Who knew best peanut brittle ever came in colors?

Pappaw’s hands were rough and strong from years of working on the pipeline. His skin had a reddish, bronzed, leathery look, thanks to Cherokee ancestry from generations past. He carried a metal lunch box to work, and always had pieces of bubble gum in it for us grandkids. He also had an endless supply of quarters. He would give us a quarter for opening and closing the gate as he drove his truck through, or for changing the channels on the TV. I think there were a whopping three channels back then.

pappaw

family

I remember the way he hung his hat on a hook beside the door when he came in from work each day. Then he would sit in his chair at the table and use a boot jack to take his boots off and let his feet rest. After a few minutes of cooling off, he would put his boots and hat back on and head out to the garden or to the sawmill. He was the kind of man you’d never see in the kitchen.
Except in December.

peanut brittle

peanut brittle

Each December Pappaw filled the house with the aroma of peanut brittle. He would stir the syrupy concoction of peanuts, sugar and corn syrup in a large cast iron skillet until it was the perfect color. Then he would stir in the baking soda and pour it all out on the wooden chopping block in the middle of the kitchen. After it cooled he and Mammie would hit the hard golden peanutty mass with the back of a spoon, cracking it into bite-sized pieces.

One December Pappaw caught me moping around.
“Why are you down in the mouth?” He asked in his raspy smoker’s voice.
“It’s almost Christmas, and I don’t have anything to give my friends.” I told him. I never imagined he would offer a solution. “Why don’t we make them some peanut brittle?”
I eagerly agreed.

I was so honored that he would make some of his delicious peanut brittle for my friends and that he would ask me to help. Usually the grandkids had to leave the kitchen when Pappaw cooked. It never  kept us from sneaking small pieces off the edges of the chopping block after it cooled. As honored as I was, I’m not sure I was very helpful. I sat on the counter, talking his ear off as he stirred.

“Want to make it a Christmas color?” He asked with a gleam in his eye. I nodded, excitedly.

The next day I proudly carried bags of green peanut brittle to school. I thought it was the prettiest peanut brittle in the world. Pappaw had always had my respect, but he won my heart with his kindness and Christmas Green peanut brittle.

Pappaw and Mammie are both gone, but their peanut brittle tradition continues with my family as each December our home is filled with the sweet aroma of peanut brittle and treasured memories.

Now my husband stands over the cast-iron skillet, waiting for the syrupy mixture to turn the right color. I help my children break the brittle into bite-sized pieces and memories from my childhood rush in. I tell them about Pappaw and our green peanut brittle. In those moments my children get a glimpse of this great man with rough hands and a tender heart.

 

Erin Ulerich writes about fighting for hope on her blog at erinulerich.com. She loves coffee, chocolate, ’80’s music, and words. She believes God uses life-giving words to encourage, strengthen, and even change the course of our lives. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter @ErinUlerich and Instagram as erin9844

Erin

Do you know the signs when it’s time to rest?

Our fingers tap impatiently on the steering wheel, waiting for the light to turn green. We rush through our to-do list as though we’re competing against an unknown and unseen opponent. The first one to finish wins…..what?

Phil Laeger

Phil Laeger, image ©Debby Hudson

His fingers move masterfully over the ivory keys. He reads the notes, feels them in his being and it shows as his body leans with the movement of the music. They fly across the eighth and sixteenth notes and hold the sustained chords and then, perhaps the most dramatic of pauses in music, they rest.

1, 2, 3, 4 play

Even music knows to rest.

rest notes

image from Unsplash

The rest symbols are clearly printed in the music. Each have an assigned value as do the notes played. They are equal in importance and one enhances the other. What would music be without that crescendo or the cymbal crash? What would the Star Spangled Banner be without the part the piccolo plays? The tiny instrument often overshadowed by the volume of the others, yet it shines in it’s few measures of spotlight.

The signs for rest are clear in music. Perhaps they are as clearly marked in life but we choose to ignore or dismiss. The stress headaches we play off as allergies or the fatigue that we are sure is caused by hot summer days.

