Homemade.

Dear friends,

Homemade.

Today, the word evokes many positive connotations. Bespoke. Custom. Handcrafted. Artisanal.

But depending when and where you grew up, homemade could easily mean inferior. Makeshift. Unrefined.

When I was 10 years old, my mother made me a fabric-covered bulletin board for my room. One day, a very popular girl a year older than me visited my house and when she saw my bulletin board, she asked where I got it.

“My mom made it for me,” I said.

“Hmmmm,” she said, giving it a long look. “It looks cruddy enough to be homemade.”

Please don’t rush to judgement because I’m not trying to embarrass my friend. I’m guessing she has no memory of her words or that day and I don’t believe I’ve ever reminded her. And lord only knows what came out of my mouth at that age. I’m just grateful that nature’s greatest coping mechanism is failed memory so that I’ve forgotten the worst of my embarrassing or careless moments.

And, yes, the words stung a little, but the girl was otherwise so sweet and so adorable — and I so wanted to be her friend — that I didn’t hold it against her. To the contrary, her words became my own private joke that I’ve quoted innumerable times in my lifetime, especially lately as I’ve tackled quilting.

To wit:

heartquilt

My latest quilt presented no shortage of frustrations.  The design is my own and even though I’m pleased, I was mightily challenged. I tried several new products and techniques this go-around (including a higher loft wool batting that was tricky to work with), and the result was a bit “rustic.” As I eyed my many mistakes while hand-stitching the binding, I chuckled and thought to myself “Yep, this one definitely looks cruddy enough to be homemade.”

So it’s rather fitting that the quilt is going to the woman who coined those words decades ago, don’t you think?

She found new love a couple of years ago and, last month, she gave birth to beautiful twins, a girl and a boy.  I haven’t seen her in several years but I couldn’t be happier for her. As soon as I saw photos of her twins on Facebook, I just knew I had to make those babies a quilt.

Here’s the full view:

quiltfullview

And here’s a close up of the backing fabric, which I love because it’s peppered with soft colors, sweet sentiments, a rustic alphabet and, of course, my favorite . . . owls.

quiltback2

Bonnie Bea — I wish you and your hubby all the love in the world.  (And Batt and Jennie all the warmth and comfort a homemade quilt can provide.)

With gratitude {for the patience to stick with this homemade thing in the face of sometimes laughable results},

Joan-Marie, who idolized Bonnie Bea for a million reasons as a young girl including her lyrical and memorable name

Two days. Two minds. Two quilts.

Dear friends,

wavequilt2

Guess what I did last weekend?

You got it! I quilted.

Two days, two quilts.

Before you tell me I’m obsessed, I already know that.  What I didn’t know is just how virulent my particular strain of quilt fever is. It’s like I can’t sew fast enough to quench my insatiable patchwork appetite.

I spent 12 straight hours on Saturday constructing a new applique quilt of my own design. (I can’t tell you about that one until after it arrives at the surprise recipient’s door.) By bedtime, I was bone tired and bleary eyed by what Mr. Mom called “Joan’s Sweat Shop” set up on my dining room table.  Sunday morning I woke and vowed to rest, but I stumbled across this photo while drinking my coffee and by 9:00 am, I was off to the races again.

It seemed like the perfect design to make for an upcoming gift occasion, but I’ve learned just enough in my 60-day patchwork odyssey to be leery of quilts that look simple. So I gathered up my scraps and — in a rare moment of enlightenment — decided to make a test quilt.

First I read the directions. When they didn’t make sense to me, all enlightenment disappeared and I thought “Oh, how hard can it be?”  I promptly made up my own rules because if it works in my head . . .

Well, you’ve heard the same song (first verse) from me before so you can surmise my made-up rules didn’t work. And while I was bemoaning this fact out loud, Mr. Mom took one look at my cutting board and said “Of course that won’t work.” Then he spontaneously proceeded to demonstrate for me exactly how to do it as if he were a master pattern-maker.

