I still believe

This post doesn’t have anything to do with a table, or food but it does have a bit to do with inheriting. Both sides of my family tree are filled with creators carpenters, cooks, fine artists, crafters, milliners, writers, and musicians. I have been very blessed to always be surrounded by people who love me and have encouraged any of my creative endeavors. 

As I was decorating my Christmas mantle this year I got a little nostalgic. Christmas has a way of doing that. Growing up there really was a man, my grandfather, which had a round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. He loved Christmas. His whole calendar revolved around it, actually. And even though he may have put on a Bah Hum Bug attitude at times, we all knew in his heart of hearts, Christmas was the most wonderful time of all.Image

Papa worked at Opryland Hotel in Nashville. He was one of the first employees and worked in the Maintenance Department. If you know anything about Opryland, apart from country music, it has one of the most magical Christmas decoration displays. Papa was fortunate to have a boss that allowed him to exercise his genius and creativity. I don’t know the details of how all this came about but I do know that I watched my grandfather in his small basement draw the plans and bring Nashville’s iconic poinsettia tree to life. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the grand entrance to the hotel and you will remember it’s impact long after you have left. I haven’t met a native Nashvillian my age or younger that doesn’t have a childhood picture that was taken in front of it.  Image

In addition to his creative spirit, he had as sneaky side as well. You know, the kind that hides a sleeve of cookies on top of the refrigerator so only he and his tall frame could grab one on the way through the kitchen. When these forces combined, well trouble could be found. At Christmas, it was in the form of a glue gun. I suppose he volunteered to do the wrapping when grandma’s arthritis became too much. Why bother with tape? When hot glue worked just as well. He didn’t stop there. Did you know that hot glue sticks come in Christmas colors and even with glitter? He could write your name with the glue- who needs gift tags? He could glue the box shut and who needs wrap when you can cover the box with hot glue and pennies? 

But my grandfather wasn’t just about decorations or organizing thousands strands of lights. He was a giver from the heart. Many needy children, probably more than we will ever know, had shoes to wear and bikes to ride at Christmas because he knew what Christmas was all about. And that’s why I always say I still believe in Santa. Because the spirit of giving lives in all of us. And though, I may have inherited my grandfather’s creative talent, I hope that his spirit of giving is something I will also be able to pass on to another generation. My grandfather passed away the day after Christmas two years ago just hours after passing peppermint candies out to his neighbors in the nursing home. I like to think he just had to squeeze another one in. After all, his calendar revolved around it. ImageImage

*The clock on the mantle was made by my talented father from walnut wood harvested from my grandfather’s land west of Nashville. 

*The drawing of Santa was done by me, and is available to be purchased here

 

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Happy Birthday!

I would like to take a moment to wish a special lady a Happy Birthday. I’ve shared many tables with her, and though we have lived in different states, or countries even, I count my times with this lady among some of my favorite.

I can remember the fall when she surprised my whole family and came in town for Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, no one knew she was coming and I think we had just said Amen when she walked through the door. Every Thanksgiving after that, we wondered if she would make a surprise appearance. Everyone looks forward to spending time with this treasure.

There was the summer that I was able to spend a couple of weeks with her in Texas. I helped out at the tearoom she owned. There were plenty of tables to share that week. She helped me master filling a water glass and setting a table just so. Hospitality has always been one of her gifts.

Her tearoom wasn’t the last tea we’ve shared. She threw a breathtaking bridal tea for all the ladies in my family on the back porch of the Belle Meade Mansion. Having all those women in one place was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Especially seeing all of us wearing fancy large hats. She has a way of making everything just a little bit more special.

This is only a sampling of my memories with my aunt. She is more than an aunt to me she has become a friend and encourager in my life. She is one of the most talented and giving people I know. I love you Aunt Polly! 

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Aunt Polly (center) posing with her brother and sister on the back porch of the Belle Meade.

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Chocolate Cake

My grandmother had just moved to the Woodbine community in Nashville. It was the early 1950s. A new baby girl, a 2-year-old boy, and her tall handsome husband were the new kids on a short friendly street. A red brick ranch house with a large yard- it was everything a home should be. There was even a cove carved into the hall wall for the telephone to sit. New to the area, far from her family and friends back home in her small town, my grandmother began her hunt for a local church family. They say in Nashville, that there is a church on every corner well, believe it, because there is! It happened that there was on the corner of her little street and so she decided to visit a lady’s class that was held on Wednesday mornings.

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My grandma loved the Bible, she was a scholar and teacher and I don’t know what her expectations where as she entered this new corner church for the first time, but as a new mom, she was probably just wanting some quiet time of study with some good Christian ladies.

After the study, one of the ladies stood to make an announcement. She would be taking some food to a family in the area and wondered if anyone would like to contribute. My grandmother raised her hand and volunteered a chocolate cake that she had just made. “The only thing is,” she said, “my husband has already eaten one slice.” The lady that was making the announcement made my grandmother feel at ease at once. She said, “that’s alright, we will slice it up and put it on a platter, no one will ever know the difference…”

My grandmother had found her new church family and a new friend for life that day. All over a piece of chocolate cake

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There are many “morals” to the story, but my take away is this: If you share your cake, you will make a friend.

