Life after Lawry’s (and its inherent complexities)

The Big Three:
Lawry’s Season Salt

Who could ask for anything more?

They fulfilled all my cooking needs—with occasional forays into oregano and paprika—for years. But life as a vegan seems to require more.
Italian Seasoning? Got it.
Herbs de Provence? The mix that, when I say it in my head, sounds like a delightful blend of Leslie Caron and Hercule Poirot, on my tongue comes out with distinct flavor of Homer Simpson. Can’t do the name justice, but I cook with it.

So now that I’ve dipped a foot into Spices of the World, I’m ready for more. Last night I took my little light-up-tutu clad granddaughter to dance class, and we stopped at the grocery store on the way home. She took notes as we made swift and efficient progress.
Until the spice aisle.
And a paralyzing case of Spice Indecision.

While I dithered over the endless choices involved in “buy two, get one free” offerings, my granddaughter continued to take notes.
Thyme? I have the ground stuff, but need the leaves.
The aforementioned Herbs de Provence? Don’t I have plenty left? Doesn’t it lose its flavor if it sits too long?
And if I buy two spices at the $3.79 price do I get one from the $5.49 category? Or do I have to remain in the parameters of the designated price? Do I need 3 spices from the $3.79, $4.99 or $5.49 groupings?
Thyme leaves. I need those.

While I dithered, my little granddaughter continued to write notes.
“I’m being patient.” She repeated this as I considered the smoked paprika and the Greek seasoning.
“I’m being very patient.” She reiterated as I squatted in front of the rosemary (cracked) the turmeric, and the wasabi blend.
“Still patient,” as she added an ominous-looking line to her notebook.

Not certain what this says, but I doubt it is complimentary

Outside the spice aisle, the World Cup progressed, nation made war against nation, and families everywhere sat down to partake of perfectly-seasoned meals. Time stood still in front of the cayenne, the endless dill options, the Jamaican Jerk. The little signs displaying the various sale prices started to swim before my eyes and my granddaughter’s light-up tutu began to dim. I could not, for love or money, decide which 3 spices from which sale bracket to purchase. I admitted defeat and we made our way to the checkout. My granddaughter closed the notebook but kept a patient finger in her place. Just in case.

We packaged, paid, and loaded into the Jeep. I delivered her safely into the arms of her waiting family. Went home. Unpacked groceries,
And found 2 jars of dried thyme leaves, From the $5.49 section.

Spices Photo by Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash

The Mist and All

My favorite season is fall. My favorite anthology/collection is “One Thousand Beautiful Things” that my dad passed on to me.

And my favorite poem in the book is “The Mist and All.” I’m sure I’ve shared it on my blogs before but here it is again because today is a misty November day and this poem washes it in loveliness.

The Mist and All

by Dixie Willson

I like the fall
The mist and all
I like the night owl’s lonely call
And wailing sound
Of wind around

I like the gray
November day
And bare, dead boughs that coldly sway
Against my pane
I like the rain

I like to sit
And laugh at it
And tend my cozy fire a bit
I like the fall
The mist and all

My first love: We Gather Together

The one that started my love of Thanksgiving carols. Way back in high school.

It was written in the 16th century by Dutch Protestants (of which I am one, although I don’t go quite that far “way back”) to celebrate the Netherlands liberation from Spain. Until the defeat of the Spanish forces, the church had been forbidden to gather for worship.

Pretty sure we sang this at almost every Thanksgiving Day church service. Yep—those Dutch Reformed sorts had worship services Reformation Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Then we gave our poor pastors a break until Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost… . Go ahead and ask me if I ever saw the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade growing up.

The point is—gathering to worship and rejoice and eat and give thanks is such a wonderful gift, and we don’t realize it until the gift is withdrawn. May you gather this Thanksgiving, whether it is with family, friends, or strangers. And be blessed!

