Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No snow in Rochester during March!

Amazing! During the entire month of March, Rochester had no snow! Unusual, for sure. And this weekend, we are expecting temmperatures in the 80's. Bring on summer!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

More pictures from my vacation

Don't say anything bad about the Florida Gators in front of this guy!

Me and Big Al!

Here are "most of us"! These are my cousins and aunt - all that I grew up with, along with Bruce's two daughters and Sandy (next to Aunt Ileen in the back)who is a friend of the family. Oh, and Kip, Rita's husband in front with the green shirt. . . the one that makes those delicious biscuits!!!

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Regular readers will recall me raving about Kip's wonderful Southern Buttermilk Biscuits in a recent post. This morning I tried my luck at duplicating his biscuits.

Kip will tell you "there is no recipe"! The ingredients are whole buttermilk, self-rising flour, and he uses Crisco, I used real butter. I started with 2 cups of flour, one stick of softened butter, and between 3/4 and a cup of "low fat" buttermilk. Knead the dough with your hands until you get it to the right consistency. Then I formed a ball of dough in my hands and placed it in a pre-heated, buttered cast iron skillet.

I then baked them for about 15 to 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. (You Australians will have to figure out the celcius version! I'm no good at that one!)

They didn't brown as much as I'd like, but MAN! were they delicious. I probably should have baked them at a higher temperature.

Friday, March 26, 2010

More on my trip South

Where do I begin? There are so many highlights of my trip to visit with my cousins, I didn't even scratch the surface in my last post.

I am just so grateful that my cousins - Bruce, Richard, Debbie, Rita, Pam, Kenny - and I could get together again and that after so many years apart, we picked up right where we left off as kids. We are all different in so many ways yet so much alike.

On this trip, Bruce brought his two youngest daughters, Ashley and Lindsey. Gosh, I haven't seen them since they were toddlers and now they are in their twenties. And there was Aunt Ileen. Eighty-eight years old and still as active as any person half her age. Did I tell you she recently won $100 in a contest dancing on a bar??? She really did. . . beat out an 18 year old! No kidding.

On the two day drive down last week, I laughed most of the way, thinking about the different personalities and the good times I knew I was going to have! There is Kenny. Oh, my God! Kenny is just like his dad, Uncle Harding, who passed away a few years back. Kenny is a born comedian. He and I share a love of guns and target shooting. Friday, when I arrived, we decided to go over to our land and do some target shooting, since we were expecting a crowd on Saturday and didn't want to be shooting guns with people running around. When I would aim my gun at the target, he'd say something funny just as I was about to pull the trigger to keep me from hitting the cross hairs. That's okay. I managed to con him into cleaning my guns for me!

I spent time laying in my lounge chair that day, looking up at the tall Southern pines swaying in the breeze. It was such a peaceful setting, being on land that my dad and his siblings played and worked on as children. My grandfather was once a prosperous cotton farmer on this land.

After a long and fun-filled day at the lake, we packed up all our gear. Some of us went to Rita's in-laws' vacation home on a huge lake just like we did last year. Now that was really fun!

Football is a religion down South and my family is no different. For decades, I have been a rabid fan of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide - they won the National Championship this year, you know! My other cousins - Kenny, Pam, Bruce, Richard - are all strong University of Florida fans. Now Rita just loves to poke fun at people. When we arrived at the home on the lake, Rita arranged for "Big Al" to greet us. Big Al is the University of Alabama elephant mascot. Big Al stood easily 8 feet tall and was held up by a motor pumping air into his gargantuan body! It was too funny.

Sunday morning was a real comedy. Rita prepared a wonderful breakfast casserole, Kip, her husband, made absolutely, totally, without-a-doubt, the most delicious Southern Buttermilk Biscuits I have ever tasted! The conversation at the breakfast table that morning was lively, to put it mildly! After many laughs, Rita said, "I must remind you that "somebody" at this table has a blog so I would be careful what I say around "somebody"!!!

Yes, it was tons of fun and we are all looking forward to getting together again next year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm back!

What a wonderful vacation I had this past week. Last Thursday and Friday, I drove 1000+ miles (12 hours one day and 9 hours the next!) to get to Greenville, Alabama to meet up with my cousins, who drove in from Jacksonville, Florida and Pensacola, Florida and Andalusia, Alabama. Last year we had a reunion on our family property in rural Butler County, Alabama. It was so much fun, we decided to do it again this year.

First, a short word of explanation. This is property that has been in my father's family since it was deeded from the US Government way back in the 1800's. In the mid-1960's, my father and his siblings built a lake on the property from two natural springs. In the 60's and early 70's my family (cousins, aunts, uncles, and even Granny and Popa, before they died) used to spend a lot of time there. Then, as the years went by and the cousins spread here and there, the land didn't get much use.

My father died 7 years ago and at his memorial service, I saw many of my cousins for the first time in decades. You see, I moved up north in the early 70s and just kind of lost touch with many of my relatives. Amazingly, we picked up right where we left off as kids.

We have looked forward all year to getting back this year. I brought my biggest camp dutch oven and cooked a large pot roast with potatoes and carrots for 15 people (13 that I was planning on and 2 more that showed up unexpectedly!)

