Posts Tagged ‘football’

There are many things that make the South charming and endearing.  When I started writing this post, I forgot I did a similar ode to the south almost three years ago. I found it after I finished the draft and compared them.  Some of these are similar, but most are additional things that I find particularly wonderful about my adopted region:

  1. My hairdresser’s salon is attached to her house. I can show up in sweats without  a stitch of makeup, and there’s no judgment. Occasionally I bump into other mutual friends. (It does bear more than a passing resemblence to Truvy’s Beauty Spot.)14864.10.570.359
  2. You can drive down a city street and see a subdivision with huge homes on one side and corn and cotton fields on the other.
  3. Short winters and long summers. Spring and fall are optional some years.
  4. We do sports. I saw this sign recently and I had to chuckle. No surprise it’s made by someone in Smithville, just a few miles away.il_570xN.467823452_ccv0
  5. People pull over for funeral processions. No matter how busy you are or where you’re going, you’ve got a minute to pull over and pay your respects and ponder your own mortality for a moment.
  6. Exploring the nooks and crannies in towns with two names, like Bell Buckle and Leiper’s Fork
  7. We know all about okra. And a thing or two about green tomatoes. And grits.
  8. Just when you need it, someone will hold open a door or hold your baby. Or both.
  9. No matter where you are in the south, the beach is never more than a day’s drive and often less.
  10. Southern Rock. Ever heard anyone brag about Northern Rock or Yankee Rock? Me neither.

I hope no matter where you live, that you love many things about living there. If you don’t love where you live, you might try the South. Just bring your manners and your appetite and you’ll fit right in.

Happy Monday,

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Do you like jalapeno poppers? We do.  What’s not to like? Jalapenos, cream cheese, and bacon, baked to perfection. Simple and simply good.  I know not everyone shares my love of jalapenos.  My upper GI fights back when I wolf down my favorite jalapeno-laden burger, and I pay dearly for the occasional indulgence.

Even that can’t put a permanent damper on my love of jalapenos.  But I should say my warm feelings started out less-than-warm:  in fact, until just a few years ago, I routinely picked them off our pizzas and nachos.  I liked the residual heat but not the tongue-searing encounters with those little green slices.  But over time, my heart grew fonder, and now I will fight for the last pepper on the nachos, and eat them with abandon on just about anything.

This recipe can be adjusted for your personal preferences.  If you are like the former me, you can scale back the number of peppers in this recipe, and seed them to keep it mild.  If you like it hot, the more the merrier.

First things first, I want to give credit where it’s due; I stumbled over the original recipe here.  I adapted it and served it for our football view-a-thon over the New Year’s holidays. We tackled a lot of the dish when it first came out of the oven, and then more over the next day or two.  I wish I had gotten a picture–I used my new Fiesta pie plate, since a pie wasn’t in my short-term menu plans.

So here’s my adapted version, in time for you to add it to your Super Bowl food starting lineup…it’ll be on ours.

Hot Popper Dip

4-6 fresh whole jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (I used 6 and seeded half of them before I diced them up; I’d say it was moderately spicy)
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced into 1/2 inch pieces and cooked (I microwaved it for about 3 minutes until crispy, then drained on paper towels)
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup diced green onions including tops

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup butter, melted
Dash paprika
Dash coarse-ground pepper

Heat oven to 350.  Tip:  To keep those stinging capsacins off your fingertips, use food service gloves to handle them.  Or be sure to use only one hand to touch the cut peppers. (Use the other to cut them up. This is REALLY important if you need to remove contact lenses the same day you make this dip! Ask me how I know 🙂

Combine all dip ingredients. Spray a shallow dish (Quiche pan, pie pan, 9-inch glass baking dish, etc.) with cooking spray and spread dip evenly.  Top with crackers and Parmesan cheese; drizzle with butter and sprinkle with a bit of paprika and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.  Serve warm with Ritz crackers or corn chips (Fritos or tortilla chips.) Enjoy!

This dip can also be mixed up in advance and refrigerated, then baked just before serving.  If you do that, allow your dish sit on a counter while preheating the oven to avoid putting a cold stoneware or glass dish directly from refrigerator into a hot oven.