We are doers and goers but we are woefully poor as resters. We’ve assigned it to the category of laziness and surely there is a commandment that says ‘Thou shall not be lazy.” It’s un-American!

I use to think rest meant napping but I’m not a napper. I’ve learned that, for me, rest is recharging.

It’s reading a book on the patio in the early evening.
It’s writing.
It’s catching up with a long distance friend.
It’s painting.

In music, the rest is a pause. It accentuates the rhythm of the piece  giving it fullness. Rest makes it whole. It’s like that in life too.

Rest makes it whole.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for a free-writing prompt called Five-Minute Friday.

Do You Think I Invited You Here For the Food?

If you sit at my table don’t expect a fancy meal. Don’t expect gluten free or paleo. If it fits either of those categories, it will be by accident. Don’t even expect the meal to be about the food. It’s not. It’s about you and time shared in conversation and stories and, most hopefully, laughter.

The Food
For some people, it’s about the food. If this is you, I’m glad for you. Good for you that you know the difference between an heirloom tomato and the not heirloom one. I’m so happy you’ve learned some special technique or have created your own recipe for a reduction sauce. (Does that mean there is less sauce?) Truly, I am. Just don’t expect me to want to know the details.

Food doesn’t impress me. I have my favorites like fish tacos at Bahia Cabana because I can’t cook fish. (You have to know these things and move on.) I can, however, cook up a pot of pinto beans and make some darn good cornbread, served with the best sweet tea you’re likely to find in South Florida. (This isn’t a place that understands that real sweet tea is sweetened while brewing, not from a sugar bowl or packets.)

Since my husband doesn’t consider beans, rice and cornbread a meal, we’d serve you bar-b-q chicken cooked up on the grill or slow cooked in a crock pot. It would include a side of baked beans, that I also do well and tossed salad because you have to have something green at supper. That much, I know.

blueberries

food prep
My food stories are likely to be cautionary tales like: don’t touch that little place between your eye and the side of your nose after cutting a Pablamo pepper. It might not taste hot, but it will burn your eye like fire.

Or how, apparently, stew meant has to be cooked for hours for one to able to chew it. I just know, okay.

The Kitchen
My mama knew her way around the kitchen, anyone’s kitchen. Me, ask me to set the table or anything to get me out of your way if you’re cooking.

Back to You
Back to you….you’re the reason I’ve pulled out the baking dish and checked the refrigerator to make sure we have everything. You’re why the tea is fresh and salt and pepper are on the table. You’re why we will eat at the big table and you’re why we will sit talking long after the meal is done.

This is communion for me. It is a sacred time of sharing life. The table gathers us. The sweet tea and food loosens the days tensions. It is the table of grace.

“You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies; You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace.” Psalm 23:5 the Voice

Linking up with Holley Gerth with some Coffee for Your Heart. 

The Food Doesn’t Have to be Great

DRUMSTICKS AND BUTTERFINGERS

Sit-down dinners at the family table didn’t pull me away from my first love. As a ‘70s latchkey kid enamored with long days at the pool with friends, I’d not trade a chance to milk every last drop of sunlight from the day. Mom was at work, after all. Why go home to an empty house when coins lay on the pool’s floor, like treasure waiting to be discovered and Drumsticks and Butterfingers are sold in the snack bar?

Mealtime wasn’t a big deal in my childhood home. We ate what we could when we could in boundless freedom.

That kind of free-flowing resilience served me well even as a young married 20-something, fresh out of college, particularly while my husband’s work schedule twirled like a Ferris wheel–swing-grave-day, making it difficult to pull two chairs up to a table. Grab a bite here. Pick up a dinner there. We managed.

Until we became Mom and Dad.

Babies, as it turns out, like eating on a schedule

WE COMMITTED TO GATHER

God and babies have the power to flip you on your head to see everything in a new way. Rightfully so, we found ourselves with an irresistible need to cast-off the old catch-as-catch-can meal routine and share meals together at the family table intentionally.

