Back to the Garden

 

 

During each and every season, a crazy world can be found in the garden. But at this time of year – late Spring – one can find some crazy-schmazy stuff out there.

 

This is the only spider I’ve ever seen like this. If anyone has a clue as to its identity, please share. In the meantime, I’m keeping a safe distance, yo. I mean, look at that thing!

Balls – Update

 

 

You may recall a post from a while back, “Balls.” I wrote of my desire and subsequent quest for old bowling balls. At the time, I didn’t explain myself. Well, the balls are for my yard and garden.

 

 

I was lucky enough to score several, but would happily take more. So the quest continues.

 

 

After all, a girl can never have too many balls. Wait. Scratch that. A girl can definitely have too many balls. Dag!

My Red Couch

 

This is my red sofa. My very red sofa.

 

Like all sofas – okay, couches – it needs to be cleaned from time-to-time. As I had forgotten to do this for longer than I can remember, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found when I recently undertook the job. On the one hand, I should have taken photos. On the other hand, I’m glad I didn’t.

 

You would not believe what was beneath those cushions. Seriously. It reminded me of the packaging on “Sea Monkeys” when I was a kid. The Couch Critters had set up their own little society in there. One was riding a bicycle. One Couch Critter dude was ogling a Couch Critter hottie. There were mountains, hills, vales, structures…

 

Okay. I exaggerate. There were no critters. But I did find 3 of the following items: 4 pens, a wooden coaster, $1.87 in loose change, 2 hair bands, a wine cork and a triple-A battery. (You’ll have to guess which items I actually found.) There was also a lot of dirt. My vacuum got quite the workout that day.

 

No, there were no critters. But if there were such a thing as Couch Critters, I like to think they’d be just as happening as those Sea Monkeys always appeared in the artist’s renderings. And come on – Couch Critters would have to live somewhere, right?

 

Right. Just not in my couch.

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Wings

 

Mm, mmm. I loves me some spicy chicken wings. And these have the added bonus of being sweet. And did I mention easy?

 

Here’s what you’ll need…

 

Chicken Wings, Your Favorite Hot Sauce (not Tabasco), Butter, Cider Vinegar, Fruit Preserves (any kind will work), Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Set aside.

 

Prepare the wings. If you’ve purchased pre-cut sections, great – skip to the next step. If your wings are whole, as mine were, there’s a little work to be done.

 

First, you’ll need your kitchen shears. If you don’t have any (and you cook a lot), please consider adding them to your tool-kit. Or at least use a dedicated pair of super-strong scissors, as you’ll be cutting bone. That’s right, bone.

 

 

Being extra-special-careful, firmly hold the uncut wing with the “nib” pointing toward you. Slide your shears – pointing away from you – between the nib and first wing section. Cut, separating the nib from the edible wing. Either discard the nibs or cook them for broth. I always toss them, but that’s just me.

 

 

Next (still being careful), firmly hold the wing sections, pointing toward you. Again, slide your shears – pointing away from you – between the two edible wing sections. Cut. This one is sometimes a little tougher, but don’t worry. Kitchen shears were built for this sort of job. Finish cutting all remaining wings into sections.

 

 

Place the edible wing sections into a bowl or large, plastic bag. Pour a couple of tablespoons olive oil over…

 

 

…and generously season with salt and pepper.

 

 

Toss to distribute oil and seasonings.

 

 

Place the oiled and seasoned wings on prepared baking sheet.

 

 

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.

 

While the wings are baking, make your sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

 

 

Add your hot sauce and cider vinegar. Stir.

 

 

Add your preserves, stir and simmer until heated through.

 

 

Remove from heat. The sauce can sit until the wings are cooked.

 

Once finished, remove wings from oven. They should be crispy and golden. At this point, you’re ready to sauce your wings!

 

 

You can place all the wings in a bowl and pour the sauce over (which is what I usually do), or you can place a few wings at a time in the saucepan with the sauce. It’s up to you…

 

 

That’s it! Grab yourself some ranch or blue cheese dressing and some carrot sticks and you’re good to go. If you make that dressing from scratch, even better! These are seriously good, folks, and because they’re not fried, I don’t feel too bad eating them. So dig in. Just be sure to have plenty of napkins for your hands and tissues for your nose. Sweet, spicy and messy – I love it!

