Sunday, December 26, 2010

Odd Meal of Oddness

I don't know why, maybe it's just being moody, family discord, or because of the overcast week we'd had, but I really rebelled against the idea of making an ordinary, just the same as I do every year, Christmas dinner.  Every year since childhood I've had pretty much the same menu: baked ham, homemade scalloped potatoes, corn, and some type of bread.  I do absolutely love homemade scalloped potatoes, especially the edges where it gets brown and crispy.... but I just didn't want to do it this year.

So, I talked to my daughter, then got on Facebook and asked advice.  One person said to just make everyone's favorites.  Others said it was okay to do something really different.  I talked to the three that would be around my table.  Cat wanted cranberry sauce served directly from the can with a spoon.  Bob simply wanted meat (as I'm a veg, it's a valid request).  Lauryn wanted candied sweet potatoes.  I wanted pan fried mac&cheese. So...taking all this into mind, I planned out the menu.

I made homemade mac&cheese, and put it into a parchment paper lined loaf pan.  Just before dinner, I sliced it and pan fried it in a wee bit of margarine. 

Christmas 2010 menu:  pan fried mac&cheese, frozen pizza (baked), candied sweet potatoes, hard salami, muenster&colby cheese, rolls, cranberry sauce-served directly from the can, taquitos, and condiments.  It was eclectic and fun and quite delicious. Everyone was happy, and well fed.  And best of all, I enjoyed the time spent with my family, laughing over the weird meal.  Cat dubbed it the Odd Meal of Oddness.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rediscovering Joy

I've been working my way out of the valley of sadness, thrown into further shadow by the inherent lack of light recently.  Slowly, I've been edging my way out inch by inch.  I still have a foot in the shadow, but am out of the valley, looking all around for the sun.  All I see is the icy clouds hiding it...for now.

I decided to be proactive, and help seek happiness myself, instead of blatantly sitting around waiting for it to show up.  So, I made a list of things that make me happy, that I could do soon.  Included in that list are:  picking up new books at the library, crocheting while talking to a friend, braiding a denim rug for my bedroom, working on the last chapters of my story, mint chocolate chip ice cream, jelly beans, getting to spend some time with my best friend Connie-in person, going to see a movie, sewing for fun, and listening to my father tell stories.

By focusing on these things, and by trying to do as many as I can, it's helped me start climbing out of the darkness and towards the light.  Now if only I could find jelly beans.... ah, well.  Instead, I'll venture out to the library soon, and call up Connie and crochet whilst kibitzing with her.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Imaginary Friends

Tonight I've been watching this movie about a woman who meets her childhood imaginary friend.  He's a guy, also an adult now, named Michael.  Not a bad movie, not great, but best thing on TV right now.  It got me thinking about imaginary friends.  Now I was an unusual child.  I was never like anyone else. 

Other people had imaginary playmates that were little girls, like them.  Me, I had an imaginary horse.  I hid him in my bedroom, and he only came out when we were alone.  I fed him, and brushed him, and put big bright red bows on his tail.  He was about the size of a small Shetland pony, though I'd never seen a horse in
'person' before.  He had a dark brown coat, and a pure white mane.  We had many adventures together, but he mostly just slept in a stable next to my bed.  He kept me company on long dark nights.   I loved that horse, and told him everything, my thoughts, my fears, and my dreams. 

I remember the day I decided that we needed to part ways.  It was by mutual agreement.  I was getting older, and taking care of him was getting difficult.  He wanted to go run in green pastures filled with white daisies in the sunshine.  So one night, after we'd had a long chat, and said our goodbyes.  I gave him a good brush down, tied on a big red bow, and sent him to live with the fairies in the wall.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Grampa

This time of year always reminds me of my Grampa, my father's dad.  I think of him in part because the 19th was his birthday.  He was born December 19th, 1904.  Wow.  He served as a Marine sometime before World War 2, then raised rabbits as part of the war effort.  My dad was a little boy back then.  My father has told me countless stories about his childhood, and his father.  As many times as he's told the stories, I still enjoy hearing them.

For me, my Grampa was a cool guy who my father would take my sister, brother and I to see every weekend.  I always took Sooner, a tiny dog who I never knew what breed she was, for a quick walk up and down the block.  When I'd come in, my dad would be talking to Grampa, and my siblings would be watching wrestling, something we weren't allowed to watch at home (yay Bulldog Kent and the Sheik).  Every year at Christmas time, he would hang a candy cane on the lamp beside his sofa.  That candy cane would become part of the collection  of canes that hung there year round. 

I remember the plain white paper bags he would give my siblings and I for Christmas, filled with candy, nuts and shiny change.  Loved it!  And I remember one year he made cheesecakes, festooned with sprinkles used to make a design.  He was so creative! 

When I was in 9th grade, I was feeling really sick at school, but they wouldn't let me walk home without them speaking to a relative first. Well, both my parents were at work, so I called my Grampa.  He okayed my going home.  When I got there, he called to check on me. He also gave me his recipe for a tea to make me feel better: hot tea with a generous dollop of honey and a half a shot of whiskey.  Well, I did the tea with honey only, obviously.  Still he was really there for me.

My Grampa and my Aunt Alise (my maternal grandmother's twin) are the two relatives that meant the most to me growing up.  They were my extended family.  I still have my Aunt Alise (who always speaks her mind, which I love about her, and who claims to be 39 still. So cool.)  But I lost my Grampa in May of 86.  Every year on December 19th, I think of him even more.  I miss you Grampa. 

I'm going to go hang a candy cane on my lamp, in honor of my Grampa.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Thoughts

I had a terrible day today, the kind that makes Murphy Monday's  pale in fear.  I guess it was a tumultuous, terrifying, tear-causing Tuesday.  But instead of regaling everyone with my list of woes, I decided to turn my mind to more positive things....even if I have to really work hard in order to do so. 

So here are a few of the thoughts and memories that make me happy....

Listening to my dad telling a story from his childhood, even when I've heard it before.  Watching my sons, when they were little, make things out of legos that shouldn't be possible-they made hinges out of lego people legs, and made things that transformed.  Seeing my daughter, pencil in hand, intently working on a drawing-she has such exuberant talent.  A hot, bubbly pineapple pizza with sesame seed crust.  Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.  A brand new, previously unread, just came out book-from Anne McCaffrey or J.D. Robb.  Watching the sunrise over desert hills. 

Saturday mornings.  Every Saturday morning is my own private holiday.  And I get 52 of them every year!

The feeling I get just after shopping day, when everything is put away... pringles & cottage cheese.  Getting to just sit and talk to my best friend Connie, in person, for hours.  The way we used to ride our bikes together during summers.  Hugging James Doohan. That dinner with all my kids, my parents, my Aunt Alise and my grandmother. Finally finding a cool pair of brown boots. 

The Christmas when my sons stared with amazement when they opened a Playstation, and started screaming.  The same day, seeing my daughter cry when she got the American Girl Doll she'd wanted.  And seeing the same girl many year's later, so happy when Chi~ arrived.

And finally, the peace I always feel when sitting beside a body of water... a river, lake, ocean.  And the feeling of home I felt when I walked into FMC the first time.  And the exubarent feeling of Winning Nanowrimo this year! 

There, now I feel happier.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rant about Christmas

I was talking to a friend recently, and she was telling me about how a family member of hers thinks that they should forgo buying each other Christmas presents, and instead spend the requisite several hundred dollars on her preferred charity.  Even when my friend explained that she couldn't do this, her sister wouldn't listen.  Truth is, this friend's entire Christmas budget may only be about $100, for her entire family. 

So many times I have sat in the break room at work, and listened to others talk about the gifts people are getting their kids... Ipods, new cell phones (the latest ones), expensive coats, and so on. These same people have houses 'up north' too, where some of them go to celebrate the season.

Then there are the people I know, and hang out with.  People who use their skills in the kitchen, with the sewing machine, and knitting needles in order to produce gifts for loved ones.  People who cannot spend $200 on a single gift for one child.

Funny thing is, those kids who receive the homemade gifts or simpler gifts, seem to still appreciate them and remember them months later... and those with the nifty ipods or cell phones have broken those and are asking for new, better ones.

That is my rant.  Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Year of Changes

This has been a year of changes for me.  I became a vegetarian (lacto ovarian), moved to an apartment in a different city, broke a 45 year nail biting habit, and became active in a writing group.  I've decided to take various areas of my life more seriously, especially the writing.

I'm currently writing a book.  I'm part of NaNoWriMo (see previous post) and thus far, I have written nearly 23K words-the goal is 50K by November 30th.  Because of this experience, I've hooked up with a local writing group.  During November, we meet twice a week for write ins and often online.  It's such a blessing to be in a supportive community of writers!

Now onto the next change/challenge--finding a 'new' used car...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Facing your fears

Today I fully planned on blogging about my adventure in Nanowrimo land, but something came up, hit me dead in the face, and demanded attention.  So, I'm sharing it here, in the hopes that despite any embarrassment on my part, it might help someone else out there in cyberland.

This morning I woke up and my first thoughts were thoughts of anxiety.  Naturally, I hit the snooze button, reset the alarm, and hit the snooze again.  A while later, reality intruded again, and I had to get up, and face the day.

On the drive to work, my worries were forefront in my mind.  I couldn't stop thinking about the two things that worried me the most.  At work, I finally realized that these two anxieties were simply not going to go away. Being at work, there wasn't much I could actively do about them, but I did realize that action was what I needed. Instead of trying to ignore the troubles, bury them beneath daily work & life wasn't working.

Therefore, I made a phone call on the one (about finding a 'new' car), and sent an explanatory email on the other (church library printer issues). The relief was nearly immediate.

There is something so freeing about tackling your fears head on, doing something, anything about them. There is the barest hint of coming peace.  The knots that took up permanent residence in my stomach loosened and dissolved, leaving only a memory.

