Hey, Daddy

Daddy teaching us a song.

I am not sure why I feel the need to share my “daddy visit” stories. Maybe I am looking for validation that this is not just “a dream”, is real. Daddy always believed in messages from those who had passed- especially from his own mama and daddy. I in fact have a video of daddy telling the story of his own daddy’s visit to him a day after his (daddy’s) death. I fully believe it. I use to say “daddy, please visit me and give me signs after you die”. He knew I believed in it. So maybe it is only right for me to be the one to get the visits. I know my sisters get signs- Cathy always gets excited when she has a “daddy dream” too. So…..

Keep in mind these are not like “normal” dreams. In these moments you are fully aware its a “dream” but different. The people are clear- not fuzzy and they don’t turn into someone or something else. Last night (in my dream) I had driven daddy’s old white Ford 150 down to the “big house’ (not prison! it’s what everyone calls the original home place on the farm). On my way back I met another truck driving towards the big house. Whoever it was had his window rolled down and threw up his hand in a wave. I rolled down my own window and looked face-to-face with my daddy. {insert tearing up here}. Daddy was wearing one of his many caps slightly crooked as always. It was the “old” daddy- the one that was strong and lively. He had a big smile on his face. I stared in shock, wonder, and really, complete happiness. It was all so clear. I reached out to touch him and he “took hold” of my hand. We sat there- truck to truck and in that hand shake hold. I said, “is this real?” “Nobody’s gonna believe I am talking to you”. He said, “don’t matter what anybody else think”. I just kept saying, “I’m so happy to see you, I’m so happy to see you!” I could feel his hand in mine- solid. Daddy’s big hand. After a bit I let go of his hand. Daddy drove on down the road- still smiling. The healthy, happy daddy I once knew…..thanks daddy. Please come back soon.

Daddy throwing tobacco and me playing!

Daddy didn’t feel good here- but he rarely turned down a photo op. Here with my daughter- Ashley

Me and daddy during his best days.
The little Hamlett girls. We miss you daddy. Mama is holding down the fort like the champ she has always been.

More Than Picking Grapes- Canning with Mama part 2

Day 2-
Step #1-
Listen to your mama! Gather all your supplies first! Jars, Sure jell, lids, sugar, butter, pans. Put the jars in the dishwasher and rinse.

Gather all your ingredients and supplies.

“Don’t short cut, Linda” mama says. Measure correctly!

Mama preparing the jars.

Step 2- Continue to listen to your mama! We disagreed on what constituted a “rolling boil”. Explains why I had so many epic fails with my past canning! We followed the directions on the sure-gell package but reduced the amount of sugar by one cup. Myra, from Pinehaven Vineyard advised that wine grapes had more natural sugar than regular grapes. So, measure out the juice and add one box of sure gell (yellow box) and a tablespoon of butter. The butter, mama said “keeps the foam down”. Bring to a “rolling boil”! Lawd have mercy- a “rolling boil” is more than just a “simmer”!

Add your butter!


Butter added.

Rolling Boil!

Step 3- Add the sugar and bring to a “rolling boil” again- and time it! ONE minute!

Bringing it to a “rolling boil”.

Add sugar and bring to a “rolling boil” again for ONE minute.

Step 4- After one minute remove from heat and start filling your jars! Your jar lids should be in hot water by now to help with sealing. After filling your jars be sure and wipe off the excess jelly from jar tops. Mama says this is important to insure the jars seal. Place jars in a water bath and bring to a “rolling boil”- lawd, a “rolling boil” for about 15 minutes. This will help seal the jars. You will start hearing the jars popping as soon as you take them from the hot water.
Filling jars

Hot water bath- 15 minutes


All done! Let cool. As it cools it will begin to set up. Try not to disturb until the next day.


Mama and I ended up canning dozens of jars of Traminette jelly and giving many away already! This time spent with mama was useful and priceless. What a great day!

More Than Picking Grapes-Canning Jelly with Mama: A story and a tutorial Part 1

When I was growing up mama did it all. She got up before light and fixed daddy’s lunch before he headed to the sawmill. Mama then got us four girls up and ready to head to the fields. When she wasn’t in the field she was in the garden or in the kitchen canning something from the garden. I didn’t think it was fair that after we finished working in the tobacco field we had to work in the garden!

Needless to say- learning to can when I was younger was very low on my list of priorities. The years passed and my priorities have changed. In the blink of an eye I am without my daddy and looking at my mama and really needing to spend more quality time with her. I wanted to learn all she had to teach and canning was at the top of my summer list. When I heard Pinehaven Vineyard had some wine grapes for sale I asked mama to teach me to make jelly. Kelly, my youngest sister, already had this down pat- thanks to mama. Now, it was my turn. Here we go!

