After Hours Excitement

I was up in the wee hours both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend.  Not because I was out partying and living it up.  Not by choice.  In fact, I’m almost certain I was in bed by 11 PM both evenings.  By choice.  I had been up earlier that preferred several times last week and was looking forward to some much needed restorative sleep.

About 3 AM on Saturday, I was in a deep sleep, dreaming of wonderful things.  Suddenly, I was accosted by a blaring alarm.  At first I thought it was the house alarm, but then remembered I hadn’t set that.  I then realized it was the smoke alarm about 10 feet from my head.  I was familiar with these things chirping if the battery was dying or sounding if I had burnt something in the kitchen, but never had one caused temporary deafness for no apparent reason. 

I tried the reset button and a new battery, but that only resulted in a few minutes of relief until I was again jarred out of my sleep and sure my heart rate would never return to normal.  Thankfully my parents were in town so I went to get my dad to see if he could get the alarm to stop.  I felt bad that I had to wake him up (somehow my parents had slept through the alarm blaring…) but he was able to take down the defective alarm so I could sleep in peace for the next few hours.

Last evening, I went to bed on the early side because I was tired from the previous night’s excitement.  Around 4 AM, I wake up to some sort of ruckus coming from the other room.  I turn on the lights and walk down the hall toward the noise.  It seems to be coming from the family room.  I come into the family room and find Miss Scarlett with her back to me in the far corner.  Upon closer inspection, I see that she has a mouse cornered, on his back, with his arms up in the air as if surrendering and pleading for his life.  No exaggeration. 

He tries to get away a few times and she smacks him back into the corner with her big, furry paws.  I moved to go get a box or some vehicle for escorting the mouse out of the house and must have distracted Scarlett in doing so.  Little mousy made a run for it.  Scarlett and mousy made dozens of laps around the coffee table until Scarlett was able to force him into another corner where I had several bags of fabric samples.  Trying to escape the furry beast, the mouse backed up the side of one of the bags and fell in.  Somehow Scarlett seemed to miss this development and proceeded to nearly hyperventilate as she furiously sniffed all of the other bags and the space between them.  Meanwhile, I crossed the handles of mousy’s bag so he couldn’t jump out as I took the bag downstairs and out to the porch.  I opened the bag and leaned it over.  Mousy scurried out into the darkness.  Back upstairs, Scarlett looked confused as to where the new toy had gone. 

After reenacting the last thirty minute’s sequence of events to each my mom and dad, my head hit the pillow pretty hard.  Scarlett slept off the excitement all day on the sofa. 

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Today, I bought some not so cheap restorative moisturizer that has extract of every plant known to man that will hopefully erase my newly acquired wrinkles, age spots and bags under my eyes.

Hopefully I will make it through the night undisturbed. 

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

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Apocalypse Averted

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I went outside the other day.  It was terrible.  I don’t think I’ll do it again for a while.  Not that I’m having much better luck indoors.  A delightful side effect of these frigid temperatures: reduced amperage to my cable box.  Or something like that.  Translation: my connection freezes every 45 seconds, making it extremely irritating to try to watch TV as I only get about 1/17th of every story on the news.

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So I had nothing left to do except hunker down and make food like the end of the world was imminent.  I made LOTS of tomato soup, which Eugene and I feasted on for several meals, and homemade meat sauce.  I froze most of it so now I have a very full freezer and I’m tomatoed out.

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Tomato soup with grilled cheese…

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Tomato soup with garlic bread…

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Naturally, I also had to make something sweet. I decided to make those peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies.  My recipe made 20 cookies but I only had 17 kisses (don’t ask me how that happened) so I had to improvise a little.  I adorned the 3 kiss-less cookies with a row of chocolate chips.  Eugene said she actually preferred this set-up because the chocolate was more manageable and evenly distributed.  I can see her point, but the cookies are totally not as cute without the kisses.

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Scarlett thought these drastic times called for drastic measures and the relaxation of house rules like the one about her not being allowed on my coats or the table and especially not both at the same time.

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She was wrong.  Busted.

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Gus is having a hard time coping.

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Things were getting really rough.  It was so cold that the water draining from Eugene’s car was frozen mid-air.

In fact, conditions were so bad that Eugene casually mentioned something about how she thinks ironing is “kind of therapeutic.”  I think she kind of slipped on some ice and hit her head.

