Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lessons Learned

Today would have been my Ma-Ma's birthday. Because she died on January 17th, this is the time of year where I often think about her. It's been 13 years since she passed away, and I still miss her all of the time. So, I would like to reflect a little on her life and the lessons that I learned by having her as my grandmother.
1912 (approximately)
Ma-Ma was born in Magnolia, MS in 1907 to my Mommee and Poppee, and was adored by her parents. She had a little brother whom she adored, named Milton, but better known as Buddy. When she was five, Mommee found her "playing" the piano on the hall tree (they didn't have a piano). Mommee signed her up for lessons, and the music part of our lives began. She graduated from Tulane (the girl's section, which was called Sophie Newcomb) in 1929 with a double major in piano and organ performance and a minor in voice. That November, she married my grandfather--less than 2 weeks after the stock market crash. So, she started out in marriage with basically nothing. She always said that they never went without food, because people would pay my grandfather with chickens, vegetables, and anything that they could give him for his services (he was a doctor).  She learned to cook healthy because of my grandfather's health. He had contracted tuberculosis when he was a resident in New Orleans (he was also a graduate of Tulane medical school), and struggled with TB for several years. My momma was a beloved only child (although not an only child by choice), but Ma-Ma always said that none of us were spoiled--we were just "well-loved"! She loved the children of the town, and would do anything for them. She accompanied them in contests, played for their weddings, supported them, helped raise them and loved them like they were her own. Ma-Ma raised camillas, and even grafted them. She loved to arrange flowers, and the boys in the town would come to her and she would make their corsages for the dances and special occasions (I'm sure that the florists in town weren't happy). Of course, she did it for free.
March, 1954

Five weeks before my mother and daddy were supposed to get married, my grandfather came home for lunch, and laid down to take a nap. When she went in to wake him up, she discovered that he had passed away--at the age of 51. Somehow, she and Momma got through the wedding (they didn't change the date--just scaled down the reception). I can't imagine how she did it--or how Momma did it, but they did, because that's the type of women they are.

Five years later, Ma-Ma moved to Greencastle to help Momma, who by this time, had a four-year-old and a two-year-old and number three on the way. Personally, I think it was her best move ever, but she never did care for the north or being cold, or the snow.  She never did really forgive my momma for moving her up here.

She loved us dearly, though. The first year she lived in Greencastle, my older brother contracted rheumatic fever and my younger brother was born. While Steve was confined to bed for six months, and my mother's hands were a bit full, Ma-Ma would take me to her house and we would cook. So, from the time I was about two, she would put an apron on me, pull up a step-stool, put me on the stool, and let me "cook". My job was to stir whatever she was making. She always told me I did a wonderful job and that her food tasted better because I helped. When I was five, the two of us spent the month of November in Mississippi with my great-grandfather, and she taught me how to do embroidery and then sewing. I spent the month making a Christmas gift for Momma. She always had so much patience with me, but made sure that I did my best. How I miss being able to call her and ask her questions about cooking or sewing. She would have loved seeing my quilts and all of the madrigal dresses I made last year. And the music! At one point or another, through the years, she taught all three of us piano (although we had other teachers, too). She encouraged us in whatever instrument we wanted, and patiently drove Michael and me to lessons over in Terre Haute every week.  I can still see her little foot keeping beat to the music on television shows. I don't think she was even aware that she did it! Once PBS came around with the classical music shows, her life was complete. I remember going into her house one Sunday, and the PBS special was Vladimir Horowitz playing for the first time in many, many years in his home country of Russia. Tears were flowing down her face as she watched this incredible musician play some of her favorite numbers.
Piano Lessons!
Stephie described her as a "firecracker". That is an understatement. While she loved us dearly, she also let us know when she wasn't happy with something that we did. Momma and I made the mistake (in her opinion) of marrying a "Yankee". We were her "Yankee" grandchildren (we were, obviously, her only ones), but that's how she would introduce us. She never really did forgive Momma and me for not marrying a southern boy! When she died, we took her back to Mississippi to be buried next to her beloved husband. People came from all over to tell us how much she and my grandfather meant to them and their family. It was without a doubt the most touching thing that I have ever experienced. She had not lived in Mississippi for over 40 years, and these people that came were barely able to make it up the steps of the church, yet they made a special point to come see Momma and the three of us just to tell us how much they loved my grandparents.

