On Families, Ramps, Sprouts and Sock Puppies…

This weekend was the annual Christmas gathering of my mother’s side of the family. In fact, they get together four times a year, but the Christmas gathering has been special in my mind since I was a child. While it was always good to see my extended family, it was especially good to see my cousins…specifically my cousin Sandy. He is about 11 years older than I am, and is the youngest of the cousins on that side of the family.

My sister and I have always been in between our cousins and first cousins in age. Susan is closer to our first cousins in age, especially on my father’s side of the family, but I’m sort of out on my own. I was too little to hang with my teenage cousins, and by the time they had kids I was too big to do anything but babysit those kids. But Sandy always treated me like an equal, and as a result was one of my favourite family members.

I remember once he came to visit me at Young Harris College. We hung out and talked and then later he sent me a cassette tape recording of a song he’d written for me, inspired by that afternoon. I mean who wouldn’t be totally chuffed to have a cousin like that?

Sandy has a physically debilitating condition that lately has caused him to use a wheelchair, and as a result wasn’t going to be able to come to the family gathering this Christmas because there is no way into Mom and Dad’s house that doesn’t involve steps. Mom and Dad started calling around and found a place that would build them a ramp, free of charge, for Sandy to use to come in the house. Dad and I put it together and got it all strapped in and sturdy, and Sandy got to join the rest of us for Christmas.

Of course, in typical Nancy style, as he rolled into the kitchen grinning ear to ear I said “Oh, did the ramp work?” Um, duh. He’s IN THE KITCHEN, dummy.

I sort of feel a sense of let down now that this event is over because for the past week I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing McDonald Family Christmas, trying to help Mom and Dad get ready for Saturday. I ordered my presents early so that I could concentrate on this and on getting ready to go see Simon (a week from right now I’ll be there…), and two of them, both from Barnes & Noble, gave me fits trying to get sorted. Mom’s gift was reported as on back order and I was given the option to cancel it. I did, and then got an email that it couldn’t be canceled because it was on the way. Mind you, between canceling and receiving the email, I went out and bought another one. Grr.

The last straw was Joy’s present. I had ordered the most perfect neck pillow for her to use on their impending trip to the UK after Christmas. It was a tiger, and was pink and purple and had a big, cartoony face, and, as you will remember, was perfect. In the mail I got an ugly yellow tiger that wasn’t even remotely like the one I ordered. So on Friday night, Dad and I went out to find something else for Joy. The look on her face the next day when she saw what would come to be named “Sock Puppy” was worth all the angst over the neck pillow gone wrong (as was her reaction to her Dora Umbrella and matching pink neck pillow from Auntsie and Uncle Simon).

One tiny note: I made roasted sprouts and bubble & squeak for my family to try as representatives of British cooking, thinking that I’d be eating all of it and honestly being pretty pleased to do so.  It isn’t easy being a vegetarian during holidays that revolve around food.  To my surprise, by the time that I got to the food, a great deal of the sprouts and potato cakes were already gone and there was nothing left of them at the end of the meal.  They liked it!  Next Christmas I hope that Simon will be here to cook his own British food for them.

So one Christmas down…and one very, very important Christmas Day with my very, very perfect husband to go. Happy Yule, y’all. Happy Yule.

Well, there’s always fish…


Fruit and Veg box
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne

So I decided to try again something that I tried when I was younger and less prepared. One summer when I was working at Camp, I decided to become a vegetarian. I don’t know why I did it, but if I look back on other things I did at the same time I would guess it was because it would help me lose weight. It was an experiment at best, that left me eating loads and loads of salad greens and McDonald’s french fries (on Friday nights, when we’d go into town from camp after the kids left). The end of that experiment was an unplanned trip to the infirmary at Camp after I nearly fainted from a combination of poor nutrition and living in the Georgia heat with no A/C.

Since that failed attempt I’ve looked with envy at those able to live a vegetarian lifestyle. I don’t believe that I will ever make it to a purely vegetarian lifestyle and I am pretty sure that I am not meant to be vegan. However, I do know that when I don’t eat meat I feel better, physically. So what pushed me over the edge this time?

For awhile, I have been fighting the feeling that there was something not right in the way that the animals that I’ve been consuming for most of my life are raised, treated, and processed into the food on my table. Something not right in my opinion, mind you. I would never EVER try to make someone else believe the way I do. If eating meat is okay with you, then that’s great, I’m happy for you. It just isn’t okay for me anymore.