Sometimes you hate a smart man, sometimes you love him. On Sunday, his instructions not only made sense, they worked perfectly and I have to say I was smitten.

(Did I ever tell you that he got me through two graduate-level statistics courses where my tutor failed, despite the fact that he never took a single statistics course? The man has a powerful and intuitive understanding of math and geometry, which thank God, because somebody in our house needs those skills and it sure isn’t me and the kids.)

AND . . . when I finished stitching and I moaned about how caterwompass this quilt was, he demonstrated the precise measuring and cutting techniques to square it up. My apologies to Audrey and Tucker and Surprise Recipient #3 for their off-kilter quilts. It’s all Mr. Mom’s fault and I don’t know why he waited until now to share his knowledge.

Anyhow — here’s how my “test quilt” turned out in full:

wavesquilt

I absolutely love the “waves” of pattern and I can’t wait to select the fabric for my gift quilt. AFTER next weekend.

For now, I’m basking in the glow of one exceptionally productive weekend, an unusually talented partner, and the stamina to sew like Norma Rae.

With gratitude {for team efforts},

Joan, who’s contemplating founding a chapter of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in her dining room because maybe she needs a couple of weeks of lazing around eating buttered crackers on the sofa

Wherein Joan takes the stage and tries not to embarrass herself.

Dear friends,

tumblr_mne9s62L3R1r1vfbso1_1280

Source: Pinterest

Earlier this week I attended a statewide professional conference. It was a terrific opportunity to network with other professionals and it was the first such event I’ve attended since moving to the Show Me State.

A couple of months ago, I had agreed to be a panelist for a luncheon presentation even though I hate speaking in public. Despite years of speech and debate training in high school, despite performing in a good number of plays and skits, and despite majoring in broadcast journalism for a while (during which I served a short stint as a radio news announcer), I HATE PUBLIC SPEAKING. It makes no sense to me that I have years of training and experience and still dread opening my mouth in front of large audiences — but I do. I hoped serving as one of four panelists meant I wouldn’t have to say much and wouldn’t embarrass myself.

So . . .

The four of us assembled on the stage and sat behind a draped table, a microphone in front of each of us. The moderator introduced us and began asking a battery of standard questions. My answers were brief and respectable. “So far, so good,” I was thinking. Then came an innocuous question: “What traits do you look for when hiring a (insert my industry) professional?”

The other three panelists rushed to answer the question. And their answers were appropriate by all measures. They look for intellectual curiosity. Ambition. Persistence. Good communication skills. A commitment to continuous improvement. All good stuff. I nodded my head in agreement as each panelist spoke.

Then the moderator looked at me as if to suggest “Don’t you want to say something?”

I leaned into the mike. “I agree with the panelists,” I said. “The traits they mentioned are all necessary to be successful in our field.” I paused. I leaned back in my chair. I thought I was finished.

Then I leaned back in, right before the moderator spoke up to move us along, and said “Uh, I have one more thing.”

I picked up the mike. I paused. “This probably sounds odd,” I said, pausing again as I tried to find the words to express my sentiment. “But I also try to hire people who are . . . kind.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Or at least I was uncomfortable as I imagined the other panelists rolling their eyes and wondering what I might say next.

“Look, we’ve all worked with folks who are great with customers but are miserable to their colleagues. That doesn’t work for me anymore. Life is short, we spend more time with our co-workers than our family members, and I want to spend my time with people who are nice to each other. So I try to find people who value kindness and who treat each other  with respect and dignity.”

I sat back in my chair and felt myself perspiring. I was the only female on the stage. I figured the crazy woman on the panel talking about kindness had just convinced everyone in the room that she’s no go-getter. I work in a field focused on the bottom line and I assumed I just signaled my bottom line must be laughable because I said nothing about goals, or strategy, or productivity.

“Oh good lord,” I thought to myself. “THIS is why I hate speaking at conferences.” As I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, I silently pledged to myself to never again speak at a conference.

