Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Family’

My first and probably last food fight was a snowy Thanksgiving in Missoula, Montana. I was in my 20’s, and since my family lived half way across the country, due East, I formed community with other Montana transplants.

There was Bev from Ohio, K.D. from Los Angeles, Mary from Pennsylvania, Gail from Minnesota, Leslie from Iowa, Lynne from Idaho, to name only a few. Many of us came to Montana via college, the University of Montana, and loved it so much we decided to stay. Others followed friends out West. I had always dreamed of living in the West. One day I just did it; I picked up and moved.

The food fight was after a Thanksgiving feast:  big old Butterball turkey, smashed potatoes with skins, homemade gravy and biscuits, cranberries, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pies. Back then we all drank, so there was lots of alcohol around. I don’t drink much anymore, a glass of wine on occasion. But then it was different. I would return years later for a reunion of these same friends, and many had gone into recovery. It was good to visit with them sober and clean.

There were a few native Montanans in our group, friends who knew the lay of the land. Some grew up in eastern Montana, Billings, some in the western areas of Great Falls, Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena. I would end up visiting these places over the course of the time I lived there, skiing the valleys, hiking the mountains. I lived in a two-story yellow house on Orange Street near the tracks, when there were no strip malls on Reserve Street, just a series of grassy fields.

The food fight was a culmination of hours of planning, cooking, talking, eating, and playing live music. At the time, we had a drum set, McCartney-style bass, keyboard, and a whole array of random percussion instruments in a basket in the corner. We usually played music together on the Holidays, anything from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young to lots of bluegrass — it was Montana in the 70’s.

That Thanksgiving I ended up with mashed potatoes in my hair. Bev threw a biscuit that landed in a ladle of gravy and splashed up on to our shirts. There were cranberry stains on the table cloth that never came out. I remember those days in Montana as good times, even though we all had our problems. We acted, well, we acted like we had not lived as much life as we have lived now.

Food is a metaphor for substance, nutrition, community, family, and friendship. Food is used to show love and nurturing. Food is mother’s milk. Food is not to be wasted. But it’s not good to take oneself too seriously. A good food fight once in a while never hurt anyone. Still, in some places, food can be scarce.

I have often thought of working in community service over the Holidays, something like a soup kitchen or a food bank. I’ve never done it. But I’m keenly aware this time of year that there are people in this country who don’t have enough to eat. They can’t afford it. You don’t have to go to other parts of the world to see how people without enough money to afford food struggle to make ends meet. How people sometimes have to make choices between healthcare and food.

I know a woman, a single parent, who has five children, temps for work in a corporate office, and has no health insurance. It’s available to her through her temp agency, but by the time she purchases it for herself and her five kids, she doesn’t have a paycheck left. She told me she’s one of those people who falls between the cracks. She works hard but makes too much money to apply for additional support for health insurance.

When faced with hard choices, she chooses nutrition for her family. I guess that’s a different kind of fight — the fight for everyone in this country to have healthcare and plenty of food.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 20th, 2008

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC – COOKING FIASCOS

Read Full Post »

Steve Almond would have loved this! I was visiting with my brother in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, when my niece and her friend charged in the The Pixy Stix Challenge III, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  door, all excited for a great scientific experiment: The Pixy Stix Challenge.

My brother prepared a wonderful dinner in the kitchen: mashed potatoes, brined chicken, sweet tea, apple cider, fall squash, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Mom was on her way over after a hard day at work. I was checking the blog, tapping away on the laptop at the dining room table, laughing, and watching intently.

My niece proceeded to rip off the tops of the small Giant Quality Candy 100% Freshness Guaranteed Pixy Stix and pour them into the one large Pixy Stix she and her friend had only minutes before emptied (into their stomachs!).

The question? How many small Pixy Stix does it take to fill one giant Pixy Stix. I was way off in my guess. My brother was the closest.


So how many of these: 

The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.   The Pixy Stix Challenge II, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Does it take to fill one of these:

           The Pixy Stix Challenge, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Pixy Stix Challenge, hands of my niece and her friend, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Go ahead, take your best shot. And after a while, I’ll ask my niece to make an appearance and tell you the answer. You might be surprised.

Oh, and Steve Almond would be disappointed if I didn’t include this detail – the place where Pixy Stix are distributed.

