Friday, October 30, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Surviving the crazy week. Our kitchen didn't.  It's completely demolished...down to the studs.  That is a good and exciting thing, and after week one we are even more certain that we made the right choice.  

Mike is almost as good as new.  He was down for the count for 5 days with a nasty infection.  The timing was both blessing and curse.  It made an already chaotic week all the more challenging, but he was also home to greet contractors and cuddle our scardey cats.

Ted is feeling better in time for the weekend.  He was a bit under the weather this week too.

Our basement kitchen/rec room. While it's a bit of an adventure, it's working out really well.  We made quesadillas one night, and pizza breads and salads another.  

A new Keurig.  When I went to make a cup of coffee Thursday morning, my maker was dead.  It was my breaking point.  I cried.  It just seemed like one cruel joke too many.  Mike took Lily to school and came home with a coffee for me.  He had to go in the shop in his jammies.  Now that is love. Then he and Lily headed out after school to surprise me with a new Keurig and I almost cried again.

Lily had her first riding lesson since spring.  She rode a new horse named Cinnamon who was a spunky and spirited girl.  She rode with confidence and command.  She loved being back on the farm. I did too.

Fall colors.  I went for a walk through the park in between rainstorms.  I expected the trees to be skeletons, but so many were still showy.  It was cloudy, but the trails blazed yellow and orange and red.  So did my spirits.

Tickets to see The Lion next week.  I'm looking forward to the one man show, and a night out midweek.

Halloween.  Lily is going to be the Wicked Witch.  Her friend is going as Dorothy, and her dog is going to be the Cowardly Lion.  Should be cute.  

November.  October is my favorite month of the year, but November is a close second.  Here's to 30 days of gratitude.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What Would Your Super Power Be?

Healing is usually my answer.  Sometimes invisibility.  It depends on my mood to be sure.  Whether I am feeling big hearted  or small minded.  Today I have to say that calm would be my super power.  It's really the uber brute force too.  Calmness prevents disease and promotes presence, thus trumping healing and invisibility as far as I can reason.  

If we were to cross paths today, yesterday, or many a time in the past week, you may have seen me as a halcyon invocation of peace and harmony, but I tell you such tranquility is a cover, a ruse, a sham.  It's a con for the way I am feeling, which is shell shocked, stupefied and a bit numb.

The payment of exorbitant amounts of money to have a kitchen demolished is not for the feint of heart.  I knew this.  I know this.  It's a minor inconvenience to have to go to the basement to make a cup of coffee and then outside around to the garage for the cream I enjoy in it.  I admit this.  It's no problem to order carryout and eat on paper plates in front of the family room t.v. only to find that when the breaker was turned off, the dvr was wiped clean. Life's an adventure and I embrace it.  No sweat to have to sleep in a room that now contains a cat pan and kibble, or to wake up in the cold, dark morning only to step in a regurgitated hairball on the way to the bathroom.  There's no pride in sweating the small stuff after all.  No big deal to drop a full glass of milk in route to bring a bedridden husband a peanut butter sandwich, the only thing he's eaten in 48 hours.  All first world problems you say.  And I agree wholeheartedly. 

And still I felt like crying over spilled milk and laughing like a lunatic when I had to hop to my shower for a rinse before the elaborate caffeine maneuver even ensued. I am challenging the universe to give me just one more challenge.  I'm incredulous that the #!@$ cosmos are complying. Every dare I dangle out there is accepted, and all I can do is take one minute, one hour, one day at a time.  I'm trying to see the silver linings and the blessings in disguise as I oxygenate.  I deep breathe in and out in an attempt to remain calm, but it's #!@$ hard.  So hard that I'm sure I have all the evidence necessary to prove that calmness is a super power.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Grateful Friday on Saturday

It appears that I missed a week.  There hasn't been much time for blogging.  Life around here has been full and frenetic.  The last seven days have challenged me to remain calm and collected when my first impulse is to scream and scorch, to think before I speak thus activating that filter protection, to take the lessons as they are delivered and also to see in them not always what I want to, but what I need to.  I have learned about myself in recent history that I am someone who navigates life in absolutes.  For me, it is all very black and white.  This method of skippering through it all is incongruent with what I know to be true though.  What I believe is that things are never outright one thing or another.  There are always blurred lines, unclear circumstances and a uncontrolled element of chance. That being said, the trials of the last week left us with important lessons on family, friendship and life. Hard, but good lessons about what it means to be good to the people we care about including ourselves.  We deserve to have standards and expectations and boundaries, as long as we too abide by them.  

