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Monday, December 15, 2008

I will never make another pumpkin pie.

You won't either if you try this recipe over the holidays.

Pumpkin Cheese Cake
Preheat oven to 350

Crust in a 9 inch spring form pan
1 3/4 cup of mixed graham cracker and ginger snap crumbs
3T. light brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 stick melted butter

3 eight ounce pk cream cheese at room temp.
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
3 eggs and 1 yolk
1 1/2 c. sugar1/4 c. sour cream
1 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
2 t. all purpose flour
2 t. vanilla-

Combine crust ingredients in a bowl and press into 9 in. spring form pan.
Beat cream cheese until smooth, add pumpkin, eggs , sour cream, sugar, and spice.
Blend, add flour and vanilla, and beat until well combined.
Pour into crust and spread evenly.
Bake one hour and 350 F.
Remove and let stand 15 minutes.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours

I had never made a cheese cake before because I didn't have a spring form pan. But I went out a few weeks ago with buying one on my mind. I found a set of 3 spring form pans at Big Lots for 7 bucks. The recipe is my variation of Paula Deen's recipe. She uses separate spices instead of pumpkin pie spice and plain graham crackers. I changed it to half graham and half ginger snaps for the crust.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Congrats to the Rebels

The Byrnes Rebels won their 6th 4A State Football Championship in seven years yesterday over at Clemson. Here they are just beginning the celebration before the presentation of the Championship trophy.

Sara was happy to be there, but her feet were cold. I wore my snow boots and my toes were toasty.

Mary and Dad snuggle to keep warm.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rash at the Hub

Ron was at the HubBub Thursday night to do a reading of Serena. Of course he started with one of the best opening paragraphs of any novel ever (in medias res), where you know that blood is not far in coming.

Byrnes High faculty was well represented in the crowd that was treated to glimpses of training an eagle to hunt rattle snakes, and some other tidbits about how those golden eagles from Mongolia are bred and trained to hunt. He read the scene where Rachel plants her father’s headstone and remembers some loving moments with him which were few and far between.
Then there are the delightful continuing conversations of the loggers which remind me very much of some of the bird walks we take in my Tech Prep Chemistry class. Yesterday I got this from a girl out of the middle of nowhere, “Do you believe in the Big Bang Theory, Mrs. I? I don’t. I was taught creation.”

“Me neither. Jesus put me here. Hallelujah!” said the boy behind her, tongue-in-cheek and a dip in the other, which I’ve grown to ignore because apparently he needs one after lunch or he’ll be disruptive in class.

“I think it’s kinda both. Don’t you , Miz I? What if it was God that made the Big Bang to happen?” said another kid.

“I think you’re probably right. You know how I always say that chemistry is God's science. Now, look at calcium on the periodic table. I’ll use the laser pointer and let’s say the electron configuration together. Ready? 1s2..2s2…what comes next?”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good News

One of my stories has been accepted to appear in Hub City's newest anthology, The Essential Fiction of Spartanburg, to come out in April 2009. It is edited by C. Michael Curtis, the senior editor of The Atlantic magazine. He is the John C. Cobb Professor of Humanities at Wofford College.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Serena's Coming!

I'm excited as a mill-hill kid during fair week and I got my free ticket from my school teacher. Hey! I am a mill-hill kid and it IS Piedmont Interstate Fair week. But the reason I'm excited is that my copy of Ron Rash's latest novel, Serena, is on it's way. Should get mine today or tomorrow. You can read the first chapter if you go find the Serena page on Amazon. There is also an interesting essay by Ron on the page.

The book actually springs from a short story published in Ron's anthology, Chemistry. The story, Pemberton's Bride, features evil Serena and her new husband, and is set in a Western North Carolina lumber camp in the 1930s.

I like how he writes a short story and then it grows up to be a novel. That also happened with the novel, The World Made Straight. Perhaps one of my stories will grow up to be a big book some day. Ha.

Our school was fortunate to host Ron last spring when he came to speak to our students about writing. I was honored when the librarians asked me and a few other teachers to join them and Ron for dinner the night before. You know, everytime I see that guy he ask me what I'm working on - I know Ron from the Wildacres workshops. And he did that for our students, too. You don't get that very often with famous writers. After dinner I just had to ask about training an eagle to hunt rattlesnakes - you'll know what I'm talking about if you read the short story or novel. A very lively discussion about how he learned about it and researching for fiction in general followed.

This one is going to be big, folks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Talk Like a Pirate Weekend

Since it's Talk Like a Pirate Day, Sept. 19, I decided to visit the blog of my favorite pirate romance author, Darlene Marshall, and was happy to see that she has finished her latest novel, A Sea Change. I can hardly wait for that one.

