Monthly Archives

August 2011

A Voice From the Past

August 30, 2011

Yesterday, Jenny sent me an email full of ghost voices. (After she wrote this lovely thing here.)

If you know Jenny, it isn’t all that surprising that she found an oddity, but this one stopped me.

With her superhuman internet search powers, she found an obscure interview that my great uncle PJ did in the 1970s about his parade float business.

It has been decades since I’ve heard my uncle speak. He passed only five years ago, but he suffered from a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease for years before that, and honestly I had forgotten.

It’s amazing how quickly we change and fade away.

But this took me straight back.

Thank you, Jenny.


What? You Don’t Have Five Barns Full of Parade Floats? Weird.

August 30, 2011

My Great Uncle PJ Allen was a man who danced on Broadway in the 1930s and early 40s, but then moved back to Texas in the late 40s to be closer to his family and start a Parade Float business. Because of course he did.

We are now lucky enough to now be the caretakers of his body of work. Or some of it. And, as I’ve mentioned, I feel so honored to have known him and spent time with him. He was smart, interesting, and hilarious…and I knew this, even as a small kid. I just didn’t understand what the hell he was talking about. But I do remember him being the first adult who talked to me like I was an adult. And oh-what-I-would-give to hear his stories now. Especially those involving Cole Porter. I’m just saying.

Of course, when I was younger I didn’t get it.

I thought it was weird to have a great uncle who made parade floats. Perhaps even embarrassing to have a great uncle who wore a toga to Easter brunch. But now I understand how beyond wonderful it is.

So then you can understand how I’m a bit conflicted that my mom and dad decided to auction off most of his cool weird awesome creations next month. (Details. Photos. Etc.) Of course, I get it. Because seriously, why in the heck would we want all this stuff just silently taking up space. But, I feel surprisingly nostalgic about letting it go. It’s like it all belongs together or something…a little family of misfit toys who’ve been stored side-by-side for six decades.

Of course, the pragmatic side of me wins this one. Because, first, hello, Hoarders.  And secondly, this stuff is serving no one stacked high in barns. My great uncle created things to be enjoyed. And hundreds of people will now be able to enjoy bits of his creations.

For me, I love just knowing that this all exists. That people are so uniquely creative and bizarrely talented that they can conceptualize happiness from nothing. And, the fact that he made his living (and quite a good living, actually) doing what he loved…It’s really inspiring.

PJ passed five years ago on Memorial Day. And, when I say that something drew me back to Central Texas, if I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I believe he had something to do with it. If I’m tipsy, I’ll say he called us here. I still don’t completely understand why, but I believe he had a good reason. And I’m so proud to be in his parents’ home.

I feel like I’m learning more from these strong, proud, past people every single day. And I’m thankful. Specifically, PJ Allen, thank you for being awesome. For doing what you loved. And for being who you were.

I’m so glad we’re made of the same float materials.

This Is What My Great Uncle’s Barns Sound Like

August 30, 2011

We’re in the process of cleaning out seventy years of stuff…a lifetime of work…piled up high into five barns. I’m spending a lot of time in these barns. Looking through the artifacts of love ones’ lives. And even though it’s stupid degrees outside, I feel so lucky to be given the task. It’s a sober rush of nostalgia, intrigue and pride, tied up with a quiet reminder of how short our time here really is. I swear, if these barns could speak, they’d be telling me exactly that…intertwined with a few hundred hilarious stories. And if they could sing, they’d sound like this….

Tomato Pie

August 30, 2011

Last week, when I was at the beach with the fancy kitchen, I made this recipe that I found in Southern Living. Or, I should say, I adapted this recipe to accommodate my laziness and lack of ingredients. Or maybe I added some ingredients. I can’t remember.

But in the end, I discovered this fantastic thing: Tomato Pie. Do you know about tomato pie? If not, I can tell you one thing about it…it is good! You should make one. They’re pretty darn easy. And I must say, everyone at the beach was freaking out over it. Especially me.

Here’s my version:

Tomato Pie

What You’ll Need:

A bunch of small tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes

1/2 tsp. salt

Pre-made pie crusts

1/2 cup of mayo

1/2 cup of sour cream

3 green onions, chopped

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup of goat cheese

3/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

What You’ll Do:

Preheat the over to 350. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes and place them on paper towels, sprinkle them with salt, and let them stand for 30 minutes. Roll/place the pie crusts into a pie pan. I use two crusts because two come in the package, and it tastes awesome when you use two crusts. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. While that’s happening, mix together the next six ingredients in a bowl. Remove from the crust from the oven and sprinkle 1/4 of the Parmesan cheese on the bottom of the crust. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese in the crust. Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the tomatoes. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Let it cool. Enjoy!

Cooking at the Beach

August 18, 2011

Photo by Karen Walrond

Late this afternoon, we arrived in Port Aransas to spend the last weekend of the summer with good friends. And I have to say, this beach rental is off the hook. The kitchen alone, whoah. I actually didn’t make it down to the beach today, but I did spend some quality time in the kitchen with Karen and Maile. Or, rather, they sat, frightened by my whirlwind amused with rum punch, as I spent an hour or two freaking out over this kitchen. I’ve never been much of a cook, but I have to say, over the last few years, cooking for friends has become one of my very favorite things to do. It’s so relaxing and fun for me. The perfect way to kick off the last weekend before school starts.

Salad Shooters. A Better Way to Eat Salad.

August 18, 2011

Photo by Karen Walrond. Rum punch by Karen too. I highly recommend combining the rum punch with the cooking.

Salad bores me. Well, generally. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it easier to bear the boringest of salad dishes, and even spice it all up and make salad fun. Or funner. Or something. Anyway, as summer wears on and on, and I’ve made every possible salad imaginable, I’ve decided I much prefer making the salad portion of the meal into some pop-it-in-your-mouth appetizers. And so the salad shooters were born.

They look pretty impressive. They’re pretty easy. And they’re super good.

Here’s all you have to do.

Super Summer Salad Shooters

What you’ll need:

1 mango

Some Argula leaves

 Some Basil leaves


What you’ll do:

Wash the argula and basil leaves. Dry them off with paper towels. Cut the mango into small thinish strips. Cut the thinly cut prosciutto into small to medium strips. Grab one leaf of basil, one leaf of arugua and stick the mango piece on it. Then wrap the prosciutto around it. Done.

Try this.

You’ll like it. It’s great for groups. And everyone in the group will give you a high five. You’ll see.


Cooking with Friends.

August 18, 2011

Photo by Karen Walrond.

We are spending this last weekend of summer with good friends in Port Aransas. The beach rental is gorgeous. The rum punch is plentiful. And I can’t emphasize enough how great it is to travel with friends who are photographers. Pressure’s off. I’m not going to take one photo while I’m here. I’m just going to cook.

Get ready for a lot of recipes coming your way this week.