We decided.

Truthfully, adjusting to a meal routine wasn’t a natural thing for me. You might find it’s easier to stuff a sleeping bag into a sack that’s too small than get me to do anything the same way twice, unless we’re talking about making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Many old habits had to die so new ones could be reborn. Slowly, however, our lives began to take shape around mealtime, with a predictable rhythm — 7 A.M. – noon – 6:30 P.M.; anchors in our day we reach for when everything else churns.

restaurant dinner

THE POINT IS TO GATHER

Gathering together was always our point. It’s never been about food. (Though we enjoy good food and we grow and raise much of it ourselves.) No one here ever knows what dinner is until dinnertime…because that mean planning “meals” which requires ”menus” and menus require forethought and shopping and…. Still, we eat together at the family table daily. Fortunately, my artistic need to make something from nothing kicks in where my ability to plan meals falls short. Even on days when my people open and close cabinet doors, declaring “there’s nothing to eat”, they’re amazed to find a full-course dinner waiting at the table. Meal time is our time together. Its familiar rhythm brings comfort, and some days, normalcy. The food doesn’t have to be great. It just has to be food.

HINDSIGHT

For the days when the temptation comes to lean on the open refrigerator door then sigh the ol’ I don’t feel like cooking tonight sigh, a quiet hope appears through another person’s eyes. Like the night when one young guest remarked that he enjoyed dinner; his other friends usually serve pizza. He was tired of pizza, he said. Then there’s Zeke, who still asks for the giant cookie baked inside a cast iron pan. It’s these moments that breathe new air into the routine and remind us to gather.

It’s not about the food.

Short-comings and all, we’ve intentionally gathered at the table nearly everyday for more than 20 years. Hindsight shows God’s hand guiding our family table all the while. He masterfully trained me into honoring a meal routine, in spite of my lack of training and natural resistance to routines. The Lord used it all to teach our sons about family and food, and the power of gathering at the table. We our family has been strengthened through our time together. And ladies, our sons have each learned to cook–full meals — and clean up! Our youngest son cooks in a local restaurant while he finishes school.

A PLACE TO REST

Through high chairs and booster seats and little chins bobbing at the table, to young men hanging their car keys by the door before washing up to sit, the family table is the place we all come, like ships looking to dock for the night, to rest from the day. It’s a gathering place.

Be encouraged to gather at the table every day. Pick a time and honor it. Don’t worry about what you’ll eat. Focus on the gathering and the food will be provided, I’m certain.

Sally Olson

Sally Olson

Sally Olson writes about hope, art, and some times, travel on her blog (which is under development), Colors of Hope. She’s a Jesus Follower, wife, and veteran home educator. She cherishes peaceful mountain-living with her family in California’s Sierra-Nevada Range. Sally and her husband reach out to bring hope to men and women struggling with drug and alcohol addictions and youth detained in juvenile jail. Visit her at SallyOlson.me.

Searching for Hope When It All Feels Wasted

The search is on.

You don’t know me, but I know you won’t believe it when I tell you, in three years, we will retire. I’m not sure I believe it. Of course, we’re not old enough for that. Well, he is, but me?

We surf Zillow looking at homes, discovering we can only afford the Fixer Upper’s before Chip and Jo-Jo transform them.

I envision my days spending more time with the granddaughter, weekend family suppers and walks on the beach anytime we choose, with hours to spend with my camera or writing. I’ve started a written list of what will be different in retirement:

We will live closer to family.
We can be on similar schedules.
I can wear jeans any time I want, including to church.
I will never have to wear pantyhose again. Or heels.
Travel will be to places we decide, when we decide. Mostly.

searching

family christmas

mirror reflection

Left up to me, I’d retire today. I’m tired. I’m not sure I have the emotional reserves needed to do this anymore. The cost of caring seems to get higher every day.

