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

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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

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

J’adore Holiday Decor

I was glad to have a house to decorate this year for Christmas.  The only thing is that I forgot how much work is involved.  Not that I’m complaining! There is nothing that warms my heart more than a house adorned with greenery, poinsettias, candles and shiny things.  Top it off with a Frasier Fir or Holiday Bayberry candle, and I might just explode with joy!

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I took advantage of having family in town the weekend after Thanksgiving to get the tree put up.  We selected a mighty fine-looking (and smelling) Frasier Fir.  Thank goodness my dear sister Eugene has herculean strength and could lift the tree to an upright position as my dad secured it in the stand.

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The tree had a beautiful shape with impressive uniformity…

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…except for this one little branch here in the back that stuck out like a tail.  It cracked me up so I left it there.  Who wants a tree without a little bit of character?  If I had it my way (and by my way, I mean if I won the lottery and could justify spending 4 figures on live greenery), I would have one of those miniature, spindly, misshapen Charlie Brown trees in every room because I think they are hysterical and precious. Fortunately for anyone who comes to my house, my holiday decor fund has a limit.

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AFTER my dad and I had strung the lights on the tree, I realized that my transition from the LED lights purchased last year for my tree that was half the size of this one to the new incandescent lights that I purchased this year to bridge the gap was not so smooth.

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See the annoying blur of the white LED lights against the soft, warm glow of the smaller incandescent lights? I could not stand the sight of it so yours truly went out the next day to get some more of the 200 light strands of acceptable Christmas tree lights.  When I got to Walgreens, where they were running a 2 for 1 special, I noticed that this location had 300 light strands for the same price as the 200 light strands.  So instead of buying 2 more 200 lights strands, I bought 2 300 light strands, thinking I could get away with adding just 1 300 light strand to my existing 200 and then keep the “free” 300 light strand for another purpose.  Perhaps for an unsuspecting shrub.

I got home and took the wretched LEDs off the top 2/3 of the tree and began stringing the regular, lovely, perfect, warm lights from the top.  All was going swimmingly until I reached the point where I needed to connect the 300 light strand to the 200 light strand.  I would like to tell you that these are the EXACT SAME LIGHTS FROM THE EXACT SAME MANUFACTURER.  I held up the 3 prong connector of the 300 light strand ready to plug it into the receptacle of the 200 light strand only to discover that the 200 light strand’s receptacle had only 2 holes.  JOY TO THE WORLD!

After contemplating poking my eyes out with the 3 prong connector so I couldn’t see the darn lights on the tree anyway, I collected myself and began taking the 200 light strand off the BOTTOM 1/3 of the tree so that I could make unexpected use of that additional “free” 300 light strand.  I was concerned that my math wouldn’t work out and the lights would be too dense at the bottom of the tree, but the result was passable for my OCD self.

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I was pleased with the end result, even though my camera doesn’t pick up the delicate glow of the lights very well in low-lighting.

As if that wasn’t enough light-enduced drama for one year, I decided to put electric candles in the windows.  All 44 of them.  I thought I might get crafty and use the battery operated LED lights (did I learn nothing from the tree episode?) to save (cause) myself some trouble.  I put one in the window and didn’t really like the looks of it.  It was too white and kind of dull.  To see if I was imagining this, I put a plug-in incandescent candle next to it in the window and went out in the yard to compare the two from a distance.  NO COMPARISON.  I really wanted to like the LEDs for their energy savings and convenience; however, there might as well have been no candle in the window if I had opted for this route.  It was pitiful, really, next to the arc of warm light radiating from the incandescent.  More work for me, but I knew it would be worth it.  4 hours, 2 trips to the hardware store, and 16 extension cords later, it was totally worth it.  I promise.  It’s really a crime that I couldn’t get a good picture of it for you.  I haven’t mastered night photography yet.  Or day photography.

After all of that electrical excitement, I moved on to a few more basic decorating assignments: the front hall, the front door, the porch, the mantle, and the kitchen island.

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The nice man at the farmers’ market gave us a good deal on this Frasier Fur wreath.  I found some of that wide, mesh-like ribbon at Hobby Lobby and finished it off with a big ol’ bow.

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I also stumbled upon some large faux wreaths at 50% off so I got 2 of those for the large windows on the porch.  They got bows, too.  Please disregard the expired mums that I had yet to remove as of the date this photo was taken.  Please do note the snow on the roof!  Too bad this wasn’t Christmas Day.

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My dad had to trim a low-hanging branch off the tree to fit it into the tree stand, so I used that to fill out the mantle.  My gold pears from Pier 1 a few years back gave the mantle a nice, rhythmic touch.  First, I prepped the mantle with some saran wrap to keep the sap from creating a hot mess on the woodwork.

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The final step was the stockings, which took a little bit of time and imagination.  You see, I had found the most perfect faux fur tree skirt and pair of stockings at Homegoods.  The only problem is that there are 4 people in my family, not 2.  I called all of the surrounding TJ Maxx/Homegoods locations and non of them had more of these treasures.  I had to get creative and settle on an eclectic look with the addition of another type of fur stocking and a fabulous sequined one, which I made my dad’s.  He was confused and probably a little disturbed by this.  It made me laugh.

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On the topic of confused and disturbed, for my holiday arrangements in the kitchen and foyer, I spray-painted some branches gold.  But not just any branches.  Branches that came from 12 foot tree limbs that fell during an intense wind storm we had here in Nashville on Halloween. I drug these branches out of the yard and into my garage.  I’m sure my neighbors thought I was crazy.  You’d be amazed by what a little metallic gold spray paint and a small hand saw can do.

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When it comes to holiday decorations, I think simple and natural is best…

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…until I have to take it all down.

