Sunday, February 28, 2010
Sunny weather induced outdoor activities this weekend at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Still a little too cool for comfort for me - Hello month of May! Will you please hurry up with your warm 75 to 80 degree weather that I prefer? Here is grandaughter and I at the park with our dog, Dudley.
Anyway, with my cup of tea, I've been perusing blogs this Sabbath Day--no housework duties! If you haven't checked out "C"'s mother-in-law's blog at immigrant daughter then you are missing a real treat! She tells the compelling story of her upbringing as a Greek immigrant and the love story between she and her husband of 58 years. I'm captivated! Hope you'll visit her! Her story is worth hearing.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I was thinking the other day about how warm it makes us feel to hear from our elders the “lore” of our lives, especially the events of our initial birthday. There is something about having a “history” known to others and repeated to us that grounds us. Maybe it assures us of a place in the family tree. Is it the development of roots? I don’t know, but I believe that hearing from our elders about our early days is important, and that being deprived of this leaves one somewhat insecure the rest of his or her days.
I have always enjoyed telling my son about his birth. My husband and I had been married eleven years before our son was born. I was a confirmed career woman, and he was the up-and-coming entrepreneur. We had made a conscious decision to have no children because our life was just perfect as it was…until we neared husband’s thirtieth birthday. At that time the urge to procreate hit him with an urgency.
My husband lamented first of all that he had decided that he did not want to go without a child and, second, if we did not hurry he’d be too old to be properly engaged in childhood activities. ( I find this particularly ironic now that he has a new baby on the eve of his sixtieth birthday, but I digress) I happily acquiesced, and we entered pregnancy with great expectations and much fanfare. This would be the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
As the due date approached, we pored over name books, considered family names, and thought hard about what to call this child. This was in the dark ages, when one had to wait until actual delivery to see whether one had a son or a daughter, so we worked on both genders.
The girl’s name went fairly easily, and we settled comfortably on “Meredith Elizabeth…” But the boy’s name was up in the air. We narrowed in down to Christopher and Nicholas as first names. I don’t recall what middle names we considered.
I was practicing law throughout my pregnancy, and I battled high blood pressure much of the time. I was hospitalized several days prior to delivery and finally my doctor decided to do a C-section. My husband had attended all the pre-birth classes, so he was allowed to attend the surgery.
I was conscious throughout, having anesthetic for the lower portion of my body only, so I was well aware when the doctor looked up and said, “You have a son! What is his name?”
Without missing a beat, I blurted out, “His name is A. C.!”
This was a name that we had never, ever discussed. I had never, ever even thought of it. It just came to me through the fog of the delivery room. My speaking it was involuntary and as much a surprise to me as it was to hubby. My husband was so shocked that he made a mild protest: “C! Where did that name come from??!!”
One of the attending nurses turned to him and said, “You stay out of this…she can name that baby anything she wants to!” He backed right down.
And the name stuck, and all are agreed that it is the perfect name for our son. We always say that God named him. Certainly, he has been every bit the blessing of a child that one would expect under these circumstances. And, oddly, though we never again used birth control, he was our one and only.
But, back to the premise of this post: From his earliest childhood on, my son has always loved to hear this story. It is the story of how special he was from the very beginning of his life on earth; so special that his parents strained over just what to call him; so special that God, Himself, perhaps intervened to get his name just right.
My own “birth lore” involves naming, too. My cousin was old enough to remember being at the hospital when I was born and told me the story (she is the only one who has). As the family gathered in the waiting room (fathers did not witness delivery back then), she recalled how my father, a lawyer, passed his time writing the names my mother and he had discussed to see how each would look as a professional signature. He settled on a name that does, indeed, look just fine on all those court documents I sign each day as I follow in his professional footsteps. It is a story that stuck with me through my developing years and may have played a part in my determination to finish professional school. Who knows?
I can think of other important family stories, blessings of a sort, which I may share with you from time to time. I will curtail myself now in the interests of reasonable post length. But I’d love to hear family lore stories from you and, especially, how these recitations are received by their subjects and how it might have impacted their lives.
Leave me these details in a comment or, if you want to give me more, I’d love you to e mail me. The e mail address is in our profile. I’d love enough material to do a follow-up post containing these.
Thanks for indulging my early-morning musings! C
Saturday, February 13, 2010
OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
"Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away! Oh! The Places You'll Go!
...You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights."