Tomorrow the Byrnes Rebels will host Florida High School football powerhouse, the Lincoln Trojans. It should be a good one. A Florida team up in South Carolina on TLAP Day. How appropriate. Arrr.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Henderson County Genealogical Society 25th Anniversary

A crowd of nearly 100 celebrated the 25th anniversary of the HCGHS on August 16 at The Chariot in Hendersonville, NC along with guest speaker, poet, novelist, and Daniel Boone biographer, Robert Morgan. Ron Rash once told me he thinks Morgan is "the greatest". I have to concur.

Currently the society is working on transcribing the court records for the first thirty years or so of the county's existance. I have a huge folder of 1858 records sitting by my Lay-Z-Boy. It ain't easy, let me tell you. I've read these photocopied microfilms till my eyes cross, transfering into composition books before typing them. The going is lots slower than I thought it would be.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Got published

My essay, "Ray and Me", about my relationship with my cousin with cerebral palsy, and my poem, "When I Plant Corn" have been accepted for publication in the second issue of The Petigru Review, South Carolina Writers Workshop's literary journal. Readers will be able to see these pieces in print near the end of October.

You can read about the judges in the contest here.

Thank y'all for reading my stuff and commenting on them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the inside flap of her birthday card

My first memory of you
is not your face or voice,
but rather your hands and
forearms, slick and soapy,
holding me for my bath
in the kitchen sink.
I clinked measuring spoons.
A Startex calendar
towel with roosters and
chickens hung on the wall
over the stove. White light
flowed through the one window,
warming the counter top.
Have you noticed how I
always stare at you hands?

Monday, June 16, 2008

When I got new glasses in the 5th grade

My cat-eyed glasses always dipped
below my right eyebrow because
my ears are set sigodlin on my head.
I cried when my teacher asked why
I couldn’t keep my glasses straight
on my face. I tucked a Kleenex wad
under the ear piece but it fell out.
Mavis Crisp called me four eyes and
laughed, showing green teeth, see-sawing
her hands in front of her own eyes.
I begged for contacts at the eye
exam. Not old enough he said.
Then he bent the ear piece down some.
Sliding the new pair on my face, he smiled.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Some Great Lye Soap Making Videos

These videos are on and are very well done. I thought I'd do some myself, but there's no use with these great instructions. However, my handmilling technique is different. I use the microwave. That we need to get on a video.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kudzu Cousins and Lye Soap

I’ve always said that my genealogy charts looked more like a laurel thicket than a family tree. And when I saw Robert Morgan’s poem, “Kudzu Cousins”, in the Fall 2007 issue of Southern Quarterly this week, I had to laugh. I like his images in Kudzu Cousins better. It’s interesting that the original relations that make us all kudzu cousins back in that neck of the woods were established way before there was ever any kudzu in the place (ca.1880).

I’ve read Morgan’s latest book, Boone: A Biography, twice and recommended it to everybody. Let me tell you, I read lots of biographies, mostly of scientists, but Boone is by far the best I’ve ever read.

The vignette about soap making was especially interesting to me since I’ve been a savonerie for over twenty years. It started one day when I wanted to make soap in the chemistry class. I thought it would be fun to make some for Mother’s Day presents, like the plaster of paris hand prints you do at Bible School. But when I looked through all the chemistry lab books I had for saponification labs, they all said to throw the soap away when finished since it would be too harsh. Most gave the amounts in volume measurements, not mass. That didn’t make sense to me because chemistry is all about stoichiometric relationships. I wanted my students to be able to carry home a chunk of lye soap to use. Back then, I could only find one book on making lye soap at home with lard or tallow and Red Devil Lye. Now there are dozens of books from the experts (will list my favorites in another post).

I started with my Chemistry II class. That first batch was plain lye and lard, measured to the nearest tenth of a gram, a perfectly balanced chemical reaction. We added about a half cup of olive oil for extra moisture. When it was stirred enough, the hot, lye-fat mixture resembled custard. One kid said it made him hungry for banana pudding. We poured it up in a Rubbermaid shoe box, wrapped it up in an old quilt to insulate the exothermic reaction, and left it on the lab bench till class met again on Monday. It was hard for me not to peek, but I promised them I wouldn’t. When the first of the students came into the classroom, I had to swat a few hands (you could do that back then) to keep them from peeling back the quilt before everyone got in the class.

