FOR THE LOVE OF FALL…

Each year, I eagerly fill my calendar with dates of fall festivals.  My favorite has quickly become Oxfordfest in Oxford, Alabama –our new hometown.  Oxford lies along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama.   Although Oxford continues to expand and branch out, the autumn celebration is always held in the old downtown area I love.  Here places are set up for dozens of craft vendors, folks working grills and ladies tending tables filled with homemade sweets, or preserves.  The smell of kielbasa with sautéed onions, homemade corn dogs, funnel cakes, and coffee floats in the fall air. 
 brick housedowntown pic oxfordf
big barn varietystore
Not only is the festival a feast for the nose and stomach –it is a feast for the eyes.  How can you not feel happy, walking around with a crisp breeze dimpling your skin, the air rich with the smells of food cooking, vibrant color everywhere? 
 
truck yellow
 plane
purse
Of all the rich craftwork found, my favorites are easily tooled leather and wood.  Everett Martin’s hand-turned wooden bowls and Peggy’s carved/etched & painted gourds are an example of true craftsmanship.  Their shop, Gourds and More, is located in Ohatchee, Alabama.  (If you missed them at Oxfordfest they will be at the Little River Canyon festival the first Saturday in November.)
me with bowls all
beautiful cake plate
bowl inside ox fest
bowl bottom od fest
 How unfortunate I vowed not to purchase anything for myself.
 
 
All about are the sounds of happiness –children and families laughing and talking, a gospel band sings in the distance.  Community.  It just feels right.  Representatives from neighboring churches are present.  Politicians are too –both handing out pamphlets and business cards. 
boy and dog oxfrordfest
Oxford Police Department is also here, busy working with droves of moms and dads who are anxious to take advantage of the Child ID kits.  It is amazing how active the department is in Oxford.  It’s one of the main reasons I enjoy living here -doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if you are out and about you notice that they are out and about as well.  Returning from Publix one afternoon and caught a glimpse of our Chief, Bill Partridge out helping a motorist change a flat.  I sang his praises all the way home.  If I’d had a camera, I’d have posted the pic on Twitter or Facebook to brag!  The man exemplifies hard work and dedication!
bill and luther strange
Chief Bill Partridge with Attorney General Luther Strange 
 ************
My morning ended with a search for Eastaboga Bee Company’s table.  I’ve been wanting to purchase a couple of jars of local honey and only recently learned about Justin Hill’s booming business.  With over 80 hives, they not only produce a ton of honey, they also have select beeswax products.  One of the beers at Cheaha Brewing Company is made using his honey.  Unfortunately, it was not available when we visited this weekend.  Although I missed him at the fall festival, I’ll be catching up with Justin later this week. 
 
bee  honey
 *A huge ‘thank you’ to my son, Jonathan Isaac Parks, for the amazing photographs!

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

When the weather changes, the closet gets changed out and the plate offered at the table follows suit.  It is time for fall foods, folks!  While I am sure some eat biscuits year round, for me they are a cool weather food; as summer is reserved for fresh fruits that are readily available at our local farmer’s market.  Admittedly, I’ve not always been a fruit lover.  (Laughing, because I can hear the actor in Tombstone drawling, “You, music lover”. It’s funny only if you know the film and once you hear it, you can’t UN-hear it.) But, I digress.

It’s fall and it’s time for cool weather foods.  And for me, warm, just-baked breads are at the top of the list!  Of course, the memoir We Share the Same Sky is filled with reflections of growing up in the South, foods my grandmother’s and mother made, breads they baked and the hours we shared around the family table.  So, I thought today I would share an excerpt, followed by a sweet potato biscuit recipe.  My cousin, Dana Lynn, has been at work perfecting our Grandmother Libby’s square dinner biscuits.  Perhaps she will allow me to share these as well in the near future.

 

From:  We Share the Same Sky (an excerpt from Chapter 2)

Simplicity -free of complexity, refinement or pretentiousness

     The importance of the making and sharing of bread is an amazing thing.   The       women in my family all make a variety of breads. But, of them all, my favorite continues to be the humble biscuit. My GrandMosie’s were the most divine!  She got up early every morning to make my Grandpa breakfast before he went to work. She would fill several with butter and granulated sugar, then slip them to me with a hot cup of coffee at three a.m. because she knew I preferred them hot. I’d eat, drink, crawl back beneath the weight of handmade quilts and fall right back into a deep sleep.  She also made sweet potato biscuits for me and Papa on days we went hunting.  We would eat our fill, then wrap those remaining in paper napkins and tuck them in our coat pockets.  They were thick, dense biscuits, so rich in flavor.

