Monday, August 28, 2017

Do's and Don'ts: Attaining Elegance

This is another gem I found in the pile of papers from my mother, inherited from her mother.  I wish I knew the time frame for when this paper came into my grandmother's possession.

Anyway, here are tips and tricks if you've been wondering what has been missing from your life, to give it just that extra pinch it needed.  (I did correct spelling errors, some were too egregious for me to leave as they were.)

1. The look of elegance is in the serving.  Any meal can be elegant if it is served beautifully.

2. When serving an elegant dinner always use cloth or fabric tablecloths or placemats.  Plastic is practical for family, but not elegant.

3. Never serve condiments or relishes in their original containers.  Always use your prettiest serving dishes, jelly dishes, etc.

4. Garnish your foods as pretty as possible.  Parsley and cherry tomatoes add so much eye appeal and eye appeal is the beginning of tummy appeal.

5. Make sure your silver shines and your crystal sparkles before you start.

6. Plan a simple, coordinated menu that will be easy to serve. A harried hostess is never elegant.

7. A lovely buffet served in pretty serving dishes might be the solution to #6.

8. Candles are a must, used with flowers, greens, fruits, or other centerpiece material.  A single flower at each place setting can be very effective.  At Christmas a number of candles of assorted shapes and sizes set in greens is effective.

9. Soft, non-distractive music is conducive to elegance.

Meal and Menu Ideas:

Elegant Lunch - Asparagus Ham Rolls, serve with a citrus fruit salad garnished with shredded coconut and a maraschino cherry, warm toasted rolls, and butter cookies.  Beverage - sparkling punch

Elegant Picnic - Cold friend chicken, potato salad, loaf of crusty French bread, cheeses, grapes, apples, other fruit.  Beverage - sparkling grape juice on ice

Hot Weather Lunch - Seafood salad, assorted melon balls, bananas and strawberries (arrange on lettuce cups with raspberry sorbet), assorted wheat and rye crackers, cookies.  Beverage  - lemonade

Elegant Buffet - Platter of ham, turkey, and other cold meats garnished with parsley and cherry tomatoes.  Pretty bowls of potato, macaroni, and jellied salads - arranged on lettuce leaves.  Basket of breads and rolls covered by linen napkins.  Pretty relish tray, little bowls of mustard and mayonnaise. Punch in a pretty bowl.  An elegant flaming dessert would make a spectacular finish, i.e., cherries jubilee, mini cream puffs piled high and covered with a thin thread of spun sugar, a lovely torte.

Elegant Holiday Dinner - Fruit cup, roast turkey, sage dressing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, green peas, creamed onions, candied yams, baked squash, relishes, rolls and butter, cranberry sauce, pies (apple and pumpkin)

Holiday Buffet - Sparkling red punch, assorted cookies and breads, nuts, chips and assorted dips


1. Beef stroganoff on noodles, green beans with slivered almonds, ambrosia, hot buttered rolls, chocolate layer cake

2. Lasagna, tossed salad, hot garlic bread, sherbet, cookies

3. Stir fry peppers and steak on rice, fresh pineapple wedges with strawberries

4. Roast pork, scalloped potatoes, applesauce with red cinnamon candies, fresh buttered broccoli, crescent rolls, lemon pie

(is it just me or are these not what we would call "easy" dinners anymore?)

Thanks for the tips, Grandma.  I will try to serve at least one truly elegant dinner in my lifetime.  Someday.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Family of the Sun

When my grandmother passed away in 2008, my mom inherited many things.  Some of that trickled down to me.  This paper was found in a pile of all sorts of interesting papers.  I couldn't let this get lost to time:  (typed as I found it written)

Chorus: The family of the sun
the family of the sun
Here are nine planets in
the family of the sun

1. Mercury is hot
and Mercury is small
Mercury has no atmosphere
It's just a rocky ball


2. Venus has thick clouds
That hide what is below
The air is foul, the ground is hot
It rotates very slow


3. We love the Earth our home,
It's oceans and it's trees
We eat it's food, we breathe it's air,
So "no pollution", please.


