Chef Goes Back to School

Grandson Nathaniel’s week with us went by in a flash. We always enjoy being with him, and the pleasure was doubled, since grandson David lives with us.

People envy us having a student chef in the house. Now when he comes to visit, he brings his knives with him. That is a distinctive mark of a chef in my book. I try to listen to hear what Nathaniel might be in the mood to cook, and this time he talked about making a chicken sandwich. He didn’t give it a distinctive name, but it needs one. He grilled chicken fillets outside, whipped up a special bell pepper sauce, cooked crisp bacon, piled everything on a hearty wholegrain bread, and added lettuce. What a meal!

Nathaniel does not wear his heart on his sleeve, but he does wear a thermometer and a pen on his sleeve when he is in uniform. He would have liked that convenience the day I cooked a meatloaf wrapped in pastry. I can only imagine how fancy he would have made it, but mine was humdrum. He consoled me by saying that he loves home cooking because it is comfort food. When I said I would see if the meat was done, he checked it with a thermometer. He actually went to his room to get the thermometer, since he didn’t wear his uniform to cook here.

On David’s day off, we went to two thrift shops and enjoyed looking at things for several hours. Did we buy anything? No! I’m a miser, and David feels his student loans hanging over his head. Nathaniel’s refrain is, “I’m a broke college student.”

We did a bit better at a thrift store in Hendersonville. I bought $2 earrings, and John paid the same amount for a tie. We found a set of four wooden chairs for the kitchen table, feeling we got a bargain. Guests, note that you will be more comfortable to sit and chat after a meal now.

I often write about having fun and laughing, so I tried to catch a bit of the laughter after dinner one night. I kept quiet so the other five could be heard. There is nothing particularly special about our carrying on, but it was us at our silly best. I’m sorry I couldn’t remember how to include a WAV file.

We remembered the mirror ritual before leaving for church. The rest of the day was taken up with eating at a favorite restaurant and driving Nate back to Charlotte. He was a bit concerned about a heavy load of classes and working. I suspect he was eager for Monday morning to come so he could get it over with. There is only one first day of term, after all.

David acts as witness to Nathaniel’s lowering of the mirror as he left


We went to Jonesborough, TN, to go through the International Storytelling Center. We assumed it would be open on a Wednesday, but it wasn’t. Neither was a train museum in town. Evidently cultural things are not available on Wednesdays. I took a photo of John, Nathaniel, and David with the Storytelling Center in the background.

We like walking up and down the main street of a town, poking our noses in shops and soaking up the atmosphere. We hadn’t gone far when we heard a train, visible from Main Street. David and John stood transfixed until it had passed. I’m sure they could recite the type of engines and the number of cars if you asked.

When we walked under the porch of an old hotel, Nathaniel’s head could touch the underside. He became a decorative post for a few moments.

Son John $pencer had suggested Jonesborough as a destination, and he found a restaurant on line that sounded interesting – the Black Olive. I thought the food was super. The fellows all had variations on classic Parmesan dishes – eggplant, veal, and chicken. I chose spicy shrimp and chicken with penne pasta and a spicy white sauce and sun-dried tomatoes. Yummy!

David and I went to a lollipop store, while John and Nathaniel browsed in an antique store. Both were a bit disappointing. The lollipop place had only wrapped hard candies. I didn’t see any chocolate there, though David did. It’s just as well that I wasn’t lured into buying any sweets.. The antique store was too pricey, so Nathaniel was not tempted. We left, having enjoyed the town and the lovely drive through mountains both ways.

When Sadie begged Nathaniel to play with her, they had a tug of war with her blanket. They played until Sadie was panting and jumped on a chair. David and John went to church for the Lenten service, followed by choir rehearsal. It had been a most pleasant day.

Term Break Begins

Grandson Nathaniel raised the mirror, indicating that he is now with us for a few days. It’s a bit less grand than the flag flying over the palace when the queen is in residence, but we Americans are not as formal with our rites and rituals.

We drove by Sunburst Falls, my favorite of the close ones. It seemed to be accepting of the ice and snow.

Snow falling at Sunburst Falls

In Brevard, we ate lunch and divided this key lime cheesecake at Square Root restaurant. I asked if this was a plated dessert. Nathaniel explained that it had five elements – dessert, crunchy crust, drizzled sauce, whipped cream, and sugar sculpture. Yes, by definition it was a plated dessert. Fancy!

Day two began with custom-made pancakes by chef Nathaniel. He mixed the batter and personalized them for each of us. I couldn’t resist dark chocolate chips in mine, and John chose banana. Rose was imaginative. She thought of a coconut-walnut duo, which Nate easily produced. The pancakes were huge and as light as could be. My frying pan was surprised at such perfection, because it usually sees measly, flat little pucks.

The highlight of Nate’s day was hiking with Rose and son John $pencer. They scrambled along snowy trails near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some of the trails had not been used for a while, and they had to climb over fallen trees. Rose brought me a special photo of Nathaniel with a giant icicle. I loved the pose and was struck by how much he looks like Cousin Lars here.

