March 28, 2011

A Revolutionary New Diet...

Recently I went on a diet. Like most diets this one was scheduled around a major life event. My daughter's wedding. There would be no shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress until the pounds came off.
Typically I go on a diet on Monday and by Wednesday I've folded beneath the weight of a German chocolate cake. I've been hijacked by as little as a stale pink sugar wafer discovered in the dark recesses of the bread drawer.
But this time things were going to be different. I could tell as I went to get the mail and discovered the first crocus of the season.
Life was looking up. Even though an icy rain began to fall, my spirits weren't dampened. Not even when huge drops pelted me on the head and I had to dash inside.
My latest plan would revolutionize dieting. If it worked for me it would work for the world. I smelled a book deal. I could see myself all made-over and liposuctioned sitting between Oprah and Dr. Oz.
It was full speed ahead. Gone were those complex menus. This plan called only for counting the calories of every morsel in my house that I did not eat. That's right. It wasn't what I ate that was important here. It was what I didn't eat.
I eliminated counting the calories I took in. The calories, or bonus points as I called them, would be converted to cash and spent however I desired. My reward would be a shopping spree at the local mall.
That very night I omitted biscuits with dinner. Thus, I avoided serving the leftovers with eggs the next morning. A quick bowl of Toasty Postys and I was out the door.
I worked up a sweat on the treadmill after work, walking to the tune of Ba-ba-ba, ba ba-ber-ann-oh-ba-ber-ann by the Beach Boys and made mental lists of all the foods I would eliminate in the coming days.
The next day I shelved the lemon meringue pie I'd planned and served a sugar cookie. The number of calories I managed not to eat at the end of that meal amounted to a tidy sum.
While doing dishes, I polished off the cookies in the box. My points were in the second bag I'd stashed in the cabinet and hadn't eaten. My bonus cup runneth over. I felt so ahead of the game I watched Oprah and planned my Chicago trip. I added a dollop of melted Land 'O Lakes to my popcorn.
Tiny mother-of-the-bride dress, here I come.
Everyday I drank at least eight glasses of water with lemon. Cheese cake in a glass. Well - almost.
I was building up muscles carrying in groceries. The more food I had in the house the more calories I counted as ones not eaten.
I made potato soup and eliminated the butter and cream. I threw in some low fat Parmesan. So, I had an extra bowl. I watched Oprah and took note of the colors of her set. My television debut dress would match to a tee. LATEST DIET BOOK AUTHOR would have nothing on me as I held up my new diet book.
Then something happened. My food bill tripled. And one tiny problem arose. The actual weight-loss part of my plan wasn't working. I still had to lie flat to pull on my old jeans.
What did work was the bonus part of the plan. My cupboards were overflowing with gobs of calories I hadn't eaten and I'd amassed enough points to spend an afternoon at the mall.
And in spite of the failure of my revolutionary new plan, I did lose some weight before the wedding. The thought of lighting unity candles in front of a huge congregation made me heave for a week before the big event.
Well, another major life event has passed and I have a brand new dilemma. I can't get into my Easter dress.
As I worried, another theory lit on my shoulder. It wasn't the food that was adding the weight to my body. It was the heavy air I was breathing. Would an air cleaner lighten things up? Or new furnace filters? How about dusting?
After I have a cookie I'll give this plan some thought and get right back to you.
This was written a number of years ago when I actually did go on diets.
Bless you for reading. Comments or your diet stories welcome.

March 25, 2011

Mother's Leather Britches...

My mother gardened all her life. It was one of her great loves, next to family, God, and country.

Because she grew up during the Depression, she learned to use every last item from her garden for canning, preserving, drying or pickling.

Every year at the end of the green bean season she made leather britches, dried beans that would keep for the winter.

These were the last beans hanging on the vines. The beans inside had grown to full size with outsides a bit withered. They were beyond the stage to can or preserve, or even to pickle.

Although her fried pickled green beans and corn bread were the best in the world. (Well, next to her biscuits and fried apples.)

Mother started the drying process with clean beans. She would spread a clean white sheet on a table in the wash room and spread the beans out on that, giving them space to dry. Sometime she would carry the sheet outside and put them on a table in the sun to further the process.

The next step involved needle and thread and when I was small and saw the needle and thread I wondered if she really was going to make a pair of leather britches out of the beans.

Using a large needle that was threaded with a knot in the end of the thread, she began to thread the dried beans onto the string. She often made five or six strings of beans, several feet long.

She would hang them on the clothesline with clothespins on a sunny day to speed up the drying. Then, she would hurriedly bring them inside if it looked like rain.

Eventually they would hang from the wash room ceiling out of the way and later, completely dried, they would be wrapped in a clean sheet and go into a spot in the closet, where they would wait to be used.

The end result was dry leathery looking beans.