4. Mars is very red
It's also growing cold
Someday you might visit Mars
if you are really bold


5. Great Jupiter is big
We've studied it a lot
We found that it has fourteen moons
and a big red spot


6. Saturn has great rings
We wondered what they were
Now we know they're ice rocks
Which we saw as a blur


7. Uranus and Neptune
We don't know much about
Maybe you will study them
and then we'll all find out


8. Pluto's last in line
It's farthest from the sun
It's small and cold and icy too,
to land there won't be fun.


Tune: The Farmer in the Dell

From: "Exploring The Planets" exhibit,
Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.

(I wish there were a date printed on the page, but it is clearly typed up on a typewriter, and the paper is all yellowed.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Just Another Day

One night at dinner Devin was discussing his research.  I consider myself a fairly intelligent person with some skill at maintaining basic conversation but I will admit that sometimes when he gets particularly science-y, it's hard for all of us at the table to stay focused.  We try so hard though.

This night in particular, Heather was struggling.  She said in a low voice to me, "What is he even talking about?"

I caught Devin's eye as I responded, "He is telling us about something exciting that happened at work today."

Then I noticed the four blank little faces staring at me from their various positions around the table, and knowing that we would lose all four of them soon, I said, "Listen carefully, he is talking about Shopkins!"

(We don't actually own any Shopkins, so I'm not sure why this was the choice of toy that my brain came up with, but from the looks on their faces, it was going to work.)

Having satisfied them into silence again, and after watching their heads swivel back toward Devin, they seemed ready to give him another shot at being interesting.

Devin resumed his science talk.

A few minutes later a frustrated Hanna interrupted him.  "This doesn't sound anything like Shopkins."

These girls are never going to have to study for any chemistry test, ever, if they digest the words their daddy says at the dinner table.

If only.


One day, Hanna was telling me about her day, and a friend at school that she likes to talk to at recess.

"What do you guys talk about?"  I asked her, because I am really good at this mom thing.

"Um..."  she hesitated, thinking it over.  I tried to prompt her, "sunshine and flowers?" I suggested.

There was no response.  I waited for a moment, then tried again.  "Which boy is the cutest?"

This time the reaction was swift and severe.  Immediate shrieks and giggles broke out in the backseat.

I gave it my best interpretation and concluded, "So... you guys don't talk about boys?"

Hanna put on a very serious face, and used her strongest I'm A Big Kid voice.  "Mom, dad is the cutest boy for you!"  Each word was emphatically stated to remind me of this Very Important Truth.

"Oh, sure I know that." I reassured her.  "Daddy is definitely my favorite cute boy.  But, what do you think about boys?"

"Mom," she began, her voice clearly showing evidence of the strain it was for her to remain patient with me as she tried to explain.  "Cute boys are for falling in love."

"Hm, yes." I agreed, as she continued.

"And so!" her words were crisp and clear, she was not risking me getting confused again about this topic.  "if we talk about cute boys too much then we might think we are in love with them.  AND I," each word was now punctuated with importance, and my mom ears were perked and ready, "am. not. ready. for THAT. yet!"

I kind of wanted to give that speech a standing ovation.  "You are so right about that! Plenty of time."

My prayers were extra grateful that night.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

To Africa

Sometimes the world is tiny
as a hand
wrapped around a finger
and sometimes vast
as oceans, stars, and words
left unsaid: unspoken - unheard.
Hugging you now
I am caught
somewhere in between.
Squeezing you tightly
is never tight enough
to let you know
how much of my world you fill.
And holding you close
the clock is already
pulling you away
from me.
I do not know how
to let go
of you.
So I whisper
"I love you"
one more time.
But it cannot be said
Cannot be heard
In all the ways
I mean it.
It is that distance
between hearing and meaning
that crushes me
almost more than
the newly incomprehensible
distance of oceans
I love you - do you hear it
I love you - can you know it?
(Whatever you need from my love,
take it.
Strength, support, serenity.
It is yours on this adventure.)
I hold you tight
One last time
Then breathing slow
I somehow let go.

All their bags are packed, they're ready to go.

I feel really grateful to have had this summer full of memories with her.  Can't wait to visit her in Africa and make more.