Soon enough, my discomfort ended as the panel concluded and I quickly ducked off-stage.

As I came down the stairs, I was surprised by a line of people. All wanting to talk to me. To tell me how much they appreciated my comments. To tell me how grateful they were to me for speaking up. To tell me kindness matters. To tell me to keep spreading the message. At the end of the line,  one very animated man exclaimed “I want to shake your hand! I want to know you! I want you to be my mentor!”

I laughed out loud. And all I could think to say was “Goodness. Thank you.”

So “thank you” I said, over and over. “You are very kind,” I said. “I appreciate you” I said.

Which, when you think about it, is a pretty decent strategy for meeting team goals.

With gratitude {for kind people everywhere},

Joan, who doesn’t claim to be a paragon of kindness in every work interaction but believes trying is a great place to start

Restitching the favor.

Dear friends,

Forty years ago, I was an ungainly young girl, where ungainly equals skinny, bucktoothed, freckled, and half a foot taller than most of my contemporaries. Looking back, you could have called me a living illustration of the word awkward.

Of all the things that made me uncomfortable about my appearance, I was most sensitive about my height. In the ’70s, clothing sizes were much more limited than they are today.  If you were “unlucky” enough to be both skinny and tall, you had a heckuva time finding clothing that fit. All my shoes were flats, all my jeans had fringed bottoms (I let out the hems to create another half inch in inseam length), and all my nightgowns looked like they belonged to a child five years my junior. I fretted excessively over my lot in life.

Then one year, my dear friend Julie gave me a special gift: an extra-long flannel nightgown that she had sewn herself. I couldn’t believe when I opened up the package and tried on the gown to see that it fell all the way to the floor! For the first time in my life, my feet and ankles were not visible under the hem of my nightgown, even when I raised my arms. I later learned that while making my special gift, Julie had forced her brother — a tall farmboy — to try on the gown and stand still for several minutes while she pinned the hem to the proper length. I’m not sure Julie’s brother has ever forgiven her for that onerous chore and I chuckle to this day when I imagine a teenaged cowboy trying to stand still in a flannel nightgown just so Boney Joanie could have one garment that didn’t make her feel like a freak.

<Go ahead . . . take a minute to smile about such a touching gesture of friendship>

Anyway, despite the fact that I, too, knew my way around a sewing machine, I never managed to make a single item for my friends. And as you know if you’ve been reading my posts, I only recently took up sewing again after a 20-year hiatus.

So it seemed high time to return the favor, don’t you think?

That’s where this little cutie comes in.

tucker

He’s the apple of Julie’s eye, her first grandchild, a tow-headed little boy named Tucker. Here he is “watering flowers” with JuJu on her front porch.

He turns 1 on July 9th and, earlier this week, I sent a package to him with this in it:

tuckerquilt

I think it’s my cutest quilt yet (says the woman who’s made all of three quilts). Here’s a closer look:

tuckerquilt2

I’m pretty happy with those purty stitches, thanks to my new Bernina. There’s not an unintentional pucker or pleat anywhere, and my corners are beautifully mitered. It’s my best work yet, and I couldn’t be happier to share my new passion in tribute to my thoughtful friend. It’s been a long time coming, but I hope sweet little Tucker sleeps as contentedly wrapped in my quilt as I did in the nightgown his grandmother made long ago.

With gratitude {for lifelong friends of the J variety},

Joan, who learned in her 20s to embrace her stature and now regularly wears high heels because she’s still only the third tallest person in her family

The double bonus.

Dear friends,

Remember that lovely surprise I told you about yesterday? I can’t wait to show it to you!

After spending my entire Friday wandering hither and yon and returning late in the evening, I found this waiting for me in the kitchen:

surprise

There’s almost nothing that makes my heart go pitter-patter like tableware, especially that of the Jadite variety.

I opened the card to find a note from Kate saying that she and Parker and Mr. Mom stumbled across this bowl and thought I’d like it. “Just trying to repay you,” Kate wrote, “for all the nice surprises you randomly bring home for us.”

