Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'll be Home for Christmas

There is no place like "home" for the holidays.  Holidays and "home" just go together.  There are songs about it, and we go over the river and through the woods to get there.

This is my sixth Christmas away from "home" and I have come around to a different perspective.

I love my extended family.  I love my hometown.  These are a given.

But consider this..... those that are "home" for the holidays have a whirlwind of hosting (crazy) relatives, hauling presents, dressing children in itchy clothes, family squables, cooking for crowds or creating "moveable feasts" to contribute to chaotic gatherings.  Yes - I have lived all that and it has it's wonderful irreplaceable rewards.


For the last six years, my Christmas events have consisted of bonding with my husband and children.  The four of us get a reprieve from school work, spreadsheets, carpool, sports practices, travel, volunteer obligations, conference calls, and even to a fair degree, routine chores (the dog poop can wait!).

Wait for it...... the audible "Aaaahhhhh......."

We hunker down together, turn up the cheesy Christmas music (and sing along with lousy harmony), lay in several days of decadent supplies, and just enjoy being together.

Of course we miss our family and I think wistfully of them all together sharing a boisterous meal, having a mountain of crumpled wrapping paper and total chaos, which I gleefully had hosted in my own home for many years. 

But we are far from kith and kid and luckily the four of us (still) truly enjoy each other's company.  These few days clarify for me that I am so grateful for the strength and steadfastness of my husband.  The adventure and drive of my eldest.  The creativity and generousity of my youngest.  The unconditional love that they all bear to me.  And I know that without these few days of intense attentiveness towards one another, I'd miss the moments that would be lost in the whirlwind.

Peace.  Quiet.  Love.

That is what the holiday feels like to me.

That is what I think the holiday is supposed to feel like.

I wish you all the best for 2011.  And especially a little peace, quiet, and love.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unbearable Journey

Shoulders to cry on.

Bread to break with loved ones.

Kind words and remembrances.

Shared pain and grief.

Homes and hearts opened.

Breathe......  just remember to breathe.....

An impossible task completed - borne up on the hearts of family, friends, thoughts, prayers and love.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The sharp knife of a short life

This picture slays me most of all.

The boy that once was.  The man he could have become.  A future still yet filled with endless possibilities.

The boundless love and support of a parent with heart full of dreams.

The sharp knife of a short life.
Raymond Patrick Glynn
11-04-87  - 11-27-2010


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yes, it's another post about food!

A while back, when I went to my farm share, I got some really cute 8-ball zuchinni.  I just love these little guys and if I ever get any better at gardening, I want to try and grow them for myself.

Someday, when I don't have hungry athletes to feed, just ONE of these, stuffed with random yummy goodness, will be perfectly adequate for a meal for me.

Also at the farm that day were sweet potatoes.  It was a logical step to stuff the squash with that!  So, dice it finely, and sautee with the ubiquitous onion.  And a bit of chili flake, 'cuz you know, I cook in Texas.

Also, the insides of the squash went into the sautee, and then the whole mess got stuffed back into the squash, which had been lightly oiled and well seasoned.  Next, they are roasted in the oven for about 40 minutes.

Surely stuffed squash is a perfectly fine mean on it's own!  But nooooo!  I had to add garlic bread, grilled artichokes, and a bit of steak as well.  Bon appetit!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bridgie's Room

Once Bridget hit middle school, she decided that it wasn't exactly "cool" to have Barbie stuff strewn about one's room.

With needing to make space for her new desk, the time was right for a major overhaul for Bridget's room.

Fortunately, she has two closets.  The smaller one we put in lots of bins and shelves so she can now keep her toys out of sight, and the larger closet is dedicated to clothes.

We took all the artwork off the walls and then Bridget decided how she wanted her furniture arranged.  She wanted a lot of space in the middle of the room, her bed set up like a couch for lounging, and a reading area.  Since it's her room, I pretty much gave her free reign.  Once the furniture was all moved around, the posters and artwork went back up on the walls.

