John — Left Holding the Bag

No matter where John and neighbor Logan are, it is game time. Logan threw his backpack on the ground and ran to the light pole and back. As we ambled toward the bus stop, John picked up the school bag. It somehow became a punching ball, a target, and a shield. They didn’t have enough time to formulate rules.

The laughter was from neighbor Marla and John. You won’t hear me, because I tend to hold my breath when recording. I cannot stand hearing my own voice coming back at me. Is anyone else like that?

Fancy Food in a Rough Setting

With no one to please but ourselves, John suggested I look for a restaurant in Asheville to try something new. Late at night I copied eight names from the computer, knowing only that they were fairly close to the church and open on Sunday at noon. We found two downtown, but there was no parking nearby. The others were in the River Arts District, an up-and-coming area near the river. Many of the buildings were old warehouses, as rough inside as out. Gentrification is encroaching, and already poor artists are being priced out of the area. It was a good time to be there. Surprisingly, the eateries were not overflowing, like ones in West Asheville we had passed. Vivian was the name of the restaurant we chose. I’d say the décor was workman rustic or in-progress DIY.

Prices were thoroughly modern. I laughed when our food came, because it looked like the orders had been mixed up. The pretty, dainty souffle was in front of John. He wondered if he should eat the violets, and I said yes. The Newberg sauce on it raised the price to match mine.

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My plate held enough food to satisfy a workman for a full day. There was a large biscuit holding a big piece of crisply fried pork covered with sausage gravy. On top were two fried eggs. Oh, my! What a treat!

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I made a mess before having the first bite. After I made the first cut, the knife handle slid into the gooey gravy. Ugh! I fished the knife out and realized no serving person was in sight. Wiping my messy hands with the nice cloth napkin didn’t seem proper. There must have been a restroom there, but I couldn’t have opened the door without consequences. The food was piping hot. I told myself to eat it and worry about clean hands and a pure heart later. I wrote on a blog today that I didn’t have gut instincts, but that was one, wasn’t it? It was the right one, too. John finished before I had eaten a quarter of my brunch. He agreed to eat some of mine until he hit a pocket of pepper, a food repellent for him. By the time I finished, the gravy on my hands had dried. The napkin did a good job without ending up a disgusting mess.

While I’m on the subject of food, I’ll tell you about our shrimp and grits. I think I have it down pat now, meaning it’s just as I like it. This dish originated in Charleston, SC. If shrimp were left over from the catch of the day, this is what the fishermen ate. I’ve prepared it many times since I first had it about four years ago. If you are coming for dinner and like shrimp, request this. Remind me I said you should. The sausage and hot pepper flakes will be served on the side. You can hold the bacon if you don’t go whole hog.

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Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday in England, but we always had them throughout Lent in New York. John and I thought of them about the same time. We didn’t find any in the supermarket, so I earmarked a bit of the refrigerator dough for them. Instead of kneading candied fruit into the dough, I sprinkled some on top and rolled it up. The next morning the rolls sat on the counter for half an hour before being baked. I stirred together a little milk and confectioner’s sugar for the cross markings. They tasted very good to us, probably because we haven’t had any in four years.

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When our children were little, I baked hot cross buns to share with the neighbors. We went to four houses, singing the traditional song as we delivered them. I looked for the music and evidently threw away the book. Internet to the rescue!

The words are:

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns!


A First, at My Age!

I lost my glasses! It’s a common thing, you say, for the elderly to lose their glasses. Not this elder! I can’t see a foot beyond my nose. That’s why my glasses are ALWAYS on my face or on the bedside table. I’ve worn glasses all day, every day, for about 63 years. This morning they were gone. GONE! My first thought was that I could walk to the creek if John went with me, because he could see to cross the highway. Get practical! Go get John!

John was at his computer and immediately got up when I said I needed his help. Bless his heart, he looked at the table and dropped to his knees to scan the floor. It wasn’t until he moved a bit that the light reflected from the glasses. They were slightly behind the table, next to the bedpost. Ah! My knight in shining pajamas!

Three Seasons in Two Pictures

In December the orange color of a Bradford pear tree in our neighborhood seemed out of place with snow. Either the tree should have done fall cleaning earlier, or winter should have cooled her heels.

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I was remembering that photo when the same tree, now blooming, had a backdrop of snow on the roof. A bit later in the day, trees and shrubs displayed the snow. The blooms would have looked dirty in comparison. A summer view of that tree is missing. Summer doesn’t share snow with anyone!

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On the first day of spring, before the snow started, I gathered a few sprigs of mint. They were hugging the house for warmth, but they smelled fresher than they will in the heat of summer.

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Our snow put on a brave show. It couldn’t hang on to whiten things up and graciously gave way to spring sunshine the next day.

