handing down a family recipe which was found on the packaging of a baking product.

Last night with my friend Taunya, we dusted off the recipe for my Gran’s cookies and made what seemed like one hundred cookies. The recipe isn’t really a secret, but I am a believer that the way my grandmother prepared the cookies is the secret. I don’t know how many times I helped Gran make cookies, but each time seemed special as I watched her hands move carefully through the ingredients. She would pull up a stool for me to stand on and dress me in a hand made apron. Gran had this ceramic bowl with blue and pink stripes on it. I was often unwilling to wait while the butter softened, so she put me to work setting out the cooling racks, or lining the cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

The “secret” recipe came off a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda. I think I remember Gran telling me when I was a kid that my great grandmother discovered the recipe. Gran probably made thousands upon thousands of the buttery cookies, especially since she made cookies with all of her grandchildren. Making them as well as eating them is a family tradition. A few years back, well maybe it was a decade or two; my Aunt Wanda collected all the family recipes and compiled them into a handy dandy cook book. In “Family Jewels” my aunt tells brief stories about each recipe. The cookie recipe is my favorite; let me share it with you… You can find it on Arm & Hammer’s website. It is neat that this recipe is still being published.

Have ingredients at room temperature
Sift together

  • 2 ½ cups of plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Cream the following until fluffy

  • ½ cup butter or Oleo (don’t know if anyone still uses Oleo)
  • ½ cup Crisco or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir in dry ingredients and till mixture is smooth
Blend in 2 tablespoons of milk
Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking sheet. Flatten with bottom of a glass dipped in oil and then sugar.
Bake at 400°F for 10 – 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
(I only needed 6 minutes)
Makes about 5 ½ dozen 2 inch cookies
You can mix chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, or nuts. You can also top the cookies with whole pecans, sprinkles, or my favorite cinnamon.

Yummy!This recipe is very special to me. I am sure there are thousands of people who use this recipe each day. It may not be a gourmet recipe, but it is special to me and my family. In an effort to connect with my mother-in-law I gave her this recipe at Christmas. She didn’t get it. I guess most people don’t get it. Just like most people don’t get Christmas. We live in a rush, rush world. An easy bake, slice and serve culture. However, it doesn’t matter if it is Nestle Toll House or the break and bake cookies from the freezer section of your local grocery store, as long you are cooking with the ones you love. That is what is important.

I enjoyed baking with Taunya. The cookies are delicate and sweet and my husband thinks that anything is good with butter. He wants to create a new butter marketing slogan, WWPDD – What Would Paula Deen Do? She uses lots of butter! Use this recipe or another, buy some butter, and find a kid and make thousand of cookies tonight!

Rainbow Cupcakes

My place card at the dinner tableSome of my favorite memories have been standing around the chop block in my mother’s kitchen. This was the case this morning and this afternoon as we prepped for our large Thanksgiving Day spread. Last night as I helped my mom prep the turkey on the chop block for its overnight stay in the oven, I realized how lucky I was to be born in a family that knew how to cook. I remember standing on a stool in my Gran’s kitchen learning how to bake cookies. Each batch of her soda box cookies we made was precious and dear to me. Cooking is just as special to me as eating on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Thanksgiving.

Today I woke up excited about helping cook the 2009 edition of Big Mama’s Thanksgiving meal. We have basically had the same menu for years. Oven roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, five-cup salad, sweet corn from our farm, asparagus casserole, green beans, giblet gravy, and cranberry sauce from a can. Mom has thrown in a few things to keep us guessing like broccoli salad, mac-n-cheese (the real stuff), mashed potatoes and fruit salad. I must mention the saga of the rolls. My dad loves brown-n-serve. I love the ready to eat rolls that come in a tin pan. But my mom loves to make home made yeast rolls. She seems to always win out.

This year as I was setting the table and the Little Indians were fighting over who could help. I devised a plan to split the warring tribes. Reece would make place cards for the table while Rhett helped me set the table. I knew working at the Barn would pay off. I would have never thought of this plan if not for the dozens of tablescapes I have worked on at the Barn. Everyone helps with lunch, even little Lucy helps by taking drink orders. She wrote each drink order on a note card with a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. I trained her well.

The Cupcake PrincessThis afternoon I had to play “babies” with Lucy. Strange thing is, I didn’t know how to play “babies.” Growing up I played football, cowboys and Indians, or army with my brothers and cousins. This concept of playing with dolls was new to me. I didn’t know how to feed the baby, change the baby, or burp the baby. Come on, it has a plastic head with a cotton body and synthetic stuffing. You can feed it, change it, or burp it! The only thing worse about this playing “babies” is my brother put Lucy up to asking for a cousin for Christmas. Unfortunately I think she will be disappointed, because that isn’t on our Christmas list.