The problems are still there-but I feel better.  I am handling my fears instead of my fears handling me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Memories

Halloween is so different as an adult.  Now it means hayrides, and decorating my desk at work.  But I remember a different time, when Halloween was exciting, It was a time to dress up as my favorite comic book character, or that superhero from Saturday morning TV.  I'd start bugging my mom about getting or making me a costume as soon as October began.  I would get my brother & sister into the act too, asking and asking and asking.  Then the day would come.  We'd go to Woolworth's or Kreskes, and search the aisles for those magical boxed costumes.  The plastic face masks were in the front of the package, and for all the world they seemed real to me.  I truly believed that if I put on that Wonder Woman costume, that I WAS Wonder Woman.  Bring on the invisible plane!  Of course, in reality, wearing those plastic one-size-fit-all (not) costumes, and that plastic face mask, all over winter coats and jeans, actually made for bulky looking superheros! 

Put I'd happily put it on, and trying to breathe through the tiny holes, and ignoring how the elastic pinched my hair, and head out to trick or treat.  My dad always took us three kids...my self, and my younger sister & brother.  We would clutch our plastic orange pumpkins, and head down our street in the near dark.  I could see my breath misting up as I breathed through my mask.  My brother was dressed as a clown, and my sister as Snow White, but with her mask on top of her head.  With my dad trailing behind, keeping step with my brother, my sister & I would run up to the next house that had a porch light on, and sing out, "Trick or Treat!  Trick or Treat!"...and the door would open, and reaching through the open top half of a screen door, the kind woman would drop candy into our pumpkins.  We always said 'thank you', as we were taught, even if it was something we didn't like.  Then on to the next house. 

I loved the house that gave actual full sized candy bars!  And though we knew he only gave out shiny apples, we always went to the old man's old house around the corner.  Then we'd wait until my dad & brother caught up with us, and away we went again.

My all time favorite costume was the Catwoman costume my mother sewed for me.  In reality, it was just a one piece black outfit, with a tail sewn on, and cat ears, but I felt like Catwoman in it (Julie Newmar, not Eartha Kitt).  Though time and time again, I had to explain to kind candy-giver-outers that I wasn't not a cat, but indeed Catwoman, it didn't dissuade that feeling.  Though there was this really nice woman who said 'what a nice kitty', then proceeded to hand me the biggest candy bar I'd ever seen.  I said "meow" and walked on.

When our pumpkins were full, and my siblings too tired or excited to continue, we'd head home, where my mother was dutifully giving out candy.  We would sit on the floor, and spill out our spoils.  Then the annual ritual began.  My father and mother sorting out our candy.  The chocolate went into a bowl to go in the fridge, and the other candy into a bowl for the table.  We shared all our candy...after my parents had checked it all to be sure it was safe.  Then we would get to have some, right then and there.  It was a very happy ending for an exciting childhood time.

Hmm...wonder if there'll be any candy at the hayride tonight?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Love Affair

I have a love affair with reading. I was reading a book on writing today (Page after Page, by Heather Sellers), and it directed me to look at my daily life, and what I spent the bulk of my non-employment time doing--this activity is what I find important, what I love. For me, it's reading. I read daily, no matter how busy I am. Like a smoker, who finds five minutes several times a day to puff away, I sneak in wee pockets of time in which to read.

I read during lunch, while waiting to pick up my daughter, in the waiting room, while waiting for water to boil, during commercials, in the bathroom sometimes... constantly. Even if I have only five minutes, it's worth it to me. My reading soul is very hungry, and needs constant feeding.

To provide for this need, I have books everywhere. There are some of my favorite paperbacks in my headboard, on both end tables, in the car, on the table, next to my computer. I have three bookcases, and all are pretty much full.

I am a regular at the local library. I go online, request books from other libraries and thus can just walk into the library, show my card, and walk out with books in under 5 minutes. I was very excited when my brother introduced me to Melcat (where I got the two Heather Sellers books-ones I need to buy someday!). My favorite hangout spot is Barnes & Noble. There, whilst sipping a green tea latte or hot carmel smoothie, I carefully read...

When my kids were younger, they understood that they'd be getting at least one book for Christmas, so they might as well give me a list (what is Christmas morning without a book to curl up with and read whilst eating a candy cane?). I confess that one year I even bought myself a book for Christmas! It was from the cats, really.... I'm proud to report that all my children are excellent readers. My daughter took placement tests before beginning college, and tested off the charts in reading comprehension. I was so proud!

I love new books, especially by authors I know. I count down the days until the new Anne or Todd McCaffrey book comes out, and when I purchase it during lunch, it's all I can do to not read it. I kept it in my tote bag, and couldn't help occasionally sneaking a peek, or just patting it lovingly.

I read books concurrently; I always have several books going at the same time. I just finished The Search by Nora Roberts. I am reading both Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter. I'm reading a book by Sara Gilbert, who's title escapes me (no, not Eat, Love, Pray). I am reading a book on organization. And waiting for me to find time for him is A Briefer History of Time. I am listening to a book on cd called One Simple Act. I have two books by Meg Cabot waiting for me at the library right now. And this is normal for me!

I know that next month, as I immerse myself in NaNoWriMo, I'll have less time to read, but still, I'll refresh my mind by the occasional stolen moment to read. For now, I've 13 minutes left on my lunch hour, so I'm off to read some more!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Bucket List


My son, Bob, has his Bucket List posted publicly on his website. He did this a few years ago, and when I saw it, it inspired me to create my own Bucket List.... (what's a bucket list? It's a list of things you want to do before you 'kick the bucket'.) I have a copy of this list in several places, where it'll always be there to remind me of my life goals. I have shown this list to a few close friends, but never posted it publicly. After seeing my son's list recently, and what he's crossed off it, I realized I needed to find the courage to do the same. So, here's my list (including subheadings):

My Bucket List:

1. Publish both Fiction & non-Fiction books (pref one on best seller list).
2. Move to beautiful condo or apartment (I've done this one!)
3. Own VW Bug (old or new)
4. Be financially stable (no debts, able to help family & others)
5. Travel: a. Scotland b. Paris c. Alaskan Inner Passage Cruise
6. Learn Languages: a. Sign b. French c. German d. something interesting
7. Learn to play the piano & harpsichord
8. Learn Tai Chi (half finished this one)
9. Be in shape
10. Make a quilt for each of my kids, parents, & Connie

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coming soon!

The one event I wait all year for is coming soon. The excitement is building. The participants are all abuzz with thoughts & possibilities. Preparations are beginning. Gatherings are being planned. What is this event? Is it the Superbowl, or perhaps Christmas? No...it's almost time for.... *gasp* NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. This event is organized and hosted by Chris Baty, author of the companion book, No Plot, No Problem. What is this event? Thousands of writers get together during the month of November, and try to write 50,000 words of an original book. This works out to about 1,667 a day. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality. This is not as crazy as it sounds. I've often heard the quote: "You can't revise a blank page." By giving yourself permission to write badly, just please, write...you turn off that internal editor that nags you to be perfect.

Each day of the event, you write your novel, and post your current total word count on the site, NaNoWriMo.org. When you get to 50,000 words, you submit your novel to have the word count verified. If you meet this goal, you win. The prize is simply the satisfaction of knowing you wrote an entire book in a month.

Last year I tried this, and only made it halfway there. However, as I'd never made it past Chapter One of a book, I counted this as great. Also, I finally found a local writers group, the Red Hot Writers. With the encouragement, and even nagging of this circle of friends, I know this year, I will be a winner!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Home home home

Every morning, I wake up thinking 'I love my house.' My 'house' in question is actually a pretty, sun-filled bright apartment. I've lived here for just over a month now, and the sparkle, the allure has not faded. I've learned the joys of having someone else handle the repairs. I get to enjoy the near magical autumn color of the falling leaves without a thought to having to rake.

There are minor drawbacks. My kitchen is the size of a galley. No more than three very friendly people can be in it at a time. I have to learn to use an electric stove. The only other drawback is having to do laundry downstairs, and pay for it. But thus far, I have only once had to wait to use the washer. And think of all the exercise I'm getting going up and down the basement stairs....

But my living room is bigger, as is my bedroom. I've a closet that is remarkable. It holds my clothes, a few stored items, and is half filled with my crafts & overflow books (never enough bookcases!). And I have already met many neighbors as I take walks in the complex, or simply sit on my wooden deck, which we often call the porch. My sons treat it as a porch too...then often jump the rail, and knock on the window wall! Such energy. And Cat does it too...

And now I have a 3 minute commute to church (that includes walking out of the building, driving there, and walking into church!), and my drive to work is cut in half.

*sigh* I know I'm going on and on and on... but it is such a relief to be rid of so many of the worries that plagued my life before moving here. I thank God for arranging this move when He did, instead of next spring, as I had planned. And I thank all the friends who helped me move, and/or listened to me make lists, or simply stress.

I realized what this place feels like...it feels like living in a dorm at college was like. Friendly people, no repair worries, and church is close by.

I look forward to having friends over for tea soon!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My obsession

I've gotten teased about it. I was once challenged to do without it for an entire weekend. My obsession with them has gotten more elaborate. My sister has give me preprinted versions as gifts.

What am I obsessed with? Lists. Typed up on the computer & printed off. Hand written on pretty paper. Scribbled on the sides of my church bulletin. Written on the nifty preprinted ones I've received as gifts.

I think I learned the habit from my father. On the weekend, I'd watch as my father would carefully write out a To Do list on the back of a used envelope (I learned my frugality from him too). Then I'd watch as he crossed off each task as he completed it. Wow.

I make weekly to do lists, with errands & daily tasks listed. At the top are three goals for the week, then a quote (lately all Walt Disney quotes...my favorite: "It's kind of fun to do the impossible."), then the days of the week...with an adjective (today is Tranquil Tuesday)..then the task lists. That's my current format. It may change next week.

