2 Cinnamon Rolls a Day…

I have a new confectionery addiction: homemade cinnamon rolls.

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I’ve made the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll recipe several times now.  It makes 45-50 rolls per batch.  Somehow, my family and I have plowed through dozens of cinnamon rolls since Christmas.  And I think I ate most of them.  How did that happen? They are just so stinking good, especially when I remember all of the ingredients (I was so caught up in the active yeast rising process that I forgot the leavening agents my first go-round, but was able to salvage them).  Most cinnamon rolls don’t have enough icing and develop a hard exterior.  These are swimming in icing.  They’re moist and spongy and perfect.  Every bite is like that coveted bite in the center of your regular old cinnamon roll.

In the last few weeks, my addiction has really taken an alarming turn and I’ve found myself having two cinnamon rolls a day for an unmentionable number of days in a row.  But hey, two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor away, no?

…no?

Two cinnamon rolls a day keeps the doctor employed?

Well, I’ve been working out more (successfully) in recent weeks, too, so I’m sure it kind of cancels out.  Kind of.  I am happy to report that I’ve found a new class that’s slightly less lethal than circuit blast called “sculpt.” The only part that made my arms feel like straws was the diamond push-up sequence after 45 sets of arm weight exercises.  Other than that, the group exercise approach has been going well.

Last week, however, I suffered a minor setback in the midst of a cinnamon roll binge.  I pulled my groin putting on my yoga pants to go to sculpt. For real. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of my flexibility, coordination, physical fitness level, or an indication that my pants are too tight.  Maybe all of the above? Maybe a sign from God to lay off the cinnamon rolls?

I just went to hot yoga and feel like I’ve been wrung out like a sponge.  In a really good way.

I think I’ll have a cinnamon roll since I’m already wearing my yoga pants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

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Circuit Blast is Not a Blast

I joined the local YMCA a few months back and have been lightly salting my schedule with yoga classes.  The classes have ranged in level of difficulty, but none was more than I can handle.

Last evening, I decided to add a “circuit blast” class to my rigorous exercise routine as it promised an hour of cardio, weight-lifting, and “limited to no choreography.”  Perfect.  The last bit of the description really sealed the deal.  To understand why, please visit my “about me” page.   I got to the gym a little bit early so I hopped on the treadmill for 5 minutes at a fairly good clip to get my heart-rate up since all this bone-chilling weather makes me want to do is swaddle myself in blankets on the sofa. I was feeling nice and warm when it was time for the class to start.  I got my mat, my step, and my 3 sets of weights all set up.  I was ready to kill it.  There were people my age and people twice my age in the class so I imagined I would at least fall somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of fitness.

Well, we started off with a lot of cardio that required more coordination than I could muster.  But that was ok; I flailed my way through it.  After all, I wasn’t trying out for a dance competition.  Clearly.  About 15 minutes in, I had about reached my limit of kicking, punching, jumping, hopping on one foot and balancing at the same time.   Then we started with the weights.

I started to feel faint.  My ears were ringing, my face was hot but my sweat felt cold.

I plowed through 478 squats with weights.  My yoga breathing really helped with this.  I was audibly huffing and puffing.  Too bad my breathing skills don’t help with coordination.

Towards the end of the class, I had to do every other exercise so I didn’t pass out.  It was a serious concern.  Every lunge-jump from the floor to the step while swinging weights over my head was a struggle.  It seemed my two poached eggs on toast that I had for lunch had ditched me hours ago and I was running on fumes and electrolyte and fluoride-infused water that I had purchased just before class.

With 10 minutes left in the class, I was genuinely concerned that I might lose consciousness.  I put away my torture equipment and headed to the locker room to collect myself and splash water on my face.  I looked as white as a ghost.  Time to call it a day.  I walked over to the stairs and as I started down the first step my leg almost gave out.  I clutched the railing to save any dignity that wasn’t left behind in my class.  Each step was a near-death-experience.  I somehow managed to get to the bottom of the stairs using mostly my arms and feeling like Gumby.

As I got to the car, I was fiercely craving salt.  I guess I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.  Continuing my healthy choices for the day, I came home and ate some cheddar and sour cream Ruffles potato chips and felt markedly better.  And my legs were sore already.

This is not good.

I’m afraid to go back.

But I need to face my fears.

I just need a few more handfuls of chips first.

Y’all stay active,

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving Trials and Tribulations: The Table

So I decided to have Thanksgiving in the new house, but the funny thing is that I have absolutely no dining room furniture.  Not a stitch.

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I did have these pine cones adorning the mantle across the room.  I found them at a yard sale a few months back.  Too bad you can’t sit on or eat off of them.

With less than a week before Thanksgiving, I had to put on my thinking cap.

My solution was not unlike glamping.

Actually glamping might be more glamorous.

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Thank you to Costco and Ikea, I am the proud owner of a “dining set” for under $100.  Coincidentally, I am now equipped for tailgating.  I’m loving this versatile furniture.

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Because I planned to serve slightly more elegant food than hotdogs and chips, I figured I might want to dress (hide) the table.

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I found just the thing at Wal-mart: tone-on-tone ticking stripe fabric by the yard that I would transform into a tablecloth.  Minor detail: Did I mention that I don’t sew?

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Ta-da!  With some creative cutting and folding, I successfully hid the evidence that my table was anything but solid mahogany.

