Friday, March 16, 2012

The Wisdom of Emily Gibbs

Hey, Y'all,

I'll warn you that I'm a bit of a mess today, but I'd love for you to join me at the kitchen table for some hot tea and Irish tea bread with lots of butter and jam.  I may have to ask you to pass me a kleenex every once in a while if you don't mind.  

Monday, the 12th, was the first anniversary of my mother's death.  On the 13th, my sister, brother-in-law and I met with Michael Taylor of Michael Taylor Estate Sales to plan my mother's sale.  It is scheduled for April 19th, 20th and 21st.  Michael told us that he was doing a sale this weekend one street over from my mother's condo and suggested that we come by to see how he runs a sale.  

I just got back from the sale.  

Over the past 20 years I've probably gone to at least 100 estate sales.  I love vintage Christmas decorations,  linens, and glass serving pieces.   When you purchase them at an estate sale you get a sense of the people who used them.  They don't need them anymore and now the things they loved will be used by someone who appreciates them  and will use them for happy occasions.  

I went to today's sale with the intent of seeing how things were staged and priced.  I hoped that I might find an old handmade Christmas ornament, a cut glass platter and perhaps a vintage lamp for my bedroom which I'm redoing.  I found all three.  I also ran into a woman I worked with 30 years ago and the precious lady who was the teacher's aide in my son's kindergarten class.  Her husband played Santa Claus for their Christmas party.  I proudly showed her the pictures of my adorable grandson and told her that Neal grew up to be an artist.  {He tended to get caught up in the art center and had a strong aversion to the math center.}  I did not anticipate being blindsided by a flood of tears when I saw some people looking at the lady's pots and pans and a half-used bottle of Windex.  

In five weeks, people will stand in my mother's kitchen and look at her Tupperware and cake pans and maybe some Windex.  And they won't know how that Tupperware practically had a security guard standing by it if Mama took it to a covered dish supper at church.  They won't know that she used that tube cake pan every year when she made fruitcake which was soaked in brandy for ~6 weeks before Christmas.  She worried about people seeing her buying the brandy.  They won't know what pride she took in her home and the amazing amount of housework she could do in one day and how clean she kept her windows.  When they go through her boxes of fabric they won't know how she used to hide fabric so Daddy wouldn't know how much she had stockpiled. They'll see used kitchen utensils.   I marvel at the power an old soup ladle can hold because it is imbued with memories of watching Mama dip up her homemade potato soup into Blue Onion melmac bowls.  

The rational adult part of me knows that we cannot keep everything.   I have a house full of things already.  We are keeping a lot of things!!! But, the little girl part of me wants to cling to every single thing from my childhood kind of like a little child with a lovey.  I am viscerally sad.  

This is where Emily Gibbs comes in to our conversation.  Remember in high school when you read Our Town and had to write about the themes in the play?  I remember I wrote about Emily's monologue in the cemetery.  You know, the one after she gets her wish to go back to an ordinary day in her life?  I got an A on that paper.   I didn't know s*** then.  Today I truly got it. 

Tootles and hugs,

 Click here to reread Emily's monologue. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spinach and Pumpkin Lasagna

Hey, Y'all,

Today I made the most delicious, anti-oxidant-rich veggie lasagna I've ever tasted.  It came from the  Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation's February 2012 issue of The Tennessee Magazine.  It does involve some prep work before you add it to your slow cooker.  Trust me, it is time well spent!  I'm going to divide it up into servings and freeze them before I sit down with the crockpot and a fork and eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Spinach-Pumpkin Lasagna
(yield 8 servings)

6 T. unsalted butter, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 T. finely chopped fresh sage (I used 1/4 t. of dried, crushed sage)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans  (I used ~3/4 c. pecans)
1/3 c. all purpose flour
3 c. milk (I used 1 %)
4 oz. goat cheese
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. Kosher salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 12 oz. pkg. no-boil or oven-ready lasagna noodles (I used Barilla 9 oz. no-boil)
1 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

In large skillet over medium heat melt 3 T. of butter.  When hot, add the garlic and onions and saute 5-7 minutes or until onions are translucent ( I let mine caramelize a little).  Add the sage and cook 1 min. longer. Stir in the pumpkin and walnuts or pecans.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

In med. saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining butter.  Add the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute.  Gradually add the milk, whisking continuously until well blended.  Bring to a boil whisking constantly.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer five minutes or until slightly thickened.  Remove from the heat and stir in the goat cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Stir until the cheese is completed melted.