I couldn't help but think of this wonderful book by the incomparable Dr. Seuss when I began writing this post. I spent many years working with preschool children in the classroom, so Dr. Seuss is a favorite! Being by nature a tentative (to put it mildly) person, I love the "safety" of home with my feet on solid ground! Of course I know that familiarity and routine implies a false notion of "safety". No one ever knows what lies ahead (and that is a blessing), but it's only my deep desire to see new places that compels me to climb aboard an airplane (clammy palms gripping the armrest), or to spend an entire week aboard a ship, feeling the immense power of the sea below us with no land in sight!!!! "C"'s photos pretty much tell the story of where we went and it was so wonderful to go far away to new places I've never been and to be waited on hand and foot! Oh, I could so get used to having "staff". The succulent pineapple and smorgasbord of fresh melons were part of a never-ending banquet which also featured rack of lamb, oxtail soup, salmon and fabulous desserts of course--even Baked Alaska! Although, I feasted to my heart's delight, I can honestly report that I actually still fit into the clothing I packed before we left! Yes, Dr. Seuss is right! There is fun to be done, fears to be conquered, adventures to be experienced!
Of all the places we visited, I enjoyed San Juan, Puerto Rico the most. The architecture was amazing and although an old city and certainly not the cleanest I've ever seen, it reeked of charm and history! I could spend a lot more time there, and the shopping was the best of everywhere we visited.
This trip was a much needed respite. My husband and I rarely travel. His job is of the self-employed variety in which no work equals no pay and someone just might steal your customer out from under your nose! Yes it IS a dog eat dog out there! He takes an occasional day off for an extended weekend hunting trip, but rarely ever more than a day. Our last "family" vacation was over ten years ago, and our kids are grown now and have left the nest. This trip made me realize more than ever that getting away is something that we really need to do. We need rest and relaxation for our own personal physical and mental health. From now on, even a weekend away from home can count as a mini-vacation! But I'm waiting for summer - glorious summer!!! The only downside of the trip was having to leave the perpetual summer of the Carribean and south Florida, to return to the cold, bleak winter at home. Fortunately the little snowstorm gave me a few days to rest up before returning to work last Friday.
Hope everyone had a wonderful St. Valentine's Day! I celebrated by making a yummy favorite dessert which is a classic, but so easy to prepare. Cherry Clafoutis! How perfect for this holiday of LOVE or just a great way to sweeten up dreary February! Here's the recipe from Tracy Porter of www.tracyporter.com
2 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter + l T. to butter pan or dish
3 Cups fresh or frozen cherries, stemmed & pitted if fresh (sweet or tart)
1/2 Cup sugar + 3 Tbsp.
4 large eggs
1 Cup whole milk or cream
2 Tbsp. brandy
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour + 1 Tbsp.
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan, or a cast iron pan of the same size. Mix cherries in 1 Tbsp. flour and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Lay cherries in pan.
Combine sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk,flour, brandy, nutmeg, salt, and butter in a bowl and whisk---or give it a whirl in your food processor until smooth. Pour batter over cherries in buttered pan.
Bake until golden & puffed up (center should be set), about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar or a scrumptious dollop of freshly whipped cream. Serve warm.
I discovered this luscious custard with cherries on Tracy Porter's website and you can even watch her make it on a little video! "C" and I both love Tracy Porter! She is a fabulous designer who sells the most wonderful fashions, jewelry, and home decor, but the best kept secrets for me are the wonderful little five minute videos--some of which demonstrate making something decorative which is not beyond my ability! Hope you'll check her website for ideas! Listen to her radio program on Toginet and you can win $250. in merchandise in her regular weekly contests! Even if you have champagne taste on a beer budget (like me), you can find amazing deals on her clearance page! Be sure to tell her you heard the news from the Stick Horse Cowgirls--we'd appreciate it! And, if you're wondering, no we do not have an "in" with Tracy Porter! In the spirit of St. Valentine's Day, and in solidarity with our many blogland friends, we are just all about "sharing the love"!!!<
Chili came to us from the West Coast as a pup—special ordered just for me! He has been a dream dog, maturing into a real macho-type dog, just what a Malinois ought to be
We live far out in the country, off the main roads, so I have always let my dogs run free. It seems to me a dream life for a dog—plenty to sniff at, room to run, and a warm, dry bed next to Mom’s each night, not to mention plenty of food in the dish. There is little danger of them being hit by a car, and there has never been any problem whatsoever with them running off. Until recently.
