Wednesday, July 25, 2018

SUMMER ON MADISON AVENUE by E. E. Kennedy


    


No, I don’t mean that Madison Avenue, as in Mad Men. I mean the wide, bustling street that runs right through the center of Montgomery, Alabama, ending eventually at the Capitol building. My grandmother’s house stood (and still stands) on the corner of Madison and Florida Avenue, in a neighborhood called Capitol Heights, just two blocks from a Methodist Church and a mile or so down the road from the Farmer’s Market. It’s at the center of my childhood memories of summer. 
A little background: my mom and dad met and married when they worked at a military hospital in 1946 and though she was an Alabama girl, they chose to settle in his territory, northern New York State, where they raised three children: me, my brother and my sister. This mixed marriage of a Yankee and Southerner proved to be a happy one. My dad was always eager to please my mom, so we vacationed paradoxically. We spent most of the year up North where winters were bitter cold, and in the summer, we trekked the three-day, 1,327-mile trip to sunny, hot Alabama. It wasn’t the easiest of journeys. Remember, this was the fifties, where the roads tended to have one-lanes and the choice of accommodations were between a slightly seedy tourist cabin or an expensive hotel room. What’s more, our car had no air conditioning!
Nonetheless, our annual trips to Alabama were magical for us children and Grandmother’s house played a big part in that. It was large one-story Arts and Crafts, a style that was popular early in the 1900’s. It had high, high ceilings in the front room and carved cherubs over the fireplace. Massive pocket doors divided the living room from the parlor and the windows were probably eight feet tall, with rolling shades that you pulled down with a string. One giant bathroom served the four bedrooms. You pulled a chain to flush the toilet and the bathtub had feet. A large box of wooden matches served as an air freshener. 
Best of all was the front porch. It was broad, made of cement, running almost the entire width of the front of the house. Two or
three heavy metal chairs stood on one side of the entry door. They made a loud scraping sound when grownups dragged them closer to the long and even heavier porch glider. That thing must have been styled after a green Oldsmobile sedan, with broad metal arms resembling bumpers that featured flip-top ashtrays on each side. It provided room enough on the plastic padded seats for three stout adults or six slim children. Grandmother periodically added additional padding by storing magazines under the cushions. When we ran out of things to do, we could always curl up with a copy of Life, Lookor The Saturday Evening Post
     It was on this porch that the family photos were made: the grownups holding the new babies, my Grandmother dressed up, ready for church, or a gathering of all the grandchildren on the front steps. 
Grandmother’s front yard matched the size of her house. It was wide and deep. She was an avid gardener and on either side of the porch she invariably had a dense patch of flame-colored "flags" or canna lilies. The color was always dazzling. In the lawn, we grandchildren gathered clover blossoms to make chains and played hopscotch on the sidewalk and Mother-May-I on the porch’s front steps. When we got really hot, we’d escape to the shade of the porch and get that heavy glider swinging back and forth until it tilted dangerously.
One of our favorite things to do was to walk around the block--all by ourselves, no grownups—to buy popsicles at the little mom and pop store that had been there as long as anybody could remember. The store had a screen door with a metal ad for bread across the front. It would squeak as we entered. Sometimes we’d buy a bottle of Orange Crush or Grapico from the big water-filled mechanical cooler that stood just inside. 
Sometimes, my mother and grandmother would drive down the road to the Farmer’s Market. I found produce shopping pretty boring, but always enjoyed the wonderful things we brought back with us. Daddy would cut us a length of sugar cane to suck on or we’d share a soggy bag of salty boiled peanuts, two treats we could never get up North. 
Another special treat was having lunch at a restaurant we called the Pulleybone, conveniently located on our way home from the Market. I don't remember what the real name was. We had to be sure to get to the place early, or they’d run out of pulleybones (wishbones), which was that section of the bird that contained the tastiest, juiciest white meat. If we did arrive late, we’d have to settle for drumsticks or thighs or ordinary breast meat instead.
After these shopping trips, Grandmother and Mommy would get busy in the kitchen. We could tell from the smells what we’d be having for supper: fresh green beans with new potatoes, fried eggplant and chicken fried steak, hot and crispy, plus homemade biscuits and jam made from the figs that grew on the tree out back. Grandmother was a great cook and had two trendy specialties she served to company: a kind of omelet that she called her “Egg Roll,” which I liked, and Pear Salad, which I didn’t. (Recipes to follow.) She also taught me to like tomato aspic and homemade pimento cheese sandwiches. She had a huge pantry with long shelves where she kept cartons of canned goods, including Vienna sausage (pronounced Vi-een-ah), jars of Hellman’s Mayonnaise and (to my horror) an entire case of canned brains and eggs! I never had the courage to ask Grandmother about that. I was afraid she might open a can and want me to taste it! 
Also in the pantry were several wooden trays containing small bottles of Coca-cola, stacked one on top of the other. The trays had neat little squares for each bottle. Grandmother would keep a few small bottles--the size that generally sold for a nickel apiece in those days--in the back of her refrigerator where it was cold enough to cause the cola to freeze a little. This would how she preferred her cokes, with what she called "shake ice." We loved it, too, because back home, we weren't allowed to have soda very often. We had to be careful to rinse out the empty bottles (so as not to attract bugs) and replace them in the wooden trays so they could be returned to the store. Grandmother took in "roomers," who rented the bedrooms at the other end of the house.  This gave her the status of a business and entitled her to buy huge quantities of groceries and other products from wholesale warehouses. There weren't any Sam's or BJ's back then, and ordinary people couldn't do that. 
The kitchen table was where my grandmother kept her     Bible
and her current copy of Upper Room magazine. Whether we were far away or near, we always knew that every morning, our Grandmother would be sitting at that table with her Bible open. She'd read a Bible passage, the Upper Room devotional for the day and then pray for each one of us. It was a good feeling to know that.
Unless we could get our parents to let us stay up for the fireflies, we were in bed before dark, teeth brushed and prayers said, each in our own twin bed in the big room that used to be the parlor. At home, I’d have been bundled under a sheet, a bedspread and a blanket, but at Grandmother’s it was so hot, we could hardly bear the weight of a single cotton layer. I always kicked away the chenille bedspread. The beds were under the tall screen windows and we could drowsily eavesdrop on the grownups as they reminisced on the front porch to the rhythmic tune of the crickets. I learned a lot about our family tree that way. 
When Grandmother died, the family sold the house. After we'd grown up, several of the grandchildren expressed a wish to buy it back again, but that has never come to pass. Instead, we content ourselves with the memories and pictures of those precious, long-ago summers. 


