Fried Green Tomatoes? How About a Baked Recipe to Love?

If you love fried green tomatoes as much as my family  – have I got a recipe for you. It’s fast and easy and uses less fat to prepare. They are baked – and they are delicious.

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My husband would be happy with a large dinner plate full of fried green tomatoes for dinner and not want anything else. This recipe for using the oven instead of the frying pan is husband approved.

Parmesan Green Tomatoes

Wash and slice firm green tomatoes, Dry each slice by blotting with a paper towel.

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Dip each slice in a mixture of tomato vinegrette and cover well..  I used Newman’s Own Tomato Vinegrette.

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Shake each green tomato slice in a bag filled with Parmesan Shake and Bake until the slice is fully coated. Lightly grease a baking pan with olive oil and arrange slices separately in pan.

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Drizzle some olive oil on the tops of the slices before baking.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30–45 minutes until golden and crisp and soft to piercing.  Sprinkle baked green tomatoes with freshly grated parmesan.

Serve with catsup or your favorite remoulade.   I vary the ingredients for the remoulade from time to time, but include some of the following ingredients to taste: 1/4 cup mayo, squeeze of lemon juice, 1/2 cup catsup, 1 Tablespoon mustard,1 finely minced garlic clove, 1 Tablespoon minced onion, Cajun seasoning, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon horseradish sauce

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We have found a new home that has space for a small garden.  Our last home of  20 years was on a wooded lot and there was too much shade to have a garden.  I have missed the opportunity to have a vegetable and herb garden since we moved from Indiana a number of years ago.  Our tomatoes are producing like crazy.  I am in heaven.

NOTE to online friends of my blog. We have found just the perfect place to make a new home.  I’ll share more about that later.

Sue Marquis Bishop

How to Celebrate Books this Week!

WAYS TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK:

1. READ A BOOK TO A CHILD. It may start interests that enrich his or her whole life.

2. SPEND AN HOUR in an independent bookstore – and buy a book or two to help ensure independent booksellers will be there for us in the future.

3. LEAVE A GOOD STORY in a public place for someone else to enjoy – leave a note with the book – “This book is to be read, enjoyed and passed on”.

4. BROWSE A LIBRARY SECTION you haven’t explored…new treasures are there to be discovered.
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5. VOLUNTEER TO READ A BOOK at the library or elementary school for Children’s StoryTime – it will stir memories of your own youth and take years off your day.

6. WRITE A BOOK REVIEW AND POST for a book you read and appreciated to direct new readers and to acknowledge the author.

7. TAKE A BOOK TO THE PARK OR THE PORCH for a restful afternoon outdoors. Goodbye Winter! Hello Spring !

8. JOIN A BOOK CLUB in your community or online if you would enjoy discussing books you read.

9. BUY A SPECIAL BOOK for a friend.

10. USE YOUR OWN WORDS…write a letter to an old friend you have missed and send U.S. mail…start a gratitude diary…draft a poem…start your family history…respond to a blog post.

Do You Yearn for a ‘Slow Day’ ?

AS TIME MARCHES ON, the world seems to spin ever faster, with escalating demands and multi-tasking required to get through each day. As a writer, I welcome a day to slow down and experience the world. I not only welcome it, but require it to refresh my own well of humanity and creative spirit.

IT WAS OFTEN DIFFICULT in previous years to slow down the rat race – such as when I was a young mother, and later a career woman and administrator. I am grateful that at this period of my life, I have more flexibility to schedule a Slow Day now and then.

TODAY WAS SUCH A DAY… a walk by the lake, a trip down memory lane at the flea market, tulip memories, dinner in the ice house.

MY HUSBAND BROUGHT home a lovely bouquet of tulips today. Tulips are harbingers of Spring and remind me of so many happy memories!
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IN OUR EARLY MARRIAGE, we lived on Tulip Drive in Indiana. After we graduated from Indiana University with our master’s degrees, we bought our first house. It was a two bedroom house with three acres of lawn, on a busy street across from a golf course. We were happy there. We started our careers in teaching, and became parents for the first time while we lived there. We thought our modest home was a mansion.

CARING FOR THE LAWN WAS A CHALLENGE, but we were young. It took most of one day each week for my husband to mow the lawn on the riding lawn mower. When our son was small, he would climb up on his dad’s lap and ride, sometimes falling asleep in his arms as he mowed a few rows. We planted a garden in the back yard with tomatoes, beans, onions, cucumbers, beans, corn, squash, gourds. We planted the garden rows farther apart so he could mow between the rows with the riding lawn mower (sounds crazy, huh!). We celebrated each year when the red and yellow tulips bloomed announcing Spring and an end to Indiana winter. Seeing the tulips bloom each year stirs my remembering of when we were young parents.