Bridget then photographed her room.  I just love her photographs, she's got an unusual way of looking at things.  I thought she'd eventually put these pictures up on her blog, but she hasn't been blogging much, so here they are.

Bridget's reading nook.  Looks comfy, I think I'll try it out!

Bridget made each of these items at different birthday parties.

She loves the lock and key on her new desk.

It seems like the quintessential "tween" room to me!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Something I've never had until moving to the south is okra.  Gardeners who grow it say it's one of the easiest things to grow around here.  Judging by the overflowing bushels of the stuff every week at Sandra's farm, I would guess that to be no lie!

The classic way to prepare okra is to deep fry it.  That's all well and good, but I searched for a healthier way to use it.  I tried roasting it in various iterations (with garlic, with cherry tomatoes....) and didn't really come up with a way to use it that my family would eat.

Until..... my neighbor shared a jar of pickled okra with me.  It's yummy!  And Bridget loves it!  Time to pickle my own okra, and teach Missy B in the process!

Into the bottom of each jar goes mustard seed, dill, crushed garlic, one fresh jalepeno and one dried red chili.

The pickling liquid is equal parts cider vinegar and water and a whole bunch of pickling salt.  Packing the okra in the jars was a bit of a challenge.  I don't like to use wide-mouth jars so that my canning rings are interchangeable amongst my smaller jelly jars.  But, by alternating big end and little end, and starting with the largest okra pods first, we got the jars stuffed tightly.

Ladle in the hot pickling liquid, and drop them in boiling water to process for 10 minutes and voila!  Pickles!  Bridget loves them in her lunch and I hope we've made enough to get through the winter.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Well furnished

This year, Ray decided to make each of the kids their own desk.  They are old enough to do their homework in their rooms independently, and it was time to relcaim the dining room so that it no longer looks like a one-room school house.

Ray looked at a lot of plans, catalogs, etc. and eventually came up with his own design.  (Kind of sounds like how I cook!) Lots of storage room, lovely lines with tapered legs, beautiful dovetail joinery.  The desks are similar, yet different.  Aidan's top is chunkier, more masculine.  Bridget's is more elegant, with detail routed into the edges.  The legs on Bridget's are slightly slimmer than Aidan's desk as well.

One of my favorite features is the slanted top.  It isn't so steep that things slide off, unless you pile the clutter too high.  Sort of a self-regulating clean-up reminder!

The wood is maple, and beautifully figured.

I know Ray had a lot of fun building these, and I had fun during the times that I helped.  Woodworking is often like a big logic puzzle and I've learned a lot helping Ray.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, but the light bulb must really want to be changed.

Our light bulbs are not so open to psychologic enlightenment.

Above our kitchen, we have five niches.  Four contain artwork, one contains a clock.  All have a spot light above them.

Twice a year, when it's time to change the clocks, we drag the 20' extension ladder in, and Ray goes up to set the proper time on the clock.

This year, we figured we'd replace all five light bulbs as long as he was up there - easy, right?  Um, no.