GRANDMOTHER’S EGG ROLL (2 servings)
(A childhood favorite of mine)
4 large eggs, beaten
1 can of asparagus, drained (about 6 stalks)
1 small can of mushroom stems and pieces, drained 
1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, combined with enough water to make a gravy, heated 
Butter to grease the pan.
Melt butter in the pan. Pour in eggs and allow to become firm. Lay the asparagus stalks across half of the omelet and scatter as many mushrooms as you like on top. Gently pull the empty half of the omelet over the filling and move to a large serving plate. Pour warmed mushroom gravy over the omelet and serve. Sliced tomatoes on the side are good with this. 


PEAR SALAD (6 servings)
(This recipe is okay. I didn’t like it as a child.)
6 canned pear halves, chilled and drained
Lettuce leaves
1 cup of cottage cheese
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
½ cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
maraschino cherries (optional)

Arrange pear halves on a bed of lettuce on a serving platter. Fill the center of each pear with some cottage cheese and dot with a little bit of mayonnaise. Top that with a generous sprinkle of cheese and top that off with a cherry. 
(My favorite part was always the cherry, but back then, I had strict personal rules about the indiscriminate use of mayonnaise. Tomato sandwiches, okay. On pears, not so much.)
  *****
E. E. Kennedy is the author of the Miss Prentice cozy mystery series. The titles include: Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense and Incomplete Sentence. They're available on Kindle and the first book is now in Amazon Audible form.
*****
Comment or ask a question below for a chance to win an e-copy of one of the Miss Prentice cozy mysteries, your choice! Be sure to leave your EMAIL ADDRESS so we can put your name in the hat!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Cool Dessert for the Hot Summer


Patricia Bradley here, and it's the middle of July. In Mississippi that means HOTAnd I don't want to "cook" anything, not even dessert. I found this delightful recipe a few years ago and tweaked it a little to cut a few calories. Few being the operative word. It's so easy and takes less than ten minutes to make. 

STRAWBERRY AND ANGELFOOD DELIGHT

Here's what you'll need: Angel food cake, whipped topping like Coolwhip, strawberries (sliced), 1/2 can of condensed milk, and a bowl. 



Blend together the topping and condensed milk. Tear up the cake and place half in the bowl. 




Add a layer of the sliced strawberries then a layer of topping mixture. Repeat, and voilá, you done!

Don't forget to enter our contest here!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summertime and the Living is Easy....

Happy Summer, readers of Suspense Sisters!

Summer is my absolute favorite time of year. And although there are lawns to mow, gardens to weed, and extra laundry to wash, just about everyone has a shady spot to sit with a glass of lemonade and read. For me, it's my screened-in porch where I read, work, or simply watch the deer coming and going as the sun sets. When I know friends will be dropping by, I brew a batch of iced tea, mix up some lemonade and bake this luscious treat. Bake two and freeze one, so you'll be ready when neighbors arrive unannounced. Just remember to take it easy...after all, it's summer! And if you tell me about your favorite "cool" dessert, you'll be entered in a drawing for a Bath & Body Works gift & one of my books. USA only. Good luck, readers.   Mary Ellis


Fresh Lemon Sheet Cake


Cream together:

1 ½ cups white sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick)

Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. 

2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients alternate with 1 cup milk.  Next add in the juice of ½ lemon and about 2 tsp lemon zest.  (Optional:  a few drops of lemon food coloring)  Fold in 2 well beaten eggs last. 
Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees – your oven temp may vary)
For approximately 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Hint:  This cake is great with lemon sherbet for a cool summertime treat or you can frost with a lemon butter frosting…

LEMON BUTTER FROSTING:

Cream 3 tbsp room temperature butter
Blend in 2 egg yolks
Stir in 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind (zest)
2 tbsp lemon juice

Leave me a comment about your favorite summertime dessert and you'll have a chance to win a Bath & Bodywork gift set, plus one of my mysteries. US only. And you must leave your email address.

Good luck!