Tuesday, January 29, 2013

See How Easy That Was?!

2013! Determined to revive the blog, I started out ok, but became bogged down on the 4th post of the year. Then I spoke with my kiddo on the phone, and we laughed about his working with Privates in the Army. Still timid and insecure, they bumble into one another, and when someone is called to do something, there is a general clusterfuck: "Should I go first? I went first last time; maybe you should go. No one is going. Who should go?" SRG Brian interjects, "*SMITH! YOU *GO! SEE HOW* EASY THAT *WAS??!!"*

While he readily admitted he was once an insecure PFC constantly trying to anticipate what his commanding officers expected of him, I was meandering about in my own mind: STEWART!! *!! WRITE THE *BLOG. PICK A *PICTURE AND TELL THE *STORY! SEE HOW *EASY THAT WAS?!!

Sometimes I just need a kick in the pants, and a reminder not to complicate things so much. I sidelined the heavy post, closed my eyes, and dove into a box of photos from which I have been disassembling photo albums.

September 1970. No time-stamp back in the day, this is when the photo was developed. This was probably Christmas, 1969, or Easter, 1970.

That's me in blue plaid, seven years old.

  • Either I had just had a bad home-perm from my own Mother, or I had I slept uncomfortably the night before in rollers or pin curls. Shifting my head forward or back on the pillow, trying to keep one or the other from digging into my scalp enough that I could fall to sleep.
  • I had Peanuts sheets and pillowcases, and a bright green chenille bedspread on a wrought-iron twin bed that matched my sister's. The beds would, and did, occasionally, convert into bunk beds. I still own them, and the idea of getting rid of them undoes me.
  • On my right is my Uncle Woody. Divorced out of the family, but once an Uncle, always an Uncle—we never stopped loving him.
  • On my right my cousin Judy, and on my left, Nancy. Both of these women, along with most of my cousins, were just enough older than I was that, although we loved each other, friendships weren't established with the age difference. Many of us have, blessedly, reunited through Facebook, and I would kiss Mark Zuckerberg right on his lips for that. Just out of sight behind Nancy, in a red sweater, is my mother.
  • In the background is a glimpse of my Grandmother's kitchen on Lynn Street, in Urbana. It was 2 miles from the house I grew up in, and 5 miles from where I reside now. I did dishes in that sink, and she paid me $5 to mow the yard that was visible from that window. It was mostly wild violets and creeping charlie.
  • The house is 3 blocks from a filling station my dad worked in when he returned from duty in the U.S. Navy in 1964, with a wife and 2 baby girls in tow. It is now a Mexican restaurant at the intersection Philo and Washington. I've sat back in that establishment reminiscing about how Teri and I would be lightly spanked for stomping on the full-service bell while Mom pulled in for a quick kiss from Dad.
  • There was no doubt dozens more in attendance than are pictured here; we filled our plates and filed out to a very long living room, and spilled over to a garage lined with my thousands of my Grandfather's pencils.
There is absolutely no point to this post, which is lovely, and what I have to get over. I don't have to always be prolific. I can just comment on sleeping in pincurls.

See how easy that was?

*Insert a string of Drill-Sergeant-esque cusswords in all of these places.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Boy, Was My Face (Beet) Red

I have written here before that the one food on the face of the earth that triggers my gag reflex is a beet.


Credit a gaggle of Grandmothers, Great Grandmothers,  and Great Aunts declaring "it all goes to the same place," simultaneously plunking dessert down into the middle of the plate that I was frantically trying to squeegee turkey, green bean, and beet juice off to the side.

To no avail. Cake with beet juice. Shiverrrr...

Oddly enough, I still feel obligated to give a beet a chance. I cook! I garden! I can make you love a vegetable! And when I announce my hatred for beets, my foody friends are often horrified: What? Toss them with butter! Serve them with goat cheese!

I took off on a 1-man Girl's Trip to Chicago in November, and while I was there, stopped at my all-time favorite restaurant for dinner: Greek Islands. On the menu, I found a marinated roasted beet salad, served with skordalia, "a smooth garlic-potato spread, blended with our own imported extra virgin olive oil."

Gratuitous shot of hot Greek waiters.

Look, if anyone can make me love a beet, it's Greek Islands. I went for it.

My one-word review: Beetgasm.

While I understand that garlic-potato spread swirled on the top of anything would make it automatically delicious, the skordalia is not a disclaimer: The beets were delicious. I dragged the leftovers home on the train, and ate every bite the next night. And by "the next night," I mean, "the minute I got home." I don't think even stopped to take my coat off. They were that good.

I then promptly looked up recipes for "beets in garlic olive oil marinade with skordalia," because I was certain that with a little practice, I too, can make a good beet with potato spread. The directions seems easy enough:
  • peel the beet
  • roast the beet
  • marinade the beet
  • put the skordalia on the beet
  • eat the beet.

However, since I'd never touched a beet, when mine didn't seem to be doing what it should, I texted my BFF (Best Foody Friend) Chris for advice:

"Hm!" I thought. "A meat thermometer in a vegetable! Who'da thunk it?" Really. Cooky as I am,  I had never heard of such a thing!

Chris knows best, however, 

I took my beet's temperature, all the while texting Chris, and thinking about how closely these temperatures resemble cooking a pork ten...um....derloin...wait...

(Please to ignore that green bubble in the middle; trash-talkin' with my BFF was not meant for the internetz.)