This afternoon it all seemed to come full circle. Lucy was left with me while everyone else went hunting. She wanted to make cup cakes with multicolored icing. She was standing on a stool helping me bake. Sure it wasn’t some family recipe or traditional holiday treat. It was more like we were playing in the kitchen than cooking. I learned that Lucy loves cake batter and icing. After putting the cupcakes in to bake we added food coloring to the frosting. Lucy had to sample the blue, the pink, the green, and the orange icing to see which one tasted better. As we were baking Chris was in the woods hunting.

Pumkin and BuckHe has taken on the sport in recent years. He loves growing his beard out, wearing his hunting clothes, and spending time in search of the great white tail buck! This morning he woke up and hit the dear stand before day break. This afternoon he tried his luck again. He is such a technology driven hunter. Last year he played with Blackberry more than he shot his gun. I text messaged him to see if he took a shot. He informed me that he shot at a six point. It wasn’t until I saw the bearded wonder outside with his not six point, but eight point buck I had confirmation of the kill.

We have a lot to be thankful for, cooking, cupcakes, and trophy bucks. I look forward to the Iron Bowl tomorrow, finding a taxidermist, and the Egg Bowl on Saturday!

Turkey Day

Everyone has their favorite holiday or day of the year. My favorite season is fall, favorite month is November, and favorite day is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the last great holiday left. The once great Christmas has been taken over by the high end retail firms and the big box stores. Easter should really be the greatest of all holidays, but my mom always made me wear a pastel frock. In my book, Halloween was never even in the top five. Nope, there just isn’t a holiday as great as Thanksgiving.

Traditionally Thanksgiving is a time to rest and give thanks after the harvest season. Here in the United States we trace the origin of Thanksgiving back to 1621 and the feast shared by the colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts and Wampanoag Indians. Turkey was not on the menu. The Indians supplied many dried meats and grains. The colonist prepared fowl, deer, fish, and lobster for the feast. Turkey didn’t come to the party until much later. Just after the Battle of Saratoga, the Continental Congress asked all colonies to celebrate a day of thanksgiving for the victory over the British army.

Early in our nation’s history, our forefathers and mothers instilled in us the importance of stopping to thank our Creator for his grace, mercy and bountiful kindness. Abraham Lincoln, with a little encouragement from a magazine editor, signed into law the last Thursday in November to be observed as a national holiday. Lincoln was hopeful that this holiday would help the nation on the brink of war. The legislation didn’t bring peace to a nation divided, but has government ever solved a problem? Thanksgiving would lead to millions of families celebrating with Butterball turkey on their plates and a TV remote in their hands watching either Detroit or Dallas.

At my house on a farm in Mississippi we celebrate with the best of traditions. My mom cooks a twenty-plus pounds turkey overnight. The morning of Thanksgiving, as Macy’s Thanksgiving parade is on NBC, she prepares cornbread dressing with the drippings from the roasted turkey. We always have the same menu and way too much of everything. Coming together as family is really the best part of the holiday. However, I don’t think I would understand the greatness of Thanksgiving if I didn’t come from a farming family. The farm’s harvest is the best visual or teaching tool to show God’s sovereign power over the universe. God takes care of every detail, the rain, the temperature, the bugs and critters, and the farmer.

One of the most memorable Thanksgivings on the farm was while I was in college. I was home helping mom cook while Walter and Daddy had to work Thanksgiving morning picking cotton. It had been a rough harvest season with rain keeping them out of the field and forcing the crops to stay. The last cotton was picked that morning and my dad in his Ford pickup truck lead a line of John Deere cotton pickers and tractors home. It was the coolest Thanksgiving Day parade ever. My mom still cooked the same meal that day, but we did have a contingency plan to eat in the field if they didn’t get done.

The joy of Thanksgiving is being with family and praising the Master of all things. And when it comes to football, when and if Mississippi State beats Ole Miss we will be extra thankful! I hope everyone has a wonderful Turkey Day! Thanks for your friendship and for reading my random blog! I hope your turkey is filling, your team wins, and your afternoon nap is restful!

Good Okra Hunting

Fighting OkraToday we ventured to the book store to purchase our Fighting Okra paraphernalia! I’m sure you’re thinking, “What’s this Okra thing all about?” Delta State University’s official mascot is the Statesmen. And it is lame. Yes, I know that many Delta State alumni will disagree with me and accuse me of blasphemy! The older generation of alumni frowns on the popularity of our un-official mascot, the Fighting Okra. However, since the 1980s it has grown in popularity. Simply put the image of a politician is not particularly frightening. Wait? Some politicians are frightening but in a very different way.