Mothers do nice things for their children because it’s in their DNA. To delight my family delights me, so it’s a win-win. That they are thoughtful enough to want to return the favor is a double bonus that makes me melt.

And isn’t my new bowl a perfect place to gather my stitched pears?

newbowl

Between the thrill of a new sewing machine and a thoughtful affirmation that my three favorite people adore me, I’m wallowing in bliss this weekend. And if I have to wallow, I can’t think of a better place.

With gratitude {for my three sweethearts, emphasis on the sweet},

Joan, who’d love to hear about a random act of kindness that made you swoon

The Patchwork Brigadoon.

Dear friends,

photo

I had the most enchanting day on Friday. I went on a rambling odyssey through Missouri and found myself startled, and captivated, and charmed. Oh, if only all my Friday afternoons could be as much fun as yesterday.

I left work just before noon in search of a distant merchant. You might guess I was looking for a sewing machine, and boy did I find one. Interestingly, the store was two hours away, deep into rural farm country. Driving miles outside our state’s capitol on a postcard-worthy stretch of land dotted with ponds, proud red barns, and rolling fields of freshly cut hay bordered by white rail fences, I stumbled upon my patchwork Brigadoon. There were a dozen cars in the gravel parking lot (in the Middle of Nowhere, mind you) and a handful of bonneted young women in ankle-length, calico dresses inside the metal building buzzing over customers just like me who had presumably driven miles to this magic destination, known by some as the Quilting Capitol of America.

Sarah, an exceedingly polite and cheerful young woman who looked no more than 18, sat me down to test drive several models. I fell in love immediately with the quiet hum of Swiss precision, also known as the Bernina 350 Special Edition. It had everything I wanted and stitched like a dream, but since I realize my average reader isn’t as excited by the technicalities of sewing machine features as I have come to be, I’ll skip that part.

Suffice to say, less than an hour later I was paying my bill and realizing there would be many future drives to this idyllic spot where I hoped the crafty Mennonites would teach me every quilting trick in the book.

As I was writing my check, I asked, “By the way, is there a good fabric shop in the capitol city?” Sweet Sarah looked stricken and said “Well, there’s a JoAnn’s.” I frowned and shook my head, but before I could say a word, another calico-clad girl said “If you want quality fabric, you’ve got to go to Stover!”

Turns out, Stover was several miles deeper into farm country, another enchanting destination where another metal warehouse held the contents of my dreams. The tin store in the farming community of 900 held 9000 bolts of fabric, ten bolts for every soul that calls Stover home. I spent another two hours there, wandering the stacks in search of cotton treasure and finding plenty.

The proprietor, who had an uncanny resemblance to Emmylou Harris, cut my fabric and patiently answered my questions and said “Don’t forget to visit the quilt show.”

“Quilt show?” I exclaimed? Could this day get any better?!

“Yes. It’s just down the road. And it’s free.”

So down the road I went to yet another metal building surrounded by hay fields and populated with cheerful and welcoming women, including one named Priscilla who made sure I bought raffle tickets (for the “opportunity quilt”), met the leaders of the local Quilting Guild, and cast a vote for my favorite entry.

My vote went to the maker of this beautiful gem.

rose

Her name is Rose. She hand-pieced this quilt. When she was 90. For her daughter.

I very nearly wept right there in front of Priscilla, who really wanted to hear more about my first quilt and make sure I met the other show organizer who just happened to be from my town.

I finally pulled myself away sometime after 6:00 pm, which meant it was 8:30 pm before I pulled into my driveway, weary but happy and inspired.

When I walked in . . . well, that’s when happy and inspired turned into Mondo-Beyondo. There was a surprise so lovely awaiting me it requires another post.

(Sorry to leave you hanging, but I’ve got an unopened sewing machine calling my name!)