Picture me now, with my head on the counter, laughing my mascara down my cheeks.

In the end, of course, my beets were terrible!! At 170 degrees, they were still raw, and even the skordalia, which turned out pretty good, could not save them.

Oh, it is on, beets, you  make a fool out of me and then taste like crap?

 As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never take the temperature of a beet again. No, nor any of my folk.

I don't know nuthin 'bout birthin  no beets.

Please forgive me. I have gone off the beet end.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Memories and Nostalgia

This has been a weekend of memories and nostalgia.

After my Aunt's passing in October, my Grandmother's estate is being sold. My Uncles phoned me this week and invited me to pick out anything I liked, from my Grandmother's home. I am so grateful to them for their offer, and blessed that in the future, I will be gardening with her tools, lighting a room with her lamps, hanging my clothes with her clothespins, and serving meals from her bowls.

I love that most of my choices will be incorporated into our everyday life here, and that I will be reminded of them, and also my Great-Grandmother, as I continue to use their material belongings.


When I left the house today, after visiting for the second time this week, I stopped at this diner in Kankakee that we often carried out from, in Grandma's final years. She always asked for a hoagie.

I, however, always order their chef salad. If you need good, old-timey, real, live chef salad from a diner established in 1955, go to Carlo's. I'd also advise you to cough up the extra 30-cents for the homemade garlic bleu cheese dressing.


After lunch, I stopped at this Country Fruit Market. It's a wonderful, unique little greenhouse place that sells fresh produce and a lot of fine gifts, but the highlight is the deli, offering a number of black forest hams, salamis, Wisconsin cheeses, and their specialty, smoked trout and salmon.

My mother, sister, and I, stopped here religiously on the way out of Kankakee every time we visited Grandma. I didn't really need anything today, but found I simply couldn't drive by.

The owner, who was talking to the only other person in the shop, stepped out to ask me if I need anything, and when I didn't, he just let me browse. He approached me a few minutes later, with another friend in tow, and I told him I'd been stopping by for years, and was just checking the place out for old-time sake.

Polite chit-chat ensued, and we exchanged names after I told him that I used to come here quite a bit. The second fellow took me back a bit when he said "Used to? Why not any more?"

I hesitated just long enough, I am sure, for them to read on my face what I was thinking, but didn't say: "Because my sister is gone and my mother is gone, and my Grandmother is gone." In the few seconds it took me to regain my composure, the owner sweetly, and gallantly, stepped forward and said "can I fix you some lunch, Lori?"

At this I laughed, both appreciating the save, and explaining that I'd just been to Carlo's and should probably be hitting the road. He grabbed a deli price list, explained they'd be closed Sundays through April, but if I needed anything to call ahead, and they'd let me in to shop, any time I wanted.


I then came home to finish this weekend's project: Emptying out my Mom's photo albums. Peeling 50 years of memories up, and filing them in a box, under their perspective patriarch or matriarch: Descendants of Clarence Stewart, Descendants of Ida Bennett, etc. Long term plan is to scan them, offer the prints and scans back to their rightful heirs. Many unlabeled were tossed, and many more, I just had to choose and purge. I condensed 10 full albums into one shoe-box sized box.

I've flipped through these books for most of my life, but I was amazed at how many seemed entirely new, when I was forced to analyze each of them so closely. I even dragged out a magnifying glass to scrutinize some of them: I like the details. I like the mess in the background, and the bobby socks falling down. What book was that? Which robe was that? I remember that clock.

Wonderously, upon turning the last page of the last album I had to strip tonight, I found this 8 x 10 of my Mom's father. When I peeled it up, I was surprised to see this note stuck underneath, an L.M. Montgomery poem he'd modified for her, 46 years ago:

When evening drops its curtain down
And pins it with a star
Remember I will always love you
Tho I may wander far
Lord, a girl can only take so much, and this was the straw that broke the camel's back. A good old soul-cleansing ugly-cry ensued. I miss them, I miss 'em all!


Sunday night, all is sorted and put away, and I feel blessed for the people and the families I was born into. I feel the spirit of those who are gone, and I love more deeply, every day, those that remain on this earth with me. We carry one another, no matter the time or distance, and  my Grandfathers' note to my mother reminds me of this.

A New Year, A New Decade

 I'm fifty! 50! Fiddy!

Oh, boy, do I have a lot to say about it, too. Change, it is a-happenin, here, there, and everywhere.

First up: I'm going to revamp the blog: I am shutting down comments. Blogger isn't as interactive as it was when I began posting. My contacts use other avenues to communicate, which leaves me wasting valuable time moderating spammers and a string of tedious trolls competing for a trophy in inane obscenities.Yawn.

Next: Does anyone have a screen name any more?  New acquaintances do not know or associate me with "gnightgirl," and communiques from accounts and apps set up years ago are being blocked.

"Gnightgirl" was a pseudonym based on George Burns & Gracie Allen's vaudeville comedy. The famous sign-off: "Say Goodnight, Gracie." It was was only one of my screen names wrought from the famous comedy duo, and I hereby retire the last.

New Years' Resolutions? Yeah, yeah, yeah, blog more, drink  more water, I say it every year.

But this year, I mean it! I am going to blog 8 times a day this year, and drink water at least once a week. Ok, maybe every two weeks. I am 50, after all, and don't want to tax my bladder.

I'll let you know where to find me.