WE EXTENDED OUR WALK to Davidson Lake today. We sat on a bench at the water’s edge for a long time just sharing our thoughts and making plans. We watched a couple drifting along in a boat on the lake.
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AFTER OUR WALK, we browsed a downtown flea market of vintage furniture and other household items. We didn’t buy anything, but enjoyed looking over the strange, familiar and interesting things on display. On the way home, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant that we had never noticed before.
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The restaurant was in an interesting old building that was an ice house years ago.
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The seating on the porch was inviting, but we chose to dine inside.
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THE RESTAURANT HAD ATMOSPHERE with old pine floors, exposed brick and stone doorways. Tablecloths were black and glasses shone on the tables.
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THE TUSCAN BEAN SOUP with spinach, celery, garlic, chicken stock, carrots, onions and parmesan topping was wonderful with the hot bread.
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THE SHRIMP cooked in white wine and spices was good to the last bite.
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AND BEST OF ALL… homemade pistachio gelato! The first time I had pistachio gelato was in Cortona, Italy, on a trip with my dear sister Yvonne. It was fabulous! I must be sure to bring her here when she visits and we can laugh about how much pistachio gelato we ate on that trip.
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IN THE EVENING, we played a game of cards and watched an old movie with two seasoned actors, The Bucket List. Before heading for bed, I made my To-Do List for tomorrow with renewed enthusiasm, grateful to have shared this slow day with my husband.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

Spring at Davidson Lake!

Spring at Davidson Lake

Today, the woods are
full of chattering
avian architects and Romeos,
building nests,
broadcasting songs
to seduce mates, and
exchanging threats
from the tree tops
as they work
warning other
avian flyers away.
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Mossy carpets bask in
bright sunshine
soon to dim
when Summer’s
leaf canopy blooms.
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Canoes rest upended
awaiting passengers
to fill their empty shells,
paddling to hidden beaches
for romance and play.
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At the edge of the woods,
grass blooms in
darker green hues
long absent in Winter.
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Hardy dandelions surge
to gain ground
while they can
and try to stake
their claim.
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A volunteer pine
tree begins its
long climb to the sky.
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An exercise station
on the fitness trail
awaits the arrival
of local denizens
with healthy-me resolutions.
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A sunny day,
a gentle breeze,
a calm lake,
and a lone traveler
just sitting and dreaming
of yester-Springs.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

Look Up! The Trees are Shouting “Spring is on the Loose!”

Look up! Look out as you walk! The Bradford Pear trees, Forsythia and Redbud trees, that herald the coming Spring with their fertile flowering, are beginning to shout.
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It’s been a long winter, especially for our friends and family in the North. This year, our mild winter mixed with unpredictable bursts of cold and snow and dreary, left us in the southern U.S, also eager for Spring. What a thrill to walk under and among cascading blooms.

It’s time to put on our walking shoes and get out our bicycles to witness first hand the magical transformation of the season of rest into the season of hope and renewal.
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Spring!
A time
of new beginnings.

Nature
is adding,
dividing and multiplying.

I’ll
make a
change this Spring.

Old grievances
left behind.
It’s a new day.

My forsythia.
Dainty yellow
blooms held aloft
on graceful arms,
longer than a
prima ballerina could.
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Beauty
doesn’t last
but the memory
of beauty savored
does.
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Time to start a list of Spring projects and personal goals.

Spring
breezes whisper
in my ear –
hope, engage, reach –
act now!

“Homeless Jesus”: Is it Art and What does it Mean?

THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING THE INSTALLATION OF A NEW ART PIECE in the lakeside town of Davidson, is creating quite a stir that has grabbed attention in the national and international news. I’m reminded of the saying, “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” I don’t know who said this first, but it has the ring of an eternal truth.

DAVIDSON IS A COLLEGE TOWN, home of Davidson College, and situated on Lake Norman, 20 minutes North of Charlotte, North Carolina. Davidson has been described as reminiscent of the small town America of Rockwell paintings, with tree lined streets and well kept homes with sidewalks, bike paths and green spaces, and a main street with places to park in front of stores and restaurants… Toast, the Soda Shop, antique shops, and more.

WE MOVED TO a rented townhome in Davidson a few weeks ago, after we sold our home in Charlotte, while we look for our new home as “empty nesters”. I was interested in seeing the Homeless Jesus sculpture for myself that was causing such different reactions.

The Homeless Jesus Sculpture was the creation of Timothy P. Schmalz, a Canadian sculpter. His larger-than-life sculptures are displayed in various places in the world. He has created bronze sculptures honoring military families, firefighters and a memorial to the 911 tragedy. One statue stands in front of the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome. He is working on a 100 foot sculpture of St. Patrick to be given as a gift to Ireland from North America. The details and stories depicted in his sculptures are riveting, and it’s hard to look away.

I HAD NO TROUBLE finding St. Albans Episcopal Church, where the sculpture was on display, as it was only a few blocks away. The stately church is located in a quiet area of town tucked into landscape in the midst of tree-lined streets and well-kept townhomes and single family homes with sidewalks.

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AS I APPROACHED, I saw several park benches at the edge of the church’s property beside the sidewalk, beckoning walkers to sit and rest.

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ALTHOUGH THE AFTERNOON SUN had moved to shade the benches, it appeared one bench was occupied. (The media reported one passerby called the police, thinking it was a homeless person on the bench.)

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I PARKED THE CAR AT THE CURB and walked to the park bench with the now visible reclining sculpture.

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I noticed the space at the end of the bench, room for one person to sit down beside the sculpture.

