Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sisters and Snowball

Can't believe I haven't used this photo yet. It's just one of my all time favorites…ever! It shows me and my little sister Donna with our pony Snowball on my Grandma's farm. And there's the snowball bush behind! What a blessed, happy childhood I had in the West Virginia mountains.

Mostly I rode Snowball because my sisters were too young to ride alone. We got him because he went lame in one of his back feet and the owner didn't want to have to care or feed him (expensive). But my grandparents had 50 acres of grass and hay and it wasn't a problem, apparently. Or else they made the sacrifice for us.

I used to roam the hills on him bareback and featured him in my first book Mountain Girl. What a sweetheart he was. I'm sad for kids that only get to see farm animals in museums now and ride a burned-out pony in a circle at a fair.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mountain Music

This is my cousin Gary Smith playing the banjo at a recent family reunion in West Virginia. I try to make it back every year from my home in Chicago and it's always a thrill to drive through the hills again and see my family. And this year, listen to authentic mountain music!

Gary reminds me a lot of my dad. He looks like him, for one thing, and also plays the banjo like my dad. He even knows one of my dad's favorite pieces and played it for me at the reunion. There's a lot of music bouncing off the mountain in West Virginia and I appreciate it more each year.

The banjo is a time-honored instrument there (along with the fiddle). My dad's all-time favorite banjo playing came from Flatt and Scruggs. I think he and his brothers never had any formal music training but just picked it up from whoever else was around playing.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Yummmm! Country cornbread cooked in a cast-iron skillet. This was a staple of my childhood. My grandma made it regularly, cut it into big squares and we ate it with all three meals. My grandpa used to say he wouldn't know how to eat without bread at the table because he used it to sop up extra gravy and push peas onto his fork.

I've puzzled over how she made it because I've had trouble duplicating the taste in my kitchen in Chicago. I finally hit on the cast iron skillet for baking and the use of bacon grease, both to grease the pan and to drizzle on the top. Good cornmeal flour helps, too, and no sugar. I'm still working on it.

Some ways I saw it eaten: sliced horizontally and filled with country bacon or  peanut butter and jelly, or butter and green onions. My uncle Roy used to crumble it in milk and add dollops of sweet applesauce to make a dessert. All time fave, of course, is with beans and ham soup on a cold winter night. Nothing has ever tasted as good as the food of our childhood nostalgia does in our memory.