When a big event, or a trip is coming up, I make a list for that. My Christmas list is multi paged, full of separate headings (Cookies to bake; presents to make; cards to send; and so on). Then there is my 2 week menu plan and grocery list... and just above this computer screen is a list on a bulletin board titled 'Things to do after move'.

This may truly seem like an obsession, but it makes me happy. There is a satisfying feeling when you cross off or check off a completed task. Ah..... And when I write down something on a list, like 'remember to call my sister', then that thought can stop bouncing around my mind, interfering with my daily work.

I did try to make it a whole weekend without a list, when a friend of my daughter challenged me to do so. It was a wasted weekend. I mostly just sat and read books. Without a list to motivate me, I was useless.

So I'll continue to make my lists, and enjoy checking them off. If people laugh, or don't understand, I'll just pity them, and add 'pray for __' to my list.

Now off to check 'Post on my blog' from my Tuesday task list! Ah......

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall...my favorite time of year

Fall is in the air. As a kid I didn't understand that phrase, but now I do. There is a certain crispness to the morning air. The leaves turning golden & red, falling before your eyes, and crunching under your feet. It's just cold enough to require a light jacket as you walk in the early morning, with the rays slowly warming you.

Despite the knowledge that winter is soon approaching, I still love autumn. It's beautiful, crisp, rich scented, and full of fun activities. I love the taste of an apple just picked from the tree. Or sometimes, eaten right on the tree and left to hang there as only a core. (someone close to me used to do that). Hayrides through a field, as the sun goes down.... and cider & roasted marshmallows by a bonfire afterwards. These are some of my fondest memories.

I love to bake apple pies, and watch friends eat slices hot from the oven, sometimes with cold real vanilla ice cream on the side. Right at the end of fall is my favorite holiday...Thanksgiving. It's a time to spend the day before baking...pies (apple & pumpkin), yeast rolls, and cornbread for the best part...cornbread stuffing, just like my mother taught me to make. Then comes the big day. Family gathers from all over, to sit around my table, and spend an hour eating, recalling memories, talking... and listening to my father tell stories. *sigh*

Lately it has been rather warm for October. I went to the gas station today without a jacket on, it was so warm. But the scent of fall is in the air. Apples are ripening. There's a hayride planned for the end of the month with my church friends. I've seen Halloween decorations going up (need to dig mine out of the basement). I've seen a few bare trees already, making interesting silhouettes against the sky, and a lot of colorful leaves. Fall is here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Traveling Socks


Ok, I know I gone on and on about my love of tea, and reading and Magical Saturday Mornings (and they are!). But today, I just have to vent about something annoying. Something that quietly and secretly drives me nuts....


Socks.


That oh so necessary piece of clothing necessary to keep your shoes fresh and your feet from sticking to the inner soles. Socks. As a kid I hated them because all I had were knee socks, and they never ever ever stayed up to my knees. They invariably ended up in an ungainly wad at my ankles. Then I'd have to stop, yank them up again, and just sigh as I felt them creep on downward again.


Then I as a young adult I got a clue, and switched to wearing bobby socks, or so called 'scrunch' socks. They worked beautifully. No trouble. Until lately.


Being a professional, I decided to purchase professional looking socks. They are made of thin material, and called trouser socks. Kind of like bobby socks, but fancier looking.


Fancy. Right. They are supremely annoying. Much like the knee socks, these socks seem to have a singular lifelong goal. To see if they can end up in a wad around my toes. I yank them up, begin to walk, and slowly they edge their way down again, this time diving into my shoes! Over and over again, I pull them up, to no avail.


Finally, last night at the Women's Bible Study, as I kept leaning over to sneak my socks back up (and I was sitting!), it occurred to me: buy new socks. So today, I did. Forget the professional ones. Wonder if Goodwill will take them? I got me nice soft scrunchy bobby socks.


Here's hoping they too won't end up bunched up in the toe of my shoes.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

On to my new life

About two years ago, I decided that I was ready to move. The home I lived in, okay, the mobile home I lived in, was getting to be too big for just my daughter & I. I was tired of living in the boondocks (I saw corn fields and llamas on my way to work every day), and I was getting overwhelmed by the cost of constant repairs. A three bedroom home was just too big for me.

Now, don't get me wrong, as my best friend Connie always says. This place was perfect for me back when I had three active elementary school kids who littered the living room floor with Lego's and Barbie doll shoes. (have you ever stepped on a Lego at 3am? *shudder*) When they became teenagers, it was still just right. I had a huge fridge filled with koolaide and apples, and two cookie jars I kept filled with homemade cookies, all available for the constant stream of their teenage friends that were always over.

But all that changed as they grew up. The boys moved out and got their own places. They still came home to visit, but more often it was just a call to request delivery of baked goods. (esp banana bread). The place started to echo with just my daughter Cat & I.

So, I started looking at my options, and after a bit of encouragement (okay, nagging) from a good friend of mine, I started checking out apartments. No repair bills. No paying the kid to mow a lawn. No more shoveling. Woo hoo!

So one day, Cat & I took a tour of this apartment complex. We were amazed at how bright the place was, and how spacious it seemed, despite being smaller than our old place. And we noticed other differences.

"Look, Mom. They have closet doors! And they work!"
"Look, Cat... towel racks! They have actual towel racks!"
"Mom... is that a *gasp* dishwasher?" (Cat, is that a tear in your eye?)
"Oh, wow... look Cat! They have....(dramatic pause)... toilet paper holders! We don't have to use a paint can to hold the roll anymore!" (seriously, we did)

A month later, and after a rainy day of moving...(we moved everything Over the deck rail, through the window wall...in the rain!)... we are here. I am still amazed at the beauty of this place. I enjoy taking almost daily walks. I love sitting on my deck/porch. I have met more neighbors here in just a couple of weeks than I met in the old place in years. I am very happy with my new life here.

And I really don't miss using a paint can for a toilet paper holder.

Friday, August 27, 2010

From above the clouds


I'm a tall girl, so I've spent most of my life walking into cupboard doors left open, peeking over cubicle walls, and checking out everyone's hair part. Granted, I'm only 5'9", but that's taller than most women. And that's me in flats...

A week ago, I was looking for a pair of low or no heeled, sensible, ordinary, boring black dress shoes, for work. After checking out several stores, and drooling over the nifty boots, I went into this frugal girl's old standby, Payless. There I dutifully searched for boring shoes. Well, I did find them... but... part of the fun of shoe shopping is trying on shoes you never intend to wear, much less buy. So I tried on pumps, clogs, high heeled shoe boots (I wobbled as I stood in them, but they were so cute!). Then I saw them. Wow. A pair of black, harness-strapped, 2 inch heels. I tried them on. No wobble. Cool. I looked at them in the ankle height mirrors... wow.

Since it was buy-1-get-1-half-off, I had to get them. I'm a frugal girl after all.

I wore them to work on Monday. I could certainly see very clearly over those cubicle walls. If anyone had looked up as I passed by, they'd have seen a pair of eyes seemingly resting on the wall. My close friend Sharon, noticed the new shoes, of course, as well as another coworker. But for most of the day it was business as usual. Sort of.

Me, I have to get up countless times to go to the printer, which is located across half the office. So I cruised along, eyes peeping over the walls, feeling very very tall. (Cat calls it 'statuesque'). I started imagining a cheering Philistine army behind me, and a small shepherd boy before me, armed only with a sling and a few smooth stones.

Alternatively, I started feeling like I would turn the corner, and find a town of tiny buildings, and screaming villagers running away as I stomped and crushed my way downtown.

I got funny looks as I giggled my way back and forth from the printer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fred & Jacki


Tonight I want to tell you about two special people that I knew. Their names are Fred & Jacki. Fred very recently went home to be with the Lord, and his wife Jacki. His passing caused me to reflect on the impact they had on my life. Sometimes it seems that it is the quiet people, those who move silently through your life, that have the most influence on you. This couple are prime examples of this fact.


I enjoy talking with people before the church service starts, especially the older people. I've always said, older people have the best stories. Shortly after I joined my church, I met Jacki. She always sat in the foyer, usually in a beam of sunlight (shining through the courtyard window). I started to get to know her there, chatting about the inconsequentials of the day, and about deeper matters. Somehow I found myself telling her about my worries about my youngest child, my daughter, and her struggles with school. Jacki offered to pray for her. She said, "I can't do much, but I can pray." I assured her that praying was a lot. Thereafter, every Sunday, every time I saw her, she would ask about Cat, and how she was doing, both in school, and out. Every week, she said she'd continue to pray for her. And she did. For the final 5 years of school, she prayed every day for Cat. And Cat's grades improved. She began to enjoy school more. I know a lot of that was due to her own hard work, but I also know that it was Jacki's prayers. When Cat graduated, I thanked Jacki for praying my daughter through school. It was a great deal.


Never far from her side was Fred. He would either be talking quietly with others, or just contentedly standing nearby. I saw how he gently saw to Jacki, helping her to the pew, getting her situated. I often saw them holding hands.


One Christmas eve Eve (the night two days prior to Christmas), I was feeling very depressed. I don't even remember why. I headed to the Christmas eve Eve service, alone, and unhappy about it. All of my kids were busy that night, but I decided to attend alone.


I walked into the church, and stood in the narthex watching as entire families sat in pews together. There I stood, feeling so very alone. Then Fred came up to me, and told me to please come sit with him and Jacki. I had to struggle to keep the tears from my eyes. I did sit with them, and they made me feel included, like part of their family. I went home from that service doubly blessed, both by the joyous service itself, and from their kindness. A few days later, I received a homemade Christmas card from the, with their picture on the front.


I still have that card to this day.