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Thankfully, when the sun comes up tomorrow it will be over 50 degrees.  Back to some sense of normalcy…or as close to normal as things get around here.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

Little Lunch Date

My four year old cousin Jake tagged along for girls’ lunch at Annie Ruby’s the week before last.  It was me, my sister, Eugene, my cousin Lauren, Grandmother and my mom.  Jake is used to this set-up as my family is overwhelmingly comprised of women.  He certainly kept us entertained.

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As we enjoyed our delicious fare, we asked Jake about what he’s been up to and his Christmas.  Every response started with “well….” and “actually….”  He is very articulate for his age.

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When I asked him what he got for Christmas, he said “one hundred and one hundred presents.”  A couple of other ladies who came up to the table asked him the same question and they got the same response I did.  Jake is a pretty smart cookie so by the end of the afternoon, cousin Lauren had taught him that one hundred plus one hundred is two hundred.

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I asked him if he likes his new baby cousin Vera, which he said he did.  I asked him if she can talk and walk and he said no.  I then asked what she does do and he said “she fusses,” which cracked up the whole table.

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Though the rest of us ordered soup and sandwiches, Jake ordered superman ice cream (which we did not tell his mother…). I was unfamiliar with this flavor of ice cream.  It’s coloring resembles cotton candy, but I tasted it and I’m fairly certain it’s just vanilla ice cream with food coloring.  What a scam!  Jake loved it.

We also got him hooked on orangeades, a drink that has been beloved by my family for generations.  I suppose we should consider it Jake’s initiation.

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On the way back to his grandmother’s house, we drove by a pasture of black cows.  Jake has been around the agricultural community since he was born so I asked him if he knew what kind of cows they were.  He very confidently said, “Angus!” Lauren, Eugene and I were very impressed.

When Jake got out of the truck, he insisted on giving us all hugs and kisses  He then invited us to come to his house and play and even offered to take us to the park.  Jake sure is a ball of energy but we had a fun time with him!

Y’all keep it real,

Sugarlump

A Tad Bit Chilly

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Oh hey….it’s like cold here.  Like, REALLY cold.  I thought I moved to the south for a more moderate climate? I think I accidentally brought the northeastern weather with me.  Actually, you know what? My sister just returned to Nashville from Boston on Friday by some sort of miracle considering every other flight on the planet was canceled.  I think I’ll blame her for bringing the snow and frigid temperatures.  I feel warmer already.

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It is so cold, in fact, that I had to use all of my Xena-warrior-princess strength to open Eugene’s car door last evening.

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This is my bedroom window.  Hooray for single pane glass! Not.

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The driveway is covered in ice, which makes for especially exciting picture-taking/ice-skating in flat boots.

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This almost looks fake to me, like when they frost the windows on movie sets in Hollywood.  I wish I were in southern California at the moment.

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Time to invest in some firewood.

Off to make gallons of hot chocolate,

Sugarlump

Ladies’ Lunch

In recent years, my mom and some of her good childhood friends have gotten together for a ladies’ lunch with all daughters, mothers, aunts, and sisters invited, too.  And absolutely no boys allowed.  It would be rude to invite them anyway because we have to talk about them.  Or at least the ladies want to hear from the daughters about any boyfriends on the scene.

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Although we got together for lunch, Glenda, this year’s host, had prepared quite a delicious feast: baked ham, green beans and potatoes, candied fried apples, butternut squash, cranberry sauce and rolls.  It was positively scrumptious and beautiful.  Glenda had set the table with lovely pieces of china and vintage dishes.

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Served alongside the food were lots of great stories about growing up together and how much the small town has changed.  There was quite a discussion about how hitch-hiking was no big deal back in the day, the new art gallery in town, and big personalities that everybody knew and loved.

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And, in true southern fashion, there were just as many desserts as there were dishes for the main meal.  Among them were jam cake with both dough icing (my favorite) and caramel icing (my mom’s favorite), chocolate cake, bourbon balls, coconuts balls, peanut brittle, cookies and more.

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I love my mom’s face in this picture.  I think she was saying, “Don’t be eying that caramel iced jam cake, lady.”  Just kidding. I think.

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We shared lots of laughs over good memories.  There were some really good ones, but if I told you about them I’d have to kill you.  Or at least I might not be invited back to ladies lunch.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Crafty Cousins

Christmas Eve night, the Dyer girls got crafty.  My cousin Kristen had bought a gingerbread house kit at Sam’s club for $5 on a whim and asked us if we’d like to entertain ourselves by putting it together.  Of course we did!