In this photo, you see us all starting out on a walk around the property, and there are acres of it! I went as far as the swampy area on the far side of the dam. That's where the rest started out across a log in the middle of "muck"! I decided I didn't want to chance falling in that stuff. . . and besides, I had things in my pockets that I didn't want sunk in "muck"!!!! So I came back to where we had set up camp for the day, sat in my comfy folding chair complete with a footrest and took a short nap!

Here is a picture of the lake looking north from the dam. Pretty, huh?
There is so much to tell about this day. It was really special. My Aunt Hazel, who is in very bad health, and whose days on this earth are numbered, came. We were amazed. But she wanted to be there. So my cousins, her children, rented a van, folded down one seat, and made a bed for her so that she could come and be there with us.
I'll tell more and show more pictures in later posts.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My favorite time of day

It is early morning, not quite 6:00 am. This is my favorite time of day. This is my time away from the rat race of the world, the office politics, all the things that clutter my mind and my soul. I spend the first hour or more of my day in peace, drinking my coffee, taking up time with Molly, my Black Lab, and telling God what he needs to do for me today.

Sometimes I scour the internet. I check the news sites and the numerous blogs that I follow. But mostly I just sit quietly with Molly nearby. In warm weather, I often go for an early morning walk with Molly, taking in the new day as the sun begins to rise.

This morning my inbox had an e-mail titled, "Finally, some new Maxines". I love Maxine. If you've never been fortunate to get Maxine cartoons in your inbox, you have my sympathy. Maxine tells it like it really is. . . not the politically correct version.

This week my thoughts are on my upcoming vacation just a day or two away. I considered getting a wireless card to take my laptop with me to keep up with what's going on in the world while I'm away. I decided against that. I need time away from the everyday world. Obama and his dysfunctional gang are not what I need on vacation. What's going on in my workplace is not what I need on vacation.

I have an impossible amount of work in the office to get through before my vacation begins, made even more challenging by the office mindset of constantly changing priorities and options. Somehow I will accomplish it. But when my vacation starts, then it's time for ME.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's Spring!!!

Late yesterday afternoon, I noticed my Lilac bushes out back have buds on them. This morning I found my early crocus plants had poked through the ground. YES!!!

Now I am not naive enough to think all the snow and cold is gone. . . having lived here for 36 years, I know better! But it is nice to know Spring is on the way and hopefully, the worst of our bitter winter is over.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jury Duty

I arrived at the Hall of Justice in downtown Rochester about 7:30 am this morning. My instructions were to report to the Central Jury Room no later than 8:15 am and to keep in mind it could take as much as a half hour to get through the security check. After being herded through security like a bunch of cattle, we were taken to a large room and there we sat for close to half an hour. Next we were taken to the Central Jury Room, shown a video telling us what good people we were to serve as jurors. . . like we had a choice!

It appeared things would move quickly. At 9:00 am we were told we would begin going to our assigned judge and courtroom for jury selection. For three of the four groups we were divided into, that is what happened. My group of 50 people were told it would be a bit longer for us. Okay, so I hurried to the restroom while I still had time. People were making small talk conversations with each other. Not being one for small talk, I pulled out my book and began reading. After about 20 pages, I glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was nearly 10:30.

"It will be just a bit longer," we were told.

Another 45 minutes went by and the announcement came that they weren't sure what the hold up was.

By this time people were growing weary of just sitting. While I was enjoying the novel I was reading, I wanted out of there. I was being held against my will, like everyone else.

Finally word came that the case we would have been assigned to was settled by a plea bargain and we were free to go. It was still early enough, I thought, that I could go to work for the rest of the afternoon. But that was before I saw the endless line of cars waiting to get out of the parking garage as I walked to my car.

I'm not sure which would have been less desireable, sitting all day waiting, or actually being assigned to a court case and having to listen to unpleasant details of a criminal case.

But it is all behind me now and I am immune to further jury duty for another 8 years!!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A new houseplant

The spider plant that used to hang here in my bathroom started looking droopy and nothing I could do seemed to bring it back to its original vitality. So last night I found this pothos plant in Lowes and decided to give it a new home. This morning I went poking through the shed out back and found an unused pot to put it in.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Vacation Plans

It struck me as funny. Over a several day period at work this week, different people around me were talking about their vacation plans.

One young woman and her significant other are going on a cruise. Someone else just returned from India, a half work/half vacation trip. I overheard another conversation about going to the beach in Florida. The Director of the group I am in is going to St. Baart’s in the Carribbean. And where am I going??? To a big plot of land in the backwoods of Alabama. . . a place that looks much the same as it has for the last 100 years or more. . .and my day there will be as much fun as any expensive luxury vacation!

It will be just a day of getting together once again with cousins from my father’s side of the family. When the day is over, some of us will go to a house on the lake, about an hour’s drive away for a day or two of riding in the boat or just sitting on the massive deck, watching the world go by! The home is a vacation home owned by my cousin’s in-laws. I will sit on the deck in the morning with my coffee, taking in the early morning sounds of birds and the water brushing against the shore or an occasional boat going by. No work schedules, no demands on my time.

Sure, big luxury vacations are fun. Later in the summer, I have planned a bike tour of Quebec province in Canada. But there is a lot to be gained from an unpretentious break from the rat race world.