From the back of the package:

Distributed by Foodhold USA, LLC
Landover, Md 20785
S&S Brands, Inc
Quality Guaranteed or your money back.


Looking forward to your answers!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 24th, 2007


UPDATE – November 26th 2007:   When I was researching this post, I found a fascinating link to the history of Pixy Stix, called Giant Pixy Stix. It’s on Candyblog by Cybele May and seems to be a must read for all things candy. I didn’t add the link to my original post because it has Pixy Stix details in tablespoons, inches, and ounces. Somehow, with all those calculating minds out there, I thought that might give the answer away!

And now that the contest is over, I wanted to add (for future readers) that the answer to the Pixy Stix Challenge can be found in the comments below.

Read Full Post »

Smile, You're On A Banana Puddin'!, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Stirring the steaming, liquid vanilla pudding as it warms on the stove is kind of Zen for me. The silver spoon gleams and swirls through currents of milk and cornstarch. I stare, mesmerized.

Liz was bustling around the kitchen, dicing and dashing, mixing the Dijon, OJ, and honey basting sauce, chopping bananas, basting the naked Cornish hens, while I stirred, and stirred, and stirred.

It’s a meditative practice, stirring pudding. Anything can be practice. Cooking is grounding. Recipes provide structure. Food anchors us in detail. Natalie often taught us – if you want to ground your writing, write about food. The closer to your heart, the better.

I kept staring at the steam, lost in memories of all the times Mom would grab one of us kids to stir, and keep the pudding from scorching, while she hurried around the kitchen, trying to pull a meal together for our family of 8. I have a lot of appreciation for all the meals she cooked for us.

When Liz broke into the box of Nabisco “simple goodness” Nilla wafers, she smiled and pointed to the inside of the cardboard. There, printed in both English and Spanish, was the recipe for the Original Nilla Banana Pudding with meringue topping, the one that Mom talked about in her comment on Southern Banana Pudding.

           The Puddin' In Banana Puddin', Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.        Baste With Care, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.         Chop, Chop!, bananas for banana pudding, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  

I remember the old style pudding and the time it took to make it. In further research, I discovered that the recipe for original banana pudding with meringue (that’s printed inside our Nilla wafer box) can be found at NabiscoWorld, Original Nilla Banana Pudding. 

There’s also a page of Spread Some Holiday Cheer Nilla recipes that includes a Meringue-Topped Southern Banana Pudding that uses the boxed vanilla pudding (not Instant but Cook & Serve) that is in R3’s recipe post — Southern Banana Pudding – A Family Tradition.

           Basting The Birds, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.         It's All About The Layers, Thanksgiving Day, November 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.         Thanksgiving Dinner, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Confused? Like I said, there are as many banana pudding recipes as there are families to make them. Each is unique, traditional for that family. It seems to me that as puddings and pies became more packaged and convenient, the recipes were slightly altered to adapt them to the additional speed needed to save time as women became busier and busier outside the home.

That’s my theory. So take your pick; try them all and see which appeals to you. Next time, I want to make the vanilla pudding from scratch, the Original Nilla Banana Pudding with meringue. Just like my Aunt used to make.

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. A Holiday to count our blessings. To be grateful for what we have. Now it’s time to head off to my writing projects. I’m grateful for the simple gift of time. This day is just for me.

 
 

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Read Full Post »

Cutting The Cake, Amelia's hands cutting the cake, the day she turns 70, Central Pennsylvania, photo by QuoinMonkey, November 2007, all rights reserved.

Cutting The Cake, Amelia’s hands cutting the cake on the day she turned 70, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m sitting in Amelia’s kitchen. The smell of homemade chicken and dumplings spins across the room. My brother and sister-in-law stopped over for breakfast. Amelia made Canadian bacon, grits with butter, crumbled bacon and sharp cheese bits, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits, orange juice, and French Roast.

My sister-in-law had us in stitches over a story about a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We were cracking up over our second cup of coffee, and it reminded me of all the rambunctious activity, laughter, and fun that’s taken place in this kitchen. Mom has lived here over 40 years. I find it comforting that she has the same Ma Bell wall phone with same old-fashioned  “ring” and the same 20 foot coil of cord that extends all the way across the kitchen so she can chat while she cooks.