I’m over at the Middle Places blog today. To read more, click here.

 

Win or lose, It’s Your Choice

You lose.

When you don’t weep with those who weep, or mourn with those who mourn…

You lose.

When you don’t dance with the dancers and laugh at your clumsy moves, when you don’t sing your off-key harmony with the singers…

You lose.

You lose when you don’t stop and listen to a child or old person.
You lose when your life is rushing and never slowing, when it’s there but never here.

You lose when it’s take and not give, go and not stop, look and not see.
You lose when you hear but don’t listen.

You lose when your heart doesn’t melt over babies and puppies, and the sun shimmering just so over the ocean. When you let obligations guide your days and and you forget how good a popsicle tastes in summer.

You lose.

I’m tired of losing.

win or lose

I choose to laugh hard and loud and roll my eyes at the silly. To let the watermelon juice drip between my fingers because it’s too good to stop and wipe it up just now.

I’m choosing to stop rushing. To remind myself I don’t have to beat everyone on the Interstate. To let someone get ahead of me in line. To make someone smile.

I’m choosing to sing in the car and beat the rhythm on the steering wheel and smile when people in cars next to me think I’ve gone made. I’ll share a laugh with strangers.

I choose to pray for the hurt, to love the lost, the lift the broken and serve the least.

I choose to hug the lonely.

I choose to love because love wins.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for a free-writing weekly prompt called Five-Minute Friday. 

My Undefined Obsession with Food (guest post)

“This will be the last time. I need it once more and then I’ll be OK. I know it costs too much, I know what it’s doing to me but I can’t take it…I have to have it today.”

Did you think I was talking about drugs? Sex? No, sadly this daily conversation happens in my head on the way to the adorable coffee shop next to my work. I’ve created a deep neural pathway in my brain that says, “If you don’t get your medium latte and chocolate chip cookie each morning then….” Then what? I’ll die? I won’t be able to function? There is no answer to what would happen because even after white knuckling it at my desk for hours, I always end up back there.

Did I mention the chocolate chip cookie is made with dark chocolate, has a sprinkle of sea salt, and is the perfect balance of crispy to chewy consistency?

food

coffee cookies

Yeah, I have an eating disorder. I wish I could say it was a cool one that ends in an ‘a’. The kind where people feel pity for you and support you in your quest to get healthy. No, I have EDNOS; Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Basically you have to meet specific criteria to be diagnosed with Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder, and I don’t quite fall into any of these categories. The pain is the same.

I was in group one time and a severely anorexic woman told a story about being in inpatient treatment, where a rude nurse noticed how thin she was and compared her to her obese roommate who struggled with binge eating disorder. She said, “Wow! You two must have nothing in common!” The woman replied, “What are you talking about? We’re twins! We’re both obsessed with food!” Powerful.
Though I’ve had the clinical diagnosis over 10 years, my relationship with food was bad from an early age. One of my first diary entries at 6 was about needing to go on a diet. My first memory of bingeing was around 8; slice after slice of Roman Meal bread. I liked to squish it into a tiny cube and nibble at it. And I couldn’t stop. Overeating – Restriction – Stuffing – Starvation – New Diet – Failure. This has gone on for decades.
Food is always accessible. Food is used for celebration and for grief. Food is given as a reward. Food is delicious. Food gets me high. In Overeaters Anonymous (I stopped going because their name gave me too much shame.) they talk about how different it is for someone struggling with food compared to drugs or alcohol. With drugs and alcohol you know when you’ve maintained sobriety by not using anything. We “have to get in the cage with the tiger 3+ times a day”.
My relationship with food feels like dating a narcissist boyfriend. I love him even when he’s bad for me. He knows how to lure me back and can be good sometimes. He hurts me and I feel the shame from it. I don’t know how to quit him. It doesn’t take a therapist to realize that our twisted connections with food really aren’t because we happen to love eating so much. It gives us what we aren’t getting in life. It comforts us in ways nothing else can. It’s something we have control over, even when out of control, as we get to make the decisions.
So for today, I make the next right decision. For today, I breathe through hard moments. For today, I reach out for help. For today, I take my life back.