Happy popping,

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Charleston in October

As some of my past posts hint, I love (love, love, love) South Carolina, and most especially Murrells Inlet and Charleston.  There are a few cities that have captivated my heart and spirit, mainly New Orleans and New York.  And most recently, Charleston. All three have some things in common:  they are all old cities, by American standards.  They are all large, prominent cities.  One is ultra-modern, one is a rich blend of classes and customs and cultures.  Charleston is a charming blend of old and new – Kings Street offers shopping on par with the best and funkiest boutiques in SoHo, while one block south is Meeting Street, which except for the occasional powerline and fire hydrant, might be mistaken for pre-Civil War era.

Maybe it is because it blends old with new so effortlessly.  Maybe it’s the palm trees that grace the streets without being overbearing.  Maybe it’s the walled gardens, which give you a glimpse into each resident’s tastes and gardening prowess. Maybe it’s the food, which is comfortingly familiar to my southern palate, but yet rich, decadent and unique in its own right.

Whatever “it” is, it had me at hello and hasn’t let me go.  When I visit my other favorite vacation haunts, I take my leave full and satisfied. Not so with Charleston. Every time we visit, I find new places to explore and a new litany of excuses to return.

We did not make our annual spring pilgrimage to the Low Country and I had resigned myself to skipping a year.  But Mr. Official offered a South Carolina football weekend getaway:  the only catch was hitting the road at the uncivilized hour of 3:30 on Saturday morning so we could make opening kickoff in Columbia by 11:00 a.m.  I agreed and we did.  After coming achingly close to closing the deal against USC, we wiped our eyes and drove on into Charleston.  We arrived before dark in time to discover the city damp after a day of dreary drizzle, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy.  A leisurely dinner at Cru Cafe and a stroll along East Bay Street with the winds whistling through the palms found us back at our hotel where we turned in earlier than most of the Saturday night crowd.

In the morning we found a new favorite breakfast place in Toast of Charleston. (How can you not love a place that dares to stack a poached egg on a crab cake on a fried green tomato and cover the whole mess in remoulade?)

Fortified, we wandered around the Charleston City Market where for the first time I noticed the Daughters of the Confederacy sign on the upper level:I darted into a favorite little Christmas store and picked out this year’s keepsake; a spun glass pineapple will join two other Charleston mementos on our Christmas tree this year.

After I oohed and ahhed my way through the flea market type stalls, we hopped on a carriage ride with Freddie pulling us along for an hour. It was a leisurely and lazy way to learn more about some of the grand residences on the southeastern tip of Charleston.  The rest of the afternoon was spent strolling around the streets near Battery Park, camera in hand before .  As the sun settled low in the sky, we made our way back to the hotel, soaked up a few more minutes of sunshine in the courtyard then darted to Magnolias just in time to keep our dinner reservation.  As I drifted to sleep, contentedly full of sights, sounds and savors of this wonderful city, my mind was already making plans for the next visit, which can’t happen too soon.

And can you blame me?  These snapshots are just a sampling of the pictures I captured and the sights that captivated me.  If I thought Charleston was beautiful in the spring – and it is – I know now it is equally glorious in October.

While the memories are still fresh, I think I’ll try my hand at making some tasso for hearty winter and holiday meals of shrimp and grits, jambalaya and red beans and rice.  Maybe they can keep me warm this winter, until I have a good excuse to return to this amazing and gorgeous city.

Happy Tuesday,

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Last weekend was the third Saturday in October.  For anyone who lives in my state or the one just south of here, especially those who like the color orange or crimson, we know what that means.  And statistically, it usually means a loss for us, although every once in a while we pull out a W.

Not too surprisingly, this was not a year for that.  Swimmer Girl and I had volunteered to help with a charity chili cook-off so we let Oldest Son and Mr. Official trek to Knoxville to cheer for the Big Orange.  We kept up with the score during the chili festivities, and when we got home we turned on the game to see the score as 10-3.  It was as good as it got all night.

I couldn’t bear to watch the game in real time so we opted for a movie instead and checked the score throughout.  “Easy A” was on, and I hadn’t seen it.  Its title and plot line borrow from Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Scarlet Letter.”  (There is a point to this sidebar, I promise.)

