Monday, November 30, 2009

Here's to you, Mom.

Another year has rolled around; I think of you often, but especially today, November 30th, the anniversary of your death. I think about what we've missed, without you in our lives. And this year I've thought of you more often, as I've stepped out of my comfort zone and started making my way around the kitchen. At age 38, it was "better late than never" as they say; but it was just one of the changes I've felt compelled to make in my life this year. If I'm honest with myself, I guess I've worn my "non-cook" badge throughout my life with pride (i.e. "I'm a liberated, non-traditional woman") but also with some resignation. When people would ask, "What do you mean, you've never learned how to cook?" I would joke that I knew how to make the basics - a hearty bowl of oatmeal, a frozen pizza, a few appetizers for gatherings -- just enough things to get by.

But sometimes, with friends and coworkers, I would find myself talking about how my mom was an awesome cook, and I tell them about your homemade bread and doughnuts that you made for us every week, and your amazing garden with all the fruits and vegetables. I would go on to explain how you died when I was 11, before you could teach me how to cook. And how my stepmom, although a very strong and courageous woman (taking on 4 stepkids in addition to her own 3-year-old daughter), was just not much of a cook, by her own admission. So, there were my excuses. Then during my adult/married life, I have been fortunate to have a spouse who liked/likes to cook - and that just made it all the easier for me to avoid the kitchen!

One of the changes I've made this year was to face the notion, the self-perception, and yes, even the cop-out that "I'm not a cook" and start trying some things that I've basically avoided until now. The first time I really cooked a full meal was on Easter weekend, with everyone in St. C for the holiday. I made Dave's spaghetti recipe, and it actually turned out pretty good - and everyone was very surprised that I could cook!

I've continued to try new recipes every week or two, and some of them have been great, while others have just been okay. But I find that I'm enjoying the process as much as the end results; I find myself thinking of you many times while I'm going through recipes or gathering ingredients. One of the first things I made was a pot roast, with carrots and potatoes, because that was always one of my favorite meals that you made. I'm proud of myself, and I think you would be proud of me, that I'm learning to cook after all this time. Making wonderful meals for your family was one of your specialties, and I know you would have loved to have been here to pass on that knowledge and skill to all of us. So here's to you, Mom - miss you and love you, and thinking of you today, especially.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey Day '09

It was a hectic (as always) holiday with my family; great to get together and see my parents, grandparents, siblings/in-laws and, of course, all the kiddos. We missed youngest brother Thom, who had to work, but everyone else was able to make it home.

Just a few pics to post, for the family members that read my blog. I'm so excited that I will be getting a new (and improved) camera for Christmas this year. My current one really doesn't get the job done, I had lots of pics that were too blurry to post.

We headed home Friday and have enjoyed the rest of our holiday weekend getting some things done around the house. I'm hoping to start back to work next week with a few half-days, I'm ready to be back up and going.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Doggone Bored...

I wish I had something exciting or even halfway interesting to write about, but alas, I've been pretty much homebound and life is darn boring right now. I could tell you all about the annoying women on The View yesterday, or about the hours on end of HGTV I've been watching... I could not stay at home all the time, I would die of boredom. Of course if I were feeling better, there are many things I could be doing - I could finish painting the deck, paint the spare bedroom, clean out the loft, trim the ivy in the front garden/walkway - but if I were able to do all those, then I should already be back at work! That's what the doc said - that I may want to go back to work sooner than the 4 weeks, because sometimes home and all those things I "should be doing" can be more taxing than work, especially since my job is mostly sitting anyway.

I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor today, and I'm driving there- woo hoo! No driving for the past week and a half, so I am ready to go! Technically the doctor said no driving for two weeks (ok, 2-3 weeks) because any sudden movements (slamming on the brakes, etc) can tear the stitches, but hey - it is just two days shy of two weeks, so I'm gonna go with it!

It was great to have my parents both visit last week; true to form, my dad spent an entire afternoon cleaning out the garage. He loves to organize, and went to work on the shelves, organizing the tools, and sweeping every nook and cranny. I emailed Dave and told him we'd be able to eat off the floor in the garage when Dad was done. Seriously, the man cleans like no one else I know. Then before he left Saturday morning he gave me a walk-through of where everything was, so we would know when we needed something. (Thanks, Dad!)