These two wonderful people quietly, but significantly impacted my life. I will miss them with all my heart, but know that I will see them again. I know that when I arrive in heaven, they will be waiting there for me. And they'll have new stories to tell me.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Different Kind of Day


Today I did something I've never done before..attended a wedding shower. See, this shower was special, as it was for my new daughter... the woman my son Ben is marrying.


To get there, I had to do something I find a bit scary...drive somewhere I've never been. Anyone who knows me knows just how directionally challenged I am. Thankfully, my daughter was the one navigating, so we arrived with only one missed turn.


I've attended many wedding showers, but never one for a child of mine. It felt so different to be the MOM... Anyways, we arrived at this castle (well, it certainly looked like one), and went into the turret where the party was hosted (seriously). The place was absolutely beautiful! And that was before the decorations, flowers, prize baskets and food.


My mom & favorite sister also attended. (Even if I had more than one, Cathie would still be my favorite). The shower began with the playing of three games... the first one was questions about the bride & groom. After that were games all Disney related. After a bit of kibitzing and tapping our personal source of Disney trivia (thank you Cat!), we waited for the results. It's almost embarrassing that all four of us walked out with prize baskets! I picked the one with tea, needless to say.


It was great to meet more of Jessica's family, and friends... and to attend an event that heralds the next step into my son's future.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tea Time Chicken Salad

By popular demand, here is my mother's chicken salad recipe that was served at both the Spring Morning Tea, and at the Adoption Shower:

Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked diced chicken
1 cup chopped celery
1 tb grated onion
1 cup mayo (yes, mayo..the only time I use it)
2 tsp lemon juice
salt & pepper
1/2 cup (or more) seedless grapes, cut in half
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Precook the chicken simply. I just bake about 4 chicken breasts for an hour with just a bit of water in the covered pan. Cool completely.

Mix lemon juice & mayo. Stir in remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

This is great just on it's own, or as a filling for mini croissants lined with lettuce. Yum!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where did Summer go?

A week ago, I was watching television (don't remember if it was Glee or Warehouse 13, but that doesn't matter). As always, the commercials came on. Normally I just ignore them, by either crocheting or reading a book. This time, the subject got my attention.

There I sat, wearing a tank top & Capri's, the central air on, while listening to a Back to School commercial. !! Already? I was speechless (a rarity for me).

Later that week, Cat & I decided to splurge, and go out to dinner. Unable to pick a place, we just told the car to pick. Seriously. I said 'Bug, find us a place to go to dinner'. (Cars always have names, since I saw my first Herbie movie). Well, we found ourselves pulling into Cracker Barrel. We walked in, and the very first display I saw filled with costumes, bats, and pumpkins. Halloween decorations? I was afraid to go deeper into their store section, fearful that I'd find a countdown to Christmas!

This is getting ridiculous!

I'd love to hear from you all, about your out of season sightings!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Personal miracle

I've got a story to tell you, about how God looks after each of us. I got into my wee little car after work. Put my tote bag in the back seat, set my purse on the passenger seat, and proceeded to buckle in...all before I noticed it. My rearview mirror. Dangling. Attached only by the wire bringing power to the lights.

I sat there thinking, oh, great. I have to pick up Cat from an appointment in less than an hour. How can I handle this? So, I started to pray, and think. I decided to drive to a small auto parts store in town, called Bois Auto Parts. They aren't on the big roads, set in a small plaza, and dimly lit. But, I've always gotten good help there. I pulled into one of the 5 parking spaces, parking next to a Guardian Auto Glass van.

I walked in, passed another customer, and went to the counter. There I explained my problem, and asked both for the stuff to reattach my mirror to the glass, and help doing so. As I explained, 'I'm afraid of gluing my fingers to something'.

The service guy started to show me the adhesive aisle, when another worker came up and said, 'he's already handling it.' He? I walked outside, to find the Guardian Glass guy, sitting in my car, having just scraped off the old glue, and applying the new. He asked me to sit in the car, and make certain the mirror was where I wanted it. After doing so, I offered to pay him, but he refused.

To him it was no big deal, as he did this for a living and had the materials right on hand. But to me, it was a small miracle. And proof that God watches over us. If I'd gone to the new auto parts store on the main drag, or if I'd gotten there 5 minutes later, he wouldn't have been right there. This was God's timing......

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Simplicity

I was thinking at work earlier this week (I do some of my best thinking whilst my hands are occupied with morning work), about what makes me happy. See, I'm still in the midst of life change. My identity has slowly been changing. There was a time that my name was either 'Mom', or "hey, Ben&Robert's Mom" or "Cat's Mom"....I heard that so regularly that I'd have to check my work badge to figure out my real name...and then only had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Now my sons are out in the world on their own and doing quite well. Ben is working a great job, engaged to a wonderful woman. Robert is working full time for a local business, dating a sweet girl, and the only person I know who fixes his car with items bought from Home Depot. Cat is still living at home, but it is often more a resting place for her active lifestyle. She's usually off at college, doing odd jobs or out with friends.

That just leaves me, the felines & the plants. I knew I had to take steps before I became some crazy cat lady who propagates plants for amusement (ok, maybe 20 houseplants is a bit much). So I have been adding to my life. I'm off in a few to play with race cars (no kidding).

Back to my thinking at work...I decided to make a list (making lists really does make me happy) of things & activities that make me happy. By doing this I can work towards continuing to build a happy life for myself. Some of the items on my list are: reading, sewing, crocheting, Tai Chi (have had three classes now!), listening to older people tell stories, spending time with friends, talking on the phone with Connie, sitting by the river, quiet moments with my kids, watching Dr Who, Eureka & Warehouse 13, writing fiction, holding babies at church, Farmers Market, making a home, baking cookies, sailing, making doll quilts, singing along with a good song... and that's just what I've come up with since then.

I've realized that what makes me happy are simple things. Guess I'm easy to make happy.

And never discount the joy of a magical Saturday morning!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny

When did Barbie get so small? I know it has been years, and I do mean years, since my daughter last played with Barbies. I thought I had a clear memory of Barbie & all her friends. I was mistaken.

Perhaps it's because I've gotten used to the size of a ball-jointed dolls, that she seemed so small. I was asked to sew a couple of Barbie doll outfits for a friend, (a gift for her niece). I got the patterns, and cut the first dress out of a bright yellow fabric with random red squares on it. As I held the skirt piece up, I looked at how small it was, and how incredibly tiny the waist was. Could this really be right? Was the pattern somehow, shrunken? I began to sew it, but doubts assailed my mind. With the dress finished, I held it up. The entire dress (from a retro pattern) was only 5 or 6 inches tall. And the waist.... barely two fingers wide...maybe one.

Doubt heavy in my mind, I tried to think of who had daughters of the Barbie doll playing age. I called and asked a friend from church if her daughter would consider loaning me a standard size Barbie. After receiving the small blond doll at church, I took it home. The dress fit perfectly, and was quite cute too.

Later after making a pair of jeans, which took Cat (my daughter)'s nimble fingers to turn right side out, we both looked at their size with amazement.

We stood Barbie next to Chi (ball-jointed doll) and next to Mollie (an American Girl doll). The comparison was surprising. While was a bit shorter than Mollie (and half her width), they both towered above Barbie.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, as I spent years walking on both stray legos and Barbie's itsy bitsy teeny tiny high heel shoes, as I crossed the living room in the dark.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Morning Market 'Mazing Musings


This morning was incredible. It started simply, with me sleeping in until nearly 7:30 (for me that's late!), then heading off to the Farmer's Market. My usual shopping buddy had another obligation, so I went alone. So, I arrived there about 20 minutes after they opened. As I walked down the aisle in the outdoor wooden structure, I was amazed by the colors and scent. There was so much available, and at most of it was locally grown & seasonal. OK, really, this is not a running ad for the Farmer's Market.... really. I just really enjoy going there.


One of my earliest memories of doing something with just my dad & I is us going to the farmer's market in Royal Oak. At that time I could have cared less than about the veggies. What I really liked were the mini powdered sugar donuts and orange juice.


At this Farmer's Market, there is a restaurant on the second floor. Normally it's so crowded, I just grab a cinnamon roll for breakfast, but today it was surprisingly available. I grabbed a table, and perused the menu...looking at both the breakfast & lunch menus. I was surprised by the variety available to a vegetarian. Most restaurants seem to be meat-fests (nothing wrong with that, just not good for me). But the choices here... veggie chili, a variety of wraps, 'burgers', and omelets. And tofu had a section to itself. OK, I'm not a big fan of tofu (still seems like meat jello), but I'm warming up to it slowly. Today though, I settled for scrambled eggs, wheat toast and really fresh home fries. I sat sipping my tea (what else?) and watching the morning through the windows.... peaceful.


Anyways, today, today was amazing. I saw things I had to ask what were! I bought yellow zucchini, and baby onions so recently pulled from the ground they still have the roots attached. I also got fresh peas, still in the pods. I even got fresh corn...a locally grown, early maturing variety.


Oh, and I found the apron lady again...she's a really sweet old lady, with wispy hair, and gentle eyes. Her stall is never in the same place so she's always hard to find, but worth it. Her name is Veronica, and she actually had knitting needles nearby. Why was I looking for Veronica? She makes beautiful aprons (and dishcloths, purses, placements, etc). I bought that tulip apron from her before, and today bought a bib apron (it's the one under the veggies.) I had a pleasant time chatting with her.


Then, after filling my basket twice (what else would you shop at a market with than a medium market basket?), I decided to drive through downtown on my way home. Normally, this is a depressing drive, but not this time. Juxtaposed against the abandoned boarded up homes, and the occupied, but with barred windows, were clearly labeled community gardens! Right in the heart of downtown, I saw two separate, well-tended community gardens. What a sign of hope in a bleak landscape. I know it sounds corny (I can see my sons both rolling their eyes), but it filled my heart with hope.


I made blueberry pancakes (with fresh blueberries) for my daughter & her friend for brunch. Tonight I'm cooking up a whole mess of fresh veggies for dinner. The joy of this morning will last far far longer than the fruit & veggies will...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Moving very slowly

A year or so ago, I took inspiration from my son Robert, and wrote out my 'Bucket List'. Yesterday, I began working on fulfilling one item from that list. #9 Take Tai Chi. Ever since I was a little kid, and first saw it on TV, it fascinated me. Then I lived in California for a couple of years. On a rare vacation, I ended up traveling beside a beach on the coast. There, in the breaking light of morning, I saw a group of older people, all quietly moving in unison, performing Tai Chi. It was hauntingly beautiful, and my resolve to learn it was solidified.

I've searched for a class, and tried books and videos. The books were confusing, and the videos, well, I tended to procrastinate so long I had to return them. As for a class, I have not found one. Until now.

The hospital I work for has a program called McHealthy (yeah, I've heard the jokes). Through it I can use the various gyms owned by the hospital (we are Borg, we own everybody). I can also take a variety of classes, including yoga, zumba, and now Tai Chi. As soon as I saw the class announcement, I called and registered. Turns out I was the first on the roster.

A bit nervous, I headed for my first class yesterday. First, I got lost, as I was on the wrong floor! Finally, I found the class, and waited for others to show up. A half hour later, the class began...and of the half sheet of people who showed up, I was the only one who showed up. (It was the day after a major holiday, might have contributed). Still, the instructor still, well, instructed. She explained the history & benefits of Tai Chi, and then showed me the complete movements. Then we began to break it down. I learned several movements, and that I need to move sssllllloowwweerrrr..... The lesson was enjoyable, and I looked forward until next week.

I couldn't stop smiling...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fear of Fun

As I thought about the past month, the month I took a hiatus from Farmville (ok, if you are gasping and feeling week from the thought, just breathe deeply, and clutch your keyboard 'til the sensasation passes), I tried to calculate just how much writing I actually got done. See, the reason for my hiatus (deep breaths) was to finish the book I began during NaNoWriMo. Did I? No. But I am closer...

I am a champion, gold medalist procrastinator. For some odd reason, I put off things I enjoy if they take any effort to begin. Now reading is simple... you sit down, open the book (I have books in at least 4 handy places) and begin. Ahh... But for writing, you have to turn on the puter, open the word doc, find where you left off, and then begin. Same with sewing. You have to move the clutter from the craft table, find the supplies, get them ready...you get the idea.

So no, I didn't get much done on the book. However, I did craft an article, the longest I've written, and submitted it to the Guideposts Annual Writing Contest. And I did write a chapter or two for the book. So, I am encouraged. And even today... as the last batch of cookies cooled (choc chip & snickerdoodles), I made myself sit down, and begin this...

So I think with some serious discipline, and self permission to put forth the effort to have fun (and a lack of new books to read), I'll work harder this month. And still find time Afterwards, to do a wee bit of farming. (feel better now?)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sweating with the 'Oldies'

About three weeks ago, I walked into a gyms. My workplace is offering this incredible program, called 'McHealthy'. By signing up for it (it's free!!), I have access to the various gyms owned by the hospital I work for, including the cardiac rehab & physical therapy gyms. I chose the small one in the city I live in.

So, with much trepidation, I walked into the gym, a tote bag at my side. After changing into sweat pants and a tank top, I tentatively looked around, trying to get a sense of the place. What I saw were over a dozen odd looking machines, ones I could not discern how to use, or what their purpose could possibly be. It felt like walking into a sweaty modern art display!

Finally, I discovered a smaller room, with a few treadmills, stationary bikes, one elliptical machine and some sit down stepper things. Okay, this I could understand. I stepped onto the treadmill, and found myself faced with a display console that looked like it belonged on the Enterprise. Where's the on button? What's this? Cardio program? It wants my weight? Why?

"Just push the start button, honey." I look over at the treadmill next to me, and saw Shirley, a sweet, petite, older lady, dressed in Capri's and a pretty top. She was walking on the treadmill, a book propped open on the console. So that's what those nubby things sticking up on the bottom of the console are for. A book holder!

So I follow her advice, and hit the start button. On the display it says '3...2...1..' and I'm off. The treadmill starts moving at a gentle pace. I look over at Shirley. She has hers up to 3.2. She explains to me how to up the speed on mine. So I do, to 3.2. Not a good idea.

While for Shirley, who has got to be 25 or more years older than me, that's a gentle stroll, easy to talk to a befuddled newcomer, or to read her novel, while swinging her arms as she walks... but for me, I'm clinging to the handles, desperately trying to reach the buttons! I finally find the pace that's right for me, today. A number much lower than the octogenarian beside me. I walk for 15 minutes (I know this, cause the display tells me so). And I'm done... I have to turn the machine off, and head off to try the stepper thingy. While Connie, another let's say, older person, explains that machine to me, I watch in astonishment, as Shirley keeps on going, not even breaking a sweat!

I have since returned, and now my speed and time on that treadmill are longer and faster...but I still have a long way to go before I can match Shirley!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Procrastination

I sit here with absolutely no idea of what to write on my blog today....and since according to my lists (you know how I feel about those) I should have done this yesterday, I decided to just sit down, BICHOK (butt in chair hands on keyboard), and just see what comes out of the ends of my fingers. This will defiantly be 'random musings'.

This has been a very busy, but highly interesting weekend. I baked three batches of cookies, attended 2 open houses, ran countless errands, scrapbooked, discovered a vegetarian pizza combination that I really like (red pepper and pineapple), and read no less than 2 1/2 books, not counting my usual perusal of the two vegetarian cookbooks I got from the library. Whew.

Attending an open house as a new VIT (vegetarian in training) was again an interesting experience. Bypassing all the meat, I filled my plate with fruit, pasta salads (the ramen noodle, almond one today was yummy), rolls, baby carrots and Eloise's famous green beans. Next challenge, coming up with a good recipe for vegetarian baked beans that can be cooked in a slow cooker to bring to my sister's annual BBQ.

The other challenge is to find motivation while I am at home. Somehow the energy I have whilst out and about seems to seep out of me shortly after I walk in the door. Hmm...at work, my mp3 player keeps me moving along... in the car, it's the radio (105.5 or 90.1). Mayhaps I need to turn the radio on at home?

Ah, well. The weekend is drawing to a close, and I have the usual Sunday afternoon chores to do (trash, prep dinner & tomorrow's lunch, lay out clothes, so on)...so I'll bring this random collection of thoughts to a close. Come see me here on Tuesday for a perhaps more inspired musing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Magic of a "Do Over"

I remember when I was a kid running around with neighborhood friends in Berkley, Michigan. We played several different games, ranging from a ball game involving a kickball and the side of a garage, to a massive game of make-believe where we were all Super Friend heroes or villains. I always was Catwoman (Julie Newmar was the best!)...though there was this one day when I questioned that wisdom as 'the Penguin' and I prepared to run--and were chased by all of the Super Friends!

There was this magical phrase that I remember. The Do Over. When the ball would hit a gutter or I would trip on my untied shoelace... I could stand up and holler 'do over!' and everything would reset to just before my goof. Ah...the magic of childhood days...

I was thinking of the 'do over' this morning at work. I was fairly miserable thinking about my previous day. Oh, work had gone well enough. I'd gotten home, did the usual after work routine of dishes and laundry, even picked up the house a bit. Then I did the unthinkable. I sat down in my favorite chair, and put my feet on the ottoman, and then picked up the new book I'd just gotten from the library. The Aloha Quilter (part of the Elm Creek quilters series). A comfy chair + purring cat in my lap + new unread book in a series I enjoy=total loss of time.

I sat there for the rest of the evening, lost in the tale, oblivious to the passing of time, until I got a call from one of my 'daughters' (I call my sons' significant others my daughters), asking for directions to the church picnic. I had missed the parade. I had missed the chance to sit with my friends from FMC and watch the parade. I had missed out on seeing my son and 'daughter' walking with their Karate school. I missed out on all the fun I had looked forward to all day. By the time I climbed out of that book, it was far too late to even head to the picnic. Worse, I had told my friends, my son, and my 'daughter' that I would be there....and I wasn't.

I realized that my morning was going badly today, because of my sincere regrets of the day before.... and since the age of 'do overs' was long gone, all I could do was to try to live my day better than I had yesterday.

And I wrote this....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

V.I.T.

I walk into the crowded room, and step up to the podium. "Hurmmm," I nervously clear my throat. "Is this thing on?" The microphone squeals, causing the front row to cringe. Tugging the edge of my favorite tan suit jacket in a 'Picard maneuver', I take a deep breath, and decide to finally speak. "I am a V. I. T." Gasps ricochet throughout the audience. Finally, my secret is out. As hands raise, I prepare to weather the fallout, and answer questions.

Ok, that's a rather dramatic scenario, but having told family and a few friends, it feels like time to announce it to the world. I am a V. I. T.--a vegetarian in training.

This was not a conscious choice, but one that came gradually, with nary a thought. I had already been eating healthier, switching to brown rice, whole wheat everything, and only poultry. Then I started filling my plate with at least half vegetables & fruit. Next, I switched to cooking beans from scratch instead of canned. I love black beans... Gradually, the amount of veggies on my plate grew, until there was very little meat on it, almost just a condiment. Then one day I realized that I really didn't like the taste & texture of meat any longer.

I quietly did what I do best, started researching the subject. I requested countless books from the library, and started hitting vegetarian websites. After all, this started because I wanted to eat healthier....

So, I have been learning, and experimenting with new recipes, mostly with success. We had veggie fried rice for dinner tonight--brown rice with sauteed carrot, onion, colorful peppers, zucchini, corn & peas. There were more veggies than rice! Tomorrow we are having grilled burritos--filled with black beans, corn, onion, and tomato, and shredded cheese.

I write this both to declare this change in my life, and in hopes of encouragement. I'm not out to change any one's life, just my own. A good friend of mine said that you have to 'listen' to your body. Apparently, mine wants more veggies. Onward to new adventures!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Strangest Thing I Ever Saw in a Dish Drainer


I raised three kids, surviving the imaginative teenage years, with only a few odd moments. Having kids means I have washed and air dried all fashion of things. I've washed stuffed animals, barbie dolls, Lego's (how else do you get jelly off them?), basketballs, Frisbees, and jewelery. One time when we were having ice cream sundaes for dinner, my son used his mace (think medieval weapon) to open the whipped cream can. So of course, that had to be washed. (a mace, sitting in a dish drainer, next to my Blue Willow china!) I thought I'd seen most every manner of strange item in my dish drainer.

I was wrong.

My daughter, Cat, is fascinated with all things Japanese, and thus owns a ball jointed doll. This is a doll made of resin, with individual body parts (arms, torso, head, etc) strung together with an internal string system. Well, this weekend, Cat decided to totally dismantle the doll, and clean it thoroughly.

This definitely qualifies as the strangest thing I have ever seen in a dish drainer!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Happy Sock Day!

Several years ago, three to be exact, my daughter heard me griping that there was nothing to look forward to. Cat, being the inventive sort, thought a while, the came up with a brilliant idea. "Let's make up our own holiday." So, we did. On the third Saturday of May, we celebrate Sock Day. It's a holiday that is to be interpreted and celebrated as you wish, just has to have some vague reference to socks. Why? Why not?

The first year, we gathered with another like minded friend of hers, and went to Kohl's, and bought....socks. Interesting, funny socks. Then we went to see the movie, Shrek....um...cause someone in that movie wears socks. Yeah. Last year, we celebrated again by seeing a movie, then by having sockies for dinner. What are sockies? Think a traditional pastie (that's pastie, not pastry), but jut out one end, so it looks like a sock. :)

This year, we had to delay our celebration for a morning, so that a very kind man could come and repair our dryer (though we air/rack dry our socks, still need a dryer). I gave Cat a very unique pair of socks...the kind you put in water, and it hydrates, and poof! it turns into regular sized socks. Then we went to the Farmer's Market.... not sure what it had to do with socks. Still, it was fun. We are making sockies tomorrow, so we are continuing the celebration for a weekend.

The whole point of this is to have something to look forward to, and simply to relax and have fun. And think of new ways to celebrate Sock Day every year.... Hmm..wonder how long before Hallmark starts selling Sock Day cards!

Happy Sock Day!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I love listening to the Retro Lunch on 105.5 every weekday. There's an old song I've heard, and yes, remember when it was new... and the main line is "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes". That's been on my mind a lot lately, changes, no the song. (though songs do get stuck in my head often. Doesn't everyone have music playing in the back of their minds?)

Anyways, (as Connie always says)... Change has been on my mind a lot lately. Life keeps changing, as it should. One minute I'm a parent of elementary school children, and my world is filled with crayons and Lego's. With one blink, and it's Final Fantasy and Lincoln Park. I try not to blink, but it happens, and then my sons are off foraging their way in the wilderness of the world, and my daughter is preparing for the same.

So, change keeps coming, no matter how tightly we hold on to it. So, I have been preparing, in many ways. Recently I have begun a major decluttering of my home & shed... I have two decades worth of paraphernalia to sort through, and decide what to keep and what to find new homes for. The very air is rife with memories and emotion, but I have to continue to forage on. I have to prepare for the new adventures in my life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gentle Evening


This post is not going to be amazing, probably not even amuzing..but it is what it is. It's just a 'random musing'... It's been a gentle evening, something I've needed for a while. I made a simple dinner: turkey burgers with Swiss, french fries, corn and salad. Cat's friend, Jessica, came to have dinner with us, and as I write this, are playing some Japanese sounding game. Because Jessica is here, I baked cookies...yes, of course, mangled bunny cookies, especially good whilst warm. (If you want the recipe, or to know what they are, look at last Tuesday's posting). Cookies are done and cooling, laundry & dishes done...There is a quiet, cool breeze blowing through the window, the one where Sabby is sitting, staring longingly at the birds... and I have no other mandatory tasks ahead of me tonight.... I can relax, sew, or better yet, do some writing. Think it's time to tackle my book again.

Tune in Saturday, for another random musing....

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Farmer's Market


I have had such a hectic week. Put in a full day at the office, then run what felt like a bazillon errands afterwards. It was tiring, but worth it. Why? Because if freed up my Saturday for me to enjoy. And what did I choose to do with my beautiful, though somewhat soggy, magical Saturday morning?

With my favorite basket in hand, appropriately called a medium market basket, I drove through the misty morning rain, and went early to the Flint Farmer's market. I had three things I wanted to come home with: fresh lettuce, dried beans and a loaf of whole grain bread.

One thing you should know about me...being an avid reader, I stumbled upon two books, that changed the way I buy good. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Plenty-the 100 mile diet. Both talk about the fact that most of the food we eat comes from across the entire country, or worse, even further. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose vitamins, and obviously, freshness the moment they are picked. Just how fresh do you think a tomato from southern Mexico is then? So I have begun reading labels, and at the Farmer's Market asking where things were grown.

Even at a farmer's market, it is smart to ask... unless you truly believe Chicita bananas, watermelon and even pineapples are grown locally! Yes, truly did see these items in a vendor's stand. I said, sorry, I prefer locally grown. The gentleman told me in a snippy voice that I would not find anything fresh there today. I turned around, walked away, and over to a stand selling fresh locally grown spring lettuces, radishes and turnip greens...from an educational farm, in Beecher, grown by kids. This is where I purchased, inexpensively, a big bag of lettuces.

I found an array of dried beans that were packaged in Perry. The seller was honest, and admitted that some of the beans were not grown locally, because many could not be grown in Michigan. I picked up white northern beans and cranberry beans (!!) there. At a stand nearby, I got the whole grain bread (and a cinnamon roll).

I think the highlight of my morning experience was talking to a sweet older lady, at one of the outside stalls, who was selling a variety of crafts & old books...She was the picture of everyone's gramma. From her I splurged, and bought an tulip print apron, for myself!

Freshness and locally grown are the main reasons I frequent the Farmer's Market in Flint. You just have to ask..and not believe that there are pineapple trees in Michigan!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mangled Bunny Cookies

Everyone has their traditions. One of mine was born out of frugality. Years ago I was reading the Tightwad Gazette, a newsletter for those who like to, or have to live frugally. There I found a tip...and have followed it every year since.

After Easter is over, I go to a store, and buy a few Easter bunnies...the hollow ones (which are suddenly on sale). Why? Well, think about it. What are they made of? Chocolate. And if you put them in a sturdy baggie, and wap them with a rolling pin a few times, you know what you get? Chocolate chunks! I use these to make chocolate chunk cookies. At first, I would pry off the candy eyes and carrots, but one time I didn't. My children were surprised but pleased when one of them found a cookie that stared back at him!

I just finished making a batch of them tonight, for my daughter's college art class, at her request. And resting at the top of the batch is a cookie that stares back....

Mangled Bunny Cookies:

1 c granulated sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 c butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
12-16 oz chopped or 'wapped' chocolate bunny chunks (about 4 small or 1 big one)

Cream butter & sugars til light. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Sprinkle on 1 cup flour, then dump the baking soda and salt on top. Mix well. Stir in remaning 2 cups flour, til well blended. Fold in bunny chunks.

Preheat oven to 375. Put parchment paper on two cookie sheets. If you have a small spring loaded scoop, use it, or 2 spoons. Place 12 cookies on each cookie sheet. Bake one pan at a time in middle of the oven for 8 1/2 minutes. Switch pans, and let hot cookies cool a few minutes before transfering cookies to a cooling rack (or paper towels). Wait til sheet is luke warm before putting more dough on it. Repeat til all cookies are done. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Not Alone

Tonight as I sat amongst the 18 members of my Small Group (weekly Bible study), I felt such a warmth, a feeling of well-being. Being me, I had to analyze it. Was it the physical warmth of sitting on a comfy sofa in a carpeted basement, surrounded by so many others? No, that wasn't it. Was it the warm scent of coffee brewing on the snack table? No..though it was a good scent? Yes, I don't drink coffee, but I love the smell.) No, not that.

Then I figured it out...it was the warm feeling of being in a group of believers, studying the Word. Being engaged in a discussion of faith and an in depth study of the Bible, this began the warmth. But that warm feeling of well being was mostly caused by being in a group of True Friends, people who I know accept & support me--as I am right now. They believe in me and care deeply for me--as I do for them. I am not alone.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Zombie mornings

Tea saved my life again this morning. Ok, that may be exaggerating, but it did bring me alive. I have been sleeping badly recently, so when I walked in this morning, I was on auto pilot. I prepare for this state. On Sunday night, I lay out my clothes for the upcoming work week. I have one of those 'princess pink & purple' weekly organizer things hanging in my closet (instead of saying Monday, Tuesday...I have the designations turned to the French side. Figure this way I will eventually learn at least 5 words in French!) Anyways, every night before I stagger off to bed, I check my clothes for tomorrow, lay out jewelry, and pack my lunch. This way, when I have to zombie my way through the morning, I won't forget anything essential, like say my purse (it's happened!). I really hope and pray that no one plays a practical joke on me, and some evening slip into my room, and switch my clothes for clown pants and a t-shirt that says 'Eat at Joe's'! Some mornings I am so zombie-like, I'd end up walking into work wearing that outfit! Needless to say, it would raise some eyebrows...

Back to this morning, I was having just such a morning. I even woke up and was certain that it was 8am, and I was late to work. Then I realized that what I'd taken for the morning light was in fact the kitchen's overhead lights...that somebody left on.....Turning them off, I went back to sleep, seeing as it was actually 1am. After waking up a few more times, I finally got up with my alarm (ok...I confess..after hitting the snooze twice).

I zombied my way throughout the morning..barely waking up in time to walk into the work building. Grabbing my tea mug, and a Dublin Morning tea bag (cause the mug looked lonely)...and I staggered into Nora's office (whom Cat calls Nora-not-Roberts!), with no idea why I was there. She knew.. she handed me two French Vanilla creamers. Ok...I stood there stupidly... holding an empty mug...empty except for that tea bag...hmm.....and creamer... oh, right. So off I zombied towards the magical spout of hot water...

A short while later found me at my desk, tapping away... while watching steam curl up from my mug...emitting an enticing scent. Finally I could wait no longer. Ahhh.... that first sip, and all is right in my world again. Wait a moment... I looked down...Good. No clown pants....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Talismans

As I sat at work, frustrated by a bad turn of events, a difficult tangle that I to unravel...I happened to glance down at my keyboard, just to the right. What I saw there caused me to smile, and light shown at the edges of my gray mood.

Sitting in my keyboard tray are three small items: a loonie, a plastic coin and a rock. These are my talismans. A talisman is an object thought to be a charm, according to Webster. The first is a Canadian dollar, also called a loonie (there is a loon on one side, hence the name). I received the first on the weekend of my 40th birthday. My parents took me on a weekend trip to Sarnia, Canada, a place they enjoy visiting often. I went to a British Tea House that was incredible. We walked in the park beside the bridge to America. I watched large ships in the harbor by the hotel we stayed in. But most of all, I had two entire days with just my parents, a first in years. That trip was a supreme highlight in my life; a gentle reminder that I have wonderful parents that love me. The loonie I keep as a constant reminder of that trip.

The second talisman is an inexpensive, green plastic coin stamped with a four leaf clover. I received this from a friend on St Patrick's Day. It's a simple reminder of friendship; valuable in my eyes.

The final talisman is a white rock that I found just outside of my office building. I picked it up on a rough day, one where everything seemed dark, lacking any light. As I stood there, under the cloud darkened sky, I examined the rock I had picked up at random. Running across the center was a crack. I squeezed the rock, but it held firm. Then the random thought strayed across my mind...'if this cracked rock can hold together, then maybe I, cracked & broken though I may feel, perhaps I too can be strong.'

These three seemingly ordinary objects do act as talismans for me..they remind me that my parents love me, remind me of uncomplicated friendship, and remind me to hold firm, to stay strong... and moreover, these objects, my talismans, charm a smile onto me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ahhhh.......

Bruce Wayne has his fire pole, Clark Kent has his phone booth, Don Blake his cane/hammer... and I have a mug of freshly brewed, strong enough to dance upon, yet supremely tasteful, mug of hot tea, with a hint of creamer. This magical brew transforms me form a walking zombie with sunken eyes and a listless drool, into a fully functional human being. After a second mug--I'm ready to change the world-or at least my small pocket of it.

There's just something about tea, when it gets to that perfect temperature-just cool enough to drink deeply, yet hot enough to do so cautiously-that helps me transcend the trivial circumstances of my day. One sip and my off-kilter day rightens, and that 'waiting for the next shoe to drop' feeling subsides.

However trivial my rhapsodies over the powers of a simple mug of tea may seem, for me it does hold true. I walked into work yesterday morning, rather, stumbled in the general direction of the building, feeling supremely grateful to the kind guard who opened all the doors for me. I felt completely wasted, not from a night of excess, but from staying up far past my normal bedtime on Thursday. The art department at my daughter's college sponsored a trip to the art museums in Chicago. They were supposed to arrive back at the campus at 11:30. It was closer to 12:30 when they returned. I didn't get to bed til after 1, then up again by 6ish. Hence, my stumbling gait...

At the office, I am a lone island in a sea of coffee drinkers. These people are serious coffee drinkers. Occasionally, one of them will drift to my side, and come see me, the Tea Lady, to try a peppermint tea, or my favorite Dublin Morning Tea, found only at my favorite store, Irish Alley. Even the big boss stops by occasionally, and for him I keep ordinary decaf Lipton tea. I have one convert, Paigely, who loves the morning teas. I'll never give up...

Tea is a full sensory experience. You hold the tea cup in your hands, feeling the gentle heat emanate through the smooth china. Then you raise it up, and as the steam emerges, you scent the tantalizing fragrance. Then you take a testing sip. Is it at a suitable temperature? As that amber liquid crosses you taste buds, the flavor explodes. The caffeine gently nudges you awake, the taste perks you up, and the experience rightens your world.

Yesterday morning, a mug of Dublin Morning Tea with cream brought me back into the world of the living. A second mug, this time Earl Grey, gave me functionality. I won't go so far as to say it saved me, but it certainly improved my sense of well-being and therefore, my day. I think it's time to brew that first pot of tea now. (at work it's mugs, here at home it's always a proper pot and a beautiful tea cup.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Search

PLEASE NOTE: if you are friends with my daughter, do NOT tell her about this blog...until next Monday...it contains information about a bday gift she will be getting.

Apparently, the ability to hand or machine sew is a lost art. Yesterday, I spent more than two hours perusing three different stores, in the search of a sewing basket. For you non-sewers out there, a sewing basket is a square or rectangular, cloth or basket weave covered container with a hinged lid. It is used to contain & organize sewing supplies, such as scissors, sewing needles, thread, seam ripper, measuring tape and so on.

As Cat has started sewing (mostly via machine) for her ball-jointed doll, as well as for herself, she needed a sewing basket (and guess who's she kept borrowing?). Having two and half hours to occupy myself between work and an appointment, I figured that finding this item would be easy. I started at Hobby Lobby, having heard great things about the store. Well, it took me almost 20 minutes just to find the sewing section in that vast store. They should have maps! Once there, I found a total of two baskets...and neither were right for my eccentric daughter.

Next I went to Michaels. I've shopped there many times before, but never for sewing notions. I found the sewing section...one single wall, that had three items that I think were meant to be sewing baskets...but looked like jewelry cases, and one was missing the handle!

Having only a final hour left, I went to Walmart..figuring that I'd search in vain. After chatting with a friend who was waiting for her ride, I wandered in. Heading down the aisle, I actually found a decent sewing area. And to my suprise, I found three sewing baskets, in good condition, and actually cheaper than the other places. I walked out with a really nice gift for my daughter.

Now as long as none of my small handful of readers directs Cat's attention this way....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What a Day

It's been a bit of a weird day. My day started with me starring as a pin cushion. Seriously... I went to have the usual blood work done, and it took two people and two tries to get it done. Ouch! It was a real attractive look, walking out of the lab department, sporting two clumps of gauze and the ubiquitous hospital tape!

I finally got to go have breakfast, in the hospital cafeteria. See, I had this $5 McLaren 'bucks'.. and it seemed a fortuituous moment to spend it. However, not having had my all-too-necessary morning tea, I actually had to take the cafeteria ladies' suggestions on what to get...for my $5.

Off to the office, with a decent breakfast & grape juice in me, and the fun continued. The phone seemed to ring every time I was away from my desk. Spent much of the day returning voice mails. At least I had easy access to hot water & tea bags... (I am the Tea Lady at work...people come to my desk..including the Big Boss...for various kinds of tea).

Once at home, things seemed to get better. I made chicken pot pie that turned out wonderful. Yum! (simple recipe too..happy to share it with any friend who asks). Then I made cream scones. They came out perfectly.

Then I finally sat down to write my blog...only to find my inspiration had gone to bed without me. Well, Jack London says "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Since I didn't have a club handy, I decided to simple ramble on and tell you all about my day. :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adventures in Cooking

I've been reading some of Nora Robert's Irish novels this past week. This naturally caused me to start researching Irish pub recipes, simply to find out what the character, Shawn, had been cooking. What's a poundie? A Boxty? In searching, I found some truly excellant looking recipes.

This morning, having a late start, I decided to try a new buttermilk pancake recipe. Why such an ordinary choice? A week or so ago, I drove by a billboard depicting car sized pancakes, dripping with melted butter and pure maple syrup. I've been craving them ever since. So, I pulled out a new recipe, and tried it...imagining light, fluffy pancakes with rising steam.

In my imagination they were light & fluffy. In reality, the dough plopped stiffly onto the pan. I had to force them to spread out. Then they did rise...tall. Tall and heavy. It took two hands to transfer the single pancake onto my plate. Well, I had to at least try this, er, drop scone perhaps? It tasted exactly as it looked. Heavy, thick, dense bit of pastry that will probably still be inside of me at the turn of the next century!

In my family, we have a way of rating new recipes. There's the 'Wow! Can we have this again tomorrow?', that's the best. Then there's the 'It's good, but needs a bit of tweaking'. The third is 'It's okay, but let's not have this again'. The worst of all, is an unspoken glance, followed by scrapping said food off the plate and reaching for the emergency peanut butter & bread.

I think you can guess which one this was. Yeah... and I'm still craving buttermilk pancakes!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring!

Wow. I woke up to sunshine streaming through my window. I sat up thinking, oh, good..it's another magical Saturday morning! Got ready for the day, grabbed my jacket, and prepared to wander out into a lovely warm spring day. Right. Sure. One foot out the door, and I immediately stepped backwards. Brr...

After switching to my winter coat, I trudged out to 'floof' the snow off my car. "It's not snowing." says my daughter Cat. Ok, so I floofed off the thick opaque rain. Rolling the window up firmly, I drove off to the Scoutathon that I was helping with.

Instead of the signs of spring that I expected...crocuses blooming, birds singing, and Harleys roaring by... I saw snow covered, er, thick rain covered cars, people huddled in burly coats, and the only music I heard came from my car radio.

Sigh... will spring really ever come?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

That first wondrous sip

There I sat at work this morning, waiting not so patiently. That soothing yet invigorating scent wafting towards me. I try to clear the fog from my head, as I sit in front of my computer, trying to focus on my morning tasks. My mind is still slumbering peacefully away...
Have I waited long enough? Chopsticks in hand, I open the lid from my mug, and fish out the bag. Liberally adding French Vanilla cream, I then replace the lid. Still should wait a bit longer. It's not yet ready; not yet safe.
So, sitting the mug back down, I attempt to concentrate, to work. Glancing over at the mug, I wonder again. Perhaps it is ready now? I take a cautious testing sip. Ouch! Bad move. Sitting back, I try to ignore my scalded tongue.
I wait a few more moments, as the wondrous scent surrounds me. Then I can't stand it. I can't wait a moment longer. I grab up the mug, open the lid, and take that first sip. Ahhh......
With that first proper sip, all is right in my world. It's the elixir that moves my mornings. Tea.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The days blur together

The last two weeks seem to blur together. Oh, I had three amazing days last week-Wednesday through Friday, but they are a dim memory right now. I find myself wondering what day of the week it is. Then I remember...I just watched NCIS, therefore it must be Tuesday (unless it was a rerun, then I'd be clueless).

There is a relative sameness to the days. I'm not sure why. It feels like I'm washing the same dishes again and again. Didn't I just wash those jeans a day ago? At work it's much the same...dealing with issues, untangling problems, explaining the same thing over again.

I think the trouble lies within myself. I'm tired. Perhaps it's in part because of the time change. Or perhaps it's because I just can't seem to really relax these last two weeks. Whatever the reason, I'm certain it will pass.

By Saturday's post, I'm sure to be my usual upbeat self. Meet me here on another Magical Saturday morning to find out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friendship

I have a friend whom I have known since we were both just 14. We met in the cafeteria at lunchtime, started talking amidst the noise and confusion of several hundred teenagers. After exchanging phone numbers, we headed off to class. That simple beginning spawned the greatest friendship of my life. We have spent countless hours on the phone (awkward back when phones had curly cords that my mother didn't want stretched out). We roamed the length and breadth of Sterling Heights on our bikes.

Then graduation came, and we headed in separate directions, me off to Ann Arbor. We didn't talk as much, but the friendship remained. Years passed, we each got married, had kids... (and I'm aunt to hers and her to mine). More years passed.

She was there for me when my marriage crumbled, and I began a new life on my own. And the friendship continued.

She has always been there for me, to listen as I vent, to be calm when I'm freaking out, and to say the hard truths when they need to be said. I tell her everything....and believe she does the same to me.

Now, though we live an hour apart, we still talk nearly daily. Now it's on cordless phones, instant messaging, emails and cell phones.... but it's the same friendship.

I'm made other friends since then...Sharon, Faye, Rhoda, Marie, Paigely, Andrea, and many others... but she is still very important to me... one of the strongest people I know, a mother, a wife, a Christian, a college student and more. She is everything...she is my friend. Connie.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Unexpected...

Yesterday, an unexpected feeling of hope, anticipation and even expectation came over me. Random feelings of hope are not something I usually experience. Oh, I'm hopeful--any true science fantasy addict is imbued with hope. But this was an unwarranted and unexpected feeling of hope.

It bubbled up inside of me--waiting for the source, the right moment to spring forth. Hoping not to jinx this rare feeling, I kept my outward expression neutral, and continued working diligently at my computer for the rest of the work day.

And then it Happened....

Everything went wrong. I got home only to find that my kitchen sink was clogged, my daughter was having a meltdown, one of my wrist braces was missing, and we were out of soy sauce. With a heavy sigh, I did what I always do. Tackle each problem by doing something. I badgered her into changing out of pajama pants and we headed out. I took her to Michael's Hobby store. Surrounding her with art supplies always cheers her up, and she needed paint for her class anyways. She was in her mecca. She unmelted...became almost cheerful. Then we picked up draino and soy sauce and headed back home.

Tried the draino. Worked only marginally. Called the plumber guy, left a message. Great..another expensive repair. Started dinner, at 7:30 at night. *shudder* While cooking, I tore the kitchen and my car apart, looking for the missing wrist brace. Nothing. After dinner, I chatted on the phone with my friend, Connie. She suggested holding a rag in the one side of the double sink, while plunging in the other. So, I tried it. Got Cat to hold a washcloth, while I did the frantic plunging thing. It Worked. !!

So, daughter unmelted. Soy sauce purchased. Sink unplugged. The missing brace? Still gone. Until this morning, when I grabbed my bag of crochet, that I'd taken to work yesterday. And there it was...under the partially crocheted blanket...

So, not only is my friend Connie freaking amazing at home repair advice, but I also had an unexpected amazing day....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Adventures in Baking

Yesterday, I decided to do something I hadn't done in a long while, but had been thinking about doing recently--I baked a layer cake. Oh, not just a boring, regular 2 layer cake. Oh, no. I baked no less than three layers! Problem was, I decided to do this at the last minute. Never a good idea.

The cake layers came out beautifully, and I set them on a rack to cool. Then I immediately started mixing up homemade chocolate frosting. The frosting was too thin, not sure why. I added more powdered sugar, and glanced at the clock. My dinner guests would arrive shortly, and I still had to finish this, and get pizza (homemade, of course) in the oven. So I hurried. Bad idea.

With a bowl of grainy, thin frosting in hand, I started frosting the warm cake. My daughter, Cat, wandered into the kitchen, stuck a finger into the frosting, and said, "Aren't you supposed to let that cool before you frost it?" "It's cool enough", I told her. I placed one warm layer on the cake platform, and started to gently dump frosting on it. This went smoothly. I glanced at the clock, grabbed the next layer, and placed it on top of the glistening frosting. Wait. Frosting isn't supposed to glisten. The second layer slid ever so slightly to the left. Oh, no. I smooshed it back on top, and glancing at the clock again, dumped frosting on top.

Again, the frosting seemed to slid right onto the warm layer. I snatched up the final layer, edged the listing second layer back on top, and placed the third and final layer on top. As I tried to gently frost this last, top-most layer, I had to continually push the layers back on right. They kept sliding off to the side. I hollered for Cat to come help. After reminding me about the 'should have waited til they were cool' so very helpfully, she helped try to smoosh the listing layers back on top, as I frantically frosted the sides, hoping this would somehow glue the layers together.

Our hands coated with glistening frosting, we watched in amazement as a small crack appeared in the topmost layer, right in the middle, slowly widening and lengthening... a chocolate San Andreas fault line. Our eyes met above the disintegrating cake. I grabbed the cake container lid, and slammed it home onto the cake base. Cat opened up the fridge, and I shoved it none-too-gently inside.

After several minutes trying to clean the frosting off of our hands, the counter, the fridge handle and the floor, I finally gathered the nerve to look. Opening the fridge with much trepidation, I peered within. The cake was still contained within the clear sided container, but the damage was complete. The top layer was now in four pieces, one stuck to the side of the cake container. The second layer had slid partly off the bottom. And the frosting had finally set.

Cat dumped some sprinkles on it, and we hacked off pieces. It tasted fairly good... but I have absolutely no urge to bake a cake again for quite some time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Living without red meat, well, almost

When my daughter was young, she would periodically get these unexplainable stomach pains. I took her to doctors again and again, but they couldn't figure it out. Once we ended up in the ER, as her pains seemed to indicate appendicitis. It wasn't.

Fast forward many years, and one suggestion by her grandmother, and we found out the trouble. Red meat. She cannot eat it. We eliminated it from our diet, and she has been fine since.

So, how do I cook dinner without red meat? It wasn't easy at first. We ate a lot of chicken. That got boring after a while. We tried veggie meals. Interesting, to say the least. But in the last year or so, we have come up with a workable (and tasty) variety.

I make meatballs, meatloaf (yay! mini cheddar loaves!), 'hamburgers' and even lasagna can all be made with ground turkey. So can tacos, spaghetti sauce and grammommy nachos. I tried it in chili, but didn't work. (that's okay..she doesn't like chili, so when she's gone for a few days, I make chili the regular way).

We do make a few veggie recipes, including a great veggie lasagna, and black beans over rice.

When I have a desparate craving for red meat, I cook up a steak (hey, why not), and she cooks up some fish (bleh), and we share the side dishes.

So, problem solved, deliciously!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Second Life

When I was a kid, I imagined that when my kids were all grown, that my life would be fairly quiet. Just a time for quiet reflection, and preparation for the day when I'd have grandkids to spoil. (and I will...spoil them, that is!).

However, now I am there..at that point at my life when my kids are all adults, and beyond the occasional reminder, and copious batches of cookies & banana bread, don't really need my help. So, where am I now? Seated in a rocking chair, quietly reflecting on my life, as though it were over? Nah.... not happening here.

Instead, I find myself at a time in my life wherein I have been reinventing myself. Oh, as my best friend Connie would say, 'don't get me wrong', I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a mother. And I really & truly miss sitting on the couch with my three kids, reading to them....

However, now I find myself with time. Time to explore other interests, other sides of myself. Two seasons ago, I became a Grid Goddess at Waterford Hills racetrack. My dad used to take my siblings and I to watch the races. Now, I get my dad (and mom) into the pits, right into the midst of the action. I get to harass drivers, er, check safety equipment, and I love it. The sound of a open wheel car rumbling it's engine goes straight to my soul!

I am also spending time, nearly daily (tis my goal), writing. I am writing articles, my father's stories, and even working on a book (over 25000 words!). Granted, some times getting my backside in the chair to start is the hardest part, but once I'm there...I'm in heaven.

This may not seem like much, working at a racetrack, writing, hanging out with friends, but it's only the start.... and I'm happy, really and truly happy. I still get to see my kids, not as often as I'd like, but they are still in my life. (thank God for cell phones & texting & computers!) But this second life of mine is just getting started. Wonder what will happen next?