About six weeks ago Chili was not at home when I got home…strange. The routine was entrenched: Dogs go out the door when I leave for work, they trot down the driveway to MIL’s and spend the day with her, going in and out at whim (she spoils them rotten). Chili was always outside when I turned the corner into our drive, waiting to greet me at MIL’s house. Not that day.
In fact, he did not show up all night. Next morning I was pretty upset but decided that I was premature to put out an APB. I did call a few neighbors asking to keep an eye out. I went on to work. That night, still no Chili. I dutifully printed off “Wanted” posters, offering a reward…anything to get him back. (this is hyperbole, of course). As I left for work the next morning, Chili was dragging in…and I do mean dragging. He was starved and exhausted. Clearly he had been up to no good.
I did the “Whew!” and decided this would surely not be repeated. Wrong! The next week he disappeared for three days, this time showing up at MIL’s house and looking pretty bad. He was losing weight.
I kept a closer eye on him, but after a few days home, he slipped away from me and was gone four days. I was in a dilemma. I had no fenced yard except for the back yard, which is the domain of the cat, Sasha (Chili has always had suspect motives when it comes to Sasha). She is not an inside cat, and I could not see displacing her….I mulled it over. Things settled down and I went on the cruise.
While I was gone, Chili disappeared again on Thursday and on Saturday, when I returned home, he was still gone. He re-appeared the next day, even thinner. He slept and slept and slept…”knackered,” my son called it. I think he called it right.
Ice and snow set in. Surely this would keep him home…Wrong again. He left last Monday and was gone until early Thursday morning. When I got up to make coffee, there he was at the laundry room door. He looked totally emaciated. So bad that I was alarmed; it seemed to me that there was more wrong that just being exhausted. My son carted him to the veterinarian for a physical and for advice for me.
Dr. P called me at the office: “There’s nothing wrong with Chili except chasing women,” he said.
I protested: “Surely he could not lose this much weight in so short a period of time without something being really wrong!”
“Nope. They’ll give up everything—drive themselves to ruin—for sex,” he said. “I’ve seen ‘em tear their hides up gettin’ through fences for sex. Unless you want to fence him, you’d better neuter him….”
So, I gave the word. Chili has now been, shall we say “altered” (my son has forbidden me from using the word “fixed,” declaring that it is just wrong). We’re hoping that this will keep him closer to home, and the vet pretty much promises it will after the couple months it takes to clear his system of the hormones that make him so wacky.
And, sardonic person that I have grown to be, my mind turned to other males who have driven themselves to ruin or, at least, humiliation and pain for their families over this issue. These guys, too, risked much, scrambling foolishly for “illicit adventure.” Some of them are familiar to you….
Now, if only the solution for them was as easy is it was for me to do for Chili…I’m just sayin’…C
PS - Ooopsie!! V just reminded me I left an obvious one off the list:
Friday, February 12, 2010
Besides pampering us silly, the cruise offered us a chance to visit new places. You may remember that I have been on this tour (courtesy of MIL last year!) so I had a bit of confidence in getting around.
V and I loved the idea of traipsing around, looking at new stuff, not bothering about how we looked really (those folks will never see us again, anyway) and just doing girlfriend stuff.
Our first stop was Grand Turk Isle/Caicos. Grand Turk is just a little spit of an island. From the top of the ship you can literally see across it to the other side. V and I decided right real quick we would not want to live there, beautiful though it is.
And there was this little shopping area of maybe thirty shops just for us cruisers! Okay, there were a few purchases made, but the shopping here kind of left us cold…staged, a bit. We were both more into local arts, crafts, etc., which were not really to be found on Grand Turk.
Next port was our favorite: San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is rich in history and architectural charm. Just fascinating…
We found the shopping here to be the most satisfying of the trip, although St. Thomas is the port touted for shopping—it’s all about diamonds, though, and we are just not in the market…I did splurge on some Versace perfume at about half the price I would have paid here.
But, my-oh-my, St. Thomas is surely breathtaking. The harbor was just beautiful.
I kept looking for dead iguana in the road—you know, like we have dead armadillos in the road all the time here? Never saw one—for all their prevalence, they must be quicker at car-dodging than our armadillos.