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I recalled the picture of Pope Francis with his hand on the sculpture. (View on Schmalz ‘ web site: sculpturebytps.com)

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The feet clearly showed the nail holes, signaling that this creation of bronze was meant to be a depiction of a sleeping Jesus.

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THE CONTROVERSY.
Some of the naysayers disliking the sculpture said it should be in a private garden, or at least placed away from the front of the church. One neighbor interviewed on TV commented that “Jesus was not homeless,”, and said it was not appropriate to represent him that way. Some neighbors consider the sculpture to be sacrilegious.

Some appreciate the beauty and skill of the bronze sculpture of the Homeless Jesus, focusing on the workmanship. Others are forcefully reminded of the story and societal mandate to give back to others in need. Still others sit at the end of the bench and pray, laying their right hand gently on the bronze leg of the sleeping Jesus statue.

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My own thinking is that we need art to expand our humanity, as much as we need science to expand our knowledge. Art can tell us a story, stir our emotions and challenge our thoughts. If art can do this, maybe it will make us think about what we really do feel and believe…(no matter our differences in ethnicity, geography or spiritual beliefs), as well as what contributions we can make to each other…and to the world. MAYBE.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

Spring! Is it Here Yet?

EACH SEASON OF THE YEAR BRINGS IT OWN DELIGHTS, and I enjoy each one as it lingers awhile before giving sway to a new one. There is one season though, that I want to speed up its arrival… and that is SPRING. No doubt about it. I have Spring Fever!

I LIVED IN WEST VIRGINIA, KENTUCKY AND INDIANA for much of my life. When I lived those years in the Midwest, as February came to a close, I was so ready for Winter to be over. I was eager to put away heavy winter coats, boots and gloves,… to no longer have cold hands, nose and feet, or have to scrape the car windows of ice and snow. All of a sudden, I seemed to notice the drab winter colors everywhere. Mother used to say, “Don’t wish for Spring too soon. The too warm air colliding with the cold air causes tornadoes”. She was on alert in the Spring for tornadoes as long as she lived in Indiana.

I BEGIN TO MAKE TO-DO LISTS for Spring, think about cleaning out sock drawers, and previewing seed catalogs for herbs and flowers. February was a trifle early in the Midwest to look for Spring, but it never failed that each year I developed a growing yearning for Spring to bust forth in all its colorful new growth and warm breezes.

I HAVE LIVED IN THE SOUTH for over 20 years now, and still appreciate getting just a little head start on the arrival of Spring …or so it seems to me. One week ago, we had snow for a few days… then it warmed up to 70 degrees. It is cooler today and rainy, but I have started my annual look-out for signs of Spring. Daffodils are up about 4 inches, and red bud trees are in full bloom spreading touches of pinks and rose over the still quiescent landscape.
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RUNNING ERRANDS TODAY, I was happy to see redbud trees everywhere proudly waving their Spring colors in the wind.

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THE GRASS IS MOSTLY BROWN, yet to awaken from Winter rest to herald Spring with a showy new green carpet. The rosy blooms against the blue Carolina sky are a contrast with the brownish grass…reflecting en environment in transition.

WE LUNCHED AT MIMI’S. When we shared it was our anniversary, we were treated to a trio of desserts: apple crisp, bread pudding with bourbon sauce and crunchy brownie with ice cream. Although I love chocolate, my favorite was the bread pudding…soft, sweet and custardy!

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I WILL WATCH FOR, and celebrate, other signs of Spring, as I go about my daily chores. In the meantime, I am grateful two of my indoor orchids are showing their lovely blooming faces to cheer us, as we warm ourselves by the fire and have a cup of hot cocoa and cranberry orange muffins.

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Do you look for signs of Spring?

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

What Do You Consider a Good Book?

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BOOKS! Books! books! So many books… offering promises of new vistas to imagine and new paths to walk. What grabs your attention in a book? What is it about a story that leaves you with lingering memory traces, to feel and review once again, long after the book is finished?

I APPRECIATE DEPTH in any book, fiction or non-fiction. In fiction, I am partial to stories with lots of dialogue (as in Hemingway), but yet, I can be mesmerized by a book with little verbal interaction among characters, such as An Unnecessary Woman, I am reading currently.

I DON’T ENJOY fiction with stereotyped jargon, two-dimensional characters that are not very interesting, a story line too predictable or simplistic, a boring theme or plot, or no plot. I welcome a good story in a locale that is new and unfamiliar to me.

MY INTERESTS extend well beyond fiction, however, and I tend to choose books from a wide variety of topics and genres. I find it most satisfying when I learn something new from reading, or the author stimulates my thinking about a dilemma or circumstance in a different way.

A HOUSE WITH BOOKS seems a little warmer and inviting somehow.

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MY KINDLE rests on my bedside table so I can read a few paragraphs or chapter of an e-book before sleep. I love the bright red cover. I tied a red ribbon around it. When I untie the ribbon to read, I feel as if I have opened a gift… which of course I have. In addition to the ongoing gift of adventure, my son Jon gave me the Kindle.

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MY DAUGHTER SUZANNE crocheted a cover for the Kindle and the charge cord, so I can use it as a travel case. So pretty and practical too! I take it with me when I have appointments that I know will keep me waiting (such as medical clinics and airports).

