Thursday, January 23, 2014


A Chocolate Cry Pie

Officially, today is National Pie Day which means if I were truly a faithful blogger I would get up out of my chair and bake a pie.  Actually, I heard the news last night and could have begun a pie around 10 p.m.  My pie post could have scurried across the internet in the wee hours of the morning, beating
the rest of the world.  But I decided to go to sleep and wake up and see how I felt about baking this morning.
How to start a Chocolate Cry Pie

I could bake a pie and it would be so good it would make you cry.  A Cry Pie.  A Chocolate Cry Pie.  Crying for another piece.  My talent is due to my mother.  At one time, my parents "talked" about opening a pie and soup shop in Dallas.  As a youngster, I thought that sounded exciting, not knowing it was just dreaming.  But they did mention it several times, always after a good pie or a soup my mother had prepared.  My mother would make a lemon meringue pie or chocolate pie for our family of four.  The next day it would disappear and she would complain about us eating it up so fast.  Homemade pies are labor intensive.  Of course, my Daddy could eat half of it in the first seating.  But I learned how to make a cream pie from the expert.

Homemade crust is the only acceptable base for the perfect pie, nothing store bought, although we have all succumbed to that route on occasion.  I once hosted a Graduation Luncheon for a friend's daughter.  Three quiches had the pleasure of the Pet Ritz Frozen Crust, which is now hard to find.  But on some occasions corners must be cut.

However, I didn't cut corners on the first meal I cooked for Burt when we started dating.  I made Quiche Lorraine with Strawberry Meringue Boats.  Every bite was homemade.  Truly, the way to a man's heart is his stomach.

But since I'm not going the pie route today, it occurred to me to try my own day rhyming with pie.  Somedays are just randomonium.   

Sigh Day.  A "kid" celebrity arrested for speeding and under the influence.  Surprised?  Sigh.

Sky Day.  Overcast and dreary.  Winter.  January.  Bitter cold coming, again. 

Dry Day.  Dry, dry, dry.  Everywhere dry.  Static sparks off the dog.  Burn bans in January.  California to here.  Stores running out of hand lotion.  A pot of water bubbling on the stove.

Lie Day.  Whatever is going on in New Jersey, somebody is.

Try Day.  Olympic athletes in their final preparation for a lifelong dream of competition.

Sly Guy Day.  Yesterday it was five socks in my walking path through the den.  Three appeared this morning in another spot.  Yes, there are a few laundry piles sorted but these items were not tossed on
top.  And yesterday morning, an 8" tiny stick discovered sticking out from under a chest of drawers.  Trust me.  He is not starved for attention.

Why Day.  A new activity for babies and preschoolers.  (Clearly, this is January and too much morning television.)  "Zambini."  A class of dancing with their mothers/fathers to jazzy music.  Playing with scarves, small drums and instruments.  This woman can start ordering her 14K gold garage door now.  Silly me.  When I had a baby, I knew how to dance with her in my arms and she was very good at pulling diapers from the drawer and playing with them.  And whatever happened to pots and pans and a wooden spoon.  This could also be Sigh Day.

My Day.  And yesterday was Buy Day.  Whose says I can't sashay around the house on a too cold, dry, grey day in my new half priced Red Paisley designer p.j.s I wanted in October.  And drink pots of coffee.  Which could be High Day.  Caffeine doesn't rhyme with Pie but it could accompany a warm slice of Chocolate Cream Pie, if there were such in the house.  Maybe Quiche Lorraine has a future for dinner.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014


A pantry somewhere in America

The first joyful event in my life occurred two months ahead of schedule, me. 
A teeny preemie,
practically perfect in every way but ounces, getting down below four pounds before finally rebounding into a rousing, rollicking one month old, five pound baby fit to take home.  For much of my early life, it was a struggle to keep weight on.  I wasn't a picky eater, I was just always trying to catch up.  Ah, the irony.  At the time, I guess no one thought to offer me a Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie.

She rang my door on Saturday and to my credit, I exercised great control, considering.  I only ordered two boxes of Thin Mints and two boxes of Samoas, the most decadent of cookies, listed in the official listing of cookies to never, ever think about as dictated by Dr. Ahhhzzzz.  The Girl Scouts of America have been selling cookies since 1917, beginning with homemade cookies in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Chocolate mint anything and I have a long, tortured history that began when I was in grade school.  Around Thanksgiving time, my Camp Fire Girls would go door to door (shocking, I know) selling candy for $2.00 a box.  The most popular candy was the Chocolate Mint Melts.  Saturday afternoon was a great time to catch people at home because they were in a hurry to get back to the game on t.v. I maybe missed my calling, I was so good at my spiel and deft hand, exchanging money for candy boxes quickly.

