Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Empty Nest = Empty Pantry

'Tis the night before the night before Thanksgiving and I'm already all cooked out!  I did something I never do....I started early.  I don't start early for anything.  Is this the new normal?  Am I going to start being one of those overachieving people who has their Christmas cards ordered before Thanksgiving?  No!  One of those people who makes everything days ahead of time?  Yikes!  A person who does her Christmas shopping before December 20th?  Not yet!  Once a last minute person...always a last minute person.  Except this year.  I'm going to give this "being organized and prepared" thing a try.  Foreign territory here!

Today, as I made the cornbread and the pecan pie bars I realized that my empty nest has also resulted in an empty pantry.  I thought I had everything I needed but when you don't bake or even cook much you lose track of inventory.  I found I was inconveniently out of baking powder this afternoon.  Ten years ago I would have never been out of baking powder... or brown sugar. There was a time in my life that we always had something freshly baked in our house.  I have made many cookies, cakes and brownies in my life but not many in the last 5 to 10 years... except for the holidays. 

Another cooking realization today happened when I looked up at my counter and saw this....
3 generations of recipes.
The handwritten cards, the cookbook and the computer.
 I had to comb through that recipe box to find my mother-in-law's stuffing recipe.  Apparently, the recipe box had been dropped and put back in haphazardly since the cards were upside down and totally disorganized.  Grandson handiwork no doubt.  I took a walk down recipe memory lane reorganizing the box.  So many cookie exchange recipes that I haven't made in years.  I have no idea why I still have most of them.  The chances of me making enchilada casserole from a random card in that box are slim to none.  Pinterest has thousands of them at the click of a mouse.  We have come a long way, baby! 

This year I am thankful for my family, the opportunity to cook for a full house and grandsons who dump out my recipe box!  I hope you all enjoy some good food and some good times this Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Too Many Decisions

Yesterday I had a private laugh that has continued to make me laugh inside whenever I think about the situation.  It just keeps getting funnier and more ironic!  I figured if it has entertained me for a whole day maybe it will entertain you too.

I went for my annual or in my case, bi-annual, physical exam yesterday.  This could also be dubbed as my most dreaded day in a year...and a half.  I am not quite sure why I dread this as much as I do.  Maybe it is the painful stepping up on the scale part, maybe it is the fact that they put a needle in my arm and take blood, maybe it is the fear of being injected with poisons in the name of health,  maybe it is the fact that I have to take my head out of the sand and face the fact that I am not 30 years old anymore and my perceived healthy habits are maybe... not perfect.  Not sure what it is but I dread this day.  

I took my tired, hungry (because I had to fast for the blood sucking) body into the office yesterday and checked in at the desk.  The very nice young man handed me a clipboard with a stack of papers for me to fill out.  I cleverly replied, "this is going to take some eyeballs" and proceeded to open my purse to get my reading glasses.  Ugh!  Not one pair of my many reading glasses!  I sat down and squinted my way through the paperwork.  When I got to the three sheet health questionnaire that was faintly printed in about size 9 font I considered just going down the list and checking "No" to all of the questions.  "No" I don't have chronic pain. "No" I don't doze off while someone is talking.  No, No, No!  Leave me alone!

The funny part came when I got to a group of questions that I can only assume are gauging my level of senility, ADD or ADHD.  The first question was, "Do you have trouble making big decisions?"  I left it blank and went to the next question.  "Do you have trouble following through and finishing tasks?"  I went back to the first question, pondered and cracked myself up!  Who me, trouble making big decisions?  Try small decisions...like how to answer that question!  Let me just fill you in on my state of mind at that point.

I had just returned from four days in California.  The reason for my trip?  We were looking for a wedding venue!  Our youngest is getting married next summer and they have decided to treat everyone to a trip to the wine country.  We spent four glorious days dreaming about the perfect wedding in the perfect setting.  
Will it be here?   No
We looked at many venues.  We decided not to have it in the senior living neighborhood golf club.  We decided not to have it in a barn complete with horses and a tractor.  We decided not to have it on the crush pad of a winery or under the power lines on the dirt between the vines.  So many choices and decisions!  I had spent the last week making many big decisions so when I came to the question about having difficulty making big decisions I cracked up!  With still so many big decisions to be made, this one question stood out among all the others yesterday.  I checked "yes" and had a private chuckle.   If I only could have explained, I had already used up all of my decisions for the week and this questionnaire put me way over the top!