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I KEEP ONE OR TWO books (with actual pages to turn) in the living room near my favorite chair, so they are available when I have time to sit with a cup of coffee or tea.

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I TYPICALLY READ 60 to 100 books a year. I have listed below a sampling of ten books I read recently that captured my attention for one reason or another.

THE COLE TRILOGY: THE PHYSICIAN, SHAMAN, and MATTERS OF CHOICE, (3 books) by Noah Gordon, Barcelona Books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories of physicians with healing hands in one family tree, from medieval to modern times. The first book, The Physician, was the best, taking place in ancient Persia, England and Scotland. Historical elements interwoven: medicine, medical training, care of bubonic plague victims, practice of Islam, Christianity and Jewish religions in ancient times. Second book was delightful as well, taking place in 1800’s in Scotland and American with Indian culture and American civil war. The third book was OK, just not as dramatic as the first two.

CHASING CHINA: ONE WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR TRUTHby Kay Bratt (2010). A fictional story of a young woman of 18 who travels to China to find the story of her birth. The author lived in China for 4 years and every place and incident involving children were observed by her and incorporated into the story. A beautiful and troubling picture of China today.

THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom, Simon & Shuster (2010). A believable story with a big cast of characters you can care about and root for… and several nasty villians. Set in Pennsylvania plantation for most of the story (partly in city of Philadelphia). Features the lives of negro slaves and an indentured Irish girl and the white family in the big house and how entangled their lives become. Story told from view of a slave and the indentured servant. Brings alive a dark period of our history.

SERENA by Ron Rash (2008). Harper-Collins e-books. Powerful story by Western NC author. Serena is the most black-hearted woman villain literature has seen for many years. Story takes place years ago in North Carolina and Tennessee when mountains were being clear cut by lumbar barons, leaving waste lands in their wake. Depicted hard life in the lumbar camps. There was no action Serena would avoid to get her way. A movie is in the works.

THE WRITING LIFE by Annie Dillard, Harper Collins e-books. Just what the title says, snippets about her writing life demonstrating it is a plodding, frustrating and yet meaningful endeavor.

THE ROSIE PROJECT: A NOVEL by Graeme Simsion, Simon & Shuster. A funny, touching story about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome who sets out to find a wife. (Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism which can lead to difficulty in social interactions.) Easy to cheer for the main character and his Rosie.

A GENTLE RAIN by Deborah Smith (2007). BelleBooks. A warm, fuzzy love story of the rural area in North Central Florida, an area tourists flocking to Florida resort areas do not really know. Eccentric characters include lovable and talented mentally challenged and other unique characters. Rich girl joins rural farm seeking her birth parents. Story is full of coincidences, and rich girl has more talents than supergirl, but still the characters shined through this story. This story reminds us to value and acknowledge the talents of each of us.

UNBROKEN: A WORLD WAS II STORY OF SURVIVAL, RESILIENCE AND REDEMPTION BY Laura Hillenbrand. In recent years, my husband and I have occasionally enjoyed a book together by reading to each other in the evening. This was a book we read a couple of years ago. USA Today newspaper reported today that Angelina Jolie was planning to direct a movie based on Unbroken. The is a true story about an American hero, Olympian track star in 1932 Olympics in Berlin, pilot, and former Japanese prisoner of war during WWII. Louis has lead an amazing life! The historical research Laura Hillenbrand did for this book is as impressive as her book on Seabiscuit. Louis is 97 years old now. Apparently, he is a neighbor of Jolie too. If you read this book, I predict you are not likely to forget it anytime soon.

It’s Time to Downsize and I’m Not Ready!

I HAVE BEEN ON HIATUS from the internet for several weeks, fully engaged in navigating a life transition that I thought I was ready for… but found more difficult than I anticipated.
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WE WERE TWO EMPTY NESTERS in a three story house that continued to grow larger by the month. My husband and I agreed it made sense to simplify our life by selling our “family home”. We came to that conclusion one day when we realized we were using cell phones to find one another…it’s not easy to “shout out” when we are two floors away from one another…and we didn’t need 4.5 bathrooms.

For several years, we have enjoyed spending time in our small vacation house in the NC mountains. When I am there, I realize that we don’t need all the “things” we have in our home in Charlotte. Daily choices are fewer: two sets of sheets only for each bed (when clean set goes on, the other set goes into the washer), two tablecloths for each season, three flower vases, fewer dishes and small kitchen appliances. The closets are smaller there, with less clothes, so there are fewer choices of what to wear. An added bonus is the ease in keeping a smaller space clean and tidy…less floor to sweep and mop. Life seems easier somehow. So, we reasoned, although we really loved our family home in Charlotte, we decided we were ready to sell it and move to a smaller house. After all, we didn’t need all that space, did we?

You would think we had come to grips with selling our home, before we put up a “For Sale” sign…and I guess the answer is “yes” and “no”. Yet, we were surprised in December to receive an offer on the house. The buyers wanted possession right away by December 23, but we had the good sense to say no… taking down the Christmas tree two days before Christmas… No Way!
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I WANTED TO HAVE OUR LAST CHRISTMAS with our children in our home of many years. And, we needed at least 60 days to make the move. After all, we weren’t expecting to sell that soon, and we didn’t have a place to move to. We also had over 4,000 square feet of house spread out on three floors, with furniture, accessories and odds and ends accumulated over many years of marriage. A few pieces of furniture were my parents and some were from my husband’s side of the family.