At the end of the week, I give thanks for...

Making lemonade out of lemons.  Teddy did that big time last weekend.  I went from wanting to throttle him, to my heart hurting for him, to being incredibly proud of him.  I believe that the difficult situation he weathered, will make him a better more discerning friend, and since we become like the five people we spend the most time with, I see this as a major win.

The sound of my brother's sports car.  I heard it approaching unexpectedly last Saturday just when I was about at my wits end.  He came to my rescue to tie Ted's tie, add a little lightness to the levity and deliver the boys to the dance on time.

The end of the season.  Ted finished his final cross country race of the year with another PB.  This morning, I dropped him off at school to ride a bus north so he could cheer his teammates at sectionals.  He's so enjoyed being a part of this team.

The beginning of her riding season.  Her trainer moved away and we're finally connected with the new trainer.  I don't like that she missed two months of gorgeous riding weather, but in retrospect I can see that it helped her commit to swimming with a little more passion.

Teacher conferences.  Lily's teachers once again gushed about her not only as a student, but as a person.  They all called her out as a leader and kind friend to every classmate.  Teddy's teachers were also full of praise about his studies and his character.

20 years.  Mike and I have been married for 20 years!  We celebrated the milestone by heading to Kohler for a getaway on our anniversary.  It was just what we needed.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Trattoria Stefano that night.  The next day we visited the art museum in Sheboygan and then took a long hike along the dunes and through the woods at Kohler Andrae State Park.

20 more years.  I'm really looking forward to the next chapters with my guy.

Jess.  She stayed with the kids, took them out for dinner, even sent me photos of the cats and then told me all the snippets and stories when we returned.  I didn't worry about a thing once.

Packing and purging.  The kitchen is almost bare.  As I'm boxing things up, I'm a little disgusted by all the stuff we have.  There is so much we don't need, and I've realized this in the last year as things have broken down one by one.  It's liberating to pare down our belongings.

October.  It's been such a beautiful, unseasonably warm month.  Every day everywhere I look is a postcard.  My words have alluded me, but I have seen and felt what I have been unable to say.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Teddy had a great run this afternoon. He had a PB.  He's new on this running scene, and it's challenging him in ways that have inspired growth in mind and body.  Spirit too I believe.

Smallwaukee.  It's what we call our town when we are being snide and snarky.  Today I have gratitude for the two degrees of separation because there is comfort in commonality and a bond that comes with shared history.  Teddy's history teacher/meet volunteer shared my high school English muse and also my sociology guru so many years ago.  She too loves running and kids who love running because for her it suggests a certain mental mettle.  I also attended the same high school as Teddy's good friend's mother. She was a year ahead of me and lived next door to my boyfriend with a wandering eye.  She was cute and blond (is cute and blond), and man how I worried about their proximity, but now she is a person I seek out and enjoy.  Ted's friend Zach is the son of one of my brother's oldest friends.  We were all there today and it's all good.

This piece on Peanuts.  It was always much more than a comic strip or holiday special to me.  I'm excited for the movie to come out next month.  I got teary watching the trailer.  Vince Guaraldi has that effect on me as do Chuck and Snoopy.  I came of age is the 'Happiness is a Warm Puppy" age.

Friends.  One friend this week spent time trying to get us the best deals on appliances while another drove well out of her way to pick up boxes for me so I can pack up my kitchen.  Happiness is a helpful friend.

We signed a contract to have our kitchen done.  I took a tone of jest when I said almost a year ago that it would take until Thanksgiving for us to get this sign sealed and delivered.  Then a month ago I amended it to the new year.  I think it's rather fitting that our ETA is Jan. 1st.  That being said, I am so happy that we waited until we found the right fit and were completely comfortable.  We are getting exactly the kitchen we hoped for.  This is our back splash.