With gratitude {for maybe the best Friday ever},

Joan, who told Parker she was as excited about her new sewing machine as he would be with a brand new pickup truck . . . to which he responded, “No way, because you’re not jumping up and down and crying!” . . . to which she responded “I already did, but I was in Patchwork Brigadoon and you couldn’t see me”

All sewn up.

Dear friends,

babyquilt2

I crossed the finish line earlier this week with my very first quilt stitched from beginning to end.

Strangely, it was both easier and harder than I expected.

Harder in that I made so many mistakes I lost my patience during the home stretch and exclaimed to Mr. Mom “I suck!”

Easier in that a friend’s mother, who is an award-winning quilter, was mightily impressed when she heard I did this on a $65 machine purchased at Wal-Mart without necessary tools like a walking foot and a quilting guide. Hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Still, the results were not spectacular (at least not up close) and I cringed at the many visible mistakes. So I’ve gone in search of a new sewing machine, one specifically made for quilting, which I will purchase as soon as I have time to drive to our state’s capitol for a visit to a recommended dealer.

By the way, wanna see the whole thing?

babyquilt

I bet you’re going to say it looks pretty good. And it does, as long as you don’t look too close. And I suppose the beautiful part is that nobody really examines a quilt up close except the quilter making it. I’ve been told by other quilters that all happy recipients can see is the love and care that went into it.

So I’ve got that going for me.

And the mother of the child — sweet little Audrey who turns 1 soon — now has a perfect “park quilt.” I wrote her a note saying it’s not too precious to lay in the dirt and I hope she’ll use it anywhere it’s needed. I also noted it will be handy if Audrey gets a tummy bug and my friend is worried about her barfing on the good bedding. I mean that with all seriousness.

I am a lot of things, but a perfectionist is not one of them. I prefer finishing imperfectly now over finishing perfectly later. I guess I have trouble deferring gratification, but it’s also reflective of a kind of fearless ambition that compels me to ignore the obstacles that frighten others. A friend once told me “I’ll say one thing about you, Joan. When you make up your mind, you’re all in.”  It made me chuckle at the time but, this week, I smiled knowing it’s the thing that’ll get me through many more challenges, including a second baby quilt I plan to stitch up for another friend very soon.

With gratitude {for the contradiction in character that allows me to be simultaneously assertive and amenable, which just might mean this girl’s found balance, though certainly not the perfect kind},

Joan, who was once told that the worst kind of perfectionist is one who claims she isn’t, a label she steadfastly resists and offers as proof the fact that she promptly mailed the quilt to her friend, flaws and all

On balance.

Dear friends,

ballet-dancer1

I saw a Tweet today that said “You can have it all — just not at once.”

It was immediately followed by this blog post from my friend Sizzle, who was reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the purchase of her first home, which prompted my own reminiscing about the four houses Mr. Mom and I have called home. Each of our houses was in a different city; each holds unique and special memories for our family; and each was perfect (despite its particular deficiencies) for the season of our lives in which we dwelled under its roof.

We have lived in a big-city, post-War cottage with loads of charm; a plain-Jane, suburban 70’s special; a majestic, turn-of-the-century “mansion” on a brick-paved street in the center of my beloved hometown; and a modern and spacious Ranch situated on a scenic Midwest acreage. We’ve clearly had it all (or most) over the course of 20+ years and I’m reminded that all of life is lived “on balance.”

Not long ago I counseled a young colleague who was fretting about “work-life” issues. I shared with her some of the lessons I’ve learned as a working mother and wife and I advised her not to think she could find equilibrium on any given day. I told her that over time I’ve learned to look for “balance” only when contemplating the entire span of my life because in any given hour, any given month, even in periods as long as a year or more, my life has been decidedly off-kilter.