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We sat around Granny and Papa’s table and giggled and cut up like old times as we took a stab at confectionery construction.  We’ve had some good times and crazy conversations at that table.  One thing is for sure: what happens at Granny and Papa’s table stays at Granny and Papa’s table.

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Though we were certainly enjoying ourselves, we took our craft very seriously, too.  We worked hard to get the walls and roof pieces to stick together.  We even enlisted the pepper and jam containers sitting on the table to hold the pieces in place as they set.  We soon discovered that our “mortar” (icing) wasn’t exactly of the highest quality.  I had the bright idea to use marshmallow creme as a binding agent because, as I recalled, it sticks to EVERYTHING.  It wasn’t exactly easy to control, unfortunately, so one side of the house looked like it had insulation bursting out between the roof and the walls.  Rookie mistake.  We kept that side concealed from our photographer.

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The kit also came with fondant (or fon-DANT! if you’re my enthusiastic cousin Kristen) to make the doors and windows.

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It was looking a little rough there for a while, but with the addition of the windows, bushes, random peppermints adornments, layer upon layer of frosting that tasted like joint compound but didn’t act like it, and dusted flour (an improvised touch) it really came together.  You could barely tell it was homemade.  Ha.

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Papa did say it was the prettiest house he’d ever seen.   It was charming in a very haphazard, out of plumb kind of way.

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This is where the $5 cost came into play.

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Not 5 minutes after we completed the house, disaster struck and it toppled to its death on the way to the dining room table from the kitchen table.  No one was sadder than Granny.  She almost cried for us.  We took it pretty well.

For next year, we’ve vowed to make our own superglue-infused icing and construct the house out of graham crackers instead of gingerbread so the walls and roof aren’t so heavy.  Just wait for it.  It will be epic.  And we’ll have Papa write us a State Farm homeowners’ policy just in case.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Kitty Christmas

Having had such a nice Christmas ourselves, it would have been just plain rude not to get the cats a little something. Not that they really care.  They normally end up playing in the gift boxes anyway.  But I happened upon another fabulous fur find and couldn’t resist getting the little boogers a treat from Santa.

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I got them a big, soft bed and a new scratching/play toy combo gym thing.

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While Gus was immediately hypnotized by the carpeted ball tree, Scarlett gave me the “I asked for a Play Station 4” look.

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Scarlett pouted for a minute as Gus executed his attack.

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It took a few minutes for them to declare the new bed habitable, but they eventually got in it.

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The bed is plenty big enough for both of them to relax in it comfortably.  This isn’t exactly the sleeping configuration I had imagined. From the looks of it, it wasn’t what Scarlett had in mind either.

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After a while, Scarlett settled into a position with a little more breathing more.  As for Gus, I decided to have a little fun with him and put one of those paper “ribbons” on him.   At first, he acted like it was some debilitatingly heavy back brace even though it couldn’t have weighed 1/8 of an ounce.  He went and sat in the bed with Scarlett to recover from his condition.

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Then he forgot he had a condition and a back brace and decided that hangy-ball needed catching.

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Mmmm, tastes like salmon.

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Time for a nap.

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Burst of energy!

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Time for another nap.

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He slowly overcame his condition, got up from the bed…

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and started to step out of his back brace to check out the carpet ball tree from another angle…

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Then he got distracted and had to sniff Eugene’s gift boxes…

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Nearly free of his shackles, he spotted Eugene’s egg-shaped lip gloss that was evidently much more entertaining than his gifts.  He and Scarlett then spent the next 30 minutes chasing it around the living room.

I should have just gotten them lip gloss.

And a Play Station 4.

Y’all keep it real,

Sugarlump

Hi, I’m Awkward.

I would like to start out by saying that I manage to function fairly well in society.  For the most part.  And then there are evenings like the one the day after Christmas that one might liken to an electrical short.

The night was off to a good start when my immediate family and my aunt, uncle and cousins agreed to meet up at the local Mexican joint in Burkesville called El Rey.  This happens to be one of my favorite Mexican spots, which might come as a surprise to most culinary connoisseurs considering the other dining choices in the one stoplight town are Subway, Annie Ruby’s, Jones Restaurant and Pizza Hut.   As far as I’m concerned, between my grandmothers’ cooking, Annie Ruby’s, and El Rey, my days would be full and bright.

