and this is why we are grateful for the invention of the gift card

photo (5)
In 5th grade, I won the Chester County 4-H Annual Bread Baking Contest with a Banana Nut Bread recipe from my maternal grandmother. Both of my brothers went on the win the same contest a few years later, with the same recipe. My reward for this feat? The book pictured above. Who wouldn’t want this “pictorial panorama of southern decorative arts illustrating creative vitality in many media”? A fifth grader, that’s who.

It makes me laugh to know that I have kept this book around for more than thirty-five years. Now I primarily use it as a lap desk for my MacBook Pro. One of the endorsements on the back says it serves a two-fold purpose: “It gives Southerners a solid source for pride in their heritage and others a sound knowledge of the antiques and folk art that can be seen below the Mason-Dixon Line.” And lap desk makes three.

My favorite thing about the book is the signature on the bookplate on the inside cover. The Progressive Farmer Company, The Tennessee 4-H Foundation and The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service all pulled together on this gift to the best ten-year old bread baker. It’s official because it is signed by Joan Swift, the 4-H lady. And the lady with perhaps the most perfect grown-up penmanship (or is it penladyship?) on the planet.


The Ultimate Southern Food

So, Garden&Gun Magazine recently released the Ultimate Southern Food Bracket on their website. I could tell who my winner would be before I filled out the bracket. Pulled pork BBQ.

Not just any pulled pork BBQ, but Chester County BBQ. Most BBQ nowadays is cooked in an electric smoker. But you can’t beat real BBQ that was cooked whole hog over an open hickory pit.

In 1992 I was living in Birmingham and I took some friends home with me to Tennessee for the weekend. After going to my favorite hamburger joint in the world, my dad decided that everyone needed to see how real BBQ came into being. So, we hauled everyone to Jack’s Creek to check out a BBQ operation. He asked if we could go out back so he could show my friends how BBQ was made. We filed out the screen door to watch the guy in the pit pulling BBQ off the hog and putting it into those little red and white checkered trays. This seemed totally natural to me. No health code, no OSHA regulations, just down-home BBQ. My dad was so proud of this, and bought some for us to take home. Apparently the portly dude in the white undershirt with sweat dripping off of his nose back onto the hog was too much for my friends, and they never tasted it. Me, on the other hand? I would almost get in my car now and drive across the country for a pound of that sweat-infested slow cooked pulled pork. Pulled from around the ribs, of course.

photo of the day – may 2

You know you are in the south when you can choose your toy rifle OR hand gun in pink.


southern culture trivia quiz

Check out the southern culture trivia quiz over at Maud Newton’s blog. I got more right than wrong, but am still disappointed that I didn’t score higher. Let me know how you fare.

in memory

Jimmy P. Clifford
September 8, 1938 – March 8, 2008

We buried my Daddy on Tuesday. It still doesn’t seem real. Saturday night I received a phone call from my brother that I’ll not soon forget. It was a shock to all of us. Twelve hours later I was at the airport, on my way to Tennessee.

We’ve done this drill enough times that I planned the funeral on the plane and had a list of pastors, pallbearers, and songs by the time I was on southern soil. Folks in our hometown were super gracious, providing us with places to stay, childcare, and plenty of fried chicken and sweet tea.

While it was sad, and I still feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach, there were some funny and some surreal moments. Maybe I’ll write about some of them in detail in the days to come. But, oh, the stories I could tell.

Like the lady who apologized for missing the funeral due to a monthly dog grooming appointment. And the dog wears little girl baby clothes. But he is a boy dog.

Or the close-talking man who I don’t really know who asked to be a pall bearer not long before the service. I had to delicately turn down his request – because he had asked one of my brothers, who told him to talk to me because I was making those decisions. Yeah, thanks.

Or the cousin who had his camera at the cemetery and wanted family pictures.

Can’t really top the preacher who mentioned (and not just in passing) my parent’s separation in the course of the eulogy, though. Coulda gone all day with airing that, I think. Maybe I’ll send him a therapy bill, cuz that’s just bringing up too much old baggage.

We’re 0 for 2 in the parent department now.

what’s up

– just back from a belated birthday beach trip. yeah, i milked this one for all it was worth. squeezed two more birthday celebrations out of the big 4-0.
– got to catch up with my birmingham buddies.
– played a lot of boggle.
– ate a lot of firecracker shrimp (this involves the best remoulade sauce in the world).
– slept a lot.
– sat on the beach a lot.
– watched the sun set and the moon rise.
– had some great conversations.
– did a lot of nothing.
– read Bless Your Heart, Tramp. and random magazines. deep, deep reading, in case you can’t tell.
– did read a bit of Breath for the Bones, by Luci Shaw, so all was not mindless.
– enjoying the new foo fighters album – echos, silence, patience & grace. isn’t that a great title?
– found the perfect music for the treadmill – florida state’s marching band doing the best of college football fight songs.
– drove up to the mountains today so i could catch the aspens in all of their fall glory.
– just spruced up my porch with a pumpkin/mum display to officially welcome fall.
– trying to plan my week now so that i can ease back into work and maybe even a daily routine that doesn’t feel like chaos.
– have a huge need for great amounts of creative energy to come bursting forth in the next week or so.