To cook them she would fry a few slices of bacon, then add the beans, water and some salt and pepper.
‘Ole, leather britches.

Leather britches have the most distinct delicious flavor that only beans dried in that way can have.

It’s a taste I have not had since my mother passed away.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever had leather britches?
Is there any other preservation of food that a parent did that you’d like to share? Comments welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

Blessings, Barb

March 16, 2011


Wednesday, March 16, 2011
High School - Poca High School, Putnam County, WV
What year was it?
Fall 1960 - Spring 1963

What were your favorite bands, or singers?
Sam Cook, Chubby Checker, Conway Twitty (It's only make believe), Johnny Rodriquez.
Meatloaf. ELvis.

What was your favorite outfit?
Straight skirts, blouses, cardigans or jackets, little heels.

Other Outfits?
Jeans and a white Dr. Ben Casey shirt.

What was up with your hair?
Everything. I put peroxide on it. Lemon juice, thinking it needed to be lighter.
I cut it, styled it, put it in a pony tail or a french twist. Hair was the most important thing in my life in high school. And hair spray, the stiffer the better.

Who were your best friends?
Patti Jones, Karen Mattox, and Susie Bailey all thru elem school. Then added on Donna Dailey, Sharon "Mouse" Hackett and Janice Wick and many others. Also Bonnie Kerwood who was older than me and lived near me so we hung out listening to records after school. Sometimes her parents would take us to the Valley Belle in Nitro to eat lunch and we'd have soda fountain cherry cokes, they mixed up with our sandwiches and sometimes lemon sherbet or an ice cream cone.

What did you do after school?
Home to my room. Or I would take long walks along the highway since it was the only place to walk or to the cemetery on the hill above our house where I'd read all the gravestones. I was enamored of all the people there and the variety of sayings on the stones. Everything from MY ANGEL, to BLESSED ARE THE MEEK FOR THEY SHALL SEE HEAVEN or was it Jesus??? Always interesting.

Where did you work?
I worked a month at a Superman Drive Inn. We took trays out to the people who ordered at the curbside. We work black pants, white blouse, white tennis shoes. Didn't last long at that job. It wasn't for the weak. Besides I was flashed and went home in tears one night when I worked alone in the dining room. Short career.

Where did you eat lunch at school? Sometimes in the cafeteria but often up the street from school. We would go to the Poca Dot, where you could get a hot dog with chili and coleslaw and an orange crush. My fave. They also had a jukebox and we could dance, usually with each other. Or we'd watch the seniors girls and boys dance and show off. The twist was popular then.

Did you take the bus?
Yes, all four years of high school. Actually I went to Poca High School in Poca, WV my freshman, junior and senior years. Sophomore year I went to Beeville High School in Beeville, Tx where my sister and her husband were stationed with the Navy. I lived with them due to family problems at home. I'm sorry I missed that year with friends but I had quite an education being out of WV. We had Mexicans in our schools and I learned what it was like to be the different kid, due to my WV accent. Plus I learned that during that time the latinos did not get any respect, much like the black population during that time. Really very sad. I had a crush on a boy named Geronimo Rodriquez. Very handsome, very nice.
Basically I was accepted and had two good friends. Patsy Donahue and Pat Nunn.
We skipped school one day to drive to San Marcus to the beach. We had all just gotten our licenses at age 15. Patsy had "borrowed" her sister's car. There was a tarantula on the dash and we skidded to the side of the road, barely putting the car in park, and jumped out screaming. Eventually one of the girls knocked the spider out of the car and we went on our way. It ended up being a cold day at the beach with zero boys and we went home disappointed.

Who did you have a crush on? In Tx I had a crush on a sailor from my brother in laws office, last name of Bamberg. He played a guitar and sang to me. HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY THAT I LOVE YOU. I fell head over heels for him but he was too old for me and he was Mormon and believed in multiple marriages. End of that relationship.
Back at Poca, there were several boys on the football team I liked but none seriously. One boy I liked in my Freshman year (WV) at Nitro High School but I lost him when I moved to Texas. Just before my senior year I met Raymond, my husband, and I married him during my senior year. Mistake? No. It's been 48 years and we are still in love.

Did you fight with your parents?
Yes, I thought they were OLD. My mother esp. I gave her a hard time and I've been so sorry since. I was unruly and mouthy, and maybe a tad bit wild, again, this might have been in my mind. Sorry Mother! I really am.

Who did you have a CELEBRITY crush on?
Tab Hunter, Sal Mineo, James Dean. Read movie magazines constantly with a flash light after lights out.

Did you smoke cigarettes?
Sometimes - off and on.

Did you lug all of your books around in your backpack all day because you were too nervous to find your locker?
That was before backpacks so sometimes I lugged all my books in my arms, dropping them along the way.