The town’s streets are lined with shops—the vast majority of them being jewelry shops with hawkers standing the doorway trying to nab you as you go by. V and I laughed to think how useless—given our budget—were their efforts at selling us diamonds!
Last port was a private island in the Bahamas owned by the cruise line: “Half Moon Cay.” There is no pier, and you must reach the island by tender boat, which are double-decker sort of things. The sea was unusually choppy that day, and the Captain warned that a long blast from the ship meant to return early because weather was coming in.
V and I watched these little boats make their way up-and-down across the water and talked it over. I had been there last year and knew that it was a gorgeous beach and a few little shops, all picturesquely arranged for us. The cruise company was going to have a bbq for the passengers. We quickly decided to stay home…we did not regret it. I mean, if you’ve seen one tropical island, you’ve seen ‘em all, right? And you can see how far we would have to have gone.
That’s C’s slideshow. V may get off her duff and post some of her own pictures. She’s been busy keeping baby grandson while daycare was closed for the snow. V works for the school system and GOT THE ENTIRE WEEK OFF due to snow!! Lucky dog. Me, I had to slog through snow and go to court beginning on Wednesday, but actually it felt pretty good to be back in the saddle.
See ya later! C
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Okay, now for pix. Of course, I must say that I am reminding myself of the folks years ago who would drag people into their living room and show slides of their vacation! (zzzzzzzz). Remember “slide projectors?” The difference is that you guys can leave—any time!
V and flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday and spent all day Friday driving around Miami. We had a blast…sightseeing the beaches, the mansions, and the amazing throng of people! We had a great dinner at a sidewalk cafe in Coconut Grove. The weather was glorious! V and I decided we fully understand why people retire down in Florida.
On Saturday we boarded Holland America’s Ms. Eurodam. Our stateroom was spacious with a private balcony where we would have coffee and toast in the morning or tea in the evening. Our steward tried to keep the room tidy, and he did a magnificent job against all odds. We’re pretty messy. It seemed that every time we returned to our state room, it had been cleaned. Sometimes we’d find these cute towel creations.
The ship had many places to eat, some were restaurants for which you must make reservations. V and I stuck with the ones that were included in the price of our cruise, and we were never disappointed. This is the “Lido,” which served a huge selection of food almost 24 hours. Of course, we could order anything, anytime in our stateroom.
There were also casual eating spots scattered about the ship: a pizza shop, a hamburger/hot dog cafe, etc. Food was not a problem, unless you consider excess a problem….
The Rembrandt Dining Room is where we had dinner each night at 8 p.m. It was so well-done, from the excellent (hovering) service to the wonderful food. We also were able to have tea each afternoon at 3 p.m. in this restaurant. V and I went twice. All I can say is “luscious!” There were stacks and stacks of delicate sweets and little sandwiches.
The ship has two swimming pools (no bathing suit pix of us, don’t worry!). This picture shows the retractable glass roof above, which is closed on rainy days so passengers can still swim…never let the weather interfere with the desires of the passengers!
This next picture is of the eleventh deck observation area. The panoramic windows are lined with cushioned couches and bordered by comfortable recliners. What cannot be seen in this photo is the Starbucks-like bar with gourmet coffees and delectable goodies. There are book-lined walls and computer stations…think Barnes and Noble on water. It was this area where V and I were locked in during the fire alarm.
The ship had many wide decks for walking or relaxing with a book in a deck chair. Ahhhh, doing nothing! It’s great!
In the evenings before dinner, V and I enjoyed sitting in the Ocean Bar, listening either to string musicians or the pianist, who would play for us. We had a drink and enjoyed fancy little plates of appetizers while we awaited the uniformed steward coming through with the dinner chimes!
All in all, I’d say that a cruise is good value, especially when you start figuring out how much 7 days away would cost if it were not “all-inclusive.” V and I paid for this over months, so by the time we actually went, it felt free!!
Tomorrow I’ll try to post some pictures of our ports. We had a great time tromping around, shopping and eating our way through San Juan and St. Thomas! Thanks for hanging in here if you get to this point! C
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Well, Saturday I left this:
and I awoke Monday morning to these views from my front porch:
We have had lots of snow (for our area, anyway) and I have missed my first two days back to the office. My son and I drove up to get MIL on Monday afternoon—we don’t have to leave the driveway, mind you—and slid off the driveway into our ditch! Our drive is as flat as anything I can imagine, but we were just to the left of center because we could not actually see where the drive was placed, and the slope of the edge was just enough to allow gravity to pull us into the ditch! Needless to say, we got MIL and snuggled in at home.