I think about the many years I spent ungodly hours at the office and commuting long distances. I think about the three-year period I completed a Master’s Degree and did absolutely nothing but go to work and go to class. (I even “cancelled” Thanksgiving the year I wrote my thesis. Mr. Mom was a saint during those years, by the way.) I think about the years I fretted I would never again pursue a personal interest beyond raising my children and I thought “Hobbies? What are hobbies?”  I think about the entire year I selfishly focused all my energy on losing weight and getting fit for my impending marriage. (I did look ravishing in my wedding dress, only to get pregnant and gain 50 pounds six months later.) I think about the weeks I spent lying on the sofa eating buttered crackers in a depressed state because Kate had left for college. I even think about recent weeks when I’ve become a crazed and obsessive quilter, rushing home from the office each evening to pursue my latest project into the wee hours of the morning.

Maybe you’ve got a secret for achieving perfect (or even relative) balance on any given day. If so, please share your wisdom! I suspect, though, that most of us do what we must do in the moment we must do it, and find our search for balance fruitless unless we set our gaze on a very long horizon.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. (Except maybe I would save more and spend less, but good lord, who wouldn’t?) I’ve been blessed with so very much and I suspect so much more is coming my way, including interesting and invigorating new friendships in our (still) new town, new hobbies, new career opportunities, new family members (grandchildren some day?), and certainly new opportunities to grow and learn through the pain and challenge that inevitably beset every soul on earth.

On balance, life’s been good to me (and apparently Joe Walsh) so far. Why crave it all when every single bite is so uniquely flavorful?

With gratitude {for discovering that perfect balance is a rather silly notion except in bike-riding and ballet},

Joan, who invites you to leave a comment about the season of life you’re experiencing right this moment

A day that defies description but you know I’ll try anyway.

Dear friends,

I had the Monday of all Mondays yesterday.

It started in St. Louis with the funeral of a friend’s adult son. To say that sharing a family’s grief over the sudden loss of their son is no way to start your week seems like a colossal understatement.

Then I made my way 20 miles west to drop off my eight-year-old Accord at a Honda dealer for a repair necessitated by a factory recall. I had been putting it off for months because we don’t have a Honda dealer in our small town  and I was unwilling to take a day off just to drive 100 miles for a car repair. But since I had to be in the vicinity — and since my day was likely to be ruined, at least emotionally — I figured I might as well.

The nice people at the dealership told Mr. Mom I could drop my car off at noon and get it back a couple of hours later. And they offered to shuttle me to a location of my choice so I wouldn’t have to sit around the dealer’s waiting room during the repair.  “Awesome!” I thought, as I salivated at the thought of spending a couple of hours of downtime in my favorite quilt/fabric shop.

Turns out, there was a limit to the distance the shuttle driver would go and my favorite fabric store was well beyond his perimeter. So that’s how I found myself in a sprawling strip mall eating lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings in a black funeral dress and heels.

Three hours later, I had walked every aisle at Ross, Target, Pier One, Best Buy, Dick’s, Michael’s, and Office Max. And I visited the Target restroom three times. Twice because nature called during my long wait, and once because about two hours in I couldn’t tolerate my funeral clothing one second longer so I purchased an inexpensive shorts outfit and flip-flops at Target and changed in a cramped stall. By this time I had my fill of the entire outing, so I called the shuttle drive to pick me up, thinking I’d spend the rest of the afternoon checking out Honda’s new models and dreaming of the day when I’m not paying college tuition and two house payments and can afford a new car. Exactly 70 minutes later — that’s an hour and ten minutes for anyone who’s counting — the shuttle driver finally showed up

. . . after which he got lost picking up his next passenger

. . . after which he asked me if I knew where to go (“Hello? I live 100 miles away”)

. . . after which we sat in traffic for 30 minutes to drive 10 miles back to the car lot.

At least the dealer washed and vacuumed my car in addition to replacing some potentially faulty part that might potentially some day cause me trouble. Hey, you gotta count your blessings where you find them on Mondays.

On the way home, while driving 70 miles an hour in eight lanes of heavy traffic, a man on a motorcycle in the lane next to mine “popped a wheelie.” You know what that is, right? Only he didn’t just pop up and go right back to two-wheels. He rode on his back wheel for quite a while. AT 70 MILES AN HOUR. IN RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. RIGHT BESIDE ME.