  1. Get the wrong light bulbs from the store.
  2. Go back and get the right light bulbs.
  3. Haul the ladder in, trying hard not to bash it too many times on the walls, or the 120 year old suite of furniture in the breakfast nook.
  4. Reconfigure the ladder to the proper positioning for the job.
  5. Insert finger in the wrong place at the wrong time as telescoping ladder collapses.
  6. Take a first aid break.
  7. Painstakingly wrestle ladder into a position that allows access to the recessed lighting.  It is scarily veritcal.
  8. Head up with light bulb in hand.
  9. Drop the light bulb.
  10. Take a cleaning break to deal with shards of glass projected in a 20' radius.
  11. Head up with another light bulb.  One down, four to go.
  12. Painstakingly wrestle the ladder into the next niche.
  13. Discover minor electrical problem too high to reach from ladder.
  14. Find a bench that will fit on the ledge and that is high enough, carry it up the ladder.
  15. Three trips up and down and out the garage for the proper tools.
  16. Insert light bulb.  It does not work.
  17. Send light blub back down to be tested in another fixture.
  18. Test light bulb in fixture and realize how very dirty the fixture is.
  19. More work on the recessed fixture.
  20. Send light bulb back up.
  21. It works!  Two down, three to go.
  22. Painstakingly wrestle the ladder into the next niche.
  23. Remove clock to change time.  Decide that it needs cleaning.
  24. Clean clock.
  25. Decide the batteries should be replaced.
  26. Back down to find proper batteries.
  27. Adjust time, change bulb.  Three town, two to go.
  28. Painstakingly wrestle the ladder into the next niche.
  29. Have a lot of trouble getting the ladder in the right position.
  30. Bash the wall in the niche a couple of times.
  31. Head back out to the garage to find the special paint the niches were painted with.
  32. Remove socks and put them on the ladder to avoid this problem in the future.
  33. Head back up with light bulb and paint brush.
  34. Change bulb, paint niche.  Four down, one to go.
  35. Painstakingly wrestle the ladder into the next nook.
  36. Realize that since one was broken, we are now out of light bulbs.
  37. Take another trip to the store to buy light bulbs.
  38. Head back up and change the light bulb.

Success!  Illumination!  Cocktails, please!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

You know it's coming, yet it still hurts when it happens

I wish I'd known.  I wish I'd known that last year's visit to the local pumpkin patch would yield the last photos of my two children, together, willingly posing by all the cute fall displays.

Apparently, once you hit thirteen, you are now "too cool" to have your picture taken at the pumpkin patch.  Even though, for some reason, it's still "OK" to go there - just not have your picture taken.  I think FaceBook is to blame.....  Even bribery and threats don't work.



For a "tween," it's no problem.  You don't mind having your photo taken in the window of the Pumpkin House.

If you are thirteen, you run away around the corner and hide. 

If you are a tween, you happily pose next to the dried corn stalks.

If you are thirteen, you hide behind your mother and hope that she doesn't realize she can turn the camera around.

If you are a tween, you enjoy having your picture taken next to a giant pumpkin.

If you are thirteen, you run away.  Far, far away.

If you are a tween, you suggest an attractive pose for a close-up.

If you are thirteen, you lurk outside of the Pumpkin House, so you can still be close to the action, yet not consenting to provide actual photographic evidence that you were really there.

I can only try console myself with the fact that even though I am losing the milestones of childhood, I am gaining the milestones of adulthood that will present themselves in the coming years.  Homecoming, driver's license, and proms.  It's a bittersweet position, being at this nexus between childhood and adulthood.  Looking forward has always served me well in life's transitions and challenges.  But I still can't help looking back and feeling just a little bit sad.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In touch with my food. Literally.

One thing I've learned in trying to eat more local, less processed foods is how much I have to touch my food now.  Whether it's for preservation or just prep for dinner, there is a lot more involved when you quit opening up cans.

Take the purple hull peas.  I'd never had them before.  Farmer Sandra grows them and I was intrigued.  They're a pretty greenish purple and look like beans.

Except they are not.  The edible part lies within the hull and must be painstakingly removed.

Shellin' peas - it can either be relaxing or mind-numbingly boring.

The first time, I did them all by myself.  What began as relaxing soon became monotonous.  It took well over an hour.

I cooked them in sauteed onion and bacon and then boiled them for about 90 minutes.  Delicious!  The kids LOVED them!

So, I decided they were worth the effort and the next time I brought them home from the farm I made it a Family Project to shell the peas.  What began as relaxing soon turned into bickering, adolescent fits, and at least one nameless person leaving the room in tears.

But I digress.

The point is, it took no little while to get all those peas out of their hulls.  But they were worth the work.  Purple hull peas are not something you'd ever find in the grocery store, in a can, or in the frozen food section. They are wonderful and this is the only way you can enjoy them.  By touching every little dang pea.