Long story short:  we lost the game.  And Vol fans are once again ready to skewer the coach.  When you’re an SEC team with a national title under your belt, you don’t take losing seasons in stride.  Heads should roll.  Tar pots and feathers should be prepared.  It’s ugly and with every loss, the rumbling becomes more ominous.

Fast forward to Sunday morning.  I stand  in my closet and contemplate my choices.  A houndstooth blouse and charcoal gray skirt catch my eye.  I throw on a dark sweater because I’m pretty sure our worship auditorium is used for a meat locker when we’re not assembled in it.  (Just kidding, but it is near-Arctic temps in there most Sundays.)

Mr. Official, who rarely comments on my outfits, took one look and raised an eyebrow and objection to  my ensemble.  It took me a few seconds to catch his drift, but I did realize I had committed a huge football fashion faux pas. No time to change, but I was sporting an orange purse and it somewhat counterbalanced the offense.

In my defense, at least I instinctively avoided a beloved crimson brocade jacket (which would have looked smashing with it, I must say.)

And that leads me back to the movie and underlying literary theme.  Seriously, ‘bama fans:  do y’all not read classic literature in your state?  Surely someone realized the potentially negative connotation of using crimson as a school color in a state whose name begins with the letter “A.”  Or maybe not, given the number of ginormous red “A’s” on the fronts of t-shirts and back windows of cars and trucks.

My flirty fashion fling with houndstooth was brought up in the adults class Mr. Official is teaching this quarter.  And all his friends – Vol and ‘Bama fans alike – made it a point to comment on my outfit – all in good fun, of course.  But I think I now know what it must have felt like to wear that scarlet letter.

Happy Monday,

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Football and sausage balls just go together, don’t they? And for Sunday’s “Big Game”… (because “Super Bowl” is now a trademarked word…)

it’s all about the snackage.  I especially like this recipe because it captures the flavor of sausage balls, but it’s less work to whip up a batch. Pull out those mini-muffin pans and get your bake on!

Sausage Muffin Bites

1/2 pound sausage (we like hot or half hot/half mild – you choose)
1 1/2 cups biscuit mix
1/2 cup shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or pepper jack work great)
1/2 cup Velveeta, coarsely chopped or use shredded
1/2 cup milk
1 scallion, diced fine (optional, but I like them for flavor and a bit of color)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease muffin pans. In a large skillet, crumble and brown sausage; drain and cool. In large bowl, combine Velveeta and milk and heat in microwave until softened. Stir to blend, then add sausage, biscuit mix and shredded cheese and scallions. (If you used mild sausage and want to add some zest, add a dash of hot sauce to taste.) Mix well but don’t over-mix. Spoon into mini muffin pans and bake for 15 minutes or until tops are lightly browned – don’t overbake. Makes 24 bite-size muffins. Best served warm.

So who are you rooting for on Sunday? Do you have a favorite team, or are you like me, and tuning in mainly for the commercials?

Happy cooking!

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Geauxxxxxxx, SEC

For Big Orange fans, it has been the winter of our discontent. (Thank you, Master Shakespeare for this and so many other apt quotes.)  We had little to cheer about during the regular season, and no post-holiday bowl games to bring us cheer.

But the BCS championship tonight means at least one SEC team will be the national champs.  And it also marks the official end of the 2011 college football season.

Finis, finale, omega, terminus, The End.

Turn the last page and close the book.  May next fall be better.

Disclaimer:  in case you don’t know us well, we are SO not Alabama fans (I prefer to think that big red “A” on the back of all those Alabama cars stands for an adjective.  One that aptly fits all those Tide fans who revel in being drunk, belligerent and obnoxious, especially on game days.  Hey, don’t act like the backside of a mule, and we won’t be reduced to thinking of you as such.)

And we’re really not fans of the Tigers either – especially after the 2010 robbery we endured at their hands. 

That said, I thought I would at least tip my figurative chef’s hat to the two teams matching up tonight.  The main dish goes to LSU with some hearty, spicy chicken and shrimp gumbo; the recipe is courtesy of one of my childhood friends.  It was at her dinner table  that I was first introduced to the wonderfulness that is gumbo, so I’m excited to try her family recipe.    To balance things, dessert is a nod to Alabama’s legendary coach, a Bear Bryant chew cake.  (I have no idea what Coach Saban likes to eat, and I highly doubt I’ll ever really care.)