Lessons learned from my Ma-Ma: Love your family with all that you have. Stand up for what you believe. Keep learning until you draw your last breath. Do what you love to do, and do your very best in all that you do, and you are capable of more than you think.

There's a part of Ma-Ma in all of us. While I love that she stood up for what she believed, there were many times that she could have been a little more--well, understanding. She did have a temper and if she didn't want to do something, she wouldn't do it! If she got really mad at you (especially if you messed with one of us), you were done for. So, I'm still learning that while standing up for what you believe is a good thing, you can still be loving in your convictions. I'm still working on that. Obviously, I never knew my grandfather, but Momma always said that he was the only person she knew that could really handle my grandmother. :)  I know that the two of them loved Momma dearly, and Momma in turned passed on the love to the three of us, and my job as a mother is to pass the unconditional love on to Stephie. If I am half the mother that either my grandmother or mother have been, I feel I will have done pretty good.

Ma-Ma, I miss you, but I see parts of your legacy in all of my family, and for that, I'm thankful.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cleaning the Disaster Zone

I have been busily making quilts--for the store, for Stephie, for myself, for a special baby that's coming soon...and as a result, haven't taken the time to really straighten up my sewing room. Actually, it's been more of a pit than a room, and it's been driving me crazy. I was trying to make the baby quilt that is appliqued, and I can't find my applique pressing sheet. I have no idea where it is. Furthermore, I know that the room could be better organized, but frankly, I have no idea where to even start. The room is fairly small, but I know that even with limited space, I could have things more manageable.

This is where my good friend, Betsey, comes in. Betsey works at the quilt store with me, and has an incredible gift of knowing how to organize things AND LIKES TO DO IT!!  (I won't lie--this just blows my mind that she loves organizing things). So, I've enlisted her help. I'm hoping that she's still my friend when this is all said and done.

So yesterday, Betsey came to help me get started. Jerry is in the UK for a week, so it's just me, the two beagles and my old cat (who sleeps most of the day). Perfect opportunity to get things under control. Plus, I'm in between projects, so the timing is right. Silly me thought that one day would do it. Nope! Although, I will say that we got a lot done yesterday. The biggest thing is that we completely cleared the closet (it was a bit like Christmas finding things that I had forgotten were in there) and took the doors off the closet. We went to Menard's and got cubicles to put in the closet. Jerry had already put 18 cubicles on one wall of the room, so now I have lots of storage space. We're slowly going through all of the fabric and organizing it. Betsey arranged the room so that I have another table in there to work on (always a good thing). I'm quite excited to see it all finished and I am really, really going to try hard and keep it organized. She knows that it's not my gift, and is making it easy for me. We'll see how it goes!

My goal for the year is to finish some old projects that I haven't finished. I'm hoping that having things under control will help me figure out what to do next. It would be awesome to get some of the projects that should have been done awhile ago completed. The trick will be to not be tempted by new projects. Hmmm...we'll see how that one goes!

In other news, a dear friend from church, that is a year older than me, went into cardiac arrest yesterday, and is still fighting for her life in the hospital. We don't treasure our time here on earth like we should and spend way too much time complaining and whining. Treasure your family and loved ones and tell them that you love them. Call a friend just to say I love you. Enjoy each day and thank God for every blessing that He has poured out on you. I love each of you. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I made WHAT with the potato??

I hadn't figured on posting again so quickly, but I'll be working the next few days, and wanted to write this while I had a few minutes.

Awhile ago on Pinterest (don't you love Pinterest? If you aren't on it, sign up--it's really fun), I saw this rather odd-sounding recipe that I wanted to try, so I pinned it for later. I was telling a co-worker about it, and she sounded just as dubious as I felt. According to this girl on Pinterest, I would be able to make homemade potato chips in the microwave! What??