Did you have a 'clique'?
I didn't really have a clique but i did hang around with my group of friends

Admit it, were you popular?
In my head, I was. Not sure with anyone else.

Who did you want to be just like?
I wanted to cut my own path. At a younger age I loved Liz Taylor, Jane Russell, and Debbie Fisher.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
At first I thought I wanted to be a hair dresser because I loved fooling with hair then I wanted to be married with children. Until I got there - then I wanted to be a student in college and a writer, in the worst way. That dream has come true and I'm grateful that it's brought so much fulfillment. And is still doing so.

Where did you think you'd be at the age you are now?
I thought when I was young that my age now was ancient. I didn't have any long term plans back then.
Now, I want to taste life, travel, and do things I haven't had a chance to do.

Hope you had fun reading - I had fun writing it. AND PLEASE
Blessings. Barb

March 10, 2011

Rewriting/ Quotes by other writers

Sometimes beginning writers say they don't believe in rewriting because they're afraid they'll "lose the spontaneity" of the first draft. This is naive; rewriting means making the work better by adding, deleting, and revising; what worked well in the first draft stays--that's the effective spontaneity. Most professional writers know the heady sense of control that comes with the revision process--this is where one knows one has mastery of the writing craft. Note the following comments. Not sure who wrote the above intro but the quotes below are worthy of sharing. Enjoy!

"It is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is common in all writing and among the best of writers."
- E. B. White

"I don't write easily or rapidly. My first draft usually has only a few elements worth keeping. I have to find what those are and build from them and throw out what doesn't work, or what simply is not alive."
- Susan Sontag

"Half my life is an act of revision; more than half the act is performed with small changes."
- John Irving

"I revise the manuscript till I can't read it any longer, then I get somebody to type it. Then I revise the typing. Then it's retyped again. Then there's a third typing, which is the final one. Nothing should then remain that offends the eye."
- Robert Graves

"I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before I was satisfied."
- Ernest Hemingway

"I do a lot of revising. Certain chapters six or seven times. Occasionally you can hit it right the first time. Most often, you don't."
- John Dos Passos

"I can't write five words but that I change seven."
- Dorothy Parker

"I have rewritten--often several times--every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers."
- Vladmir Nabokov

"First drafts are learning what your novel or story is about. Revision is working with that knowledge to enlarge or enhance an idea, or reform it."
- Thomas Wolfe

"A thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish."
- Carolyn Forche

"Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."
- Samuel Johnson

"There are days when the result is so bad that no fewer than five revisions are required. In contrast, when I'm greatly inspired, only four revisions are needed."
- John Galbreath

"I rewrite everything, almost idiotically. I rewrite and work and work, and rewrite and rewrite some more."
- Laura Z. Hobson

"I retype everything four, five, and six times--critical passages more--and everything, say three times."
- James Michener

"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped."
- Lillian Hellman

"Only amateurs don't rewrite. It's in the rewriting that writers bring ALL their knowledge--basic craft, technique, style, organization, attitude, creative inspiration --to the work."
- Gloria T. Delamar

"Writing a first draft is like groping one's way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punchline you've forgotten. As someone said, one writes mainly to rewrite, for rewriting and revising are how one's mind comes to inhabit the material fully."
- Ted Solotaroff

"The waste paper basket is the writer's best friend."
- Isaac B. Singer

How do you feel the task of rewriting? Do you do a lot of it? Share your comments, please. Thanks!

March 5, 2011

Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

HELP! Amy Tan's book Saving Fish from Drowning was recommended by two friends, Pam and Cheri.

I love what the story is about but I'm getting bogged down in so much detail in the beginning. What's that about? I suspect it's me and my hyperactive self having trouble settling down!

I want to know more about the story and what happens to these tourists who disappear in a foreign land.

But I've found myself skipping through some of the narrative and moving on to the more exciting parts.

Did you read this book? Did you have any trouble moving through the story? I'm leaving it on the end table and attempting a few pages every night. I find myself continually flipping over a few pages to see how long some of the details are.

IF you did read this, help me out here. Does it speed up in the middle. I enjoy Amy's beautiful writing and don't want to give up on this like I do some of the others.

I want to finish and I plan to continue to keep it close at hand.

But I'd love to have your opinion of this book and any other comments.

Blessings, Barb

March 3, 2011

A Story - Mommy's Visit - After she was gone...

"Where did you get all those roosters on the top of your cabinets? I recognize the small set. It came from that little white house we bought up in Cass, there right along the main road into town. We bought it just after the train went in. Remember? One bedroom upstairs was ceiling to floor with jigsaw puzzles. Lordy! That house was something else. You still have the Bible I gave you from the little old lady who lived there?”