I just hope that one year in the not-so-distant future we’re not sitting at home during bowl week, but instead we’re somewhere singing “Rocky Top” until we’re hoarse and cheering our boys to a bowl victory after a solid, soul-satisfying winning season.

Happy eating,

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P.S. If you’re wondering if I am still making it a point to make Sundays our day of rest, the answer is yes!  In fact, I had a long grocery and supplies list after cleaning house this past Saturday.  I was tempted to put it off and make a Sunday afternoon shopping trip, but I bit the bullet and went on  Saturday evening.  I was quickly and repeatedly reminded just how blessed I am to be able to shop during the day on weekdays.  I think 7 pm on a Saturday night is cranky time for every child being dragged around a store by an equally cranky parent.  But because I restocked the pantry when I did, our Sunday lunch was quickly put together (hot Hawaiian ham and cheese sandwiches) and Sunday evening was crockpot full of hearty loaded potato soup.  In between was time for football, a little online work, my daily Bible reading….and a nap.

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“Thanksgiving” by Norman Rockwell

I wrapped up my Thankful Thursdays series last week.  I’ll let you decide if it was intentional or a miscalculation.  (Before you decide, remember I do hold degrees in accounting and finance.  On the other hand, I’d rather balance a buzzing chainsaw than our checkbook.)


The six-week countdown was a good reminder of just how much of my life falls under the blanket heading of “blessings.”  But they are/were pretty general in nature, and occasionally I suspect God likes to hear some specific thank-you’s from me.  So here’s just the tip of the iceberg of detailed things I’m grateful for, from A to Z. Some of these are more profound than others, but really – shouldn’t we be grateful for everything we have been given, whether it’s inconsequential or completely essential to our life?

A is for Anthony Shea.  Oldest son, owner of Sadie, my beloved grandpuppy.  He was our parenting guinea pig, and seems to have survived his childhood with a fairly well-adjusted outlook on life, and has become a confident, fun and capable young man.

B is for books.  Starting with the Bible and winding my way through cookbooks, Dr. Seuss, my beloved literary giants, even frothy fiction on the beach.  Books are one of life’s greatest and simplest pleasures.  The smell of bookstores and books, new or old, the way the spine creaks when you open a book for the first time.  And the way a well-crafted story draws you into it, and makes you feel and think differently when you’ve finished reading it.

C is for chocolate.  It is and will always be my favorite flavor in the whole wide world.  Creamy milk or smooth and dark – it’s all good.

D is for David Brice.  Younger son, and the child everyone would vote as most like his mama in so many ways.  He too somehow survived his “wonder years” under our parentage and has a way of looking at things that is uniquely his own.  Life with Brice will never, ever be dull.

E is for Eden:  my birth family.  My grandparents, aunts, uncles and my parents and brother all bear this name and they surround me with love, and I love ’em back.  Without them, I wouldn’t be!

F is for football.  It took me a long time to be able to say I love the game, but recently on a trip home (after another frustrating defeat), the car was filled with football talk about the game and upcoming high school matchups that would lead up to the state final championship. And I realized I was in my element.

G is for gardening.  There is something about watching seeds become seedlings and the smell of fresh-turned dirt in the spring that brings me in tune with the One who created me and everything I see when I’m down on hands and knees, tending to things of this earth.

H is for Highland Heights Church of Christ. My spiritual family.  May God bless every one of my brothers and sisters.  It’s not about the place, it’s about the people and the faith and hope we share.

I is for ice cream.  Homemade is best.  A hot fudge sundae can cure almost anything, and an offer to slip out for some ice cream can make an ordinary evening rather extraordinary.

J is for Jesus.  He is my savior, my king, my teacher, my brother.  Everything I need to know about living in this world, I can learn from His example and teachings.  Without Him, I would have no hope for anything beyond this life.

K is for kisses from the dogs.  Puppy kisses are wet and sloppy and their doggy breath is stinky.  But they love me and  never tire of letting me know they do.  The trust and unconditional love of a dog is a treasured gift.

L is for Lea.  Many years ago, my husband’s family opened their hearts and shared their name with me. My mother-in-law is an amazing and precious woman, my brothers- and sister-in-law are as close as blood.  You don’t marry your spouse’s family, but I think I got a pretty good deal when I married into this one.