A side note here...for all of my life, I have tried to eat as healthy as possible. My Ma-Ma (maternal grandmother) started cooking healthy way before it was the cool thing to do. For example, she would make a soup a day ahead so that she could cool it down and skim off the fat. I never eat fried food, other than a very occasional dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken (like maybe once a year, and then I feel guilty for the rest of the year). Anyway, I've always made our French fries (or home fries, as Jerry calls them) in the oven. But the microwave?? We had leftover corned beef sandwiches last night, and quite honestly, I love potato chips with my sandwich. I decided to give it a try--all I had to lose was a potato!

OH MY GOSH! Not only did it work, but they were great! What I really like about this idea is that I can take one potato and make a few potato chips and not have a half of a sack leftover that will taunt me from the cabinet (come on, come on...eating just a few won't hurt...we feel so left out here in the pantry). Uh huh. I have a family wedding this summer that I need to lose a few pounds for and don't need potato chips sitting around. (I can't wait to blog about this wedding--it's at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago!!) Ok....back to the potato chips...this is what you do.

Slice your potato in thin slices. I used my mandolin so that my slices would be all the same thickness. Last night, I used 3 potatoes for the 2 of us, and I easily could have gotten away with using just 2 potatoes. But, I sent the leftover chips with Jerry for his lunch today, so all was not lost.

After slicing your potatoes, put them in a bowl and drizzle some olive oil on top of the slices. I honestly didn't measure it last night, but I made a few today for dinner tonight, and I used about 1/2 Tbl. for two medium potatoes. You're looking to coat the potatoes, not drown them in oil. Add a little salt--I used about 1/2 tsp. for the two potatoes, but adjust it to your liking after you do the first batch. Toss the slices so that they are evenly coated.

You are ready to make your potato chips. I used my bacon rack, but the original directions said to use a microwave safe plate. I sprayed my rack with some cooking spray and laid the slices on the rack in a single layer. (Last night, I sprayed the cooking spray for each batch, but today I just did it for the first batch and it was fine. It might depend on your plate that you use and how it's made). I popped them in the microwave and set it for 3 minutes on high. The original directions said 2 minutes, which is what I originally did but they did better for me when I let them go for 3 minutes. Turn them over, and microwave them once again for 2-3 minutes, depending on how brown you want them. It's a personal preference and it will depend on your microwave. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Take them out, and let cool on a plate while you do another batch! You've just made potato chips. Try not to eat them all before dinner. Supposedly, they save for up to 3 days, but I can't see them lasting that long around here to find out.

I want to try this with a sweet potato and see what happens with it. Let me know if you try them and how they did for you!! Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to watch The Biggest Loser (another side note--I'm really going to be ticked if they interrupt for the Iowa caucus. Is it November, yet?), and not feel guilty about eating potato chips for dinner! Happy munching!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year

As I sat in church yesterday, the thought crossed my mind that every new year should start out in church. It was a wonderful way to start the new year--worshiping and hearing the Word, and visiting with some dear, dear people.

I had taken down our Christmas on Saturday, with the exception of my nativity, which I decided to leave up for awhile. I have a rule that the tree needs to be down before the first of the year, and truthfully, I'm pretty tired of it as soon as Christmas is over. This year, our daughter's cat stayed with us for about a month, and spent most of the month with her head poked out of the tree, pretending that she was in the wild forest. As a result, I refused to put my antique ornaments (and my Waterford crystal ornaments and all of the beautiful ones my sister-in-law has gotten me over the years), so all I put on the tree was a few fake poinsettias and some berries. So taking down the tree was a breeze! The house has a more open feel to it, and looks cleaner, even though I'm procrastinating really cleaning the house. January has arrived, and the wind is blowing the snow around. I'm not a fan of winter, but the midwest keeps calling me back. I'll be here for a long time, because most of the people I love most are nearby, and that's what really matters.

I'll post more later as my brain thaws out and my ideas for this blog emerge. Happy New Year to you and may God richly bless this new year for you and the people you love. I'm off to either quilt or cook!!