Spoon 1/2 c. of sauce over the bottom of a lightly greased slow cooker.  Lay 1/3 of the lasagna noodles over the sauce to cover, breaking to fit where necessary.  Top with half of the filling and half of the spinach.  Spread 1/2 c. of the sauce over the top and repeat the layers.  Top with the remaining noodles and spread the remaining sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving. 

I cooked my lasagna for 2 1/2 hours. 

If you want to keep the anti-oxidants coming, consider having blueberries and strawberries (in season) spooned over marscapone cheese for dessert. 

Hugs and Tootles,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Heartbreak of "Matchy-Matchy"

Hey, Y'all,

Bless your hearts, I apologize for ignoring you while I wandered around in a euphoric fog following the birth of my precious first grandchild.  I'm learning to manage my euphoria so that I can remain employed and act like a responsible adult.  The timing is perfect because Spring fashions have hit the stores which leads to the topic of discussion today, The Heartbreak of Matchy-Matchy. 

I am 54 years old.  I was raised in the South and the Midwest.  In my world, a truly well-dressed female carried a handbag that matched her shoes.  Ideally, the shoes would pick up a color in her ensemble or at least be darker than her hemline (except for sneakers or white shoes between Memorial and Labor Days).  Her jewelry would match her outfit.  If she wore a print, be it Liberty or quirky red, white and blue running shoes on white polyester (yes, in 1975 I had a dress in this fabrication), she picked up a color in the print and selected her accessories accordingly.  Even the not-so-fashion forward female might wear eyeshadow that matched her outfit. These fashion conventions made shopping and getting dressed relatively stress-free. Once you mastered the concept of matching in kindergarten, you could be turned loose in Castner-Knott's or Roots or any fabric store.  Wearing a color-matched outfit could even be a saving grace as in, "well at least it matches." 

I don't know when matchy-matchy became a condition nigh unto awareness walk- worthy.  I suspect that it originated in New York.  Which is ironic since I've observed that Manhattan-ites routinely dress in all black and it's not because they're goth.  Anyway, like many undesirable conditions, I didn't pay much attention to it until it became personal.  A few years ago, I attended a family reunion.  I wore a sundress with a festive print and accessorized it with a light summer cardigan and cute little sandals.   I thought I looked well put together until we got to the event and one of the new additions to the family pulled her husband aside and said, "She's so matchy-matchy."  And it wasn't in an admiring tone of voice.

Ever since then I've been hyper aware of society's bias against matchy-matchy.

There are some advantages to not being matchy-matchy.  I carry the same purse all of the time because, of course, I don't want to be matchy-matchy.  And y'all know how fundamentally lazy I am.  However, the advantages are outweighed by the disadvantages.  First of all, it takes me at least a third more time to get dressed for any occasion because of my indecision while selecting accessories.  Secondly, I still live in the South and most women of my generation were socialized to match their colors.  Thus, although  I might impress Stacey and Clinton with my non-matchiness, my peers may suspect that I got dressed in the dark.

I am taking this opportunity to speak out against matchy-matchy prejudice.  Furthermore, I am walking the talk.  I recently scored a cute, sleeveless, tropical print summer dress at Goodwill and defiantly purchased a J. Crew summer cardigan that matches it.   Just don't judge me if I cave to societal pressure and buy a nude shoe to wear with it. 

So what are your thoughts and feelings about matchy-matchy?  Let's discuss this controversial topic.

Tootles and hugs,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Just One Look

Hey, Y'all,

Just one look was all it took yesterday to fall utterly, wholly, hopelessly in love with James Dominic Garvin. 

My precious daughter-in-law was awakened yesterday morning by her water leaking.  She was admitted to the hospital and started on pitocin about 10 a.m. I arrived an hour later.   It was a long day spent trying to manage my eager expectancy and doing my best to support Neal and Rachel without being obnoxious. Every time I visited the family waiting room while Rachel's progress was checked, I learned far more than I ever wanted to know about various laboring women's cervixes, difficulty conceiving, hemorrhoids, etc. From time to time I fought back tears as I thought of my mother and Jim and how much I wished they were with me.  I wanted my sister with me  and felt selfish asking her to leave work early.  She did. { Because she is the best sister in the world. }   I stood with my ear pressed to the door to  my daughter-in-law's room for 45 minutes just waiting to hear his first cry.  As the nurses calmly coached Rachel to push while they counted to 10, I implored God to take care of Rachel and the baby while tears streamed down my face.

Then the energy in the air changed like a switch had been flipped and we heard Dominic crying loudly and with lots of expression.  We heard that he weighed 9 lbs., 11 oz.  I could hear my son's voice full of pride and love as he talked to the baby and to Rachel. Then we went to the waiting room while Neal, Rachel and Dominic became a family. 

When Neal called us and invited us to their room our family cruised down the hospital corridor like we were in the final stretch of the Music City Marathon.  I (barely apologetically) elbowed my way past everyone and walked into the room.  Dominic's big, wide eyes met mine. And, immediately, I knew I would do everything  in my power to nurture his gifts, support his parents, help him experience God's love, encourage his imagination, and love him unconditionally. 
James DOMINIC Garvin
Born February 6, 2012
9 lbs., 11 oz.  22 inches long


Nana TBelle

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gonna Have to Face It I'm Addicted to....

Hey, Y'all,

It's come to my attention that the U.S. has an increasingly addicted population.  I'm not referring to prescription drugs, meth, alcohol, tobacco, etc.  I'm referring to the way it seems everyone is addicted to any number of substances and/or activities and/or things.  Just  pick a day that promises to provide the opportunity to hold conversations with a number of different acquaintances.  Then be attentive to the number of times you hear, "I'm addicted to...."  Or ask someone you know well to note how many times you say, "I'm addicted to...."  Then think back to just a few years ago.  I can't think of anyone I knew socially who would publicly admit to being addicted to anything. 

I'm too lazy to take the time to even copy and paste the criteria for being called addicted.  If you're interested, you can check out this link:

 Here's my list of addictions:
1. Medium point, gel ink pens with rubber grips
2.  My hair is "chemically dependent" to quote the lovely Beverly Young Ellis.  In fact it's so chemically dependent on hair color to conceal my unlovely gray hair that I have to do Clairol Root Touch-up just to make it to my monthly retouch appointment.
3.  Diet Coke
4.  Coffee
5.  Toddlers and Tiaras, Glee and The Office.  I suspect that I will soon have an addiction to Smash.
6.  Bubble gum
7.  Lipstick
8.  Sequins, bling and glitter
9.  Homemade Chex Party Mix {I manage this  compulsion by only having it at the holidays.} 
10.  Elastic waist comfy "lounging" pants (ugly ones at that)
11.  My smartphone
12.  Facebook
13.  Reading

OK, I've come clean with my embarrassing list.  What are your addictions?

Tootles, Y'all!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Products Social Worker Part II

Hey, Y'all,
It's been a week since my last post and I have no pictures of a grandbaby to share with you.  To take my mind off my agitated anticipation, I'll share some new favorite resources with you.