 

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Camping

My Papa loved to camp and my Grandma loved my Papa. So, they camped a lot. Long trips, short trips or sometimes just a Sunday drive in the RV. During the summer weekends you could find them just a few minutes down the road camping by the lake. My parents would drive my sister and I over for a day and spend to night and make the drive back with them home. The best was when all the cousins came. There were four of us. We would spend the day swimming in the lake, attempting to fish or riding our bikes around the campground.

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Lunch and dinner was very casual almost a grazing of what seemed to be endless choices of crackers and peanut butter or ham and cheese fold over sandwiches. Side dishes might include carrots and celery dipped in ranch dressing or potato chips. Oh, yes and there was always cantaloupe, my Grandma’s favorite. Cut up in manageable chunks for little hands, sealed tight in a Tupperware container.

As soon as lunch and the 30-minute wait period was over, we rushed back to the lake to play hours of our childhood away. Most people wish they could go back to those days, but I’m glad to have the memories just as they are.

One of my Grandparent's last camping trips together.

One of my Grandparent’s last camping trips together.

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Peaches

This has been the summer of peaches for me. I can’t get enough of them. I don’t work far from the farmer’s market in Nashville and I go there at least once a week to the little Greek restaurant to get a bite. After lunch, I’ll walk through the fruit and vegetable venders and take in all the smells and visual displays. It amazes me how they stack the squashes just so with out them falling all over the place. There’s some serious visual merchandizing going on down there. And then out of nowhere that sweet Georgia aroma hits me in the face and I have to buy a peach, or two or four.

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I have pinned so many creative recipes for these little furry guys on Pinterest. I found one recipe for Grilled Peach Mozzarella Salad, another for Ricotta Pizza with Peaches, and another for Barbeque Peach Summer Rolls. But, they never get made. However, they do get sliced up and served straight off the pit.

My husband got his hair cut tonight. He was late getting home and I could have cooked anything I wanted or I could have gotten some sushi to go. What did I do? Grabbed a peach, cut it up, and cracked open some pistachios. Sounds like a tasty and healthy dinner to me, plus it balances out those peanut butter brownies I made last night…

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Links to the recipes listed above:

Grilled Peach Mozzarella Salad

Ricotta Pizza with Peaches

Barbeque peach Summer Rolls

Follow me on Pinterest to see what other Peach recipes I find.

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McCool Family Cookbook

Out of my entire cookbook collection, my favorites are the ones created by a community. Some are from high school fundraisers, others created by a local church or community service group. I keep them around for one or two of the gems found in each one. Classroom Peanut Butter Cookies from David Lipscomb High School, The Yankee Pleaser from the Nashville Junior League Cookbook and Walnut Banana Bread from The Nashville Cookbook. But the one that stays in use the most is a collection of recipes from a northern Davidson County family, the McCools. The title of this navy blue plastic comb bound 152-page book is simply, The McCools Cook. And boy, did they ever.ImageHidden in the hills just north of Nashville is a farm that has been in my family for over 100 years. Just off McCool Road, you can still see a springhouse that stored the orchard’s harvest for a family of nine. My grandmother was one of them. The first few pages of this cherished book include a short history, a family tree and a dedication to two women, Francis, my grandmother and Elsie, her sister. It reads, “To their memory and to all the other “Aunt Franceses” and “Aunt Elsies” who can soothe away the troubles of the world with a little love and a chess or chocolate pie, we dedicate this book.”ImageThis book was quite the collaboration. Everyone in the family had a little part. My Aunt Nancy was the editor, my mother, Kay the illustrator and my Uncle Kenny the photographer. Though it was not officially mentioned in the credits, my father is always quality control when it comes to food. I know he tested my own submission, Peanut Butter and Jelly Roll Ups. It was even published it in my own handwriting. I was 7 when the book was published and they were distributed at our seventh annual family reunion.ImageThere are so many favorites in this book. Murrie’s Pancakes, Pop’s Fruitcake and Stevie’s Chess Pie are just a few. It has served as a primer for my southern cooking education. When my Aunt Nancy gave me my very own copy after college, she wrote a sweet note on the front page and lovingly took the time to star her favorites in the index and make notes by the recipes that needed a “revised edit”.

It’s been a while since our last McCool reunion. Every time I open that precious blue book, to find JoAnn McCool’s Chocolate Layered Dessert or Charlotte Lanham’s Chicken Enchiladas, it feels like we are all together again. Each one of us making our way back for seconds to see if we missed anything the first time around that long table littered with tin foil and half eaten covered dishes. We know who brought what, because we all use the same book.

ImageI spy fried chicken, a deviled egg and some chubby fingers.

 

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SKYKING

They say, home is where the heart is. I believe the heart is where the table is.

Tonight, my husband and I were planning on sharing a table at a new restaurant in our small quaint town right outside of Nashville. Small southern towns have their big charms, but not often do they have amazing brick oven pizza.

The newest restaurant in town, we had been planning this for a while. I had been hoping for a decent pizza restaurant since I moved here three years ago. We were tired of driving into the city for a pie. When my husband came down with a summer cold, I decided that we were going to have pizza whether it was at our table or theirs. I went in, found a seat at the bar and ordered two 13 inch pies to take home. Margherita for me and pepperoni for the man. The service was fast and friendly. I felt like the place had been there forever.

I love a good Friday night in and it might happen more now that I can share my table with a pie and my love. ImageImage

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