It’s not a Southern party unless you’ve got …

Here in the South, we are in the middle of that lovely season when every day week DSCN3432there’s a tea or reception or shower or some other similar gathering where you show up and bless everybody’s hearts profusely and come away with 1) a new egg salad recipe, 2) details from Person A on where she bought those adorable shoes and 3) details from Person B on what Person A did after she bought those adorable shoes and who she did it with. And there are at least two food items that MUST be present to make it an official DSCN3435Southern party. Both of those items are in this photo. Southerners were raised on
these two items; non-Southerners have never heard of them and don’t really understand them. Can you spot them in this photo? Bonus points if you can name the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, party classic that is not present in this photo but no Muscle Shoals tea/shower/reception is complete without. The flower arrangement is essential Southerness, too. Sadly, my mother did not bestow upon me the love-of-gardening gene and all I know is that this arrangement has some green leaves and pretty flowers and looks really nice? On the other hand, I can tell you every single detail about every single food item on that table. Priorities! But also possibly the reason my jeans seem to have a little trouble zipping up lately. Sigh.

So you won’t have to …

You’re probably like me and have stood at Wal-Mart’s self-checkout registers of doom & wondered how much rotisserie-chicken juice you’d have to spill on the scanner  to short it out and bring Wal-Mart commerce to a greasy halt.  Well, stop wondering because I have the answer: More than you think. Aren’t you relieved? I’ll retrace my steps so you can replicate this experiment to test for consistent results, although I discourage tempting Wal-Mart karma.

Here’s what happened: Recently I offered to bring supper to Older Daughter & my three grandsons. By “bring,” I mean “choose from various takeout options” because sadly I am not the sort of mom/grandma who has tasty dinner items in her kitchen unless you count half-empty -full bottles of wine. Older Daughter had a sinus headache and wasn’t hungry so no vegetarian option needed. This pointed to a run to Little Wal-Mart* for the rotisserie chicken that the 7-year-old & 3-year-old grandsons like and the 8-month-old grandson eyes with increasing optimism. Also a good choice because son-in-law was working late and he could eat when he got home. A vital detail here is that I was wearing my new long pendant necklace that has had several charms dangling from the bottom, such as an elephant & an old-fashioned long and skinny key**.

So I go to Little Wal-Mart, feeling cute & stylish in my elephant-and-key necklace PLUS feeling pat-myself-on-the-back good for helping Older Daughter. I grab the warm chicken, packaged in one of those two-part plastic containers, as well as King’s Hawaiian rolls, chocolate soy milk and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. As I put the container of warm & juicy chicken in my cart, I notice the plastic lid seems precarious. This is when any normal non-cute-necklace-wearing person would Take Some Action. Not me. Instead, I was thinking about how much I liked my new necklace & maybe I should get the one with penguins, too. There wasn’t room for, you know, logical & productive thoughts.

And then next, like a blurry slow-motion explosion that cannot be stopped, comes my arrival at the self-checkout register, my one-handed removal of the chicken from my cart, the unwieldiness of the plastic container, my instinctive reaction to set it down quickly and the inevitable upside-down dropage of said container. Then chicken juice. Everywhere. The mist cleared and time returned to normal and I expected alarms & flashing red lights, but nothing happened. Nothing. Crickets chirping. Nobody was in line behind me and the employee at the self-checkout desk was staring intently at nothing or maybe at the produce section to her right. Difficult to tell. After a minute or so of considering options — Leave quietly? Pretend chicken juice was covering the register when I arrived? — I got her attention. “I dropped something,” I said as she walked over. “Hmm,” she said. “Yes. I see.” She brought paper towels & a spray bottle and began expertly dismantling the now-chickeny register. This was when my Southerness kicked in because of course you’re not going to stand there while somebody else is cleaning up a mess YOU made. That’s akin to putting grapes in your chicken salad — not going to happen. So I leaned over with a paper towel and started wiping my side of the register, stretching to reach the far corners, at the exact moment she dropped the scanner’s glass cover back into place and caught the long skinny key of my adorable new necklace underneath. Thoughts of Isadora Duncan‘s demise via a similar fashion mistake briefly put me in panic mode — although greasy chicken juice and a Wal-Mart register isn’t as glamorous as a long silk scarf and sports car — but she quickly raised the cover and freed me. The key charm was slightly mangled and the elephant slightly dented but the chicken miraculously was fine except for significantly less juice. Which probably was a good thing. You’re welcome.

* Little Wal-Mart — This is what Middle Grandson calls Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets.

** Elephant-and-key necklace — Why are elephant and key charms together on a necklace? All I can think of is “The Secret Garden,” one of my favorite childhood books because who among us doesn’t believe she has a rich & mysterious uncle on an English estate with a long-hidden secret? The fact that my only uncle was a high-school teacher in California did not dampen my dreams.

