What a difference a vernal equinox makes! In the past 24 hours I’ve been up to my elbows in dirt and annuals on the front porch, invented an orange marmalade dessert, and shed pounds and pounds of unwanted clothing (114 pounds, to be exact, though not all mine).

Let me take a step backwards. I hosted a clothing swap last fall and it was so much fun I wanted to do it again. No, that’s not quite right. My house was a wreck about three weeks ago and I was up to my eyeballs in clothes I hadn’t worn all winter. I gave myself a deadline to clean up and ship out (the clothing, that is)–this deadline was the Spring Clothing Swap. I invited a bunch of women and started on the house cleaning.

A friend of mine pointed out oh-so-nicely that I live You decide for yourself.with a lot of clutter. I have four old-timey mantles with knick-knacks all over them, my coffee table functions as catch-all, my halltree is laden with all manner of outerwear and bags . . . you get the picture. He came over Saturday and helped me arrange the “boutique” bedroom and declutter the other areas. He had great ideas for lamps and mirrors and food areas–I was reluctant to have him help, but humbled and grateful by the end. Actually, he bought me flowers in the process (the annuals I planted this morning on the porch) a generous and thoughtful gesture. We ate take-out pizza during a short break, meanwhile debating the merits of odd-numbered decorative items and whether a glass pig-shaped coin bank was cute ironic kitsch or just tacky.

Say Anything. I wish this top (ever) fit me.

People brought fun stuff like jackets, sweaters, shoes, purses, tops, dresses, scarves, jewelry; and it was nice to have it all contained in the bigger front bedroom instead of the sitting room like last time.

While we were waiting for everyone to arrive and place their things, my youngest guest, Bekah, found a pair of shoes that fit her perfectly! It was almost too much to tell her “the rules,” that we would draw numbers to see who could choose first. I think she drew number four, so her selections were safe.

We considered pieces, tried things on (“Amanda, the window is open!”), put them back, took them out

My sister-in-law in the "boutique"!

again, and each ended up with a few goodies to take home. We updated our spring wardrobes, cleaned out closets and had good girl time. Daniel says Katie brought home more than she gave away, but I think that’s okay too. We also donated good used clothing and accessories to Thriftsmart in the name of my alma mater Glencliff High School.

A male friend asked if I thought there was any way a swap would work for men. I said no.

#61 Eddie C. (3/19 for pizza)
#62 Stephanie L.
#63 Ember T.
Katie L. (#10)
Laura O. (#9)
Shannon T. (#42)
Bekah T. (#44)
Melody E. (#54)
Amanda V. (#53)
Bethany S. (#49)

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Somewhere in this hemisphere, there are ten keys to my house. I am assured there are more than that, actually; as key/handle makers make 1000s with the same coding. This was convenient when I wanted three sets with the same code yet a bit disconcerting to think of it now.

Nonetheless, I know where seven of my ten keys are–with me or in the hands of family members. Hannah and Katie, for example, who stayed with me over holidays sometimes in college and Daniel who lets me in when I’m locked out. Those other three, though, I can’t figure out . . . . do you have one?

I asked the cousins over for quick Sunday lunch of simple sandwiches and chips and they arrived before I did. It is a small and unnecessary mystery who let themselves in–several of them have the key, but it reminds me how important it is that there are at least a few people in your life you let in without knocking. Few friends have ever reached this level of intimacy and I’m grateful for them (if I could find those extra keys they might get one), but I’m glad I had a house-full of people today at that level.

We ate ham sandwiches and chips and dip on and around my new (used) living room furniture. Honestly, I lost track of the conversation when I started going through my boxes of old photos looking for ones of Daniel for the obligatory slideshow at Daniel and Katies’s rehearsal dinner. I found old pics of all us cousins, so we passed some around. Ben was there for the first time to eat–he and Hannah had been in town half a dozen times in the last year, but never here for a meal before.

#60 Ben W.
Hannah P. (#5)
Daniel L. (#8)
Katie R. (#10)
Laura O. (#9)
Evan M. (#13)
Katie S. (#36)
Daniel S. (#37)

#59 On the Activities Agenda

November 23, 2010

An alien-theme birthday party, of course. 2006.