Kimberly is a 46 year old woman from Minneapolis who despises the cold, married 20 years, has a 17 year old son, an executive assistant by day and yoga teacher at night, blogger, heretic/Jesus lover/skeptic/tired. Images in this post courtesy of Unsplash.Kimberly

Plant a Watermelon Right Over My Grave

If I have a favorite fruit, it’s watermelon. It’s sweet and cold and crisp and the right combination of all that tastes summer good. You can’t eat watermelon without slurping it. Not good watermelon. If I only I knew the secret to choosing good watermelon. Or any melon for that matter. Bananas and apples are much easier to choose their ripeness and their flavor more consistent.

Watermelon always seemed a special treat in our family. Maybe because it was a summer food and easy to carry to picnics. The waiting for the season made it that much better like pumpkin flavor everything only tastes good in fall.

We even sang a silly camp song about watermelons. Do you know it?

Just plant a watermelon right over my grave and let the juice (make slurping noise) run through
Just plant a watermelon right over my grave that’s all I ask of you
Now southern fried chicken might taste mighty fine, but what can taste better than a watermelon rind?
Just plant a watermelon right over my grave and let the juice (make slurping noise) run through

watermelon

The sound effects of a hundred kids slurping is what made the song fun. That and the motions that went with, “Whatcha gonna do in a little canoe?”

Camp HeartOHills2009

Camp Heart O Hills, OK

Camp Grandview, GAMaybe you didn’t go to summer camp or maybe you went in a part of the country that didn’t celebrate watermelon the way we did in the midSouth. When I think of this sweet, juicy fruit, I find the memories as sweet as its taste. Running barefoot in the cool grass, going to a favorite swimming hole in Arkansas or my first boat ride in the ocean off the Florida coast.

Our kids went to sleep away camp and learned new silly songs. They learned to waterski at camp and to spend days in our minivan on cross country vacations. Summers seem to open wide for new adventures.

We more strategically plan our vacation days with our job responsibilities. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a cross country road trip. Still, we want to leave room for extra time reading on the back porch as the sun drops behind the trees; for beach walks at dusk when pink ribbons of clouds streak across the sky.

I gave my heart to Jesus one night at summer camp. In my cabin, after lights out, I needed to talk. The counselor, who was also my youth pastor, listened. I was 13. I don’t remember what she said, or what I said but I know it was different after that night. I knew I wasn’t living my parents faith but I claimed it as my faith now. My personal Jesus.

Yes, summer is filled with the sweetest fruits. It’s open to all kinds of life-changing adventures.

Here’s a recipe for watermelon salad. Sing a silly camp song while you make it.  And don’t forget to slurp!

Linking up with Holley Gerth and Coffee for Your Heart.

Watermelon Salad

What if it all started with that apple?

Jack Sprat could eat no fat, His wife could eat no lean; And so betwixt them both, They lick’d the platter clean. 1639 England

I met Mel, virtually, through her blog. Her words were raw and exposed a vulnerability as she wrote through her pain. She spoke of her therapist and swimming and working her way back to health. Mel was bulimic.

A daughter of a friend of mine started talking to me about her internal food fight. She had a beautiful singing voice and caring smile. She had been a little over weight but was finally losing the pounds. People at church were complimenting her, friends were praising her shrinking body as she felt a mixture of pride and shame. Her weight loss was a direct result of purging several times a day.

One of my accomplishments mama seemed to be the most proud of is maintaining an acceptable weight. She struggled with extra weight for years. It’s a dangerous genetic marker in our family but perhaps the mental stigma is worse.

apple

What if it all started with that apple?  (Or pomegranate, as some believe it was.) What if our food fight started when Eve took her first bite of the forbidden fruit?

