Christmas Traditions

This year marked a big transition in tradition for the Dyer household.   Instead of having our family Christmas at my parents’ house as we have always done, I hosted here in my new hometown of Nashville.

In my one bedroom apartment.

I didn’t foresee an issue as I have a large sectional that can sleep two people so I knew all four of us would have a comfortable place to sleep.

What I didn’t foresee was the blanket shortage.  I wound up sleeping under my robe.

It’s ok though.  Santa still showed up and we had our family Christmas.

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I may need a bigger place if I plan on hosting regularly.

After our family Christmas on Christmas Eve morning with just me, Eugene and my mom and dad, we headed to Kentucky for Christmas on Christmas Day with the extended family.

Got that straight?

We always sleep at my dad’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve.  My aunt, uncle and cousins live just down the road so they do their family Christmas early in the morning and then head to my grandparents for the big family Christmas on Christmas Day.

Christmas morning, Granny made sausage gravy and biscuits.  Man that stuff is good.  I certainly couldn’t eat it every day but then again my great grandparents did and they lived into their 90’s so maybe there’s something to that.  I’ll have to ponder that at a later time when I’m feeling less full.

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Per tradition, we started with our stockings.  Among other lovely items, there was a Starbucks gift card, which it looks like I could have used that morning if the nearest Starbucks weren’t over 70 miles away.

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After the stockings, we moved into the living room and the youngins passed out the gifts.  Eugene found a tagless gift, which was cause for great concern.

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My mom and Aunt Vickie received some money in shot glasses from Santa (Papa).  I found this hilarious.  I’m glad Aunt Vickie thought so, too.

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Granny got her box of tide with a dollar bill from Papa.  He’s been doing this for decades and I’m still not really sure how it started.  Maybe someday I’ll get to the bottom of it.

After Christmas at my dad’s parents’ house, we headed down the road (literally) for Christmas with my mom’s parents.

I went straight for a bourbon ball….or two.   I have a wicked sweet tooth and there’s no telling when it will strike.

We settled into the living room and opened our gifts.  It wasn’t the same without my aunt, uncle and cousin on my mom’s side, but we were certainly thinking of them and wishing they could have been with us.

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After seeing the photo that my parents sent out unsupervised in the family Christmas card this year where I look possessed, Eugene and I insisted that we supply suitable photographs for next year’s card.  We had my dad take about 437 photos and this was one of the better ones.

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With cameras retired for the day, we ate the delicious Christmas dinner that Grandmother had prepared for us.

Then I had a few more bourbon balls and a piece of rum cake.

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We played a game of Scrabble, one of our favorites.  I wasn’t on top of my game.  There’s only so much you can do when dealt X, B, J, H, L, L, T.  That, and most of the blood in my body was likely trying to aid in the digestion of the forty pounds of food I had eaten in the past few hours instead of pumping through my brain for a stroke of vocabulary genius.

And then I might have had another bourbon ball.

And then some leftover dressing from Christmas Eve dinner back at Granny and Papa’s.

And a piece of the jam cake cousin Lauren and I made on Thanksgiving and let ripen for Christmas.  It was scrumptious.

I think I’ll be full until next year.

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These things are the devil.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

Showing Cattle

Yet another gem from the childhood summer adventures of cousins Lauren and Emily, here we have documentation of our days showing cattle.

In preparation for our debut at the fair, Granny took us to the big city of Bowling Green to get some matching outfits.  We landed on these precious denim vests, black shorts and black boots. Naturally, we chose to coordinate our socks with our t-shirts.  And in case you missed them, we were wearing gigantic black bows.  We kind of had a double layer Oreo thing going with the black and white.  Granny added a nice touch by sewing little sunflower patches onto our vests.  I think they really pulled the look together.

Here we are posing with our trophy cow. She was just thrilled to have a couple of little girls around.

This young lady certainly wasn’t going anywhere with all of us anchoring her rope.  We were so much help.  For all I know, this cow might have been a young man.

That’s my dad in the red cap.

I can’t help but notice that this calf and I have nearly the same leg shape: knobby.

Man was I happy to be there.

We don’t seem to have any pictures of me and Lauren showing our calves individually.  Poor cousin Lauren got a wild one and I think he stepped on her foot a time or two.  She persevered.

Granny and Eugene cheered us on from the stands as we won a few ribbons for our efforts.   The event concluded with a celebratory Sippy cup of apple juice.

Today, cousin Lauren turned 22.  In the 17 years since these photos were taken, she has learned a tremendous amount about cattle and showing them.  Regrettably, the same cannot be said for me.  Maybe someday we’ll get back out there in our sunflower vests and cousin Lauren can give me a few pointers.

