Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The tone of voice, the terror implied nearly stopped my heart. Why was my little girl screaming like that at 2:00 in the morning? She had not had nightmares for ages and she just kept screaming, "Mom, Mom, Mom!"
I grabbed a shoe, not clear why I needed it, but it was the first weapon handy. My baby needed protection from something.
I raced up the stairs, mentally cursing the number. When we bought the home I was enthralled by how beautiful the high ceilings were in this 100 year old building. So much character comes with older homes.
I finally reached Sarah's room to find her huddled in the center of the bed, sheets and blankets pulled up to eye level. She was staring at the open door to the porch just off of her room. That porch was another quirk of the home. There were no trees next to it and climbing over the rail only led to a steep roof. No sneaking out after dark. So, what was she looking at?
"Mom, I saw someone!"
"What do you mean you saw someone?" No one was in the house but me, my husband Matt who was still sleeping, and Sarah.
"Right there, in the doorway! An ugly man peeked around the corner! But, I didn't hear anyone run away." This last line was delivered very solemnly. She knew that for someone to run away there were obstacles in the way. First, dry leaves. They were everywhere on that porch. They got trapped by the railing. Second, the location. There would have to be slipping and possible thuds from falls. No auditory clues reached our ears.
Slowly, I approached the door, shoe at the ready. I didn't know how some pervert had gotten up there, but he would pay. Common sense said Matt would be a better weapon than my shoe, but between the flight up the stairs and my mothering instinct, I was ready for anything.
I noticed the dead leaves on the floor, trailing from the open door. They weren't there when I tucked Sarah in. I managed to whisper to Sarah, "Get your father."
The door was close now. I could touch the knob, slowly gripping it. My muscle tensed, preparing to smack the daylights out of him. I knew my anger and forthcoming actions were justified. Perhaps Matt would have to stop me.
I yanked open the door, unsure if I would encounter someone preparing to escape or someone still set to intrude on my world. I stepped over the threshold and found...nothing. The wind blew gently, Sarah and Matt came behind me, each needing an explanation, and the invisible fingers of ice began their dance on my spine. No one was there. No one had been there. Except for an ugly face and an even uglier beginning to episodes where I can feel the ice fingers right before objects fall from sturdy shelves or leaves blow across the empty bedroom floor.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Another FlashFiveFriday

AJ looked out from the cabin doorway to survey the damage from last night's storm. He had heard several lightning strikes, felt the ground shudder with massive impacts from fallen giants, and hunkered down under the sturdiest piece of furniture in anticipation of personal danger. Ara had remained calm, surprisingly so, while they rode out the storm. It had petered out sometime around four in the morning, slowing in fits and starts, then finally a truce with simple rain for an hour before leaving them to see what remained.
Ara was still asleep, two hours not being enough, and not as invested in his mountain as AJ was.


A bit more catch up, and a couple of related topics make that easier!

Do you prefer to have still photographs or videos from important moments? and Talk about your favourite photograph.

I have two very important people in my life who have ideas about which of these is best. My sister Hanna is a professional photographer. She is very good at what she does and is always getting on me to take more pictures! I love going through her port polio, and our best family photos have been shot by her. Without actually asking her, I'm pretty sure she sides with still photographs. On the other side is my sweet husband Matthew. He is a video fiend. Even back in the 80's when the large, heavy, clunky cameras were becoming accessible to the layperson he had one and used it constantly. Now, his iPhone video camera is overused, taking up all the space on out photo stream. It used to be VHS tapes, some labeled, some not, cluttering our bookshelves (which took up room from the much more important BOOKS.) To be fair, he also takes stills-about a million of them, and whether it is video or stills, he has always had the same problem with editing procrastination. I don't think we need 20 shots of a stranger along with a video while she gives a speech. Sorry honey.
With that information I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I like still photos much better than video. Part of this is vanity, since I hate the way I sound in videos, especially as I demand that the video camera be cut off. Part of it is the inability of anyone I know to take a decent video. And, part of it is the way modern video doesn't stack up to the old 35 millimeter, black and white, silent films from my grandparents era, and even some of my own very young cameos. I like the B & W best, but as color was added there were still many good qualities in these films. Perhaps it is because the equipment, film, and processing all were finite resources, unlike our digital cameras now. Maybe the older generation was simply more talented!
I like still photos from any era. The professionally posed portraits and the spontaneous snaps all capture moments in time that become a story unto themselves. Videos are stuck with the story that comes between frame one and the end. Still photos have endless stories attached, from history to in the moment spontaneity. The best photos remind us of a story, that leads to a new story, that continues to another story, that... well, you get "the picture!" even that phrase, "get the picture," has specific meaning for those who hear it. A mental picture, or series of pictures, are available for perusal at leisure or to frame a situation in a way so that it is relatable to anyone listening and "getting the picture."
My favorite photo is one from my wedding. My new husband and I are standing in front of the Manti Temple where we had just been married for time and all eternity. It isn't my favorite because I look so gorgeous. The wind was blowing, messing with my hair and dress. It isn't my favorite because the photographer captured all the beauty of the spring gardens. I didn't have a lot of money, so I hired a friend's son who worked cheaply. Don't get me wrong, he did a good job, it just wasn't professional. It's my favorite because Matt and I look so happy. Radiantly happy. It's my favorite because of the symbolism of the temple. And, it's my favorite because it is the photo Matt and I chose to tape in Sarah's incubator as she struggled for life.
The hospital encourages parents to place family photos in the incubators for the babies to be able to see their parents faces since most babies can't be, and aren't taken care of by their parents, but by highly skilled and compassionate nurses. I'm pretty sure the photo is more for the comfort of the parents than the babies, because most of the babies don't have much of an opportunity to be awake and aware of their surroundings. These are sick little souls who wear themselves out just fighting to survive each day. Sarah's nurses did like our photo, and several asked if we had gotten married in a castle. I wish I had the photo scanned so I could share it here, but for those who are not aware of how beautiful Manti is you can go here:
It does have a castle type of feel, and the questions gave us a chance to share our faith and why we felt so calm about Sarah's condition. she was our little missionary from day one.
One picture is worth a thousand words, and while I haven't reached that mark in this post, I could, and easily surpass that. Just the two stories attached to this picture that I have shared are the tip of an iceberg. I have to feel that those of us who are writers might have a common love for still photographs. Pictures can remind us, inspire us, and push us. It's a good thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Trip Memories

I've fallen behind on my blog writing, mostly because I needed a break. Everyone needs a break, and the posts I'm using to get back into things are appropriate. Part of my break was a mini-trip to Albany with Matt and Sarah. It was just the right amount of relaxing. The two topics are
How much of the world have you seen? And What was the best thing you ever saw on a trip?
I'm not sure what the percentage of the world that I've seen, especially since my travels outside of the United States are limited to Canada above Niagra Falls and a small trip in from Michigan, and two trips to Tiahuana, Mexico. So, all tourist attractions and not real experiences. I have seen and enjoyed a large portion of the U.S., first by living a bunch of places from the East Coast to the West Coast, and then also by vacations. Some vacations were road trips, where the trip was as much fun as the destination and stops for photo ops next to roadside attractions are expected. My favorite roadside picture is probably in Georgia, where I stopped next to a giant peanut with buck teeth for a photo. (For those unfamiliar with the reference, this was near the hometown of Jimmy Carter.)
My favorite spot was a relatively recent trip to Bear Mountain. The park itself was not open yet, so there weren't bus loads of tourists. It will be nice to go back when the lodge is open to hear more history, but the reason this is the best thing I've ever seen was because of the completeness of the scene. The hill and trees were green from an abundant spring rain. The air was fresh because we were far from the cities and interstates. The sun was waning, and finally setting as we left, but for the time we were there it brought light to our hike without forcing a sweat. A small stream highlighted scents of nature, both pleasant and not, but honest just the same. Canned "mountain stream" never smells like this. A few animals crossed our path, and we were able to see some in a small zoo kept on the premise. I don't know if anything could have improved the memory I have of that trip and that particular destination.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Another Flash Five Friday. Write for five minutes about the prompt.