Everybody eats when they come to my house

This “everybody eats” dictum applies to my extended family gatherings any time of year, but nowhere is our innate desire to feed loved ones on display more than Thanksgiving.

Listen to the song and be warned. Come to my house and I WILL feed you.

While this isn’t technically a Thanksgiving carol, honestly, what is? The definition is fluid.

Enjoy the great blessing of food and the gathering together to partake of it!

Enjoy the great blessing of food and the gathering together to partake of it!

Heap High the Farmer’s Wintry Hoard

I’ve been listening to this song for well over a decade without fully understanding all the lyrics. Finally last year I looked it up. Still the only song on my Thanksgiving playlist that I haven’t memorized. But do I belt out that first line! (Before subsiding to a sort of mumbling hum for the rest.)

Heap High the Farmer’s Wintry Hoard (John Greenleaf Whittier)

Heap High the Farmer’s Wintry Hoard (John Greenleaf Whittier
1 Heap high the farmer's wintry hoard!
Heap high the golden corn!
No richer gift has autumn poured
from out her lavish horn!
Through vales of grass and meads of flowers
our plows their furrows made,
While on the hills the sun and showers
of changeful April played.

2 We dropped the seed over hill and plain
beneath the sun of May,
And frightened from our sprouting grain
the robber crows away.
All through the long, bright days of June
its leaves grew green and fair, 
And waved in hot midsummer's noon
its soft and yellow hair.

3 And now with autumn's moonlit eyes,
It's harvest-time has come,
We pluck away the frosted leaves,
and bear the treasure home.
Oh let the good old crop adorn
the hills our fathers (forbears) trod;
Still let us, for his (this) golden corn,
send up our thanks to God!

For the Beauty of the Earth

I grew up singing this Folliot Pierpoint hymn in church, with a different tune. That one was fine for congregational singing,

But this lyrical, lilting, soaring choral version is a delight!

    1. For the beauty of the earth,
    For the glory of the skies,
    For the love which from our birth
    Over and around us lies.

    Refrain: Lord of all to Thee we raise
    This our hymn of grateful praise.

    2. For the wonder of each hour,
    Of the day and of the night,
    Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
    Sun and moon, and stars of light.(Refrain)

    3. For the joy of human love,
    Brother, sister, parent, child,
    Friends on earth and friends above,
    For all gentle thoughts and mild.(Refrain)

    4. For the church, that evermore
    Lifteth holy hands above,
    Offering up on every shore
    Her pure sacrifice of love.(Refrain)

    5. For Thyself, best Gift Divine.
    To our race so freely given,
    For that great, great love of Thine,
    Peace on earth and joy in Heaven.(Refrain)

    Let All Things Now Living

    It’s November and I love November and Thanksgiving songs and atmospheric late autumn photos.

    Today is also election day and some of us might be stressing. “So why,” my efficient self asks my rather slothful self, “not post a Thanksgiving song that you love and a photo you like, and emphasize the absolute wonder and delight of creation along with a reminder that ultimately this stuff isn’t under our control?” And my slothful self replies, “Let’s do it! It means I don’t have to get creative and write something original!”

    So here is a photo:

    And the lyrics to a song:

    Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
    To God our Creator triumphantly raise,
    Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
    By guiding us on to the end of our days.
    God’s banners are o’er us, Pure light goes before us,
    A pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
    Til shadows have vanished, all fearfulness banished,
    As forward we travel from light into light.

    By law God enforces. The stars in their courses,
    The sun in its orbit, obediently shine;
    The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
    The deeps of the ocean proclaim God divine,
    We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing,
    With glad adoration a song let us raise,
    Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving
    To God in the highest, hosanna and praise.

    And a link to the song:

    And a happy November 8/Election Day/Thanksgiving month to you.

    Atomic Age Casserole Redux

    Ever heard of an elevator pitch?
    It’s supposed to be a short, succinct presentation to somehow convince someone you have something they’d be interested in.
    Short enough for an elevator ride.
    Succinct enough for them to immediately imagine making millions off your invention, pyramid scheme, pivot plan or book premise.