It will be here!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Fascinating and Frightening

As irony would have it, I heard a TED talk yesterday on this very topic.  Today, I decided to go through the draft section of the blog to see if there was anything worth publishing and I came across this piece I wrote last spring.  Seems I am on to something here, but then we probably already knew that!

From the archives...sometime early last spring:

Have you ever wondered how your recent Internet searches, Facebook feed, YouTube rabbit holes and Twitter feed are shaping your consciousness?  As a social media user I considered this while sitting in church on Sunday.  I guess I wasn't really paying attention to the homily, my mind wandered and ended up on this topic.  Maybe it was the result of reading another request to comment on someone's post about the latest Facebook algorithm.  Maybe it was because I spent much of Saturday searching travel websites for an upcoming trip.  As a result, those sites now send me daily or even hourly notices.  (yes, I know I can control those notices by changing my settings, which I did after the trip was fully planned).  See... the Internet is working its devious way into my consciousness and I think it is a fascinating and frightening topic to consider.

During "that" election I found myself growing very weary of the political chatter, similar to how I am feeling now.  I like to keep my most conservative and most liberal friends(I'll let you figure out who is who) as friends on Facebook even though sometimes their posts drive me to distraction.  I like to think hearing both sides (extremes) keeps me from becoming myopic.  I consider myself a liberal conservative or is it a conservative liberal?  I can never figure out.  Sitting in church I wondered though, if crafting your news feed to fit your opinions and beliefs can eventually lead you to become more extreme. 
Obviously I am not the first person to think of this.
We should all think of this!

If you are a person who loves those recipes that pop up on Facebook and shares them or clicks on the website, you get more of the same type of posts.  Does this in turn get into your subconscious and make you want to cook or craft more?  Mostly they just make me worry about how high my weight and cholesterol would be if I made the dishes.

When I tune into Netflix there is a list of "because you watched ____ you might like ____".  When I go onto my Kindle there is a list of books I might like because I read another book.  The algorithm is doing all of the thinking for me.  I used to just go into a book store or Blockbuster...remember them?! and peruse the aisles and find the books or movies all by myself.  Think of all the great reads or movies I am missing because I am being steered in a direction.  Wandering can lead to some pretty interesting places.

As I planned our vacation using various travel websites I noticed those site's ads were showing up on the sidebar more frequently...even with my ad blocker.  Now I want to plan a trip to Malaysia and Germany and San Francisco....you name it...they all look great!

Does the Internet make us a more extreme version of who we really are?  Does it shape wants, needs and opinions?  Are we all being watched by big brother aka some algorithm?  Are we losing the ability to think for ourselves?  These are the things I think about when I am not paying attention to the homily.  I think next week I'll just pay attention to the priest and see where it leads me.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Reality Check

After an extremely steamy week here in Houston I decided, after binge watching Jack Whitehall's Travels with my Father, to get off my a** and get some exercise.  Regardless of the heat and humidity (humidex for you Canadians) I needed to get outside.  As I listened to my excellent tunes (Imagine Dragons) and walked, my attitude started to change.  Instead of drudging through my walk for the purpose of getting my steps in for the day I decided to find the beauty around me.  There must be some...somewhere...somehow!

My thoughts went to my "after dinner" walks at the shore when the sun was setting and the sandbars were out.  I took so many pictures of the sky reflecting in the gullies and the sun setting in the distance.  I found myself enjoying the late evening sunlight.  Evening really is my favorite time of day.

Not a sandbar but it is as open as it gets around the burbs!
Sand, water and a reflection of the sky....
it will have to do!
I felt a little more pep in my step and decided to walk to the one place I just might be able to get a good view of the sunset. The sky was setting up nicely...just enough clouds and just enough sun.  I walked and listened to my music and kept my eyes open for the positive.  It has been a long, hot, steamy week back in H-town (didn't I already mention that?  It bears repeating!) and I needed a breath of fresh air, even if it was just a mental breath of fresh air.

A suburban gully
I made it to my viewing spot a bit early and had to kill some time before the finale.  Luckily there were fewer mosquitoes than there are at the farmhouse.  The view is still a bit imperfect with the water tank and the electrical wires but what can I say...it was within walking distance of my house and has the most visible horizon.  Beggars can't be choosers.  So I waited.  Yes, there wasn't much going on in my life on this Friday night so I had a bit of time to wait for the sun to set, sweating and swatting a few mosquitoes. 
Getting artsy while waiting

Fitness equipment silhouettes 
Finally the big moment came.  Was it worth it?  I guess.  It was the best sunset I've seen since the night we arrived back in town.  It was also better than sitting in the house watching Netflix for the fifth or sixth hour and I got my steps for the day done. 
But so much clutter!