One of the best things about their visit was just the chance to relax and talk, and spend some time together here at our home. The majority of our gatherings are at my parents' home, with 6 siblings and all of our families; those are some of the best times, and I treasure them, but this was nice to just visit one on one. And here at our house, my parents had a chance to spend some time with our dogs in their own environment too, and see just how calm they are here at home. Usually the dogs are all keyed up when our big family is together; with several dogs outside at my parents' home- it is a zoo!

But here at home they are quiet, and I think Mom and Dad both got a kick out of how well-behaved they are in the house. Of course Rocky wasn't going to give up his chair for anyone, but he was happy to share with them:

We are heading to my folks' house later this week for Thanksgiving, and it will be a great time. I'm trying to figure out just how we're going to get the dogs in the Liberty, since it has a much smaller rear space than the 4-Runner did. But we'll make it, somehow! Better close now, and get to work on those desserts for Thursday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chick Flicks, Thanksgiving Recipes and other Stay-At-Home stuff.

Today was the first day that I felt pretty darn good all day. Of course it may be because I didn't try to get out and do anything, like I did on Monday and Tuesday. We made an impromptu trip to Sam's yesterday with Gail, and I quickly found myself planting my butt right on the lawn furniture while Mom and Gail chattered and shopped. I was dizzy and feeling like I might fall down if I didn't sit down, so after we cut the shopping trip short I spent the rest of the day napping. I've received several funny cards from friends and colleagues; it has been a nice surprise to walk down to the mailbox the last couple days and find that they're thinking of me!

Ok, on to the other chick flicks, per my sister Tara's reply to an earlier post:
1) The Ugly Truth (Katherine Heigl) - as already reported, it was indeed UGLY.
2) My Life in Ruins (Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) - cute but predictable
3) Last Chance Harvey (Dustin Hoffman/Emma Thompson) - sweet romantic flick about a second chance at life and love; great characters; a little slow, but a good story.

The one I haven't watched yet is "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" with Matthew McConaughey; will have to watch it tomorrow before my dad gets here.

The good news about being off work is that I have ample time to prepare for Thanksgiving at my parents' home, as in what I'm going to make and bring. Dave is doing his fabulous stuffing, that has pork sausage, Granny Smith apples, walnuts and more - it is wonderful. And I think he'll do some sweet potatoe casserole as well, even though he doesn't like it - he knows it is one of my favorites! I am going to bring a dessert, a couple different types of bon bons, or truffles. Both of those sound snooty, but really they're not. The first one is an Oreo Bon Bon, which our friend Laura in KC made, and I had to have the recipe. They are cream cheese and crushed oreos blended together and made into little balls, and then dipped in melted chocolate almond bark. Soooooo yummy, and I know they'll be a hit with my chocolate lovin' family!

The other one is a Cookie Dough Truffle, which was sent to me by a friend who is a dietitian and now going to physician assistant school. She had made them for a physician gathering, and said they were so delicious it was sinful! If they're both good, I'll post the recipes on here. (If they turn out bad, then we'll assume it was the cook and you won't hear another word about them!)

Off to bed, tomorrow I have an outing of necessity - time for a visit to the hair dresser!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, El Tigre!

Ok, I've found something far worse than my awful Percocet-induced dreams; Katherine Heigl's latest movie on DVD, "The Ugly Truth". We've rented four chick flicks to watch over the next few days, and I wanted to watch one of the "lighter" ones last night since we started it fairly late in the evening. Blechhhh. Let's hope the other three are better, don't know that they could be any worse.

Happy Birthday to my dad, who is 73 today and celebrating on his own since Mom is here visiting me. We talked to him this morning, and he said he has a busy day - getting the laundry caught up, (they don't let clothes accumulate for more than half a day, and it is worse now that my dad is retired. He does not adhere to the sorting of laundry by color, and I swear he runs a load if there's just three or four things, and then hangs EVERYTHING on the clothesline out back. Bath towels at my parents are like sandpaper, but more important than basic comfort is the fact that they're saving electricity, as my dad likes to remind anyone who has a comment.) feeding the horses, and just taking care of things around the house. Whatever his secret is, though, I hope all of us kids have inherited it - he's a very youthful 73.

He'll be down later this week to stay for a couple of days; they didn't have anyone to care for the horses while they were gone, so they had to split up their visits. I actually enjoy this more, since I get to spend a few days with each of them on their own.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I've been trying to describe to Dave how this pain medication is making me feel; yesterday I told him that it makes my dreams all weird and vivid. But that didn't really describe it, because I always remember my dreams, and lots of times they are very detailed. But then I woke up in the middle of a bizarre dream about 5AM this morning, where I was performing an Italian aria "Se Tu M'ami" (that's not necessarily the weird part, I really did sing in college, it was one of my favorite performance pieces when I was a vocal major) with TOO MUCH GUM in my mouth. I was literally mouthing the words as I woke up, trying to chomp through the gum! Ok, time to quit the Percocet.

My stepmom is coming to stay with me for a few days this week, she will be here later today. I have so many things I really need to do, between now and Christmas, it is hard to think that I really just need to SIT and let my insides heal for the next couple of weeks. Of course with the Percocet the pain is gone, so that fools me into thinking I can do more than I should. Today I'm just going to stick with the Motrin and get an idea of my real pain level.

I'm just going to enjoy the morning- a cup of coffee, wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa, with a book and the doggies.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Home Again

Surgery went well, and I enjoyed a long night's rest at home after spending Thursday night and a half day Friday in the hospital. It has been 11 years since I've been in the hospital, and I'd forgotten how impossible it is to actually sleep for any stretch of time. Between checking vitals, changing IVs and all the noise in the hallway, I didn't sleep for more than an hour at a time. But oh, the drugs, the drugs. Man, they zonk you out; a morphine pump while in the hospital and now Percocet at home... it makes the pain go away, but also sends all logical thinking on a vacation as well - so if this post is a little nonsensical, blame it on the drugs.

The hospital stay was great, and true to form (yes, I could talk to a brick wall) I befriended several awesome people on the floor during my brief stay. I recruited one of my nurses, (who is pregnant and due in late March) to model for our maternity fashion show at our annual baby event in early March; apparently there are 9 people on their floor alone who are pregnant, so she is going to talk a couple others into modeling with her.

The other fun and informative conversation I had was with my night nurse, Lee, who is orginally from New Hampshire and loves the Red Sox. She was telling me about wearing her green Red Sox hat on a vacation she took with a friend, to Savannah, Georgia over St. Patrick's Day, and how there were several Yankees fans giving her a hard time. But the best part for me was hearing all about her trip, and what she loved about Savannah. They rode the trolley tours all over the city, learning about the different homes and the movies that have been filmed in Savannah; the St. Patty's Day celebration is huge, with a 4-plus hour parade. She said it was one of her favorite vacations ever, and she can't wait to visit again. That's one place that is on my list to visit, and her stories just move it further to the top of the list.

Today I'm just taking it easy on the sofa; what beautiful weather! Dave has the door to the deck open, as he prepares to smoke a turkey. The crisp air and the smoking wood smell wonderful, and I think I'll close now and enjoy a little cat-nap now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Catching Up

I had the best intentions of updating the blog before today; it has been more than a week since I last posted, and what a week it has been. May I just say that the new Liberty is a fun little SUV to drive, but my first week in it was less than stellar... Made a quick stop to return a DVD last Tuesday night as I headed from Jace's parent/teacher conference to a community volunteer meeting that night.

Pulled up to the movie store, hopped out of the car to walk the five steps to open the door and hand the movie to the clerk. Walked back to the car and it was LOCKED. All four doors, with the motor running, and my purse, phone and the second set of keys in it as well. 45 minutes, 28 dollars and several curse words later, Pop-A-Lock arrived and took 30 seconds to jimmy the back window and unlock it! I was so mad at myself, I've done that a million times with my 4-Runner, and have never locked the keys in it!

Then on Friday I took off the side mirror on the Liberty. No need to go into specifics on it, let's just leave it that a steep driveway ("space shuttle launch pad", as Davey B likes to call it), a narrow garage and a hurried, inattentive driver all converged to cause my second stupid driver act of the week! I have to confess, I have taken off the side mirror once before, about five years ago on my Bravada, pulling out of the garage (while my dad was visiting- how embarrassing! Don't think I escaped without a lecture on that one!). The garage is so narrow and the driveway is so steep, it is surprising that it hasn't happened since, quite honestly. Glad the Liberty has the black trim/mirror etc, so it will be much easier to replace than the paint-to-match mirrors and trim on the 4-Runner.

No pics to post from our weekend with Paige and Garry/Heather; it was a great weekend, wonderful to see Paige again and to hang out with Garry, Heather and their kiddos for a couple of days. Dave made his famous 8-hour spaghetti sauce on Saturday, and it was absolutely delish! The five of us (adults and Paige) played a couple different versions Trivial Pursuit Friday and Saturday night, and just enjoyed a quiet weekend with family and friends. Jace had a blast with Garry/Heather's kids, and can't wait to head back up there for our next visit after Christmas.

This week has been especially busy because I'm preparing to be off work for several weeks after having a hysterectomy tomorrow. Not that anyone needs to know all my female business, but let's just leave it that after some ongoing issues it will be nice to have the surgery. It is only a partial hysterectomy, so I won't go into menopause early. I didn't need or want to have everything removed, since I am several years away from natural menopause and all the hot flashes, etc that accompany it. I'll be there soon enough, thank you very much!

So I've been busy wrapping up loose ends at work, and getting ready to be gone for 3-4 weeks. In addition, my parents will be down to stay for a few days on Sunday, since Dave will go back to work on Monday. I'm looking forward to them visiting, but now I've also had to work on getting things in order at home, in addition to work.

Dad is the type that always has to have something to do, and that will mean cleaning out the closets or any other thing he can find to organize. But Dave and I have already scoped out a couple of projects for him, if he wants them; we've been staining the deck but have left the rail spindles for Dad, AND some of the ornamental cornices under our kitchen counter/bar need to be stained to match the cabinets. There ya go, Dad! Plenty to keep you occupied.

That's all for now. Will be back next week, when I'm home in bed and bored, surfing the channels with only Oprah and Ellen to keep me company for the next couple of weeks!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dave Says "Sell the Car!"

No, not my Dave -- Dave Ramsey. And so, we've sold the car. He also says to sell anything and everything you don't need... sell, sell, sell!! Sell SO much that the kids think they're next (and some days I wonder about it... hmmm... anybody want an 11-year-old moody pre-adolescent!? Kidding!!).

Anyway, back to the car. That's one thing that D.R. hears most on his radio show, apparently - people calling in and wanting to get out of debt, and they're driving a car that is WAY more expensive than they need. So his first suggestion is "Sell the car!" -- Drive something that is reliable, will get you where you need to go, but won't kill your bank account. Get it paid off, and drive it until you save enough to buy a newer car outright, without a payment. And the more we discussed it, the more it made sense for us.

I must confess, I've been spoiled with my luxury SUV.... goodbye, my heated, leather seats... my 6-disc CD changer.... with controls on the steering wheel... I will miss you! But I won't miss the big payment, or the gas guzzling, or the debt we're gonna cut out by trading down to my new-to-me little silver Jeep Liberty.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick or Treat '09

This year's costume for my 11-year-old:

At least we did deviate a bit from the standard black hood/cape, scary monster mask and weapon... Jace liked the silver wolf mask, so I found a flannel (well, just plaid- they didn't have any flannel) shirt at Good Will and he and I cut the sleeves off and cut holes in it.

He had a fun evening with friends Connor and Sam; we (Gail, Dan and I) accompanied the boys and Caitlyn around the neighborhood. I have to admit that in previous years we adults enjoyed a little wine in coffee cups as we walked, but this year it was so chilly that we decided that coffee would taste wonderful and keep us warm!
Quiet weekend otherwise; now Dave's out of town in KC all this week, and my big project of the week is to stain our deck. He powerwashed it today before he left, and we picked up 5 gallons of stain. The weather forecast is calling for sun all week, so hopefully I'll have a bit of daylight after work each night to make a good dent in things over the next few days.
That's all for now.