Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Southern Woman in Culinary Thanksgiving Revolt, or How I learned to Love Premade Thanksgiving Dinners

Random Vegetarian Meme for Youngest Offspring

One of the first things Southern women are supposed to excel at is cooking, specifically delicious, heart-clogging, stomach filling, memory making holiday foods. Go to a traditional Southern home, and you’ll have food and drink shoved civilly at you until you make good your escape.

Somehow this genetic coding was mislaid in my make-up, and I find myself in a conundrum this Thanksgiving. Yes, I want my children home for the holiday, and no, I don’t want to cook. Blasphemy! Blasphemer! Get out the stones!

Sorry, kind of lost myself there. This is what happens when you had a Southern Mamaw who had a cook, who had two daughters who were never taught to cook, then had children of their own. I’m in the last generation, and due to peanut butter and tuna I survived my feral childhood. My mother started cooking when she got married, and apparently near poisoned my Irish American macho dad. He never said what he survived on during their two marriages together, but I suspect he packed his own lunches or ate out a lot. I actually ate Swanson TV dinners in the 1960’s and was glad to have them.

My sister became the family Home Economics/4H Czarina, winning awards for baking, sewing, and other domestic endeavors. Sometimes she let me eat the burned bits. I think she was attempting to rewrite our childhood, but then that’s my opinion.

Sometime after receiving her Empty Nest Syndrome, my mother began to cook, using recipes she’d pried out of my grandmother’s cook, friends, and the occaisional Baptist ladies guild cookbook. Over time she became a very good cook, famous for her delightful Funeral Casserole, one of my favorites. Being superstitious like many Irish-Welsh-American Southern women (put that in your corncob pipe and smoke it!), I’m afraid to make this dazzling culinary delight because it might actually kill someone. Or push them over the edge with Velveeta and Jimmy Dean Sausage goodness.

Ahem. Back to Thanksgiving.

The first time I cooked a large frozen turkey, the bird still had the giblets packet inside when I went to carve it. Luckily my friends weren’t picky, but for some reason refused to come back the next year.

This year I was determined to buy yet another precooked dinner by Sprouts or HEB, but the troops, aka Those Who Will Not Be Cooking For Days On End, are in near revolt. Let’s cook our own turkey, they said. Okay. Let’s make Weight Watcher friendly foods so we don’t put on more weight (that in itself is a sacrilegious statement to a Southerner. No cornbread dressing? No corn casserole? Where the hell’s the butter?). I also have a personal fear that if cornbread is not made on every Turkey Day, my mother and my grandmother’s cook will haunt me the next day like Marley’s ghost.

I’m still traumatized about the ToFurkey incident last year, (Vegetarian offspring of mine? You WILL make your own turkey substitute, and it will not cost over $20 dollars.) and I’m sure it wasn’t the ghosts of my ancestors rising up from their graves in protest. Or my Uncle Dub who actually did his own smoked birds, venison, and other dead delicious woodland inhabitants.

So here I am. Sometime today I have to break my oath to not enter Wally World ever again in search of a Eddy’s smoked turkey breast or whole turkey to appease the Northern God whom I’m married to and adore, plus his minions, aka my sons. We will make healthy roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted rosemary potatoes, crust-less pumpkin pie, and I will smile. I will continue the new tradition of swilling Prosecco (interesting that Spellcheck wanted to substitute Prozac for Prosecco) Mimosas while attempting to stuff eggs Thanksgiving morning, while secretly eating the Sister Schubert Parker House Rolls, sans butter. 

This helps me smile, plus the stash of chocolate of the non-baking sort for mood enhancement. Maybe I’ll get out my mamaw’s china and crystal, but perhaps not since my Northern God and his minions are frightened of expensive, shiny, breakable things.

We’ll sit down at the table and stuff ourselves, NG will count his WW points, I won’t, and the dog will sulk under the table until someone sneaks choice morsels to him. We’ll say the blessing and look around, grateful that everyone is home this year, reminisce about my Thanksgiving cooking disasters, and miss those of us who witnessed said disasters but have gone before us. Most of all we’ll be thankful, happy, and it won’t matter a darn bit who made what, but that it tastes good and we’re together.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ghosts Along the Mississippi is a Forgotten Treasure Trove of Decayed Southern Architectural Jewels

Ghosts Along The MississippiGhosts Along The Mississippi by Clarence John Laughlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ghosts Along the Mississippi, by Clarence John Laughlin, was one of my favorite books during my childhood. The decay of the subjects, the waste, the wanton beauty of these disappearing houses could not help but entrance me. I'd been to see Windsor Castle, the burned wreck of a once gorgeous southern beauty, and only Laughlin could capture the sense of waste and magic.