M is for marshmallows. Roasted and toasted, or all soft and gooey floating on hot, hot chocolate.  Everyone’s life should include some puffy goodness every now and again.

N is for needlework.  From the time I was a child, the women in my life taught me to use my hands to sew, embroider, crochet and knit.  Admittedly, I am not an artistic person by nature, but with a needle in hand, I can create something useful, soft to touch, and pretty to look at.  I’m grateful to those who taught me, and I’ve enjoyed teaching others.  It’s a pass-along gift from one generation to the next.

O is for the Olympics. For thousands of years, humans have pushed their bodies in order to compete against each other.  Watching Olympic athletes is both inspiring and deluding – they make it look so effortless we sometimes forget how much blood, sweat, pain and tears it took them to reach the place where they are.  But it’s a marvelous tradition that has stood the test of time, and continues to challenge us to be better tomorrow than we are today.

P is for polish.  I have a plethora of polishing and cleaning concoctions.  The smell of furniture polish says the house is clean.  Squeaky shiny mirrors and doors let light sparkle and glow.  The simple act of buffing and polishing something from dull and dirty to a soft sheen or high polish reminds me of how God works to remove my rough edges and and dirty spots.  Not to mention, a fresh coat of polish on my toes can make me happy from head to toe.

Q is for Q-tips.  Pure genius.  So small, so soft, and yet so totally useful. And cheap.  Really.  Just try to imagine life without them and then you’ll be thankful for them, too.

R is for rainy days.  There is something healing and soothing in hearing rain drop to earth.  It’s a cool respite in the middle of summer, a gentle noise that can lull us to sleep.  Naps on a rainy day?  Pure, simple pleasure.

S is for Shelby. Our youngest child and only daughter.  Swimmer girl is a beautiful creature inside and out.  I am humbled by her faith, and awed by her capacity to love and understand others, and her love of God and life. Sooner than I care to think about, she will be ready to strike out on her own, and I can’t wait to see how her life turns out.

T is for Tony.  Aka Mr. Official.  And truly, my better half.  God must have thought a lot of me to put this man in my life.  There’s so much more I could say, but if you know him, you know why I love him with my whole heart.

U is for uniforms, especially those worn by men and women who defend and protect us.  Since ancient times, soldiers have worn clothing that sets them apart from civilians, and I am always proud and humbled when I find myself standing next to a member of our military, whether they are in their dress blues or whites, or fatigues.  They have stepped up to the line and set themselves apart by their actions and their attire, and they have my undying admiration and respect.

V is for vacations. In my life, I’ve been privileged to visit from sea to shining sea and quite a few of the places in between.  The thrill of packing in anticipation of a trip, experiencing new vistas and foods, finding just the right keepsake to bring home, and finally returning to our own beds after some time away gives us memories that last a lifetime, and sometimes a new-found perspective.

W is for water.  It’s not only what we’re largely made of, but it replenishes us when we drink it, invigorates us when we jump in, cleanses and calms children (and adults) before bedtime, and reminds us of God’s power and presence when we see his handiwork in thundering waterfalls, mirror-like lakes and pounding ocean waves.

X is for Xerox and X-rays, and all the other marvels of the technological age we live in, where we can replicate anything at the touch of a button, and peer inside our bodies and see babies growing, pinpoint cancerous tumors to remove, and see broken bones that can be made good as new.  We live in a truly amazing era.  And what we know now simply points out how much more we don’t know.

Y is for yoga.  It is part physical, creating flexibility, strength and balance.  It’s also part mental, soothing and calming with steady breathing and focused attention.  An hour of yoga is an hour well spent.

Z is for the zillions of blessings I haven’t begun to list here.  Try to count your blessings, I dare you. They are infinite and they just keep coming, so keep enjoying the life you have and thank God for the the good things He sends your way.  As Harriet Beecher Stowe so eloquently put it,

“Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude.”

Today is the big day.  It starts with the Macy’s Day Parade (shout out to Evan O’Neal, who will be marching in it!) and turkey and all the trimmings. I pray for safe travels for all of us going “over the river and through the woods,” and an edifying and peaceful day of giving thanks for all we have.

Happy Thanksgiving,

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