Is it fall? Is it summer? Let’s examine the evidence. First, it’s after Labor Day and students of all ages are back in school. Score one for fall. However, second, it’s still danged hot outside, and Boot Day — that first wonderful crisp and chilly morning when you can wear those cool new boots you snagged for 75 percent off this past April — seems like weeks away. So, a point for summer. We’re tied at one-one. Are Halloween decorations in local stores? Fall. Are people still swimming in their outdoor pools? Summer. It’s two-all. Football? Fall. Baseball? Summer. Three-three. Even produce markets seem confused, giving us juicy and sweet watermelons along with plump orange pumpkins & marigolds along with impatiens. Conclusion: Here in the mid-South, September is the month with an identity crisis combined with minor climate disorder. September needs a good counselor. And a meds refill.
... for your Fourth of July celebration, because what's more convenient than being able to buy your fireworks and your liquour at the same time and in the same place? (Special thanks to favorite nephew Sam for help with the secret journalism photography.)
I always forget that people come from all over the world to our little corner of northwest Alabama to see Helen Keller’s birthplace, Ivy Green, in Tuscumbia. I drive past the historic site practically every day and love seeing school buses and tour buses and license tags from All Those Other Places That Are Not Alabama. If you’ve never been, you’ve got to schedule a visit. The birthplace is down-home and low-key and you will learn so much. Everyone’s always amazed to see how small the cabin is where Anne Sullivan took her wild-child charge for some intense one-on-one training — and how close the building is to the Keller’s actual house. And the famous water pump is there, too. Now is a good time to come. It’s the Helen Keller Festival, a week of music, art, history, Southern culture and deaf/blind awareness. You also can watch an outdoor performance of “The Miracle Worker” on the Ivy Green grounds — essentially watching the story unfold on the very spot where it happened. Learn more at http://www.helenkellerfestival.com and http://www.helenkellerbirthplace.org/. And while you’re there, be sure to wander around downtown Tuscumbia. You’ll find a cozy local bookstore with real nooks and crannies and comfortable reading spots, a chic women’s boutique, an authentic drugstore where you can get actual old-fashioned milkshakes and malts and my favorite spot of all: A prom- and wedding-dress shop smack dab next to a feed store. I didn’t realize how incongruous this was until one day I saw some Folks Not From Around Here taking a photo. I personally don’t see anything weird about it, but then I’m someone who knows that when you order “tea” in a restaurant, it’s supposed to come in a long tall icy glass and be sweet enough that the spoon stands by itself. So there you go.
I love craft shows! I think it goes back to when I was young in the 1960s and ’70s and my folks would take my brother and me to every arts/crafts festival within miles. That’s where I learned to value handmade — and I still have some of the pieces I bought then with my carefully saved allowance. This weekend, the Helen Keller Festival of the Arts is part of a weeklong celebration of Tuscumbia, Alabama’s most famous native daughter. It wraps up today at Spring Park, and if you’re within miles you should come over and check it out. There’s wonderful pottery, artwork and jewelry, plus food, music and fun throughout the park. Admission to the craft festival is free. Don’t forget to walk up the hill to downtown Tuscumbia and visit Cold Water Books, the local gathering spot where you can get an iced coffee, Helen Keller books you can’t find anywhere else … and a bathroom. Find out more about the Helen Keller Festival at http://www.helenkellerfestival.com/
With a day-long break in the rain that's been attacking north Alabama for the past two weeks, it was dry enough to get some strawberries today. This bowlful smelled so fresh and sweet it was as if summer came to my kitchen.
You know how this past summer the new recipe that everybody was talking about was Southern Living’s Tomato and Watermelon Salad? Well, that was the big news here in Alabama, anyway. It sounded so weird but tasted so good and after all, what can be better for you than fresh and just-picked juicy watermelons and tomatoes? Here at our house we made up a batch twice a week and practically lived on it all summer — it was that good. So, in the spirit of honoring instant classics, I’ve found the latest New Recipe that’s going to be the hit of the season. Are you ready? It’s Avocado and Grapefruit Salad! I’m serious. This is so incredibly yummy and simple to put together that I can already predict it’s going to be another must-have summer hit, along with bright yellow purses, khaki Bermuda shorts and adding a fresh lime slice to your New Age wine over ice. I first tasted this salad when my friend Sherry Campbell, the director of the Shoals Culinary Complex, an incubator for small culinary businesses, in Florence, Alabama (http://www.shoalsec.com/), included it in a cooking class she taught recently. As soon as she said “avocados and grapefruit,” everybody sort of went “Huh?” But I promise you, you will love this salad and your friends will call you a culinary trendsetter and eagerly await invitations to your summer cookouts.
Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
Peel and trim the pith from four Ruby Red grapefruits. Working over a bowl, cut segments free of the membranes and let segments drop into bowl. Squeeze all juice from the membranes into the bowl. Refrigerate up to two hours. Immediately before serving, cut two Hass avocados in half. Slice each half lengthwise into six thin slices. Drain grapefruit and reserve juice. Add avocado to grapefruit segments along with 2/3 cup pitted oil-cured olives and juice of one lime. Toss gently to mix, adding about 1/4 cup olive oil just to coat the avocados. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Optionally, add some of the reserved grapefruit juice.
The flowers at left are beautiful and lush and healthy and make me happy every time I look at them. The “flowers” (and I use that term loosely) on the right are spindly and leggy and not doing well at all and make me cringe every time I have to look their way. So guess which flowers are smack dab in the front yard for all the world to see and which ones are hidden in a corner of the backyard where nobody goes? This is why I’m a weeder, not a gardener.