It’s Wednesday morning, and I’m waiting for daylight before striking out, but I am determined to be at my desk this morning.
I have spent some of my time off organizing pictures, and will be posting in the morning (I hope!) with some pictures of the trip. Hopefully, V is doing the same!
Sunday, February 7, 2010
We’re baaaaack! Came in late last night after TWELVE HOURS in airports and planes. V was actually the better picture-taker, I’m afraid, so some of the pictures will have to wait on those downloads, but let me just say: the trip was awesome. As you know, V and I have a lifetime of experience in dealing with one another, so she was just the perfect travel friend for me. Isn’t it amazing how you can never run out of things to talk about even though you already know so much about each other? We just had ten whole days of hedonism, and will be sharing more specifics about the trip over the coming days.
But, I have some good lessons from this trip. Let me tell you a couple:
First: If you have gorgeous food continuously available, you will basically eat continuously. V and I consumed amazing quantities of food—great food that we won’t be duplicating at home. V likes to say that she concentrated on fresh fruit and “did not do too badly” so far as diet this week, but she lies about this. Some of you may recall my rash New Year’s Resolution post…well, it’s back on, and I’m counting on you people out there to be some of my accountability staff. (See, I’ve gotten used to “staff”…)
Next: Boats rock, this one ever so gently, mind you, but allowances must still be made. For example, if you need to get up in the night for the potty (a given in my case), you should be very careful while on a ship. If you are not, this might happen: You groggily make for the bathroom, stepping up the half-step and turning to pull the door closed. Boat rocks. You steady yourself with your right hand by grabbing onto the wall to the right of the door while leaning outward to take the doorknob in hand to pull the door to. If you are not very careful, what might happen is that you will not notice that your thumb, grasping to steady you, is squarely within the closure space of the hinged side of the door. What this means, of course, is that the vise formed by the closing door against the wall will squish your thumb to smithereens (simple physics, remember?), and your reaction time for figuring out what the !#@$%!#$ is actually happening and how to resolve it will be slowed waaaay down (given your grogginess and your panic as immense pain shoots into your hand). And you will have a lovely purple-hued throbbing thumb as a reminder. And, it hardly needs saying, you won't be going back to sleep.
Third: Fire alarms are n.o..f.u.n while aboard ship. V and I were up on the ELEVENTH (!) deck trying to figure out how to post for you guys when the alarm sounded and an announcement was made that a fire had been discovered in the spa area. The voice added that we were not to panic (!!), but to stay put and stay calm for our “own good.” I was calm enough outwardly, but I must tell you that I had mental visions of flames licking up past the Lido deck, headed straight for us. “Let’s go, V,” I suggested, wanting to be a little lower down…you know, closer to those life boats eight floors below? We calmly edged to the door only to find them locked. We were locked in!! Deprived of even the choice of diving into the sea rather than being roasted alive. It was at this point that my mental picture shifted to the newspaper headline that would follow (V and I starring, of course): “Longtime Friends’ Voyage Turns Deadly as Local Women Roasted Atop Ship.” Thankfully, the announcement soon followed that all was well and some idiot had merely left a towel on the sauna rocks, causing a flame…whew!
And for those of you who believe in Divine Providence (I do!), our dinner companions were living proof of the same for God was smiling on us when He chose them for us. V and I were assigned a table for dinner at 8 p.m. each night rather than saunter in at various times. It was one of the best choices we made for the cruise, for we had the same delightful four dinner companions each night.
I won’t post their pictures since I don’t have permission to post their smiling faces on the worldwide web, but I will tell you a little about them: A wonderful woman traveling with her mother (an absolute delight!), the cruise being daughter’s Christmas gift to Mom. Wonderful!
Then there was our beautiful Albanian friend from Canada (She’s our first Albanian friend!!) with her friend, the only guy in the bunch. He was long-suffering of us women, and kept us cracked up at each dinner seating.
Each one of these dinner companions was interesting and conversant. V and I looked forward to seeing them each night for dinner. We hope to keep up with them, being reluctant to lose such great acquaintances. I know it’s hard, but as you in the blogosphere know, long-distance friendship is possible!
So, more travelogue reports to come, but let me also add: As wonderful as it is aboard that luxury ship, there’s no place like home! C