To throw a slightly hypocritical spanner in the works, I’m not planning to give up fish at this point. I know that there are loads of awful things that happen to fish, and that’s why I’m admitting it is hypocritical…I can’t quite bring myself to give up sushi. I know there are veg options in sushi but I’ve only just discovered the heaven that is yellowtail tuna. Mercy.

Anyway, back to the hypothetical straw and camel: I’ve had the misfortune of riding behind some chicken trucks in my life, and every time it almost reduces me to tears. I saw an awful segment on the local news the other night where a farmer was talking about how you could buy a whole cow from him, you and your buddies, and they’d process the cow…as they were standing in the field with said cows milling around behind them! “You’ll get good steaks and two sets of ribs…” It was horrifying to me. But the last straw was the wild turkey and babies that walked across the back yard up here on Allen Mountain the other day. I watched Mama Turkey checking the bushes before she let her babies follow her into the brush. The argument that turkeys (or chickens or cows) are dumb and that’s why it’s okay to eat them doesn’t matter to me. It’s a non-argument. Why do we eat some animals and not others? It was then and there that I decided I had to make a change.

I don’t and won’t begrudge my dog or my cat eating meat. Dogs can’t live as vegetarians without a lot of extra work and care. Cats are carnivores. The way I’m looking at this is that my opposition to eating meat is because I have such a strong reverence for nature. I hope that everyone can support me in this decision, and that this time I can make some healthy choices as far as my food goes.

Shrove Tuesday Meal Attempt

I know that I’m not the best cook in the world. Well aware of that fact, acutally…just consider my other culinary disasters, including but not limited to the time I put french onion soup powder into spaghetti with meat sauce or my famous Nancy’s Noodle Nightmares where I can’t STOP adding ingredients to the skillet…but this time I think it might NOT have been my fault.

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/The Day Before Ash Wednesday and it is traditional in some parts of the world to eat pancakes on this day.

Shrove Tuesday is the term used in the United Kingdom,[1] Australia,[2] and Canada to refer to the day after Shrove Monday (or the more old fashioned Collop Monday) and before Ash Wednesday (the liturgical season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday). In Ireland, the UK, and amongst Anglicans, Lutherans and possibly other Protestant denominations in Canada including Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, this day is also known as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday, because it is customary to eat pancakes on this day.[3][4][5] In other parts of the world—for example, in historically Catholic and French-speaking parts of the United States and elsewhere—this day is called Mardi Gras. In areas with large Polish-immigrant populations (for example, Chicago) it is known as Tłusty Czwartek and celebrated on the Tuesday before Lent. And in areas with large German-immigrant populations (for example, Pennsylvania Dutch Country) it is known as Fasnacht Day (also spelled Fausnacht Day and Fauschnaut Day). [from Wikipedia]

After hearing Simon and Liz talk about their pancakes, I became inspired to try to make some myself. After all, the recipe that Liz gave me in IM didn’t seem that difficult and I had all the ingredients…sorta.

2 cups flour
2 cups milk
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter

I assembled the ingredients:


Mixed up a fairly runny batter:


And poured it in the pan, tilting it to spread the batter, and waiting for the bubbles before I flipped it.


Problem is, my skillet isn’t even close to flat and they were burning (we’re talking smoke!) in the middle. So I ended up with gloppy and gross pancakes.


I’m so sad that I used the last of my strawberry jam on the one on the right. Neither was edible. So for the last one I stopped trying to pretend I was English and ate it the old fashioned American way…slathered with “Tastes Like Butter!” and drowned in “Light Lowfat Maple Syrup.”


Note to Self: Ask Santa for proper electric skillet for Christmas this year.

Lessons learned in the kitchen, part three zillion

1. A Pasta Bowl is not a good substitute for a mixing bowl, unless you really enjoy cleaning up sloshed cheesecake filling off your microwave door and begonia.

2. Guessing at how much butter is in 2/3 cup is not as easy as looking at the wrapper on the stick of butter. It will tell you.

3. A good substitute for an electric mixer is your arm, some ibuprofen (for afterward) and a serving fork. Well, if you don’t have a wisk OR a mixer that is…

4. When the good people at Jello tell you that the cheesecake filling will thicken they are SO not kidding. You could Spackle with that stuff! And “gently pour onto crust…” Yeah, who are you kidding?

5. Sometimes it helps just to have your dad on the other end of the phone, laughing along as you blunder your way through a new recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! (Or, happy Slapsgiving to all you “How I Met Your Mother Fans…”)