 

 

 

Here’s the printable…

 

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Wings
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 2-3
 

Ingredients
  • Around 1.5 lbs. Whole (uncut) Chicken Wings (yielded 12 meaty wing sections)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 T. Butter
  • ½ c. Hot Sauce (not Tabasco, as this recipe adds vinegar – I use Texas Pete’s or Frank’s Hot Sauce)
  • 1 t. Cider Vinegar
  • 2-3 T. Fruit Preserves (I used 2.5 T. Pear Preserves)

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the wings. If you’ve purchased pre-cut sections, great – skip to the next step. If your wings are whole, use kitchen shears to cut into sections (discarding nibs).
  3. Place the edible wing sections into a bowl or large, plastic bag. Pour a couple of tablespoons olive oil over and generously season with salt and pepper. Toss to distribute oil and seasonings, and then place the wings on prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
  5. While the wings are baking, make your sauce.
  6. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Then add your hot sauce and cider vinegar. Stir. Add your preserves, stir and simmer until heated through. Remove from heat. The sauce can sit until the wings are cooked.
  7. Once finished, remove wings from oven. They should be crispy and golden. At this point, you’re ready to sauce your wings!
  8. You can place all the wings in a bowl and pour the sauce over (which is what I usually do), or you can place a few wings at a time in the saucepan with the sauce. It’s up to you…
  9. That’s it! Grab yourself some ranch or blue cheese dressing and some carrot sticks and you’re good to go. If you make that dressing from scratch, even better! These are seriously good, folks, and because they’re not fried, I don’t feel too bad eating them. So dig in. Just be sure to have plenty of napkins for your hands and tissues for your nose. Sweet, spicy and messy – I love it!

Notes
As far as ingredients go, use your favorites. As listed, I prefer either Texas Pete’s or Frank’s hot sauce for this recipe. On the preserve front, I used Pear Preserves this time as that’s what I had on hand. I’ve used Blueberry, Pineapple and Strawberry – all at different times – with lovely results. When I’m dealing with raw chicken, I tend to go a little Howard Hughes. Everything has to be triple-cleaned after prep. If I use a wood cutting board, I bleach it. The shears get super-scrubbed. Every little thing that comes into contact with that chicken – cleaned. I’m skeered of raw chicken juice, yo.

igbok

 

 

At my best, I believe the Universe is conspiring in our favor. At my worst, I forget this completely. When that happens, the Universe works to get my attention, to remind me that, well, everything’s okay. Yesterday was one of those times when I needed to be reminded, gently, that all will be well and I’m not alone.

 

I had borrowed Mister’s car (as mine is still sick) and was at a stoplight. I looked at a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. “igbok”. What the heck is that, I thought. Some new band? Some old band? I looked closer… “it’s gonna be ok” was in small print beneath the larger “igbok”.

 

 

And you know what? It’s true. It’s gonna be okay.

Kyli Update

 

 

 

I wanted to send a quick update on my young friend, Kyli, whom I recently wrote about.

 

She’s out of the hospital and home. As I understand it, Kyli is still battling autoimmune diseases and is receiving treatment at home. I guess there’s still a ways to go, but, as there’s no place like home, Kyli is said to be doing better, if only for sleeping in her own bed. I’m sure having her big sister and her parents around is also helping her heal. Love goes a long way, friends.

 

I just want to thank you for your prayers and kind thoughts. Kyli is just an ordinary kid. And like all ordinary kids, she’s incredibly special. The world needs her. I’m sure all the positive energy sent her way has made a tremendous difference.

 

Thank you.

My Hoopty…

 

I’ve been without my old car for a full week now. Parts for that engine are getting harder and harder to find. I have an excellent mechanic and he’s doing his best. Still…

 

I’m trying not to think of all this as a metaphor for aging. And life. But it’s just too easy for my brain to go there. And until I get my car back, well, I don’t know.

 

In the meantime, please be kind to the girl on the 3-basketed, Elvis-horned bike. She’s pedaling all over town. And she’s trying to figure some things out.

 

Gaze of Thrones…

 

 

I haven’t seen “Game of Thrones” yet. The only thing I know about the show is it stars Peter Dinklage. He’s a good actor (“The Station Agent” rules), and cute to boot. At some point, I will probably Netflix the DVD and watch the series from the beginning. Until then, I won’t have any idea what all the talk is about.

 

Why all this “Game of Thrones” business? I’ll tell you why: Peter Dinklage is on the cover of the newest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Said magazine was lying on the bathroom counter when I got out of the shower on Saturday and I swear, the eyes of Dinlage were watching me. It was more than I could take.

 

I had to turn the magazine over. Damn, Peter Dinklage!

Little Papa’s Filling Station

 

 

The first car I ever owned was a ’68 Chrysler Newport. It was aqua with a white top. It sat 8 with room to spare. I was its third owner.

 

The next car I bought on my own was a ’66 Volvo 122S. I had seatbelts installed in the back, as there were none. The original, factory-installed seatbelts in the front attach to a bolt in the floor. Presently, it has 114,000 miles to its credit. I am its second owner.