WE CELEBRATED THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS as usual, knowing it was the last holiday in this house. The month of January was an extended time of letting go, as we gave away so many things to friends, family, neighbors, and others who had need of specific items.

There was a flurry of activity for weeks with folks coming and going as items were carted away. We watched the treadmill loaded up and taken away (we will just find a place to walk outside), the barbeque grill, outdoor patio furniture (we don’t need it all), sectional sofa in the family room, tables, bookcases and lamps. The pool table stood as a lonely sentinel in the family room waiting for new owners.
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We donated bags of clothes, books and accessories to Goodwill and Veterans groups. I felt an unexpected loss as I watched my white dresser, with nine drawers, moving out of the house. My sister passed it on to me years ago and I had painted it a shabby chic white. It was my dresser for a few years until it was moved to our guest room. I don’t know why it bothered me so to see it go. I distributed a number of house plants, large and small, to delighted friends.

I WATCHED OUR 12 FOOT CHRISTMAS TREE out of sight as it was carried across the street to the neighbors’ garage. That tree presided over so many happy times in our home. I was comforted by the thought that our tree would reappear in its Christmas finery next December, but this time keeping watch over our house from the window across the street.

AFTER THE INITIAL GIVING AWAY, it occurred to me that there was a life cycle of “things” assigned. My dresser went to a young couple in a new home who didn’t have a dresser… the treadmill to a midlife man who wanted to lose some weight and get healthy…grandpa’s mandolin to our daughter who is the musician in the family and would appreciate it most…dishes to our daughter who is a great cook,…some of my husband’s tools to our son…bookcases to new neighbors who moved in boxes of professional books…our freezer and second refrigerator to a young chef who is developing a catering business… a doll to a 5 year old girl who loved it…and so on. There is a cosmic rightness about it all… passing on… recycling treasured items… and seeing them appreciated all over again.
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A COUPLE WITH A YOUNG FAMILY bought our house. It’s comforting to think that another family will be making new memories there. As we left closing, my husband told the young couple who bought our home, “I hope you’ll love living there as much as we did”. I said, “Take care of our house.”

IN JANUARY, we experienced record breaking cold, snow and ice in North Carolina, as we packed and moved in stages. It was a challenge! (But that is another story.)
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AS A FORMER FAMILY THERAPIST, I know it often helps with closing one chapter of life, to take time to say goodbye to spaces and places (as well as people) that have had meaning. In our final visit, my husband and I walked throughout the house and shared some of the memories we had of each room; happy times with our parents when they were still with us, summer cookouts by our Asian rock garden, dinner parties with friends and holiday gatherings with family. Our steps echoed in the empty rooms now filled with the ghosts of remembering…

I WAS REMINDED of the exciting day we bought the house…and I felt a sense of appreciation for this place and pride that we had, in fact, created a home that we loved and that welcomed others. Although we had some sad times over the years, this home had been a happy place…. And then, we walked away.
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WE ARE IN A RENTED 3-BEDROOM TOWNHOME for 6-8 months, to give us time to decide where we want to create a new home. My dining room furniture is incarcerated in storage temporarily. But, we are unpacked and organized here and are developing a routine in a new place.
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WE SPEND OUR LIVES collecting things…ultimately we enter a time of life when acquiring things is no longer a priority. Sorting out treasured items among a myriad of “things” that have become attached to our lives is difficult under the best circumstances… Maybe it ushers in a sense of freedom as well… especially when collections are dispersed with purpose. I will reserve judgment on that until time brings more perspective.

NOW, IN THE MIDST OF our transition in downsizing, we are following new rules of the house:

1. Don’t bring in anything new, unless we get rid of something else.

2. We can do just as well with fewer options (e.g., I don’t really need 25 different flower vases or kitchen gadgets I never use).

3. Unless we need it, really love it, AND have a place for it, don’t bring it home.

I’LL SHARE MY ADVENTURE from time to time, of finding a place to make a new home… and invite your comments about letting go and moving on….

Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

Winter Beauty: Sculptures All Around

WINTER SENTINELS

Black trees on the hill
like sentinels anchored to the land
stretch on tip-toes,
reaching Hedra-like arms and
slender fingers stripped bare
toward winter skies,
their strong trunks
holding the line – unmoving.
Do they dance out of formation
when no one is looking?

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Black trees on the hill,
hidden from view
in fog swirling
’round their feet.
Rooted in earth,
they bring me comfort,
standing bare
against storm  and stress –
sometimes for lifetimes.

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Black trees on the hill,
dressed in winter white
sprinkled with sparkling crystals,
divert my attention
from winter grays.
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Black trees on the hill
take my breath away
in winter,
seeing their naked sculptural forms
spread without embarrassment
against the Carolina blue sky.

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Black trees on the hill
stand tall in formation,
while the last ray of sun
fades from view,
never waving rudely for
the sun to hurry away.

