As a writer, I lead a rather solitary existence. While everyone else I know heads off to work each day or prepares for a day of chasing kids around, I commute from the bed to the back porch (or basement, depending on the weather), with nary a word to anyone save the dogs. If I am feeling plucky, I will put on a shirt and a proper pair of pants. Usually, however, I end up in one of my three comfy cotton dresses, hair in a knot at the top of my head, and wearing not a hint of makeup.
When my husband comes home, I emerge from my computer-induced stupor, blinking at the bright lights and wincing at the sound of an actual human voice. Poor Kirk. What a vision to come home to everyday. Actually, I think I am slowly morphing into a feminine Jabba the Hutt, only without the slime or henchman, and with a MacBook Pro permanently grafted to my lap.
Needless to say, it ain’t pretty.
There are but a few things that keep me sane: my occasional weekday get-togethers with my lovely friends Nicole (who also lives at the lake) and Kate (who actually works somewhat close to me) are absolute life-savers. I try to act all cool when I talk to them, like, “Hey, it’s good to see you,” while in my head I am thinking “OH MY GOD IT’S A HUMAN BEING! Talk to me, respond to me, ask me what’s going on in my life … DON’T EVER LEAVE ME!
Well, a few months ago, I added another activity to my social calendar: weekly lunches with my friend Tammy. Some of you may remember a mini-blog I did last month about the book club meeting I attended with adorable howling-wolf cupcakes ordered by the Tammy half of author Lydia Dare. Well, that’s her.
These lunches have become a real staple in my week. The opportunity to have lunch out of the house (1 point), with a friend (2 points), who’s also a writer (3 points), and loves food as much as I do (10 points! ...What? It’s my scoring system, I can run it how I want to) adds up to one super-awesome weekly lady-date.
I’m not exaggerating about the date part. I plan what I am going to wear the night before, rifle through my jewelry, and even *gasp* put on makeup! Makeup! Like a woman who cares, and is actually seen by another human being! It’s all very exciting. Added to the fact that for economy of gas and to minimize lost work time, my lunch date coincides with the day I do grocery shopping and errands, well, let's just say it’s an effort to get to sleep the night before.
When we originally decided to get together a few months back, I had just discovered (with Kate, actually) a little restaurant in Louisburg called Country Moments that included not only knick-knacks and cute decorations, but also had a surprisingly wonderful café in the back. Tammy had recently stumbled across the café as well, and loved the idea of meeting there.
I call the sheep Knick and Knack ;)
We couldn’t have picked a better location. As customers came and went, we got to know each other over Napoli salads and water (me) and Diet Pepsi (Tammy). The food was wonderful, the setting comfortable and quaint, and we talked for almost two hours. When we made plans to meet again, we decided no other meeting place would do.
So we came back, week after week, sitting at the same table, ordering from the same waitress, praising the same chef for a myriad of different culinary offerings. As Tammy and I learned more about each other, we also learned more about the people around us. They started off as background, and slowly progressed to spunky secondary characters in our little weekly story.
Angela taking our order at “our table.” Noticed my gussied up state :)
The chef extraordinaire is JoAnn, an outgoing, outspoken, darling pixie of a woman. She has an eclectic wardrobe of brightly colored hair ribbons and a collection of aprons that range from the heirloom from her grandmother to a few with frills and polka dots to one or two embroidered with outrageous sayings. She cooks intuitively, a real panster like me, and hasn’t a single recipe to go by. Everything is by taste and experience, the way your grandmother used to cook.
JoAnn sporting a neon pink, polka-dot hair ribbon.
After only a few visits, she was already pulling up a chair to ask what we thought of the meal, compliment our outfits, or simply to chat when she had a free second. It didn’t take long for us to look forward to whatever unexpected comment would come from her next, or even better, what delectable new dish. The food she serves isn’t fancy, but is delicious in its simplicity and has that extra ‘cup of love’ that goes into every plate.
The owner, Deanna, is such an energetic and positive person, she always has a huge smile and a happy greeting for everyone who drops by. She loves to stop and chat with all of her customers, and get to know them a little. She has even read a few of Tammy’s books. She is a networking machine, and seems to know half the people in Louisburg.
Deanna, surrounded by her ‘Country Moments’ wares.
For the hour or two that we are there, it feels as though we have taken as step back in time. To Mayberry perhaps? No, that’s not right. I wouldn’t call the ambiance old-fashioned so much as timeless. A spot where my computer has no place, and we women can chat about whatever comes to mind, be it family, or work, or the finer points of a homemade soup. A place where the bonds of friendship can be knitted, the craziness of or lives left behind, and, for a few hours each week, we can cast off the weights of the world and revel in the sort of companionship not found through texts, or smiley-face emails, or even over the telephone.
The cozy bric-a-brac around us feels like home somehow—despite the fact that my own home is minimalist in the extreme. I love that Tammy and I can chat for as long as we like, with no one trying to move us along like the rest of the fast-paced world.
Taking our time as we chat
During our date each week, we celebrate each other’s accomplishments, give pep talks in moments of doubt, and help thrash plots and flesh out new characters. Patrons come and go around us, JoAnn cooks up a storm, stopping by now and again, and Angela moves busily from table to table. Deanna flits about, pausing to see how we are doing or what’s new. It is a familiar pattern that has become well loved in only a matter of a few months.
When at last we leave, I feel as though my batteries have been recharged, and I can carry on with another week of toiling away in my quiet, halfway-to-Timbuktu home.
When we started meeting, I had hoped to find a new friend who could relate to the unique challenges a writer faces, and I did; Tammy is already very dear to me. What I didn’t know, however—what I couldn’t have guessed—was that I would in fact gain so much more; a home away from home, a group of lovely women who know my name and actually look forward to seeing me, and a familiar ritual that is simple yet profound.
For all of these things, I am deeply grateful. As is (I suspect) my husband, who for one day a week gets to come home to a wife who looks like the woman he married and not Edith Bunker on crack.
You know, it’s the small things in life ;)
It’s another GIVEAWAY WEEK! Do you have a place you can go to get back to the basics of life? Have you thought about ditching the computer for a while, and sitting down for the simple joy of chatting with a friend in person? I’d love to hear about it! I will be giving away a four pack of blueberry banana muffins (or some other combination if you prefer) this week. All you need to do is leave a comment and I will enter your name into the drawing. And yes, I will ship all over the world, so enter even if you are outside of the US. I will draw a name on Monday night, and announce the lucky winner in next Tuesday’s blog. Good luck!!
In honor of my once-a-week home away from home, the featured recipe this week is not actually my own. JoAnne was kind enough to provide me with the simple yet unbelievably delicious recipe for her Sautéed Pound Cake. By using store-bought pound cake, you can impress your whole family in just a fraction of the time!
Country Moments’ Sautéed Pound Cake with Strawberry Preserves
- 1 store bought pound cake, sliced into 1” thick pieces
- about 1/2 Tbsp of butter per slice
- Light Brown Sugar – enough to sprinkle in the butter for each side (about 1 tsp per slice)
- Strawberry Preserves
This dessert is made almost exactly the way you would make a grilled cheese.
Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter, and lay down the slice of pound cake. Cook as you would French toast or grilled cheese to desired doneness, laying down more brown sugar before flipping sides. Take extra care not to allow the sugar to burn. If you detect a scorching smell, turn down the heat and flip the slice. Remove the slice from the pan, set aside. Heat the preserves and spread over top. Garnish with whip cream and fresh strawberries.