Friday, September 22, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I five thanks for...

Spending yesterday with my guy. The kids were off. Guess where Ted was? If you said golfing, that'd be correct. Lily made plans to hang out with a friend. Mike and I picked apples, went out for lunch and went for a swim.

Another bushel of apples. This time Fujis, Courtlands, Galas and Macintosh. We took a peck to my in-laws in exchange for a dozen ears of the most delicious sweet corn.

An impromptu afternoon visit, swim and soak with my in laws. Their hot tub has done wonders for my ankle this past week.

Dinner out with Jess on my Mom's birthday. It was a beautiful night to enjoy the La Merenda patio, a bottle of rioja and an assortment of small plates. My favorite were the chive crepes filled with pork belly and served with a porcini mushroom sauce. I very much enjoyed the beef empanadas with aioli, the crostini topped with goat cheese curds and chorizo and the garlic spinach as well. It was god to be together and, of course, the best part was the company.

Last night of summer, 2017. A beautiful finale for a fine summer.

Movie night tonight. We're going to see IT at the prompting of my anti-horror film daughter's urging. I sure hope we don't regret this. On the other hand, if she likes this, there are so many classics that I can't wait to watch with her.

The perfect loaf. I've been experimenting with different baking pans, but I finally came to the conclusion that what works best for this peasant bread recipe is a good old fashioned metal loaf pan.

Ted golfed a 71 and a 77 this week.

Tomorrow we're celebrating my dad's 70th birthday. I have one gift that I think he's kinda sorta going to love. That's a win for him too because he's impossible to buy for.

It's fall although Mother Nature has yet to get the memo. This unseasonable heat wave will break next week and usher in the cooler temperatures that will invite cozy sweaters, comfort food, colorful walks, warm flannel, quiet nights, football Saturdays and all that other good stuff.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Happy Birthday in Heaven

Dear Mom,

It’s been nine years. A long, but short nine years. Long because you’ve missed so much…so many: birthdays, holidays, graduations, games and wins, Sunday dinners and family vacations. Short because there are still days I wake up and think I’ve got to remember to tell you my overnight dream. Remember how much you loved those commute recountings? Things will happen, big and small, and I’ll reach for the phone to call you. I’ll be happy or sad and you’re the one with whom I want to celebrate or commiserate. Then it’ll hit me all over again: you’re gone. Wait…not just gone. Gone for almost a decade now.

That’s a long time to be missing someone. So many people that belong to this club to which I am a reluctant card carrying member told me that it gets easier, but the only change I can attest to is that it’s different. Immediate grief is gut wrenching. Nine year old grief is soul sucking. There is a distinct difference. When you were first gone from me I was writhing in physical and emotional pain. Today I am haunted by it. It’s like a ghost, but at times I feel like the apparition…a less solid, assured version of myself. I’m a hint more fragile and fearful having lived through your death.

Every year this week, which kicks off with your last birthday and culminates in your last day on earth, sneaks up on me. I realize how silly this sounds since these anniversaries are an annual occurrence. Honestly, it’s not the dates that catch me by surprise: just the feelings. Nine years ago when we celebrated your sixtieth birthday with champagne and roses, with burgers and balloons, with a neighborhood of friends and a tribe of loved ones I remember feeling joy. That seems crazy to me now because I knew it was not only going to be your last birthday, but also your last days, period. In looking back, I recognize this as your final gift to all who gathered to celebrate you. You were radiantly alive, present and happy, and we could all feel it and wanted to join in. It didn’t matter that you were confined to a hospital bed, or that you had no hair. All that mattered was that your heart was full of love and grace. That was your parting gift.

You rallied all day long. The next day, you started slipping away. Seven days later I held your hand and told you it was OK to go. I wanted to take those words back the minute I uttered them. It was so not OK, but then it was beautiful to see peace come to and through you.  A final declaration of love and appreciation. A long gaze. A tight squeeze. A last breath. An end to suffering.

An end to your suffering.

The beginning of life without you.

A life that wasn’t pretty at first, but one that’s become its own masterpiece. A colorful, beautiful, complicated collage. A rich, dynamic, multi-layered composition that is tangible proof that there is love and beauty after terrible loss.

I want to thank you Mom because I’m as much a warrior as I am a ghost. My strength comes from deep within, but you planted the seeds. You were the first woman warrior I witnessed. Though the thing is… you weren’t all bold bristle and brawn. You had a big and soft heart for anyone and everyone.

Happy Birthday to you in Heaven Mom. I hope you still know how very much I miss you. Wink wink. And thank you for sending the hummingbird yesterday. It took me by happy surprise. I’ll keep my eyes open for bluebirds and my ears open for owls today.

I love you,


Tuesday, September 19, 2017


it was a summer weekend.
and, of course, it is still summer...
despite the fact that all signs (minus temps and the calendar) point to fall.
i'm caught between savoring summer's lasts and anticipating fall's firsts.
we get a little of both this time of year.
saturday we invited ourselves over to grandma and grandpa's for a swim in the afternoon heat.
we didn't expect them to cook us a delicious steak dinner complete with everyone's favorite corn on the cob, but we sure enjoyed our time together, the meal and the pool and hot tub.
i was happy that ted joined us without coaxing or complaint and uncle mark too.
we got home after dark, but not too late for ted to catch up with friends.
lily had a date with a friend on sunday.
the girls visited the art museum and then took themselves out to lunch at a popular speak easy.
i was a little surprised that they made their way there, but also impressed at their adventurous spirits.
ted umped, then golfed (a 71!!!) and then went to watch football with his buds.
mike worked around the yard and i was busy all afternoon in the kitchen.
it's a school year thing to take some time every sunday to prep for the week.
i made a pot of our favorite chili, a pan of buffalo chicken enchiladas, and a crock of drip beef for the week, and roasted chicken thighs for sunday dinner.
i didn't look ahead to the forecast, which is steamy.
i've flipped the switch to comfort food.
we watched the packer game before bed.
they lost, but the weekend was a winner.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Getting through our first full week of school. It was a long one, but a mostly good one. We're getting in the groove. I think we were all eagerly anticipating today, or more like tonight. Teddy went golfing after school and now he's at the football game. Lily had a beach field trip today. A beach field trip that didn't involve swimming so she came home and promptly showered. Now she's eating pizza and chilling out in her room exhausted, ravenous, but clean. Mike is relaxing because he was out with friends last night. I'm taking care of business: blogging, calendars and such. When I finish here, I 'll retire with a book and a cat or two.

And speaking of books, it looks like the book club I've been talking about starting is going to finally meet in October. I'm excited because I love to read and talk about books, but it's also a built in excuse to get together on a regular basis with good friends.

And speaking of good friends...Jess made sure to ask me far in advance to have dinner with her on my mom's birthday next week. It's a nice tradition we've started. I know my mom will be with us in spirit. She got off work early the other night so she came over for margaritas on the patio. Then we grilled some brats for dinner. After dinner, she played with Lily's hair trying to sell her on a hair do for school pictures the next day. She couldn't be sold, and decided to wear her locks long and free.

 Last week Candace dropped off the portrait she painted of Lily called Sand, Sea and Soul. She took a picture of Lily over the summer that inspired her to paint this piece. It's her first portrait and I think it's amazing. So did Lily. It's pretty special to our family as is Candace.

Apples galore. All week we've been munching on them to the point I think I'll make a stop this weekend for another stash. After you enjoy these sun-kissed sweeties, it's hard to eat the store bought.

Orchards and fields and farmer's markets. This week I picked up some beautiful eggplant and tomatoes at the market.

I was inspired to make eggplant Parmesan. It was my first time in a long time and I'd forgotten how easy and delicious it is. I even made my own sauce and I'd say the dish took me only 30 minutes to make. We ate it all week. Now it's gone before I even got a photo of the finished product, but I'll be making it again and soon.

This was my lunch today. My first tomato sandwich of the summer, and I can tell you it was worth the wait. Without locally grown, fresh tomatoes, this sandwich is not worth it. And also a must is a good nutty loaf of whole grain bread. A slice of cheddar takes it to the next level.

Having my Wednesdays to myself. As much as I miss the kids, I've missed having time to get things done. This week I woke to a cool, grey day so I was inspired to bake my Grandma's banana cake. By afternoon, the sun was out and it felt like August again so I whipped up a batch of homemade vanilla bean ice cream. I had such a full and wonderful day. I was busy, but doing things that come straight from the heart.

The cute little freezer safe ice cream container Teddy got me from Sur La Table. It's a must. I must get another.

These two sun worshipers.

We made it to Teddy's cross country race just in time yesterday. He didn't have his best race, but it was respectable. 

I hope I can start a little exercise next week. Staying off my feet has been the hardest part of this injury hands down.

Parent night at Lily's school. It was our last at the middle school. Lasts usually make me weepy, but not this final. I enjoy meeting the teachers, but I don't look forward to some of the parents because the make me feel like I'm back in middle school. Nevertheless, she's going to have a great year.

Scary movie season. There are a couple on my list to see. I L O V E thrillers.

I'm also excited for fall programming to return. Mostly for DWTS and This Is Us.

I bought the tickets for the before the museum opens World Trade Center tour. They're pricier than the others, but I think it'll be worth it to have a more reserved and solemn vibe for the experience.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


we were all looking forward to the weekend after an abrupt end to summer and a busy back to school week.
teddy was eager to golf.
cross country has been cutting into his time on the course.
it was a beautiful late summer weekend so he played 18 both days,
saturday he joined his uncle, and sunday he played with his dad, grandpa and a friend.
he came home with a 76 and happy.
lily had shopping on her itinerary.
she shopped saturday in cedarburg and then bayshore with friends, and sunday she and i hit the mall.
we had some success with her fall wardrobe.
she came with a succulent and some cute jeans.
the highlight of my weekend was picking apples with my girl.
she wasn't really into it, but she did it for me.
(and because i bribed her with a stop at michaels.)
we came home with a supply of mollies and ginger golds.
the best apple cider donuts, and slime supplies too.
she made slime while i finished my book.
then i put together eggplant parmesan for sunday dinner.
mike grilled some balsamic chicken too.
this pairing perfectly illustrates where we stand: holding onto summer while anticipating fall.
it's not a bad place to be.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

We survived the first week of school. Ted forgot his computer the first day and has yet to get supplies, and Lily is chomping at the bit to fill her closet with fall clothes, but they managed. I think by the end of next week we'll be fully immersed in 8th and 11th grades.

Last year of middle school.

Upper classman.

We had a great last weekend of summer vacation. We went to a Badger party one night, invited friends over the next and celebrated my birthday with my Dad and step-mom the last. Ted picked the menu: ribs, potatoes and corn. It was delicious and fun and ended in us singing music from Cats and Christmas carols.

Saturday night dinner with friends: grilled flank steak, roasted mushrooms topped with herby toasted breadcrumbs, pasta aglio olio and proscuitto wrapped asparagus, not pictured. Also not pictured: homemade vanilla bean ice cream topped with dark chocolate sauce and pecans.


 Ted enjoys some target practice.

 The big boys play a few games of crib before dinner.

Lily patiently waits for Catman to come around. 

 How many grills does it take to make dinner?

Sous Chef or taste tester?

The definition of tender: fall off the bone.

 Birthday wine.

My dad was really touched when I gave him my Grandma Rose's pitcher filled with roses. He's a guy and the things he took from the house are likely in his shed. He appreciated something this keepsake.

 I survived back to work after vacation and jury duty. I was randomly picked as the alternate juror after 5 days of testimony so I never even got to talk about the trial. That's a major letdown. By game time though I was over it because who knows how late into Friday night they deliberated. There were 19 counts. The Federal court and jury selection processes were interesting. I cannot tell you how many people tried to counsel me as to how to avoid serving. I was happy to and rather fascinated by the psychology of it all.

Our trip to NYC is coming together. We have put together an itinerary for our days and nights there and getting very excited for our visit.

A perch.

Fresh flowers in fall colors. 

My Sunday morning spot.

A box of spices for my birthday.

My uncle's surgery went well.

Grandma Judy is on the mend.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

These Are The Days

I crashed hard last night and early after a full day and just a few pages. I tackled almost everything on my day's list and then some. I think I also accepted and started to embrace that summer is coming to an abrupt end and fall is fast approaching. This inevitable transition took hold right after I made a batch of salsa with the dwindling supply of fresh produce I bought at the farmer's market and before I made blueberry muffins for after school snack. I often figure things out in my kitchen.

I'm no longer dreaming of counts and verdicts after last week's stint on jury duty. Now I'm onto homework and tardies in my sleep. We attended back to school night at the high school last night. With the load Ted's carrying, I think it's wise he's on a sabbatical from Sendiks. His plate is full. Just reliving it in my sleep, made me want to spend the day in bed.

That is to say that I had a heck of a time getting up this morning. It was crisp and cloudy and so no summer anymore. Birdsong from bushes and the drone of lawnmowers traipsing over yards was replaced by the distinct sounds of school buses on roads. The whine they make when put into gear echoes the sigh that I feel myself emitting as I move through my now busy morning. I check things off my mental spreadsheet. It's the school year drill.

About this time each year I wonder if, perhaps, baptism by fire is not the best modus operandi. Would it be easier if we started serving dinner before 8 o'clock and weening off the late nights and leisurely mornings in the weeks leading up to this onset? I surmise the answer is affirmative, but I'll never know because every year we go out with a bang and then start the school year sleep deprived and stunned.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.