A friend of mine’s alter-ego writes a blog called Asking Can Be Fun on which he asks questions (and thereby has the opportunity to have fun). There are currently 341 questions and topics for discussion; one of my (dozens of) favorites is #290: How much energy do you expend trying to convince people significantly younger than yourself that you are cool?” I admit, there have been specific times in my life, I worked hard on this goal. I have cousins who are 11, 13, 17 and 23 years younger than me who I’ve spent sporadic, but important time with. I care that they think I’m cool.

Don't we look just the same? 2008.

I always felt more like an aunt to them than a cousin–when we were together I would plan all sorts of activities. We went to the state fair, Toy Story (I), the opening of the Frist, the Globetrotters, Nemo on Ice, pottery painting, restaurants, parks, crafting, cooking, shopping. . . . Turns out they bought it–they thought I was cool!

We were on punch duty at the Grands' 60th. 2008.

 

I found this out because this week the 10-year-old Caroline is visiting with her mom, my Aunt Ruth. Cousin Katie, now a “dult” herself, found herself charged with being the Activities Director for her little sis for the week. They had cooking, shopping, swimming,  and (I think) dates with Richard Simmons and much more. Because I wanted to have Caroline over for the 100, I had to get scheduled on the agenda!

Turkey Squash craft by the author of the new blog A New Day Everyday. 2004.

They came over for lunch today and we each constructed our own personal pizzas with a variety of ingredients. I made the homemade dough and sauce before they got there–a simple sauce I’m quite proud of. We had good girl time and the pizza was really good–at least the one I made!

#59 Caroline M.
Sue L. (#17)
Ruth M. (#46)
Katie S. (#36)

It’s been a rough October for me and lots of my loved ones. Come to think of it, the previous two or three Octobers weren’t so hot for some of us either. There were many years in my 20s that I completely hibernated from October to mid-March (with a short break for Christmas); I suppose by those standards, my high contempt for autumn is less unnerving than it used to be.

Whatever the reasons, I lost sight of my goal of 100 People. Though I have been enjoying food in the company of friends and family, I’ve not invited anyone new in some time. Don’t worry–I will finish the 100, but maybe not all in 2010. There, I said it. On a brighter note, I want to host an Caroling Party closer to Christmas–if you are reading this, you are invited, so be thinking about who you can bring!

I took the cold sunshine yesterday as an invitation to explore the downtown Nashville Farmers Market. I was looking particularly for stands with seasonal produce, not the ones with bananas and citrus. Even more than local or organic food, seasonal food is what I’ve learned to love from the Woodbine Farmers Market this year. Plenty of sweet potatoes, squash, greens and apples were everywhere, along with end-of-season tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. I also found great big pots of mums for $5. Afterward, I mini-feasted on lunch from the new Turnip Truck, from a salad bar that is so much more than a salad bar. I would bribe someone for that curry chicken salad recipe.

Enough of my solitary culinary exploits.

My Uncle Sam and Aunt Diana from Virginia are in town this weekend spending some time with the Grands while my parents are on vacation, so I’m having Sunday lunch at my house. Mom’s Sunday lunch is legendary for the food and company. For about five years, it’s been a constant way for our family to stay in easy contact with multiple generations. Extra friends are always welcome to squeeze around the table too. We pass things the wrong way and play an unwritten game we call Bingo.

For this Sunday lunch, Grandpa was able to check out of Bethany for a few hours and Granny felt well enough too join us for lunch–a nice surprise! Even though my home is not entirely wheelchair-ready, Sam and Diana managed to get Grandpa up the front steps and then roll around with few problems. Granny pointed out to him and everyone the (absence of the) closet wall he helped knock down a few years ago. Aunt Diana already encouraged me on Friday evening by asking about several things I had blogged about before–Flatrock and the Clothing Swap, for examples. I was excited that she was excited to be one of the 100!

We went ahead and started eating a little early–though without Daniel and Katie and ice. I felt like the meal was kind of hodge-podge for some reason, or maybe it was just me that was scatterbrained. I served pork tenderloin with squashed squash and roasted broccoli. Grandpa wanted coffee as soon as he got to the table, so I put a pot on and rolled up some Nutella crescents while the others ate. I had been picking at the food while cooking and had too much nervous energy to sit down. Daniel and Katie finally arrived with the ice, but they had to sit on the couch, for there was no room for them at the table. or inn.