An eggs-cellent adventure

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Spring breezed through the kitchen today when husband John Pitts politely wondered if perhaps I might possibly scramble him some eggs to fortify him for his wintry trek to work this morning. (I actually cook — I mean turn-the-oven-on-and-cause-pots-and-pans-to-become-dirty cook — about once a week and he’s always careful to use this one opportunity thoughtfully.) He had told me a couple of days earlier that he had brought some farm-fresh eggs home from his office and, as with most cooking-related topics, I nodded and said “Oh, that’s nice” while at the same time wondering if I could sneak yet another Amazon box past him and if it was Annalise or Frank (or maybe BOTH of them???) who killed Rebecca. You know — important stuff. But this morning, with ice creaking outside and gray snowy light filtering in and SCHOOL CANCELLED YET AGAIN, I was more than happy to do the wifely thing and cook my husband some food. And I’m glad I did, because when I opened this box of real honest-to-goodness eggs from honest-to-goodness chickens who walk around on the honest-to-goodness ground as nature intended, it was as if we time-traveled to the middle of April, with sunshine and flowers and butterflies and all things spring. Thanks, nature. We needed that.

Skirts, Birds and Open Flames

This is sort of a long story with several meandering digressions but today is a Snow/Ice/ReallyFreakin’Cold Day here in the South, so you might as well put your feet up and refresh your coffee and settle in.

First, you have to know that I love clothes. I am obsessed with fashion. This most likely is news to the people who see me every day. But even though on the outside I look like someone who barely has enough time/energy/organizational-skills to brush her hair and find shoes that match, on the inside soars the spirit of a fashionista. Or something. And this desire for style manifests itself — much to my husband’s dismay — by shopping. And by “shopping,” I mean “obsessively stalking online shopping sites for deals and bargains and pouncing on them before somebody else spies the Missoni Sport sweater for $19.99.” Oh, and buying things in actual stores, too. There’s always that. But it’s the Interwebs that are the star of this particular story.

So, I got this pretty khaki-brown pencil skirt in a box from one of the styling services I subscribe fto that seem to send me stuff for no apparent reason. (Note: Portions of this post may be edited for husband-friendly purposes.) It was cute and comfortable and different from any other of the 103 one or two pencil skirts in my closet. So I was interested. And as I looked it over, I noticed that the country-of-origin tag had these alarming words in red cautionary ink: “KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE.” Except for children’s sleepwear, which quite correctly comes with tons of warnings, I’ve never seen this suggestion on an item of clothing before. And, really, it’s not even a suggestion. More like a direct order, seems to me. Maybe that’s a China thing. I mean, the fabric is 70 percent polyester, 25 percent viscose and five percent elastane — a common enough blend that up to now never has caused me to rethink my proximity to open flames when wearing it. Obviously, I’ve been teetering on the edge of recklessness. But now I know. See, husband John Pitts — buying clothes onlline is a good thing!

But the whole “Made in China” aspect of this situation reminded me of another unsettling fashion transaction. The thing you should know first about this story is that I love birds — bird jewelry, bird designs, birds on scarves and blouses. I love birds ON THINGS. I’m not particularly fond of actual 71GkkMhLTuL._UX522_birds, for these reasons: 1) Poop. 2) If there are millions of birds flying around at any one time, where the heck are all the dead ones? WHAT DO THEY DO WITH THEM? 3) Dinosaurs — Birds evolved from dinosaurs, correct? And dinosaurs are gone but birds still are here. Again I ask, WHAT DID THEY DO WITH THEM? and, finally, 4) Alfred Hitchcock, Truth Teller. But graceful swallows on a scarf? Cute little eggs in a silver basket on a delicate necklace? A raven silhouette on a white cotton pillow? Yes, please. So, since I like bird things, in my online shopping forays I usually hunt for clothes with birds. Now, I am judicious and I don’t go overboard and I do have maybe some level of taste. No parrots, for example. But when I spied this lovely blouse for practically nothing, I couldn’t hit “Buy immediately” fast enough. I didn’t recognize the brand name and there seemed to be not much information about it, but for the pennies it cost — PENNIES! — I wasn’t worried. And I sort of forgot about it, to tell the truth. I had so totally forgotten about it that when a small package arrived at our door close to three months later, covered with official Chinese labels and custom stamps and notifications, I was puzzled. But pleased to see my bird blouse, as cute as anticipated. However, as I inspected it further, I noticed that there was no tag. Of any kind. Zero. Nothing at all. Again (see “Keep Away From Fire” story above), I’d never seen a piece of clothing without a tag. And, as I inspected the package the blouse had come in, I realized I’d never gotten anything that was shipped so completely Chinese and non-English. I started to get uneasy. I started running through friends who read Chinese and work in Huntsville “for the military” in offices you can’t get to, “translating news releases and children’s stories.” I started to imagine Homeland Security or the CIA or B613 getting a Google alert: “Suspicious Chinese interaction in small northeast Mississippi town.” Yikes. With uncharacteristic haste, I got rid of the incriminating evidence (the packaging, of course) and tried to act normal — not like someone who had received a possibly illegal bird blouse from one of the world’s super powers.

So, how’s your day going?