I pulled the still-warm box from its covers and lifted the lid. The hardened block of soap had pulled from the sides of the mold like a cake pulls from the side of a pan. It looked and felt like greasy provolone cheese. We flipped it out of the box and cut it into bars with a butcher knife (something else I can’t have in school nowadays). The book said to let it cure for a couple of weeks before using, to dry and harden. We laid the bars out on borrowed, green plastic lunchroom trays and placed them on top of the storage cabinets to dry, out of sight out of mind. I did manage to sneak a bar and kept it under the big lab sink. I quickly learned that if you wash your hands with a good, balanced lye soap you don’t need hand lotion.

Well, that was the beginning of my obsession with lye soap making. Once I tried to make soap the old timey way, by leaching the potassium hydroxide from wood ashes. I saved our fireplace ashes all winter in metal buckets in the garage. A lady who did lye soap demonstrations at Walnut Grove Plantation and Musgrove Mill told me how to do it ,but didn’t tell me the amounts. My experiment was a mess. I was able to make an egg float in the ashes-water, but without the precise lye measurements, I wasn’t sure about how much fat to use. The soft soap was excessively greasy. And within a few months it smelled rancid.

Once I mastered formulating, I entered some of my recipes in a contest at the South Carolina Soap Makers Conference. In 2000, I came home with Best All Round Soap in SC for my multi-layered Oatmeal Apricot Scrub Bar and The Ugliest Soap for my unscented Goat’s Milk Castile, which was baby-poop yellow. The White Tyger Bath Soap got second or third in something, but I can’t remember what. However, I figured out that those contests are better left to the folks who do it for a living. It’s just a hobby for me. I do it more for the students. Soap making is a good culminating lab in chemistry.

It looks like I got off on a tangent here, but lye soap and kudzu cousins really are related in my mind. These days people who don’t know any better will crinkle their noses at the idea of either one. They just don’t understand what makes a high quality product.

Wordle: KudzuCousinsandLyeSoapEssay

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Weeds I Like

CHICKWEED - Stellaria Media

Cooling, antiseptic herb used to treat inflammations, relieve itching, blisters, boils, and abscesses. The fresh plant is edible in salads or as a cooked green. You can find chickweed growing in your lawn, garden, or meadows.

This is what David Hoffman says in The Complete Illustrated Herbal.

Chickweed finds its most common use as an external remedy for cuts,
wounds and especially for itching and irritation. If eczema or psoriasis cause this sort of irritation, Chickweed may be used with benefit.
Internally it has a reputation as a remedy for rheumatism.
External Use - To ease itching, a strong infusion of the fresh plant makes a useful addition to bath water. Chickweed may be made into an ointment or used as a poultice.

This is a healthy stand of Chickweed I allowed to grow in my flower beds next to the carport.

A nice close up of a sprig of Chickweed.

Chickweed Salve

Pack these dried herbs in quart canning jars
2 parts Chickweed
2 parts Plantain
1 part Comfrey Leaf
Cover with Olive oil and let sit at room temperature for at least two weeks.
Beeswax at a ratio of about 1 to 1.5 ounce to every pint of infused oil.

More to come.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Science Fiction Author Dies

Arthur C. Clark, the author of 2001: A Space Odyessy, died last week at the age of 90. You know, he’s kind of the reason I’m here today. I read his fiction when I was in high school and decided I wanted to study science. I know some people don’t read science fiction because it’s “not real”, but I can’t help but wonder how many “real scientists” there are out there because a fiction writer like Clark inspired them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rash is PEN/ Faulkner Finalist

With over 300 submissions, Chemistry and Other Stories, Carolina writer, Ron Rash's, short story collection was a runner-up for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. I read it when it first came out and loved the stories (especially Chemistry). And I love the cover. This collection is on the shelf in The Middle Tyger River Library. It will be well worth your time. Congrats to Ron.

Monday, March 3, 2008

One Foot in Eden

I read it for the second time last week because our faculty Chat-N-Chew group will be discussing Ron Rash’s work this month. I have all his works, been reading them ever since Eureka Mills was first published by Hub City Writers Project back in 2001. And on April 30, the author will come speak to our students.
One Foot in Eden is one of those rare books that raise chill bumps on me when I’ve finished the last page and let it sink in. Look, even now as I think about it and type this, the fine hairs on my arms are sticking straight out. I’ll not give you a synopsis here and just say go to for that. But I will tell you that One Foot in Eden, which is Ron’s first novel, can take you through the whole gamut of emotions in about 200 pages. It haunted my dreams. Dang, that man can write!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Waterfall Videos

Take a look at Waterfall Rich's videos on YouTube. Very well done.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Ain True Love

This YouTube video combines features from several of my favorite things, so I thought I'd share it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

That hair.

I've seen women at the beauty shop spend hundreds of bucks to have hair fixed like Mary's. She came that way. I had heartburn up to my eyebrows when I was pregnant with that one.

Mary and Jazmine - New Year's Eve