Step Kids


Nah, they’re not step kids really, they’re my very own kids, fur and all.

I just love the solemness of the little display here.

Yes, it’s morning.

Yes, Mom is up and moving around.

Breakfast, however, has not been made.

There’s a little bit of judgement going on here, certainly some alarm; definitely a great deal of consternation.

I’m rushing to clean the kitchen first, before I have to leave for class, but helpless under the weight of their regard, I fold.

The crisp crack of the Fancy Feast lid sears apart the air…

releasing suddenly manically eager kittens tumbling frantically down the stairs

to their dish.

::sigh::

Cat drama.

A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Kinfolks

“Who are her people?”

A totally legitimate question in the South, where who you are related to is almost as important as who you are.

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I’m kin to a big ol’ bunch of fruitcakes.

“Being Southern isn’t talking with an accent…or rocking on a porch while drinking sweet tea, or knowing how to tell a good story. It’s how you’re brought up — with Southerners, family (blood kin or not) is sacred; you respect others and are polite nearly to a fault; you always know your place but are fierce about your beliefs. And food along with college football — is darn near a religion.”
Jan Norris

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A Hellacious Belle’s Guide to the New South: Daddy’s Girl

Yes, I am a Daddy’s girl. Since I am also a Southern girl, there is no shame in this at all.

Regardless that I am a forty-something adult woman, it is not only perfectly normal, but socially acceptable for me to still call him Daddy.  Not Dad, not Jim.

(In the South, btw, Daddy is actually pronounced \ˈdeh-dē\ or “deddy”) 

383614_10151224165692561_295008258_nThere is a special relationship between Southern girls and their fathers.

Southern mamas teach their daughters to be strong women; but their fathers teach them that they are invincible princesses with arcane superpowers who should be treated with monumental respect.

Daddies teach their girls that they are brilliant and beautiful, worthy of love and loving and can do anything they put their minds to: start a business, be an astronaut, be president of the United States, be happy and fulfilled.

8895_10151224165697561_1369087551_nMy Daddy didn’t raise me to believe that my goals in life were defined by my gender.  He taught me to be smart and quick and strong and give my best.  And if I worked hard and believed in myself and what I was doing, I could have or be anything I wanted.

He taught me integrity by daily example.

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He taught me to win without vanquishing others.

He taught me a love of learning.

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He taught me that if I ever borrowed anything, I should give it back better than I got it.  Don’t just fill up the gas tank, wash and wax the car.

He taught me to be a good friend and told me that was the most important thing I could be in life.

My Daddy is my hero. Now and always.

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One of the (few) benefits of being older is that my father is now my friend.  My husband and I not only vacation with my parents, but we have dinner parties with them. We go to the beach together.  We enjoy their company.  We hang out.

We are good friends.

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I am eternally grateful for the strengths he gave me.  He not only taught me to believe in myself, but gave me a port in the storm and a shoulder to cry on for those times I didn’t.  He has always been there for me.

Me and my awesome Dad.

Me and my awesome Daddy.

I am proud to be a Daddy’s girl.  My Daddy’s girl.

We pick our battles and fight with the heart of a pit bull while still maintaining grace and elegance. Our mystique is that of a soft-spoken, mild-mannered southern belle who could direct an army, loves her mama and will always be daddy’s little girl.”

– Cameran Eubanks

Peppering with thanks…

I can’t believe that today is the 30th of November.

It’s the last day of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), and more specifically, the last day of the Nano Poblano Challenge.

I participated in (and survived) NaBloPoMo for the first time last year.  I managed to write every day that November, but I continuously fought writer’s block and time constraints. Although there were a couple of posts I’m OK about, I don’t think it’s my best writing. Last year was all about honoring my commitment and cranking out that post each day, regardless.

This year, I had the tremendous opportunity to be a part of a group of writers called Team Pepper, participating in their own version of NaBloPoMo, Nano Poblano (Very Tiny Peppers).  They provided me with some great reading and the fun of different ideas and viewpoints. They helped me overcome my fear of “commenting.” They provided some wonderful writing challenges and some very helpful prompts.  Most importantly, they gave an incredible sense of community and support.

This year, the writing came easier. Maybe I was more inspired, or maybe I had more to say, or maybe it was that for once, someone was reading.

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Some of those someones are my husband, David and my Mom-in-Law, Linda, who read every post, every single day and gave me such awesome feedback. I love you both.

I have much gratitude for our Captain Poblano, Mark Bialczak for sorting Peppers and herding cats and his support and encouragement.

And to all the Fabulous Peppers (and other Bloggers) who have stopped by, “liked,” made comments, asked questions and made me feel I had something worth writing about and could tell it in a worthwhile way:

Thank you, so very, very much. I am fortunate to have been a part of this.