Unicorn Nathaniel?


We picked up grandson Nathaniel from school for term break, and he was still wearing his uniform. He had just finished the last lab of his training. Next term, and for the next two years, he will have only academic courses. David took the luggage to the car, while Nate carried the top tier of a wedding cake! He had made the cake, and as he was leaving, his chef told him to take the top tier. Usually students don’t take food from the lab, but it was too late to serve any to students or to donate it. We were the happy recipients.

Not only did Nathaniel know how to produce a wedding cake, he knew how to cut it. He said the top tier should serve 15 people. According to him, the fondant covering should be discarded. That’s why the slices on the plates looked naked. Naked or not, the cake was delicious.

Home Again!

We left Long Island Sunday morning. I rode with daughter Kate to New Jersey, and we spotted John on the road ahead of us after we went over the George Washington Bridge. We were in plenty of time to go to her church at 10:30. It was in the church library that I spotted these amusing signs. The first says “chillderen libery” with libery corrected to liblery. Can you read that sentence aloud without laughing? I suspect a child made the sign, and a “chilld” would be able to read it.

The second sign was more sophisticated. One thinner “A” was inserted in ARCHEOLOGY. To tell you the truth, I don’t read all caps easily. I would have missed that mistake if the correction hadn’t been so evident.

We had breakfast/lunch with Kate and Michael before starting home.

Thankfully, the drive to Virginia was uneventful, as were the last six hours home. The first thing I noticed when we walked in the kitchen was that Rose and John $pencer had cleaned all the counters. Things were much neater than I had left them. I count that as a gift!

John said we drove 2,345 miles in that one week we were away. I might have felt it if we hadn’t stopped to visit wonderful people every day. The first day and the last were the only ones that didn’t include other folks. It was a most satisfying trip, one that gave us many happy memories.

Dearest New York Friends

We were on Long Island to celebrate dear friends. One of these friends died on his birthday a few weeks ago. Jay wanted a celebration of his life, starting in church and ending with lunch.

Jay specified the lunch had to include good food and good beer. He would have enjoyed the loving, fun things people said about him. The lunch certainly came up to his standards. It was as elegant as a wedding reception.

We were with our own blood relatives at Jay’s memorial. Daughter Kate and sister Barbara and Thom were with us. We always savor time spent with them. We appreciated staying at Barbara and Thom’s house where we had other opportunities to visit.

We have church family, too. We had breakfast with Ruth, and this was our special time to visit with her. Attending adult Bible class and singing in the choir were the main things we all did together. We’ve known and loved her since 1967.

John, Barbara, Ruth, and Thom

No trip to Long Island is complete without time with Karen and Al. We always joke, laugh, discuss serious things, tease each other, share stories, and revel in each other’s company. For us prime time has nothing to do with television and everything to do with time spent together. When I made them pose for the obligatory photo, Karen picked up a box of Christmas dishes. Perhaps that was the official rite that made those dishes ours. They said they were agonizing about getting rid of them, since no family members wanted the set. After much banter, we were the new owners. We’ll have to wait ten months to use the dishes, but they will be in daily use for over a month.

Karen, John, and Al

After 60 Years — Helen!!

John had not seen his high school classmate Helen since graduation day. Obviously, I had not met her or her husband Joe before. This warm conversation was just like the one with classmate Carol and John the previous day. We shared our experiences, with everyone being an equal partner in the word-flow. What a delight!

We enjoy hearing accounts of how couples meet and marry, so we asked them their story. Their mothers were the match-makers! Joe’s mother was a manager at Wanamaker’s, a big department store. Helen’s mother saw photos of the wedding of Joe’s sister while Helen was trying on clothes. Joe’s mother found out that Helen’s family had an ice cream shop, so she insisted Joe drive her there to get ice cream. As Joe pointed out, his mother could have easily driven herself there. That was the beginning of a lovely romance. We saw photos of their two daughters and grandchildren who still live close by.

Helen was a teacher. Lots of people know I admire teachers, so she started on a very high plane with me. She stayed home with the girls while they were growing up. She was concerned about entering the work force again, but her experience stood her in good stead. Many students were inspired by her during her teaching career. I am envious of her gardening experience. She loves to work outside, and there is evidence to prove it.

I was fascinated by the way Joe’s job affected their family life. He was an electronics engineer with very high security clearance. During the girls’ childhood years, he could not tell anyone about his job. When the children asked what he did at work, he had to dodge the question. After a serious crisis, he worked the 12-hour night shift for a while. Not only could he not say what he did, but he worked in the dead of night. It was only a few years ago that this was declassified, so his talking to us was permissible. After a lifetime of keeping important secrets, he wouldn’t be comfortable with my publishing his photo, according to Helen. You’ll have to imagine a very distinguished man who is easy to talk to.

High school classmates John and Helen

After our satisfying visit with Helen and Joe, we headed for Long Island, to spend time with blood relatives and people who are our very close church family.