Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cherry Pie

Have you ever had a home-made cherry pie? Think for a moment before you answer that question. Maybe you've used a can of cherry pie filling to make your pie. Or, maybe you bought some fresh cherries at the farmer's market. True, those are home-made pies. But, have you grown your own cherries, picked them, pitted them, and filled a home-made pie crust with them? I have - once. My Mother did this once too. We learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them.
Years ago, near the Hollow, a wonderful neighbor let Mom pick some cherries from her tree. Being Mom's little helper, I ate more cherries than I picked. Eventually though Mom picked enough for a pie. Daddy's favorite dessert was pie of any kind. No matter how often Mom made one, he would say it had been years since she made a pie for him. Now I cannot tell you what this pie tasted like because I was pretty young at the time and most of my memories are about picking the cherries. I do know that Mom never tried making a fresh cherry pie again.
Now, I have no doubt in my Mother's love for me. But she did believe in letting me make my own mistakes so I could learn from them. When I was a teenager and full of all the knowledge I needed, my Grandmother's recently planted cherry tree finally bore fruit. We were having special dinner for some friends, and I was determined to make a home-made pie. I was above even using a store bought pie crust. I picked and pitted the cherries. Mom's only advice to me was that fresh fruit tends to 'cook over' in the stove and that I should line the oven with foil so I didn't make a mess. I made the pie-crust. I noticed Mom making another as I was cooking the cherries. She said that she might as well make another crust since we had the table messed up anyway. I could say that Mom had 'the sight' and knew what was about to happen. In truth, I was using her old recipe from years ago, so she was reliving her cherry pie effort. I ended up with enough pie filling for two pies, so her extra crust came in handy. When both pies boiled over in the stove, I was very glad that I had lined it with foil.
The pies were not so pretty, but they were good. However, they were very tart, so ice cream was definitely needed. I do have to say that everyone enjoyed them. Mom and I even laughed over our joint efforts at pie making. You definitely have to listen to Mom's advise. Whenever you can, opt for the refrigerated pie crust you can buy in stores now. It just makes life easier. And, finally, there is no shame in buying pie-filling. Just because you didn't grow the cherries, doesn't mean you didn't bake some love into the pie.
Cherry Pie
Pastry for 1-Crust Pie for a 9-inch pie pan
4 cups pitted, fresh sour red cherries
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter
Combine cherries, sugar, flour, salt and pour into pie shell, heaping slightly at the center. Sprinkle with almond extract, and dot with butter. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes longer. Remove to cooling rack and cool completely. After pie is cool, top with hard sauce.
Hard Sauce
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
a dash of salt
1 teaspoon cream or evaporated milk
Cream butter and almond extract together, gradually adding sugar & salt. Beat in cream. Sauce will harden as it cools.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hollow Memories

You probably won't be surprised to hear that the road thru the hollow was a dirt road sparsely covered by gravel and hardly maintained by the county. There were two small wooden bridges each side of the long driveway to our home. Those bridges were washed out more than once when I was little. I remember walking thru the woods to a more shallow area of the creek so I could cross the road since the school bus couldn't get across the bridge. It was uphill both ways. Well, not really, but you get the idea.
When the county decided to pave the road, they also widened it. There were some lovely trees that lived on both sides. They bent over so much, it was usually shaded during the day. One winter, Daddy took us sledding thru the hollow. He rigged up a sled on a piece of tin roofing and pulled us behind the tractor. The trees in the hollow were heavy with snow and ice. They bent so far over it looked like we were going thru an ice tunnel. It was a true winter wonderland. Anyway, when the road was paved, it didn't look much like a hollow anymore.
Funny things happen as years pass. Without our help and without really paying attention, trees like to take back the road. Recently going thru the hollow, I noticed how much more it looked like the road of my memories. The trees are large again and branches bent. One bridge has been replaced with a huge culvert, but the other is still wooden. It's pretty rickety too. I know the county will trim the right of way soon and probably replace that bridge. And, I know it's for the best. But, it is nice to see the hollow again with my eyes instead of just in my memories, even for just a little while.

Friday, June 19, 2009


My friends know that I'm obsessed with Dean Koontz. I eagerly wait twice a year for his new novels since I have read all of the currently published books. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not the sort of raving fan found in Stephen King's Misery. I would never harm Mr. Koontz, and this blog should in no way lead you to believe I would keep him tied up in my basement. Or any basement.
I know you're wondering what all of this has to do with the Hollow. It simply comes from a love of books and a simpler time when they occupied so much more of our lives. This was back when there were only three channels available on our television. My parents did not have the time or desire to read novels for pleasure. So, I have to wonder how the shelves in the den of our home became filled with so many books. As a child I would gaze up at them and just know wonderful things must be contained in such beautiful covers. I don't remember looking thru books at the pictures. I remember looking thru them and wanting to be able to read. Mom read to me a lot. I know she had to be so very tired of The Little Engine That Could.

I have a very vivid memory of the first book I brought home from our little school library - Casper. I never wanted to give it back.

We would have book fairs at school and I would always look thru them wishing I could buy one. One year I won a contest and received a free book at the fair. I don't remember what I did in class to win, but I do remember the book. It was a little book called The Empty Grave

and wasn't nearly as scary as it sounded. I was about 8 or 9 years old then. The first novel I ever read was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley.

After that, I found a way to buy every Walter Farley book I could find. Then came Barbara Cartland romance novels. A friend gave me The Thornbirds to read around that time. Let's just say I couldn't go back to Barbara after that and moved on to Harlequin Romances. Another friend loaned me The Shining by Stephen King. After that I read every Stephen King novel I could get my hands on. I still do, but he scares me sometimes. Definitely not the kind of books to read when you are alone in the house late at night. And, of course, I love reading Nora Roberts!
Years ago, my dear friend Sally, was reading Lightening by Dean Koontz. She was so excited every day telling me parts of the book, but not enough to give away the part. When she finally gave it to me, she would ask every day where I was in the book and we'd talk about it. Lightening is such a wonderful book and still one of my favorites. If you've never read a Koontz novel, I recommend Lightening or Life Expectancy to start.

During a difficult time in my life, I wrote to Mr. Koontz. I wanted to tell him about Sally and how much joy his books had brought to us both over the years. I don't remember everything I put in that letter. I do remember telling him that I didn't know what had happened in his life to be able to write such wonderful novels or such strong women characters, but I was glad for the impact it had on my life. An amazing thing happened. Not only did Mr. Koontz personally write back, he sent me one of Trixie's (his beloved dog, inspiration and author in her own right) books. As if I wasn't a big enough fan before! So, you see, I could never keep him in my basement.
I bought his latest novel, Relentless, the day it was released. I told myself to read it slowly, maybe a chapter a night. I didn't even make it a week before I had to finish it. If you love reading books, you know what I mean. So, as you're looking for something new to read this summer, consider one of his books. Most often, you are assured of a happy ending. It may not be the ending you want, expect or need, but it will be happy. Isn't it that way in life too?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vintage Tablecloths & Sunday Supper

I love vintage tablecloths. Just looking at them brings back memories of food laden tables and Sunday supper. That supper usually included fried chicken during the plentiful days. In the summer, when fresh vegetables were abundant, the supper was mostly made of 'side dishes' and meat was used more as a flavoring than the center of attention.
In my great-grandparents home, all the adults would eat supper first. Then the young children would be fed. We were not allowed at the supper table until all the adults were finished eating. I can still remember playing with my cousins and my older brother sneaking us a piece of fried chicken to 'hold us over' to supper-time. Grandma didn't follow this custom and neither did Mom. But, anytime we were in our great-grandparents home, it was the unspoken rule. I've often wondered where that custom originated. I don't have a lot of memories of my great-grandparents. Some of the memories are of them being in the 'sick' bed. Most often though, I remember Mammie in the kitchen making coffee or reading the Bible to me, and DaddyBurke in the front porch swing. It's sad that those days ended long before I made it to the 'big' table. I would have loved to 'listen in' on the conversation and carry those memories with me.
If you don't like okra, try substituting dill pickle slices in this recipe.
Fried Okra
1 pound fresh okra
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
enough oil to cover bottom of frying pan 1/4 inch deep
Wash okra and remove stems. Cut into 1/2 inch slices or leave whole, if desired. Combine flour, corn meal, salt and paprika. While okra is still damp from washing dip into flour mixture. Fry in oil -medium high - until brown. Drain on paper towels.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Car Memories

I think you'd have to be living in a cave not to know what has been going on in the auto industry lately. I guess that's why my mind has been wandering in the past and thinking about our old cars. I have the ability to form a sentimental attachment to a rock, so you can imagine how I've felt about some of my cars. My first one was a 1974 Buick Le Sabre. As soon as Daddy changed the oil in it for the first time, the engine blew. He wanted to 'take care' of the car in a manner that would not be looked upon favorably by the insurance company. Mom wouldn't let him and eventually the engine was rebuilt. If I had to stop during the first couple of miles after starting the engine, it would stall. That's not much of a problem in the country when stop signs are sometimes a suggestion, but in the city, it can land you in some hot water. It only had an AM radio, but the air conditioner was so cold, you could hang meat as if you were in a walk-in cooler. One day going down the Interstate, the back seat caught on fire. Did you know hubcaps can be used to carry water from a ditch during such an emergency? Do cars even have hubcaps anymore? I loved that car.

My next car was a Buick Skylark. Daddy gave it to me because it had belonged to my Grandmother and had been in the family. He felt it would be much better than buying something from a stranger not knowing the history of the car. The heater immediately stopped working. On another Interstate trip, the pipe to the muffler broke in half. Some very nice men tied it up for me until I could make it back home. The steering column had to be rebuilt twice. I stopped repairing it after that and got used to it moving when I applied the brakes hard. I tried not to use the brakes often. Of course, the transmission had to be re-built. The headlight switch stripped, so I had wires hanging down from it. I had to re-connect them to turn the lights on at night. One very late night, a hose to the radiator burst. I immediately pulled off the road and began trying to figure out how to open the hood. In my defense, it always was tricky to open. A couple more nice men helped me by filling the radiator with water and directing me to an 'all-night' garage. They even told me what was wrong and if the garage tried to charge me more than $15 to come back and they'd fix it for me. I don't think you can find an 'all-night' garage anymore. Nowadays we're taught to remain in the car and wait for roadside service for safety. It had an AM/FM radio. I miss those old days, but I don't really miss that car.

I had a Chevy Celebrity. It was the first car that I bought in my name and Daddy made me 'haggle' with the dealer on my own. It had a vinyl top that was a pain to keep clean. One day I looked out the front door and saw our bulldog standing on the roof of my car. I like to think the chased a cat up there and it was a one-time accident. I really loved that car, but it had a habit of stalling at stop signs. I never could get anyone to fix it properly so I eventually bought a Pontiac Sunbird. The headlight switch was on the upper left side of the dash. Several nights in a row I'd look out and see my headlights on and wonder how I could have forgotten to turn them off. I finally figured it out one day when I saw our cat climbing thru the open window. He would put his feet on the dash as he climbed thru and turn on the headlights. Car manufacturers should warn you about stuff like that. I learned to keep the windows rolled up, but eventually I had engine trouble with that car too. So, I traded up to a Nissan Maxima.

Now, I absolutely LOVED my Maxima. When I bought it, friends told me that all I had to do was keep the oil changed and the engine/transmission would last forever. I never had any engine or transmission problems with that car. I did replace the front, rear and one side of the car in different accidents. I had so many deer hit the car that I considered getting a hunting license. And they hit me, I did not hit them. Two of them plowed into the side of the car when I was driving down the road. The car saved me from severe injury when I tested the 'crumple zone' in two separate accidents. In my defense, some people hit me so it wasn't always my fault. It had a fancy CD player in the trunk. That came in handy when the automatic antenna broke off and I couldn't pick up any radio stations unless I was in their parking lot. I was usually the only one in the car and only used the driver's side window. The motors on the other three windows went out. Did you know that when a motor on an automatic window goes out, the window won't stay up at all? It was the only car that I knew of the axle breaking for no apparent reason. The final straw was when the passenger side door lock broke. I would have been fine if it had stayed 'unlocked', but it would only stay in the 'locked' position. Anyone that wanted to ride with me had to climb in the back seat. I am not a chauffeur. I cried when I traded that car.

All of that brings me to my current car which I still love even though its closer to 200,000 miles than 100,000 miles. It still looks good for its age though. The CD player no longer works, but the radio does. There's a short in the air conditioning system that I've tried to have fixed multiple times. So, it's like playing Russian Roulette when you turn on the AC or heat. I already dread the day that I'll trade it in for something shiny and new. When that day comes, I just hope I can find a dealership!