This is the first day of the rest of my life and I'm marking one item off my "bucket list." I love telling stories, yarns, etc. and for the past 25 years have written weekly articles for the DeKalb Newspapers and now I get to try blogging. It has been said of me that I write about old days and old ways, along with modern tales of our adventures here on The Windy Knoll, our home place. Drop in just any time to see what's going on. Now let me say up front I'm no Julia Childs or Paula Dean - not even a distant relative - but I will be writing about cooking now and then. As best I can remember the only thing considered fast food in this house is a cake mix. I cook from scratch like the old timers used to do. I'll be posting old and new articles and in most cases the published date will be to the right of the title. That way you can read along (with a few pictures) and see what the aging process has done.

The First German Chocolate Cake

Guest Blogger:  Beth Littlejohn

I am honored to be allowed the privilege to write for my mother today and to share my first attempt at creating a German Chocolate Cake.

I asked my spouse, Mark, what kind of sweets he would like at Christmas this year.  To my surprise he requested a German chocolate cake!  We have been married for almost 20 years and he has never even hinted that he like this particular cake.  I know he is not a fan of my favorite, the Yummy Nummy, but I make it every year at this time and always will.  So, wanting to be the dutiful wife, I began to seek a recipe.  I googled it and found many — but which to select?  I asked my colleagues at the school where I teach; I got many promises of recipes, but none ever were sent.  I called Mother … She sent Red Velvet (maybe I said Red Velvet or that is what she heard).  Finally my sister, Donna, and my long-time friend, Cathy, both said that they used the recipe located on the inside of the Baker’s Sweet German Chocolate box.  This is the one I used.

I am diligent about collecting all the ingredients before hand and having all the tools at arms length.  This task being completed, I pulled out the mixer and decided to wash the clean bowl to clear any lingering dust that might have gathered since I last baked (it has been a while).  Clean and collected, I began.  Fortunately, my microwave has a setting for melting butter and chocolate and the first instructions on the box say to melt the butter and chocolate together.  Easy!  Add sugar, then eggs, and vanilla.  Always mixing well in between.  Next I added the 1/2 cup flour, soda and salt.  Mixing well.  Finally, I alternated the remaining quantity of flour and the buttermilk. German chocolate cake and frosting ingredients

I had prepared my three cake pans in advance with cooking oil spray and a dusting of flour.  The pans are non-stick, but I always treat my pans with a shower of oil and flour.  Pouring in the mixture, I pondered whether or not the layers would be even and if they would rise evenly or create the mound in the middle.  Into the oven went the pans, and I set the timer set for 25 minutes.  The wonderful aroma which flowed from the oven was heavenly.  I don’t care for this cake but it did smell delicious!  As I have been taught, if the oven is hot — do all the oven related cooking and save the electricity it takes to preheat.  This day I also baked a Yummy Nummy, a Grandmother Day’s Pound Cake, and a ham.  I cleaned up the cake batter and prepared to mix the second cake.

The layers were done on the standard bake setting in the 25 minutes.  Yes, there was a mound in the middle of each one.  Why?  I wish I knew!  Anyway, I always have a mound in my layers.  The taste is the same as those cakes with the beautiful, even layers, but the result is not a pretty on the cake plate.  Layers cooling

After cooling in the pans for ten minutes, and on cooling rakes for several hours, I tackled the icing.  Again, the recipe is located on the Baker’s site.  The recipe below says to cook the concoction for 12 minutes at medium heat or until thick and golden brown.  At three minutes I began to worry about both!  My arm was about to fall off at 11 minutes, but golden brown was not the color of my mixture.  I added five additional minutes to my timer and kept stirring.  Four minutes into this additional time the color finally began to change.  When the mixture had popped hot ingredients onto my hand for the third time I deemed it finished.  Mark said he did not want icing on the sides,  Thank you!  But the cake would have been prettier if I frosted the sides.

Yes, I will make this cake again.  I hope he likes it!  It was not a difficult cake to make and after all, seeing friends and loved ones enjoying food at the table are all a part of country living!  The finished cake

Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake

1 pkg. (4 oz.) Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate
¾ cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour, divided
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
Melt butter and chocolate in microwave.  After the butter is melted, stir until the chocolate is completely melted.  Add to sugar.  Mix well.  Add 1 egg at a time, mixing well between each egg.  Add ½ cup flour, soda, and salt.  Mix well.  Add the remaining flour, alternating with buttermilk.  End with flour.  Mix well between each addition.