My Grandmother Libby also made incredible biscuits, though they were somewhat odd.  She kept her flour in a huge tin in the cupboard; when she readied to make biscuits she would pull out a stool, open the tin and make a well right there in the flour then work in the shortening and buttermilk.  The biscuit dough was removed, the lid fastened back onto the tin and put away. After rolling out the dough into a long rectangular shape, she placed it on a flat baking sheet and cut it into squares.  She was the only person I knew who made them this way. Always, they were served alongside her falling-off-the-bone, fried pork chops.

Baking bread is often the basis of tradition. And, many of these traditions are linked to religion. Unleavened bread is partaken when receiving the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper; Artos is a Greek celebration bread; elaborate wreath breads are indicative of many German celebrations and King Cake is a common Christmas tradition in countries commemorating the festival of Epiphany.  Southerners in Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana begin the merriment of Mardi Gras with a King Cake iced in carnival colors of purple, gold and green.  Whomever finds the token- be it bean or baby- baked within the cake, receives both a favor and responsibility.   A Christmas custom in Poland is the making and sharing of Oplatek.  This thin wafer has a holy picture pressed into it.  Family members make it together, then share it with close neighbors.  Each person breaks a wafer and as they eat it, forgives the other of any wrong doing or hurt that has occurred over the past year.

Today, wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on earth.  But, I believe that mass production has diminished our appreciation for it.  Surely, the women who grew, milled, and made their own breads viewed the final product very differently. They claimed a connection to the soil, and therefore to the land and to home.  The Russian immigrants who secretly brought over their more resilient grains understood this bond. How true it is, the quote by Aldo Leopold that “the oldest task in human history [is] to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”   In our effort to progress, we have not only severed our tie to the land, we have let go of traditions that connect us to our heritage.

***************************************************************

 

Unfortunately this is not my GrandMosie’s recipe. 

She never used one for breads or pies.

sweet-potato-biscuits

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato prebaked and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cups sweet milk
  • 3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into
    small pieces
  • 4 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into
    small pieces

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and increase the temperature to 450°F.

Peel the sweet potato and mash with a fork, then add the buttermilk and mix until smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and butter; use a fork to cut them into the dry ingredients. Add the sweet milk mixture and stir until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead very lightly, just until it holds together.

Roll out and pat the dough into a rectangle 6 by 12 inches. Use a biscuit cutter or old juice jar to cut out biscuits. Transfer to a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits have risen and the edges and bottoms are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes.


*Recipe was given to me by a dear friend years ago –thank you CW. *Photo via tiny banquet committee.

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

The smallest change in schedule can be delightful~

4:50 a.m.

night-sky

Instead of my morning walk, I am up early to water the plants.  It is beyond dry and I’ve no intention of letting the trees and plants I’ve babied for six years go without a fight.

The stars are out and it is a brilliantly clear sky.  The wind has a chill to it and my heavy hunting jacket is necessary.  Its deep pockets give me a place to put my phone so I can keep up with the time; otherwise I’ll get into what I’m doing, begin to daydream and be out here all morning.  I have to be at work before the students begin to arrive at 7:20.

Sweet Alabama!  Today it is supposed to be in the low 80’s and that is a glorious thing.  The past few months have been unbearably hot.  Dead grass crunches beneath my work boots; it is an unpleasant sound.  Lowering my head, I put in a small request for a long, soaking rain.

There is something so calm and peaceful about being outside in the early morning when everyone else is still sleeping.  Well, actually many are not.

One day last week when I could not sleep, I got up at 2 a.m., started a pot of coffee and went for a long walk.  I was surprised at how many lights were on.  I could actually smell breakfast coming from the open windows of some.  But, the quiet, the black sky and brilliant stars with the wind gently blowing was both invigorating and calming.  I returned home, settled on the couch with coffee and books, and read and until it was time to ready for work.  It was as if I got an extra weekend morning on a weekday.  The simple change in my schedule, the positive way I had begun the morning carried over into the day.

Just One Little Change…

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

Night Sky Photo: http://www.rarewallpapers.cm

The deepest shade of envy green~ Southern Hospitality

watermelon

Nancy, a dear friend of mine, posted this picture to her Facebook recently and I immediately turned the deepest shade of green!  She explained how a neighboring farmer had left the gift on her doorstep.  The thoughtfulness made me wish I lived nearby.  It also got me to thinking about how much I love this area.  Understand, I am not blind to all that is wrong with the South, but for me it is a love that goes deep enough to appreciate all this region has to offer.

The greatest of which is still good ‘ole SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY.  And, yes, even today it still exists.

Being hospitable in the South is often defined by food.  Always has been and I have a feeling it always will be.  It is one of the things I love about HOME.  It is also the easiest way we Southern women know to say, “I love you” or “I appreciate you”.