Happy Birthday, Lauren!  I will always treasure our summer adventures.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

Sweet Tooth

I have a serious sweet tooth.  Actually, I like sweets so much that I would say I have sweet teeth.  I think I have 4.  Sweet teeth that is.  Not 4 teeth.  I have a lot more than 4 teeth in case you were getting the wrong idea.  However, if I continue to eat so many sweets, my teeth may start to fall out and I may someday have only 4 teeth.  But let’s not think about that.

I have no idea where I got my sweet tooth.  It might have to do with the fact that there are a lot of excellent, and I mean top-notch, bakers in my family.   As you can see, I served as designated bowl-licker as a toddler.  I’ve excelled in this role over the years.

I was often quite involved in the baking process so it was only natural that I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

I was very adventurous in trying new sweets, like Papa’s ice cream Popsicle.

My grandparents made the mistake of building cabinets accessible to toddlers.  If you couldn’t find me, I was likely in the cabinet, foraging for cookies.

I sure love me some sweets.  I also, however, really like savory food.  I guess what it boils down to is that I just don’t like bland food.  Can you blame me?

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I once had a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie at a local restaurant in the town I grew up in.

It changed my life forever.

After that day, it became my mission to perfect a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe.

It took many a flop for me to get to where I am today.  I tried several recipes I found online and none was peanut-buttery enough.  So I tinkered with this and that and I think I’ve got a good thing going.   The trick is to put in A LOT of peanut butter.  Shocking, I know.  Also, take the cookies out of the oven before they look done.  I mean it. If you leave them in there until they look done, they will turn into bricks.  And no one likes to eat peanut butter chocolate chip bricks.

If you want to become instantly popular among your younger sister’s high school pals, I would suggest making these cookies.  After I made the cookies for the youngsters the first time, I was hit up for a double batch almost every time they came over.  I nearly broke my mixer once when I received a triple batch request.

There were never any cookies left by the time Eugene’s friends went home.

Here’s how to become instantly popular among your sister’s friends:

Assemble butter, peanut butter, sugar, light brown sugar, eggs, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips but NOT vanilla extract.  I don’t know what that was doing there.

Ingredients (recap):

1)      1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

2)      ¾ cup of peanut butter

3)      1/3 cup of light brown sugar

4)      2/3 cup of sugar

5)      1 egg

6)      1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

7)      ½ teaspoon baking powder

8)      ½ teaspoon baking soda

9)      ¼ teaspoon salt

10)   1 cup chocolate chips (preferably 60% bittersweet)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Measure out the first 4 ingredients and throw them into a mixing bowl.

I would highly recommend spraying your measuring cup with cooking spray to help that peanut butter slide right into the bowl.  Keep a spatula handy in case the peanut butter gets pesky.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and white and brown sugars until light in color.

Add the egg and mix until incorporated.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until just combined.

Stir in chocolate chips by hand.  I would have taken a picture but I was stirring.

Drop the dough onto a baking sheet using a large spring-loaded cookie/ice-cream scoop for even cookies.  Press down to flatten the cookies to ¾” thick.  The cookies should be about 3″ in diameter.  If you only have a medium size cookie/ice-cream scoop like the one pictured above, your cookies will be about 2″ in diameter.    Press any straggler dough into the sides of the cookies so they look prettier and more uniform when they come out of the oven.

Bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on your scoop size) or until just barely starting to brown.  The cookies will look underdone.  Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet and then serve or finish cooling them on wire rack.

I tidied up the edges of the dough for the cookies on the left and neglected to do so for the batch on the right.  The ones on the left are much more attractive.   However, I over-baked the cookies on the left and the ones on the right were just right.  You really have the watch these suckers.  The MOMENT you see just a hint of brown on the cookies, remove them from the oven to cool IMMEDIATELY.

I mean it.

You’ll thank me.

Y’all eat up,

Sugarlump

Childhood Campfires

When we were little, Papa used to take us grandbabies camping on the top of the hill behind Granny and Papa’s house.  We would haul the kids’ picnic table to the top of the hill (read: Papa would put it in the back of his truck and drive it to the top of the hill for us) and Granny would load us up with hotdogs, buns and marshmallows for a lunch by the campfire.  We always had a big time.  I can smell the marshmallows burning just thinking about it.  Oh man, those were the days.

I recently found some photos of these camping adventures in some old family albums.

Here’s my sister Eugene at age 3, roasting a branch and channeling her inner Pocahontas.  She was wearing her idol’s shirt for good vibes.

On this particular afternoon, it appears I was thrilled to be roughing it in the backyard at the Fisher-Price picnic table.  Cousin Lauren looks significantly less thrilled.

A few minutes later, there was quite a shift in the mood.  Cousin Lauren is proudly displaying a walnut as I manage a smirk and continue to slouch.  My dad would be so displeased with my posture in these pictures.