    Here’s mine for the nation’s next bestseller:

    “With the current craze for clothes, movies, architecture and decor from the 1950s and 60s, GenX-Y are hungry for the next undiscovered treasure from their parents and grandparents’ era.
    What they are really hungry for are casseroles. Casseroles made with cream soups. Ground meat. French Fried onions and canned peas.
    They want cookies made with oleo-margarine and evaporated milk. Tortes piled high with Dream Whip or tapioca pudding. They want jello salads chock full of shredded carrots and fruit cocktail. All they need are the recipes.”

    Unless you’re riding to the 107th floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago, by this time the elevator would have dinged and your pitch is over,
    But the listener would be salivating, and no doubt you are too.

    So I’m setting to work on THE definitive recipe compilation. I’ll scour church cookbooks and old Better Homes and Gardens magazines. I’ll take creative new photos in creative ways of “Russian Fluff” made with Cream of Shrimp soup.
    I’ll test treasures like Orange Slice Cookies, Lima Bean and Pork Knuckle Casserole and Rink Tum Ditty—a personal favorite based on the name alone.

    This is not me. But it is my dad. I like to think Rink Tum Ditty is in one of those pans.

    My husband will feast on Baked Bean Sandwiches. Alternated with enriched bread topped by Raisin-Peanut Filling.

    Got a favorite retro-classic, vintage-Atomic age, mid-century modern recipe that gets your nostalgic juices flowing? Tell me all about it.

    And if you see a cookbook with this concept come out before I get mine written, remember: You saw it here first.


    Corned Beef Casserole

    -6 medium potatoes (‘medium’ confuses me, I need circumference and absolute measurements. E.g.: Small potato—2” around. Medium—4” on center Large—4”x 6” excluding protrusions)
    -1 can cream of mushroom soup
    -1 tsp. salt
    -2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    -1/4 c.cubed American processed cheese (That doesn’t sound like enough. Fill free to use half a cup. Heck, go all the way to a full 8 ounces)
    -1 can corned beef, cut up (Do they still package corned beef in cans? And if not, why not?)
    -1/2 can milk (love the economy. No bothering with a measuring cup. And the touching faith in a cook’s ability to eyeball ‘half a can.’)
    -pepper. At your discretion.

    Cook potatoes, cut into cubes, place in casserole dish. Heat remaining ingredients in saucepan. Pour over potatoes and bake 45 minutes in 350º

    So what do you think? Does my pitch have a chance with, say, Simon & Schuster?
    Let me know if you see one of their acquisitions editors on an elevator.

    Murder of crows. Everyone’s doing it.

    It seemed like a good idea at the time.
    I wrote a suspense novel with crows.
    Scary, violent crows.
    What more reasonable, more noticeable, more memorable, than to call such a novel “A Murder of Crows?”

    So very reasonable. So very memorably noticeable.

    So incredibly common.

    “Murder of Crows” is to novel titles what ‘Jennifer’ was to baby girls’ names in the 1970s.
    Now you can’t turn around at a Duran Duran revival without tripping over a dozen or so of the one, or search Amazon titles without an overwhelming glut of the other.

    Maybe I should have changed the spelling, like Jenifer, Genifer, Jennyfur.
    Murder of Krows?

    But I’m sticking with the original.
    Because my cover is the ultimate in cool. It makes me feel so…dangerousish.

    Because I have this pillow. My hero Vincent inspired me to keep my crows flapping and cawing and scaring my heroine witless.

    Because it’s set in North Dakota and (after intense research for several minutes) I came to the conclusion that though “An Unkindness of Ravens” is also a super-cool title, ravens are rare in that part of the world. So are readers of my books, but I refuse to alienate even one Peace Garden State purchaser by a misplaced avian.