Dessert for breakfast.  We didn't need the apple crisp I made for dessert Sunday so I baked it off for the kids' Monday complete with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.  

Peanut on Lily's bed or ET in Gertie's closet?

Another stack...another weekend.

October.  31 days of glory.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

two day pass

the weekend went like this:
feed, shuttle, chauffeur.
feed hungry boys pizza and mac after school.
shuttle them to the craft store to buy supplies for their science model.
chauffeur miss bit to her school's activity night.
wait, waste, work, watch, wait.
she woke early saturday already eager for her birthday party sleepover that night.
she packed, checked the time, made a card, checked the clock, wrapped a gift, watched the clock.
he slept the morning away, then disappeared into some play station world, and finally invited a friend over just before dark.
mike and i patiently washed most of the windows in the house while peanut supervised.
we picked up taco takeout and a movie exhausted after plenty of manual labor and fresh air.
true story was a pretty good story.
we went to bed surprised not to get a goodnight call from lily.
wake, play, sleep, shop, gather.
i was up early sunday morning to make the most of the glorious day.
that was when lily was just going to bed, which explains the missing phone call.
ted almost left for golf dressed like nanook of the north not realizing the indian summer day.
lily came home to bed just about delirious and slept through the sunshine.
grandma came over to spend some time together shopping.
the whole family met on our patio for a sunday bbq on a perfect night.
it was kind of a last hurrah to summer and to our kitchen.
it was likely our last 80 degree day of the year, and the kitchen will be ripped out before the end of the month.
cheers to it all.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

October 7, 2015

There are days when just one seemingly small, but beautiful thing can set the tone for all that follows. A genuine smile from a stranger, a favorite song at just the right time, getting up a few minutes early so as to be able to enjoy rather than endure the morning routine, a well worn mug, a hummingbird visiting the streptocarpella and so forth and so on.  It can be a million things or anything really, but the constants are always an openness to receive and a grateful spirit. Yesterday I was the very embodiment of thankful acceptance.  I'm writing this here now not to pat myself on the back, but as a reminder that what I give is what I receive.  I'll be needing this reminder.

I want to come clean here. I toil through more days - days that feel heavy and arduous - than I celebrate. I
t's work to be happy and grateful.  Hard work. Rewarding work too.  Not unlike the work it takes to have a good marriage or rich relationships. And there are days that I simply cannot give what it takes to get what I want. 

But yesterday...yesterday was one of the good ones from start to finish...from the moment Tigger woke me purring in my ear and patting my face to when I struggled to keep my eyes open for one more page reading beside my girl.  It certainly helped that it was the kind of day I can only imagine Anne of Green Gables was referencing when she shared how grateful she was to live in a world where there are Octobers.  It was bright and breezy.  I had the day to myself, but I had plenty to do much of which was not categorically exciting. Who looks at to dos like laundry, clean out the fridge, make weeknight dinner, exercise and dentist with unbridled enthusiasm?  Yet there is satisfaction, if not joy, in it all.  

Every load of laundry is an exercise in gratitude.  I feel blessed to have the convenience of a washer and dryer in my home.  I think of all of the families that don't, and suddenly this chore seems like a luxury.  And all these clothes and linens that need washing...well, I'm grateful for them too.  As I purge the spoils, I am once again very aware of abundance.  For us it is not will we eat, but what will we eat?  What are we hungry for?  What do we want?  To have all of our needs met and most of our desires fed is privilege many do not understand.  Rotten bananas become muffins for the day's after school snack.  I feel it is my duty to use as much as not waste.  The night's dinner was Grandpa's Beef Stew and so assembling the ingredients is much more than following a recipe.  It is an homage to family history and free therapy with a secret ingredient known as heart.  Love.  Truthfully, I've changed up the recipe over the years, but the one thing that will be in every beef stew I ever make is my Grandpa's memory.  I miss him, but I could hear him humming while I chopped and seared.  The day was too sublime to stay indoors so I walked my usual route, but I wasn't exactly looking forward to it.  It makes no sense either because I've never finished exercising and regretted it. I always feel good...better.  My perpetual resistance is unexplainable.  Yesterday the trail was abuzz. Fat caterpillars crossed the path in what appeared to me a mass exodus from what is to come.  I rounded a corner by the lagoon and came face to face with a young doe.  "Hi there," I said a little startled.  She looked at me and then away.  For a split second, I fumbled to take a picture, but then I refrained and let the encounter go undocumented.  Ten steps beyond I surprised a heron standing in the shallows.  Again I greeted and passed feeling grateful for my legs and lungs and Mother Nature. Cleaned and flossed I felt relieved to be given a six month stay.  Even dental care, healthy teeth, a nice hygienist and dentist deserve a dose of gratitude.