Except I had to stay on my toes.  The Chocolate Mint Melts did, almost immediately, when placed in your mouth.  And if one of the boxes was already opened, I had to make sure I didn't offer the secretly, already opened box, used for nourishment between houses. By the time the fundraiser had ended, there was no loose change in my house and nothing in my wallet and a very quiet piggy bank.  About this time, my struggle not to be skinny ended.  Ah, the irony.

But it is the cookie part that gets me every time.  I can't eat a whole steak (but definitely a lobster).  But not a bag of chips or a bowl of cheese dip or a whole container of ice cream.  I want to know.  What is the secret, addictive ingredient in cookies?

I identify with the Cookie Monster except I don't dress in blue fuzz.  Cookies are delightful and crunchy.  The gene for cookie love is in my DNA.  I LOVE COOKIES.  Of course, they don't love anyone and especially not me.  But they do love to stick around.

There are secret societies around the world whose sole membership requirement is the member's ability to throw together the Chocolate House Cookie recipe in a dark laundry room and eat the raw cookie dough.  I can't help it.  It runs in my family.  Butter, Sugar, Flour, Eggs, Good Vanilla. Salt. Pecans. Chips.  And then the same company came out with the ready to bake cookie pieces, available on the open market of the dairy section.  No law against it.

Speaking of laundry rooms and pantry shelves.  Yesterday, when fiddling with cereal boxes, cracker boxes, a melba toast box and a Beignet mix box, all of which I keep almost too high to reach, a gap in the usually tight shelf revealed a box of peanut butter GS cookies way behind in the far reaches, past the huge upside down Tupperware Cake Container full of old Pier One Paper Plate Holders.  Too far to reach.  That's why it is still there.  I would have to get a step ladder to climb up to the hidden jewel.

Being the efficiency expert that I am, there is no way to know how long that little serendipity has been hiding out in my housewife's Perfect Pantry.  In order to conduct further cookie research, I got out the stepladder to take a picture, proving the hiding place of the GS cookies.  It was at this time, another, undiscovered box, was discovered behind the PB box!  Now there are two cookie boxes
on the top of the shelf.  One is missing one sleeve of cookies.  The Shortbread variety has not been opened.  The best news is the use by dates were 09-2013, which in my house can mean a couple of more years, depending on the product.  Certainly four months past the date would not be detrimental to anyone's health.

I haven't opened them up.  I could, if I felt a cookie binge coming on.  But this is January and I am trying to work on the cookie thing.  However, in my internet research, I came across the official original shortbread cookie recipe.  With great self-control, I am refraining from whipping up a practice batch to show off on this post.  But I did want to pass it along for your eating pleasure. 

No calories were consumed in the production of this post and I am a non-paid, non-representative spokeswoman of this worthwhile organization. I also was not compensated with any free cookies.


In the 1920s and 1930s, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country continued to bake their own simple sugar cookies with their mothers. These cookies were packaged in wax paper bags, sealed with a sticker, and sold door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.

Girl Scout Cookie, circa 1922

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • additional sugar for topping (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired.
Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes six- to seven-dozen cookies.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


He wasn't a beer drinker.  But he loved a good commercial and in the past couple of years, he'd spent more time accruing a file of 30 second spots that peaked his interest.  From his teenage years, he had  been fascinated by products and sales, influenced by two glamorous older sisters and their love of fashion and life, during and after the war.

Four years ago today, after his doctor's appointment, he wanted an Oyster Po-Boy and a Bud-Light.  At the time, we all got a kick out of the request which he said was fueled by all the beer commercials during the NFL play-off games he watched with my mother.  She was the football fanatic and he just went along for the fun.

The birthday feast began when I picked them up in a parking lot.  I didn't even have a present because Christmas had just ended but I did run and get a card.  And he said his new Christmas Charcoal merino wool vest was so nice it could count for birthday too.  And he was wearing it for his birthday, number 76.

The oyster po-boy was okay but he said he'd never get another Bud-Light again.  He didn't.  It was a bright but very cold January day when I took them back to their car.  We got out and exchanged hugs.  We had enjoyed a brief but fun lunch, talking about commercials and such.  And three days later, he left us in a quick and peaceful ending.

I wrote this piece on my first Father's Day without him.   Thank you for indulging me this happy birthday tribute to my beloved Daddy.