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MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME to appreciate the beauty of trees at each season of the year. On my daily walks, I notice the trees and their relationship to the sky and land – and I always think of Mom.

THIS WIRE SCULPTURE of a winter tree is a favorite of mine that graced the hall table of my dear mother-in-law Nora’s home – and now resides in mine, sharing its beauty and memories.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Turkey leftovers? Make Moroccan Turkey Tagine

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Photos on the table are of family from Christmases past

OUR HOME IS DECORATED for the holidays and I have finished grocery shopping. I’m thinking about the turkey we will have for our family meal on December 25th and the dish I will make with turkey leftovers this year – maybe turkey tagine?

IN OUR HOUSE, leftover turkey is enjoyed as much as the roast turkey on Christmas day. So – we make sure to get the largest turkey we can find that will fit in our oven, to be certain we will have plenty of leftovers. Like thousands of others, we look forward to a turkey sandwich on December 26th. I like mine with turkey, cream cheese, greens, cranberry sauce and dressing (stuffing). Sooo good!

OVER THE YEARS I have tried a number of different recipes, trying to create a fabulous meal starring the leftover turkey. There are several dishes that turned out to be a hit at my table – the tagine recipe is one.

THIS AROMATIC RECIPE delivers a warm, exotic dish using leftover turkey. It’s an easy, slow cooker dinner that also is an impressive dish for entertaining – and can serve a large number of family and friends, by adding more to the cooker. It is a wonderful dish to keep warm in the crock pot when you have family arriving at different times to eat.

Moroccan Turkey Tagine

3-4 cups leftover turkey
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground if possible)
1 teaspoon garam masala
Kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup medium to dry sherry (optional)

Layer turkey, onions, carrots, raisins and apricots in crock pot (slow cooker). In bowl, whisk broth and remaining ingredients (except sherry) together and pour over turkey mixture in cooker. Cook 3-4 hours to blend flavors or until vegetables are done. Cook on high for 30 minutes and then turn down to low for rest of cooking time. Add sherry last 30 minutes.

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My favorite tureen for Christmas soups and stews

SET THE MOOD by serving the tagine in a soup tureen with bright emerald, ruby and purple colors in the tablecloth, napkins and centerpiece. I served the tagine with couscous sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, tandoor naan bread for dipping and a fresh fruit salad. This recipe is adapted from one I found in Family Circle (Jan 2007).

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Top Ten Essentials for Holiday Entertaining at Home

ENTERTAINING DURING THE HOLIDAYS can be stressful, but it need not be so. Entertaining can be as simple, or as complicated, as you want to make it. Let’s have some lunch in my kitchen and then talk about it.

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We hang bells on the outside doors in December so we can enjoy the tinkle of bells as we go in and out. The children love it – and so do I.

THE FOCUS IN OUR HOUSE IS ON CHRISTMAS, as our family’s tradition dictates, but perhaps a few suggestions may be helpful to bloggers who are preparing other holiday celebrations.

I AM NO MARTHA S., nor do I aspire to be an entertaining diva. I have always wanted our home to be a place where family and friends felt welcome, when they visited. I’ve had a number of years for trial and error and have arrived at my own ways to make entertaining more enjoyable for me – and hopefully more memorable for my guests. (One of the many perks of getting older is all that comes with life experience.) If the host is relaxed and having a good time, our guests’ pleasure in being in our homes is multiplied tenfold.

MY TOP TEN ESSENTIALS FOR ENTERTAINING AT HOME:

1. Plan Ahead– Organize-organize-organize (See earlier post on getting organized: click on HOME posts and scroll to Nov 5th: The Holidays are Coming and Its Time to Get Organized)

2. Invite People You Enjoy
Yes, I know that is not always possible. There may be a family member or co-worker that is a challenge for you, but should be included in some traditional event – so onward. We do our best to be gracious and make guests feel welcome in our home. Aside from the have-to-have folks for obligatory events, this is a wonderful time of year to plan special events in your home with people you enjoy to share your decorations, traditions and holiday foods (e.g., lunch, dinner, coffee, tree decorating, cookie exchanges, dessert sampling, wine and cheese by the fire). This is the time for joyful celebrations – large and small.

3. Plan a Menu That Meets Your Stress Test
As a young wife and mother, when I was trying to master so many things at once in managing a home, I set such a challenge for myself for entertaining that I was often exhausted when I met our guests at the door. My sister often kids me about the dinner I fixed that used every pan and dish in the kitchen. I even made a dobosh torte with 8 different fillings. No more! Unless you enjoy many hours in the kitchen, are catering the event, are working on a cookbook, or have good helpers, you may want to plan a gracious and fabulous repast that won’t burn out the chef.

THIS IS MY RECIPE now for entertaining, especially for dinner parties – the 1-2, 3 & 3 method. This Star-Early Bird and Easy Method is based on the notion that not every dish I serve needs to be a candidate for gourmet magazine, a never before seen dish or take 2 days to prepare. Oh. What a relief! I use this method for planning the menu.

1-2 STAR DISHES Star dishes are 1 or 2 complicated show-off gourmet dishes. They can be the entrée, dessert, bread, or some of the sides. There are the stars of the meal.! The other dishes are delicious also, but are supporting players in your meal.

