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Archive for July, 2008

Freezers and Birthdays

Today is Emily’s 6th birthday! On our way out the door for her party, I opened the freezer on the back porch to discover it was off — and had been for several days. We hadn’t had a meat meal since Saturday so the loose plug could well have happened then. Rats, Rats and double Rats! I was so proud of the meat bargains I had purchased on sale. Whenever Publix had specials on meats we liked and used, I would buy several packages. Ground beef at $1.29 a pound. Whole chickens at $.99 a pound. Boneless chicken breasts at $1.99 a pound. A beautiful pork tenderloin purchased on sale. Triple Rats!  We didn’t agonize long, just dumped it all in a heavy duty trash bag which Bruce took straight to the dumpster.

Several weeks ago we came home after a camping trip to discover the freezer of the refrigerator had been left open an inch or so. My fault! I was the last to go in there, getting the frozen food out for our cooler and the trip.  I hadn’t shut the sliding drawer all the way.  So — out went ice cream and veggies and fish sticks and tater tots. Another mess.  However, the good news is that all the junk is gone. The freezers are clean. We’re starting over. And — what was lost was on sale, right?

Now the birthday. We bravely, courageously drove down the road to spend two hours with six year olds at Chuck E Cheese. Only for beloved grandchildren would we do this — even for two hours. Last year when grandson, Austin, in South Carolina, had a Chuck E birthday, we opted to drive up the next weekend and spend an afternoon — better all around since we don’t get to see them often enough.  We got to enjoy Austin and have a good visit with Jim and Marcy.

Anyway, we decided that Chuck E Cheese is really a casino for children. All you can drink (soda). Food you like (pizza and ice cream and cake). Lots of tokens to spend on “addictive” games and rides which “pay off” with tickets that “purchase” toys.  Lots of noise for sensory overload. Even entertainment — by TV and mechanical characters.  Just like a casino! Right?

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Oh, Beans

After a quick stop at the downtown Farmer’s Market this morning, I brought home a half box of green beans. I guess a box is about the same size as a bushel. Because I have the jars on the back porch and the other canning equipment organized in the pantry, it was easy to set up. The most difficult part is the washing and trimming and cutting process. As always, Bruce “The Chopper” Stephens helped by grabbing a knife, a cutting board and digging in while I got the jars and lids out and the canner fired up. All that took about two hours, Getting the canner up to the right pressure, the jars processed, and then cooled down for removal, took a bit longer and some dial watching on the canner. But we ended up with 13 quarts of delicious freshly canned green beans. They cost about $1.20 a quart. Thankfully, one didn’t seal, which was okay with us. We had a perfect summer supper — hamburgers, sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, bread and butter pickles and cantaloupe with cold peach tea. Yum, yum.

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More Camping

This is what we learned on our latest excursion. You don’t know know fast you can move until a wasp is chasing you. Don’t wear tennis shoes in the rain — in a tent, they’ll never dry out and will smell like a dead thing.

Our last trip was to the north Georgia mountains to a campground between Hiawassee and Helen GA called Enota (Indian for “nuturing land”). We found it on the internet and thought it looked interesting. I also wanted to drive through Helen, but about ten minutes of the faux Alpine/Bavarian/Swiss Alps shops cured me of any desire to visit.

Day One. We no sooner had our tent up and the air bed inflated at our site by a lovely stream than a Spanish speaking group with a passel of children arrived across the way. Too loud. Way too loud. So we moved upstream away from the mob. The only way to carry an already inflated air bed was on our heads. That picture gave me a tremendous case of the giggles. Bruce (bless him) hung on for dear life and we got it on to a picnic table. We moved the tent by taking out the pegs and lowering the poles and carefully dragging it along. No sooner did we have the second site set up when more of their church group arrived right across the stream. Oh well. . . That night we listened to their church hymns and sang along in English to their Spanish lyrics. Prayer time was pretty quiet. Amen.

Day Two. The scenery in north Georgia is gorgeous. Bruce got some great pictures. We attended a chicken BBQ dinner, complete with a music, that benefited a local animal rescue shelter. I got a lap quilt at the silent auction and we stuffed ourselves with a variety of desserts, talked to some interesting people and had an all around nice evening. However, it started to rain — hard. We were in the dry, but our campsite wasn’t. Bruce had wisely strung up an extra tarp over the tent. The ceiling was dry but the corners of the bottom seams leaked a bit here and there. I’ve gotten good at mopping up a tent floor. Bruce can tie down anything. He has the pegs, the hammer and the cord. We were fine. Besides — the pitter pat of raindrops is rather pleasant as long as your sleeping bag is dry. However, our neighbors across the stream discovered that watermelons left to cool in the water disappear during a rainstorm.

Day Three was cool and damp so we drove into town for the breakfast bar at Shoney’s. Later in the day we discovered that the Altanta Journal-Constitution, not only has news, but also sops up any puddles. We also discovered that rainwater drains into the underground homes of wasps and they’re not happy about that. The Wasp Clan suddenly decided we were personally responsible for their wet living room floor. One sting apiece and a can of wasp/hornest spray later, they calmed down. Next time they need to heed Bruce’s example and put a tarp over the entrance to their hole. And a stack of newspapers to divert the drainage. That will do it.

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The tendency is to celebrate the 4th doing something different from our everyday activities. Indeed, it was so at the Stephens household. We drove clear over to Leesville, SC for a trip to Schealey’s BBQ, about a 45 minute drive. On this very popular day, we waited 30 minutes in line to work our way into the restaurant and get our food. It’s worth it and probably the only place where Bruce and I will stand in line so long. He had the pork BBQ and chicken livers. I had the chicken livers and fried chicken. Fried chicken livers is a food you really like or don’t. Our once a year feast is not exactly cholesterol-free, but what the heck, we’re talking once a year! They also take off the skin from the chicken so all you get is the yummy, crispiness outside the juicy chicken inside. It’s the way chicken is supposed to be, that I can not duplicate. I also had greens and rice, another Southern tradition, and after 24 years here, I’m pretty thoroughly converted. I did miss and wish I had a chunk of cornbread to soak up the liquor from the greens. Again, another acquired Southern taste. (Years ago we had a lunch manager at school who made the best greens — and she always served cornbread with it. When she was fixing them once, I walked into the kitchen and she turned so she was between me and her pot. “I don’t want you to see my secret ingredient,” she said. “Not to fear — I don’t want all the work of making them — I just want to be in line when they’re served!”)  For dessert Bruce had the apple cobbler and I had the banana pudding.

Then we ambled down the road to Gilbert, SC for the annual Peach Festival. However, along the way we drove by the Fallaw family farm on Born Again Road. (Yes, that really is its name.) The farm belongs to his cousins — the children of Bruce’s mother’s brother, Gibson. It used to be just chickens and peaches. Now it’s squash and asparagus and some peaches. Today they irrigate and diversify. How else do farms stay alive? When he was a kid, Bruce used to be “volunteered” by his mother to pick peaches during the summer. All the peaches he could sneak during the day and a pallet on the living room floor at night. In Gilbert it was hotter than Hades, but the peach ice cream was cold and delicious. We sat in the shade in the city park and listened to fiddle music. On the way back to Augusta, the AC was running full blast and we drank every drop of bottled water we had in the car.

That night we ate hot dogs at the ball park before getting rather damp under a too small umbrella. The game finally started an hour and half late, but the Greenjackets won against the Charleston Riverdogs and the fireworks were a fitting finale to the evening. Happy Birthday to America!

By the way, a new huge golf umbrella now lives in the trunk of the car.

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