Bake at 350o for 25-30 minutes.
Makes 3 layers.

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting

4 egg yolks                                 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
¾ cup butter                             1 pkg. (7 oz.) Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla                       1-1/2 cup chopped pecans
1-1/2 cup sugar

Beat egg yolks, milk and vanilla in large saucepan with whisk until blended.  Add sugar and butter; cook on medium heat 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Add coconut and pecans; mix well.  Cool to desired spreading consistency.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

I Sure Do Miss Mrs. C.

20140810_192221-001Time is just flying right on by. Here we are almost at the end of August and here on Sand Mountain we are just about to get a HEAT WAVE like we have not seen this summer. Day time highs are going to be in the 90′s and heat index will be well over 100. Now I know that we are very very blessed to be here on Sand Mountain and better yet to be in Geraldine, Alabama. Nice small town of around 700 people, give or take.  Anything above 90 around here is a hot day for sure. But wow, God Bless all those other places with wildfires and floods and just tuff human emotions all around. 20140810_191722-001

Some days I look at the clock and think, “ok it is almost 9:30pm, time to talk to Mrs Crumly. And it seems that the last couple weeks I have seen something or thought about something and think, “got to call Mrs. Crumly.”  DSCN1055-003

Mrs. Crumly and Mr. John gave me a small plant that the only thing I can remember to call it is “elephant ears” knowing full well that is not what it is. I do remember the name starts with a “C”.  I am sure there will be a few people that can tell me the name after you read this. Lets hope I can remember it next time I want to talk about them. She was also so nice to just smile and tell me the name when I would start talking about my “elephant ears” and correct me with the correct name. As you can see I have them in a really large bucket and last summer they grew to be HUGE ears. 20140819_180622-001But over the really hard cold winter we had I thought I had lost the whole bucket. I had them inside under grow lights and the next thing I knew when I went out to the building I had them in, they were wilted down. I hated to say anything about it to Mrs. Crumly but when I finally got up enough nerve to tell her, she was so sweet about it and also thought I may have watered them more than needed.  But in our many conversations after she went into the hospital, I did not remember to tell her they were growing back. Then I felt better when she called one day, early in the day, to ask for a part of a plant she had given me because her plant had died over the winter. Whew! Even though I felt bad that her plant didn’t make it through the winter I sure was glad mine did and even Mrs. C. had a plant (or two) to die. 20140819_180643-001

The last time we talked about the plants were while she was still in the nursing home. Well to my great surprise I just pulled the big ole blue bucket out with my “elephant ears, NOT elephant ears” out this spring and just look how those things have come back and are just as big or bigger than last year. THANK YOU MRS. CRUMLY.

DSCN1017-002Another thing we talked a lot about was butterflies. I had mentioned to her that I just did not have any butterflies around me or my home. And had not for years. I go to her house and she had dozens. Now I realize some of these are moths, or something else.

Now I will let you believe like you wish if you let me tell you how I believe. I am a true believer in God and all that goes with Him. And yes I do believe that when people take the next season of their life then they can and do send little messages back to loved ones. DSCN0985-001

Now saying that, I will tell you that I have never had so many butterflies around me as I have had in the last few weeks. THANK YOU MRS. CRUMLY again! DSCN1052-001

I have enjoyed all my trips back to The Windy Knoll to visit Mr. John but it sure hard to see that empty chair Mrs. Crumly was always in. But you can see that the chair has someone or should I say “something” to keep it warm. DSCN1041-001





I think I would have to say that the best part of country living at The Windy Knoll, not counting the King and Queen of the place, was all the great wild life and tame life around the farm. So thank you Mrs. Crumly for smiling down on me with the butterflies and making my little part of country living so much better. DSCN1044-004

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Yet Another New Computer – MAC Has Arrived in Conyers!

If you have been reading this blog for a while you know that Mother loved to work on her computer, but Windows 8 had her completely buffaloed. I tried to help her, but it was difficult when I only have Windows 7. But that is another story.

During the time of Mother’s surgery and illness, many things happened to this Conyers family! A tree fell across the fence; thank goodness the property owners fixed the fence and had the tree removed! I broke 2 teeth; crowns are in – money spent! The rock facade fell off the bedroom end of the front of the house; more money spent, but the results are beautiful. My windshield cracked; it is holding together. Mark had to have a root canal and crown; still more money flying out the window and not yet finished with this one.

traditional desktop computer

Traditional desktop computer

And last but not least – my faithful desktop, a Windows machine was in the throws of death. There was nothing to do but get a new computer. Well, my husband changed to a MAC about 10 years ago and I have always been impressed with its speed and lack of viruses. I was hesitant because so much of the things I do associated with school are in the Windows environment; Apple incorporated a way to run on the MAC in the Windows environment. They even have a Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Mac. Happy Days.

mac mini

Mac Mini
Click on the picture to see it better!