For dessert, we ate some combination of 1) Nutella pastries, 2) homemade spicy applesauce, and 3) ice cream. Really, people ordered that way, by number. We didn’t get to hang out much after eating since the Grands needed to get back and Katie (#1) had some cooking for a Bowl Supper tonight.

Just FYI, this was not my best kitchen day ever: I overcooked half of the broccoli to crispy and didn’t realize I was out of lemon juice for finishing it, plus I forgot to salt the squash and I made the coffee really really strong. Good thing the food is not the only thing Sunday lunch means to me.

#55 Diana P.
#56 Leah P.
#57 John P.
#58 Sam P.
Katie S. (#36)
Daniel S. (#37)
Katie R. (#10)
Daniel L. (#8)

#53-#54 Swap Meet

September 12, 2010

Last time every piece of laundry in my house was clean and put away, I counted all the skirts in my closet–there were 88. That week, I acquired three more. Why–you ask? We may need professional help to solve that mystery, but I did have the good sense to schedule this swap party so I’d be forced to sort through them.

(In my inadequate defense, I wear a skirt nearly everyday for work and play. I also buy them almost exclusively at thrift shops. And like most women, they represent a good history of my various sizes and styles over some years.)

Susanna and Katie drew numbers 1 and 2.

Before I lost my nerve to part with some of my collection, I invited a bunch of girls over for a clothing swap. I announced everything not taken would go to Thriftsmart. No one had to bring anything in order to take something, nor did guest have to take anything for that matter. The girls came and brought armfuls and sackfuls of clothing that we hung up and laid out in the front room. I kind of made up the system where everyone drew numbers and went in two minutes apart to choose their first item. Then after everyone had chosen one thing, it was free-for-all and anyone could take as much as she wanted.

It's cool how the same things fit different people so well.

I came to believe in the whole idea of the thing more and more as I prepared and as it went along tonight. Maybe it’s the freedom in giving things away or “freecycling” itself–it made me feel proactive. Though about what, I’m not sure. I read some how-to sites on the internet about clothing swaps and was surprised to find so many ideas out there. There are Sex and the City swaps, events to prevent domestic violence, auction swaps and more. This one was a lot of fun as it was. People trying stuff on and finding out who brought which things was surprisingly entertaining! I picked out a few things, but much less than I got rid of! At the end of the night, we bagged up four large bags and two boxes of good used clothing and accessories to donate. Melody graciously offered to drop off our leftovers at Thriftsmart this week.

We were all posing wearing some of our finds. The candid was better than the posed!

I had two soups that I left on the stove so that people could eat whenever they arrived, or go back to it when they wanted. One was Italian beans and sausage, the other vegetable Thai basil. I’d never tried the Thai kind before, so I was very happy that it turned out tasting just like Thai food. (I think the secret is just coconut and basil!)

It’s one small step in living more simply, one giant leap for community and soup-kind.


Yes, that's me in a new-to-me skirt.

#53 Amanda V.
#54 Melody E.
Katie S. (#36)
Susanna M. (#34)
Katie R. (#10)
Dana M. (#29)
Laura O. (#9)
Margaret P. (#32)
Susanna S. (#24)
Kristen S. (#50)

Flatrock Cafe closed. The coffee shop to which I walked and where everyone knew my name will be sold at auction tomorrow. I haven’t wanted to talk about it because I was afraid it was a metaphor for my self and I would suddenly turn off also. Though that hasn’t happened, I admit I am less enthusiastic about my neighborhood than I was when it was open. Now, on to something good and what this post is really about . . . .

photo by Mary Crimmins

As far as homegrown neighborhood renewal goes though, I am proud that we do have a brand new Woodbine Farmers’ Market this year. (I was bragging about it last week and someone called me a yuppie. Hmmm? I don’t think he understood the meaning of the word, yet I got his snide slide.) I bought a t-shirt, I joined the Facebook group and I started shopping there with some like-minded Flatrockers: Chris and his sister Bethany. We get herbal lemonade (rosemary-lavender or basil-mint) and carry our partly-planned, partly-impulsive buys in official market bags. As I have played sous chef at their house a few times for other farmers’ market meals–notably with West Wind Farms’ meat, Noble Springs Dairy’s goat cheese and vegetables from Delvin Farms and Real Food Farms–I thought it was about time to invite the family over to my place.

photo by Mary Crimmins

We went to the market yesterday and I got everything on my list–except onions. I knew it was too early, but I was hoping someone had a freak variety harvested already. Chris bought some random meat and produce (there’s the last bunch of kale he is very excited about). We got bread, he stocked up on coffee and I indulged in another pint of the cute tiny tomatoes. The last of the peaches and melons were greeted by the beginning of apples and pears. Oh, I ran into my friend Susanna  (#34) as we were leaving–I do so love her!

