a minute of manners and musings
Category Archives: Nothing to do with etiquette
Saturday was crisp and sunny around here. My favorite kind of Saturday. We decided to call up some of the fam and eat lunch at the farm. It’s a farm that has been in the Lewis family for 100 years this month. 1-0-0. One. Hundred. Years.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
We ate lunch inside what we call the barn, but what was actually an old store house. A mercantile. The walls, ceiling and floor are the original tongue and groove, there are wooden shelves all around and the orginial wooden counter still stands. Because there are farm implements and tools still inside, it’s like stepping back in time to be there. The Hubs has worked hard to make the barn a place where we can go to do just what we did yesterday – be together. How appropriate for a place whose formative years spanned the time when that’s all people did for entertainment – be together.
They didn’t have Direct TV or smartphones to keep them connected to their tweeps. They read books. And talked. Are you thinking, Oh, the agony? I wonder what some previous Lewises would have thought about a crockpot sitting on the same counter where they measured out flour to sell to their customers. They would probably do something akin to rolling their eyes.
The Hubs and I…we love sentimental journies. Ben must have gotten that same gene because he wanted to show both of his grandaddies where he shot his first deer. I guess we owed that deer that much since he was in the chili we ate at lunch and was hanging on the wall overhead the dessert. I realize that sentence alone could make some people very uncomfortable. Sorry. Just keep reading.
On our way through the woods, I chatted with my FIL and listened to him talk about his memories of growing up and working in those fields. The way he described the weather, his dad, the chores…it was fascinating to be standing on that very dirt with him. At one point, he laughed a little and said, “Now, I don’t know why I remember this. But, I can remember the first time I plowed ‘longside Daddy. It was in this field, right here. We were plowing peanuts. He had a 2-horse plow and I had only a 1-horse plow.” Then, he laughed again as if there were more to the story. There probably is.
‘Fore long (I’m in the spirit now), we came across a cat’s face. (Sorry, again. I’m not talking about a dead animal. Just keep reading) This one was new to me. I didn’t know about a cat’s face.
Daddy and my FIL explained to us how people used to notch out a place on a pine tree, wedge in a piece of tin shaped as a V and hang a bucket underneath to catch the turpentine. These tins started at the bottom and would be added to the tree going up, so there could be tins as high as a grown man’s head. Daddy talked about finding these cat faces in the woods “as a boy” and how there would be foot paths zig-zagged from tree to tree from people gathering the turpentine. His daddy owned a saw mill so he remembered how farmers would bring their lumber to the mill without taking out the nails that held the turpentine buckets.
Apparently, that was bad lumber-to-the-saw-mill etiquette since the guys at the mill had to cut these pieces out with an ax and if it went through accidentally, it dulled the mill’s big saw blade. Tsk, tsk.
Now, I wouldn’t be a very good mom if I didn’t show you this picture of Ben’s deer stand. The very site of his very first slaying.
It was a fun and educational sentimental journey. I am usually the very one who thinks we have to plan something in order to get people together. But had we had an agenda yesterday, we wouldn’t have done what we did – just be together. And talk. And it wasn’t even close to agony. It was more like heaven.
But, now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not ready to turn in my USB cord and build a grist mill in the back yard. The thing is, I dropped my cell in the toilet on Friday, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. But, if the replacement phone doesn’t show up tomorrow, I’m going to have to start smoking just to give me something to do with my hands. It would be my luck that my ashes would burn down the barn. After 100 years, that place is just an organized stack of fat lighter, anyway.
We always, always get a live tree. None of that pre-decorated, pre-lit, plastic stuff in this house. We prefer to drive to a Christmas tree farm, diplomatically choose one tree amongst hundreds, ceremoniously cut it down, bring it home, and cut the plastic wrap off inside the house so we can enjoy bits of Christmas in our socks for months to come.
I have chosen to share the highlights of our live tree selection process so that you, too, might have a stuffed up nose until January 1.
This is where we started…in the woods. The Hubs had spotted this some time ago and thought it would make a good Christmas tree. Diplomatic action was taken. The Nays had it.
I wonder exactly how many trees are on a real Christmas tree farm?
The selection begins…
This is another one The Hubs chose. He’s a black-and-white kind of guy. It’s either this way or that way. Nothing in between. Presents a problem when I’ve “browned” the bread for dinner.
Finally…and I do mean, Finally…we found a tree.
This was Ben’s answer to the question I asked no less than 27 times: Which tree do y’all want?. Do you think Jim Carey’s mother has pictures of him like this? Why can’t he just say This one?
So, little Jim Carey got to work with that saw.
Em waited as long as she could before she took charge. This sister-girl does not play around when there’s a job to do.