So I bought a Mac Mini. This thing is smaller than a laptop! It is about 8 inches square and 2 inches thick. I did have to purchase an external CD (now called an optical drive). Other than that, It is loaded! It takes up so little room when you compare to the standard tower of a traditional desktop.

optical drive

Optical Drive

Yes, it is different. Yes, I grumble when I can’t immediately do what I want to do, but I am learning. By the way, a friend found the problem with the Windows – a memory stick has worked loose and when pushed back in, works just like always! So, now I have two desktops computers. UGH! Clutter abounds, but that is another tale!

Changes in life are certainly in my brand of country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Feedback 1999

NOTE:  Donna, Beth and I want to thank each and every one for the support that this blog still has. We know the new post are getting the best numbers. It is not always easy to post a “new” post but we try everyday.  Mrs. Crumly was just so good at coming up with a new blog with just anything that may have happened around the house the day before.

I will tell you that Mr. John is doing much better than I expected, thank the good Lord. He is a great man and at 89 years still has a lot to offer. I really enjoy going over and watching the humming birds with him. I plan to write a blog about all the animals of the farm and other things very soon.  I know what I want to write about, but then getting it out of my head onto the blog is something different.  Thank you again for all your support in this blog. The last 3 days have had well over 2000 hits a day. THANK YOU ALL. Now to today’s post.  If you do have any “feedback” you would like to share please send it to my e mail at russaustin1964@hotmail.comJust know that any or all comments may or may not be used on the blog.

Just one of the many humming birds fighting for a drink of Mr. Johns famous sugar water.

Just one of the many humming birds fighting for a drink of Mr. Johns famous sugar water.

Lots of perks go with the writing of this article, but feedback is one of the very best.  I love stories that readers send me and the one I received last week is just too good not to share and it’s definitely country living.  It came from a reader in Rainsville – some 15 miles from the Windy Knoll.

I thought you would enjoy this little true story.  I don’t know what to call it – A Tadpole Tail or Tadpoles from Heaven. 

My husband had several five gallon buckets set around the leak of the house to catch rain water for my house plants.  I thought that was too much water setting around and didn’t want to raise mosquitos, so we emptied all the ones in the back and started on the front buckets.  Two of the buckets had tadpoles in them.  Well I didn’t want to pour them out so our daughter put them all in one bucket; we left them for several days.  I wondered what to feed them – I knew they ate algee from pond’s or wherever they raise. I dropped a slice of tomato in the bucket and they ate it up, then I gave them cucumber and they liked that, too.  Two or three weeks later our daughter bought fish food and turtle food and they really started to grow.  We have watched them grow legs, climb up the side of the bucket, dry off and then hop away.  They are little tree frogs.  They are green, so cute and like to set on your fingers.  We started out with 156, several died, maybe 7.  I changed their water today and we have 57 in the bucket.  Five more will probably leave tonight.  We have three with only three legs, Daughter is worried they might not make it but I believe they will.  I feel our family has been blessed for the opportunity to help these babies  grow up. 

Some people will probably say its crazy, but I’ve always been different.  I was thinking maybe they were sent to us for a reason – the creeks, streams and branches have dried up around and the mother frog didn’t have anywhere to lay her eggs, so we were chosen to care for them.  I’ve always been a firm believer in abortion, so when I saw those little tadpoles – little living things that came from an egg – my mind changed.  I’m still for abortion if there’s rape or incest.  I wish everyone could experience this miracle of life.  When one of these little critters sets on your finger, you can feel this warm feeling around your heart – if they could only talk.” 

Mrs. Reader, thanks loads for taking the time to share this sweet little story with readers all over the country.  Best wishes to you and your tadpole family as you share country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now

Gardening in Conyers

My husband loveS to garden…well, at least when he is getting the site ready for planting and the actual planting, but he fails to be a diligent weeder. He usually produces a bountiful harvest of veggies for our table and some for the freezer.

This year he grew asparagus beans. They look just like any normal, round, green beans but they are LONG. Some of these are approaching 3 feet in length. We flash fry them, then remove from the oil and sprinkle them with ginger, garlic bits, and a bit of soy sauce. This dish resembles something the green beans at a Chinese restaurant.