AJ decided against giving Ara the necklace for her birthday. It was beautiful, like she was, and the jewels matched her eyes, but it just didn't feel personal enough. He had only met Ara two months ago, and with the amount of time he could plan on living, two months was barely a blink. This was his dilemma. If he gave Ara something too personal it might scare her off, but if he didn't take the chance he might not get it again no matter how long he lived.
He chose the personal gift. He knew she liked to cook, so he took time and went to all the locations he could find and collected spices. He enlisted the help of his sister to package it nicely and then wrap it. He was so nervous about her reaction that he almost just sent it anonymously. In the end the gift was hand delivered by him. He even showed enough outward calm to sit through the unwrapping. It was also the first time Ara kissed him. Nothing was the same after that, and that was a good thing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who is someone you wish you could see again?

I'm not sure I can choose just one person for this post. The reasons will become clear, I hope, as I list each one.
My Grandparents Who Have Passed Away
Not only would I like to see my Grandma Hippen, Grumpa Hippen, and Grandad Smith again, but I would like to see them in the prime of their lives. Each of them had deteriorated significantly in their mental capacities by the time they left us that I don't feel there is unfinished business like saying goodbye. I'm fine there with the exception of Grandma Hippen. But, that is because she was too young for the Alzheimer's that forced us to say goodbye long before she actually died.
I would like to see them to hear more about their lives and what they remember about the time period when they grew up. I know I'll see them after I join them on the other side of the veil, but by then any of life's lessons they might be able to help me with will be a moot point. Additionally, the idea of writing a life history would be impossible, since I don't think I could convince a publisher from beyond the grave. I know I won't be able to actually achieve this wish, but it is there, deep in my soul.
My Friends Who I Never See Any More Because of Distance
There is a whole list of people here, some of whom I can't remember their married names because it's been that long. Maybe I'll just use first names so I don't hurt feelings! There is Donna, Fran, Shauna, Andrea(I actually saw her recently, but only for five minutes and that was at a funeral), Kristy, Lisa, Amber, Michelle, Becky, Linda, Meridith, and any number of mutual friends that were part of our fun but not front and center in my memories. It would be fun to get a huge group of us together because all of us are fun loving, funny people who couldn't help but get along despite never meeting before. That would be a party of epic proportions! It would also be fun to see each of them one to one or in the small groups they actually fit into. I see several of them on Facebook, but that is a poor substitute for real life.
I visited my parents this past summer, and that was great, but there were too many people I didn't get to see. Even those I did see were often in a hurry, or I was, so visits were cut short. Again, a list: The three grandparents from my first wish, Grandma Smith, Sheri, Mom, Dad, Lyle and family, Eric and family, Heather and family, Holly and family, Hillory and family, Seth and family, Hanna and family, Tawny and Tom, Tommy(passed), Shaye and family, Sunny and family, Summer and family, Spring and family, Shannon and family, David and Marlene, Amanda and family, John and family, Chelsea, Chase, Stuart and Martine, Farr and family, Stephen(passed), Francie, Robert and family, Joellen and family, Camilla and family, Stephen, John, and Stephanie. I'm pretty sure that covers it. A family reunion where there were no time constraints on anyone, where any and all food was non-caloric, and where shyness and unfamiliarity was not a problem would be wonderful.
I realize this isn't a realistic wish in any of these areas, and probably not what was meant by the topic. Maybe I'm feeling nostalgic. Maybe I'm just lonely. Maybe I'm just a bit off mentally. Whatever the case is, I've enjoyed dreaming up these reunions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do you think there is a collective definition of beauty or is it always in the eye of the beholder?

Beauty should always be in the eye of the beholder. And, the beholder should be less influenced by the collective idea of beauty than most of us are.
I could write a diatribe on how our society makes people, women in particular, feel that they are worthless because the do not conform to societies idea of beauty, but I just don't feel like it. It's not that I don't feel like writing, it's just that I am coming to see that despite the truth in this idea, there is a bigger truth that if we could embrace it and teach it would change so much more than beauty.
We all need to accept responsibility for our own thoughts and actions.
I can hear the arguments now. But, other people can be cruel, even if I accept myself. Yes. They need to accept responsibility for that. Individually we need to accept responsibility for our responses to the cruelty. I have a niece who recently was treated poorly by a girl she thought was her friend. It was a case of the girl had a new friend who didn't want to play with my niece. (That is the extremely short version of the story!) Instead of blaming the former friend my niece sought advice from her parents about how to overcome this situation and regain the friendship or find a new friend. Because of my niece's attitude and her parents' wisdom she was able to bridge the rift and not only have a return of a friend, but the possibility of a new friend. Who is this new friend? The girl who did not want to hang out with my niece in the first place.
A happy ending? I hope so. It gives me hope because I see my niece accepting responsibility for her response to a hurtful situation. I see the former stranger accepting responsibility by admitting she just didn't know my niece and that is why she precipitated the exclusion. I see the vacillating child accept responsibility by initiating a play date where both her initial friend, my niece, and her new friend can become acquainted and possibly develop their own friendship.
I'm not about to change the world with my one little post or even my hope in those who try this, but lately I have found less and less motivation to complain about things. Even complaining about how most people won't follow this principle feels wrong. I want to feel hope. I want to have this hope spark an inner beauty in anyone who has it that everyone can see.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Which sense is more important to you: vision or hearing?

While sitting here contemplating this topic I can hear the traffic outside my window, particularly the garbage truck picking up this week's offering. I can see the cat next to me stretching, then standing up to see what the noise is outside of her window. I can hear my husband moving things around in the backyard as he fixes things up for Canaltown Days. (more on that later) I can see the laundry that needs to be folded. Earlier though, I did not hear my daughter's bus pull up. If I hadn't seen it, I would not have realized it was about ten minutes early.
I like hearing things. I like overhearing things too! There have been many conversations overheard at restaurants, airports, and workplaces that are too funny to be made up and therefore may end up in a book someday. However, I like seeing things even more. I've mentioned before that I like to speak to people face to face, and part of this is to gage reactions. This is the major reason I like my sight. I also love colors. I love having beautiful colors all around me. It lifts my mood and spurs my creativity. In that same vein, I like pretty things. Pretty flowers, nice furniture, fine art, and elegant clothing all bring me a certain pleasure. I'm not trying to sound shallow, because I could live without any of it if needed, but it does have its appeal.
If given a choice between loosing my sight or loosing my hearing I don't think I would be able to choose. Suppose the doctor is standing there before a major life saving operation and asking this question. What do I choose? I'm afraid this question would be agonizing! Luckily, that type of thing is unlikely to happen.
What does happen all too often is the gradual loss of one or the other (or both!) with age. For me, my sight has been poor most of my life. I started wearing glasses in third grade and had to move to contacts by fifth grade because my sight was so bad. This was back in the day of only hard contacts, and I was far too young to be responsible for something that expensive. I lost far too many for a child of a family on a strict budget.
But, I digress. And, I shall again, but this time it will be for a purpose. My daughter was born early and subsequently developed a bleed on her brain. She also was in an incubator on oxygen for quite a while. The consequences of these events are cerebral palsy and blindness in one eye. The eye problems extend to the other eye in that she needs glasses or a contact. She got her first pair of glasses at about 15 months and promptly stopped crawling backwards and began moving forward. The CP means several things physically, but the most noticeable is her inability to speak. Because of this our family has learned sign language. We don't claim to be nearly as proficient as those families with actual deaf members, but helping us all understand what Sarah wants to say is invaluable.
I promised a point to that tangent, so this is it. I know sign language! I have a distinct advantage when it comes to hearing loss. I have had temporary hearing problems in the past, and while they were very frustrating, I wasn't completely lost. The frustration was mostly because I was used to hearing things from the other room and not having to get up just to talk to someone in another part of the house. It was hard, and luckily temporary, and for that I am glad.
Recently, I had an episode of Bell's Palsy. One of the side effects was the inability to blink my left eye properly. I ended up with an eye patch that was awkward and ugly. Not pirate-like at all! I did not do well with that trial. I did not keep my suffering to myself and I knew it was temporary. I don't want to think how poorly I would react to a permanent loss.
So, I have had problems with both sight and hearing. I can imagine how life would be if either were permanent. If I had to choose which sense is most valuable, sight or hearing, I would choose sight. I don't want to bumble around my house any more than I already do, I want to be able to see words that I type or read in books, and most importantly, I need to see my family.
I need to see my husband's love. I need to see my daughter's smile and words. I need to see my son's graduation from law school and more. I need to see my grandchildren grow. I need my sight.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wordsworth called memory the "inward eye."  Are your memories more sight-based, or do they concern sound, taste, touch, or smell?