I ordered a number 5 combo, which is two enchiladas any way you like ’em and what else but rice and beans.  I went for chicken with verde sauce.  Excellent choice if I do say so myself.  My cousin Lauren got fajitas with shrimp and beef that looked like everything you could ever hope for in something hot and sizzling, my sister ordered fajitas nachos, which I think is a genius concept, and my cousin Kristen got chicken, cheese, and rice, a dish that has recently won me over.  I couldn’t see far enough down the table to drool over whatever my parents, aunt and uncle ordered, but I’m sure all of their dishes didn’t disappoint.

I had nearly eaten a basket of warm tortilla chips all by myself when my food arrived.  I don’t know what came over me, but I couldn’t get enough of that salsa.  Though I’m sure I was beyond full at that point, I wolfed down my enchiladas as if I were being timed.  I’m usually among the slowest of eaters.  I can offer no explanation for why I continued to consume Mexican food as if my stomach were a bottomless pit.  I sat back, thoroughly satisfied when our waiter came by to ask if I was finished.  In what can only be described as a state of delirium induced by my bulging stomach, I responded, “I’m funnnyeah.”

I casually looked around the table to see if my cousins and sister had heard what I just said.  Indeed, they had.  They promptly started laughing hysterically as soon as the waiter had cleared my plate.  I think the sound that came out of my mouth was the unfortunate, bigamous marriage of “finished,” “done” and “yes.”  This was funny for the next few hours.  I’m always happy to provide entertainment with the meal.

After our Mexican feast, Eugene, Lauren and I went to Glasgow to see Anchorman II.  Now, every time I’ve ever been to this cinema, the approximately 50 seat theaters are about 1/7 full.  We were a few minutes late, but figured the previews would still be playing and we would have our choice of seats.  Wrong! We opened the door to the theater to find it packed full, with 2 open seats on the far left of the front row, which was approximately 4 feet behind the 25 foot screen.  This sent us into a fit of giggles as we shuffled to the front of the theater and I sat on the edge of Eugene’s seat with my head craned back so far that I was sure I would need a neck brace immediately following the movie.  Every minute for the first 5 minutes of this, one of us would get tickled over our movie-watching arrangement.  By the grace of God, not far into the movie, a few people in the far right front row of the theater decided seeing Anchorman II from 4 feet away wasn’t worth scoliosis and left. Instantly recognizing out moment of opportunity, Eugene, Lauren and I scurried across the front of the theater to the right side where we could each enjoy the movie from our own seat.  We were still so close that the screen was nearly out of focus, but I have to say, at such close range, every inch I could scoot back made a remarkable difference.  Due to our intimate range from the screen, however, there were times during the movie when it was unclear whether we were so close that the image was distorted or if the actors were truly making funny faces.

On the way home from the movie, Eugene and Lauren had a few more good laughs over my mangled attempt at English from dinner.  Miraculously, I had full range of motion in my neck the following morning.

I’m funnnyeah.

Bye,

Sugarlump

Christmas 2013

Christmas Eve morning, my immediate family had our Christmas here in Nashville.  It was a lovely, cold, sunny day and I saw a few snow flurries float by as I made my way from my bedroom to the coffee.  Now that Santa brings my sister’s and my gifts wrapped since there is no need for assembly, the morning commences with less urgency, though it is still a very special day.  This year was particularly special because we only have 2 chairs in the living room so my sister and I sat on the floor.  I don’t think we noticed.  We were just happy to be together.

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I have a little bit too much fun sometimes when it comes to gift giving and gift wrapping.  I gave Eugene a pair of slippers with stuffed animal puppies on them for when her “dogs are barkin.'” I got a real chuckle out of that one.  I think she did, too.  She may think it was a gag gift, but I will insist she wear them at all times when she’s here.

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We recently purchased a dehumidifier for the basement and I asked the installer to save the box for me.  I had a particular gift I needed to wrap in the large box.  My mom was eager to find out what required such a large box.

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A pair of earmuffs! My dad thought it was pretty funny, too.

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The best gift reaction, however, was my dad’s.  We got tickets for the 4 of us to go to the Kentucky vs. Louisville game this past Saturday.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kentucky basketball, this game is a very big deal.  Perhaps the biggest of deals.  And guess what? Kentucky won! Barry was one happy guy.

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Clearly, it was a successful Christmas.

We headed up the road to Cumberland County, where my grandparents live.  We started out at my dad’s parents’ house Christmas morning.  It must have been too early and I must have been under-caffeinated as I failed to document that leg of the journey.  My bad.  It was lovely, I promise.  I was wearing pajamas so it’s probably best there aren’t pictures.