3 EARLY BIRD DISHES These dishes can be prepared a day ahead with minimal preparation the day of the event.

3 EASY DISHES These are prepared just like the name sounds – easy, (e.g., purchasing a unique side dish or bread from a deli or restaurant ready to bake or warm, or a dish you can prepare with few ingredients – or in little time).

4. Decorate the house in early December
WE DECORATE THE CHRISTMAS TREE the day after Thanksgiving and finish the other decorations by the first week of December. So – that is done and ready to enjoy the festive display while we move on to holiday activities. The house is always ready for entertaining, with a just a few things to do to refresh the decorations before each event.

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5. Refresh decorations with fresh flowers and holiday greens
I LOVE HAVING FRESH plants and flowers around all year long. I usually find something to cut from the yard and add to that with fresh flowers picked up at the grocery. This can be an arrangement on the serving table, in the living or family room, or even a small vase with one flower on the table. I always put a fresh flower in a bud vase in the guest room. It says welcome in a special way.

MOST CHRISTMAS TREE LOTS will give away, or charge a small fee, for armloads of pine or frazer fir branches they have cut away from the trees in shaping. I put the branches in a bucket of water and keep outside where it is cool. Weekly, I bring in fresh boughs to add to the mantle and table decorations and toss the old ones. The fresh greens add a Christmasy scent to the room.

6. Light the Candles
CANDLES CREATE a special atmosphere in the evening. I have candles in my kitchen, in the living room and on the dining tables. To simplify my life, I have given away all candle holders that hold the tapers that have to be monitored for fire and for dripping wax. I only use fat candles inside hurricanes and I also have a few battery candles that come on for 5 hours in bedrooms or places where children gather.

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Battery candles near the fireplace turn on automatically for 6 hours after dark.

7. Turn on holiday music that makes you sing
I ENJOY CHRISTMAS MUSIC while I am working on holiday projects or creating something for the holidays in my kitchen. Traditional Christmas pop songs and carols stimulate tons of memories to keep me in the spirit of the season. The memories floating into my kitchen on the strains of the music create a cozy and warm Christmasy feeling as I work. (As I mentioned previously, I’m a sucker for sentiment in December.)

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8. Make Your Kitchen Holly Friendly
I DON’T MEAN TO GO CRAZY in over-the-top decorating. No, I mean to at least put a touch of the holidays in the room you spend a lot of time in – your kitchen. It can be as simple as one Christmas candle, a wreath on the kitchen door or a small kitchen tree hung with cookie cutters. I have a favorite red apron I wear in December and I use a couple of Christmasy pot holders and dish towels.

9. Decorate Dining and Serving Tables
THINK OF IT as creating a stage to present your food as the star. Decorations can be simple, with candles, flowers, pine, or just scattered ornaments or pine cones.

10. Take Time to Rest Before Guests Arrive
WE LEARN THE LESSON early (at least many women do) that we project a more confident and relaxed manner when we wear something we feel comfortable in.. and that we think we look good wearing. So – think about what you are going to wear ahead of time, so it is ready to wear. Plan your time so you can take a leisurely bath or have plenty of time to dress before guests arrive.

Congratulate yourself on your preparations. You deserve it. Greet your guests at the door with a smile. Enjoy your guests and your own holiday party.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

How Do You Decorate Your Tree?

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WE ALWAYS HAD A FRESHLY CUT PINE TREE to decorate for Christmas when I was growing up. And since it was a real tree, we couldn’t leave it up for weeks – so we decorated the tree on Christmas Eve and left it up for a week until New Year’s Day. By that time, the needles were drying out from standing in the living room with a fireplace, and it was becoming a fire hazard.
After a few years, Mom bought a tree stand with a well at the base to hold water. I thought it was my job to check the tree stand each fay and refill with water if needed.

I DON’T HAVE A MEMORY OF GOING TO THE CHRISTMAS TREE FARM to cut our own tree, as many folks have, but Dad brought home the biggest tree from a fresh tree lot that would fit in our living room. He would get out his saw, cut two boards for a stand and nail them in the shape of a plus sign to the bottom of the tree. We would cover the boards with a cotton sheet. If the tree was too tall for the room, he would cut off the top to make it reach near the ceiling, leaving room for a plastic white and red star that was lit from within.

FAMILIES DEVELOP THEIR OWN TRADITIONS for decorating the Christmas tree. In our house, it was Dad’s job to put up the tree – then, he arranged the strings of lights, taking care to spread the lights equidistant throughout the tree – as his engineering mind dictated. Decorating the tree with lights was no simple matter in those days, as even one burned out light would prevent the entire string from lighting – and the bad bulb had to be tracked down and replaced.

ONCE THE LIGHTS WERE LIT, the children decorated the tree with the unpacked Christmas ornaments. In addition to store bought ornaments, we had school-crafted paper santas, reindeer and snowmen – and occasionally even red and green construction paper chains – that found their way onto the tree. Mom always made us feel that our art projects were beautiful and added something special.