 

My fondness for old cars isn’t new. And while I don’t necessarily believe it’s been with me since birth, I may know from whence it came.

 

 

When I was a kid, my grandfather Charles – “Little Papa” – owned a Phillips 66 station in Griffin, GA. He and Granny Nita would sometimes watch us kids there. Granny would sit on a stool behind the glass and aged-wood candy case, where she chain-smoked while ringing up any sales that weren’t gasoline. The service part of the station wasn’t her domain. Maybe that’s why she always wore so much jewelry there – to distance herself as far as possible from any grease-monkey status that might attach itself to her.

 

Little Papa would stand behind the register, unless he was out pumping gas or in the repair bay, working on a vehicle. He wore no jewelry, but he did wear a dark blue uniform bearing the Phillips 66 emblem. And he also chain-smoked. He and Granny shared that pastime.

 

My sisters and I loved the filling station. Papa always let us get a cold drink from the big, metal cooler (I was a fool for Strawberry Nehi), and Granny would begrudgingly give us each our choice of candy (Snickers, thank-you-very-much). There wasn’t much to do there, as we couldn’t really run around and play in the path of cars. Mostly, I remember sitting around and listening to the old men talk.

 

I don’t know why, but old, Southern men used to gather at service stations and general stores every danged day (and maybe still do). Little Papa’s station was no exception. Instead of huddling around a pickle barrel, the old men leaned against the candy counter. Once in a while, they’d stand around in the service bay and opine about whatever mechanical quandary was testing Papa’s knowledge. “You gotta flush dat cah-buh-ray-tuh, Challs.” “All it needs is a little ol’ patch on dat radia-tuh – not a new one!” When those men were looking at the underbelly of a vehicle up on the rack, they all became experts. And I hinged on every word.

 

 

 

Back then, engines were simple. And though I couldn’t tell the difference between a spark plug and a canuter valve, it didn’t matter. For some reason, I sort of followed along with the mechanical conversations. And I was sincerely interested. Go figure.

 

Anyway, one of the old men who hung out at Little Papa’s station often brought his son along. The boy’s name was Richard, and he was probably 19 or so, twice my age. Richard was what we would now call “mentally challenged.” He was nice enough to be sure. He was just a little slow. And in that day and age, in that town, Richard was never to be seen as having any value.

 

As I’ve said, I loved that old gas station and the hours I spent there affected me immensely. I grew to love the old cars brought in by the customers. And to this day, the smell of gasoline makes me smile. But I digress…

 

Papa sold the station some time during my early teen years. Granny divorced him not long after. There was never any reason to even drive by the station after that. I don’t have a single photo of the old place, and I desperately wish I did.

 

 

When I was about 16, I was with my friends one night at one of the two movie theaters in Griffin. It was in a pretty sizable strip-mall, with 20 or so stores. It was dinnertime, and a familiar face walked into the record store where my friends and I were wasting time before the movie started. It was Richard – that sweet, slow boy I’d known years before. He wasn’t shopping. He was there on business. You see, Richard went from store to store at mealtimes and took food orders from the shop employees. There were a couple of fast food joints at the edge of the strip-mall’s parking area. There were a few more across the street. I heard Richard say, “It’s a dollar to get you some food from this lot, a dollar fifty to cross the road.” Richard had set up a food-delivery service before any of us had even heard of such a thing. As the clerks placed their orders, I smiled. So Richard had become an entrepreneur.

 

Before leaving the record store, I walked past Richard and smiled at him. Busy with his business, his hazel eyes looked right through me. He didn’t recognize me at all.

 

Flash back to one of those hot, heavy, summer afternoons at Little Papa’s filling station, the air thick with cigarette smoke and small-town politics. There I was – hanging out in the service bay with Richard. He asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, “Maybe a mechanic.” Richard smiled and said, “Me, too! Maybe we can both grow up and be mechanics. Then we could get married and have little mechanic babies.” I didn’t say anything in response. There was nothing I could say. I didn’t tell anyone about that conversation either, because I knew Richard would have gotten in trouble for the implications, no matter how innocent his intent.

 

No, I didn’t respond. Instead, I just smiled and the moment passed. All the way into memory, where the filling station is alive and well, along with Little Papa, Granny Nita, Strawberry Nehi, a little girl who loves old cars and nothing but time…

True Love

 

 

I recently heard from a dear friend – someone I adore – and she shared a love story written on her blog. Her name is Kate Graves and I love her music. I love her voice. I love her. And now I love this story.

 

Trust me – you need to read this. It will strengthen your faith in True Love. It certainly strengthened mine.