Photo by my brother-in-law, James Bingaman

My Daddy was born in a log cabin and started school in a one room school house. He moved to the "city" in the 3rd grade and went to school barefoot the first day but not the second day. City folks wore their shoes year round. He graduated from the University of Texas. As a senior project, he developed the Raid Bug Commercial - Raid, Kills Bugs Dead! A professor snatched it up. He married my mother! Then the young man from a land locked state almost immediately began Naval Officers Candidate School where he jumped off the side of a ship and thankfully passed Astronomy. His naval career sent him to Morocco, where my parents lived for two years, traveling Europe on vacations in a red VW Bug. I grew up knowing about minarets, veiled women, cos cos, and mirages in the desert. They sailed back to America on the U.S.N.S William O. Darby (General born in Fort Smith). Texas called their name and that's the country of my origin. Texas O' Texas. We saw much of the U.S. on camping vacations. We always had a "vacation song." One year it was the Carpenters "Close to You." Another year, Paul McCartney and Wings "Hands Across the Water." He loved all kinds of music and liked to play the piano in a very grand manner. He sung in the church choir almost all of his life, faithfully. "The Majesty and Glory" was his favorite and I cannot sing it anymore. Someday. He carried the Prayer of St. Francis in his wallet and a New Testament in his briefcase. He was a talented whistler and a random clapper ahead of his time.  He loved to sing around the house. He worked hard in the retail world and knew his store and every product. He was fun to shop with! He was faithful to The Store and took care of his employees, ferrying little old sales ladies home on icy roads. He could do a mashed potato dance that made mean mashed potatoes. He loved butter. He taught us the Golden Rule in a time of great racial unrest. He kicked his house shoes down the hall just to make little girls laugh. His daughters were his joy. His wife was his best friend. His loved being a Granddaddy. Even when he was sick, he made lemon meringue pies to take to "shut-ins".  He defied all odds and lived through surgeries that gave us 13 more years. He always tried to look at the positive side or a new direction when facing difficulty. He was the baby of the family and the favorite cousin. He wasn't perfect. I called him nozella due to his penchant for picking up mail or receipts at my house. He was the designated shrimp police for the wedding reception. He could get on my last nerve when I was a teenager but he encouraged me in every endeavor. There are endless little things I could tell you. This is my father's day tribute. He rests a few miles from where he started out but I hear him singing "Alleluia, alleluia, the majesty and glory of Your Name."


Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I think I have Writer's Freeze.  And I don't even live in a severely cold part of the country.  But it has been record setting for a couple of days.  I've been listening to faucets dripping and encouraging the dog to hurry when I put him out.  Some days it is really not good to be a canine, except for the love and attention when returning from his morning constitutional around the Artic-like backyard.  At least he has a good thick coat.  But I think he understands this is some crazy kind of cold not experienced in over eighteen years.

He is my buddy and faithful follower during the day.  But he has never been a bedtime snuggler.  A few years ago we broke down and bought the bed we call "exceedingly, excessively comfortable."  When Cate comes home for a visit, she always manages to take a nap or two snuggled up on the bed because it is so comfortable.

Oreo will be ten and he has figured out where the softest spot in the house is after all of these years.  He is not a dog-on-the-furniture dog and even if we placed video cameras around the house when we were gone, I know we wouldn't catch him racing up and over every sofa, bed and chair.  He is happy to start bedtime on the bed and then jumps down before he goes to sleep, in a little crook of pillows which are tossed off the bed at night, next to a low window sill which gives him access to use his special nighttime vision, when necessary.

However, we have recently had a visitor in the house.  And I have sworn up and down about grown adults talking about their grown up childrens' pets like they were GRAND-DOGS.  But I am experiencing this writer's freeze and my brain is clogged and I forgot that I wasn't going to mention the cutie-pie who was hand delivered in a rental vehicle because he has grown too big to fit under an airline seat (which I originally said would never work, just for the record because I had seen pictures of the puppy's legs, precious).  In four years of marriage, this is the first time Cate and Finn have driven the seventeen hour journey home because it is quicker and easier to fly.

But this year we have Zeke.  He is supposedly a miniature Australian Shepherd, albeit a larger version than expected.  Oreo is the original Aussie breed.  Considering that Oreo is the head dog in this house and the grand Marshall of any parade he should decide to participate in, he somewhat accepted Zeke into the pack with open paws.  Only a couple of snaps.  Once he figured out he could chase this small usurper all around and around the back yard, things got better. 

I am trying not to tell the GRAND-DOG story but I do have to tell you how active that cutie-pie can be and the speed and agility with which he can run around, up and over the back of the sofa and the ottoman and then just as quickly give out into a serious nap right on the cushion top.  Good Oreo is sitting on the floor rolling his eyes, with all the smug self-righteousness of an older and wiser relative who knows they have never been allowed such behavior and are only a good dog.  Actually, the best boy, to hear the folks tell it.

The most telling picture shows Cate waking up from a nap on the "exceedingly, excessively, comfortable bed."  Oreo is at the foot, holding down the fort, trying to be polite because the gymnast has taken up residency next to the girl who was his girl first.  And Zeke is snuggled up to one of the pillows.  To make matters worse, the head guy is snuggled up next to Zeke.  This just goes to prove the old adage, "You can teach an old dog new tricks."  He may not be smiling but he's not about to give up his spot on the bed.

Which is where all of my writer's freeze was going.  The night of the big freeze, Mr. Oreo just decides to curl up between his two owners and go to sleep.  This has never happened before.  True story.  He thinks, "I'm no fool. Even I know when some crazy kind of cold makes it a three dog night."