1.  Remington Compact Ceramic Hot Rollers
For most of my adult life I have been on a selective quest for a limited list of beauty resources--the perfect red lipstick, the perfect taupe eyeshadow, something that will give my hair lasting volume (shampoo, conditioner, mousse, gel, something!) and hot rollers that don't leave weird lines in my hair, don't burn my scalp, don't take up half of a suitcase, and don't make loud noises.  The search for the first three continues, but I've found some wonderful hot rollers! These Remington Compact Ceramic Hot Rollers were just $15.99 at Walgreens.  They have wire hook pins that don't leave a ridge in your hair and left my scalp intact.  They heat up in ~2 minutes.   Their packaging is so compact that you can pack them in your carry-on bag.  And....they really curled my hair and I still had curl the morning afterward!  I'm not ready to pitch my Velcro rollers, but these Remi's are so helpful that I'm buying another set this weekend. 

2.  Wet n' Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow

Just because Wet n' Wild products have always been sold in drugstores and had really unattractive packaging and tended to be the cheapest make-up available, many people hold  them in very low esteem.  Which is unfortunate because WnW makes some beautiful lipsticks and eye shadows and they are so cheap that you can afford to take a walk on the wild side and try some new colors.  Their eye shadows have beautiful pigment and blend well. They are very soft so you have to tap off the excess shadow before you apply it.  The shadow is shimmery and I go over it with a translucent powder to calm down the shine.  I picked up the Silent Treatment palette for $2.99. 

3.  Nivea Touch of Sparkle Body Wash

One of my favorite quotes is, "Glitter makes everything better."  Who knew that sparkle would smooth scaly skin?  Truthfully, I haven't seen any sparkles.  But I have seen smoother skin since I started using this Nivea body wash.  So much smoother that I haven't been catching my opaque tights on my crocodile legs!  It is a little sensory happy to use this in the shower in the morning. 

Hope you find these resources helpful, y'all.


Saturday, January 21, 2012


Hey, Y'all,
After many months of increasing expectancy, my "nanancy" is almost to term.  Any day now my first grandchild (aka Jelly Bean) will be placed in my welcoming arms.  {Please note, I did not say "smothering" or "grasping" or "unyielding" arms.  They will be welcoming and I will share him with his parents, his Papa, extended family and other carefully screened people.} 

During the past few weeks MH and I have been winding up our  grandparently preparations.  We successfully completed our Grandparents Class after passing the swaddling and burping skills test and the oral exam covering our understanding of the latest childcare practices, childproofing our home and the fact that the parents are the gatekeepers to the grandchild. I still  need to find a frame for our Certificate of Achievement. 

After much consideration and vacillation, I have selected my Nana's welcoming ensemble.  This was more difficult than you might think.  It has to be comfortable and photograph well. Plus it needs to travel well because I'm thinking I need to pack my own hospital bag in case I get the text while I'm at work.

I learned at Grandparents Class that the family is supposed to decorate the mother's door.  This information alone was worth the class tuition.  I did not want to embarrass the gatekeepers with a naked hospital room door.  So I've made a voluminous bow and ordered an "It's a Boy" banner.  Hmmm...probably do need to pack a hospital bag big enough to hold the bow, banner and those removable 3M things to hang them. 

In the midst of all this dithery preparation I keep thinking about the difference between this time last year and this year.  Last year I kept my phone with me at all times in case the hospice nurse or my stepfather called me with news that Mama had taken a turn for the worse.  Each morning I woke up with a smothery sense of apprehension over what might happen in the next 24 hours.  This year I keep my phone with me at all times in case I get a call or text that the Jelly Bean is about to make his appearance.  Each morning I wake up with a bubbly sense of excitement and anticipation of what might happen in the next 24 hours.  All day every day I pray without ceasing for God to hold Rachel and the Jelly Bean in his right hand and thank Him for the gift of family and hope and memory. 

Hopefully the next post I write will be full of vital statistics and photos of a precious little boy.  I'll try to include one of the hospital room door, too!