Logan’s Snow Day

We were supposed to get several inches of snow, so I was fairly sure local schools would be closed. Still, I hesitated to text neighbors in case they were still asleep. John said go for it, so I asked Shawn if she were awake and school closed. If so, would Logan like to walk with us? Surprisingly, Logan was still asleep at 7:15! John and I walked to the creek in gentle flurries as the sun tried its best to poke through the clouds.

Mid-morning Shawn asked if Logan could come over, and of course, we were delighted to have him. John paused in the checkers game when Logan found the green silicone oven mitt. It is shaped like an animal’s head. Logan moved it to make it appear to talk, then tossed it up in the air.

They resumed the checkers game.

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As the fellows played, I made some dough. It was one of those recipes that called for the yeast to be added with the flour, using a mixer. While it sat for 20 minutes, John and Logan read a short book together. Logan agreed to help make the coffeecake, so he washed his hands with soap (in front of me) before kneading the dough with his hands.

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He did very well rolling the dough with my heavy rolling pin.

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Painting the dough with melted butter was a piece of cake easy for him. His touch was light, so he didn’t tear the dough.

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He sprinkled the pecans and chocolate chips evenly. I couldn’t have done a better job, so I presume that is amazing for a 7-year-old. Well, maybe I’m a klutz. One long edge was left bare, and he used his finger to apply water, which acted like glue to seal the roll.

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He finished! As he skipped off to play with John, I covered the roll with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. It can be baked from 2 to 24 hours later.

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Before you ask, I’ll tell you that I did not do this kind of thing with my children. I didn’t have the patience. Today patience was on the other foot, because Logan had to wait as I got things ready for him.

John helped Logan memorize a Bible verse before they had a killer game of balloon/volley ball.

Don’t Read if You Love Spiders

I know I’m in good company when I say I hate spiders. I see one, and revulsion explodes within me. I have been told often enough that the horrible critters are good for the earth and that I’m rebelling against God when I kill one. God forgive me, but that does not change the inner workings of my gut.

As John was driving our garbage to the collection center, I found a spider crawling in the tub, unable to get out. There was no use screaming, because no one would hear. I didn’t panic until I knocked my clean clothes into the tub. That would have given him a ladder of escape. Quick as a wink, I got the clothes back where they belonged. If I’d been thinking straight, I might have thought of something to kill it. As it was, the spider was out of reach. That’s when the phone rang – John telling me he was at the garage, leaving the Honda for repair. It was useless to moan or squeal. My thoughts: “Quick! How can I contain that monster while I pick John up? The dustbuster! Get the hand-held vac and suck it up. Great! Now what? I can’t see it. Don’t put it outside, because rain clouds are looming. Put the spider, dustbuster and all, in the tub. I am reasonably sure it can’t escape from the tub, even if it gets out of the vac. Now go get John.”

Later I tiptoed in the bathroom and peered into the tub. Nothing was visibly crawling except my skin. I fetched the camera for documentation.

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I never thought to wonder if fear or curiosity would dictate my actions. Either curiosity won, or I was afraid of what might happen if I left that wicked spider to its own devices. Making sure there were no legs visible on the outside of the little machine, I picked it up. Turning it on seemed like a good idea. Spin the spider to oblivion. I couldn’t see it at all, but I did spot a lady beetle crawling about inside. Just what I needed! Not only was the spider most likely still inside, it now had a live lunch waiting for it. John and I needed to have breakfast, so I replaced the dustbuster in the tub. You will note that even though John was in the house, I did not seek his help. His spider rescues always start with laughter. Not a good sign!

After telling myself sternly that I had to deal with the spider, I checked the tub again after breakfast and picked up the dustbuster. The vile spider was inside with lots of dust bunnies. If you have arachnophobia, close this message immediately. Go on! Nothing to see here! Click on something pleasant!

I could deal with a dead spider, or even a stunned one, but this was an Iron Man Spider! Nothing seemed to faze it.

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Wicked Iron Man Spider inside the dustbuster

In a scared little voice, I said, “John? Will you help me?”

After laughing, he said, “I can’t even see it. I’ll turn on the vac. There it is. I’ll thump it. Now it’s in the lower section. I don’t know how to empty this thing. Take it apart.”

We went on the deck as I told him to check which way the wind was blowing. He claimed there wasn’t any wind. Yeah! Right! There wasn’t any wind until I pulled the innards out of the vacuum. A gust blew dust back at us. By rights, I should have let out a blood-curdling scream. He picked up the two sections and shook them. The spider was gone then, but where had it gone? Had it blown back onto my jacket? I wish I’d thought to pull off the jacket and flick it violently in the air. For all I know, it latched onto the garment and is hunched down in terror, waiting for me to be still and quiet. I am typing on the computer, telling myself the spider should not be poisonous. If it’s waiting to get me, I should survive a bite. If you don’t see another message from me in a few days, you could check the obituaries for either John or Anne. If the spider were venomous, look for me. If John continued to laugh, I murdered him.