See? She’s serious. Changed her position and everything. She’s not concerned in the least about wallowing in the dirt with that new jacket. Yeah, don’t worry about that scarf, either, Honey.
That expression means exactly this: Sorry, Mom.
No problem, Shug. (sigh, walk away)
That’s Lacey sending our tree through the wrapping-machine-thing. She’s a cousin to The Hubs. Thank goodness…she’s beautiful (not that that always stops people in these parts). We usually see her only when we go scouting for a tree. When she recognized The Hubs, she took off her glove and put out her hand to shake before The Hubs could even blink. I like Lacey. She’s got it goin’ on.
So, we get home, get the tree inside, cut the aforementioned plastic wrap off and….
HUH? Who took a bite out of the right bottom quadrant?
I really don’t know what else to say about this except…where the hell is that little boy that looks like Jim Carey? He was a little too eager for my blood.
Yesterday, my daughter and I were at the beauty parlor, I mean, hair salon. Going there usually makes me feel young, hip and, on a good day, skinny. Those stylish young people dressed in all black, music I’ve never heard playing overhead, offers of hot tea or wine, the shiny and sparkly bottles of OPI nail polish and the smells…oh, the smells…I love it. Because my daughter was called back first, I found myself sitting on a plush sofa staring out a large picture window. The sun was shining, the sky was perfectly blue, the fall leaves were gleaming…I was lost in thought about something insanely intelligent, enjoying my quiet moment, when a young man called my name.
You might expect me to reply to my own name with something like a cute little sing-song “Ye-es!” or even a “Coming!”
What actually came out of my mouth from somewhere deep, deeeeep down in the part of myself I thought I’d moved beyond when I stopped driving a CJ-7 and eating cornbread with buttermilk was this:
The high-pitched kind my grandmother lets out when we walk in her front door so we can tell where she is.
I swear the world stopped spinning. What was that? Woo? People in this building don’t say ‘Woo’! In fact, I don’t see anyone in my vicinity even close to the generation that says ‘Woo’.
The young man with the oh-so-stylish and highlighted haircut jerked like someone had given him just a small little pinch. His eyes blinked. He was trying not to grin. I’ll just say it. He was startled. If I had thought about it (and had been brave enough), I wonder what he would have done if I had put my nose really close to his and said it again. Louder. With my arms waving around in the air.
What if’s crack me up…
So, there it was.
“Woo!” Hanging in the air at Season’s Spa and Salon. Voted The Best Spa & Salon in Middle Georgia three years in a row. It took me about half a second to decide one little slip of the Woo wasn’t going to ruin my day. I’m a professional, for Heaven’s sake.
I straightened my shoulders, I picked up my pocketbook, and I followed that young man straight to the hair chair. I sat with my head tilted slightly back and my lips a little pouty. I’ve got this, I thought. I’m NOT the kind of girl that is faced with a near calamity and relents without a fight. I am NOT going to continue to apply gallons of wrinkle cream for nothing. I. Am. Not. Old.
I looked cute little Stephanie straight in the eye and asked her to cut my hair a little different this time…“I want something a little edgey”.
And, do you know what she said?
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. All I have to do is add the ‘hoo’? That scared me to death! I can add the Hoo, no problem!
That was close.
Would you think less of me if I confessed that I didn’t know there were mountains in Birmingham, Alabama? Well, big hills, anyway. What a beautiful town! Em and I had such a wonderful time eating and sight-seeing our way around for, oh, about 18 hours.
We stayed at The Aloft Hotel. Very contemporary with yummy beds. It was also across the street from Tutti Frutti, a yougurt shop where you serve yourself. That’s right, heap on the toppings, Honey. After you build your creation, it’s weighed to determine how much you owe. I think it’s a little wrong that they use a scale to determine its weight right in front of you. Red Velvet Cake yogurt with crushed Oreo’s, chopped up Kit Kat and just a touch of Ghirardelli caramel add up in a hurry. In more ways than one.
For dinner, we met my friend who took us to The Club. The view overlooking Birmingham was spectacular. Not to mention the hummus and the bibb rolls. And the mushroom risotto. Interesting tidbit…the producer for the movie Staying Alive grew up in Birmingham and modeled the famous dance floor in the movie with lighted blocks of color after the dance floor in the main dining room there. As my friend, standing on yellow, was telling us about this, the song Staying Alive was growing in my head. It was like someone was slowly turning up the volume as she made her way to the punch line. Louder, louder, louder until it was all I could do not to burst out with Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. If this etiquette business doesn’t work out, I may just call her up, see if she wants to take that show on the road.