After school, Lily and I had a date at the apple farm with our friend Honeycrisp.  We drove through the golden fields to the country and I felt an overload of goodness and gratitude.  The trees closest to the road were mostly picked over, but as we made our way further into the orchard, we found plenty of beauts. Peace and solitude too.  We filled up our bags with fruit and our afternoon with abundance and togetherness.
The kids went to practices and Mike came home.  We poured cocktails and chatted while we whipped up Julia Child's Garlic Mashed Potatoes to go with that stew.  The sauteing cloves smelled sweet and nutty while the breeze blowing in through the window delivered woodsy notes and felt crisp against my skin.   I was content at the end of the day.  Full.  Happy. Grateful.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

two day pass

this weekend we went back to where it all began.


mike and i met in madison in 1987.
we lived in the same dorm but liked different people.
we were friendly for years before we started dating.
in 1990, we had our first kiss after a badger game.
we were at the same frisby floor reunion long after the day's game.
it was a party i almost skipped to have a date with a different mike.
it was a beautiful fall night.
the air was electric.
of course, later it would storm and we would go home drenched.
i'm not sure if the team won or lost, but i know i went home happy.
we haven't been to a game together in years.


so when my brother, a fellow alum, scored tickets, i was excited to visit bucky.
walking down regent street was a virtual stroll down memory lane.
the landmarks are completely changed,
yet the sea of red and the party in every parking lot felt familiar.
we did a lot of reminiscing.
there was the time neighboring tailgaters knifed our football.
there was the time (or few) we stayed at jingles drinking miller lite for the whole game(s).
there was the time when we used to sit in section p or o.
there was the time we ate la bamba twice in 24 hours.
now the boys are too old too avenge pig skin murderers,
 jingles is an apartment building,
 we're too old (and on time) for the student section, and o sucks,
 and la bamba is out of business.
i loved being back at camp randall, and i got downright weepy when arm in arm we swayed while singing varsity.
i really don't think the day could have been any better.
well...except for a badger victory.


sunday was stellar too.
it was the perfect broody fall day for being busy in the kitchen with extra coffee and lots of jazz.
i made harissa and wondered how and why i have never before, assembled the algerian Lasagna, and mixed a red wine vinaigrette.
lily peeled and chopped apples happily, and then mixed and rolled out dough proudly for her first ever apple pie.


incidentally, the first and last time i made an apple pie was shortly after that first kiss so many badger saturdays ago.
mike was slow and shy.
october turned into november and we had yet to have a date.
so when he finally asked me, i said i couldn't because i had to make an apple pie.
ludicrous right?
i believe that was my point.
i called my grandpa and he shared his recipe.
that night i did indeed bake a pie much to the delight of my neighbors, adam and erik.
the next day, i received a card and a dozen roses from mike.
whatever he said on that enclosure, made me finally take him seriously.
i accepted the next time he asked me out.


lily's pie was a delish beaut.
the best part about her culinary passion though, is what happens when we're side by side cooking.
we talk. we tell stories.  we share secrets. we listen.
we connect.


so a badger game is never just a badger game and an apple pie is never just an apple pie.
they are portals to the past, and sometimes life changing too.

Monday, October 5, 2015

On My Mind Monday

"I release my breath slowly and linger in that space so rarely visited, between yesterday and tomorrow, for once truly present."