Asparagus Beans

Asparagus Beans

He has some tomatoes and some pretty cherry tomatoes. The problem with the cherry tomatoes is that Puss loves them and all the cats think they are toys. We have to keep them contained and covered.

Fruits of Conyers Gardening

Fruits of Conyers Gardening

He also has beautiful bell peppers and somehow, jalapeños! We don’t eat jalapeños! What to do with them?

Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno Peppers

Fresh Bell Peppers

Fresh Bell Peppers

He has never had success with watermelons and honeydews. I don’t have a picture, but they are growing.

Dream of a beautiful garden in my backyard may be a pipe dream, but gardening in Conyers is included in my brand of country living.

Posted in Country Life – Then and Now, Gardening

Mother is in My House — All Over I See Her!

I am not a decorator! I don’t have the knack, but love to have a beautiful place to hang my hat. When Mark and I purchased this house, Mother and Daddy came. I think Evelyn and Clyde Hasty also came. They brought may pretties to hang on the wall.

One of the things for which Mother was famous were her crocheted laceless. She did two for me that are currently hanging in the house. One has her very fancy edging and the other has a plain edging. I think that she did the plain edging around my name because it is so very long.

Littlejohn Lacelet

Littlejohn Lacelet

Welcome Lacelet

Welcome Lacelet


Another crocheted piece that is hanging in the foyer with the lacelets is a pineapple doile.  I think that Mr. Hasty framed it.  He really does beautiful work with custom frames.!

Framed Pineapple Doile

Framed Pineapple Doile


Mother also had an old barn board frame made to surround a long quilted piece.  I just love the look of barn board and it also fits in the foyer.  It is not on the same wall as the crocheted pieces, but compliments the wall and foyer appropriately  or it suits me!

Quilt Blocks Framed in Old Barn Boards

Quilt Blocks Framed in Old Barn Boards


Seeing these pieces on a daily basis keeps Mother alive in my memories.  Recalling times when I had my mother to share my joys and sorrows are all bundles up in my style of country living.



Posted in Needlework

Daddy’s Garden 2014 Edition

At 89 years young, Daddy has scaled back the size of his garden.  I can remember the times when he would haul tomatoes to the house by the wheelbarrow full.  Wow, was that ever work!  But, the rewards during the winter for sauces and soups were well worth it.  He has a good bit of okra growing now and when we talk in the evenings he will often comment that he put up another bag of okra, cut and ready for the frying pan.  IMG_1320[1]IMG_1319[1]


He always grows a stalk or two of cayenne pepper. He likes to have a fresh pod for eating and everyone in our family enjoys a pod cut in the peas while they cook. Yum!

He also has corn growing, but there were so many 4 o’clocks twirling up the stalks, I could not bear a picture!

He also has a lone stalk of bell peppers. I think there were more, but while we all did hospital vigil with Mother, the grass got ahead of him. He has been fairly good at keeping the weeds in the garden beaten back, until this year. To combat the grass he got out the lawn mower and went to work. I know he cut down some stalks of pepper, but they may have been cayenne instead of bell.


Remembering gardens and surveying the current edition are all in my life of country living.

Posted in Gardening

New Bloomers Found

NOTE from Russ Austin: I am sorry I just have to add this to Beth’s post, I did not talk to her about this but it is to funny. Beth has several NEW post to put up. But the title for this, “New Bloomers Found.”  I just have to laugh. Here on Sand Mountain on the northeast corner of Alabama when we say “new bloomers found” then we have found us some new underwear. And yes in years past that would be something to be happy about here. If you keep up with Mrs. Crumly’s post of growing up, you know!

When I am at Daddy’s I always take at least one walk. This past weekend was no exception. Of course as the months roll along, new flowers or bloomers appear. Here are a few of the latest that I found.

IMG_1315[1] This is a hydrangea of some sort. I must purchase a book that will help me identify these beauties! If you click the picture to create an enlargement, notice the deep crinkles in the leaves. This is a spectacular plant.