Feelin’ the Burns

So far this NaBloPoMo, I’ve managed to write a fresh post every day without resorting to a re-post of one of my old favorites. However, I noticed a fun-sounding  Post-a-Day yesterday when I was scrolling through the Reader and realized I had written something years ago that would respond beautifully to the challenge.  It brings up some great memories, too, so I thought I would share again.

“What’s the most elaborate, complicated meal you’ve ever cooked? Was it a triumph for the ages, or a colossal fiasco? Give us the behind-the-scenes story (pictures are welcome, of course).”

This is a story from 2011, right after my husband and I met, about a very special dinner.

The Last (Burn’s) Supper

Just in case you’ve missed the clues, I am a Ferguson. For the uninitiated, uninformed or uncaring, that means I’m of Scottish heritage, something my family is insanely proud of; after all, we are descendants of the first kings of Scotland. Our royal pedigree made absolute sense when I found out – I’ve always felt I was a princess, my tiara is simply implied.

Clann Ferguson Badge

Imagine my delight when my fabulous new boyfriend, David, turns out to be of Scottish ancestry as well–Clann Douglass, to be exact. Visions of bagpipes and Caber Tosses dancing in my head, I turned to him one January night and asked him the question burning so long and lonely in my soul:

“Would you host a Burns Supper with me?”

So for those uninitiated, uninformed or uncaring (and for you now joining them) Burns Supper is one of the major Scottish Holidays (along with Tartan Day, Hogmanay and St. Andrew’s Day) celebrated by Scots around the world. Specifically, it’s the commemoration of the life and works of famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who was born in 1759, and has been known as the “Bard of Scotland.” Burns is revered for his egalitarian beliefs (rare for those days) and his works, most notably poems such as “To a Mouse,” which inspired the Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men; and “My Heart’s in the Highlands;” and the traditional New Year’s anthem, “Auld Lang Syne,” a classic to this day. Typically Burns Night, or simply “Burns Supper” is held on the anniversary of his birthday, January 25th, and is celebrated by eating the customary supper of haggis, neeps and tatties, reading his poems, singing his songs and downing shots of Scotch Whiskey to toast his “immortal memory.”

Since eating, drinking and being of Scottish descent come somewhat naturally to me, I had always aspired to host a Burns Supper, but in the past had found myself overwhelmed by the proscribed ritual: the entire night is shaped around a complicated timeline of speeches, toasts and songs a little beyond my American-born and raised sensibilities. I was also intimidated (read: flat out terrified) at the thought of creating the traditional menu, as it stars not only “Neeps and Tatties” (mashed turnips-bleck! and potatoes) but features the dread Haggis as centerpiece of the entire event. To be honest, for me, organ meat steamed in sheep intestine doesn’t exactly pique any desire to chow.

The Dread Haggis

The Dread Haggis

Ahh, but now! A partner in crime! Not only Scottish, but an excellent chef and delightfully (and possibly foolishly) excited to do things with me. Let the (Highland) games begin!

We decided to stage the event at David’s house, since he would be doing most of the cooking. If you’ve been following along with my blogging adventures, you know by now that I’m not only not much of a chef, but neither do I possess the culinary infrastructure required for major meal production. The guest list was easy: my dear friend (and fellow Scottish-American) Dana McPherson, who I knew was not only familiar with Burns Supper, but culinarily adventurous, free that evening and and in possession of a formal dress kilt with no apprehension to wearing.

Me and my bonnie laddie in our Scottish finery

The next step was to convert the menu to something that, in my opinion, was actually edible. Judicious internet research revealed, ta dumm!, that others share my aversion to turnips and tripe, and have created alternatives to the classic offal and root veg offering. Armed with a “Neo-Scottish” menu and a sheath of recipes, David took over in the kitchen, leaving me to figure out my wardrobe for the evening. David, despite limited mobility due to a broken leg (fodder for another blog post) had managed to acquire a last-minute formal dress kilt, but I was scrappin’ for anything fancy-n-Ferguson, finally donning a royal blue velvet Betsy Johnson slip dress with my Ferguson scarf jauntily knotted over one shoulder and afixed with our Clann kilt pin. Not nearly as fabulous as the boys, but would have to do.

Due to a spectacular and incendiary incident with a can of compressed air and a faulty furnace (yes, also most likely another blog post) Dana arrived late, a little crispy around the edges, but properly bandaged and bearing our evening’s libations. He was primed with pain meds, but David and I had taken the precaution of blunting our trepidacious tummies with the contents of a bottle of champagne (a Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee Palmes d’Or 1996, a gift from Dana and a really incredible bottle of wine, btw.), so we were all three buzzily excited when we finally sat down around 10 p.m. for our official celebration.

David and Dana

The first order of business, according to Tradition, is to say a blessing, called the Selkirk Grace or the Kircudbright Grace, made famous by Burns who recited it for the Earl of Selkirk near Kircudbright.

Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit

Next up: the grand event! David, bless his heart, had not only undertaken cooking the entire dinner (hey, I did make the salad) but had also spent weeks learning the infamous Burns’ poem, “Address to a Haggis.” According to ritual, after the salad (or first course), the haggis is born in triumphantly (ahem) on a platter, accompanied by bagpipe music. The host then lauds the haggis with Burns’ immortal tribute.

Me and Dana

David may have cheated a little by having the poem pulled up his Blackberry
(ahh, modern technology) but executed it with such zeal and such an admirable brogue, that Dana and I were stunned into silence. (Well, to be honest, we were mostly stunned from two bottles of excellent Chardonnay, a 2002 Darioush Reserve, and if you listen to the video we took of the night, the “silence” part is also a little questionable.) Needless to say, we were pretty impressed.

Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!
Then horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit!’ hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

David’s Address to A Haggis

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned
Like taps o’ thrissle.
Ye pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

The poem ends with a dramatic (and somewhat violent) stabbing of the Haggis (I presume to let out the steam, but knowing what goes into traditional haggis, my thought is it probably originated as a precaution). I have to say, David did a spectacular job – the Neo-Haggis was really quite tasty and I went back for seconds of Neeps N Tatties!

We paired the entree with Dana’s contribution of a 2000 Darioush Reserve Cabernet –truly an exceptional wine (not that we were in any perceived danger of dehydration by then) which David broke up with shots of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch for inspiration.

Enjoying an amazing meal

The evening’s framework cust0marily calls for more toasts and speeches, including a toast to Burns’ Immortal Memory and a “Toast to the Lassies” to which I had prepared the counter-toast, the “Reply to the Laddies,” (“Down with trousers! Up with kilts!”) but it was so late by the time we’d finished dinner that we decided to save them for next year. It was a truly lovely night, dare I say say intoxicating, in every way, with great companionship and wonderful food and wines. What a fun, fabulous and incredible ode to our heritage!

Now, on to Hogmanay!

Every day I write the book

I just realized that I unwittingly (a somewhat normal condition) swiped my theme of “Odd Things to be Grateful For” from the lovely Nerd in the Brain’s “Oddly Specific Gratitude” Blog Hop.

My humble apologies, Nerd in the Brain – it’s just a really awesome idea and it somehow burrowed into my subconscious to fit the trend my writing was following. If you don’t mind, please, I’d like to keep it, since I fully believe that showing gratitude opens the door for more wonderful things to come into your life.

An excellent reminder of things I am thankful for can be found in our “KAVID, The Year in Pictures” photo books. (KAVID being my husband David’s and my “Celebrity Couple Nickname” in the tradition of Brangelina, TomCat and Bennifer- although hopefully without the accompanying ick factor.)

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Each year, as a gift to David, I put together a Snapfish book composed of sequential pictures and memories from the previous Christmas all the way to Thanksgiving (which is about the time I have to order the book to get it in time to put under this year’s tree.)

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I try to dedicate at least a page to every major occasion, vacation, special dinner or party we share with family and friends.

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When I’ve had a particularly unfriendly day or am just a little down in the dumps, I like to browse through them, savoring memories of wonderful times and remembering how blessed I am to have these people in my life.

So today, I’d like to be notably grateful to have these journals of so much love and happiness.

And to be thankful that every day, in words, actions and interactions, we continue to write the book.

An Early Frost

Way back in 4th grade, we were asked to memorize a poem from our English book and recite it in front of the class. Being nine-years old and horse-mad, I chose Robert Frost’s “Stopping through the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” chiefly because he acknowledged his “little horse” and its thoughts about the change in journey.

Yeah, I know. Prepubescent girl-child logic.

The picture in my English book next to the poem looked a lot like this, which I thought was really cool and eerie and bewitching and added to my fascination.

The picture in my English book next to the poem looked a lot like this, which I thought was really cool and eerie and bewitching and added to my fascination.

In high school, a slightly older and wiser me stumbled upon Robert Frost’s poetry again and once more fell in love; this time not for visuals of patient ponies but for the lean and lovely lyricism of his words.

During one of those long, wonderfully ramble-y conversations I had with my husband when we first met, we talked about poetry and I remember rather shyly quoting my favorite of all Frost’s poems, “Fire and Ice.”

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

A few months later, on my birthday, he surprised me with an original copy of the 1920 Christmas Edition Harper’s Magazine in which “Fire and Ice” was first published, in a shadow box frame he made himself.

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I remember being so blown away by the sweetness and thoughtfulness of the gesture. It brought to my mind the last lines of another of my favorite poems by Frost, “The Rose Family.”

The dear only knows
what will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose –
But were always a rose.