Thanksgiving Dinner — or Why I’m Glad We’re Honorary Behels

I’m not going to embarrass myself by telling you how many of these desserts I sampled at Thanksgiving dinner, but let’s just say I can tell you without a doubt that every one of these yummy pies and cakes and cookies and trifles was absolutely delicious. My daughter’s in-laws always have a big Behel-family feast — and luckily they consider my husband and me as family. My daughter’s mother-in-law made the chess and pumpkin pies from her grandmother’s recipes and her brother-in-law’s wife made the dark chocolate and buttercream cupcakes. As you can imagine, my husband and I started out sharing a plate of dessert goodies but quickly realized that we each needed our own. And there was my husband’s favorite: Green bean casserole. And my daughter’s famous corn casserole. And Paula Deen’s broccoli casserole. And light and soft homemade rolls. And now I’m making myself hungry all over again.

We’re still unpacking and settling in to our new house. And that’s good, because I’ve wrung two newspaper columns out of the experience and I’ve got a couple more percolating. When that last box is empty, I’m not sure what I’m going to write about. Maybe that’s why I keep putting off tackling all those boxes in the garage.

I Cooked Supper Twice! Now What?

I know! Shocking, isn’t it? But it’s true: Now that my husband and I are in a house together after five years of having a commuter marriage, I actually truly really cook supper for him. This mainly is for my mother, who was properly skeptical as I heaped praise on the possibilities of our new kitchen in our new house — “But don’t y’all usually go out to eat?” she said, puzzled about why I would care about granite countertops and tons of cabinet space. But Husband and I made it a goal to cook and eat supper at home at least one night a week. Baby steps, you know! And here’s the proof. The photo on the left documents our first meal in Week No. 1: Sweet potato fries and sautéed vegetables straight from Jack-O-Lantern Farms market in Muscle Shoals with slices of Niedlov’s bread from EarthFare grocery in Chattanooga and some seasonal Samuel Adams. The photo on the right is from Week No. 2 — roasted vegetables from the JOL market with grilled Dubliner cheese-on-pumpernickel sandwiches and a bottle of Ravenswood. And that, folks, pretty much depletes my repertoire of cooking supper. Sad, isn’t it? Not sure what I’ll come up with for Week No. 3. But promising to post it here will motivate me to do something besides fall back on my childhood tuna-fish casserole, so stay tuned. Also, you can see that the boxes behind my husband haven’t moved from Week No. 1 to Week No. 2. Hey — I was busy cooking supper!

Why I’m A Proud Mom

Y’all have got to read my younger daughter’s newspaper column that was in the TimesDaily, Florence, Ala., this past Friday. She wrote about moving from our house of the past 15 years, and how the house had taught her to embrace a spirit of adventure. She is awesome like that. My older daughter is awesome like that, too. How did I get so lucky? Still not lucky enough to have the Interwebs at our new house, but lucky enough to have awesome children. And we did get TV yesterday, so things are looking up.

Moving Day

I am so embarrassed to show y’all this, but we’re all friends here in the blogosphere and I know you won’t hold this against me even though I cringe every time I look at this picture and think about all the stuff we accummulated through the years that now is going to end up in a landfill. After 15 years of living in this house and raising two daughters and four cats here and then getting married to my college sweetheart who so graciously and patiently tried to fit himself in a house that never really was his, we have moved. One of the biggest parts of getting ready for the move was decluttering and cleaning out. And everytime I thought I had done that sufficiently, more stuff somehow magically appeared. Such as this pile we pulled out of the Scary Spider/Stink Room. I promise you that all this — and more — was stuffed into an under-the-stairs basement storage area. And it all had great meaning and value at one time, such as my daughters’ Sesame Street and Pound Puppies sleeping bags, which kept them safe and warm through many evenings of cuddles and TV watching. But they’re 26 and 24 now and really don’t need their old Sesame Street and Pound Puppies sleeping bags. The memories — and photos — are enough. I hate adding to the world’s trash load, but maybe somebody came by and at least rescued the sleeping bags from the curb before the trash truck came by. I only hope the rescuers washed the bags very very well in steaming hot water first. And as you can see, even with all our decleuttering, we still managed to fill a moving truck with Essential Items We Can’t Live Without. I shudder to think how many trucks we would have needed if it weren’t for the three yard sales and numerous clean-out campaigns we waged during the year our house was on the market. Jeremy — our moving guy in the photo top right — would not be smiling in that case.

And speaking of moving, Older Daughter graciously took over my newspaper column this week to give me an unpacking break. She is an awesome writer and did an homage to this house she grew up in as a farewell/break-up letter. Brilliant!

How To Move, or Has Anybody Seen My Mixer?

What I’ve learned about moving:

1) You must have friends who will help you. You cannot do this by yourself. And I’m not talking about the help you needed when you moved in your 20s and you rounded up your brother and his friends and other random males and fed them beer and pizza to move your couch. We’re way beyond that at this point. Because even though my husband and I are now mature grownups who can pay the professionals (who are still 20-something-year-old males, by the way) to do the heavy lifting, you still need friends. Friends to tell you to ditch the box of cross-stitch patterns you’ve carted around for years because you WILL do them someday. Friends to make you face up to the fact that you have eight wooden toast tongs, three cheese graters and a whole drawer full of kitchen gadgets you cannot identify. Friends who make you question if you’ll ever really wear that silver lame dress. If you don’t have friends like that, get some before you move. You’re welcome.