I started worrying the whole day was a dream.

Which made me awfully twitchy, so I decided to exit and make a detour through my fourth-favorite quilt/fabric shop, which was nearby, and which turned out to be the best decision of my day because I found everything I needed to make this:

pennantquilt

Source: Pinterest

And so 16 hours after my day started, I was back home in my pajamas and a facsimile of my inspiration quilt was cut and laid out on my dining room table, to be sewn some day soon for the child of a special friend. Because, somehow, ending my day with the celebration of a young life was the only comfort to starting it with a tragic loss.

With gratitude {for small favors, interesting detours and happy endings on peculiar trying pensive surreal hella Mondays},

Joan, who has awfully high expectations for Tuesday based on Monday

The odd and slightly unsettling convergance of my late Grandmother, pimento cheese, and my secret, imaginary love life.

Dear friends,

pimento

The strangest thing happened Saturday morning and it all started with pimento cheese for breakfast.

Why I was I eating such an odd thing for breakfast?

Because Trisha Yearwood was too and she was in my living room. Granted, she was on television. And she was making lunch, not breakfast. But I was watching her show in the morning and I suddenly got a hankering for the wonderfully creamy, cheesy spread that I first ate in my Grandmother’s kitchen as a young child.

By the way, I love Trisha. I’m not a fan of her music (or her genre), but she lives not far from my hometown and she seems like a cool gal and I enjoy her show. Most of the time I think her recipes aren’t that great (a few too many shortcuts and prepared ingredients for my taste) but I sure do relate to her love of food, family and southern traditions.

Anyway, Trisha says there’s only three ingredients in pimento cheese — shredded cheese, pimentos, and mayo. I beg to differ.

I started by grating an entire (1-lb) block of cheddar cheese. (Trisha recommends sharp cheddar and I do, too, but I only had mild on hand.) To that, I added:

  • A jar (4-oz) of diced pimentos
  • A sprinkling of salt (1/4 to 1/2 tsp?)
  • A sprinkling of sugar (1/2 tsp?)
  • Two pinches of paprika (where pinch literally equals the amount I can pinch between my thumb and forefinger)
  • One pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Mayo to taste, which for me was probably close to a cup

I stirred it all up real good, then spread it thick on soft Italian bread. It was the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time and I’ve got enough leftover for lunch tomorrow. Plus, I was pretty darn excited that at the exact moment I was inspired to make pimento cheese, I just happened to have all the ingredients to do so. Let this be a lesson to you to never underestimate the blessings that can come your way as a result of a well-stocked pantry.

Anyway . . . I posted a photo of my breakfast on Facebook because, you know, that’s what I live for other than this blog, and next thing you know my friend Elizabeth pointed out that she likes Trisha, too, but loves Jamie Deen even more.

And suddenly my sweet and nostalgic memories of my Grandmother’s loving care collided with my secret desire to be swept off my feet by Jamie Deen. I responded to Elizabeth saying that I’d like Jamie to cook for me in his gorgeous kitchen while I sip wine, appear irresistibly beautiful and charming, and otherwise help him recover from the tragic and untimely death of his wife.

And that could happen.

Just like Bill Clinton could fall in love with me and John Cusack could run away with me as they do in my slumber.

Actually, I dreamed about Bill a long time ago. He’s getting a little old for my taste at this point. (I’m ageless you know.) And John — well, once I started following him on Twitter, he’s not so sexy anymore. I always joke I’m about as far left as Noam Chomsky, but John’s pretty out there at this point even for me. And, you know, he’s getting old too.

But Jamie — he’s just right. And I’m certain Mr. Mom wouldn’t mind because in my secret, imaginary love life, there are never complications or broken hearts.

Just gorgeous men, pimento cheese, and sweet dreams.

With gratitude {for tasty sandwiches and Saturday morning diversions},

Joan, who encourages you to never fall for the pre-made pimento cheese available in your grocery store because it’s too easy to make the really good stuff at home