Covered in pine needles,

Sugarlump

Faux Fur Fabulousness

Anyone who knows me or who has seen me dressed for the chillier months, knows that I LOVE faux fur.  I have several faux fur vests and coats.  I plan on upholstering a small stool in my sister’s bedroom with some faux fur because she is in desperate need of a foo foo bench.  Who isn’t, really?

I recently purchased a faux fur pillow to be featured on the formal living room sofa.  Our bond is so deep that I named her Priscilla the Pet Pillow.

I’m also a fan of alliteration.

Maybe I’ll write a book about her one day like those dogs that live at hotels.  Priscilla the Pet Pillow Goes to Paris.

I like it. File that one for retirement.

While there are only so many appropriate applications for faux fur as it doesn’t lend itself to bathing suits, table cloths, or car exteriors, I was ecstatic/overjoyed/borderline mental when I came across Restoration Hardware’s new line of faux fur accents in their catalog.  More specifically, their faux fur wine holders.

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http://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/product/product.jsp?productId=prod2320311&categoryId=search

How fabulous are these?!?!  AND they are 25% off at just $9!! They come in 6 different kinds of faux fur! I wanted them badly.  I called up the local restoration hardware and the conversation went something like this:

RH lady: “Restoration Hardware.  How can I help you?”

Me: “DO YOU HAVE THE FAUX FUR WINE HOLDERS SHOWN IN YOUR CATALOG AT YOUR STORE??!!?”

RH lady: “Yes, we do.”

Me: “ARE THEY 25% OFF LIKE THEY ARE SHOWN IN THE CATALOG AND ONLINE?!?!?!?!”

RH lady: “Yes, they are.”

Me: “DO YOU HAVE GOOD STOCK?!??!”

RH lady: “We do.”

Me: “I’LL BE RIGHT OVER!!!”

I literally jumped in the car and drove to the mall.  In less than 30 minutes, I was walking out of Restoration Hardware with my bag fabulous faux fur wine holders in tow.

Victory!

Y’all try to stay calm,

Sugarlump

P.S. There is a faux fur laptop case.  I need it.  In Mink.  Does Santa read blogs?

Inherited Mischief

I’ve recently taken an interest in target shooting.  Most people who know me find this surprising/troubling.  Not to worry, you skeptics, I only care to shoot inanimate objects.

Uncle Santa gave me, my sister and cousins each a box of shells and some targets for Christmas.  I think it’s one of my favorite gifts ever.  Maybe next year I’ll ask for a gun.  Watch out.

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I was so excited to go out shooting the day after Christmas, but the weather was most uncooperative.  A nice rotation of rain/sleet/snow carried on all day so my box of shells is still unopened.

Christmas night, as we were discussing our plans for the following day, Granny shared with us that she didn’t want her girls shooting guns.  My dad called her out on this immediately because she shot guns all the time growing up.  She said that didn’t matter; she still didn’t want us shooting guns.  My dad overruled her on a count of hypocrisy.

All four of us are also adults and can shoot a gun even if our Granny doesn’t want us to, but we didn’t dare bring that up.  We are and always will be her “babies” even though we’re no longer 2, 3, 5 and 7 like she thinks we are.

It’s no secret that my Granny was somewhat of a mischievous child.  Shooting guns was just the beginning.  We asked Granny to tell us some stories that night and it wasn’t long before we were all laughing so hard it hurt.  There were some really good ones that involved playing hooky.

We asked Granny what she did when she skipped school one day for an entire day.

Granny: “Well, we had never seen a trial.”

Family in unison: “You skipped school to go to the courthouse?!?!”

Granny: “Yes, and we sat there all day and there wasn’t even a trial so we just went back to school.”

After we all died laughing, we just sat there for a few minutes processing Granny’s rather unusual item on her bucket list that warranted skipping school.

The next story was even better.

One day in high school, several couples who were “courting” decided to leave school without permission.

Granny said, “Now, our principle was a mean old man and he stuttered. “

Upon being caught, the couples were ordered back to school.  They walked down the hall, past the principle, who had a habit of pulling up his britches when he was mad.

Granny stood up and hiked up her pants in the front using her forearms, imitating the principle.

We all just about lost it and waited for the punchline with the stutter.

Granny said, “He was so mad, he didn’t say a word.”

We all sat there for a minute and then questioned Granny as to what the fact that he stuttered had to do with the story if he never even said anything.

She just wanted us to know that about him, evidently.

That made us laugh even harder.

Granny always calls us the craziest bunch of young’ins.   I wonder where we got that from.

Y’all mind your Grannies,

Sugarlump

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

Christmases Past

I stumbled across a few gems from Christmases in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

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Evidently, I used to be a Christmas angel.

(My mother just informed me that this was not a good day.

Apparently, I did not want to have my picture taken.

Can you blame me?

Two words, Mom: white tights.)

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While sitting to have my picture made was not high on my list, I certainly got my money’s worth out of my toys.  Never was a child more content to play with her dollhouse for hours on end.

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I enjoyed commanding the attention of many a den full of family members.

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I was happy to pitch in and help document the family Christmas.

(Thankfully, Fashion Police hasn’t gotten wind of these pants.  I was a very skinny toddler and all I can say about these pants is that my mother must have had high hopes that I would expand drastically and require pant legs large enough to store my toys in.  No such luck.  I bet even now I wouldn’t have an issue getting those things over my thighs.)

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Christmases were going swimmingly.

(Aside from the fashion.)

And then suddenly I wasn’t the only grandchild anymore….

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By 1993, there were four.

Oh how Christmases have changed over the last couple of decades…

Merry Christmas, y’all,

Sugarlump