For breakfast the next morning, we ate at Another Broken Egg. It was just as yummy as the beds at The Aloft. And, we saw the cutest couple. Had to be in their 80’s. She was wearing a lavender suit, her long gray hair up in a bun, slingbacks with a square heel, nude pantyhose, pearls around her neck with pearl and gold ear screws. Screws, not clips. I was immediately thrown back to my great grandmother’s bedroom playing with her pearls and ear screws and anxiously awaiting the day it would take me more than 5 minutes to be ready to walk out the door. (Be careful what you wish for, right?) He, the perfect gentleman, was starched and creased. We overheard them discussing what they would be having for breakfast and, get this…when the server got to their table, he ordered for her. When done right (and he did it right), it’s not a show and it doesn’t scream I’m in charge, it’s a nicety. It’s sweet. It’s thoughtful. Guys should learn how to do this. Honestly, that 82 year old gentleman had me swooning.
And then…the highlight of our trip…we toured the Southern Living headquarters. My life is now complete. I can die a happy woman. Well, after that man from the breakfast place teaches The Hubs how to order my breakfast for me using my name, describing my eggs the way I like them and does it with a twinkle in his eye AND after touring the Southern Living headquarters, I can die a happy woman. As we walked from the reception area toward the offices and the TK (that’s SL lingo for Test Kitchen), we could begin to smell the smell we all aspire to produce when we dare to try a SL recipe. I didn’t smell the first bag of burned popcorn in this office, that’s for sure. It was heavenly.
Every person we met was so friendly! The photographer who was shooting a bowl of cut up melon with chopped mint didn’t seem to mind at all that we were salivating on her props. It was the color coordination that was driving me insane. And the perfectly ironed napkins. There was an entire rolling cart full of props that I just wanted to pick up and rub my cheek against. It looks so simple, yet…as we all know…not. We spent the most time in the Test Kitchen where, again, everyone was so willing to let us gawk and drool. We even met the lady who produced the white cake on this month’s cover! I asked her a couple of very intelligent questions, naturally. She was kind enough to act like they were that, anyway.
Personally, I’m typically intimidated by a SL recipe unless it has 5 or fewer ingredients. Not anymore and here’s why. One of the first things I realized as we walked into these kitchens is that they are so normal! They don’t look anything like the gourmet ones featured in the Homes section of their magazine. They use a regular, everyday Whirlpool oven and a regular, everyday Weber grill. I finally had to say, “Ya’ll are killing me with the McCormick spices and the Arm & Hammer baking soda! I was expecting something really fancy!” (I didn’t say it exactly like that.) Their response was very matter-of-fact. “Of course not. We cook like the average person cooks using what the average person can get at Kroger or Publix.” Well, how about that.
So, I left Birmingham and Southern Living inspired to do 2 things.
1) I am going to brush up on that little added touch that can make a person feel special. I probably won’t order breakfast for The Hubs, but I might work out a system to remember facts about people I meet so I can ask them about what’s going on in their life the next time I see them.
2) I am going to be more willing to try things that, at first glance, look too hard. I’m going to dub my kitchen the TK more often, I’m going to organize the shelves in my office and I’m going to start learning how to speak Spanish.
Now, I want to know. What are you inspired to do?
Some mostly civilized thoughts from an almost civilized mind…contrived during my quiet weekend. Here they are in no particular order of relevance or significance:
1) I am not as young as I think I am. I like to go to bed early. I use a LOT of wrinkle cream. Ergo, I’m getting old.
2) A couple of you asked about the Potato Frappe recipe I mentioned in a blog post last week. To be specific, it was the post about how I screwed up Halloween for our children, held a raucous dinner for my non-raucous parents-in-law and got ratted out by my husband for using boxed potatoes. Click here to enjoy the moments for yourself.
So, here’s the way you can go from boxed to bodacious: Cream Cheese…The Answer To So Many Of The World’s Problems. It is my expert opinion that Hungry Jack Mashed Potatoes are the best. Under no circumstances should you buy the off-brands that use the words ‘instant potatoes’. That will make you feel cheap and insecure. Don’t ever set yourself up to feel cheap and insecure. People will notice and think you have something to hide. Be bold with your potatoes.
Follow the directions on the box. At the end, stir in a half block of cream cheese and some garlic salt to taste. Put it in a pretty (it’s all in how you present it) oven-safe bowl and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese. Pop it in the oven (350 degrees) until the cheese is melted. The final thing is this: protect yourself. Don’t let what happened to me happen to you. You should a)use these potatoes on the sly so no one in your big-mouthed family (I’m sorry, maybe that’s just my family) will call you out in front of your guests. or b) fess up only to them, but tell your big-mouthed family to keep it on the down low. Remember: the key to a successful dinner party is to avoid the avoidable.