In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to be able to go home.  And for home to still be there. Home and hearth were so closely connected in Mom’s generation. And many generations before her. These days a family is lucky if even one parent can stay at home, much less the whole family sitting down to a home cooked, family meal around the kitchen table at the end of a long day.


Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Mom turned 70 last Saturday. She’s seen a lot of change. The week before, my brother called with an idea to fly me home. My five siblings chipped in to buy a ticket from Minnesota to Pennsylvania so that I could surprise her. Everything went like clock-work, from pre-Holiday ticket prices, to flights, to coordinating busy schedules. It was meant to be.

It was so hard to stay at my brother’s for two days without calling Mom and spoiling the surprise! The first surprise was the party with my 4 brothers, 1 sister, and all of the extended family. I didn’t get to see this part, when she walked in with a huge smile on her face (I was hiding out in an appliance box!). She hugged everyone, my sister placed the tiara on her head, and she sat down to open presents. When my sister gave the verbal cue, “It’s too bad QuoinMonkey can’t be here.” Out I popped, arms spread, singing Happy Birthday off-key from a wrapped, bowed and ballooned, dishwasher box where I had been hiding the last 20 minutes.

Who's Inside The Box?, Mom's 70th Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey's nephew. All rights reserved. Mom burst into tears. I was soon to follow. I’d never seen her so surprised! (She’s very intuitive and we were rarely ever able to keep any secrets from her when we were growing up.) We exchanged a long hug. The whole family poured into the kitchen, and dove into all the homemade Southern food. There was banana pudding, pork barbecue, beef barbecue, hushpuppies, biscuits and sausage gravy, black-eyed peas and rice, sweet tea, lemon meringue pie, and a glorious birthday cake. (Hey, all family, please chime in in the Comments if I’m forgetting anything!)

Home and hearth. What matters to you? Each time I come back home, the grandkids, nieces, and nephews are taller, the parents and siblings are older. Health fluctuates, situations challenge and change. Home connects me to the past, and forges the future. It’s as if everything I ever did tumbles through a parallel universe. It’s good to spend time with my family.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Read Full Post »

Boo!, All Hallow's Eve one year ago, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo by QuoinMonkey, all rights reserved.

Boo!,  All Hallow’s Eve by the fire, one year ago, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 2006, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




 

North

pumpkin-faced Milk Duds
Willy Wonka candy corn
12 tricks for a treat?


South

Dead flash toothless smiles
2 Grandmothers walk the earth
Spirits dance on fire


East

gloved hands wipe chafed lips
crooked teeth eat twisted stems
shadows swim through oaks


West

hollow frosted rose
Hunter’s Moon drops the sky
veils the Evening Star





-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – HAUNTED, The Great Pumpkin Catapult

Read Full Post »

The Great Pumpkin Catapult, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Great Pumpkin Catapult, The Lee Roberts Farm, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Yesterday Liz and I traveled out to Siren, Wisconsin with friends to check out Verne Peterson’s lifelong rock and mineral collection. It was a beautiful Fall day and the almost two hour drive flew by like a breeze. Founded in 1895, Siren used to be Syren, the Swedish word for lilac. But the Postal Department later changed it to Siren.

It took us several hours of talking rocks with Verne and perusing his vast collection before the four of us decided on the day’s catch. I ended up with a Zen piece of black and white Calcite from Busse, Iowa and a piece of Kona Dolomite so heavy I can’t lift it with one hand. When we left, the trunk was two boxes deep in rocks and minerals.

Great Pumpkin Counterweight, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. On the way home, Liz spotted The Great Pumpkin Catapult along Highway 70 near Grantsburg and the four of us stopped to check it out. For $5 you could take your shot at hitting the barrel castle in the distance with a medieval sling designed by farmer, Lee Roberts.

Lee hopped on to his rusty tractor while his son, Duane, and middle school grandson hooked up a chain to hoist the pumpkin counterweight, an old backhoe bucket full of rocks.


When the catapult was set, I braced to pull the string while my friends chanted and cheered:  P-U-MP-K-I-N, P-U-MP-K-I-N, complete with hand gestures and acrobatic bends. All at once, I yanked the white string, everyone held their breath, and the great pumpkin went flying out of the cloth sling and landed about 19 feet away from the castle, a solid miss!