Love and Tootles,

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The House Party Cast of Characters

Hey y'all,

Have you been wondering how this blog came to be called, TBelle's House Party{ Even if you haven't, please pretend like you have.}  One of the inspirations was the old Art Linkletter House Party show which probably no one but TBelle remembers.  Although I was a little girl when it was on the air,  I loved the household tips, interviews, quizzes and watching the celebrities chat it up with Art.  Most people remember House Party for the segment, Kids Say the Darndest Things.  Sometimes I watched in disbelief that some kid could say something utterly ridiculous.  I knew that, given the chance, Art and I would enjoy an intelligent conversation.   {You should know that I spent most of my formative years scheming how I could get my parents to get me a gig like Wednesday on the Addams Family or Tabitha on Bewitched.}

Anyway, Art had several BFF's who showed up at the house party regularly.  They all knew each other and had so much fun entertaining one another that they really didn't need to have some kid say a darndest thing.  {I'll own the fact that I may still have issues about my lack of a TV career.  On the other hand, I thankfully have never been the subject of a True Hollywood Story.} Regular viewers knew the regular House Party guests' kids, current spouse, pets, etc.  I thought it would be helpful for all of my guests to get acquainted with those near and dear to me who will be mentioned frequently on my blog. 

Mysterious Husband (MH)--I have a husband who is cute, funny, kind, insightful, smart, helpful, loving, and violently opposed to having his business discussed on any blog, FB page, talk show interview, etc.  He's following the example of Dolly Parton's husband, Carl Dean. 

Neal--my son and father of my grandson, Jelly  Bean.
Rachel Jane--my  daughter-in-law and mother of Jelly Bean.
Pooh--my daughter who follows my MH's suit when it comes to privacy

Quigley--my poodle/Jack Russell/ mini schnauzer mix rescue dog
Midas--my huge Japanese Bobtail cat
Jackson--my large tabby cat
Devan--my average-sized Tonkinese cat

The Cancer Queens--the cast members of Cancer Queens! A Cancer Prevention Musical Revue.  We have lots of adventures.

Jules & Buff--my BFF's from high school.  We met the first day of school in 1971 in our Home Ec. class at Greencastle High School, Greencastle, IN.  We've been friends ever since. 

The S & M's--my friends who are the epitome of gracious Southern ladies.  We all went to First United Methodist Church together in the '80's.  We call ourselves the S & M's because all of our names start with an S or M.  We take great delight in seeing the looks on people's faces when we say we're having an S & M party. 

Cynthia & Donna--my close friends for the past 10 years. 

Candace--my new friend who is a fabulous cook and brilliant and beautiful to boot. 

Jenn, Cindy and Jane--these are the friends with whom I get into all sorts of entertaining situations.

Whew,  I'm tired of writing and I bet you're tired of reading this.  Plus I still have an obscene amount of holiday paraphernalia to pitch or pack away (I'm leaning toward pitching).  Take a nap for me!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Products Social Worker

 Although I no longer practice traditional social work, I will always be a social worker. I get a thrill every time I have the opportunity to hook people up with resources.  My friends will tell you that I love to share resources that can help empower you to feel better about your appearance and your home.  In other words, I love to tell my friends about my favorite products.  In the spirit of social work, I am an equal opportunity product girl.  I don't care if the product comes from Dollar General or Nordstrom's.  I do tend to skew toward relatively low-priced cosmetics and skin care items because, in real life, TBelle wants to spend her golden years in a house rather than in a single-wide in one of her kids' backyards. 

Here are a couple of my current favorites:

Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Dark Circle Roller

  I love this stuff because it feels good, does a good job of concealing my sickly looking circles  and doesn't settle in my "fine lines."    Bottom line, it keeps me looking less like death warmed over.  You can pick this product up at Target, Walgreens, Krogers, etc.  Garnier is big on coupons so keep an eye out (ha, ha) for one for this product. 

Revlon Lip Butter  When people ask me what I would want with me if I were stranded on a desert island, I always say lipstick (among other things).  Note: Never let someone tell you that you can only have one thing when you are stranded on a desert island.  It's hypothetical, people!  Anyway, if someone asked me today I would say Revlon Lip Butter.  It has a luscious texture, lovely pigment, no remarkable odor or taste, and good lasting power--particularly for such a moisturizing product. All of the colors are pretty.  I have three and especially love Cherry Tart.  It's an easy-to-wear red and I like the name.  I have only found these at Walgreens. 