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Lastly, we made the several mile trek down the road to Grandmother’s house where our wardrobes expanded.

Here, we had cleaned up a bit and were camera ready.  I love my dad’s face in this picture.  I think this is the most he’s been photographed since my sister and I were born as he is usually the one taking the pictures.

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For the first time ever, I was sitting in the other Wingback back like this one Grandfather is sitting in.  In 25 years, I had never sat in one of these chairs as we exchanged gifts.  I don’t know why, but it seemed like a big milestone for me. I had a whole new perspective from which to appreciate my Grandmother’s living room and our holiday tradition.

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I love these sofas.  They are so fabulous.  I can’t say no to velvet…

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…or animal print.  Eugene and I had a good laugh when we each pulled out leopard dresses to wear Christmas Day.  This was not planned.  Happy accident?

Hope y’all had a Merry Christmas,

Sugarlump

Thanksgiving Trials and Tribulations: The Meal

On Thanksgiving morning, I got up at 6 AM to get my 20lb turkey, Tyrone, into the oven.  He had been brining in the garage for the previous 24 hours to ensure his flavorful tenderness.  After several careful calculations, I heaved him up and out of his brining container and into the sink.

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There is just nothing appetizing about a raw turkey.  Especially a raw turkey taking a bath in your kitchen sink.  FYI that’s a lemon from the brine, not a rubber ducky.

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06:30: Judging by the mess, there was some serious cooking underway at this point.

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Here I am mentally preparing myself to lift Tyron and escort him to the tanning bed.

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A few last words. Bye bye, birdy.

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Next on the list was to make the desserts and eat my breakfast since it was likely only about 7:00 AM at this point.  Please note my “Oops! All Berries!”, the traditional thanksgiving breakfast cereal. As I noshed on my nutritious meal, I made brandy apple cake and derby pie.  Technically, it was bourbon apple cake because I didn’t have any brandy and bourbon seems to make most things taste better.  This wasn’t the last of the bourbon for the day, either.

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My mom had gotten me this beautiful cake pan that was featured on the cover of Southern Living a year or so ago.  I was anxious to see how cleanly the cake would come out of the pan and nervous that it might tear.

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But it slid right out and looked lovely!

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The pie looked good, but I overcooked it.  While the taste was alright, the pie was so sticky that it stuck to my teeth like tar.  This is why I make multiple desserts…with bourbon.

09:00: Princess Eugene arose around this time.

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Meanwhile, I continued to baste Tyrone every 30 minutes or so.  The previous owner of the home designed a lovely chef’s kitchen but only put in one oven.   Have you ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner in one oven and in one day?  Trying to juggle a 20lb turkey, a cake, a pie, dressing, sweet potatoes, roasted nuts, and popovers meant that Tyrone’s legs were a little underdone.

I promptly started measuring for an additional oven.

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Looking golden, Tyrone!

About this time, I was roasting some pecans for the salad.  Eugene walked in and asked if I was making popcorn.  I gave her a very confused look and then ran to the oven to pull out my nuts that were so far past roasted that they were as black as night and beginning to melt into the pan.  I took the pan outside and left it on the patio to get rid of the lovely smell.  When I went to get the pan the next day, the nuts had been left untouched.  They were even too far gone for the squirrels.

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Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

At this point we had used every piece of cutlery in the kitchen.  That is not an exaggeration.  Things got especially tight when it was time for dessert.

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My collection of serving utensils is lacking.  And by lacking I mean nearly nonexistent.

As my mom finished up the gravy, she asked what I would like to put it in.  In my imaginary gravy boat, of course!  I scrambled for something suitable and came up with this silver nut bowl that was Aunt Anna’s.  I think the soup ladle 4 times its size really completed the look.

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Though we had a few challenges along the way, we managed to produce a nice meal.  It was tasty, but not as spectacular as we had wanted so we started to make a plan for next year.  Here’s a sneak peak at the menu:  (If you’d like to come, please bring your own tailgating equipment.)

  • Fried corn! How did we forget this!!??? This is a thanksgiving staple
  • Roasted asparagus
  • Dressing patties
  • Root vegetable gratin
  • Bourbon bread pudding
  • Maybe just a turkey leg?

We’ll try to have the additional oven installed by then.  Maybe we’ll have a proper table and chairs, maybe not.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Y’all keep it tasty,

Sugarlump