~Sasha Martin
Life From Scratch

This memoir about food, family and forgiveness touched me in a way that lingers and inspires.  The sentiment above captures what I love about breaking bread.  Cooking and eating together invite moments of complete presence even while they are often provoked by the past and will influence the future.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

On the Menu

I'm going to try this again.  Not sure for how long. Probably until I find the spark I need to get me out of the rut I've been in.  Maybe longer if it gets me inspired and keeps me accountable.  So here is what we're eating this week largely inspired by my recent read of Sasha Martin's memoir...

Sunday:  Hot Algerian Lasagna with a Greek salad

Fall Sundays are perfect for being busy in the kitchen so I like to take on more elaborate meals.  This will yield lots of leftovers for the week too and that is always a bonus. I plan to use chicken because I'm a little shy of lamb.  I expect the kids to pick out the garbanzos, but that's OK.

Monday: Chicken, Torta de Riso from Life From Scratch, sauteed green and yellow squash

Monday night we are all tired so quick and easy best fit the bill.  That means this will be a store bought rotisserie bird.  The Torta is very easy.

Saute 6 slices of bacon in a little EVOO.  Once fat is rendered (melted), add a chopped onion and cook until slightly browned.  Cool.  Mix together 3 cups of cooked rice (day old is best), 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, 6 eggs lightly beaten, chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Once combined add bacon mixture and pour into greased 8x8 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until golden. Cool and cut into squares.

Tuesday: Grandpa's Famous Beef Stew on top of  Julia's Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Every year on his birthday, I make my Grandpa's beef stew.  It's what he usually made for us when we were invited for dinner, which was basically any Friday we were free.  This year he would have been 99. In honor of Grandpa Vic, I'm also going to make an apple pie, only one and I will use sugar.  He was famous for making a pie per person at Thanksgiving, and sugar cookies without sugar at Christmas.  We loved this about him because he didn't really start baking until he was in his 70s, but he started baking in his 70s.

Wednesday Chicken Tortilla Soup and Cheese Pupusas

I have the day to tend to a pot of soup simmering away on the stove.  I try to make soup once a week because it's easy, warm and great for lunches.

Thursday: Leftovers

Thursday is always leftover night at Casa Wags, and almost always a favorite.  Can you say smorgasbord!

Friday: Pizza

Friday is always pizza night and always a favorite.  Can you say pizza!  Whether we cook frozen, order in or go out, we love pizza.

Saturday:  Free for invites.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Soup weather.  I made my first pot of lasagna soup for the season and it was very well received.  In fact, Ted came home from the night before the cross country meet spaghetti dinner and helped himself to a bowl.

At this week's meet, he broke 20. Must have been all the carb loading.

A sign this week.  I saw not one, but two orange VW convertibles with black tops.  The first sighting was right after receiving a friend's text asking, specifically, if I'd had any signs lately.

Finding Global Table Adventure.  While reading Life From Scratch, I took a long walk down my own memory lane.  Food is memories.  I kept picturing my grandma and her sister in one kitchen or another chopping and bickering, mixing and reminiscing as I devoured the memoir.  Rosie and Helen were passionate, not precise cooks.  I'm thankful that I had so many experiences cooking beside them.

A final kitchen meeting tonight.  Hopefully, it will go well and we can decide between our top two contenders and get this show on the road.

A mother son back to school spree. Teddy tried on a pair of jeans and decided to add them to his khaki rotation.  They look so cute on him.

We cleaned out his drawers and closets to put together some things for a church family in much need.

Plenty.  It's what we have.

Hat weather.  A fuzzy owl is the most recent addition to Lily's collection.

Cat and chipmunk.  There's this little guy...he taunts my boys day and night.  He hangs out on the ledge outside their perch and stares right in at them.

Mike and I have 2 episodes of Homeland season 4 left for the weekend.  Last night we watched 4 episodes. We're sick.

SNL 41st season opener is tomorrow.  I'm not thrilled that Hilary is making an appearance, but I'll watch despite the fact that I don't think late time comedy television is presidential.

This biography.  I am a a big Didion fan.  Despite the mixed reviews and the fact that she declined to collaborate with the author, I will still read it.

Autumn skies with attitude.