Better from a distance.
The punchline to this story comes about an hour later.  I walked home and was considering sharing my suburban sunset experience.  I was feeling a bit proud of myself for getting out and making the most out of being back in the steamy south.  You should know that TJ headed back to the cooler air at the farmhouse this morning.  And then it happened.  The pin that burst my balloon.  TJ shared a few pictures from the shore.  They were like a dagger to my heart.  I had just tried so hard to embrace being back here...and then he sends me these. 
I am humbled
What...no power lines?!

No water tanks?  I think he is just rubbing it in!
As I deeply sighed and fought back my green envy monster I reminded myself why I am down here in the first place.  It is not about the weather or the sunset.  I am here because of one very special little girl and she is more beautiful and breath taking than any sunset... anywhere.  I'm here to welcome our newest grand child and our first granddaughter!  I'm here to help out with her big brother and to help her parents out a bit.  The sun sets every night, this only happens once!
Getting to see Logan meet his little sister....priceless!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Last Days

Summer at the shore is rapidly coming to an end.  I have said more "goodbyes" than "hellos" over the last couple of weeks.  Soon I will be saying my final goodbye and another summer will be in the books.  Well, I wish it were in a book...somewhere... but I never seemed to find/make the time to put it down in that book.  Maybe on the plane ride home I can recreate reality!  All I have to do is look through my photos of the summer and it will all come flooding back to me, only better, because who takes photos of the bad days?  There are no bad days here!

Not a bad day, right?!
I observed two of my favorite people go through their last days over the past week and it made it all too real for me.  Those last days are brutal.  The cottage closing and packing is mentally and physically draining.  Cleaning up the remnants of weeks or months of life at the shore may be the best way to make a person want to be home already.  By the time you have washed the red sand from the beach towels, put away the beach chairs, rafts, boats, kayaks, sand toys, and patio furniture you are ready for a break.  Not to mention emptying and cleaning the refrigerator...don't even get me started!  Nothing is simple around here.

The raft had another good summer...
but it must be put up for the season.

Raft removal team on the way!

It takes a village!

Even the younger members of the village helped!

And his mom makes this barrel look as light as a marshmallow!

Later that same day the children played like there was no tomorrow!  And if you think about it...there was no tomorrow, at least at the shore.  This day is a sad day for me.  Their last day always feels like it arrives too soon.  We were just getting into a routine, everyone was in their groove and it's time to leave?  The boys had another great summer full of playing outdoors, running on the beach, swimming, eating ice cream and chips, rekindling friendships (that hopefully will last a lifetime), reading Archie comic books and growing.   I think kids grow inches up here.  My theory is that all the fresh air, freedom and "fret free" living lets their bodies grow.

Boys being boys in a land they made their own.
I love that the dog is standing guard waiting for one of them
to throw him a rock!
We said goodbye to my daughter's family and my sister and her son and now it seems too quiet.  It felt so quiet that the other night while eating dinner with friends we decided to throw one last shindig.  We may have had some liquid motivation that made having a dinner party for 25 people seem like a great idea.  We gave everyone about 10 hours notice to come pick their produce from the garden and prepare a dish for the Annual Garden Party.  This time we opened it up to include spouses, because why feed 12 people when you can feed 25?!  Sometimes being spontaneous works, this was one of them.
The man can grow some vegetables!

We all ate our veggies today!
As my last week turns into my last days I find myself trying to pack as much into them as possible.  I want to see another perfect sunset, go on one more evening walk on the sandbars, take that photo drive I've been thinking about taking all summer, eat mussels and lobster one more time,  play one last round of golf, and stop by to visit (fill in the blank) one last time.  There is never enough time up here, even when you stay for three months!

Alas, it is time to move on to the next step...packing, cleaning and throwing away half  used bottles of ketchup.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Scenes from my Lawnmower

I mowed the yard on Saturday for the first time in a while.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a two hour mower cruise.  TJ has been doing most of the mowing and I was actually looking forward to some time in the yard.  The grass was deep and bright green because it finally rained!  As I rode around on my chariot I kept noticing little pockets of beauty.  
A seldom seen part of the yard back by the "swamp"
So much had changed since the last time I mowed.  The apple trees are full of apples.  The raspberry bushes are full of raspberries.  So many different flowers are blooming than the last time I had ridden around.  This property is an ever changing cornucopia of trees, flowers and vegetables.  Add to this the speed at which things grow up here and if you miss a week, you miss a lot!

I decided rather than make a mental note of spots I wanted to come back and photograph I would just get my camera and stop when the urge struck me and do a photo journal of the yard.  I had a lot of time!  Plus, I was never going to remember all the spots.  So, in no particular order here is a little ride through the yard.  No deep thoughts.  No metaphors or similes.  No funny stories.  Just a great appreciation of the beautiful world we get to call home for a few short months each year.

My chariot awaits

The garden, the play set and the shed with its awesome mural!

I love seeing my neighbors out on a walk!

Just some berries...for the bears?

And berries for the humans!

Purple hedge!

Possibly the best part of the yard...the amazing
mural by my niece Alex!

She looks so nice in this light with the grass all mowed!

Can't complain when there is a water view over the lawnmower!

Coming up the road...one side

and the other side!
Where chores don't always feel like chores!  Have a great day!  

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Different Kind of Hangover

It is the Monday after "Games Weekend" at the shore.  The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the stifling humidity of the past week has finally subsided and there is nowhere I "have" to be right now.  All along the shore you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief, secret snickers about memorable moments, and groans from over exertion or over indulgence of one kind or another this past weekend.  The "Games Weekend" is a one of a kind extravaganza!

Heading over to the bocce games on Saturday morning.
Dad flying the American flag to "represent".
The "Games Weekend" is a three day test of mental, athletic and social stamina.  This year was the 44th annual games.  I was a teenager when they began!  They begin on Friday morning bright and early with a golf game.  We had around 60 participants from the two extended families and it came down to 10 strokes.  We (the Browns) lost the event. From the golf game we head back to the shore, suit up for the beach and cool off in the water before we go home, eat dinner and head out for a night of cribbage, Hearts and Trivial Pursuit.  This night has been known to go on into the wee hours of the morning for some...  It is always a great time and involves many people!
It was an intense game of Trivial Pursuit!
After our late-ish night, the weekend is off and running.  The rest of the two days include bocce ball, Frisbee golf, volleyball, a water relay, softball, a sack race and finally Ultimate Frisbee.  Every one of these activities requires major coordination of teams and venues.  There are over 100 and maybe 150 (I've never really counted) participants and spectators in these "games".  Three days, 11 events, one winning family.  We take our weekend sports seriously!
Bocce is serious business!
I can't throw a Frisbee but I can use a camera so...
I set up a photo booth in front of our outdoor shower for the Frisbee golf game.
I counted at least 96 participants...most were wearing clothes!

I can remember participating in almost every one of the games...in my younger days.  This year I participated in three of them and coordinated one event.  Everyone is included in these games from the children to the over 60 crowd.  It really is one of the most loved and sometimes dreaded weekends of the summer.  Dreaded only because life gets put on hold for three days.  There are no regular meals, laundry goes neglected, privacy is impossible during the games and sleep is fleeting which may lead to an element of dread for some.  I am not one of them.  I love this weekend!

At the end of the games we come together, both the Browns and the Christies and use up all the rest of our energy at the barn party.  What better way to make sure you leave it all on the field than dancing and partying all night long?

This year as I watched the crowd on the dance floor looking younger than ever...or was I just older than ever...I was reminded of previous barn parties.  There were years I danced every dance and drank way more than I should have only to continue the festivities into the wee hours of the morning.  The next day was usually met with a huge headache and many body aches brought on by playing sports I play once a year and dancing for four or five straight hours.  The hangover may have been epic.  Then came the years my children were those teenagers making questionable decisions and TJ and I stayed at the barn party "dancing and partying" just to keep a watchful eye.  Then there were the last few years with our adult children when dancing all night together made my heart swell.  I guess I really do love to dance and I love my family.
My cup runneth over at the 40th Games in 2014 !
I sure did miss them last night!

Today I woke up with a different kind of hangover.  I drank very responsibly last night so that was not the problem.  But....why do my knees, hips and feet hurt so much?  I have come to the harsh reality that I just can't dance for hours on a concrete floor.  Well...I can, but I feel it more than I used to.  Nothing a lot of water and a couple ibuprofen can't fix....so worth it!  Bring on the Mull River Shuffle!

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