I advised my guests not to lean too hard on my “delicate” table and explained that I was going for a more eclectic look with my “retro” chairs.

A little metallic never hurt anyone, so I started the tabletop with gold chargers and an actual vintage piece, a candelabra that my grandmother had given my great Aunt Anna before she passed.  It was nice to have a reminder of her at the table.  She was a great cook and an elegant lady.  I think she would have been proud of my efforts.

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Glassware and plates instantly made the table look fuller and shinier.

The table was beginning to look legitimate.

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Then came some tinted glass bowls to add color and continue with the vintage theme.  My mom and I made a last minute dash to Pier 1 for some golden yellow cloth napkins.   I put together two low floral arrangements with my flowers from Costco.  I love a show-stopping floral centerpiece, but I actually wanted to be able to see the other people at the table so I divided and conquered. I also added some burlap ribbon to my fancy chairs to complete my unique look.

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I was pretty pleased with myself, especially since this set-up cost me less than the groceries for the meal.

Consider this my submission for the design on a dime challenge.

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This is my favorite angle.

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Eugene took this fab picture with her phone.  I think it’s worthy of Martha Stewart Living.

This certainly wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving set-up, but we all got to sit together around the table and have a good laugh.  I’ll give thanks for that.

Stay tuned for the meal.  It was not without its challenges.

Y’all keep it classy,

Sugarlump

Southern Charm

Hey there darlin’,

I’ve been in the south long enough now that I’ve become accustomed to the hospitality and general kindness shown by strangers that drew me here in the first place.  Just the other day, I was at the deli counter at Kroger ordering honey maple turkey and Swiss cheese and the lovely elderly worker behind the counter engaged me in conversation the entire time she sliced my deli items with motherly care.  We talked about the weather because that’s what you do in the south.  She asked me what was going on out there because we were due for some inclement weather.  I told her it was cold and raw and rainy and she informed me that we were to get snow later in the evening and maybe some ice. This was just one day after it was a lovely 70 degrees and sunny.  We chatted about how we’d like to be somewhere tropical when the weather turns sour.  As she handed me my food, she looked me in the eye with genuine concern and said, “Now, you be real careful out there.  Alright, honey?”  I replied, “Yes, ma’am.  You do the same.”  It’s nice when strangers care about your well-being.

This is just one of many instances of southern civility that occur on a daily basis in my life.  I was talking to one of my clients a little while back as we were completing an install at her condo here in Nashville.   She is from the Northeast and lives in New Jersey so we have a lot in common and often talk about the differences between the North and South.  She said although she loves the variety and all the Northeast has to offer, she is always struck by the warmth of southern people.  We were talking about going to the drugstore or grocery and how people hold doors, smile and actually talk to you, not at you.  I mentioned how I had been at T.J. Maxx the other day and instead of a surly “Here’s your receipt,” as I checked out, I got a cheerful, “Thank you. Come back and see us!” My client smiled and said she hears that a lot here, too.  We both paused for a moment, looked back at each other, and at the same time said, “And they actually mean it!”

I think non-southerners are catching on to this and flocking to the south.  The secret is out!  I stumbled upon this article one of my friends shared on facebook.  I’m glad to know that other people appreciate the ways of the south like I do!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-strutner/tk-things-i-learned-in-th_b_4394289.html

Y’all come back! (I mean it!)

Sugarlump

Gold Mine

I recently made a trip up to Boston to help my parents clean out closets and storage spaces that contain the relics of my childhood.  In an effort to purge the no longer needed, my parents nominated me to make the call on what was too precious and dear to part with and what needed to find a new home in a hurry.

The major area that needed addressing was my sister’s and my old playroom that had become a resting place for furniture no longer allowed in the main part of the house.

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Things only got worse before they got better.

But, boy, did they get good.

I found some real treasures among 3 carloads, 2 truckloads, and dozens of 55 gallon trash bags by the curb of rejected items.

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This here is one of the Hanson brothers, also known as my little sister Eugene.

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I found an entire box of cards that my sister’s classmates had made her when she had her tonsils removed in the first or second grade.  By the volume of cards and the concern in her classmates’ scribbles, you would have thought she was having high-risk, open-heart surgery.  She had many a reminder to eat popsicles, which had some very creative spellings.  My favorite though, was this card from a young man who I deduce was named Harrison.  He seemed to have some top secret information for Eugene on the inside of the card as she was to “plees opon alone.”

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I found my Chapel signs from my senior year of high school.  Man were those a trip.

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This is me in 8th grade with my kindergarten buddy.  I think she’s applying to colleges now.  I feel old.

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Hard to believe since it was just yesterday that I was sporting pig tails and cat appliques.

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Who remembers Lisa Frank?! I used to love to buy this stuff at the school store in elementary school!

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I was unsure about this creature that belonged to Eugene.  I sent her this picture to inquire about its nature.

Me: “What is this here creature?”

Eugene: “A horse in a kimono, naturally.”

Right.  He was for sure a keeper.

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Cards congratulating my parents on my birth.  I’m not sure if it was a common thing to say back then (let’s hope), but a lot of the cards said, “take good care of her,” as if my parents were questionable guardians.   This kind of made me laugh/worry.

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This is a realtor packet from 1992 when my parents sold their first home in Maryland, where Eugene and I were born.

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Apparently I took interest in homes and real estate at a young age as it appears I added my own notes to the list of house features.

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I had a lot to add.

And that was only day one.

Y’all be good,

Sugarlump