 “You know we kept the little one room cement block camp Bob, your step dad, had your cousin Dencil to build over on Jack Wiseman’s property, there where the little Dairy Queen was. The campsite was behind it. WE loved that little place. WE had an out house. I didn’t mind it at all. Why should I? I grew up with one. We had a fireplace in that little house and we’d pack for a week to go up there. Always stopped in Marlington to get groceries. We were on our way up there one time and at the store Bob had one of those mini strokes. I was afraid we’d never get home. But he pulled through enough to get us back on the road. Bob and Uncle Hank would go up there for a week at a time to hunt. Bob couldn’t really hit anything but they loved going. Uncle Hank got something every now and then.”

"By the way, you don't burn all those candles you got sitting around, do you? I hope not. They're dangerous as a cocked gun.”

"Where'd you get all those cookbooks lined on the shelf? They look too clean to ever have been used.”

"Who are the three little ones licking ice cream cones in that photo there? NO! Jill has triplets and a new baby. Whew. Miss Hoity Toity, who wanted no kids. Said her sister's children were too mean for her taste. Now what happened to Miss Career Girl? Got her college education and all. Well, she will have something to fall back on. That's what I always say. Have something to fall back on, something else you can do. Having babies don’t always last.”

"That a new stove? It don't even look used. Candles on it too. I don't smell food cooking either. I could go for a pot of beans and an iron skillet of good corn bread. Maybe, even a pot of potato soup. Can you make any of that? I know your older sisters can. They can even garden and can. But you being the baby, I think maybe I spoiled you. Especially since daddy died and you only two years old at the time. He had that coal dust in his lungs. He worked those mines in Beaver too long. But that was before your time. He's buried out there by the baby at Walker Chapel Church out past Grandview. We lost the baby, Cecil Junior, named for daddy, at nine months of a hole in his heart. Imagine. It would be easy to fix now. But it wasn’t then. But you know all that. Do you make it out to the cemetery every year, like you promised? I wonder.”

"Why does that husband of yours have so many auction papers here on the counter? Does he like auctions? I declare. Thinks have changed. Both of you retired and living the good life.

"Pretty little kitchen curtains. That's a big back yard you got out there. Never thought I'd see you in the country. Two acres. A lot of grass to cut. But then you don't cut grass, do you? If memory serves me right, your man does all the cutting. You're lucky in that, Bobbie Ann. Now, don't wince. I know you don't like your nickname. But, Daddy called you that from the time you were born. I think he wanted another boy. I named you for Barbara Jackson that ran Jackson's store over on the highway at the edge of Hometown, where you were born. Barb Jackson and Paul was good me over the years after daddy died, letting me run up a store bill and all. Dr. Bland delivered you in the back bedroom. Of course, you don't remember that. HE came so often one of the girls I think Sue maybe kept asking what he had in the black bag and he kept saying a baby. One day when he came he brought a black doll for her to play with. He was a good man.”

"That dishwasher looks like it's getting a run for its money. Never did use mine in the new house. Oh, once a year at Christmas maybe. And only then because everyone fussed at me for not using it. The house was something back then with all you grown kids coming home with your families. Maxine always wanted to run things. That red hair of hers. I can see her now zipping through the house. Ella, Sue, and you all there with your families. Good thing your mother in law put up your husband and the three girls. Of course LIsa and Jill used to like to come to my house. We never had enough room when we had company, even in the new house. You always had to stay with me and I loved having you. Remember the bed I made Jill in that closet when she was little. She loved that old comforter I made. Crawled right in and slept like a log.

"You girls always stayed up too late talking. I'd be in bed clearing my throat and coughing but it never moved you to bed. Next morning when I had biscuits ready at six I could never get you up. Staying up too late never done anybody any good.

"I do like this house, the way the kitchen opens into the dining room and the living room. Fancy French doors, though. Pretty. Yes, pretty.

"What are those red pillows in the living room made out of. Never heard tell of micro suede. I made my own throw pillows. Heavy material and batting. Just like we used for quilts. Never did much quilting - always making a living working. Mommy did some quilting and your aunts, Wandy and Lucy and Gae did some. You ever quilt? I guess not. I know you pieced a little helping me when you were little. You thought you were piecing anyway.

"Why do you keep that TV on? It gets on my nerves plenty. I never did play ours much. Some in the evenings. Bob always listened to the six o clock news. Like clock work. You might as well not have anything else to do at that time of day. He was in his recliner with the channel turned to the news. Bob never learned to read but he always got the news. Mostly bad news too.

"You've done well for yourself, Bobbie Ann. I know it's been hard, losing daddy and all. And having Bob for a step father wasn’t easy, he had plenty of faults. He did the best he could. But it still wasn't enough. Maybe it never is enough. What we do for each other.

"I don't regret a thing I did in this world and I hope you don't either. I'd done all I come here to do when I went home to meet the Lord. And it was time. Yes. It was time.

My time was then. Yours is now.

the end
Comments welcome!