I made Scratch Pizza for which I had to suspend my fear of yeast for the afternoon. The WFM newsletter last week suggested pizza, so it was on my mind. Then I adapted ingredients for one who eats neither meat nor cow dairy. In keeping with the grown-up casual dinner, I sliced sweet potatoes for chips. Chris deep fried the chips and baked the season’s first pears (with spices and local honey) while the rest of them got the tour and chatted at the other end of the room. Bethany served up drinks for the crowd.

My lunch tomorrow

When we finally sat down around the table, good company and a good meal was had by all. I always enjoy being around their family because they respect each other and enjoy being around each other; moreover, the wide age range of siblings makes for wide variety and humor in conversation. They also spend a lot of time together, so they have great repartee, somewhat like my family’s Sunday lunches. (They like to think they have Gilmore Girls repartee, but I politely hold that no one is that witty.) We ate green salad (with “creamy” or “runny” dressing!), tiny tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potato chips and pizza–one Portobello with goat cheese feta and one Canadian bacon with asiago. Baked pears and apples with ice cream arrived for dessert. Fact: apples bake much faster than pears.

Kristen left early to go to a show with Eric, so the rest of us sat around and talked over coffee. We came up with some new booth ideas for the farmer’s market–maybe we’ll catch Mary next Tuesday if they still seem like good ideas. Sorry to Bethany that we couldn’t play a whole game tonight, at least you got a little Catchphrase. There will be other times; after all, I just live around the corner.

I’ll answer to one thing people say about farmers’ market food–that it’s more expensive than supermarket products. It’s true. It ends up about like the cost of a restaurant meal–more expensive than a simple home meal. During this harvest season though, I can afford to do that once a week (with plenty of leftovers to boot), especially because I’m not eating out as much. Plus, I am willing to pay more for food that tastes good, that I know where it comes from, that I can meet the people who cultivated it, and that supports people who do what they love for a living. If that makes me a yuppie, or whatever other term you want to use, I guess I am.

#49 Bethany S.
#50 Kristen S.
#51 Karen S.
#52 Tom S.
Chris S. (#41)

#48 Facebook Friend

August 19, 2010

This was a friendship match made on Facebook–the ubiquity we all love to hate in real life. (Apparently, ubiquity is actually a word because it is not red underlined like Facebook is. Grammatical fact: words used in sentences as word entities are to be italicized, not put in quotation marks.)

Jennifer and I were introduced a couple years ago through mutual friends; still, as neither of us are new-people people, we did not immediately strike up a friendship. Over time, though, we would both notice each other’s comments on friends’ walls. And I, for one, was often amused and by what she had to say. She posts articles on politics, religion and culture with which I mostly agree, and did on one occasion, re-post. If she wrote a blog on anything, I would read it.

So, when I got her wall message after my latest dinner, I grabbed the chance to have her over “asap.” I didn’t cook–it was spontaneous and I had good leftovers on hand that I reconfigured into bbq pork on Hawaiian rolls and a field greens and strawberries salad. We ate and talked for the first time, one-on-one, in person. Her recent trip to Canada, work, family, being a thinking person in this world–you know, the things people talk about.

That night I was just starting to get a whiff every once in a while of what I would later learn was a deceased animal near the intake of my air conditioner. I hope she can forgive me for the curious maleficent odor and come again!

#48 Jennifer T.

I took the summer off–from blogging, from hair products, from my alarm clock, from buying real groceries, from some of my senses and more. I went to Italy and Egypt and I worked half a dozen or so estate sales. I breakfasted at Flatrock lots (I mean lots, four to six times a week for a while) and made a few new friends. But this isn’t about me–oh wait, yes it is.

Said all that to say, I’m back. I’ve scheduled a small party in a couple weeks to really get things back on track; but before that, I want to at least hit the half-way point.