8 Bundles Make A Shock, Grantsburg, Wisconsin,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  It was great fun. And as we were carefully choosing and buying our Halloween pumpkins at the end, Liz kept saying how Letterman should cover Lee’s Great Pumpkin Catapult on Halloween.

I can see it now, live remote from Grantsburg, Wisconsin. With the P-U-MP-K-I-N cheerleaders dancing in the wings.


Note:  the battery died on my camera about this time (after taking over 100 photos at Verne’s), so I took these 3 photographs with Liz’s Canon. Liz took more photos and detail shots of The Great Pumpkin Catapult, along with a few of Lee and Duane. If she ends up posting them on her Flickr account, I’ll add the link.

Have a great Halloween!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Read Full Post »

 Edges, Thursday, June 7th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-Edges, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 7th, 2007, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It was 96 degrees at 5pm. Mom and I did a quick geocache in Martinez, Georgia, right off of Columbia Road and Buckboard Drive. Geobrother, who has logged more than 1000 caches, gave us a few tips. I have barely learned to use a GPSr. Mostly I depend on Liz who easily navigates geocache land with stealth and grace.

When we got to the cache site, Church of Our Savior stood in the middle of a drive around circle. Cars were parked on theLabyrinth, center detail, Martinez, Georgia, June 6th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. grass, edging their front bumpers up to the hedge. We spotted a cool resting place next to the path and grabbed a pen, handwritten directions, GPSr, and Canon gear. When we turned the corner past the hedge, there it was, a beautiful brick paved labyrinth. Mom knew it was there because she had been talking to my brother earlier. But I had not been clued in. I was gleefully surprised.

I told Mom about walking the labyrinth at Carondelet as part of my practice during the writing Intensive last year. The pattern at Church of Our Savior drew a familiar map – a medieval replica of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. I couldn’t have been happier. Mom immediately spotted the high resting cache, Inward Peace, from the edge of the labyrinth. Liz will be ecstatic. It’s our first cache in Georgia.

Geobrother’s map of found caches goes all the way up and down the East Coast. Liz’s goes from East to West – Maryland all the way out to Wyoming. And now we can add Georgia. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll grab a cache in South Carolina before we leave for the far north on Saturday.

Oleander, Augusta, Georgia, June 6th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.For those who love labyrinths, there is a great tool out there called World-Wide Labyrinth Locator. You can type in a zip code, city, country, or state and up pops a list of addresses and descriptions of labyrinths in the area. Some have photographs and there are details of the architect and model, and whether the labyrinth is grass, brick, dirt, concrete, painted, mowed, or buffed.

We didn’t have a chance to walk the whole labyrinth this afternoon. Though I did take a few photographs of Mom winding toward center. The brick red against summer green created high-contrast beauty. The surrounding inner path was lined in oleander. Only the evergreen leaves were present but I was taken by their shape and beauty. Oleanders are also poisonous and loaded with myth and history. My mother knows all the plants down here, most which bloom in stunning and fragrant color. I have spent much of the trip asking her detail names of plants and trees.

Magnolias, miniature gardenias , crepe myrtle, mimosa, yucca, and lantana to attract the butterflies and bees, are only a Lantana, Augusta, Georgia, June 6th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.few. We saw a brilliant lantana yesterday when we stopped to see a home that had been in my family. The same woman Mom met last year when she brought my youngest brother down was standing outside the house, tending her plants.

“Remember me,” Mom laughed. And the woman said, “Yes, sure I do,” as she walked toward the car for a chat. She said she used to visit her own grandmother in the same house.

I asked her if I could take a photograph and she graciously agreed. When I stepped behind the chain-link fence, the squat, bushy lantana was to the left, covered in dipping butterflies and darting, fat bees. And that’s when my step-dad and mom piped up about the nickname, Ham and Eggs. I kept being amazed at their knowledge of the plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers surrounding them. It reminded me of what Natalie said about knowing the trees in her neighborhood, about paying attention to the details of our environment. It’s important to know what surrounds us in earth, sky, and water.

I felt glad my parents were in tune with the history of the land around them. And I knew they had passed that down to me. I felt joy at spending that kind of time with them. As an adult, I have come to appreciate the unpredictable and solid makings of a family. For the hundreds of times in my youth when I wanted to run the other way, there are only moments left to discover what I might have missed.

Brick by Brick, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 7th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Brick by Brick, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 7th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Friday, June 8th, 2007

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »