Day of the Dead – Dia de los Muertos

The holiday is celebrated from October 31 – November 2, approximately.  It honors the departed spirits of our loved ones.  I got this idea from my friend Jo who saw the flickering lights in a graveyard.


Day of the DeadDia de los Muertos
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” – Thomas Campbell

the graveyard sparkles at night –
all the little lights, solar powered of course.
at the base of each stone
glows red, blue, orange, white,
some flicker some hold steady
but they light the way
for the departed souls.
all the elements are there –
water, wind, earth, and fire.
a wind whispers through the stones
lifting the paper banners,
bread is left on a plate –
some sweet rolls, some whole wheat,
some crackers, whatever the live person can afford.
water to quench the thirst of the spirits,
bread to sate their hunger.
we celebrate our departed dead
as they return this day to be with us.
throw your kiss into the wind.
shout with joy that they are here with us,
not just today but everyday.



A cookie by any other name…

     Two cookies today – easy ones and both of them tie for #1 on my husband’s cookie list.  The first I’ve seen called Mexican Wedding Cookies, Wedding Cookies, Snowballs, Russian Teacakes….same cookie, same ingredients, same addictive cookie.  And like me, it is short but not too sweet.

The second – an odd cookie. Easy, no bake, different. This one I’ve seen called Butterscotchies, Butterscotch Nests, Worms, Haystacks, Chinese Cookies, Butterscotch Candy Cookies.

However you name them, they are good. The Worms (what I grew up calling them) can be decorated with sprinkles, colored sugar, formed into nests with appropriate colored jellybeans or M&Ms as the “eggs” in the next.  My papa liked to sprinkle them with chopped salted peanuts.

I hope you enjoy.  For myself, I’d just as soon make the pecan cookies while hubby is out and keep them for myself.  When he gets started on them, that’s it.

Wedding Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour and pecans, beating on low speed after each addition until well blended.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls (I use the appropriate sized cookie scoop). Place, 1-1/2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 14 to 15 min.or until bottoms of cookies are lightly browned. Cool 5 min. on baking sheets. Roll warm cookies in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar until evenly coated; place on wire racks. Cool completely. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature. NOTE: I let them cool a few minutes so the powered sugar does melt to invisibility and make them sticky.

1 cup Butterscotch Chips
1/2 cup Peanut Butter Chips
1 tablespoon shortening (do not use butter, margarine, spread or oil)
1-1/2 cups(3-oz. can) chow mein noodles
OPTIONAL: Chopped salted peanuts, sprinkles, colored sugar, M&Ms, jellybeans

Line tray with wax paper. Place butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips and shortening in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50%) 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at MEDIUM an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, just until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred.

Immediately add chow mein noodles; stir to coat. Drop mixture by heaping teaspoons onto prepared tray or into paper candy cups; let stand until firm. If necessary, cover and refrigerate until firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator. Yields about 2 dozen candies.

Haystacks[1]         snaowball coookies

Holiday Cooking: Papa’s Deadly Pecan Pie

pecan pie - public domain image

My Papa was an incredible cook.  At church suppers, the folks most often asked, “What did Miss Josie (my grandma Ninny) or Robert make?  Often, they could just give a scan of the food table and know: fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, fried okra, corn pudding, peach cobbler, crab cakes, coconut cake, and…pecan pie.

Unlike most of the recipes, Papa cooked his corn syrups and sugar together before stirring in the eggs. It made for a richer flavor and texture. He also used pecans from our own trees and lots of vanilla extract. He made his own flaky crust but you can use a pre-made one in your own fancy pie plate – deep dish.  Try to use the freshest pecans you can find and a good vanilla extract.  Put lots of love and quality in your cooking and you will never go wrong.

This is one of the dishes that always show up at one of my holiday meals. I hope it will become part of your holiday traditions. With love, from me to you.

Ho! Ho! Ho! どうぞめしあがれ Douzo meshiagare, y’all!

Papa’s Deadly Pecan Pie

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
4 eggs
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely broken
1 unbaked deep dish pie shell

In saucepan boil sugar and corn syrup together for 2 to 3 minutes; set aside to cool slightly. In large bowl beat eggs lightly and very slowly pour the syrup mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly.  At this point Papa would strain the mixture to make sure it’s smooth and lump free.   Stir in butter, vanilla, and pecans and pour into crust. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 45 to 60 minutes or until set.  Let cool before slicing.  I will place the pie on a cookie sheet in case of boiling over.

In case you missed January 1…..

There is still time to suck down some noodles, pick at some peas, grab some grapes, and cash in on some green(s).  For those of you who keep time to the Julian calendar, your day is January 14. The Chinese New Year rings February 10 – 11 (year of the snake, baby) and for those of you who really like to push the late New Year envelope, try Chaul Chnam Thmey April 13.  The Khmer New Year this go around is year of the dragon.  I think dragon trumps snake and I’ll go with Chaul Chnam Thmey.

Not only do you have a chance to chow down on lucky noshes, you have several chances to make and break resolutions and redeem yourself – again.  I myself, like new beginnings, especially when I get several chances to begin again, and again….

Now about those black eyed peas folks are always griping about.  If you dump them out of a can, like most stuff you just dump out of a can, the results will be a most memorable memory of blahblahblah.   I myself, being a true daughter of the south, picked my peas at the end of the summer and while fresh and sweet, I froze them away for future use.  Sweet and al dente, these peas please.  I put some water in a pot, add a bit of salt, a nice piece of ham, smoked ham hock, salt pork, streak of lean…..let boil until the water is a nice porky broth.  I then add the peas, cover, and let cook until tender.  The peas and broth put into a bowl and eaten with hot, well buttered cornbread and paired with a big glass of sweet tea (a bold yet winsome Luzianne 2012) makes most anybody happy.

BTW:  Why are black eyed peas lucky?  According to ancient Southern legend, during the war of northern aggression, the town of Vicksburg was surrounded and food had run out.  In an amazing discovery, bags of dried peas were found.  The townspeople were saved from starvation. I take no responsibility for this tale, but I was told by a friend from Miz-zippi, that this is true.  I have no reason to doubt her word.  She has always been truthful, especially that time she and her husband took me snipe hunting.  I didn’t catch anything in my bag but I was told that was because I didn’t whistle it in right.

Or, you can do as a lot of Asians and eat noodles – the longer the better.  However, be warned:  the noodle must make it to the mouth whole.  “Toshi-koshi” as the Japanese say, from one year to the next.  Years ago, myself and one of the members of the 11/16 Society enacted that scene from Lady and the Tramp with an amazingly long soba noodle.  No meatball, but at the end of that noodle, we didn’t care.  That was definitely a lucky food for 01/01/85.

Circular foods are always good for lucky eating – no break, eternity, full cycle……you get the drift.  After the black eyed peas and cornbread, I would suggest a luxurious round dessert:  donut and ice cream.  The method:  take a Krispy Kreme donut (another southern delicacy that has migrated around the world) and carefully warm in a pan with a few pats of melted butter.  Remove from pan and top with ice cream of your choice.  Enjoy with a big mug of chickory enhanced coffee and a big splash of half and half.  Yowzer y’all.

Happy New Year, as many times as you can find on the calendar.   Noodles, donuts, grapes, peas, whatever……But if you must make resolutions, then resolve to be happy, be kind, find excuses to laugh, make new friends.  Live long and prosper.





Kentucky Bourbon Cake – Yowzer Y’all

Fooled y’all.  This is really a fruitcake in disguise.  Now don’t get all hinky on me and stop reading.  This is not your ordinary doorstop last-forever fruitcake.  This is more fruit and nuts than flour.  And it is solid, but it is a good solid – doused with bourbon, redolent of nutmeg, and intriguing with orange marmalade.  We bake this in two of the large size loaf pans.  Usually we fix 3 recipes of this – one for ourselves and the rest to dole out to friends who know this is worth eating and wait for this every year.  It is not a cheap cake and it is not a quickie.  It is an expensive luxury call girl of a cake – wonderful with coffee, hot tea, cold milk, or a shot of bourbon.  We’ve been making this since it first appeared in the 1970 Holiday issue of Southern Living.  Give it a try.  You may also want a designated driver if you eat too much.

Kentucky Bourbon Cake

3/4 pound butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 pound raisins
1 cup chopped candied pineapple
1 cup chopped candied cherries (cut in half) red and/or green
1 cup orange marmalade
2 pounds shelled pecans, chopped (I use 1 ½ #)
1 large cup bourbon
additional bourbon for dousing

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add molasses and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder, and ground nutmeg. Put fruits, marmalade, and nuts in large bowl. Add about 1 cup of the flour mixture and stir to coat fruit. Add remainder of the flour to creamed mixture alternately with the whiskey. Stir in fruits and nuts.

Grease 1 large tube pan (cut circle of brown paper and grease) or two large loaf pans and line with heavy brown paper which has been greased. Spoon batter into pans and cover with greased brown paper. Bake at 250 degrees F. until toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean (about 2 1/2 to 3 hours).
Wrap cake in cloth which has been dampened with whiskey, place in a tin container or wrap well with foil. Douse cheesecloth once a week with bourbon. Let sit until cake has ripened. A month would not be too long to let ripen.  Keep in a cool place or cold room.



Miss Curly Jinxy Whimsypants

No, this is not the name of a new cat or poodle, or an aged disco diva:  It is my official Elf name as generated by the Elf Name Generator.  Equally sad is my blues name:  Jukin’ Blind Parker.  Find your elf name, and other things about Shelf the Elf – pictures of him taking a marshmallow bath, hiding, report an elf, etc.  Get your own elf name!!!

But I digress.  Fun During The Christmas Season is my own self generated Holiday name. I totally enjoy getting rid of my serious persona during this time and having full tilt, unabashed, unabated fun.  So I went online and found a place to get an elf name. I have a basket in the kitchen for my husband and mother to chose from various wrapped gifts for the season of Lent.  Not big things:  candy canes, a small toy, a can of cat food (Sam loves it when they pick one of these), a light up Rudolf nose.  You get the picture.  Gifts for Sunday are in special wrapping: an angel ornament, tiny nativity set, etc. 

One of my favorite fun items is the Tacky Light Celebration.  In Richmond, we have a long standing tradition of a Tacky Light Tour and Tacky Light Decorating.  You can spend a moderate amount of $$ and go on a special bus or chauffeured limousine to see the most popular and tackiest lights and have optional snacks and liquor along the way.  Or you can go to the interactive map and pick out your own.

What is Tacky Lights?  It is hundreds of thousands of lights at one house or a series of houses in a neighbor hood, blinking, trailing, synchopated to music….blow up figures, palm trees, working trains… limit.  I once lived about 8 houses away from such a site.  From dark until almost 3:00 am, the lights, animated items, music, cars, buses, limousines were in full travel and traffic mode.  We parked our cars and put out trash cans so people couldn’t park in front of our house.  Grinchy, sure, but practical and necessary for some semblance of sanity until Epiphany.

So I urge you to let that suppressed child in you out.  Have a rollicking fun joy-fill Christmas.  Laugh a lot.  Get an elf name.  Put on some felt antlers hung with bells or ornaments.  Give to the Local Food Bank and shelters for indigent or homeless persons/families.  Volunteer at Veteran’s hospital or Children’s hospital.  Adopt a pet for the holiday.  Let yourself go and give smiles and get smiles.  After all, it’s Christmas…..Joy to the World.  (and more about that in a different post!).

tacky 4

tacky ttacky 3


My cat, Sam, a pumpkin and vanilla sweet terror, sent me a card for Halloween. Here is in on one of his favorite places:  the warm ironing board right after the work is done!   I forward it to you all. I also want to thank you all for your “likes”, comments, visits. I am appreciative of your kindness. I was one scared little kitty starting out but you all have blessed me in many ways with your comments and the sharing of your own blogs.

Sandy went by with minimal damage. Let us all pray for those weren’t so blessed and do what we can to help. Those of you who had damage, please check first to be sure any contractors, etc. are licensed properly. Check with your local licensing agency and beware of storm work scams. I hope things will be back to normal as soon as possible.

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