A few weeks back, when I went to "my farm" to get my veggies, Farmer Sandra had harvested ALL the carrots.  They were not going to stand up to the heat, and needed to be used now or they'd be no good at all.

I pretty much filled my bag with carrots that week, intending to find a way to preserve them.

Homegrown carrots are neither as "pretty" or as large as you find in the grocery store.  But they have a much more robust flavor, and earthiness that all good root vegetables should have.  And a lot more charm in their appearance.

Problem is, before preserving, all of these carrots needed to be vigorously scrubbed.  I'm a scrubber, not a peeler.  I think peeling is wasteful in both taste and mass and nutritional value.  Scrubbing hundreds of little carrots took no little while.

The next challenge is to preserve them in a way that I think enhances their flavor and makes eating them a pleasure rather than a chore.

As usual, I scanned a lot of recipes and decided to go a bit exotic.  Star anise, cinnamon, clove all seemed to be good compliments to their earthy flavor, and some lemon (juice and peel) to brighten the overall effect and contract all that earthiness.

They sure look pretty, but I need to give them a few weeks in the jars before trying them.  I'll let you know how they taste.

All this prep work gives new meaning to "handmade food."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Aidan's Trip to the Olympic Training Center

Aidan and several of his teammates were recently invited for some intensive training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  It was an amazing opportunity and he got a lot out of it.  

Meet the team at the airport – all the kids are uniformly attired in team t-shirt and jeans.  Coach’s orders.

One of his teammates dad is a Southwest pilot, so he bid for the flight.  He introduced the kids over the plane PA and they all cheered very loudly.  Business travelers just loved that, I’m sure.

They had a couple of hours to kill before they could check in at the OTC, so they went to the zoo.  Apparently, Aidan made friends with a giraffe.

The purpose of the OTC is to provide athletes a stress-free environment in which to focus solely on training.  The best facilities, equipment, food, comfort, recreation, education and camaraderie a serious athlete needs.  Most of them didn't want to come home.

The kids were kept very busy.  Every day they trained in the pool twice for 2 hours each workout.  They attended educational sessions on nutrition, ethics and doping.  They did dryland workouts or worked in the weight room.  They ate four meals.  They had nightly team meetings with their coaches.  They had a little spare time to enjoy the lounges with pool tables, ping pong, etc. and meet other athletes.

Food was amazing; Aidan reportedly ate about four 2000-calorie meals each day.  The menu was varied and extremely healthy.  Nutritional information was posted by each buffet dish.

There are public tours of the OTC on a regular basis.  The public does not have access, but only view the training facilities, dormitories, grounds etc. from the opposite side of glass partitions. This was definitely a surprise to Aidan.  Kind of like the primate exhibit at the zoo.

Other athletes on site included Olympic level cyclists and wrestlers. The swimmers would cross paths with these athletes in the dorms, dining areas, recreation areas, etc. These adults were very encouraging to our kids and complemented them on how hard they were training and how much potential they had.

The US Paralympics Swim Team was also in residence training.  Aidan was awed by these amazing athletes.  He was very indignant that the para-athletes get less attention than the others.

During his final practice, each swimmer was filmed. They filmed each stroke from both sides, head-on and above.  This will be an excellent tool to refine his technique this season.  Aidan was quite tired when it was his turn, and you can tell watching the video.  Not just "I'm a little pooped" tired.  More like, "I've been swimming 10,000 yards a day at 7,000 feet" tired.  

Of the trip, Aidan said “It was better than I expected.  Usually when I imagine things, I am disappointed.  I imagined this was going to be great, and it exceeded my expectations.”  

The trip has an enormous impact on him.  He returned happy, motivated, confident and eager.  And tired.

Ready to grab the world by it’s tail.  I am looking forward to seeing this experience pay off in big and small ways.

Front row, left side.