When the children and I moved to Oxford, Alabama in 2007, our neighbor across the street whom we had not yet met, left a plate of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies on the little café table in our carport.  When we returned from school that afternoon, the children and I were all smiles.   Anderson poured us tall glasses of milk (mine with crushed ice) and we sat down and devoured the still warm cookies.

Looking back some of my sweetest memories involve food.

I remember Mother surprising me in the campus parking lot while I was in college.  She was standing next to my vehicle holding a chocolate Coca-Cola birthday cake.

And, the first year I taught elementary school, I returned home and was surprised and delighted to find a pot of chicken and dumplings warming on the stove.  My father had come, cooked supper for us and returned home.

My heart hurts with the memories too of all the trips my Grandpa and GrandMosie made to Talladega County when I first moved away from home.  They would show up out of-the-blue bearing gifts –always a sweet potato and pumpkin pie.  They are still my favorites.  (I enjoy them warm, but still prefer a slice after they’ve cooled in the refrigerator, with a glass of sweet tea of course.)

For me, food will always be associated with hospitality or small acts of kindness.

“Be good to strangers; be better to family,” my Grandmother Libby used to say.

In the South, when someone is sick, you take them food.  When a family is placed in hardship, folks show up with casseroles, buckets of chicken… desserts.  That’s just the way it is around here.  And, I like it!

Even at work, I am surrounded by teachers who bring and give –many mornings there is something fresh baked, or a box of doughnuts from Lamar’s waiting in the workroom.   And, boy does the faculty miss Ms. Camp and her wonderful zucchini bread since she retired.  Though I’m not sure which we miss most –the bread or her contagious laughter!

It seems the older I get, the more rushed life becomes.  I hope that in the future this changes, but I doubt it.  The one thing I am sure of though is that I want the giving to continue –even when I am tired, even when I am busy.

I hope that looking back years from now, my kids will remember the meals shared with family, will remember the hospitality that is part of their heritage.

 

Coca-Cola Cake

If you haven’t had it, you need to ASAP!~

  • 2cups sugar
  • 2cups all-purpose flour
  • 1cup Coca-Cola
  • 1 ½cups small marshmallows
  • ½cups butter or margarine
  • ½cups vegetable oil
  • 3tablespoons cocoa
  • 1teaspoon baking soda
  • ½cups buttermilk
  • 2eggs
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½cups butter
  • 4tablespoons cocoa
  • 6tablespoons Coca-Cola
  • 1box (16-ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  *In a bowl, sift the sugar and flour, then add marshmallows.

In a saucepan, mix the butter, oil, cocoa and Coca-Cola.   Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients; blend well.  *Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk then add to batter with eggs and vanilla extract.  Mix well and pour into a well-greased 9- by-13-inch pan and bake 35 to 45 minutes.   Remove from oven and frost immediately.

Coca-Cola Cake Frosting

Combine: 1/2 cup butter, 4 tablespoons cocoa and 6 tablespoons of Coca-Cola in a saucepan. Bring this to a boil and then pour over confectioners’ sugar.  Blend well and add the vanilla extract and pecans.  Spread over cake, carefully.  When cool, cut into squares and serve.

coca-cola-cake

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

 

 

 

 

 

A Waiting Time

Waiting.

Never is it an easy thing for me.  Yet some of the best things in life require a waiting time- Pecorino Romano, Brioche, wine, beer, Blanton’s…  Yet these are things to be looked forward to, and therefore the wait is different; anticipation tempers.

Currently, I am waiting for the heat to break, the weather to change.  I am waiting for a long, slow soaking rain that lasts all day and into the night.  I want to hear the constant roll of thunder and the soil so sodden that it is feels like mush beneath my feet.  You see, in the South we are on the verge of a possible drought; the ground in my back yard is so dry and cracked it resembles an ancient map.

When did I begin waiting for summer to end?  When I was a child that was definitely not the case.  I had mourned its nearing end and tried to stretch those last few days out as far and as long as I could.

I have friends who are waiting too -for other things.  And I wonder, is it really wise to spend our days this way?  What if yesterday was as good as it was going to get and we let it slip by while we were lost in want?  Goes back to what my mother used to say about working on something you can be proud of while fitting in a few things you enjoy, here and there.  “Makes the day worthwhile,” she would smile and say.  Being hopeful is essential of course, but taking action is as well.

Maybe that’s why my summer projects overlap –because I can’t stand the in-between time.  My moments of deep languid thought must come quickly, before I remember something else that needs immediate attention.  There is this irritating necessity to be active.  I tried meditating but I’m pretty sure it is not supposed to be a painful experience.  So, I tell myself that when I am busy, my mind gets the same sense of peace and I’ve something to show for it.

I am waiting, too, on a visit from Isaac that isn’t coming anytime soon.