2) You must have a husband who is kind and patient and understanding, even when the contents of the storage pod everybody forgot about are unloaded in your new garage and you’re left with 25 — count ’em, 25 — plastic boxes of undetermined origin. You need a husband who simply sighs and smiles and clears out some more space. If you don’t ‘have a husband like that, get one before you move. You’re doubly welcome.

3) And, finally, you must have a sense of humor, a tendency toward flexibility and an unflappable sense of balance that is not thrown off when you can’t find your earrings, your hair dryer, any matching pair of shoes or your big Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I can understand how the earrings and hair dryer and shoes might be lurking in boxes somewhere, but I’m really baffled by the disappearance of the mixer. Stay tuned …

How To (Not) Write A Blog Post

Let’s just say, for instance, that you’re in the midst of decluttering and packing up your house of 15 years to move to a new house about half the size. And let’s just say, for instance, that you’re also trying to get your normal jobs done and sneakily trick impress the people who sign your paychecks by making them think you’re organized and responsible and can handle moving and writing a food story about pumpkins-as-ingredients  and your weekly newspaper column at the same time. And let’s just say that you’re also trying to do your normal life things and keep up with friends and family and the cat-feeding schedule while you’re rationing boxes and figuring out if you need packing tape or sealing tape. But, despite all that, you still want to write a thoughtful blog post. What do you do? Recycle! Point your readers to other things you recently have written but they may not have seen. They won’t notice it’s second-hand material and they’ll be awed by your juggling skills and entertained by your mindless babbling well-reasoned insights. Not that I would ever do anything like that. I’m just saying.

A Blue-Ribbon Effort, or Why Was Your 1994 Soccer Team Named ‘The SandSharks’?

Thank you all for wondering where I’ve been the past few days. I think this photo says it all, and here are some clues: I’ve been collecting boxes and saving newspapers from the recycling bin. I’ve been comparing prices on new refrigerators. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s really up in the attic and is it worth bringing down. And I’ve been wandering through more than two decades of family memories. Yup, you guessed it. My husband and I are packing up and moving out. After having our house on the market for one year — that’s ONE FREAKIN’ WHOLE YEAR, people! — our always patient and optimistic Realtor has found the perfect family for it, and we’re outta here.  But as I keep telling folks, we’re not really moving away. We’re just sort of transferring our stuff a little bit down the road. We’re downsizing to a cute new house that’s an easy commute for both my husband and I — we don’t even have to get new library cards, so that’s a good thing. But we do have to go through all the Very Important Things we’ve accumulated through the years. And we’ve accumulated a lot. I mean, I’ve been decluttering and throwing away and simplifying for months now, and we’re still uncovering hidden treasures. Such as my two now-20-something-year-old daughters’ sports ribbons and trophies. I can’t throw them away. You can’t recycle trophies (I’ve tried). My daughters don’t really have space for them but don’t want to get rid of them. So they chose a few memorable ones (you know — pardon me while I brag here — record-breakers, high-point winners, first places) and we boxed up the rest and designated them as “Keepers.” So let this serve as a cautionary tale for all you young parents out there who are so proud of the trophies and plaques and ribbons and medals your children are starting to bring home. Warning, warning! You’re going to have to deal with them all someday. Don’t think you can just put them under the bed and be done with them. Oh, no! In fact, I think they multiply while we’re not looking.

Of Closets and Purses

Yup, this is a car full of clothes. And while it’s my car, they are not my clothes. A couple of us helped a friend moved this past weekend. “All I’ll have to do is some cleaning and move some things out of the closets,” she said. And we said, “Sure, we can handle that. No problem.” I volunteered for the closet transport, but that was before I remembered that my friend LOVES clothes and LOVES shopping and has the wardrobe to prove it. Yikes! Younger Daughter was around to help with the first closet of winter clothes in my friend’s spare bedroom, which only filled my back seat. This is the contents of my friend’s double closet that held her spring and summer things, which you know here in the South accounts for 75 percent of what we wear. “You’re not going to put this on your blog, are you?” my friend asked, nervously. “And when you do, just don’t say my name.” But, honestly, I was impressed with how organized and efficient her closet system was. I tried to duplicate that as I filled up the closets in her new house, but I’m afraid she’s going to have to redo.

And if she had known how big a slob I actually am, she may not have entrusted her closets to me.  I’ve learned how to disguise my tendency toward total chaos and yuckiness, but my husband could certainly tell her.  As a journalist, however, I’ve pledged to tell only the truth. So I revealed all my disgusting habits — well, some, anyway — in my weekly newspaper column at Read it at your own peril.


Moving out of dorm roomIf you’ve got a college student, you immediately recognize this scene: Moving out of the dormMoving out of the dorm room. Seems as if this weekend everybody’s doing it. Including us. My younger daughter had lived in this room on campus for two years — and I think she’ll admit that she’s not the most organized of housekeepers. This is the girl to whom the floor is New apartmentmerely another place to store clothes. (Plus, her room inspections are the only tests in college she’s ever failed — but you didn’t hear that from me.)  Luckily she didn’t wait for the last minute to get started. Her advance efforts plus helpful friends turned a monumental job into a doable project. It only took four carloads to empty the room — plus three bags of trash, five bags of recyclables and several items donated to charity — and only one day and a few aspirin for me to recover. And the cool part? She moved into an off-campus apartment in an older house that is so cute and in a fun and funky part of town. Well, it really is more like a studio apartment with a tiny kitchen and bathroom attached, but we love with the fireplace, the hardwood floor and the black-and-white tiles. And I promise that this photo was taken immediately after moving in and it will never ever look this way again.