Memories for me are based on so much more than just visual. I believe my two strongest senses are taste and smell. Because of evidences too complicated and numerous to mention here I belong to a group of people called "super tasters." Simply, it means I have more active taste buds. Linked with this is a powerful sense of smell.
I came to the realization that I could detect odor much more easily than others while on a walk with my mother. We had stopped to chat with a neighbor and when we walked away I mentioned how good she always smelled with her exotic floral fragrance. I thought it must be a purfume, but my mother looked at me a bit sideways and told me she had no idea what I was talking about. And she had hugged the woman at the end of the conversation! So, no purfume, just an innate good smell.
Tasting nuances within food at a higher level came as a surprise to me too. It was difficult to explain when I was younger why I liked one fast-food chain above another, but now I know it was all in the flavor. It was probably the fat content too, but healthy eating is a different subject. I couldn't explain my preferences because I thought everyone could taste things the way I did.
When eating I like my food to have an abundance of flavors that blend and enhance each other. Good food can be one of the most pleasurable experiences available to me. Restaurants are judged not on service, because that can change from night to night, but on taste.
I loved living in Arizona because of this. The different cuisines available were spectacular, and the spices were used without fear. I thought moving to the East Coast would give me more of the same type of opportunities. New York City has so many famous restaurants that one could conceivably eat at a new place every night for a year or more. Unfortunately, outside of the city, things become bland, bland, bland. There are no good Mexican restaurants, only mediocre, and for a family from the Southwest this is hard to give up. The abundance of pizza and Italian restaurants is insane, but their red sauce/gravy is little more than tomato sauce.
Don't get me wrong. I have had some outstanding Italian, French, and American meals here in Upstate New York, but I've had to go a long way out of my way to find them. When we try something new I can usually tell if we are in for a treat just from the aromas coming from the kitchens. Those trips where we have found great food that overtakes the senses are definitely the most memorable. I look forward to more of them!

Friday, September 7, 2012

What is the coolest thing you've ever seen?

The coolest thing I have ever seen changes with the number of decades I've lived. Part of that phenomenon is the definition of "cool." Boys weren't cool until late into my first decade. Leg-warmers were still cool until after my second decade. Attempting to keep up with trendy music was cool through my third decade. And, as the last part of my fourth decade reaches me, it's been cool to find inner peace and acceptance.
My own maturity dictates most of these, with the exception of leg-warmers, but even then following fashion trends was much more important to me during that time period.
That being said, none of the "coolest" things have anything to do with those broader ideas.
When I was very young the coolest thing I had ever seen was a boxcar. It was deserted in the middle of a wooded area and my family and I found it as we hiked from the road to see the Missouri River. I remember the boxcar much more clearly than the river because it scared me. I was certain that it would start rolling and either crush me or take me away. I had a very vivid imagination as a child! It was cool because I had never seen anything like it before. It is one of my earliest memories and because of that is susceptible to a child's reality vs. everyone else's reality, but it's still cool.
As a teen the coolest thing I ever saw was a live production of West Side Story. I went to the play with a small contingent of the Drama Club fom my high school and was able to sit in the front row. Being in Drama meant that I knew some of the tricks of the trade, but even with behind the scenes knowledge it was magical. I did get to go backstage afterwards, so that made it even cooler.
In my twenties the coolest thing I ever saw was a sunrise. For those who know me well saying that a sunrise was cool is a surprise. I am a night owl and can count only a handful of sunrises I have seen on purpose. I normally like sunsets much better. This sunrise, however, was cool not because of the usual reasons people give, but because it was the first sunrise I ever saw through my daughter's eyes. My husband Matt, daughter Sarah, and I were on an early flight to somewhere I can't even remember. He had Sarah on his lap by the window. We had been flying for about a half an hour so we were a decent way above earth. There was significant cloud cover and the plane was above them when the sun began to peek above the clouds. I had never seen a sunrise that didn't involve the earth, so I was suitably impressed, but it was when Sarah stood on her daddy's lap (she was less than one) to see better that it became the coolest thing. She stared at that sunrise and all of the shades of orange and yellow it was turning the clouds and said, "Oooh." It was just the right thing to say, but it meant so much more to realize that this sunrise was one of the many firsts I had been blessed with because of her.
In my thirties I had the opportunity to be the coach for my sister as she gave birth to my niece. My own daughter's delivery had been a frantic scramble to deliver her by emergency C-section, my mind a bit fuddled with anasthesia, so a labor and delivery was new. My sister had decided on a name much earlier in the pregnancy, but I suggested that her daughter's middle name be Ann, just like our mother's middle name. It seemed right, and I'm convinced it helped form a bond between granddaughter and grandmother. I still hope I didn't force my sister to use Ann, but my niece seems to love her middle name, so all is well. The birth was relatively normal and much like the films from the birthing class, high school biology, and television shows on Lifetime. It certainly had its drama with the baby's father being weird (nothing's changed there!) but it was nothing like prime time television births. There was real blood and real pain and a helplessness I felt at not being able to control the pain for my sister. However, when my niece arrived, the word miracle did not feel big enough. She was huge compared to my baby, but so beautiful. I've maintained that there really are ugly babies, and I've seen a few, but I've also maintained that babies need to be cleaned up before they are the beautiful bundles we expect. No one looks good with fluids and blood all over them! But, at that moment, I knew I was wrong for at least this baby. She only got better when the nurse cleaned her up and that was incredibly cool.
These last seven years have brought about all kinds of cool technology with things like my iPad touch screen, improved computer animation, the Cloud, etc. The coolest thing I've ever seen doesn't have anything to do with technology. Instead, it is those who maximize the possibilities within technology. These people are part of the rising generation. By "rising" I do mean those that are rising to the occasion. It would be so easy to sit back and allow technology to do all the work and there are plenty of people who do that. They wouldn't know what to do if confronted with a loss of this technology. The coolest are those that use the technology to improve life around them, not allowing the technology to use and control them. They take responsibility for their own lives, not demanding anything from others that they wouldn't do themselves. Sometimes while watching the news it seems impossible to find these people among this upcoming generation, but I've seen them, I know them, and I'm incredibly proud of them. They are the coolest thing ever.


"If it's important to you, then it's important to me. I don't know why you constantly worry about putting me out. How many times have I needed your help?" AJ tried to get Ara to look him in the eye. Whatever was bothering her it must have been bad, because she wouldn't make eye contact.
"It's just that I'm embarrassed. I don't know why I feel that way. I know I can trust you. It's just very hard for me to ask for help."
"Well, let's start with what you called me for. You said it had to do with our secret. Is there a problem with the security?" AJ felt his heart pounding as he tried to remain calm. Obviously, Ara was upset, and he didn't want to upset her further by showing his own panic.
"No." Ara stopped. She opened her mouth a couple of times, lost her nerve, and blew the breath out. "It's broken."
"What's broken?" AJ said, trying to keep his breathing and his voice even.
"The portal. Duchess knocked it off the shelf by accident. She's hiding now, waiting for you to stop being mad"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are you okay with letting people see you cry?

That, of course, is the short answer.
I do cry in front of people occasionally if I cannot hold the tears back, but believe me, I try with everything I have to keep them to myself. This usually happens at events like funerals, weddings, deaths of my favorite characters on television (Ducky!), and moving music. Luckily the television deaths and music happen when I'm alone or only with my hubby. He's not shy about trying to comfort me. Unfortunately, he also tries to comfort me when we are in public, which draws more attention to my tears than I would like.
The most dangerous tears are those shed over music. Usually I am driving alone when this happens. I'm driving along and one of those sappy love songs or songs about illnesses or dying (Sara Beth by Rascal Flats) comes on and I start bawling my eyes out. Now I cannot see the road when there are that many tears flowing. And, inevitably, I can't get my face back to normal by the time someone sees me. My face is blotchy and my eyelashes stay wet no matter how I try to dry them. More than one drive-thru employee has looked at me with pity.
I will also admit to crying in public when I am in pain. And, by public I mean the hospital. Doctors and nurses need to know when they have pushed me past my pain threshold, and the only way to ensure that they notice is to cry. Doctors rarely do anything differently, but at least they acknowledge the problem. Nurses often try to alleviate the suffering if there is a way available.
Why am I not okay with letting people see me cry? Probably because of the hypocrisy that ends up surfacing. I get lots of attention when I do cry in public, but all of the "Are you okay?" questions are stupid. Do I look okay? Offers to help rarely come to tangible action which annoys me beyond belief. "What can I do?" is also a stupid question. I really wish people would just do SOMETHING! They know what they are capable of and what time limits they have, I don't. And, no matter what they do, ANYTHING is better than NOTHING.