Recently, I’ve found myself padding an empty nest.  Whenever I heard women speak of this in the past, I always shrugged and thought, Whatever! I am so busy, how could I complain over peace and quiet?  Let me tell you, the first few weeks are a miserable thing to experience.  I went through it to a degree when my daughter Anderson moved out at the young age of 17.  But, her brother, Isaac was here to buffer that gaping hole her leaving created.  He recently left for Troy University.  And here I am, a momma without any chicks to tend.

Reminding myself I now have time to write, I gather my journals and scraps of papers (I’ve a tendency to make notes on the back of envelopes and receipts) and put Madeleine Peyroux on the hi-fi.  The joy this brings works like a charm.  (There is background noise of ice tinkling in a highball glass, the smell of a glorious amber liquid.)  Memories join me and I begin rummaging through my old journals until I find the recollection there in writing.

I read it again.  It takes me back.  And, I smile.

Perhaps, there is nothing more detrimental, and yet necessary, to a woman’s heart than nostalgia.

Taken from a journal so many years ago:

 

     And So It Goes…

   Again

     the winds call out,

     tugging and tempting with their persuasion,

     to steal the beckoning sounds of a nearby farm-

     distressed cadence,

     of cows seeking some comfort, the drone of equipment where a

     worker labors his heart for home. The winds lift them,

     float them upward,

     where they sing pleasantly upon my ears.

     Place and rationale are easily forgotten;

     engulfed in the warm blushes of sun and wind,

     I stand languid in luxuries most pure

     as the mind drifts off with daydreams.

 

   Distant, sharpening booms ring out

     so suddenly close upon the ears,

     full of meaning and clarity-

     startling, and yet expected.

     Poor dove,

     how hopelessly he zigzags across open fields,

     pursuing sanction in oaks that

     alas, he will not reach.

     And so it goes

     that the young bond with the old,

     the heart becomes one with the land

     and the boy, through some strange passage,

     is likened to the man.

 

   With gaze seized upward,

     I eye the not quiet green of the oak.

     Harken the crackling dryness of leaves as a wind’s rustling therein

     makes known their age!

     They are ever slowly losing luster, yet refuse

     release –like the mother,

     observing childhood’s nearing end, stands fast

     and clutches to bosom what cannot remain.

     It is a time of between

     as nature, in her ancient copious melee,

     dances betwixt seasons, hesitant in relinquishing

     summer’s sweet hold,

     even as the glowing across the field grows dim.

 

   With emotions sewn

     tight –interwoven

     like virgin woolen thread

     unacquainted with fuller’s earth, unready

     for the cast of dye, unreceptive

     even for salty baptism in a lathered, timeless ocean-

     I stand and watch

     the fields receive their dusting from heaven.

     For there,

     out in the wide unbroken expanse of godly land,

     that is not the drifting of weary leaves

     seeking to rest their breadth upon warmed soil,

     but rather the drifting of gentle down.

Elizabeth Mozley McGrady.  Isaac’s First Dove Hunt, September 11, 2004

* Poem from WE SHARE THE SAME SKY, a memoir.

*****

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU

Well hello, y’all!

Introductions?

I’ve never been much on introducing myself, and yes, that is strange for a Southerner. I blame in on my Yankee grandfather –a New Yorker. I’m teasing. Northerners are just as gracious as Southerners; they just don’t talk for hours to people standing in line beside them whom they have never laid eyes on before.

So here goes! The basics -I am a writer, teacher, mother, and grandmother. For me, family is everything. I love the South, the outdoors, big cities, old town squares, family get-togethers, cooking/eating and drinking. I’m a tomboyish type who has an affinity for lipstick and cowboy boots.

I carry a backpack with books in it wherever I go.

And, I’m an introvert.

So, why does an introvert want to blog…?

Until this last January, when We Share the Same Sky was published, my use of technology amounted to a sprinkling at best. I am just not a technology person -Until recently, I still owned a flip phone -alas, I was forced to upgrade. When I first got it, I referred to it as “the leash” and I left it in my car all day on the console. Now if I get out of the drive without it, I must return to the house and retrieve it at once. I’ve also recently become involved with an iPad. We are now inseparable as well. Slowly, I’ve become friendly with the hook! However, the use of technology to this point was still deeply one-sided. The publication of the memoir changed all that, albeit slowly. After setting up a Facebook page for the book, I began interacting with old friends on my personal account. I then created a Linkedin and Twitter account where I’ve met scores of folks who are constantly asking if I’ll start a blog. Who knew an independent excursion to New York City and the making of a memoir would be the things that pulled me from my shell?!

What types of posts are to be expected? Anything and everything –be it journaling, fishing, cooking, poetry, hiking, restaurants/breweries or family escapades.

Randomness is something I’ve truly perfected.

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

@ElizabethMozley  &  @CentipedeYAread

And on Facebook – We Share the Same Sky, author Elizabeth Mozley

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Mozley/e/B00J7KJWIU