3) I text a lot which may seem contradictory to #1, but it’s true. I need to make sure I’m not texting in place of having a real conversation with people.
4) I had a manicure on Saturday to get ready for…ahem…the book signing tonight. It had been years, literally, since I’d had a manicure so while I had heard of a paraffin wax treatment, I had never had one. Did you know you put your hands into a pot of hot wax, pull them out, put them in plastic bags – individually – , and then put them in these pockets that are heated – i-n-d-i-v-i-d-u-a-l-l-y ??? I can’t explain it, but I thought I was going to pass out. My hands felt claustrophobic and the panic was trying to take over the rest of my body. It was soooooo hot and my hands looked like something that didn’t pass muster at Madame Tussaud’s. And, of course, my nose started itching. And, I couldn’t scratch it. It was too much. I have friends who get manicures every couple of weeks. Surely they don’t put themselves through that every 14 days.
That’s it. Take what you can. Use what you want. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the potatoes.
Have you heard of this book? Little Things Long Remembered? It’s by Susan Newman and I highly recommend it. Within each chapter of this hand-size book is a list of things you can do with your family that are, you guessed it, little things that will be long remembered.
For example, in the chapter “Weekend Fun”, it suggests preparing a meal for a local shelter, flying a kite, making bread from scratch or raking leaves in a huge pile so your kids can jump in. It suggests doing the kinds of things we usually see in movies or read about in books – but who has the time to bake bread?!?
Every time I run across this book on the shelf, it gives me pause. What do I do for my family that will serve as little things long remembered? If I should take my children to school and die in a car accident on the way back home (if that really does happen, somebody please fix my hair because I never brush it during the morning rush), how would my children remember me? My younger child would think I often confused my cellphone for an earring.
What kind of legacy would I leave behind? I read something once that said it is the responsibility of us mothers to pass down our stories to our daughters. In the day-to-day grind, I often forget I have a story…or an audience in my children…or little things to offer for them to long remember. Your children may not be ready for all that just yet, but they will be, so get ready.
Earlier this week, I took a feeble step in this direction by hauling the 4 of us to a dinner theatre production at our church. What fun! The food was delicious, we made new friends and the play was very funny. Did you notice how I didn’t mention the anxiety I experienced by witnessing my own child’s horrendous table manners? It’s really not my fault, you see, that life messed up my attitude…it seems there was a 4th grade Social Studies test scheduled for the following day. Gulp. To make a long story short, what started out as a nice evening for our family turned into a squawk session. Why don’t you keep up with your studies? How can I call out these facts if I can’t read your hand writing? In hindsight, it really wasn’t pretty and I goofed up should have been a night long remembered. *Sigh*
I’ve decided to change my way of thinking about this. For a long time it’s burdened me. This trying to make something special but not really being prepared for extraneous circumstances or not being primed to NOT let these extraneous circumstances get me off course. No more.
I’m taking it off my shoulders and into my myAgenda (this is my can’t-live-without datebook). I’m going to be scheduling something wonderful each week my kids will remember. Notes in lunch bags or slipped in a Math notebook; someone’s favorite dinner menu – 2 nights in a row; a day off from doing chores. I’ve decided…it’s going to be great.
They call me the Martha Stewart of Motherhood.
Now, you go find something little for your family and make it big.
After spending some time with my dear old friend, Britt, and hearing about what life is like in Boulder, Colorado, I decided I would have a little taste of that right here in Georgia. She told me about how everyone in Boulder rides their bicycles almost anywhere they need to go and since I needed to go to the post office and the butcher shop, I hopped on that bicycle and took off. Well, I had to pump up the tires first. I swear, it’s always something around here.
I thought I would share some things with you that Britt did not share with me about errands on a bicycle.
- You need a basket. I put my phone in my pocket since I was afraid to leave home without it. What if I crashed? Who would know? So, when it rang and I reached for it, my balance got a little off. Thank heavens no one was behind me to see what happened. I can imagine it’s this need that spurred someone to invent the fanny pack, but I think I’ll just get a basket.
- You need to know the hand signals. I’m going to have to drop Mrs. Cheryl a note. I did not see her coming and she most certainly did not see me coming.
- You have a head wind going and coming.
- The sound of a car approaching from behind sounds like a freight train. For years, Mrs. Idelle has peddled on the Valdosta Highway without batting an eye, but I nearly came unglued on Pineneedle.
- In Georgia, people stare at a lady riding a bicycle that’s a touch too small carrying a pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. That’s ok. You just smile and know you are one carbon footprint ahead of them.
I think things will go a little smoother when it cools off.