Bob Marley asked: "Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living?"  How would you answer him?

I am not a naturally happy person. People have often mistaken my "neutral" face for upset. Upon reflection, I do think that as of today, I am happy and satisfied with my life!
My life may not be perfect right now, but I am happy a good deal of the time. Since approximately this time two years ago my body had started to give up on me. It started with pancreatitis and moved fairly quickly to anemia and kidney failure. Since December I have been on hemo-dialysis three times a week. At one point in my life I have been in similar situations and thought "Why me?" I didn't just think it, I let everyone around me know how unfair I felt this was. What had I done to deserve this?
I'm not sure what has changed beyond maturity. The fact of the matter is that this round of health problems is worse because of my age. I cannot recover easily as I did when I was a teen. Even in my 30's I was faster at recovery. Now, the slightest infection wipes out all my energy. But, I'm either more mature and don't need to whine or I've resigned myself to this lifestyle where I no longer travel, cook frequently, or consentrate well.
I hope the detailing of my health problems hasn't come across as unhappiness, because the point I'm trying to make is that DESITE all of that, I feel happy. I'm pleased with my life and with the minor accomplishments I've made. I have a wonderful husband and an outstanding relationship with him. I have a beautiful daughter who makes me proud every day. I have an accomplished son who keeps me honest with myself. Together with his incredible wife, who I also love, they have given me two unbelievable granddaughters. These two girls help me feel young again as I see things through their eyes. They also help me feel a bit old when they wear me out with their energy, but I'll take the exchange.
I am not a naturally happy person, but my life has made me happy, and that's what it takes to be satisfied.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Look Me In the Eye

Do I prefer to speak to someone in person or on the phone? I hate talking on the phone if it can be helped. I will do it, mostly because we live so far away from family and many friends. That being said, I would rather see someone face to face, look them in the eye, and see truths, lies, reactions, and personality.
The best conversations are not just face to face, but over a good meal. It helps pace the conversation, allowing for lags and thoughtful moments while chewing food to think of just the right answer. It cements memories by involving more than just two senses. It's a time for any number of people, from a couple on up, to participate in a conversation.
There is a downside to mealtime conversations. If there are too many people at the table multiple conversations flare, leaving someone like me at a loss as to which to join. Often, at an event where there is more than one table I see other tables that seem to be having a better time than mine. It's like the check-out line in the grocery store. I did not "choose wisely."
My mother, who I can only talk to over the phone now because of miles, says she can tell how I am by the tone in my voice. Sometimes (okay, most of the time) she is right. When I get the opportunity to see her face to face that doesn't happen. I haven't decided if that is because I'm a much better actress in person or if I don't feel the need to convince her that "all is well" when I'm right there. The last time I visited I caught a cold and had a migraine and I only pretended to be fine for part of the time. At some point it all catches up and EVERYONE knows I'm miserable.
So, do I prefer to speak to someone in person or on the phone? I think I'll stick with in person.

The Object I See At This Exact Moment

I've decided to participate in another blogging challenge for September. I like having prompts. The challenge can be found here:

I don't have my glasses on, so "seeing" is kind of a problem. I want to write about something besides my iPad, so I'll go with the beautiful gold spread that is on my bed. Some people, males mostly, (and I don't say this as a bash, just a fact) consider the spread yellow. This would be a mistake, because the color goes much deeper than that. It was purchased to help highlight the different shades of purple I love all around my bedroom. I'm a big believer in balance, both in color and in life.
Life gets out of balance all too easily. When Matt and I first married we tried to strike a balance by dividing duties as well as money making. I cooked, he cleaned the litter box. I decorated, he took out the trash. I worked part-time and packed lunches and drove him to work so I could have the car, he worked full-time plus. I paid bills, he... well, you get the idea.
Now, Matt works two full time jobs while I attempt to take care of my health. I attempt to do many things, but mostly it boils down to my health. If I'm feeling good I can do dishes, fold laundry, etc. The balance is off and we both feel it. It's nobody's fault and we both understand that, but it wears on our relationship nonetheless. And, that, dear readers, is more important than dishes or money. So, we work harder at that than any other part of our lives.
Technology helps. Because of text messaging we can send little love notes or notes about what's going on in our worlds. We use the Farnsworth app to send visual messages. We update the family calendar and budget. We work on research papers together no matter if we are in the same city or not. Matt can add things to my grocery list any time he needs.
We are headed closer to the balance that I crave. Sharing values, church, FHE, and Warehouse 13 keeps us close. Knowing that this phase of our lives is temporary keeps us closer.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sunny's Birthday

Sarah likes to celebrate the birthday's of her imaginary friends and siblings. There are quite a few, so this actually happens often. This time it was Sunny Beaudilaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Sunny's favorite meal, according to Sarah, is bean and cheese enchiladas, celery, carrots, apple slices, orange soda, and cheesecake with chocolate sauce. I have to admit, it was yummy! It's also nice to not have to plan one of the meals for the week.
I don't mind planning and executing the meals when I have the energy to do so. Unfortunately, I have a little bit of an infection and it has drained all my energy. I bought all the ingredients for the enchiladas, but ended up just ordering some take-out from South of the Border. It's not a great Mexican restaurant, but it's the only one close to us. They were pretty good, since it's hard to mess up something so simple. Hopefully with the antibiotics I'm getting I'll feel better soon and be up to cooking my own enchiladas!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Letting Go

Our little flash fiction project is over. I started late, but accomplished all thirty prompts. I started out just writing random ideas, but as the month progressed I focused more and more on the characters from my WIP. That's Work In Progress for those not up on the lingo. I only showed four of the characters from my WIP, and those who read even casually might be able to identify who these characters were based on. My niece figured one of them out without reading a single post. I just mentioned some of the character's traits and she knew who it was. Smart kid. Maybe I'll stick her in the book too.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


"Thank you all for coming! I don't think I've ever had a better birthday! Not just because all of you are here, but because all of you feel compelled to be here. Yes, I really said that. I know, it sounds egotistical. And, why shouldn't it? I have worked hard to ensure my assension to this position. I put up with so much when humans came to our planet. I tried to warn the leaders about them, but now I'm the leader. I've won. No more uncontrolled birth rates for the humans. No more supporting and teaching these humans our technology. In fact, we may even get as far as no more humans. It's been a long time coming, but luckily for me I live much longer than humans can even keep one of their 'civilizations' intact. Well, I may have had something to do with that too. Ah, thank you for the laughter. Yes, we shall gain our power and our planet back. I intend..."
Anthony collapsed. First, there was silence, then panic. Ara looked at AJ, eyebrows raised. A small head shake confirmed it wasn't him. Quickly she looked at the the crowd, searching for tells. None. Who had done it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


"I do not want to be here."
"Yes, dear. You've mentioned that. But, we have to keep up appearances if we want to find out what Anthony is up to."
"Everyone here is so fake! It's one big masquerade. There are those who are only trying to kiss up to Anthony so they can be promoted. There are those who are only here so they won't be questioned tomorrow about their whereabouts, there are those who only here to undermine or sabotage him, and then there is us. What are we going to learn from all this insincerity?"
"AJ, he's my brother. I have to be here. You are my husband, so you have to be here. And, you never know what we might learn. People, even shifters, relax their guards a bit at parties."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I despise frogs. I have an aversion to all varieties of amphibians, particularly frogs and toads. My phobia of snakes is respected by most people, and the intense fear of spiders is not mocked too much. Probably because many people have similar feelings, just not as overpowering. Fear of frogs, however, does not get the respect it deserves.
At age 5, my father picked up and showed me a frog from our front yard. I tried to be brave, right up until it peed on him. My mom laughed and told him he would get warts. A week later I got the warts, not dad. Fifteen years after that I read a study saying warts were 90% psychological. A week later my warts were gone.
My son and daughter like to catch frogs by the Erie Canal. "Mom's Rule" is that they must stay outside and hands must be washed immediately after. The giggles and shushing should have alerted me, but even with some forewarning the frog on my shoulder was debilitating in the amount of fright it caused. I could not move, breath, scream, or even Ground Them For Life!
Half an hour later I could still feel the weight on my skin.