REMEMBER THE SILVER TINSEL? Dad told us that the tree would be its most beautiful if we took great care to hang each tinsel string separately… no throwing it on the tree. It takes awhile to hang a separate piece of tinsel from each branch, with the tip end hanging on one branch and the dangling silver string reflecting the lights. We all thought the tree trimmed with silver tinsel was a wonderful sight to behold.
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Don’t you agree the tinsel tree is lovely?

GRANDMOTHER MARQUIS always had a huge tree in the big bay window in her living room.. I don’t remember a tree at Grandma Mamie’s. but I do remember the smells of apples and cinnamon in her house.

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That’s me holding tightly to my new books and my sister Nancy beside me with her new purse.

MOTHER loved Christmas. After her children were grown, she decorated her home for the holidays with a little something in every room – including a big Christmas tree in the family room, and small trees in the kitchen and in each of the bedrooms, where her children and grandchildren would be sleeping.

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Mom and Dad in their 80’s

CHRISTMAS IS A SPECIAL TIME of year, and I enjoy all the festivities associated with the holidays. We usually put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving and leave it up until January 2nd. The house seems more festive to bake, write Christmas cards, listen to holiday music, make shopping lists, wrap gifts, entertain friends and just sit by the fire enjoying the tree with family.

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WHEN JANUARY 2ND ARRIVES, I am more than ready to put away the holiday decorations and welcome the new year. The house always looks clean and refreshed somehow with the colorful decorations put away for another year.

FOR THE MONTH OF DECEMBER, HOWEVER,…OUR HOUSE IS A CHRISTMAS HOUSE with its colorful rooms, rich and savory food, family traditions, anticipation, laughter, holiday music and secrets afoot.
Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

I would love to read about some of your traditions for decorating the Christmas tree.

The Thanksgiving Table

MEMORY
My childhood’s home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There’s pleasure in it, too.

(by Abraham Lincoln in 1846 when he was 37)

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IN RECENT YEARS, MEMORIES OF PAST THANKSGIVINGS come to visit at Thanksgiving time, like welcome spirits, filling the house with smells, sights, sounds and stories of long ago times with family and friends around the family dining table. – When family gathers now, we share the old stories, visit familiar traditions and renew family bonds once again.

THE THANKSGIVING TABLE

MOM IN HER APRON at 6:00am –
she and turkey greet the sunrise;
women in the house don aprons after breakfast
taking directions to prepare the feast.
Young daughters and granddaughters set the table,
check the centerpiece,light the candles,
and sometimes stir a mysterious mixture –
then run off to play with siblings and cousins.

DAD CARVES THE SUCCULENT TURKEY in the kitchen,
separating meat slices – white to dark –
arranging artfully on the turkey platter.
Mom says carving the turkey is a man’s job –
and he performs the ritual with pleasure
as head of our family.

OUR THANKSGIVING table covered end to end
with food, family and friends;
Dad at the window end of the table
by the turkey proudly starring in our feast;
Mom at the other end, near the kitchen
to fetch a forgotten spoon.

THE SAME THANKSGIVING MEAL re-appears,
no trendy new dishes here to explain;
dishes of food artfully displayed
on the white tablecloth with the best Haviland
china, silver, crystal and cloth napkins.
A bowl of flowers and lighted candles
centers with food nestled around the table:
fresh green beans, mashed potatoes served in Mom’s
mixer bowl, dressing smelling of sage, corn,
a full gravy boat with tender pieces of turkey swimming,
sinfully rich sweet potatoes with the
heavenly aroma of brown sugar, butter and pralines,
cranberry sauce in the familiar glass bowl,
salads, hot rolls wrapped in a cotton bun warmer
decorated on the edges with Mom’s white crocheted lace,
and a pitcher of ice cold ice tea (sweetened of course).

WE HEAR COFFEE PERKING on the buffet beside the desserts:
cookies for the children and pumpkin and pecan pies –
butter pecan ice cream added later.
With bowed heads and hands clasped around
the table, each of us speaks of the year’s
greatest blessing – opening hearts of gratitude –
while family bonds tighten. Dad says grace and
finishes with a toast for health in the coming year.

WOMEN adjourn to the family room
for coffee and talk – while men tackle dishes
and clean-up in kitchen and dining room –
in gratitude for their traditions and sated stomachs.
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IN MY HOME, I have continued familiar traditions, and serve many foods shared over the years at the Thanksgiving tables in my parents home. I use Mom’s green bean recipe for perfect green beans, and serve turkey, mashed potatoes, lots of cranberry sauce, hot rolls, dressing and iced tea, pumpkin and pecan pies and cookies and ice cream.

I HAVE MADE A FEW CHANGES and additions over the years: reduced the calories in the sweet potato recipe, and served additional lower calorie dishes as options, for example, wild rice with cranberries; field greens salad with raspberries and toasted walnuts and goat cheese; sliced cucumbers with onions and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, basalmic vinegar and oregano. I also serve ham for some family members who prefer it to turkey and a wine option with the iced tea. The past 20 years, I have served my mother-in-law’s holiday pineapple salad (loved by my family) and occasionally make her delicious squash casserole dish – thus incorporating traditions and memories from my husband’s family.

THIS THANKSGIVING, we will once again gather together at the holiday table. I am thankful for traditions past – and blessed to be engaged in passing them on.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

Learning Something New Every Day