Friday, November 18, 2011

Meet the New Member of the Family

Meet Evangeline, the star of the kitchen*. 
She is my brand new tangerine-colored Kitchen Aid mixer. My stand mixer, that once belonged to my grandmother Fanny, died a glorious death. The mixer was in the middle of mixing delicious nutella cupcakes. I am glad the mixer died while in battle, but in some odd way, I felt like I had lost my grandmother again. I never saw her use the mixer; the bulk of my memories surrounding mixers include my mother. During Christmas, my mother's mixer is the hardest working member of the family. Even though my mixing memories do not involve my grandmother, my grandmother does invoke many memories surrounding food.

My grandmother's house, especially at the holidays, was always full of food. My grandfather was a man who loved his food. The kitchen was never empty at that house. One of my favorite memories is eating french toast made by my aunt. She would lovingly cut the bread for the french toast into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Also, every dinner has dessert, and most of the time that dessert was ice cream eaten out of pink plastic bowls. (I have two of those plastic bowls, and nothing brings more comfort than eating ice cream after a bad day out of those bowls.) My grandfather had a great, aptly slightly annoying, habit of tunneling out any "goodies" (chunks of brownie, cookie dough, whatever was in the ice cream) and then smoothing the top of the ice cream back out. You would unknowingly go to scoop out the ice cream only to discover an ant farm tunnel like structure.

So while I do not remember the mixer really being used at my grandmothers, the mixer was just a part of her kitchen that I still had. But now, I have Evangeline, who is a constant reminder that I have wonderful adoptive grandparents. MaMa and PaPa, Trae's grandparents, have opened their arms wide and pulled me into a great big hug. MaMa is constantly declaring she just loves having a granddaughter, cause I am not a grandaughter-in-law, I am a granddaughter! Their love is not shown in big, beautiful mixers, but in little ways. Ways that remind me of my grandparents. Cards are sent during the holidays and birthdays. (My birthday cards are "To our granddaughter" and they even sent us an anniversary card for our one year anniversary.) Desserts are a must and you will offend MaMa if you don't have a slice of pie. If you cannot stay for a meal, then care packages are made, complete with chocolate candies. Those little things, the cards, hugs, phone calls to say hello, are all constant reminds that even those we may lose people we love, reminders of their love will always be around.

*The mixer is named after Ray's love, the North Star Evangeline, from Disney's Princess and the Frog.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I have no problem admitting I am coffee addict. I cannot function without two cups working within my system; without those two cups, I'm as worthless as the Tin Man without his oil can. One cup will not do. My mouth can move after one cup, but limbs move only after two cups. These days, I have to keep them oiled with a third afternoon cup.

When I was in Italy, I devoured the strong dark liquid locals claimed was coffee. The texture was like the red clay of the Carolinas, yet dark brown in color. If I stopped stirring my coffee, the spoon would not fall and clink against the side of the mug. No, the spoon would stand at attention, waiting for me to continue to stir thick cream into the mixture or to remove it to a saucer.  The coffee would roll down my throat, slowly, like molasses being poured out of a jar. The taste was divine.

The side of effect, full body wake up, was a necessity when studying aboard with a very energetic and enthusiastic professor who powered us through 10 hour daily marches of sightseeing. Fueled by coffee, I was able to keep up with my professor through two Italian study aboard adventures. I saw amazing things, made wonderful friends, and received more than a text book education. The second time I went to Italy with this professor, I was able to go to Venice.

While I was in Venice, my father was also going to be in Milan, Italy. He flew in a day early, and met us students and professor in Venice. Venice was the last stop on our six week whirl wind educational tour. While we had wonderful times and lots of coffee, hot showers, comfy beds, and fluffy pillows had absent in every hotel. In Venice, we were staying in a convent with board beds and space saving bathroom with shower head and toilet in one closet. My father was staying in a Marriott.

I was able to stay in the American staple hotel with my father for one night. Fluffy pillows, cushioned mattress, and most importantly a shower that did more than just dribble water. While Americans might not know a lot about high culture and art, we do know about beds and showers as well as gluttonous feeding.  The next morning before going down to the endless Americanized breakfast buffet, I decided to shower. The water burst forth at a scalding temperature; I stayed in the shower long enough to give a planet saving hippie a heart attack. The weeks of dirt and fatigue poured down the drain. Well rested and clean, I walked out in the shower in my pjs to see a hot cup of Italian coffee waiting for me.

My father had gone to the lobby area where breakfast was being served in order to make sure I had a fresh cup of coffee when I was done showering . What my father had not expected was for his daughter to spend that much time in the shower. Not until many months later did I know how much went into the small gesture of a warm cup of coffee. 

My father diligently watched my coffee and at any sign of the coffee losing warmth, he would rush back to the lobby and get me a fresh cup. He made three separate trips to  the lobby so his only daughter could have a warm cup of coffee. I would have drank luke warm or even cold coffee, but my father wanted me to have hot coffee. He didn't even need to go get me a cup considering we were just going to walk to the lobby to eat breakfast, but he wanted to show me that he loved me. Gestures of love do not have to be grand or expensive. That one cup of coffee meant more to me than plush pillows or hot showers; that cup of coffee was a father's way of saying I love you and will always be here for you even in the smallest of ways. And many years later, I know that statement is just a true today as it was then, and that it will always be true.

My dad and I, Venice 2006