And, for Pocahontas, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

Here is Pocahontas doing a little interpretive dance after her beverage.  Or maybe she had to go to the bathroom.  Either way, she was really getting the most out of our afternoon in the wilderness.

Always an adventure “camping” with Papa.

Y’all keep it real,

Sugarlump

Rainy Day Reflections

Rainy days inspire in me a spirit of reflection.   Today, I found myself deep in thought about recent events in my life and those coming up.  Rainy days also provide me with great clarity on the things right before my eyes.  Here are the thoughts that came to mind while sitting at a traffic light on my way home:

  1. I think it’s time for new windshield wipers.
  2. I love October.  There is relief from the heat of summer and the holiday season is just around the corner.
  3. I survived big girl Sunday school yesterday.  I had been talking about going for weeks, but had some irrational fear that I would be put on the spot to recite the bible in its entirety.  When I told Grandmother I was a little scared to go, she reminded me that this year I moved 1000 miles away from my home of 13 years on my own to a city where I knew no one.  She thought I could manage a new Sunday school class.  She was right.
  4. I can’t wait to wear boots.
  5. The new season of Dexter began last night.  Per usual, I had nightmares after watching it, even though I love it and subject myself to it willingly.  I woke up at 6:23AM in a panic and almost got up out of bed to make sure my deadbolts were locked.  My alarm clock was due to go off in 37 minutes and the sun was going to rise momentarily, so I decided I was probably safe and rolled over.
  6. I wore a sweater to work today and I didn’t sweat.   I guess Fall is actually here.
  7. I was asking one of my clients today if she had any pets other than her golden retriever.  She said, “Only peeves.”  For a moment, I racked my brain, trying to recall if that is a type of fish or rodent, and then I burst out laughing.  People are funny.
  8. I’m hosting Christmas at my apartment this year for my immediate family.   I’m so excited that I can hardly keep it together.
  9. I think I’m going to grow my hair out.  It’s currently just below my shoulders and I’m at that crossroads where I need to decide if I’m going to have it shaped to my normal just –above-the-shoulders-do or if I’m going to grow it out and become dangerous with a curling iron.
  10. My clients’ almost-two-year-old daughter said my name today.  She was also calling her overalls her “backpack,” so this was a pretty big deal.

Y’all stay dry,

Sugarlump

Batcat

Gus may appear to be a little short on brain cells at times, but I’ve always suspected that he had some secret powers.  My suspicions were confirmed the other day when I saw Gus’s shadow. He was lounging in his … Continue reading

Really Old Stuff

When I was in Burkesville the weekend before last, trying to do some super sneaky research for my barn quilt square, I asked Papa if there were any old cast iron skillets that I could have.  He had mentioned that there might be some in the basement that had come from my great grandparents’ house.  We went down to the basement to investigate.

Well, find a cast iron skillet we did not.  But, we did unearth a bunch of really old stuff.

This is an old hand plane that must have been my great grandfather Daddy Barnie’s.   Papa mentioned that my Dad would probably really like to have this since he is into woodworking.

I’m not really sure how old this is, but I think it’s hilarious.  I need to find out the scoop on this “antique.”

Some of my dad’s old trophies.

8-Track tapes.  This form of technology was phased out before I existed.

This here was Papa’s pointer when he was in the army, training soldiers at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas.   Apparently, if you were in charge, you had a pointer, but not just any pointer.  The body of this pointer is made from a hackberry branch that had been overtaken by a vine, thus leaving it grooved in a spiral shape.  The ends are a bullet and a casing from a 50 caliber machine gun.  I would take that pointer pretty seriously if I were you.

This little contraption is a butter churn.  Mama Bersie, Papa’s mother, made all of her own butter.  Often, it was Papa’s duty to churn the butter, a job he says he did not much care for.

Papa’s report card from a few years back.  Looks like he was a good student.

Papa pulled out Mama Bersie’s trunk and showed me some really neat and REALLY old treasures.

Mama Bersie’s first watch.  This must be at least 75 years old.

Letters that Papa wrote to Mama Bersie and Daddy Barnie while he was in college at the University of Kentucky.  I will have to read these someday.

Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum that Daddy Barnie gave to Mama Bersie when they were “courting.”  This stuff is older than Papa.  I wonder if it still has any flavor…

Papa’s housing fee at UK for the semester: $51.00.  I’m not sure that would cover one night of housing in a dorm these days.

Tuition certainly has gone up over the past 61 years.  There are very few textbooks these days that cost as little as $61.50

This is what Papa really wanted to show me.  It’s Mama Bersie’s blue silk wedding dress from over 80 years ago, ordered from the Sears catalog.  Papa requested that if/when each of us granddaughters gets married that we sew a little piece of Mama Bersie’s dress into ours.  Not only would that be a great treasure on such a special day, but it would be something old, something borrowed, and something blue.   I suppose if we were to sew it into our dresses in a functional way, such as a pocket, it could also be something new, too.