Step #1- Grab your 5-gallon bucket and head to the field. Kevin Trent, co-owner of Pinehaven Vineyard had to show us which grapes were good to pick and which were too far gone. My nephew, Austin Bryant joined us there to pick for his mama (sweet). In the dew of the morning, the sun shinning and the bees buzzing harmlessly around us we began to fill our buckets. How lucky am I? Beautiful day, priceless moments.

Picking Traminette grapes at Pinehaven Vineyard with mama and Austin.

Step #2- Bring those babies home!

Traminette wine grapes ready to go!

Sep#3- Gotta get those grapes off the stem and we didn’t have a tool for that- only our fingers. Lawd have mercy- it took forever!

“Plucking” the grapes off the stem.

Mama “plucking” her grapes off the stem.

Step #4- Mama said we had to now wash them 3 times! “Three times?” I whined. So, I did and boy am I glad I did! Yuck!!
Nasty, dirty grape water!

I also found a june bug!! Yes, mama I will wash them 3 times!!

Step 5- Time to sqeeze the juice from the grapes. A automatic tool would have been nice! Nope- just some strainers, cheesecloth, and elbow grease. We put the grapes in mamas “jelly pan” to soften the grapes. When mama thought they were soft enough to press we took them off the heat and began pressing the juice out and then straining it a second time through some cheesecloth.

Boiling the grapes to soften.

Pressing the juice from the grapes.

More pressing

Straining through cheesecloth.

Step #6- We poured the juice into jugs and put them in the fridge. We called it a night. Wow, the next time someone gives you home canned goods please appreciate the time and effort that is put into this gift!

Ready to make jelly!

Next post:
Day 2- Actual Jelly processing!

You Can’t Stop Mother Nature

You can’t stop Mother Nature!

New life after the fire is gone.

Thirty four years ago my in-laws, my husband and I loaded into the car and headed to Gatlinburg Tennesee. It was a regular trip for them but a first for me. I was eight months pregnant and wide eyed with wonder at theses new experiences. The innocence of youth was beautiful.

Somehow we managed to all stay in one room and not kill each other! I experienced “Silver Dollar City” (now Dollywood), Ober Gatlinburg, and the Cherokee mountains. Time and years passed – my daughter grew up playing in the streams here, visiting Aunt Hailey in Pigeon Forge, playing putt-putt, shopping and of course eating. The years passed quickly- my in-laws couldn’t take the heat and my daughter grew up and Gatlinburg didn’t interest her anymore. It was now up to Steve and I to keep up the tradition. No problem- I love it.

We now spend days supporting the local artists, the economy with all our eating and the mountain with our visits to Cherokee (casino). During the heat of the day we walk the tree covered hiking trail by the river. That cold mountain water revives my hot, swollen feet! I find myself so grateful for the peace and beauty of it all. Mother Nature…….thank you…….

Shortly after our visit last year human error and ignorance cost us dearly here in Gatlinburg. I was at home when I heard a news bulletin about a wild fire in the smokey mountains. My attention was peaked when I heard it was fast approaching the town. My town.

When it was all said and done precious lives were lost, homes, forest, and the one motel lost was ours, “The Riverhouse Motor Lodge”. It was old and basic but it was our favorite-nestled right in the woods overlooking the flowing river. Nothing left but chimneys and a few concrete walls. Patio chairs still sit outside with only the metal framework remaining. The positive side has to to with the wonder of Mother Nature. The fire followed a destructive, decisive path yet not destroying everything in its path. The randomness of it was in some ways fascinating. Surprisingly My eyes aren’t drawn to the burnt out trees but to mother natures work at bringing it all back. New life growing at the base of burned out trees, flowers fighting their way through the burnt first floor. Amazing….

Down on the farm I frequently complain to mama about “Mother Nature always winning” . I fight to stop her from consuming our old tobacco barns and out buildings and even fight to save the slab of concrete that was once our grandmas porch, but in this mountain case, I concede……. Mother Nature…..do your thing….. Survive despite the stupid things we do to destroy you. You are greater than all of us…..and when I die and they put me in the ground or scatter my ashes you get even me back…..you win.

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A Tobacco Farmers Daughter

Tobacco Barn on the Hamlett Farm
Mama and Daddy 1959

My mama and daddy always said we could “do anything you set your mind too” and work hard enough. In my mama’s honor and my daddy’s memory I launch my first blog.

You will soon find life stories; DIY ideas and tutorials and whatever suits my fancy. I have been married forever and have a daughter older than me! (Just kidding).My experience includes 30+ years as a dental hygienist; a time in the corporate world; have written and published two books; worked in a sewing factory; a hospital and spend lots of time on the farm being my authentic self.

My mama taught me how to sew and I love to craft. I especially love to make something old- new again. Take this journey with me!

The Little Hamlett Girls