If you can find a copy in great or very good shape, and love architectural photography, buy it, for God's sake. If you love paranormal books, buy it, borrow, find it; the houses in their state make perfect homes for the paranormal Southern heroes and heroines.

View all my reviews

A Taste of My NaNoWriMo project, Ginger's Promise

An excerpt from my NaNoWriMo 2014 WIP, Ginger's Promise by Beabe Thompson

Copyright 2014, Beabe Thompson.


Do you ever look back at a day in your life and think maybe you should’ve stayed home, remembered to lock the front door before leaving, or wonder how stupid, so clueless at that point in your life? A day that made your life change on a single encounter, a single incident, meeting the one person you’d wished you’d never met, or wished you’d met years before? I had that day on a gorgeous spring morning in New Orleans, on the banks of Bayou Metairie.

When I biked from my Bayou St. John apartment that day, I had no intention of rehabbing human beings again, just had a goal to work on my photography portfolio. My ex-fiancĂ©, ex-boyfriends, friends, and even relatives had made me promise to give up my addiction to “helping” strangers. Most people were just fine without my meddling, but it took several disastrous situations to make me wake up and smell the cafe’ au lait. As I peddled closer and closer to City park, dodging loose dogs, distracted car drivers, pigeons and potholes, my mantra was taken absolutely breathtaking pictures today. Make money. Quit the shitty waitressing jobs and do highly profitable photography shows at exclusive art galleries. We all need dreams, right? No one ever gets anywhere without them or working on them.

My name is Ginger Drummond, and I’m twenty-four, single, no kids, living in one of the most incredible cities in the world. Parts of my hometown still look like a war zone, years after that bitch Katrina had her way with us, and yes, we’re still healing, but we’re not quitters. From the very first people settling here, New Orleanians have survived epidemics, hurricanes, war, and we’re still here, damn it.

My destination that morning was a beautifully restored part of City Park, a public park rescued from ruin after Katrina, and being given a new lease as a revived classic Creole beauty. I locked my bike up near the old casino building that morning, taking in the intoxicating aroma of fresh beignets and cafe’ au lait, the families and lovers clustered under the red umbrella covered tables of Morning Call. I sat down on the grass, and mentally put together a checklist of what I needed to photograph that day, then started wandering the most civilized heart of the park.

One of the things about me that’s always puzzled my family is why complete strangers will strike up conversations where ever I am, no matter what I’m doing. Small children, elderly people, middle aged women, odd men, every day I find myself approached and talking to interesting people. That day in the park I was like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, with children interrupting with thousands of questions, parents retrieving their kids, and tugging them away. Being nosy myself, and unafraid of talking to a stranger, is a practical skill for a photographer//waitress. It still mortifies my mother, Marie, and has gotten me in some not so pleasant situations. At times, it’s so pathetic I don’t even realize I’m doing it anymore.

That was the first day I saw August Olivier. He’d appeared in the sparse spring morning crowd of mothers, children, and old people taking in the sunshine and warm weather of New Orleans. He sat alone on the banks of Bayou Metairie, tossing out bits of stale baguette to ducks from a brown paper bag, watching them snatch and eat. He was dressed in baggy, torn, grubby jeans, an extremely large and faded Jazz Fest t-shirt, and had shaggy, dirty shoulder length blond hair pulled back with a leather string. His face was lean and tanned, and his blond beard was ragged, long, and unkempt. In other words, he looked like he’d slept wild under a shelter somewhere, and hadn’t had a decent meal or a bath in a long times. I felt that tingle of makeover superpower strength, that the urge to “help”, and pinched myself, hard. Those negative therapy technique people use. Like my old therapist told me to use when tempted to “fix” people.

This guy wasn’t someone you’d want to approach and give food or money. There was an edgy dangerousness about him, the kind that made most people want to cross over to another side of the street to avoid him.

The park crowd gave him a wide berth as they played and fished along the bayou. A backpack sat next to him, torn, frayed faded camouflage military issue. As I photographed him, he reached inside and pulled out a wax paper wrapped sandwich and apple. He studied the ducks waiting to share his lunch, slowly ate the sandwich, tossing the leftover crusts to them. They pounced and snapped the remainder of his food, eyed the apple, and then slowly drifted off to more promising prospects. His gaze followed the ducks as they swam, brushed crumbs from his hands, and pulled his backpack closer.

Out came a pair of battered military grade Oakley sunglasses, a Boonie hat, and he put them on slowly. He stood up, neatly put his trash in a nearby bin, and then brushed off his hands on his jeans. The backpack was slung onto his shoulders, and he ever so slowly turned, staring at me knowingly from behind the sunglasses. Busted again. I looked away, shoving my camera down into my messenger bag, hoping to not attract another crazy street person. When I glanced back at him, he was long-legged loping down Dreyfous Avenue towards Marconi Drive. He looked back at me once again before disappearing through the trees. I had a feeling he still might turn back and confront me, and stared after him for a long time.