Also, there are reseeding marigolds. These have been blooming for a while and will continue until the frost bites them back. They are fairly large now …so I decided to include them too. IMG_1312[1]

Along the driveway Mother had Daddy build a trellis of sorts for a potato vine. Well, Daddy and I pruned it back some. Donna said to wait that there was a “special” potato vine there some where. I hope this white one is the special. The other is still there and blooms big, yellow blossoms. Here is the white one.IMG_1314[1]

This plant is a favorite of the hummingbirds..I counted six hummers this trip! These plants have been blooming all summer and are really tall now. They surround a new feeder that was put up by Russ Austin (Thanks Russ!) IMG_1318[1]

I always enjoy the lantana confetti. This plant seems to winter over at Mother’s, but I have little success with it wintering in Conyers. I find this strange since I am not on a mountain top (actually a plateau) and am a good bit south of the Windy Knoll. IMG_1317[1]

I hope you are a flower lover and will try to grow some bloomers in your yard. Enjoying the colors of the season, a joy of my country living!

Posted in Gardening

Must Keep Daddy with Sweets

If you know anything at all about my father, you know he loves his sweets. Mother always had something in the cake plate or in the refrigerator for nibbling. So, when I arrived last Friday evening, this is what I found.

Where is the Cake?

Where is the Cake?

So, one of my tasks was set for Saturday.

I knew that I did not want to tackle the 16# Butternut Pound cake but a standard 10″ pound cake would be just fine. I found the following recipe in Mother’s recipe box. Thank you Mother for keeping a very full recipe box. Her collection is extensive!

Classic Pound Cake (Southern Living)

4 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups soft butter
3/4 cup milk
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

In this order put in flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Beat on low 1 minute – stop mixer and scrape the sides. Beat at medium for 2 minutes. Bake 325 for 1 hour and 30 minutes in a greased and floured tube pan. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then finish the cooling process on a wire rack.
Ingredients Used Today

I began with the flour and had Mother’s mixer set to low while I added all the ingredients. Only after all the ingredients were added did I begin the 1 minute timer. I followed all the other directions as written.
Oh, I always prepare my pan prior to starting the mixing and I allow my eggs to warm while the butter warms.

Ready for Baking

Ready for Baking

Now the cake mixture is in the pan.

Here is the cake after it came out of the oven.

Hot out of the Oven

Hot out of the Oven

I could not locate Mother’s wire racks. I know she has them but where did she store them? I did not locate them so I improvised! I used an egg rack that has legs!
Egg Crate instead of Wire Rack

Egg Crate instead of Wire Rack

I padded the rack with two dish towels, double thickness.
Cooling the Pound Cake

Cooling the Pound Cake

The cake smelled so good that I could not wait for the cooling to finish and immediately cut the cake so that Daddy and I would not have to wait.

Fresh, Hot Pound Cake

Fresh, Hot Pound Cake

Good eating! Daddy said the only thing wrong with it was that he did not have any peaches thawed to put over it. I suggested ice cream, but we ate it hot and plain! Cooking and caring for my beloved father surely fits into my style of country living.

Posted in In the Kitchen

Old-Timey Telephone on the Wall

Apple I

Apple I phone.

Using this modern iphone is a far cry from the old telephone we had when I was growing up. John’s great uncle — a blind man — owned the telephone exchange. John’s grandfather built the switchboard for his blind brother. Now I know little about switch boards, but this one had little holes where the line had to be plugged into and the carpenter put a device above each hole so when that line rung the device would fall and by feeling, the operator would know the location to plug into. He had a rig just outside so that when a thunder cloud came up he could literally knock the wires loose from the house. Relatives of the blind men kept the lines in operation. This man was not know for paying his bills and when he died his sister stopped at a relatives house and told him they were settling the affairs and would pay the people he owed. The relative said, “And when you do, there’ll be a piano jump up in the middle of the road and play,Who in the Hell Would have ever Thought it.” They were never paid.


The old wall telephone.

Anyway if this blind operator had ever talked to you he would remember your voice and would call your name when you called next. Of course, several people were on the same line and when anybody’s phone rang others would listen in to hear the news. One afternoon he was trying to reach the doctor and got no answer, but a lady picked up and Uncle said, “Mattie, do you know were the doctor is?” She answered, “No, I don’t believe I do.” Another time a local girl who was away in college tried to call her mother and he said, “Sara, your mother is over at Mrs. King’s right now — but she’ll be back in a few minutes.” What service!!!!

I well remember our ring was two shorts and a long. Today we have such a telephone hanging on the sun porch and can talk on it. Visiting children get a kick out of using that old phone and they have to be reminded to speak into the mouth piece. It rings so loud you could hear it if you were at the barn. Western Electric changed it out and the front has to be opened so the dial can be used, but I seldom use it because I can’t hear on it. It’s reminder of how it was back when with country living.


Posted in Antiques
Billie & John Crumly 1945 Part of what Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation"