Over three years. That is how long we have been searching for a house. A house that my parents, and youngest brother Michael, can call home. I’m not going to say “the perfect house”, for I do not believe in the concept of “perfection”. What I will say, however, is that it feels right. And good. And happy.
From St. Louis to Kansas City. My parents and brother will be moving 252 miles across the state of Missouri – leaving behind a house that has been “home” to my parents for more than 40 years. It is where they raised seven kids; five in ten years, with a ten year break, and then two more; followed by more than a dozen grandchildren. Is this going to be easy; for anyone…? Nope. Change is NEVER easy. But it’s time.
My brother, Michael, just turned 30 this summer. Michael has Down Syndrome. He and I are the “bookends” of the family, and Michael will eventually be my permanent buddy…xoxo Moving to KC now means new roots, new friends and new surroundings while everyone is still young and healthy and happy. My dad will celebrate his 80th birthday later this year in his new house. We are so blessed….
Hold on to me as we go As we roll down this unfamiliar road And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone ‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home
Happy Birthday, America – 239 years old today! The Fourth of July. A celebration of our red, white and blue. Flags flying high and proud. Displays of patriotism around every corner. Amidst the BBQ and fireworks, the tri-color jello molds and the stars and stripes fingernail art – I think we sometimes get too busy, so wrapped up in all of the preparation and planning (myself included) that we forget. We forget to stop… and say “thank you”.
As they say, “there is no land of the free, without home of the brave“. To our men and women , past and present, who have served this great country of ours… we are forever in your debt. Thank you, thank you; a million times… thank you.
That being said, I also 100% LOVE all of the wonderful family and friends traditions that we celebrate this glorious day. So many memories, going all the way back to my grandparents’ boathouse on the river when I was a little girl. Spending the day on the little “beach” with a picnic lunch, catching tadpoles and shooting the rapids. Returning, exhausted, to our tiny little river house to enjoy smokebombs, “snakes” and sparklers, before we crashed, 2-3 people per bed, underneath a bizillion stars, in the middle of nowhere – the chirping of the crickets almost deafening… Flash forward – Another vivid Fourth of July memory – exactly 25 years ago today. Pregnant with twins and confined to bedrest, I was feeling overwhelmingly a little “stir crazy” and decided to “sneak out” and watch the fireworks that night. Ha!! Let me tell you, there is absolutely NO WAY to “sneak” ANYWHERE when you are 36 weeks pregnant with twins. Never-the-less; we did it anyway. I went into labor exactly 10 days later…
I woke up this morning remembering the past 25 years with our kids… like a filmstrip of memories all jumbled up into a big ball of happy. Parades and popsicles, family and friends, petting zoos and jump houses, tattoos and water balloons, pony rides and decorating the bikes, neighborhood pool parties and family BBQ’s… I’m not gonna lie; I have felt a bit melancholy all day. Sigh…
So I chose this beautiful pic and quote (at top) this morning as my inspiration for this year – July 4, 2015. Not a focus on our “rights”, as such… but, rather, our privileges. As Americans, we are so mightily blessed. As a nation we must reject prejudice and embrace honesty. We are called to do the right thing. Just because. As (a very wise woman) Ellen says everyday at the end of her show… “Be kind to one another”.
OK. I’m done. Tri-color jello, anyone…? Happy Fourth, friends xo
My heart was full – to the brim – with good intentions. I was gonna sit down and pay my bills. NOW. No more procrastinating.
Check list. Computer, stack of bills, pen, jacket because I was chilly, let the dogs out on the deck, music on, leftover coffee warmed up, porch windows open, cell phone (texting my kids), new pen (out of ink)… check, check, check
Hmmm. I’m out of my “bill payment sheets”. No problem; just need to run a few copies, so this isn’t an excuse to procrastinate next month. Ya. Right. What is a “bill payment sheet”, you’re wondering…? Well, short story – my organized alter ego coming through. A little Excel thingie I created years ago that I fill in each month with each payee and the amounts, dates, confirmation numbers… I love charts and graphs and columns. You see, in my mind I am a very organized person. Somewhere in the follow ,through, is where it seems to fall apart.
So off I go into the hubbies office where we have our printer. This stupid machine seems to take forever to warm up. I decide to spend my waiting time getting a closer look at our bird families that are currently renting space on our front porch. So off I go in search of binoculars. Surprisingly, this proves to be a rather simple step. For some reason, they are exactly where they are supposed to be. Weird.
What happened next was quite unexpected. Above the right column was our mama dove. She is a regular. Must have about 100 babies by now. Poor exhausted thing. As I focus in on the nest I see little pieces of my front porch planter, woven throughout… You’re welcome, Mama Dove. Just help yourself. “A mamas gotta do what a mamas gotta do.” (Feel free to quote me) As I divert my gaze over to the left and focus in on the second column, I see the other mama bird. But she is not a dove. She is a little sparrow…? I guess. I dunno. She is tiny, and definitely not a dove. I think she is a sparrow. Whatever. Here’s the point of the story.
It was at that very moment that I envisioned world peace.
Here were these two mama birds, living side by side, coexisting peacefully. They were not the least bit concerned that they were different colors, or had different markings. One was 2-3 times the size of the other. No worries. Their voices; their songs – so very different. Not a bother. No judgement. No prejudice. They were simply and respectfully doing what God had asked them to do with their lives. So the “take away”? I dunno. Maybe “Be the bird”. Ya. I know. I hear your thoughts. It’s simplistic and a bit naïve, I admit -But, OH, what a beautiful thought…
The printer is screeching and spurting ugly sounds, catapulting me back to the here and now. The printer is warmed and ready for action. I, reluctantly, set down the binoculars and move forward. I simply must stop procrastinating and pay these stupid bills. But first… I need to take this jacket off because I’m sweating, let the dogs in and close the porch windows because it looks like rain, re-warm my coffee that’s now stone cold – Oh, and lookie – a text from the kids…
More importantly, I like the creativity and intrigue of cooking. I love to peruse cookbooks, the internet, Pinterest… all for recipes that sound, well, a little odd. Kinda like, I’m either gonna LOVE it… or, perhaps, epic fail not-so-much. Yep. I love trying new recipes, new restaurants, new chefs, new combinations of foods… outa the box kinda stuff. Now if you knew my family (of orgin), you would get a chuckle out of this. They are a “meat and potatoes, very basic, no condiments (of ANY kind)” sorta fam. My sister won’t even TOUCH a bottle of mustard. Literally. In our home we have a minimum of at least four or five different varieties of mustard at any given time. Ya. My brothers and sisters look at me as a bit of a freak an odd bird. About a LOT of things, actually… but let’s keep to the subject of food for now.
So yesterday I was thinking about dindin. While researching recipes for my spring newsletter, I stumbled across a recipe for zucchini corn pancakes (click HERE). Yum. The more I thought about them, the more obsessed I got. Let me just say that I was not disappointed. Garnished with a little Peach Salsa (Trader Joe’s), a dollop of sour cream (dairy free for me!) and a little minced cilantro… Boom! It was my lucky day because shrimp has been on sale (Fresh Market) so we had grilled shrimp and springtime oven roasted asparagus (both with a little Olive Tree olive oil) and some fresh blackberries. In a word… DELISH!
So… What’s next? Found a recipe for a family fav Indian dish that is prepared in a CROCK POT?? Served with a little “twist” on the usual basmati rice. Hmmm…
Whatcha been up to? Me? Oh, ya. I HAVE been busy. Like “Super-D-Duper” busy – Thanks for asking. The easiest way to explain my absence is a quick timeline of events (Ya, RIGHT!! Quick! That’s something I’m super good at… hahahaha!) OK. Let’s say more of a never ending long, rambling sequence of unrelated random words… Yep. Good at that.
It all started with New Years resolutions. Cleaning/purging the basement. BIG job. Lots of time to think. Got sick for a week. More time to just think. (Too miserable for anything else). During this contemplative period, began exploring the idea of re-entering the “retail rodeo”. WHAT?? (I know. Crazy. I blame the fever) On a total whim, I decided (on a Monday) to contact two gals that own a cute little boutique about seven minutes from my house re: rental space. By Thursday I had “verbally agreed” to sign on to rent the entire basement space of CHARM, a cute little (1905) house in “Martin City”. We agreed that I would open the basement space on Thursday, March 5. And the crazy began…
First of all, I needed merchandise. You know; something to SELL… Not enough time to go to market, so I started contacting reps, perusing my catalogs, searching online… quite a challenge really. Like REALLY!! Then there are fixtures. Gotta have a way to DISPLAY all of that incredible new merchandise! Mapped out a plan on my “to scale” graph paper, and felt really good about that. I still had my fixtures from Trendz (my previous rental space), and it appeared that they would all work perfectly. Needed new business cards with my CHARM info, and in the process of searching those out, stumbled across a site “Angie makes”. Loved the artwork/design, so randomly decided it was time for a complete overhaul… new logo, new website/blog, new merchandise tags WITH my new logo… along with those new business cards – the very thing that started this whole domino effect. Ya. All great ideas. Because I didn’t have enough to do already.
Everything took longer than anticipated. Of course. Eventually the merchandise started to trickle in. But the tags were delayed, because the “final answer” on my logo was delayed. Then there was a delay on being able to move in because of weather issues. It was, to say the least, very frustrating!! We finally found a “window” just days before my official open. Bad weather was due to arrive the very next day. It was literally a case of “now or never”. My sweet bro-in-law and my devoted hubbie were there for me, once again, ready to help move all of the “big stuff” over. I had three main pieces; all beautiful painted wood shelf units. Big ones. To hold lots of good stuff. The first one was rejected on paper. I realized that the height was ONE stinkin’ INCH too high for that old basement ceiling… at it’s highest point. Ouch! DOWN ONE. Stay positive. I still have two more. The second piece, a real BEAR, made it out of my Creations room to the basement door before it was rejected. The “reality check” was that it would not make the turn at the bottom of those old wooden basement stairs. Panic! DOWN TWO. OK, gotta re-think this. I will figure it out. I still have one more… So we loaded her up on the truck, along with some random tables etc. and off we went. On the outside, I was fine. But inside, I literally felt sick to my stomach. How was I going to display everything with 2 of the 3 major pieces GONE!! Ugh! Luckily, it’s a very short jaunt between my house and CHARM, so not too much time to dwell on the situation at hand. When we got there, we entered and started measuring everything between “point A and point B”. Final answer? There was NO WAY that 3rd shelf unit was gonna make it down those stairs. I’m done. DOWN THREE…
The next morning was crazy. In moving that 2nd shelf unit the previous day (the one I referred to as a “bear”…), my husband had pulled a muscle in his back and I was worried about him! I would not let him lift a finger to help. (He was not very happy with me…) But there was a big snow/ice storm coming our way, and I had boxes and boxes (and boxes) of merchandise to move over before it hit. Alone. So I started packing my car (it was already snowing hard) and began the process of moving everything over. Several trips. Box by box by box… Shoveling the snow every time to make a path to the font porch of CHARM. Not fun. But I did it! Once it was all finally inside and down the basement, I stopped to look around. There was merchandise stacked everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE! None of it was tagged yet because of the delay on my tags. There were empty holes where shelf units were supposed to be. Where was everything going to GO?? For a moment, my eyes filled up with tears at the “overwhelmingness” of it all… and then I sprung into action. Nothing about any of this has gone “as planned”. So what. This is just a “chapter” (my 2015 “word“) in my book of CHARM. I will make it work. I CAN do this.
I finally decided on “my word”. For 2015. My word is “chapters”.
Whew! I mean, here it is, February 1st. Already. That means I existed the entire first month of January, 2015… with no word. What? How? OK. Here’s the deal. I didn’t want to just grab any random word; and call it MY word. I had to ponder. And dwell. And stress. Now I probably shoulda coulda woulda started this process a little earlier, but to be quite honest with y’all (my son moved to Dallas. Gotta do that y’all thingie every once in awhile now…), I DID NOT KNOW we had to have “a word”. Yep. I’m just being really honest here. I just didn’t know. Did you know? Ya. You probably did. My friend Dawn has a word. (Click HERE) And she had a word last year as well. She just kinda “knows” these things tho…
“What’s the greatest chapter in your book? Are there pages where it hurts to look?”
A couple lines from one of my fav Blake Shelton songs… Truth is, I have always looked at my life as a book, and every single chapter in “my book” has made me the very person that I am today. The good, the not so good; accomplishments, defeat; amazing triumphs and overwhelming heartbreaks; over-the-top joy, and excruciating pain. It is all me. It is my book. Those are my chapters.
2015 promises to be a big year for me. As it stands now, I will be writing many new chapters throughout the year. And closing others. Case in point, I started the year off by closing the longest running, absolutely hands-down greatest chapter in my “book of life” thus far… The chapter dedicated to raising my (amazing) kids. You notice I did NOT say the chapter dedicated to “Motherhood”. Oh no, no, no. I know better than that. There is no “one chapter”; no “end” to the privilege of Motherhood. My kids will ALWAYS be my kids, and I will ALWAYS be their mom. Nothing will ever change that. EVER. Yes; there are many levels, and chapters, to Motherhood. But the reality is, I am done “raising” my children. They are both almost 25 years old now. Adults; living and working on their own. But I must be honest in telling you, it hurt like crazy to turn that page. To leave behind that amazing chapter and move on.
“What’s the greatest chapter in your book? Are there pages where it hurts to look…?”
2 T. fresh grated orange peel OR 1 T. dried orange peel
2 eggs (room temp)
½ c. dried cranberries
1 ½ c. pistachio nuts
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate; chopped
½ T. OLIVE TREE Butter olive oil
Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil & sugar until well blended. Add vanilla & almond extracts along with orange peel, mixing well. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Gradually add flour mixture & mix until evenly incorporated. Stir in pistachios & cranberries by hand.
Divide dough in half. (Dough will be very sticky!) Form two logs side by side (12” x 2”) on the parchment lined cookie sheet; several inches apart. (logs will spread during baking!) Bake for about 35 minutes, until logs are light brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 275 F. Set biscotti aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
Carefully transfer the logs to a cutting surface. Using a serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into ¾” slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, back on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8-10 minutes, or just until dry and golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Once the biscotti have completely cooled, place chopped chocolate and ½ T. OLIVE TREE Butter olive oil in a (DRY) microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds; stir; heat another 30 seconds; stir… until melted and combined. Dip the bottoms of the biscotti in the melted chocolate, and allow them to set, lying on their sides.
So why this recipe? Well… there’s a story. There’s ALWAYS a story. So my daughter and I don’t do dairy. It doesn’t like us. So when making my biscotti for Thanksgiving this year, I decided to try the butter olive oil from my dear friend, Mindy, at Olive Tree. (My very, very FAV place to buy olive oil and vinegars, BTW!) Loved the (buttery) flavor, so I took one in for her to taste. (Yes. One. Sorry Mindy. There were actually two left at the time. I ate the other one…) As it ends up, the very day that I popped into the store to drop it off is the same day that she had decided to team up with Jasper Mirabile (renowned chef, cookbook author, radio host and owner of Jasper’s Ristorante and Marco Polo Italian Market. Whew!!) for their first annual cookie contest together. So I decided to enter my Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti (with my BUTTER olive oil from Olive Tree)… and I won 2nd place!! WooHoo!!! So exciting! So why not give the recipe a go, and let me know how they turn out! Better yet, bring some by and I would be happy to let you know what I think. I’m just nice like that. OK, Fine. Whatever. Just bring one. I understand if you simply must eat all the others. (wink, wink…)
A great big shout out and THANK YOU to Mindy and Jasper!! xoxo
“Calling all bakers! Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen Radio and Olive Tree have teamed up this year for our First Annual Cookie Contest. Submit your favorite holiday cookie using an Olive Tree olive oil and/or a balsamic vinegar and you could win BIG! … 1st Place – $100 Jasper’s Gift Certificate 2nd Place – $50 Olive Tree Gift Certificate…
3rd Place – Signed Jasper’s Cookbook
4th Place – Bottle of Jasper’s Blend Olive Oil from Olive Tree
Must be an original recipe. Entries must be submitted by December 18th and winner’s will be announced on Live From Jasper’s Kitchen show on Saturday, December 20th at 11:00 a.m. 710KCMO. Please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in person at Olive Tree 4937 W. 119th Street (Hawthorne Plaza).”
Saying goodbye to 2014 is bittersweet. It has certainly been a year of change, to say the least.
Both of our kids graduated college and entered the (gulp!) “real world”; acquiring great jobs right out of school. I must tell you that we sincerely appreciate what an incredible blessing this is…!! In the fall, our son moved 500 miles away to Dallas, and that has been a real adjustment for our family. We miss him terribly; but he is happy and settled and doing well. Truthfully, at the end of the day, that is all that really matters. And, after much searching, our daughter has finally found a place to live (here in KC, thank goodness!!) and is moving out with friends in the next couple of weeks. She is SO excited!! Well… it certainly looks like the hubbie and I are gonna be empty nesters here in 2015!! Our plans to move my mom, dad and youngest brother to Kansas City escalated in 2014. Their home, where I grew up, is in Florissant, Missouri… just north of Ferguson, Missouri. Unfortunately, now everyone knows exactly where that is on a map. I have 21 family members living in the area. Two are police officers. Needless to say, it has been a very tense and emotional experience for our entire family. We hope to have my parents and brother moved to Kansas City very soon.
In the meantime, please join me in praying for peace. Everywhere…
We have a family prayer book that I started back in January 2002. Inside that book – snipits, clippings, pictures… memories of those people that we have lost over the past 13 years; or those people that have simply been in need of our prayers.
“A picture is worth a thousand words, but the memories are priceless”.
For the many we said goodbye to in 2014… We light a single candle. There are no words. xo
OK, wow. Did that catch anyone else off guard, or is it just me?
So if you are playin’ on “my team”, you might just be in need of a quick, simple, yummy appetizer for tomorrow night, and I can DEFINITELY help with that for sure. Yep. I’ve gotcha covered. This is the easiest appetizer in the world, and everyone LOVES it!! No worries – You can start Weight Watchers AFTER New Year’s Eve… (teehee!)
Swiss Cheese Dip
1 1/2 c. shredded swiss cheese
8 oz softened cream cheese **
1/2 c. mayonnaise (regular or light)
1/2 c sliced toasted almonds
** reg or lite… but PLEASE don’t EVER use fat-free cream cheese!! For ANYTHING! I don’t even think it’s a legit food product!!
Mix first 3 ingredients together and spread in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle almonds on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve with Wheat Thins, sliced apples, carrots, olive bread, pita chips… Whatever floats your boat.
THAT’S IT!! Yes. It’s REALLY that easy. And they WILL love it. I promise you!! I suggest that you try it at least once in it’s simplest form. As is. Then if you wanna change it up a bit and go all “Martha” on me, try it the next time with one new ingredient. Here are a few ideas for “add-in” suggestions… chopped green onions, sautéed or caramelized sweet onions, chopped cooked bacon, Dijon mustard, horseradish – Use your imagination!! Go crazy! Or just (KISS) Keep It Super Simple and make it as is!!
My son was here for Christmas… Nine days! Wow!!! In the weeks/days leading up to his arrival, I was SO over-the-top excited. It would be absolutely amazing to have him here that long! Such an incredible Christmas blessing. As excited as I was, however, I knew there were also risks. Having him here that long would mean that my heart might start to play tricks on me. And boy was I was right. It certainly did.
My heart went right into “mama mode”. He was back home. In his old room, his old bed. His dishes were in the sink. He was asleep on the couch with the dogs. His towel was back on his bathroom floor. It was just like it was before he moved away.
There were friends and family; dinners and parties; games and movies. We ate too much and slept too little. We laughed, we cried, we reminisced.
Until this morning…
I woke up with that feeling. You know the one. It’s dark and empty and makes you want to just close your eyes and return to the comfort of your dreams. But reality is unavoidable. So after a good cry (Wait. Is there such a thing…?), I walked down the hall towards his (old) bedroom. The light was on. I knocked. “What sounds good for breakfast? Eggs? French toast? Smoothie?” I could see him searching my face; my eyes. He knew. “A smoothie would be great.”, he replied, almost apologetically. I feel terrible about being so sad in front of him, but he knows that is just the way of my heart. The next hour passed in a heartbeat. It was time to go. His cousin’s car was in the driveway ready to begin the eight hour, 500 mile journey home. Yes… Home. The reality is, this is not “home” for him anymore. In his heart; Yes. A part of his heart will always be “home” here… in ourhearts. No matter where life takes all of us. But he has moved on, and it is just as it should be. That, my friends, is one hefty of dose of reality. I have no regrets, though. None. I wouldn’t trade a single moment of all the happy, even knowing that the sad would follow. We must always remember to savor each and every moment that we are blessed with.
Exactly eight hours later; his text… “Made it back safe & sound. Miss & love you.” He includes a sad emoji and a big red heart. He is not an emoji guy. That was for me. I simply respond, “me too“.