Monday, August 27, 2012


"If history has taught us anything..."
Blah, blah, blah. Humans and their "history." Their few thousand years were nothing to him. And humans, if they were to be of any worth at all, needed to learn their place in HIS history.
Anthony looked around, hoping to catch a glimps of Ara. He knew he shouldn't be here today, but it was the only place he was sure he could see his sister without her completely blowing up, and, perhaps, trying to blow him up.
There she was. She had just come on stage with the candidates. She looked beautiful, as usual, and Anthony knew if she would just extend her reach a little more she could be the candidate rather than support staff.
Now, if she would just look at him.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


"I feel like I'm seeing your home for the first time."
"You are, Duchess. You haven't been to visit us in several hundred years."
"No, I don't mean this house. I mean your HOME. Every house, shack, apartment, cave, hut, boat, inn, or dwelling of any kind can be lived in. You and Ara have a home because of the way it feels."
"Fair enough. How does ours feel different? What are you seeing?"
"I see that it has been child-proofed. It's just little things, and a visitor wouldn't notice unless looking for that specifically, but, I've moved in. I've got this height issue now since being turned into a cat, and if I want to look at something, it's usually up higher than expected. So, unless you are trying to keep me away from your things, I can see evidence of a secret."
AJ's color drained from his face. He opened and closed his mouth, only managing a brief, "eeh-urge," before closing his eyes and yelling, "Ara!"


"Where is she?"
"You've asked me that four times now. I'll point her out when she gets here. Enjoy the day! How often do we get time off? I feel like its been nothing but work, work, work since the humans came to this planet."
"What does she look like?"
"AJ! Calm down man! You act like you've never met a girl before."
"Sorry Anthony. I just have this feeling..." He stopped. At the top of the stair was a girl. The girl. She was framed by the archway leading inland and was, without a doubt, the most beautiful creature AJ had ever seen.
Her eyes were not the first thing AJ noticed. It wasn't until Anthony introduced them that he was able to really see them. They were turquoise blue, but it was more than just the color. The ocean around their island was blue and seemingly fathomless, but her eyes were bluer and deeper and AJ knew he would get lost in them faster than any ocean.

Friday, August 24, 2012

In the Woods

AJ took in his surroundings with a practiced eye. This clearing, this view were familiar, but he never took his safety for granted. Too many of Anthony's underlings knew where it was, and with so much competition to prove themselves and move up the ranks, an attack on even someone as powerful as he was not out of the realm of possibilities.
The wind bent the grasses, bowing them toward the west. A woodpecker's staccato search for insects vibrated through the air. Leaves whispered to each other. The undergrowth dampened any harshness, making the afternoon in the woods seem peaceful. Assuring himself he was alone, AJ started forward into the clearing, carefully picking his way around bunches of daisies.
A crackle of dead leaves. A sudden report from a breaking branch. AJ flattened himself to the ground. Not alone.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


When Duchess and AJ came into the house Ara was in her favorite room, the kitchen. AJ had been very serious when he reminded Duchess of how good Ara's cooking was. The reason it was beyond compare was because of how passionate Ara was about cooking, especially for those she loved.  
Ara turned, and seeing Duchess sitting gracefully on AJ's arm, put down the spoon she was stirring with and moved to them. She put her arms around Duchess carefully, so she could hug her without knocking her off her arm-perch. 
"Oh, Duchess, honey! I'm so sorry! What can I get you? Did AJ remember to feed you?"
"Thank you Ara. I'm as fine as can be expected. AJ did have a lot on his mind, but he managed to remember the food, though it isn't often that AJ forgets if there is food involved!"

On Holiday

"The last time we were here There was a war."
"Yes. I think the difference is obvious."
Ara laughed. "Did you honestly just say that? I use sarcasm, not you. Duchess uses sarcasm. You're forthright, honest, and, well, shall I go on?"
AJ laughed back. "I will admit that you are the master of sarcasm. I'm just relaxing. It hasn't happened for a while. What with Duchess, contending with Anthony, and keeping Rune a secret, I've been under a lot of stress. This holiday has really helped. I'm not sure I want to go back."
"Then we won't. It can be someone else's turn to fight for a while."
"We can't do that. We wouldn't do that. Besides, we still have Rune. Would you really turn her over to anyone else?"
"My daughter is mine to train. It's almost time, isn't it? I can tell"
"Yes. I can feel it too. We have to bring her back."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The night shrugged past AJ as he sagged in the doorway, invading the empty house and insuring no comfort for him, even in this protected sanctuary. Without Ara as a life-force, filling everything she touched with spirit, the building sagged with indifference.
AJ lit a lamp, moved to the kitchen, where he stopped. Here, Ara had been most powerful. Here he could still feel vestiges of her magic. AJ smiled finally, breathing in those fragments of happiness. He allowed himself five whole minutes of peace before he blew out the lamp and invited the night to cover all traces of Ara. He wouldn't stay much longer either. Without her, only the forest held his heart.


"I'm planning to win."
"Yes, I expected you would."
"You won't try to stop me?"
"I have to try."
"But, why AJ?"
"Because, Duchess, I'm an elder. I follow rules. Especially rules I helped write."
"It's a stupid rule."
"It keeps humans safe. Our purpose would be moot if safety isn't built in during interactions. Would you go all the way to kill in this game of yours?"
"No, of course not. But they can't say the same. I say we should level the playing field."
"To do that we would have to also give humans razor teeth and claws, body armor beyond leather and steel, and wits that enhance a brain beyond the physical boundaries of the skull. In other words, you could kill them just leveling the playing field."
"You're twisting my words. I just mean... well, you know what I mean!"
"Duchess, you can't win because humans don't come back."
"It's a stupid rule."
"Stop playing the game."

Sunday, August 19, 2012


This post is a continuation of a challenge I've joined for August. Each day there is a picture and a prompt. I write 50-100 word response. Feel free to comment as I love the feedback!

Our dog is terrified of fireworks. In the past I have had dogs who were frightened of them, but this goes way beyond fright. She paces, whining, then runs to hide in the bathroom with every poppety-pop. She digs at the floor or crawls under my legs, but isn't content to stop there and begins the pacing cycle all over again. Thunderstorms are worse, maybe because they last longer. She starts the pacing and whining up to an hour before I even know a storm is coming. She dug a hole in our carpet one night, trying to hide from a thunderstorm while I slept through it. Her saddest terror was the day I popped my bubblegum. She avoided me the rest of the day. She's a shelter dog, so I have to wonder what happened before we loved her.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wild At Heart

Some shifters never changed, or shifted. They enjoyed their human shapes too much. Others were exactly the opposite and rarely, if ever changed from their animal choice. AJ was somewhere in-between. He loved interacting with and helping humans, but he definitely had a wild side. Occasionally someone would catch him scratching his back against a door frame and ask jokingly if he was a bear. "Well, yes!" But, no one was serious. Except AJ.


I have a graveyard beyond my back fence. The residents of this graveyard have made a wild space in the midst of a wilder urban jungle. The murder of fat crows numbers in the hundreds, while the fat raccoons waddle between the headstones. The fat skunk's warning purfumes the air at least once daily and more often if the dogs are out at night. Fat squirrels fly from tree to tree, from branch to twig. Only the fluffiness of their tails distinguishes them from rats in my eyes. They've eaten through the locked plastic lid of our garbage can just to get the McDonald's french-fries. At first I thought the abundant insect life of a graveyard was why all the creatures are fat, but really, it's the squirrels fault.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Different World

Between was nowhere and everywhere. It was now and always. The Between Place was only available to shifters, and then only to very mature shifters. The ability to move between places and times was an incredibly intoxicating power and it took more personal power than any young or new shifter had accumulated yet. It was hard for immature shifters to understand how to move through the Between Place. They could not understand fully that they simply did not move from places or times, but that they had to stop Between first.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Anyone who came in the room could see that Ara loved books. They were everywhere, seemingly on every subject. Several seating options, a couch, a recliner, and an overstuffed club chair allowed for a variety of relaxation levels while reading. Ara was there now, curled on the couch, leaning on the arm with her legs tucked underneath as Duchess came padding in.
"Hey, yourself."
"I don't want to interrupt..."
"It's fine. I'm just at a chapter break."
"I wanted to talk to you about The Between Place."
A small, almost imperceptible twitch.
"I saw your portal holder. Why is it locked and placed up so high?"
Ara knew she should have moved that when Duchess moved in. She thought her personal library, nestled among her books would be safe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


AJ and Ara had a child once. Before the dark time, before Anthony grew greedy, but after Duchess had left them. She would have loved this child, and more than once AJ found himself wondering if the child could have kept Duchess from the corruption. Ara assured him that no, Duchess was on her path before they planned the birth. It was the idea Ara had to surprise the family that had ultimately kept them all safe. When Anthony staged his coup, Ara stayed in hiding. Their child had not been taken from them out of fear of the prophecy. Anthony could re-educate as many children as he wanted. There would always be a few that were saved, and a few were all it would take to dethrone Anthony for a final time. AJ hoped he and Ara's secret was part of that.

Monday, August 13, 2012


AJ loved his forest. It really was his, but he didn't own it in the conventional sense of the word. It was his because he knew every tree by name. Two thousand years old himself, he had watched them grow from volunteer seedlings to mighty elders. He had watched nature uncover again the bedrock she had buried for millennia. Ancient Precambrian rock made him feel young. Warblers sang to him by day and loons at eventide. Streams to the newly named mighty Hudson and St. Lawrence were clean enough to see trout and bass clearly. Recently, tourists and hardy natives provided company when needed, while Sargent's "forever kept as wild forest land" gave him peace. AJ loved his forest.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Dorine knew that the celebration was in her honor. People were coming from out of state, perhaps a few from the north country. A large tent covered the cleanest part of the yard, upwind of the barn but not too far up the hill. People always worried about how difficult traversing spaces might be for her. Certainly she had new limitations, but not as daunting as careful souls expected them to be. Others would be celebrating her freedom tonight. They celebrated to show support. Dorine would celebrate with them, but not because of freedom. She would celebrate their enslavement that she had engineered by simply looking frail.


"Gwama, Gwama! I need dis canny!"
"You don't NEED the candy. You want the candy."
"But Gwama, I want it too!" Sweetheart, you only want it, not both. It's not a need. "I need dis canny. I need you to get it fo me. Pweeeeease?"
My dillemna is increasing with each moment. Teaching a two year old need vs. want is not working. I NEED to be a good grandma. But does the good grandma say "no" and face the 30 minuts of tears? Or does the good grandma buy the candy, keeping me in good graces so I can teach other lessons later. I'm pretty sure I need some candy too. It might help me think!


I always have a book. It can become an expensive habit, but as with most addictions I am unwilling to give it up. Now, it is my own budget I'm blowing. It doesn't feel like too long ago, my mother came home, thrilled with her garage sale find. $5.00 bought a box of 100 books! An entire summer covered with no long drives to the library, only to have to go again later the same week. How was this magical summer? I read them all, never telling my mother that the romances she had so astutely obtained were bodice ripping, chests heaving, inappropriate for a tween, Harlequins.

Friday, August 10, 2012


"What is frustrating to me is her inability to pay attention!"
This is the beginning of a familiar diatribe my sister subjects me to weekly.
"I mean, how much brain power does it take to remember simple directions to things that don't change?"
Speaking of things not changing..."You know Danielle, I wonder if the reason..."
"I put up with so much! You are so lucky to not have a sister-in-law like her."
Yes, Danielle. Its just unbelievable how lucky I am to have you.


Today I was a success. Today my daughter learned to make pizza. It's a simple dish, really, just bread, sauce, cheese, and a few accoutrements. Why, after twenty-one years does making pizza feel like a success? At twenty-six weeks the doctors said, she won't survive, but neither will you if she isn't born. She made them liars. She is a success. Every day for her is a success, and today she learned to make pizza. I don't do much in these daily struggles, but because she succeeds I feel the same.


I'm too busy to look up when Dorine calls my name. I'm too busy formulating my answer to listen properly to her question. I'm too busy dialing the ambulance to hold her hand. I'm too busy with admissions papers to check her wishes. I'm too busy calling relatives to talk to her myself. I'm too busy hating the hospital cafeteria to notice what she doesn't eat. I'm too busy organizing sleeping arrangements to see if she slept well. I'm too busy to say good-bye just so she won't go. Too busy, too late.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


"Don't stop believing, hold on to that feeling!" Any journey, physical or mental starts with a single step. Journeys are not as much about the destination as we think. I journey on a rocky path in life. Stones cause me to stumble and foliage reaches out to hold me back. I've been told I chose this path, and I know it is true. Only I could have conceived such convoluted ways to learn life's lessons. I know where my journey ends but not when. I know why I am on this journey but not the how of every situation. I just have to "keep on believing!"


If I breath in the pink and lavender colors around me they will fill up the space that might have had charcoal, bile, and black. Breath the dark colors out. Let the light colors in. Enclose yourself inside and out with yellows, pinks, lavenders, and baby blue. Do you know what happens when these colors are nutured? I do. When everything is right my world is filled with gold, deep purple, royal purple, burgundy, red, and royal blue. My very own coat of many colors that only I can see.

A Furry Friend

Cleopatra, queen of all she surveys, has never forgotten Egypt and the glory.
Duchess is bossier than her title. She forgets she came in third.
Marie Antoinette was such a tease. Her unfortunate demise can be blamed on that.
Baste lounges without a care. She likes the moving air from the fan during this heat. Astarte seeks the highest ground of them all. Sometimes only the top of the refrigerator will do.
Mau wants what he wants. No one should take hip catnip mouse away without fear for life and limb.
Sinh patters gracefully on pure white paws, ready and willing to trip unwary stairclimbers.
Hurakan thunders through the house when seeking attention, but stalks as quietly and gracefully as the rest. Mice beware.


I stand, looking relaxed, up against the doorframe. Toby has not seen me yet, or at least, not acknowledged me yet, but I want him to know he has not disturbed me with his summons. I breath deeply, counting to five as my tai chi instructor has taught me. Exhale, feeling the negative exit. Finally, Toby asks me to take a seat. "You know why you are here, I expect." he says. I think I'll make him work for it. "No. I was working on some grades. I need to finish them. What's up?" Toby squirms. He isn't relaxed and that makes keeping my nonchalance easy. Toby opens a drawer, looks through some papers, closes it, opens another, and takes out my check. It is my severance pay. Toby can't relax because he swore to me just last week that I wasn't getting fired. I'm relaxed because I already have a new job starting Monday. I didn't believe him and now I can breath.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Thinking is the process by which we attempt to use brain function to understand the world around us. I've been thinking that life keeps giving me lessons to learn. They all seem to be the same lesson, over and over. My thoughts on this are 1) I didn't learn it the first time. Or the second, third, fourth... I also think that I may be missing the point. These lessons feel the same, but perhaps I need to find something new in each of them. Except age. Obviously my age has changed, so it's harder to deal with physical challenges, but mental trials are worse, no matter the age. I think I will think some more on this subject.


For BlogFlash2012: 30 days, 30 prompts, 30 posts Day 7 Sunsets For some people sunsets are endings. They end perfect days with cool breezes and happy thoughts. They end days that were almost impossible to get through, but whatever the trial, perseverance seems to have succeeded. They end days that are wasted in worry, or hate. They end days of love and devotion. I think sunsets may be more of a beginning. Not just the beginning of the night hours and the numerous debaucheries available, but the beginning of the end. Every night we die a little death. Our bodies drift off to that Neverland we call sleep, but it is only inches from the true sleep, where none awake. We dream impossible dreams, smiling to ourselves in the light of day, when if we really looked would be grins of sheer terror. What do we wish for seconds before we die? Look to your dreams.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mother's Day Dinner

I'm not sure if this counts as me cooking since I only supervised, but here it is. For Mother's Day we had Emily, Scott, Emily's parents, Doug and Dianne, And Emily's sisters, Kris, Allison, and Rachel all over for dinner. Add Matt, Sarah and I and we had 10 people. Matt and Scott did our main course. They made a crockpot apricot chicken. I found and modified the recipe, then sat in the kitchen and gave them the instructions. I also tried to teach Scott how to dice an onion, but he was scared by my tremor and just did it his way. Matt measured the spices while Scott chopped sweet potatoes. He now hates chopping sweet potatoes. Quite a few of them flew around the kitchen. They also followed my advice to prep the crockpots Saturday night since there would likely not be time before church. They were such obedient budding sous chefs. Obviously Emily and I need to give them more practice. On Sunday Matt made a salad and the Ellsworths brought green beans and bran muffins. All very good!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Roast Beef Sandwiches

While Emily and Scott were here I made roast beef sandwiches that were pretty good. The recipe says to roast the beef at 500* for 25 minutes for medium rare. Matt likes his meat closer to medium well and I like mine medium rare so I figured I'd do 30 minutes and split the difference. The first few slices were beautiful but the we got to the thicker part of the meat and it wasn't just rare, but raw. We went out to eat. When we got home I stuck the roast in the crock pot overnight and went to bed. I don't remember why, but when we got up Matt put it in the refrigerator for me. When dinner time rolled around and I felt like I had enough energy after dialysis, I reheated the roast in its juices. I split French bread, spread it with truffle butter, and put the beef on top of the butter. The recipe indicates that the warm meat will melt the butter, and with the roast plus extra juice, the butter melted nicely. The provolone cheese I put on top of the meat got a bit melty also. All that was needed was some greens and I have some baby mixed greens. I believe this was a success. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get my medium rare roast beef, but it was still very yummy. Sarah had to take two sittings to finish her portion, as did I, and Scott said they were surprisingly filling. They did look smaller that the average 6 inch Subway, so I expected the boys to have seconds, but the extras had to be eaten later. Days later, not just an hour or so later. My favorite moment was when Emily was eating her second sandwich several days later and was very surprised at how simple they were. I have to agree, they were simple, even if I had to add extra steps so we didn't eat raw meat. Is this a lesson for the future?

Friday, May 4, 2012

I haven't made much beyond soup, sandwiches, pasta, and hotdogs. This past couple of weeks has been insane, so more of our meals are one-pot/10-minute-tops wonders. I've been trying to be good about using ingredients that don't have too much potassium or phosphates, but that means cutting back on my milk consumption. Boo!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The chicken divan I made yesterday must have been good because it is gone today! It was my super secret sauce that did the trick I'm sure. No one else would think of combining cream of chicken soup, sour cream, dehydrated onions, and curry powder to make this sauce. Except, of course, my mother, who taught me how to make it. Hehehe!
I did use the last of the rescued chicken. I had purchased a chicken, cut up, for fried chicken. Sarah helped with the menu, so there you go. I didn't cook it Thursday as planned, then forgot Friday and Saturday since we were in Albany. Sunday I was pretty mad at myself for waisting that money and knew that i didnt have the time, ingredients, or energy to marinade it overnight and cook it on Monday, but thought I would try and save the meat for something later. I threw it all in a crockpot, skin, bones, and all, along with some cream of chicken soup, onions, garlic, and some chicken stock. It worked! All I had to do was wait for it to cool, take the meat off the bones, get rid of the skin, and voila!
Sarah says I missed a bone because it was in her chicken divan today. Considering it was a whole chicken I think I did pretty well!
Here's the recipe:
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon curry powder (or more to taste!)
1/8 cup dried onions-rehydrate to 1/4 cup
1 cup roasted/leftover chicken
1 cup broccoli
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (more to taste)

Mix the first four ingredients together. In medium baking pan put chicken and broccoli. Poor sauce over chicken and broccoli, then sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes, uncovering the last 10 minutes to brown up the cheese.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Easter dinner was several days after Easter. I'm pretty sure I explained why. Crazy busy lives.
We had braised lamb shanks. These are not nearly as difficult as they sound because braising the lamb means you don't have to worry about rare, medium rare, etc. It's just done. All it takes are some good ingredients and time. Once the lamb is browned then the vegetables need to be browned and develop their flavor. This all takes 20-30 minutes. Then all of it goes into the roasting pan and into the oven for 3 hours. You do have to turn the shanks a few times for even cooking, but I found that helps me time the other dishes.
I also made a super cheesy polenta which was much too cheesy. I fixed it the next day by making another batch without cheese and stirring them together.
Our vegetable, beyond the sauce for the lamb, was asparagus. This time the seasonings were in perfect ratio to the vegetable. I made a super easy gremolata with garlic, anchovies, parsley, lemon zest, and olive oil.
We also had tzaziki sauce for the lamb, but it was almost better with the asparagus. Who knew?
We tried to have gyros for leftovers, but they weren't great, so I used as much as I could along with the lamb bones to make a lamb broth. Now I just need recipes that call for lamb broth instead of chicken or beef.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Last night I made pasta putanesca. According to Klaus on A Series of Unfortunate Events, putanesca is Italian for very few ingredients. I've made sauces with fewer ingredients, but this is a good one. Sarah's favorite part are the capers. Between the capers, the anchovies, and the olives, this is a pretty salty dish. It rarely needs extra anywhere except the pasta water.
Just for an overview of my week and why I don't cook more, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I have dialysis. This means I am at least worn out, but often it means I have to get over a migraine before I can start cooking. Tuesday I go grocery shopping, which, surprise, surprise, wears me out. So that is four days a week that I need something quick and easy. Thursday and Saturday are good, but Sunday Matt leaves for DCA before dinner time. Between church, a required Sunday afternoon nap, and the trip to the airport, leftovers are usually my best bet.
If you are paying attention to the date you may be wondering why Easter dinner was not mentioned. We planned to do it Saturday, but that happened to be the same day as an event at the Disney store over in Syracuse. So, great parent that I am, I took Sarah to Syracuse for the 12:30 event. I bought myself some new jewelry for Easter, but could not find a good dress. Sarah does not want the dresses she owns, let alone a new one, so we decided we were tired of shopping and left the mall. Matt was flying in to Syracuse at 4:30, so it would be useless to go home just to come back. We picked him up and then went to Mexican food. I'll have to cook the lamb another time.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I can't remember anything I made after the chicken soup. Sad, eh? I knowi mademac and cheese again, this time ruining it by putting too much mustard in it. Good thing Sarah likes mustard. It's still edible, but without perfection it's ruined.
I made a ragu for lasagna but that took over three hours, as a good ragu should, but it did me in. The ragu is in the freezer waiting for motivation.
I made a shepherds pie for St. Patrick's Day. I added mushrooms to the ground beef (I didn't have any ground lamb) and cheese, sour cream and bacon to the potatos to make them taste like loaded potatos from a restaurant. The big problem was my vegetable. I only had canned peas, nothing fresh or even frozen. Talk about a buzz kill. Still, it was pretty good.
Sarah and I had what I call toaster tacos. I call them that because I make them in my toaster oven. When my mom made them from my recipe and had more than two people to feed she made them using her regular oven and a cookie sheet. Huh. Who knew? It really has been a long time since cooked for a crowd.
Back to the toaster tacos. The toaster part is still accurate, but technically I'm just making a quesadilla. It's a soft taco shell with pre-roasted or canned chicken, shredded cheese, and salsa or hot sauce. Toast until crispy and golden. No veggies beyond the salsa, super cinchy, and something I can do even with a migraine. Sarah loves them. She makes them herself in the microwave, as she has not mastered the toaster oven, so they are more melty than crisp, but it's the same idea. Matt doesn't like them as much as we do, but since he is gone for some of our meals, we can still get away with it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

As promised, the Chicken Chorizo Soup post. I know it is a long time since I actually made it but since I promised ...
The soup was not hard to do, but as with most Rachel Ray recipes, the first go-round is never 30 minutes. It took me a while to chop everything, but it really was worth it. I am so glad Matt got me a knife sharpener, because the time it saves is phenomenal. I don't worry about cutting myself as much because I don't have to put my fingers in harms way just to get through a particularly difficult chop. Anyway, I was impressed with my mis en plas (sp) and thought about taking a picture, but I get so tired while cooking it didn't happen. Apologies to Hanna especially.
The soup was good the first night, served with chips and cheese, but it was excellent the next couple of days when the flavors had time to meld. Eventually the soup part was gone before the rest of the ingredients, probably because the chips sopping up that flavor was the best part. Maybe next time I'll add more liquid and spices and keep the chopped ingredients the same.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Last week sometime, I forget which day, I made chicken crepes. They were really good, but I couldn't find the premade crepes the recipe called for, so I had to make my own. I don't own a crepe pan, so I just made them on the griddle. I still had to make them one at a time because in order for them to be thin enough I still had to pick up the griddle and tilt it each direction. Awkward. The recipe said it would make 8-10 crepes, but only made 6. As Hillory says, the first one is always a mess, so that meant I had 5 crepes when I needed at least 8. I quickly mixed up more batter and made enough crepes to put filling in and fill my 9x13 pan. I had leftover crepes at this point, but those got eaten as leftovers too. The sauce to go over my filled crepes was a lemon asparagus sauce, but mostly ended up as an asparagus sauce. Not bad, but I wish the lemon could have shone through more. Asparagus is a tricky vegetable that way. It can really overpower a dish without even trying. I think next time I'll just make a lemon cream sauce.
I also made a chicken chorizo soup on Friday, but I'll have to blog about that another time. I need to go get some of it for my dinner! Like most soups, it is even better as a leftover.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I found a recipe for cream cheese enchiladas, and since Friday is Mexican night I thought I would give it a try. Reading through it on Thursday I noticed there was no enchilada sauce on these enchiladas, which technically makes them rolled up filled tortillas with salsa. NOT enchiladas. The recipe also called for flour tortillas, another mistake. This recipe was obviously written by a Northerner.
I fixed it by using corn tortillas and enchilada sauce. I also changed the pepper-jack cheese to jalepino-jack cheese. It sounded better and it was cheaper. Who knew?
The big question is always what it tasted like. I was not too impressed. The cream cheese didn't create a creamier filling than I normally have and I couldn't taste the tanginess. Don't get me wrong, they were very good, but I was hoping for more of a difference.
On the other hand, Sarah and Matt could not get enough! Sarah had three, which she shoveled into her mouth with very poor manners (hehe), and Matt only stopped at two because he has gotten better at listening to his stomach when it is full rather than his taste buds when something is delicious. I only had one, but that was because I was full, not because I didn't like them. Both of them kept telling me, between mouthfuls, how great they were. Matt even said that this is what I should serve the next time the missionaries come over.
Sometimes I question whether I am overdoing it with cooking when I am not really recovered from starting dialysis yet. I try to plan leftovers or something super easy on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but even on these other days I have to sit down in my chair I have in the kitchen and I ache for hours afterwards. I'm already taking prescription painkillers for migraines and sciatica, so extra aches and pains are never good. It does satisfy me to be creative in the kitchen. It makes my family happy to have yummy food. It is healthier and cheaper than going to restaurants. Fast food places are much less likely to show up in our busy days because there are leftovers. There are so many good things about it that I am sure I will continue, I just hope the pain part diminishes soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

We had a party last night at the request of our incredibly imaginative Sarah. She wanted to have a Lady and the Tramp themed party, so we did! She recently got the movie on blu-ray, and has been wanting to celebrate it's release since then. Our lives can get so busy it has taken us over a month to actually pull this off, but it was a lot of fun and as most of you know, Matt and I will do almost anything to help Sarah be happy.
Sarah collects books with even more devotion than I do, so she has several copies of Lady and the Tramp, each a little different. One is an activity book which has a recipe for spaghetti and "meats'a balls." she wanted this to eat with the movie. I had thought I might try to get away with something more store bought because meatballs are not my favorite to make or eat. No such luck. She was pretty adamant that I use THIS recipe. It was not difficult, but, as usual, my meatballs fell apart and those that didn't sure didn't look round! However, they tasted fantastic! I think next time I make this I will bake the meatballs. I've seen that plenty of times on TV, so it's worth a try.
The sauce was even easier, but since I had a migraine from dialysis I had forgotten that it said to simmer for an hour to reduce. HA! The recipe called for 16 oz of chopped tomatoes. There is, by the way, no such size can available in any grocery store I've been to. Maybe in Europe. I bought the 24 oz size, figuring I could use the rest in something next week. It's a good thing I did, because as I cooked the sauce, even before it started to reduce, there was no way it was going to cover an entire pound of spaghetti. Of course, with just the three of us, we wouldn't be eating an entire pound of spaghetti in one night either. I ended up adding the whole can of tomatoes, but I will need to make more sauce for the leftover pasta and meatballs. I will be happy to because this was possibly the best spaghetti I have ever eaten. I'm actually looking forward to the leftovers!
Just as a side note, we all smell like garlic!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Migraines have begun to cut in on my cooking time plans, but I still managed one supper that didn't come out of a can or wasn't leftovers. We have had cheese crisps, but I'm not sure that counts as cooking.
For dinner tonight I made a foil dinner with potatos, cooked and crumbled bacon, ranch dressing powder, salt, pepper, and butter. The recipe called for it to be cooked out on a grill, and since that was not happening with this weather, I just baked them at 350* for about 45 minutes.
I got to use my new mandoline to slice the potatos and it was slick! I really wish I had purchased one of these years ago, but they were always so expensive. I decided to just bite the bullet since I'm working in the kitchen more and looked for one at Walmart. Obviously it is not supreme quality, but for only $10 I was thrilled!
Anyway, the dinners turned out "okay." Sarah didn't like the bacon, but she loved the potatos. I thought they were a little bland, so I topped mine with sour cream. I also decided that I'll put some onion in next time. The reviews I read were very happy with the original recipe, but that is the great thing about the art of cooking. You can tweak things to your taste or to what is in your pantry.
Just an afterthought; Matt thought I should have baked them in the fire we have for our furnace. I'm not so crazy about that idea. Any thoughts?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Maybe one of these days I will take pictures to go along with these food ideas, but for now imagination will have to do.
I made Mac and Cheese again, and at Sarah's request, no ham. I don't know what went wrong but I ended up with too much cheese sauce. Sarah disagrees, since there is no such thing as too much cheese sauce. She must be right because when I went to get some for my lunch the next day it was GONE! The last batch we ate for three days.
I also made Butternut Rigatoni. My dad has always been good at crumbling cooking meat and I sure could have used him for the sausage. I don't like the big chunky pieces in this, but it still turned out pretty good. Matt said that he even liked it, and that was coming from a guy who was sick, tired, and doesn't like that kind of thing (casseroles).
I got the ingredients for Lasagna, but it is more labor intensive than any of these others, so we'll see if I can do it or if the ingredients end up in other dishes!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I've been cooking again, one of the fun things I like to do. First, I'm so glad I have the energy, and second I am so tired of take out food. Even sit down restaurant food has become boring. They always give you too much and leftovers have never been my thing. They also don't vary enough in their menus. The point is, homemade food, even the super simple stuff is a welcome return to normalcy.
Those of you who Facebook know where the links to these recipes are, though if you know me you will also know that my favorite chefs to follow are Rachel Ray and Anne Burrell. As I write this I am eating leftover quiche. I know I said I don't do leftovers, but sometimes homemade lends itself better to being leftover than some fancy steak. I am sure it has to do with reheating in the microwave.
This week I made Macaroni and Ham and Cheese. I have always maintained that I hate Mac and Cheese, but this recipe called for gruyere cheese, which I love, so I thought I'd give it a try. Yum! That is all.
I also made Herbed Chiken Cutlets. They took longer than planned, so Matt entertained the missionaries with pictures and stories from his trip to Isreal. I have never dredged in three steps, but it was actually easier than any two step process I have tried before. everyone loved them, with one sister and Matt taking 2nds.
I also made a quiche. This was by far the simplest thing I made, but since it was on a day after dialysis and driving Matt to the airport, simple is good. Like I said, I am eating leftovers now. That may be the only problem with the quiche. I can't cut the recipe in half for our small family. Ah, well. Sarah and I will take care of it. Matt doesn't like eggs, so he is "stuck" with the last piece of chicken.
Hopefully I'll be able to keep this updated, as I would really like to make it bout my adventures in cooking for a while. Thanks for listening/reading!