For most of the afternoon, I'd been working on a portfolio of the park, with perfect weather like New Orleans has in Spring. We were in that window that makes Jazz Fest perfect later on in the month, with blue skies, sunshine, and people getting sunburned all around me. Parts of the United States would be still having winter, but New Orleans was like a beautiful girl in a new dress. City Park was perfect for taking pictures of romantic looking buildings, lakes, swans, ducks, intriguing looking people, and beautiful centuries-old oak trees. Primo people watching and photography.

Three years ago when I graduated from LSU it seemed like my whole life lay ahead of me, with a promising career in broadcast journalism, an engagement ring from Mark, my college sweetheart, and a lovely little house in Old Metairie. Photography had been my first love, and I'd hoped one day to make a name for myself in it. In what seemed like a lifetime of painful months, I'd lost my job, my fiancĂ© dumped me for a nurse he’d been seeing on the side, and now they were living in my little dream house. Broke paying off student loans and living expenses, I was now working in a bar and sharing a small half of a house with a friend from college and her boyfriend. Not where I expected to be three years ago, but at least I had a job and a roof over my head.

I wandered through City Park for the rest of the afternoon until all my Nikon camera's batteries were dead, and had hundreds of photographs needing to be downloaded. A few sessions of editing and I hoped to sell most of them to a stock photography agency. There was a folder filled with release forms for some of the people I'd photographed that day. The guy from the bayou was in several of the photos, and I had hoped to get his signature for a photography series on New Orleans and City Park. One of the art galleries had promised me a small showing of my work in exchange for working part time at some exhibit openings.

I walked back to my bike, hearing my stomach growling at the smell of beignets and coffee. It had been hours since eating a bowl of cereal and milk that morning, but I didn't have any money to waste on eating out. It was growling even louder when I peddled back to our house. As soon as I unlocked the front door and walked in I could hear my roommate and her boyfriend having sex in their bedroom. It was difficult looking them in the eye after hearing some of their Saturday morning sessions, and this morning they were incredibly loud and rambunctious. I hurriedly poured some more cereal and milk, grabbed my stuff, and bolted out the backdoor to our patio for some quiet.

It was one of those rare spring days in New Orleans with little humidity, fresh breezes, and no rain in the forecast. I put my laptop on an antique wrought iron table, booted it up, and connected the camera cable to it. While the laptop did its thing, I pulled a couple of chairs over and sat down, putting my feet up on the other chair. After walking around most of the morning in the park, it felt fantastic to stay off my feet for a while. I tilted my face up to the sun trying to shine through the huge oaks in the backyard and started to relax. Everything was quiet and peaceful, and I mentally began to sort out the photos taken that day as I ate my lunch.

A few minutes later, I glanced over at the laptop, logged in, and turned my camera on, watching as it unloaded. When it was done, I scrolled through the new photographs, sorting and tagging them for editing later. I stopped when I got to the homeless guy’s photos. I realized he had been watching something else while I was watching him. One photograph showed his displeasure and surprise, and shortly afterward he'd gotten up and left. For the first time, I saw an automatic pistol tucked in the back of his jeans as he stood up in the photo. I stared at that picture for a long time.

The next day, while my roommates and I were out, our house was burglarized. All our electronics including my beloved Nikon and laptop were taken after the security system was cut and the backdoor lock kicked in. None of our neighbors heard anything of course, especially Mrs. Pienkowski, our completely deaf and extremely elderly next-door-neighbor. NOPD had seen it all before. We got the paperwork from the two officers who came out, both of whom I knew from Dirty Mike's Bar, and we pooled our money for a new door and lock from Lowe's. Luckily I know how to both pick and install deadbolts. I had no insurance, so the camera and laptop were a complete loss. Back to pen and paper.

At least I had the online files for my pictures or did at one time. With New Orleans Public Library borrowed computer, I went online to look at my photos and discovered my account had been deleted. Everything was lost, including the photos from the park.

End of Excerpt

Copyright 2014, All rights reserved by Beabe Thompson 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo: Part 5 Making a Book Cover

Photography by,
Design by Beabe Thompson, Copyright 2014

One of the things that you can add to your NaNoWriMo baby is a cover. Now if you have an idea of what you want your novel to be about, generally speaking, now's a good time to do it instead of wasting valuable writing time later during November.

There are free photo stock websites where one can download for free or a donation, so don't waste money on an expensive bit of photostock unless you're feeling flush with moola. Then register at PicMonkey and upload the photo, using their text and effects pattern, but limit your cover to less than 1 MB or it won't load to NaNoWriMo.

PicMonkey is highly addictive, so don't lose yourself there and miss out on writing time. Here's the website:

Just remember to not get overly complicated with background or font, and have fun.