My mother was well known for her colorful speech. No, I don’t mean “salty” or “profane” — that would be her daughter.

Usually her descriptions were couched in similes. Some might call them hyperboles. Occasionally, they were just very blunt observations. My husband and I have come to call these figures of speech “Geneva-isms.”

From time to time, I will share one with you.

Case in point: We had a neighbor across the street who was a well-known booze-hound. The whole family roundly enjoyed their spirits, and it was a rare Saturday night when the “law” wasn’t called in to sort things out.

The younger man along with his wife and family were directly across from her house, and his parents lived on the corner with a house in between.

In a last ditch effort to shape up and behave himself, the young man joined AA and then an evangelical church. He went around witnessing for Jesus, whipping a New Testament out of his pocket and quoting Scripture with every single interaction with a neighbor. He was always going to pray for somebody, if their azaleas weren’t doing well or their grandchild got a B in Spelling.

One day, he saw Geneva coming down the steps of the side-door from her kitchen into her carport, leaning heavily on her cane. He hurried over to assist, preaching all the while, offering to pray for her arthritis. After she was tucked safely into her Chevrolet Caprice Classic, the cumbersome “washtub on wheels” with the big V-8 engine she favored, she revved up the engine, lowered the window, and looked him square in the eye.

“Harold, I swear, I think I liked you better when you were a drunk.”

Then she roared off.


Another excerpt from GENEVA…

“We frequently had a preacher to Sunday dinner, especially if it was during the summertime “gospel meeting” (Church of Christ) or “revival” (Baptists). These company dinners would not always be on Sunday, because members of the congregation signed up to feed the visiting preacher each meal as well as the regular preacher and his wife and family, too. So sometimes we had a Sunday-like dinner on Tuesday midday, or Tuesday evening, for instance.

“One summer when I was about five, we had a visiting preacher for a midday meal, and he had a very red-flushed face, thin sandy hair and giant yellow horsey teeth. We had fried chicken that day, and I don’t really recall what else, except maybe Heavenly Peach Salad. Mama kept the big ice chest on the inside back porch full of ice from the ice house as a supplement to the old refrigerator we had. Our old fridge was small and did not have a real freezer compartment, so because we always needed lots of ice for tea or extra cold storage, Daddy made regular trips over to West Fifteenth Street to the ice house for a big block that was kept in the aforementioned ice-chest.

“With Alabama’s stifling summer heat and humidity, lots of surrounding trees and open windows and doors because nobody had air conditioning, we had a little varmint problem: big black roaches and the occasional rodent or squirrel. I don’t know what they used to fight them unless it was boric acid and mousetraps, because that was quite a while before we got the Orkin man. Sometimes the varmints would get in, in spite of the fact that our dishes always got washed every meal, garbage went out every day, crumbs were swept up every meal, and we were not allowed to eat anywhere except the kitchen or dining room table. Anyway, that day with the guest horsey-faced preacher, my mother was serving all the grownups at the dining room table when it was still actually in the dining room. She made me stay in the kitchen with her where my little brother was placidly contained in his high chair. She was running around like a mad woman, wiping the sweat off her face periodically with her apron, and I was right under her feet. She was filling the tea glasses with ice that she was rapidly chipping off the big block from the ice chest, then handing them to me to set on the kitchen table to be filled with tea before being taken to the dining room. Suddenly I spied a great big huge roach flailing around in the ice chest in the water. She saw it and promptly scooped it up and threw it out the back door with the frantic admonition, “Don’t you dare mention this!” She washed all the ice in the glasses at the sink before pouring in the tea.

“I was instructed with one more stern look to take in the basket of hot homemade Parker House Rolls right behind her through the swinging door from the kitchen to the dining room. The guest of honor was expounding about something “being false teaching, of course.” The big platter of fried chicken was being passed around, and I saw that old horsey faced preacher take my pulley bone, and boy, was I ever pissed. I started to protest and got pinched — hard. But I piped up anyway, as loudly as possible while looking right at him, “Mama just killed a great big roach in the ice chest!” Daddy frowned, and Mama hastily stammered, “Well, I washed all the ice off good.” I was yanked back in the kitchen then resoundingly smacked and sent to my room. I howled so loudly she finally let me back in the kitchen and sat me down with a chicken leg. I was still pouting about my pulley bone, though.”

I just received your book in the mail today and I cannot put it down!!! I have read about 100 pages and you have taken me back to our lives as they really were. I cannot wait to get back to reading it. Your writing is so descriptive. Will get back to you later.

Duffle Chisholm

“Oh, Ellen, I have just finished your wonderful book about your mother! The last chapters were difficult to read, because my father is in a nursing home with a form of dementia, so I know something of what you went through with your mother. What a treasure this book will be to your extended family, with all the photos and family recipes!

“Your mother sounded like she had a real servant’s heart, always feeding and caring for others. Since I grew up in Arkansas and had grandparents in rural and small-town Arkansas, much of the “Southernisms” you included were familiar. For example, my dad still loves cornbread crumbled up in buttermilk, eaten with an ice teaspoon. My mother was one of nine children growing up after the Depression, and she tells of many a night when they had only biscuits with gravy for supper. Your book (and terrific writing!) brought back lots of memories for me. I know you are proud to hold your book in your hands after all the work you put into creating it.

“Thanks for autographing my copy, too!

“Tricia (The Dull & the Dutiful)”

From the book GENEVA…

I got the greatest pair of Easter shoes ever when I was in the second grade. My mother took me down to Woodruff’s and Methvin’s, the two shoe stores on Noble Street in Anniston which carried children’s Buster Browns and Mary Janes, to look for my new shoes. Of course she had made me a beautiful new dress, just as she did every year, dripping with lace and ruffles and bows. It was probably baby blue because she always said that was my color, and that’s what she thought I should wear. Since my mother sewed magnificently, in addition to her other domestic skills, she made all my clothes. I was the best dressed kid anywhere, rich or poor. At the shoe store that day my eyeballs immediately zeroed in on a great pair of bright yellow and green saddle oxfords, and they had two sets of wide straps and big buckles, not laces. I was a goner, and no amount of wheedling and cajoling on Mama’s part or that of the salesladies would dissuade me. I HAD to have those green and yellow oxfords. Resigned, my mother paid for them, then she grumbled all the way to the car, but I barely heard because I was so thrilled I could not stand it. I put them on the instant I got home and wore them around in the house every minute I could get away with, clomping around on the hardwood floors. I heard my exasperated mother in the kitchen telling Daddy about our shopping trip when he got home from work, and then they both started to laugh. They laughed until tears ran down down their faces, and they were holding their sides. I still did not see what was so funny.

Finally, Easter Sunday rolled around, and I pranced out in my big yellow and green clodhoppers, wearing my dainty little flouncy blue dress, hair done up in long sausage curls and bows, carrying my little white crocheted drawstring handbag Grandma Thompson had made me. (I used it every Easter till I was about ten.) I really strutted my stuff that day in Sunday School and then at the church service after. Everybody smiled and smiled at me, and I was so proud! My parents just smirked. I thought I looked fabulous. When we got to Lincoln, the hootin’ and hollerin’ really got under way. The Joneses were never known for their subtlety.

My parents made me start wearing those shoes to school the very next day, which normally would not have been allowed. Ordinarily, Easter shoes were for Sundays all summer long till time to get some new ones in the fall, but I was made to wear them every time I went out the door for a while. Eventually, Mama took me back to the shoe store and got the usual Mary Janes in black patent leather for Sundays only. But she made me wear those blooming Oxfords for every day including the summer, till my feet got too big, which was probably about six months.

Exciting things are happening — for me and the book. Watch for book reviews and interviews which will be appearing on various blogs and websites as well as Facebook.

Beginning today, I will start publishing small excerpts from the story or one of the recipes which will make you want to read more, I hope. Or maybe have an urge to get into your kitchen and start cooking?

(Be sure to prepare your big tube pan properly, generously greasing and flouring it. Many large dense cakes are baked at low temperatures in order to prevent burning on the outside. It is not necessary to poke any holes in this cake before pouring on the glaze.)

1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup pecans
1 teaspoon soda
4 cups sifted plain flour
2 T grated orange rind
1 cup chopped dates
Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs one at a time. Add sifted flour in three parts, then add soda, buttermilk, orange rind, dates and pecans. Bake 1 and 1/2 hours or until done. at 250° F. When the cake tests done pour the following glaze over it while hot in the pan, and let cool. Invert onto serving plate.

2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 T orange rind
Combine and stir until sugar dissolves over low heat. Let cool slightly before pouring over the hot cake.

If you like to bake, my mother’s collection of cake recipes can’t be beat. This cake is one that my Aunt Margaret made every year at Holidays — and usually we did, too. It is especially good in the winter time with a cup of hot strong coffee or tea. Both my cousin Martha and I have tinkered with the glaze from time to time, adding Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Brandy to give it a kick!

Here is a link to a review of GENEVA by my friend Pat Freymuth:

“GENEVA is a memoir, written by Geneva’s daughter, Ellen Thompson Shook. Some of you may know Ellen; she is the author of the blog Scribbler Unfocused. The book is a compilation of family stories, photos and Geneva’s recipes. I began reading the book as soon as I received it in Saturday’s mail. The stories draw me in and take me back to a different time….

“Ellen’s family photos are a treasure….

“The author was inspired by a book, written by poet Maya Angelou, that combined storytelling and food.”

Go to Pat’s beautiful blog to see her whole post.

I have sent out the first two batches of books. Don’t wait to order yours because you will miss out on the First Editions.

This is a big book, and I am sending it Media Mail which used to be known as Book Rate, in a padded mailer so that I can keep the S &H within $5.00. It will take a little longer to reach you than I had hoped, but it is only way to keep it within reason. I did add on a Confirm Delivery so that I will know when you receive it.

The books are here! Don’t miss out on a first edition which is beautifully bound. It is so exciting for me to see my book in print, and I want as many of you who would like one to have this first edition with its creamy leather-like cover and separate book jacket.

I am actually losing money on this first run because of the costs of production and shipping, so this offer will not last too long. When they are gone, either I will have to charge more to cover my costs on the next printing, or find a less expensive way to produce it.


The books are ready, and will be shipping today and in the morning!

If you would prefer another method of payment rather than PayPal, I will accept your money order, or if I know you personally, your check. Please email me for further information.

My email address is:


You can now order your copy of the book. They will be ready next week. Just go to the top of the page and click on Buy the Book and a page will drop down with the PayPal link.

The link can be found on my personal website too, either on the last page “The Buzz” or on the page “What I am Writing” where I have been posting updates.

If you see a survey form just ignore it!!!