Tag Archives: Chilton County Alabama

“… a brief meditation …” – Take 3

Church (c. 1871); Maplesville, Alabama; December 2016

 Here, again, is an updated version of an essay, “Why I Mail Christmas Cards,” from December 2014. Each year, I am asked about my Christmas card project so here’s another take:

My Christmas cards went in the mail on December 1. I started designing my own Christmas cards in 2004 and it has become something many of my correspondents seem to appreciate. And now expect.

I looked forward to receiving and looking at Christmas cards when I was a child and many of the people who sent cards to my parents every year were people I never met but felt I knew from the stories my mother would share about them each December when the card arrived. Genevieve O’Brien in Chicago, Christine Allen in Georgia, and Doris and Bill Fuller in Fort Worth are among the annual cards we received without fail from people I never met. When I was grown and out on my own, I would send Christmas cards as often as I could but sometimes work schedules or finances would make it prohibitive.

From a very young age I had set opinions about Christmas greetings and Christmas décor. For example, I am a Southerner and never quite understood why so many Southerners would buy into the Madison Avenue version of Christmas and send out pristine snow scenes and winter scenes depicting images that were not part of my reality of the season growing up in Alabama. I have traveled and worked all over the country and I have had white Christmases a few times. But the Christmases of most of my life have been bracing Alabama Christmases with a chill in the air and no snow. Actually, I’m not a fan of snow and have never once dreamed of a white Christmas.

When I decided to design my own Christmas cards I wanted to feature photographs that represented December in the South. I developed rules: 1) The photograph had to be taken during the month of December and 2) the photograph had to be taken somewhere in Alabama. Those are the only hard and fast rules but over time most of the photographs have been of old country churches I have discovered around the state. A couple of times the image has been landscapes around Mobile Bay where I try to spend some time each December. The project began shortly after 9/11 and every card since then has included the phrase “Peace on Earth.”

The only exception was in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t design the card that year; instead, I purchased museum holiday cards with a detail from a still life of a bountiful holiday table which somehow reminded me of good times on the Gulf and in New Orleans.

I developed rituals: I try to get my card to the printer around October 1 each year. I start signing and addressing the cards by November 1. On December 1, my cards are in the mail. Over time the mailing list has gotten quite large. Most of the people on my list don’t send cards anymore. For me, however, it’s a way of keeping in touch with old friends and acquaintances all over the world. Some of them are people I may never see again but I like to keep a connection. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and the Christmas card list is something that keeps me in touch and grounded.

Most people who know about or receive my Christmas cards are grateful and look forward to them each year. Someone might ask if I’ve picked next year’s image yet or they’ll send me a new mailing address to ensure that they won’t miss this year’s card.

But occasionally someone will grouse “I don’t know why you do it. Who has the time? It’s so expensive. And so much trouble.” Here’s my response: If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. I do it because it gives me pleasure. I look forward to it. I want to do it.

With each card I sign and with each address I write on an envelope, it’s a brief meditation on that recipient.

When I first moved to Huntsville, there was a lady, Grace Clark, who lived in my apartment complex. We didn’t see each other often, but whenever we did we’d have a very pleasant conversation. I added her to my Christmas card list. She never mentioned my cards but when I moved from that apartment to my house I kept sending Christmas cards to Mrs. Clark. A couple of years ago, when Christmas was past, I received a note from a woman I didn’t know. She was Mrs. Clark’s daughter telling me that her mother had recently passed away. She told me that when she was going through her mother’s papers, she found a stack of my Christmas cards. Mrs. Clark had saved each one over the years.

If you don’t have time to send Christmas cards, I totally understand. I’m busy too. I have no time for Facebook and Twitter. We each choose what we have time to do.

The 2017 image, by the way, is a church in Maplesville, Chilton County, Alabama, that was built around 1871, the year that Birmingham was founded. It sits serenely beside a railroad track, down the street from the town’s old train depot

I have realized that the frequent choice of little white country churches for the annual mailing almost makes it seem like I’m sending the same card every year. I’m toying with the idea of some changes for next year’s Christmas card. Stay tuned …

and Happy Holidays. 

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Peaches, 2016

 

DSCN0447  We’re not even to the halfway point of calendar summer and I’m already starting to miss it. Nowadays public schools start ridiculously early and the place where I teach will be starting its fall semester before long. All of these things contribute to the feeling that summer is almost over. At least there is the salve of the impending start of college football season.

What really triggers my late-summer doldrums is the prospect of another local peach season coming to an end. On my most recent trip to Jimmie’s Peach Stand in Chilton County, one of the Harrison sons predicted that their peach trees would only be yielding for another ten days to two weeks this year. The drive to Chilton County and along back country roads to Jimmie’s is always a tonic for me and I hate to see it end each year around this time.

I have written about Jimmie’s in the past and about my regular trips during their season which usually commences around Mother’s Day and ends in late-July and occasionally into August. I try to get down every two weeks during the season and I try to only eat Chilton County peaches purchased at Jimmie’s.

In a conversation a few years ago, I asked Jimmie Harrison for recommendations of good peaches in north Alabama. “I always thought Mr. Isom grew a good peach,” he said, referring to Isom’s peach orchards near Athens. So when the Jimmie’s crop is depleted, I can usually rely on Isom’s for another basket or two (www.isomsorchard.com).

Jimmie’s peaches without any embellishment are perfect and this year’s crop seems to bear an overall larger fruit than usual. It’s impossible to have a surfeit of peaches but occasionally they get pretty ripe before I can get to them and I have some fallback recipes to make sure that not a single peach is wasted. I don’t make many pies so when I’m ready to throw peaches in the oven it’s usually in a cobbler.

Over the years I have collected some ways to take full advantage of peach season and their abundance and, with the local season’s end upon us, it’s time to share a couple of fresh and simple peach recipes.

The peach salsa is simple and has multiple uses. Use it however you would use any other type of salsa but I love it on a fish taco. The following recipe makes a nice batch.

Peach Salsa

2 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced

3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts)

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

¼ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

Cayenne pepper to taste

salt to taste

Simply mix all ingredients together and serve.

The Peaches and Beaujolais dessert recipe originally came from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table cookbook. Over time I have used it so much without referencing the cookbook that I think it has morphed into my own version. In fact, I pulled out his recipe not long ago to copy for a friend and realized that I have taken liberties with the original. I had forgotten that the original uses granulated sugar along with the brown sugar.  Here  is how I basically make it these days:

Peaches and  Beaujolais

1 medium ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and quartered

1½  tablespoon dark brown sugar

4-6 ounces good Beaujolais or Morgon

Put half of the dark brown sugar in the bottom of a wine glass. Put peach quarters in glass. Drizzle the other half of dark brown sugar over the top of the peaches. Pour Beaujolais (or Morgon) over the peach and sugar mixture. For a really decadent variation, embellish the Beaujolais with Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Garnish with mint leaves.

Both of these peach recipes capture the freshness and vibrancy of the summer season for me and enhance that distinctive peach essence in an exciting way.

Make the most of the rest of your summer. Hmm … shouldn’t local figs be here soon?

“… a brief meditation …” – Take 3

Church (c. 1871); Maplesville, Alabama; December 2016

 Here, again, is an updated version of an essay, “Why I Mail Christmas Cards,” from December 2014. Each year, I am asked about my Christmas card project so here’s another take:

My Christmas cards went in the mail on December 1. I started designing my own Christmas cards in 2004 and it has become something many of my correspondents seem to appreciate. And now expect.

I looked forward to receiving and looking at Christmas cards when I was a child and many of the people who sent cards to my parents every year were people I never met but felt I knew from the stories my mother would share about them each December when the card arrived. Genevieve O’Brien in Chicago, Christine Allen in Georgia, and Doris and Bill Fuller in Fort Worth are among the annual cards we received without fail from people I never met. When I was grown and out on my own, I would send Christmas cards as often as I could but sometimes work schedules or finances would make it prohibitive.

From a very young age I had set opinions about Christmas greetings and Christmas décor. For example, I am a Southerner and never quite understood why so many Southerners would buy into the Madison Avenue version of Christmas and send out pristine snow scenes and winter scenes depicting images that were not part of my reality of the season growing up in Alabama. I have traveled and worked all over the country and I have had white Christmases a few times. But the Christmases of most of my life have been bracing Alabama Christmases with a chill in the air and no snow. Actually, I’m not a fan of snow and have never once dreamed of a white Christmas.

When I decided to design my own Christmas cards I wanted to feature photographs that represented December in the South. I developed rules: 1) The photograph had to be taken during the month of December and 2) the photograph had to be taken somewhere in Alabama. Those are the only hard and fast rules but over time most of the photographs have been of old country churches I have discovered around the state. A couple of times the image has been landscapes around Mobile Bay where I try to spend some time each December. The project began shortly after 9/11 and every card since then has included the phrase “Peace on Earth.”

The only exception was in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t design the card that year; instead, I purchased museum holiday cards with a detail from a still life of a bountiful holiday table which somehow reminded me of good times on the Gulf and in New Orleans.

I developed rituals: I try to get my card to the printer around October 1 each year. I start signing and addressing the cards by November 1. On December 1, my cards are in the mail. Over time the mailing list has gotten quite large. Most of the people on my list don’t send cards anymore. For me, however, it’s a way of keeping in touch with old friends and acquaintances all over the world. Some of them are people I may never see again but I like to keep a connection. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and the Christmas card list is something that keeps me in touch and grounded.

Most people who know about or receive my Christmas cards are grateful and look forward to them each year. Someone might ask if I’ve picked next year’s image yet or they’ll send me a new mailing address to ensure that they won’t miss this year’s card.

But occasionally someone will grouse “I don’t know why you do it. Who has the time? It’s so expensive. And so much trouble.” Here’s my response: If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. I do it because it gives me pleasure. I look forward to it. I want to do it.

With each card I sign and with each address I write on an envelope, it’s a brief meditation on that recipient.

When I first moved to Huntsville, there was a lady, Grace Clark, who lived in my apartment complex. We didn’t see each other often, but whenever we did we’d have a very pleasant conversation. I added her to my Christmas card list. She never mentioned my cards but when I moved from that apartment to my house I kept sending Christmas cards to Mrs. Clark. A couple of years ago, when Christmas was past, I received a note from a woman I didn’t know. She was Mrs. Clark’s daughter telling me that her mother had recently passed away. She told me that when she was going through her mother’s papers, she found a stack of my Christmas cards. Mrs. Clark had saved each one over the years.

If you don’t have time to send Christmas cards, I totally understand. I’m busy too. I have no time for Facebook and Twitter. We each choose what we have time to do.

The 2017 image, by the way, is a church in Maplesville, Chilton County, Alabama, that was built around 1871, the year that Birmingham was founded. It sits serenely beside a railroad track, down the street from the town’s old train depot

I have realized that the frequent choice of little white country churches for the annual mailing almost makes it seem like I’m sending the same card every year. I’m toying with the idea of some changes for next year’s Christmas card. Stay tuned …

and Happy Holidays.