I don't want to overwhelm y'all with too many products so we'll stop with two today. 

Tootles, Y'all!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Yesterday would have been my mother's 77th birthday.  It was yet another achingly painful link in the chain of firsts we've endured since Mama passed March 12, 2011.  I'm trained as a clinical social worker and can tell you all about stages of grief and the developmental tasks of  "later adulthood" which include developing a perspective on death (I would say it is inevitable).  Everyone knows that the first year of birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries after the death of someone you care about is going to be "difficult."  So I was prepared to be tearful all day as I remembered my mother's life and the life lessons she taught me.  You can imagine how surprising it was when the first thing that entered my mind when I awoke yesterday morning was one of Mama's aphorisms.  Another one popped up while I was putting on the coffee pot.  And the warm steam in my shower seemed to loosen up an avalanche of memories of Mama's nuggets of insight. 

As a tribute to Mama, I would like to share some of her words of wisdom.  You need to know that Mama was raised in Appalachia--Southwestern Virginia and her mother was from Nova Scotia. I'll be glad to explain certain phrases if they make no sense to you.

"Be your own sweet self."  Always offered when I was worried about fitting in with my peer group of the moment.  Works well in any life situation. 

"He/she wouldn't give you air in a jug."  Describing a selfish person.

"God gave you a backbone; now use it!"  Said to anyone who was leaning on a counter or woodwork.  I have discovered that standing up straight really does help one's back!

"He/she/they don't have a pot to pee in."  This term can be used to describe people who are having hard times and need help from others. 

"I wish I could buy him/her/them for what they're worth and sell them for what they think they're worth."  Used when someone thinks they're smarter than most other people and makes sure all  know it. 

"Home again, home again, jiggety-jog!"  Said as you pull in the driveway or garage after a tiring day of shopping or traveling.  This phrase has the power to make you feel safe and blessed to have a home.

"Hells Bells!!!"  Only acceptable form of profanity allowed in our home.  Use very infrequently so that it does not lose its power and it must be followed by, "excuse my French." 

"You better change your attitude."  My parents' minimalist approach to cognitive behavioral therapy.  Most useful when said to disrespectful or complaining children as parting words when they are being dropped off at school or after-school activities.  I must say that I've known many work colleagues whose parents apparently did not know this useful phrase. 

"Act like you've got some couth!"  Use your manners and good sense. 

"Tootles!" An endearing way to end phone calls and voice mails.  I still have the last voice mail Mama left me.  It was the last time she told me "tootles!" 

If you still have your Mama, tell her you love her.    If you are a Mama, make some happy memories with your children. 

Tootles, y'all!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome to My House Party

Hey, Y'all!  After weeks of preparing, it's time for my house party to begin.  Of course I'm still not really ready.  But I decided if I waited until every little detail of this blog suited me,  I'd never have any company.  So...I'm sure I'll be decorating and redecorating while we're visiting.

Even though today is New Year's Day my house still looks like Christmas. This is because I got my decorations up unusually late and couldn't bear the thought of stripping the house of all of its festive finery before today. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I am quite lazy.  I dread painstakingly wrapping up every ornament and struggling once again to pack things up so that I'll know where they are in 11 months.  But, as much as I dislike "undecorating" from Christmas, I love the sense of calm I experience in my house after all the overstimulating holiday finery has been removed to storage.  There are open spaces again and a lighter energy seems to flow through the house.  It occurred to me while I was sitting in church today that it is fitting that we start a new year after ending the previous year in a fair frenzy of holiday expectations, decorations,  celebrations and sometimes the disappointment that the actual holiday wasn't like the commercials on TV.  By the time I get to New Year's Eve I'm ready to carefully save the memories of special experiences in the preceding year, put the bad memories out with the trash and create an open space within me to welcome the possibilities of a new year offers me.  I hope you'll stop by my house party often and we'll enjoy 2012 together!

Love, TBelle