Legend has it that the Okra was the inspiration of the DSU baseball team. I heard one story that the baseball field was once an okra patch and one stubborn plant returned seasons after the field was converted into a baseball diamond. I do know that tall baseball players clad in all green look similar to okra pods. The angry looking okra cartoon is much more villainous than an athlete. Its sinister sneer could be intimidating except that you do notice that it is a violent vegetable leering at you. There are really too many stories to tell, but as the popularity grew so did the tall tales. Heck, plus cheering for a “Lady Statesmen” is like cheering for a “straight lesbian.”

When I was a student… ten years ago(!!!!)…a student brought the cartoon character to life. Brian Formby made the first Fighting Okra costume from a green sleeping bag to be worn on the side lines. He converted the green sleeping bag into the angry veggie with a donation from Lynn Sullivan. She gave her father’s boxing gloves and boots. Paired with some funky green leggings, the Fighting Okra was brought to life. Way back when I was a student, the book store only carried one t-shirt and a coffee mug with the un-official mascot. Today, there were over a dozen items with the Fighting Okra! The items range from shot glasses to hoodies and beanie veggies to baseball caps. Wow, how the Okra has grown!

The popularity of the Okra is not the only thing that has changed since I graduated in 1999. My favorite eateries way back when were Airport Grocery and A la Carte! Both are still good, but not excellent. They have lost something. Airport moved away from the airport and A la Carte changed ownership. You really can’t be great forever. And I am sure my memories of all my friends and the wonderful times I had in college has clouded my current judgment. I have found two new spots that are absolutely fabulous. Please if you visit Cleveland, Mississippi stop by Hey Joe’s or the Warehouse, two super restaurants with great atmosphere, excellent service, and really good food!

On this recruiting trip I was able to look back at my time here at DSU. I loved every minute of it. I recall the hell of my first semester. I think I had all the toughest professors. I visited one of those professors today. Dr. Elizabeth Sarcone was heading to class when I popped in her office. I wanted to say hi, because after three semesters of Sarcone the Terminator, I actually learned something. I only got to spend a few moments with her, but I thanked her for encouraging me to write. I always respected her for teaching with fervor and integrity. I remember her never compromising her educational philosophy even on a bonehead like me. It was wonderful to see her, shake her hand and thank her!

All in all today was a wonderful day. Our trip was extended because we are speaking to a room full of pilots tomorrow. Great break for us! I visited with several librarians tonight as Amazon ate more food. She ate a gallon of loaded baked potato soup today at the Warehouse. Tonight it was more Mexican food! Whether it is an Okra or a Statesmen it is still my first home away from home. Whether it is Airport Grocery or Hey Joe’s this place has a special place in my heart. Whether it is a librarian or a rocket scientist my life is blessed from all the wonderful people I meet along the way.

Learn More about the Okra…

In Nickname Realm, Fighting Okra Snappiest

Good Eats

Weird Mascots

Butter and Blogs

Chris and I went to see the new movie Julie & Julia. This movie blends two books it to a lovely tale. The two books being Julia Child’s autobiography My Life in France published posthumously and Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Julie Powell’s book was taken from her blog The Julie/Julia Project. I haven’t read either book but when you make a movie about food and blogging I am there.

It wasn’t until after the movie that I researched Julia Child’s life. Wow, was she adventurous. She was born in California in 1913. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she tried joining the U.S. Navy but was turned down due to height. She was too tall at six foot two inches. She did join the Office of Strategic Services and served her country in Europe and China. She was married in 1946. While living in Paris she decided to go to cooking school. Not just any cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. She and her husband Paul moved around Europe while she worked on her book. When they moved back to the states her cook book was finally published, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

She wasn’t finished after that, but most of us know the story from that point. She inspired generations of home cooks in America. She inspired Julie Powell. Julie Powell was a struggling worker with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The movie portrays her as someone who needed direction in life, a project, something to focus her life. She created a blog chronicling her attempt to cook all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She seemed discouraged with life. She worked other temp jobs before her job distributing funds post-9/11. The Julie/Julia Project led her to a very successful blog with thousands of readers. The blog led her to a book deal and the book deal led to a movie deal. Wow, what an adventure that must have been.

Julie Powell is still leaving her adventure. The movie Julie & Julia premiered August 7, 2009. I am sure her life is wild right know. I have read her current blog What Could Happen?. She is just like Julia Child, a real person on the road of life.

I went to see Julie & Julia because it combined two of my favorite thing, food and blogs. Food is so intimate. We all have dear memories of our mother, father, grandmother, aunt, uncle, or best friend cooking something amazing. This amazing dish was shared over great conversation and utter bliss. My husband and I have shared some incredible meals. My mom can cook better than anyone I know. All of my aunts can cook because they were taught by my Gran. My Gran taught me a thing or two. Other than death and taxes there is another certainty. That certainty is food. We have to eat. And if we must eat, we should enjoy.

If you can’t get to the theater to watch Julie & Julia, please find someone you dearly love and enjoy a meal with them. Something with lots of flavor and most importantly lots of butter!