    Did you know North Dakota’s nickname is the Peace Garden State?
    And has advertised it on their license plates since the year I was born.
    Either North Dakota is so wonderful no one wants to leave, or there aren’t enough residents to make a ripple, but I’ve seen so few North Dakota plates I had to confirm Google’s result of the official nickname with an image search.

    It’s also known as the Sioux State. ( Strong, descriptive, alliterative. I like it.)
    And the Flickertail State. (North Dakota is admirably secure in its unique robustity to be identified with a coy ground rodent’s backside.)

    Oh, and Roughrider Country, which would also be a great name for a book.
    Remind me to see how many other hundreds of books have that title before I buy a pillow with Teddy Roosevelt and his boys on it for writing inspiration.


    In spite of its shivery title and awesomely menacing cover, “Murder of Crows’ isn’t too creepy.
    It’s available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble as an ebook.

    you say tomato, I say tomato

    At a recent church get together, somehow the conversation turned to—I can’t remember what. But I seized the opportunity to drag myself into it.
    Once upon a time, I told my politely listening friends, back when I was single and very involved in children’s ministry at my church, I bought a new Sunday dress.
    At the time my hair was dark dark brown. I had a bit of a tan and thought a red dress would look nice.
    It was a shirt dress. It fit well. It was comfortable. I paid decent money for it.
    But I didn’t particularly like it, or feel pretty in it.
    The color was a sort of tomato-red as opposed to any other red in the known universe that would have been more flattering.
    Maybe that was it.
    I wore it. About every third or fourth week.

    One Sunday I and my tomato red dress popped into the Sunday school room.
    I greeted my littles.
    One of my little ones, in the sort of tone one might use facing tuna noodle casserole for the fourth night in a row, greeted me back with, “Oh. You’re wearing that dress again.”
    The tomato dress went to the thrift shop the next morning.

    I’d like to say the moral of the story is to trust your instincts. Never wear clothing you don’t feel pretty in. Or that makes small children sad.

    But my next story demonstrates what makes this post a cautionary tale. Instincts aren’t always reliable.

    Years back a church lady, talking about Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha, observed, “Mary might have chosen the better way, but I’d rather be on committees with Martha.”

    That stuck with me, especially since I’ve fought a lifelong battle against being the sluggard in Proverbs. The one who’s supposed to go to the ant for instruction on hard work.

    My instincts tell me to work harder, do more, serve better. Because no one likes sluggards, and most hard-working women aren’t even that fond of Mary types.
    So when we hosted a retired missionary and his wife for dinner, I worked like crazy to make certain the house was clean and cozy, our meal the right balance of nourishing and attractive and tasty, and the beverages stayed filled.

    But, meals for guests being what they are, the potatoes didn’t cook as fast as the veggies and the meat looked underdone and the serving platter had water spots and apparently the slotted spoon ran away with the dish.
    Once my sweating self got everyone fed it was time to clear away, get the coffee going, provide tea for non-coffee drinkers, cut the dessert and polish more water spots off the forks.
    My instincts kept prodding me. “No sluggards allowed. Make the Marthas of the world proud. Keep moving and provide for every possible need of your guests.”

    At one point the missionary’s dear wife caught at my arm as I bustled my busy way back into the kitchen for the umpteenth time. “Anita, we’re fine. Just sit down and talk to me!”
    But those blasted instincts keep pushing and I chugged to and fro, Martha personified, giving the guests everything but what they wanted.

    They left that afternoon and I never made the time to sit and chat, and I never saw that dear woman again. She’s in heaven now, sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary. AND Martha.

    I am left with regrets.
    And justified suspicion of my instincts. They were right about Tomato Dress. Wrong about the Importance of Being Martha.

    I’ll probably never sort them out.
    In the meantime I avoid clothing that makes small children sad, work hard at working hard and harder at investing in relationships. When I get it wrong, as I often will, I’ll rest assured that, ultimately, it will come out right in the wash.

    (Ephesians 5:26)

    Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay