Friday, March 28, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

My little fish is back in the water swimming again.  It's so good for her!

Stellar report cards for both kids.  Proud again.

Last Sunday's family dinner: brisket, oven rolls, au gratin potatoes and roasted cauliflower.  I had never attempted a brisket before and now I'm wondering why.

A breakfast date at the taco counter with Coach Sunday.  Another first.

Validation from Mark Bittman's blog. I visited it yesterday.  His last two posts were about the return of butter and the magic of masa.  We ran out of butter this week.  It was almost as bad as running out of toilet paper.  Worse really because you can substitute tissue for T.P., but I have always been true to butter.  There is no substitute.   As for masa...I went to several stores to get masa for tortillas, and they are magical.  I made them this week and can say that it will be very difficult to go back to store bought.

Glimpses of who my girl is and who she is becoming. At times I see her as wise behind her years with an already strong and proud sense of what matters to her and what defines her. At others she is still just a little girl who anxiously awaited the arrival of the plush Mine Craft pig she procured online, named when he arrived (Frederick), built a habitat for, and introduced to her BBFFs (Bedtime BFFs), Ellie and Allie.

A bottle of wine and a board of cheese with Jess last night. A few good laughs too. We almost didn't go out (it was was cold...I was crabby), but then we did and it was good medicine for the both of us I think.

Rain on a corrugated tin roof. I love the sound...the smell.

Friends to the rescue. After realizing that Miss Bit's thrifted orphan costume was not going to cut it, I begged  commissioned our dear friend and accomplished seamstress, Mary, to take on the task  She happily accepted with minimal groveling. I gotta village yes I do! And takes one!

Lily wrote Grandma and Grandpa a thank you note this week.  They laughed at her choice of choice adjectives. She wrote that she had a butt load of fun spending the weekend with them.  Just keeping it real here lest you think she's well on her way to canonization.

Getting closer to perfecting the chewy cookie. Secrets are cake flour, melted butter, more brown than granulated sugar, 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk and chilled dough.

It was only a dream a fox was in my house last night.  I love foxes, but not in my house.

We watched American Hustle this week. I loved the entire cast and enjoyed it so much that I only slept through a half an hour of it. That's good for me late night on a school night. Still on my list are Twelve Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Badgers are in the Elite Eight.  I'm not into March Madness, but Coach is.  I am into seeing him happy.

Promise keeping Lenten intentions.

Coach and the way he calms me, helps me see the light, talks me off the ledge, understands me, is yin to my yang, completes me.  I'll be most grateful if we never ever consciously uncouple.  WTH? (What the heck?)  I am not a fan of that word.

Jackleg.  A word I learned this week that I am fond of.

A half hour chat with my Dad as I dealt with turtle paced traffic.  He was cooking while I was driving and we were connecting.






Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One Word

We were driving home from school the other day just me and my Bit. Actually, it was the day after St. Pat's...the day she was teased for wearing a Kiss me I'm Irish shirt to school. The day after the snickering she wore a very cute shirt bearing the Brewer's new unofficial mascot, soft and fluffy Hank. I asked her if her classmates made fun of her shirt again pretty much knowing that would be impossible because of Hank's infectious adorableness.
When she said no and I said good, she added :
But I don't care. No I don't care what they say. I don't care.  ............(long pause)...........   You know that one word is going to sure be important when I get to high school. I don't care'll even be important when I get to middle school next year. People will try to judge me and want me to be a certain way and I'll say that one word...I don't care and that will be the end of it.
And I was so stinking proud of my 9 year old that I didn't have the heart to remind her it's three words because really it's one strong message.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

DWTS is back.  I really love this show and also the new format, and while sometimes the moves and the costumes are a tad suggestive, it is still a good mother/daughter option. 

Miss Bit and I enjoyed an after school date this week.  We went to the mall to do a little shopping. She is so not a shopper, which I suppose I should be thankful for.  That girl would wear the same 2-3 outfits all week every week if I let her.  Miraculously, we did agree on an Easter outfit...skirt not dress, but perfectly her perfect.

My first chai vanilla latte. 

Simple meals.  Last night was fresh pasta topped with good Parm. and a poached egg.  Fresh, good and poached are critical words here.  It's the reason why 3 ingredients plus a little S&P make a more than satisfying meal.

Flashback Friday.  I sang along to Fleetwood Mac's Rumors during this morning's commute. It's such a classic album.  Timeless.

Edith Frost on the way home.

Spring cleaning.  I have the bug to declutter and organize and scour.  I did my car last night and my desk today.  It's only the beginning.  I could probably spring clean straight through fall that's how out of hand the nooks and crannies have gotten.

Spring treats.  Our fairy Mary left a sweet tin of homemade treats at our door.  She spoils us with her kindness and we love it only less than we love her.

Clementines.  Easy to peel and juicy.

Pumping iron...or dumb bells.  My arms ache after several amped up sessions this week.  They hurt so good.

Actually clicking on the link to watch the viral video of the giraffe kissing his terminally ill keeper.  Wow...I say Wow!

Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel.  It tastes like it's out of my league, but it's not.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Every Friday I come here to offer up that for which I am grateful.  I think grateful is another word for lucky so I will refrain from redundancy.  I hope everyone had a Happy St. Pat's Day yesterday.  Whether you are Irish or not (I am), it's a day for celebrating.  We like to say that everyone is Irish on this day.  What exactly are we celebrating?  I think historian Carl Wittke sums it up quite eloquently. He writes:

The so-called Irish temperament is a mixture of flaming ego, hot temper, stubbornness, great personal charm and warmth, and a wit that shines through adversity. An irrepressible buoyancy, a vivacious spirit, a kindliness and tolerance for the common frailties of man and a feeling that 'it is time enough to bid the devil good morning when you meet him.'
Wittke could have written this about my mom it so perfectly describes her.  My mom aka Mc Gurk was fiercely proud of her Irish heritage.  I grew up filled with the same sense of pride.  The kind of honor that didn't need to be displayed by wearing green or eating corned beef and soda bread (although we did), but the dignity that lives within my heart. I was gob smacked that T. Bone went up to change into something green when he realized the significance of the day.  He didn't have a single stitch of green anything.  Miss Bit had to wear an old Kiss Me I'm Irish shirt of mine.  Not exactly what a 9 year old wants to walk around sporting all day, but she did.  I couldn't find my mom's prized O'Shit button this year.  I wasn't prepared.  I was off my game.  I was missing my mom and wishing the day away.
When I stood at the parade on Saturday, I was grateful for the sun.  My sunglasses disguised more than one tear that welled up and over at a thought, a memory, a reflection.  I've been feeling more than a little sorry for myself and at the same time lucky.  Loss, love and life are full of such humbling complexity and juxtaposition.  Last night I pulled out a photo album I made my mom for her 50th birthday.  It's filled with 5 decades of pictures that capture her incredible spirit and remind me of the importance of living everyday.  She did.  She rose, she smiled, she persevered no matter the circumstances. I'm lucky to have had such a presence in my life even though I'll always feel her life was too short...even though I'll spend the rest of my life missing her and especially on this day.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2 day pass

this weekend felt rather self-indulgent if i must admit.
the kids were off having a blast first with grandparents and then friends.
coach went out friday with friends all dressed in red to root for his badgers.
they won!
i was happy to stay in all alone and watch blue jasmine.
cate blanchett sure earned that oscar.
i liked it more than i expected and was glad i lifted my woody allen boycott to see it.
that cad.
we were up early saturday morning greeted by the first chippie of the season.
thankfully this brutal winter wasn't too hard on him.
he was "chubby" like father javier (inside joke).
we made time for a walk before we headed downtown to celebrate being irish.
we drank our green beer and/or guiness on the sidelines of the parade proudly.
it's kind of a silly little procession/irish dance stand off in the streets, but the route is always deeply lined.
it's great people watching too.
then we walked along the frozen river to an irish pub.
there was a biting chill in the air, but it was warm and toasty inside.
and wall to wall people too.
we had the best reubens of the decade.
the ratio of corned beef to kraut to cheese to sauce was spot on.
deliciouscious (inside joke).
we eventually came home to watch dallas buyers club.
again i have to fess up that mc conaughey and leto were most deserving.
but still i must say that imo even the standout films these days are only good, not great.
when did good enough become good enough?
i mean when was the last time you could say with conviction that a film was amazing?
i know it's been awhile.
sunday we shopped around the public market while the kids were at sunday school.
we love that place that is full of things you don't know you even need until you see them or smell them.
coach was inspired at the meat counter to start a shepherds pie for dinner.
i love when he is culinarily inclined.
i made two rounds of soda bread with my usual twist...dried cherries and dark chocolate chips.
workouts finished, practice ended, friends left and we marveled at how light it was as we sat down to dinner at 6:45.
there is no doubt that the days are getting longer.
now if only the weekends were too.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

A new stylus.  It has rejuvenated my Ruzzle game.

The kids have off today so they are spending the day with my dad. He took them skiing so they are really spending the day together on the mountain while grandpa relaxes in the lodge.  He is a strong candidate for Grandpa of the Year! T. Bone sent me a picture of Lil with poles, and she sent a video of him doing a perfect 360!  It's good for them to hang together. 

 Buddies on a different ski trip.

Coach and I had a free night last night so we went out for dinner and drinks.  Tomorrow we will go to the St. Paddy's Day parade sans kids too. 

Church this week.  It was the first Sunday of Lent so it was crowded.  Usually the 40 days of Lent are somber, but something about this week's mass felt a tad bit celebratory.  Perhaps it was the choir, or maybe the crowd, but whatever it was I left feeling lighter.

Glazed donut muffins.  So perfect with a cup of coffee.  They don't look like much, but they sure were delicious...were being the operative word.

I found a story I started a year ago that I thought I deleted. I have been so mad at myself because it was a good one and now I am working on finishing it.


Shamrock shakes.  It's the one thing I love at McD's.

I finished Out of the Woods.  It was just OK.  There were some interesting ideas, but I really felt the author held back and never connected the dots.  It fell short and I'm still not sure whether she was writing a memoir about her life or a matter of fact guide to not getting lost in the woods.

Now I'm reading Glitter and Glue.  I love Kelly Corrigan.  She is brutally honest and she lays it all out there.   I laugh.  I cry.  I feel.

My washer and drier.  I took quilts to the laundromat this week to use the triple load machines.  That whole experience makes me extra grateful that I only have to go there twice a year.

A car wash this week.  My white van is no longer grey.

I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired, but yesterday I woke up feeling 80%.  I'll take that and celebrate it too!

Tonight I am home alone with my boys.  We'll curl up, order a movie, open a bottle of wine and eat cheese and crackers for dinner.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Today, I am...

The first thing I noticed this morning was that my throat was a little less sore than it has been for over a week. I'm tired of wincing when I swallow and popping Chloraseptic lozenges throughout the day. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a return to health.

It's dark out now when I get up in the morning.  The loss of light tricks me into thinking that I'm still tired. Today I set my alarm for 8 more minutes, but it was still like night when it went off.

Miss Bit didn't want to get up either.  I had to rouse her 3 times.  Two is usually the limit.  I almost turned on her light, but then I remembered how much I hated it when my mom did that to me.  She would hustle into my room singing rise and shine on repeat.  Her energy and those cheerful words were agonizing first thing in the morning. Turning on the bright light was a surefire way to get me in a dark mood.  Instead I decided to open Bit's shade just a tad.  It's a cloudy day so I didn't think it would be too shocking.  It seemed to have had no lasting consequences.

Yesterday was a sunny, warm March day.  Today is overcast and cooler.  I'm a brumous person by nature so a grey day has little chance of slowing me down, but the unpredictable nature of the change of seasons, and specifically spring, often makes me cranky and irritable. Only those who get it...get it.  Everyone else is desperate for spring.

So snow is in our evening forecast, but as the raindrops met the pavement this morning, they released that familiar spring smell.  It's earthy, slightly sweet and chalky.  An olfactory reminder of what is soon to come and stay. Passing by my favorite Lake Michigan swim spot, I wanted to fast forward to summer.  Who is this?  I couldn't help but wonder.  I'm not one for the mad rush, but I was reliving the evening of our last swim at gloaming in all it's glory.  Let's just say I got ahead of myself.  Way ahead as it's unlikely we'll even be dipping our toes in this water for months.

I kept my eye on the lake as I drove south along the shore.  Not even a week ago I heard that 90% of the Great Lakes were frozen, and I believed it.  Seeing is believing.  From the shore, all I could see was a great expanse of snow and ice.  I wondered how long it would take to walk clear across to Michigan.  This morning the ice flows have shrunken and retreated.  Today I'd need a boat to cross.

Lately I hear that little voice in my head saying, One day at a time.  It's the same voice that whispers, be . here . now.  I've learned that it is harder for me to exist in the day than it is to be in the moment.  My short attention span can savor the moment, and still neglect the day.  I can stop for a second to relish, cherish, praise, and then get ahead of myself all over again.  It is my nature, and perhaps, just human nature.

When I passed the Art Museum, I realized it's been almost a year since my last visit.  I caught myself  saying soon, and then wondered what I'm waiting for.  Soon doesn't address my desire to be . here . now . I'm working on replacing someday, sometime, one day and one of these days with more definitive time frames like today, now, and Wednesday.  I'll go tomorrow, I think. That would be nice.  And I'm also working on being nice to myself. Double happiness.

I know making time for exercise is especially nice so I do even after a long day.  Long ago I understood the connection between exercise and my mental as well as my physical well being.  Every day gets better after a workout even the most stellar and sublime.  Today is no different.  I wish knowing what I know, that I could figure out why some days it is something I approach with utter procrastination and resistance.

Dinner tonight was simple, yet tasty.  I seasoned up some chicken thighs with cumin, garlic salt and sweet paprika, baked them in a buttermilk bath and served them alongside a wedge salad and baked potato. Serving my family healthy, homemade meals is important to me.  I always feel good when I know they eat well.  What is gratifying now is that they have come not only to enjoy what I cook, but also to appreciate it. When they were younger, they were envious of friends who ate lots of fast food, but I think they are finally aware that they are the lucky ones.  T. Bone is reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma for school, and it is really hammering home the connection that we are what we eat.  Can't wait until my chicken nugget lovin Lil Bit reads that in 7th grade.

Now I would like to finish Into the Woods.  Finally, I am thinking, but I hush that little voice in the name of being nice. It's true that I am off to a painfully slow start in the reading department this year, but I remind myself that I am a reader.  I read every day and that is enough.  That is good.  I'm getting better at being nice to myself even in the last 10 minutes.

I have been thinking a lot about the absolute power of the I am statement.  Whatever we follow that assertion with,  we own, or else it owns us. 

Today I am sick.  I am tired.  I am a patient mom.  I am a cloudy sky, grey day lover.  I am deeply rooted here on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I am a girl who wants to be present.  I am nostalgic.  I am wistful.  I am complex.  I am paying attention to what feeds my soul.  I am paying attention to what feeds my family's bodies.  I am a story lover and also a storyteller.  I am a writer.  I am worthy.

These I ams can empower me or deflate me.  I choose.  That's the beauty: the choice is mine.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Miss Bit just came in to kiss me good night before bed.  I was watching the tale end of the Bachelor After the Rose show in some amount of discomfort.  Narcissists really get under my skin.  Juan Diablo was sitting next to Nicki when the camera panned onto this season's erstwhile bacherlorettes mouths all agape, eyes a rolling and Miss Bit asked, "Are those all the girls who have already been deleted?  Those are the lucky ones.  They aren't wasting any more of their time," she decided with an air of authority.  And then I laughed, deleted the show and went to bed.  That girl of mine keeps it all real!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

An after school date with my girl.  We went thrifting for her orphan costume and stopped for an ice cream cone after shopping despite the fact that it was in the teens and right before dinner.

Today she's a pioneer for the culmination of a school project.  She was no Laura Ingalls Wilder because I'm no sewer, but she looked cute. (That's her lunch in the basket.)

The look on the kids' faces when I suggested we order pizza for dinner on Fat Tuesday.  I was breaking rules as Friday is always pizza night and we almost never eat out or order in during the week.  I've been sick again...still, and at the end of the day I have no energy left for cooking.

Coach went in late and left early on Tuesday to do drop off and pick up because I was too weak and dizzy to drive especially my precious cargo.

Tea and Tylenol and Sleep and cats who are always willing to cuddle.

This morning it really smelled like spring when I fed the birds who are getting louder now...another sure sign of spring.  I am a four season girl and a winter lover, but I'm hopeful for a graceful transition to spring because even this self proclaimed winter paramour is ready.

I had a dream about an old friend in the early morning hours today.  I don't see her any more.  I don't talk to her either.  There are plenty of reasons for this, but I don't think about them very often.  This morning we had a come to Jesus while I slept, and oddly it prompted me to reach out to another old friend I no longer see or speak to.  Just writing the card was a big relief for me.  It made me realize that I only thought I had let go of all of the anger and hurt between us, but I was still carrying it around.  Putting the pen to paper and knowing instantly what to say without a pause or an edit proved that I am now finally free.

Self reflection.  It seems to be the theme of this my 44th year.  Getting to really know yourself is something that I believe middle age affords us with the wealth of experience and wisdom amassed.  It's heady and at times heart wrenching because it's so much easier to blame others than it is to accept my part.  To be a victim rather than a player.  But I'm at a point where I realize there is truth in so many platitudes.  Prosaisms like The only person you can change is yourself, If it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you, and a negative mind will never give you a positive life have real meaning to them.  There is meat there and I'm chewing on it.  On them.

Cubanos on the pannini!  chewing on that too.

Since last Friday, Coach and I went on a date and we set an appointment to meet with a financial adviser. Kitchen still TBD, but that is progress.

Coincidence and wondering if there even is such a thing.  Driving to work this morning I passed by my friend's brother on the road.  Just yesterday I thought I saw him at my daughter's school and then I remembered that his family switched schools over a year ago.  I probably haven't seen him in 2 years.  That in itself would be a coincidence, but stay with me here. The first thing I checked on my computer this morning was Facebook a site I no longer frequent.  There was a message from my friend, his sister, telling me she will be coming to town next weekend.  I haven't seen her since right after she lost her Mom about 2 years ago. That's a whole lot of coincidence in my book.  It reminds me of the Secret...the whole premise that what you put out there (energy, intentions, desires), comes to you.

My Dad made his first on line purchase yesterday and he only had to call me 3 times to complete the transaction.  

              Dinner date with Coach and Lil tonight.  She tried and loved the fried eggplant.

      Lots of cold pizza for breakfast.

 Soup party tonight at my dad and step mom's.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Days

On the way to school this morning Miss Bit and I were chatting about Lent and what we plan to give up. We affirmed what the whole family committed to last night : we will be a soda-free house. Coach is really the only regular soda drinker in the family.  I rarely drink soda and the kids only drink it if I buy it.  I rarely buy it so this no soda thing is really an act of solidarity.  T. Bone pulled the trigger on candy as well despite the fact that he will be seriously tested when he attends 3 bar mitzvahs this month.  These parties are known for tempting and elaborate candy buffets so he will have to muster up some major willpower.  I suggested Lil Bit add candy to her Lenten list.  She's the one with the biggest stash and she's known to be sneaky when her sweet tooth aches.  I find wrappers stuffed in pockets and random drawers around the house.  She reminds me of her uncle when he was a kid.  I reminded her that a sacrifice is not supposed to be easy.  To that she asked with a look of horror on her face because she already knew the answer, "How many days is Lent?"

"Forty," I answered.

Her eyes bugged out of their sockets as she quickly did the math..

"I'll do it if you do it," I offered.  Candy is not a particular vice for me, but there is strength in numbers.

After a moment of contemplation, she affirmed albeit reluctantly, "I'll do it."

Because I can never just leave well enough alone, I continued, "You know Lent is not just about making sacrifices.  It's also about..."

"Doing good.  I know it's also about doing good," she finished my thought for me.  "There's this odd girl in my class that no one is really friends with.  Well, I'm friends with her, but I'm going to work on becoming better friends with her."

"What a great idea," I said swelling with fierce mama pride.

"I'm also gonna just go through each day and try to do good and be nice whenever I can.  You know what I mean?  Like rare moments of happiness," she continued.

"You mean random acts of kindness?" I asked.

"Yeah! That's what I mean. That's what I'm gonna do," Lil said.

"I'm gonna do that too," I committed.

And I will because I truly believe that the sacrifice, while important, often feels like punishment, and only whets our appetite for that "vice" denied. Adding something positive...being kind, doing good...has a better chance of having a long and lasting effect.  I know we'll be devouring marshmallow bunnies and Peeps in 40 days just making up for lost time, or low sugar levels, and I think we'll want to keep the kindness too.

Now just don't ask me to give up wine or cheese.


Monday, March 3, 2014

2 day pass

the weekend was off to a good start.
t. bone had plans with friends.
miss bit had plans with cousins.
coach and i had dinner plans.
we tried a new hibachi restaurant.
the food was good, but they watered down the wine and that folks is a deal breaker.
saturday was the best kind of day...snowy and free from obligation.
miss bit was at the zoo and t. bone was skiing.
i lost myself for a good while in the book store.
then i came home with ideas and the desire to create:
a strawberry shortcake cake, a salsa and a snowscape.
i am inspired when working with my hands to bake and make and paint.
i watched gravity while i worked and couldn't fathom it winning best picture.
and we know now that it didn't.
we were reunited for bowling and our best burgers at gloaming.
it was fun despite the fact that we all struggled to break 100.
almost all that is to say.
we all struggled to finish our burgers too.
almost all that is to say again.
and then the flavor of the day was butter pecan.
i think it was a little sign, but i'm not sure what it was saying.
i have my hunches.
sunday was the perfect day...even superior to saturday.
i didn't leave the house all day or all night.
i know bliss...right?
right when you (i) are (am) thin skinned and fragile.
miss bit woke under the weather and t. bone was just bone tired so we proclaimed our own snow day despite the fact that the sun was shining.
i cued up cat stevens on pandora, started a stock simmering on the stove and made muffin melts for brunch.
miss bit rallied on her pioneer project with the help of both parents.
i lectured on organization.
coach on procrastination.
the finished product was a source of pride for all of us and all of us learned some valuable lessons too.
while the boys went to baseball, the girls made soup two ways: lasagna with cheesy yum and broccoli cheddar with cheddar (not a typo).
my lasagna soup is a family favorite, but i had a taste for something else.
i also had the time.
it was the perfect cold late winter night for a bowl of hot soup too.
oh and a slice of the strawberry shortcake cake because spring is drawing nearer every day.
i fell asleep mid way through the oscars.
i like ellen.
i love meryll streep and jennifer lawrence even though they didn't win.
it was a good show.
and all things considered (those that happened and those that didn't) a good weekend too.