God told Adam and Eve eat from all the trees except that one. That one will kill you. Caution was given, like it’s been given to us time after time. A lie was told by the father of lies and it pricked the pride of Eve who ignored the caution given by her creator. The consequence has been felt by all of mankind. We continue to believe the lies we’re too fat so we starve ourselves. We fight depression with another carton of Ben and Jerry’s.

We live, and die, by food. We will not survive without it and too much will kill us. While food triggers happy memories for the majority of us, for some, food is their daily adversary.

Thursday, Kimberly will be bravely sharing her personal battle with an unspecified eating disorder. What about you? Are you a stress eater or when you’re bored? Do you lose your appetite when you’re depressed or going through a period of grief?

This is a community of grace-givers. Open hearts to listen and welcome your celebrations and your tears. Let’s do this together, friends. Keep sharing your food stories with us. There’s always room for an extra chair.

In which we all need an imperfect nook

 

 

Our dwelling places have been designed with a bunch of rooms and each set of four walls serves a specific purpose. Kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom.

Yeah, we know that.

Yet every home is filled with unexpected nooks and crannies, too.

And, most likely, one of those little corners has become your very own sweet haven. It may not have dawned on you ’til right now. But if you stop to reflect for just a second, you might have an ‘aha’ moment and realize …

‘Well, YES! There IS that little nook that draws me like a magnet!’

It’s unpretentious, isn’t it, that corner where you automatically head when you’re weary and need a bit of consolation. This is the cozy alcove that invites you to relax, put your feet up, and breathe deep. A tad weary? Need to chill? Yearn for solitude? More than a bit frazzled?

This is the niche you find yourself drawn to when you just have to escape life’s craziness even if just for a few minutes. As you nestle into your little sweet spot, you find a deep sustenance there. You show yourself grace and compassion by making that choice to rest … and feel God whispering His love to you as you tuck yourself into your tiny nest.

lamp shade

Chances are your private little domain is not the home’s showpiece. You might never know why this little corner of your world became your go-to locale. It’s probably a bit shabby, maybe quite well worn. But this matters not because its sheer imperfect-ness somehow lends itself perfectly to those serendipitous moments that still the weary soul. It’s an unexpected gift you give yourself.

A haven it’s become. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.

nooks and cranny

For me?

It’s the far corner of a 22 year old red and green plaid sofa, right near the window upstairs in the loft. The old springs are slowly but surely giving way and those colors, that plaid, in no way resonates with my current decor of choice.

A candle often burns bright, a hot cup of tea could be cooling on the faded little blue stool. A library book or perhaps a stack of newspapers might patiently be sitting, just begging to be tended to. Or I might indulge in far too much gametime on my tablet … or stay up late into the night absorbed in a book I just can’t put aside.

My husband and I retreat there after dinner most nights. I sprawl all over the sofa and he holds court in the faded blue spring-less glider with the stuffing emerging from a widening hole in the right armrest. We watch the news and debate politics’ insanity … or quietly consider what’s happening in the family.

There might be foot rubs or hot chocolate or an ice cream sundae on the agenda. Maybe there’ll be a movie to watch … or we’ll simply head over to HGTV to find more inspiration for our house re-do.

And yes, on a cloudy afternoon, if you need me and I’m not writing at my desk or doing some laundry, this is probably where you’ll find me … with an old quilt and a soft pillow, burrowed down and napping in complete peace. Or maybe simply gazing out the window at the trees … and watching them wave their branches, smiling their assurance that yes, the sunshine will soon come to call once again.

nook
Tell us about your favorite cozy nook or cranny …

Last month we looked at the theme of home. Cara Meredith, Annie Rim and Linda Stoll contributed guest posts but before I had a chance to feature Linda’s post, my mom died and I needed to step away. There was a lot churning but focusing on the familiar, writing, helps with so many things, grief included. So….here is the long overdue contribution from Linda, a dear soul who has an inspiring blog. Do drop over and visit her as she has been working through a major home redo. Funny how often the external mirrors the internal.  

Thank you, Linda, for sharing your home with us.