What I loved about Syl was that spending time in her company meant a lot of laughter. It also included sitting down to sample whatever it was she had prepared for her family's dinner - Syl was always hungry, yet remained thin most of her short life. I was a short version of my cousin and had an appetite to match, with the same ability to not gain weight. One memorable day in her kitchen our shared meal included rice and beans that she already had on the stove. I always wanted to learn how to make a home style pot of pinto beans like the kind all the women in our family cooked on a regular basis. So I asked my cousin what her recipe was for the delicious homemade pot of beans that we were enjoying with our meal that day. She generously shared these how-to instructions:
They are so easy to make, she began. Between chuckles she offered the following gem. First get in your car and drive to Stater Brothers and make sure you have a couple of dollars to buy three cans of Sun Vista pinto beans. After you've made the purchase, get in your car and drive home. Once home find a good size pot, then bring out a can opener. Open all the Sun Vista pinto beans cans and pour all the beans from each can into the pot. Put pot on the stove, read the instructions on the can wrapper; follow the directions, Finally, serve with whatever you plan to have with them; enjoy. Oh, Sylvia, how I miss you and your kooky ways.
Another time, in Texas (this was years ago), I was chatting with a neighbor's mom when the subject of cooking came up. I mentioned that I had recently experienced a major fail baking my husband a German chocolate cake for his birthday. I also admitted that the last time that I tried to make my favorite recipe for cheesecake ended up a baking nightmare. The subject came up because a neighborhood block party was planned and I had signed to bring something. All the mom's would be bringing homemade treats. So, I felt obligated to do the same but feared failure. My neighbor Catherine's mom was a godsend when she shared this tried and tested helpful hint for the perfect cheesecake:
She said, "Lily, this is what I've done more than once, and no one was the wiser." Her instructions for me were that I go to the supermarket and buy a frozen plain cheesecake. While still frozen, carefully remove from tin and place on serving plate. Cut parchment paper the length of the pie circumference and just a bit past the depth. Wrap the strip around the cheesecake, Finally, make a quick easy mixture of sour cream, a few drops of vanilla and a smidgen of sugar to spread on top of the pie. Put in refrigerator to set. When it's time for the party, take a couple of large mint leaves, a few raspberries and blueberries to place at center of sour cream topped cheesecake. "Let me know how that goes." She put my worries at ease, and by the time the party was in swing, I really didn't care if anyone knew my secret. It was a great party, and I'll never forget Catherine's mom saving me from disaster. She was a talented artist, and I was lucky enough to receive one of her oil paintings as a birthday gift. I have very special memories of Texas and our wonderful neighbors.
With regard to this blog title, my decision to produce A How-To Guide was based on the idea of advising what not to do. That said, my personal goal to write about life-as-I-knew-it was to put emphasis on how to survive the hell that was the result of long-term unemployment that my family was going through in 2011 and 2012. I'm still posting here, regardless of the fact that there is little to no how-to do anything. I'm hopeful a few helpful how-to posts find their way onto this blog. My sincerest apologies for coming up short so far.
I have a vlog called This Is Fifty With Lil. TIFWL features In The Kitchen With Lil On Wednesdays. Only one has been uploaded, but I do plan to post the few more very soon. I'll update this post for your viewing and constructive criticism. This is all I have for today. It was created specifically with my husband and kids in mind.