Monday, June 14, 2010

A (Country) Moment in Time

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!

Ahem.

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 ;)

Country decorations

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.

25 comments:

  1. How lucky you are to have such a wonderful ritual...and luckier still to recognize the gift that it is! I was just lamenting this week that my life feels so scattered and I feel myself longing for some consistency. From week to week, it seems like my and all of my friend's schedules vary so wildly, the idea of actually trying to set a weekly date sounds like the stuff of fairy tales. And having a place like your very own Cheers, well, that's just about the coolest thing ever. Thanks for the lovely story and the wonderful pictures...that pound cake looks like heaven!

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  2. LOL, Kara, when I was naming this blog, I almost called it Where Everybody Knows Your Name. I know that you experience exactly what I am talking about in this blog when it comes to the solitary nature of the writer's life. I hope you'll find some consistency soon! Of course, sometime variety is lovely as well...
    Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Aww, what a great blog! You are such a fun person to be around and you can cook, too!

    Thanks for sharing your weekly date with Tammy with all of us.

    Marquita

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  4. Thanks, Marquita! Hopefully we'll be able to make a regular date, too! Maybe every two weeks or once a month, since I know you have to get a babysitter...
    I'm so glad you came by to say hello :)

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  5. That would be great! But be forewarned....I only get to talk to a three year old and a six year old all day....I might not know what to say when faced with proper adult company! ;p

    Marquita

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  6. You're lucky to have friends who can do lunch. All my friends either have smaller kids (thus we can't entertain them the same. My oldest is now to old to be on the inflatable toys...) or work.

    Hey Sonja.....when's lunch?

    I would kill for adult company once a week. Although, I still refuse to put on makeup. :)

    Guess what...hubby came back from his mother's with....pound cake. Guess I do get to try this recipe.

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  7. I am very lucky, indeed, Beth! I went for a long time with no one to lunch with (not just as a writer, but for years I worked alone in my last job), so I fully recognize the blessing of companionship. I hope you do try the recipe...and that it works out better for you than the last one! Let me know how you like it :)

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  8. Torie Temple CombestJune 15, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    Or, like some of us freelancers, we prepare for a day of chasing kids and writing. A really, really long day. Sounds like you have found a good balance between silence and socializing - that is not always a piece of cake. (A little baking humor - very little).

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  9. You know, Torie, I don't think I realized you were a writer! You writers and artists out there that balance such a creative, concentration-heavy field with the demands of a family are really extraordinary. Hats off to anyone, really, that can successfully balance their full plates.
    Thanks for stopping by, and good luck in the drawing :)

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  10. I'm so jealous of your weekly writer-date. LOL. I'd love to have someone nearby that I could meet up with and hash things out. Maybe someday. In the meanwhile, when I need a dose of the real world and human interaction, I head over to my brother's house to visit with the Nephew Monster. He always makes me forget my troubles.

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  11. Now see - that's where you're the lucky one, Catherine! My nearest family is 500 miles away :( Glad you have your Nephew Monster nearby, and maybe someday soon you'll find a writer to get together with. In the meantime, there is always the plethora of online writer friends out there...like me! :)

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  12. Thanks for writing about Country Moments, JoAnn and Deanna. Great place, great people, great cook.

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  13. Thanks for stopping by, Grace! You summed Country Moments up perfectly :)

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  14. My bff and I try to get together on Fridays when we both work and have child care for our kids. We don't have one particular place we go. We like to try different spots.

    I think Knick and Knack need a friend. Pattiwack. :)

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  15. Okay, that poundcake is being made asap! Yum! And I would very much like to be entered in the drawing :)

    I definitely have outlets for (adult) human interaction every week - it's so important. One thing I love to do is take Bella to group playdates with my local moms group. Today's was in a park, beneath the shade of some tall oak trees (or some kind of tree - I'm not much of an expert). It's such a great opportunity to meet other new moms and reconnect with the ones I already know. And of course to share stories! What a relief to know I'm not the only mom to have let her baby fall off the couch!! LOL!

    My hubby and I also have a local bar/restaurant that we frequent where we know the bartenders (who are an engaged couple!) We go at least once a week to indulge in their yummy beers and eclectic bar food.

    This was such a great post! I love the pictures - especially the one of Tammy looking off into the distance! Hah! Thanks for sharing!!

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  16. I too go to Country Moments many times during the week, sometimes with a friend other times to grab something to go, but everytime I go its the same and thats wonderful. Its not a time that I go in there that all the ladies say hi and ask how my day is going or ask about my kids. The food is awesome and the place is awesome. Thanks for writing this about the best place to eat in Louisburg NC.

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  17. So funny, Samantha! I'll have to go find a third figurine...

    I'm so glad you have a friend to get together with. It's such a great enrichment in our lives :)

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  18. Jerrica, it sounds like you have some awesome 'dates' to keep things interesting in your life. It's especially cool to have the play groups where both mommies and babies can have a lovely time :)
    I love that pic of Tammy too! And rest assured, you are in the running. Good luck!

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  19. Melanie, I am so glad you stopped by! It is indeed an awesome little place. I hope to see you in there some time :)

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  20. Oh, and I forgot to say how much I love Knick and Knack. Hilarious! (And I am SO not trying to butter you up - no pun intended!!! - for when you choose your muffin winner ;))

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  21. LOL, Jerrica! Did you see Samantha's comment that they should have a friend named Pattiwack - ha!
    And no, I'm not gonna enter your name twice ;)

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  22. Love your blog, love Grace for putting it "out there" on FB, love JoAnn and Deanna, and love Country Moments! Ate there yesterday and everything was delicious as usual. Even my husband enjoys it. Although it is more of a "ladies-who-lunch" spot, men like the food! BTW,I'm thinking I've met your author friend, Tammy. Wracking my brain...

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  23. Thanks, Lynn! I am so glad that you dropped by. Tammy and I were there yesterday as well! If you ever see us, please feel free to drop by and say hello :)

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  24. Another great read....You just left my house a few moments ago and NOW the baby is sleeping and G and C are quietly engaged in a TV show...You got a taste of how my life is now in just the short morning you were here. My favorite place to go lately is this great place across the street (my parents house). There is always great, free food that tastes so good and a Nana and PopPop that can watch the kids while I try to sit down for a few minutes to actually breath (and sit) while I am eating which does not happen often. Please come and visit again and thanks for making the muffins with Grace -I have already eaten too many. Well, Grace just came in and asked "Mom, can I please have another muffin" - time to get back to reality...and off the computer

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  25. Thanks, Kristina! I had such a wonderful time with you and the munchkins :) The muffins were so fun to make with the kids (the muffin I took with me in the car lasted all of five seconds). Thanks for your hospitality, I hope we can do it again soon!

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