It’s game night at my house. If I had a family of my own, we would sure enough have “Family Game Night” just like on the cheesy commercials. More than the games themselves, though, I love sitting around with small group of friends with no other purpose than to enjoy one another’s  company. I really don’t care what the game is as long as it’s not too competitive, intense or strategic that you have to give 100% of your attention to it. That reminds me, several years ago, I played Bunko with a group of twelve girls from work. We had strict rules: visit for one hour, play for one hour and roll as quick as you can. That was a competition! And if I ever crave that again, I can join another Bunko group.

Dinner was supposed to be quick and simple–pulled pork soft tacos, black beans, fruit salad and fresh salsa. I had a bunch of fresh produce on hand and I got Chris to bring tomatoes from his family.  Oh, and I picked up my favorite kitchen shortcut: Whitt’s barbeque (dry). I thought we were set–ha! but no. I nearly ran out of sufficient bowls to hold all the different components! I think everyone took a turn sauteeing something–onions, portobello mushrooms, red and orange peppers. Katie processed the salsa and mashed the avocado for guacamole. Chris put together the guac after carefully considering everything in the spice cabinet (or was that for the mushrooms?) When Katie and Daniel set everything out on the table they literally filled it up with sour cream, cheese, cilantro, lime wedges, salsa, guacamole, mushrooms, onion, peppers, pork, cherries, mango fruit salad, toasted flour tortillas (too much oil made them a a little chewy), chips–all in their own dishes! I thought it was funny that there were so many possible combinations of ingredients, we proudly announced when we made a yummy combo. Eric had been recording with The Nobility all day, so he didn’t get my earlier confusing message about dinner until late. Coincidentally, when we did connect, he was only about five blocks away, so he hopped right over to eat with us.

On to the games–we previously settled on Scrabble, which I’d been wanting to play ever since a strange night of Beatles Trivial Pursuit a couple weeks ago. After clean up (thank you for your help with all those separate dishes!), and when we could not scrounge up a Scrabble game, we tried Catchphrase with an uneven number of people. A u-shaped passing procedure evened out the number of players so-they-say, but I couldn’t think of Christina Aguilara among other things, so the girls lost the first few rounds. Then we made a respectable comeback in the “food” and “sci-tech” categories. After Daniel made sure I knew he wasn’t using the “Katie has to get up early” excuse when they finally had to leave, the three of us remaining played a couple rounds of Uno. While we had to consult the rules a few times because no one had played in a while, we each extolled the virtues of the simple game.

I didn’t win that either, but I told you I wasn’t giving 100% to the games.

#47 Eric S.
Daniel L. (#8)
Katie R. (#10)
Chris S. (#41)

Cancellation

July 16, 2010

I had to cancel on the sweetest people–my dear friend who is moving to Florida and a couple others. I’m sad about it and a little embarrassed I couldn’t pull it off anyway. Here’s why: an “unnamed” co-worker at FTES got hit on the head with a terra cotta pumpkin hat and I had to take her to the emergency room. You can’t make this stuff up.

I will count Anna Grace when she comes to my house after she's born.

My cousins from South Carolina came in town for a baby shower close to Jonathan’s birthday so Amy wanted to have a little surprise get-together for him. Apparently she can’t keep a secret, but she wanted to try. I offered to host a cookout for family as a surprise for him. I’m using the term cookout very loosely since I do not actually have a grill; I can, however, make an excellent burger on the stove. (There is a secret ingredient that I will tell you if you ask.)

I meant to remember what she said when I took this picture because it was interesting.

Aunt Ruth lost her wallet and Mom ran out of gas (twice), so they were both frazzled when they arrived. (I got them Diet Cokes stat, but couldn’t do much else for them.) Daniel and Evan blew up balloons while Ruth and I worked in the kitchen. She hadn’t been in here since some walls have been gone, so I was happy to show her around. She also got to visit her antique pie safe which I am pie-safe-sitting while she is out of the country. Somehow, I think we did manage to surprise Jonathan and have a good meal.

After birthday cake and ice cream we all sat around talking for quite a while about the new baby, old friends, television, the pros and cons of Facebook and, sadly, bodily functions. Please, don’t ask. Katie just started a new job so she came later and told us all about the cupcake phenomenon!

I do hope everyone has enough gas to make it home.

#46 Ruth M.
Evan M.
Daniel L.
Sue L.
Earl L.
Amy P.
Jonathan P.
Katie R.