This book belonged to Papa’s uncle Nile, who I believe would have been my great great Uncle.

So I went home without a skillet, but Papa cooked up quite a family history lesson for me.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Barn Quilt Square

I decided to make my grandparents a barn quilt square for their anniversary gift.  I had always been intrigued by these and thought this would be a nice gift considering my grandparents are nearly impossible to shop for and love … Continue reading

60th Anniversary Party

This year marks my Granny and Papa’s 80th birthdays and 60th wedding anniversary.  A celebration was most definitely in order.  We put together an “open house” type party at their church and served cake and punch.

The happy couple in front of the treats.

Aunt Vickie had the cake and cupcakes made.  They were beautiful and delicious.

As we were setting up for the party, we had a bit of an incident.  I was in the kitchen with Lauren and Aunt Vickie and I was looking for a lighter to light candles in the function hall.  I opened the drawer on the left to find a lighter for the candles.  As I opened the drawer, a mouse popped out and ran into the back of the cabinet.  Cousin Lauren, Aunt Vickie and I shrieked as I nearly jumped out of my skin and back about 5 feet.  I don’t remember how it happened in my state of shock, but the drawer was then somehow closed.   Aunt Vickie, Cousin Lauren and I agreed that we had not hallucinated, that the tissue paper in the drawer had been shredded by the little creature, and that we would pull it together and carry on with the festivities after this traumatic event.  That is all I would like to say about that.

All we could find to light the candles was a box of small matches.  I wasn’t about to open any more drawers in the kitchen.   I already said enough about that.

We nominated Uncle Brian to light the candles since he seemed to have more of a handle on how not to burn himself instead of the candle.

Caramelized mums.   Approximately 9 minutes after poor Uncle Brian lit all 24 candles, we had to blow them out so we didn’t burn the place down.  So much for the ambiance.

Aunt Vickie had a beautiful throw made with pictures of Granny and Papa when they were first “courting” and married.  I know they will treasure it.

Nobody wanted to sit at the tables until cake was served.  We had a full perimeter.

Before we served the cake, my dad thanked everyone for coming and decided to ask Granny and Papa a few questions about getting married.  My Mom had been asking them about it before everyone arrived and we all thought the stories were worth sharing because my grandparents actually eloped.

The Wedding/Elopement:

The story goes that Granny and Papa were out and about in Burkesville on a Saturday night as was typical.  Granny’s parents had even seen them around town and were pleased to see that they were having a good time (little did they know what was cooking…).  Granny and Papa knew of a minister in the county who would marry them so they took two of their friends as witnesses and had the minister marry them that evening.

My dad asked Granny to talk about what the minister said at the wedding and Granny said she can’t remember because she was just focused on saying “I do.”

My dad then asked how much the wedding cost, to which Papa replied that it was “very expensive.”  The minister didn’t officially charge anything to marry them but apparently would take $10.  Papa has decided that that $10 was “money well spent.”

Given that my Papa was such an obedient son and respectful person, it’s still hard for all of us to believe that they eloped.  When asked whose idea it was to elope, Papa pointed at Granny and everybody just laughed. 

The story gets even more interesting because they kept their marriage a secret for 6 weeks.  One day my Papa walked into Granny’s parent’s house to see Granny and Mammie, Granny’s mother, confronted him, saying she knew he would put off telling them as long as he could (evidently, Granny had spilled the beans but neglected to let Papa know that the secret was out).  Papa said he didn’t know if he should “faint or go blind.”

It was great to hear them tell those stories.  I hadn’t even heard some of the details before. 

And then it was time to eat and visit!

Quite a turnout as you can tell by the cake.  And Granny was worried no one would come.

I was in charge of cutting this cake.  Didn’t I do a beautiful job?

(Not.)

Granny and Papa and their boys, Uncle Brian and my dad.

Granny and Papa and the full squad: sons, daughters-in-law, and grandbabies (3 out of 4).

Only 3 of the 4 grandchildren have been at each their 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries.  At the 40th, Kristen wasn’t born yet, at the 50th, I had just started high school and couldn’t miss that much school to travel from Boston to Kentucky.  And during the 60th, my sister, Eugene, was missing because she is currently studying abroad. Let the record show that cousin Lauren has perfect attendance.

Apparently, we were in need of some bossing.  It was her party after all.

She realized I had caught her in the act.

This is so adorable, I can’t stand it.

This is equally adorable.  Clearly, if there’s one thing my family knows how to do, it’s how to laugh.

The party was full of reunion of old friends and extended family, storytelling, and laughter.   Granny and Papa seemed to have a great time and really enjoyed seeing everybody who came. 

Congratulations on 80 years of life and 60 years of life together, Granny and Papa!  We all love you very much.

Y’all give each other some sugar,

Sugarlump