Thursday, September 30, 2010

Putting a bow on it...

Is it just me or has this been a looooong week? We've had rain all day every day except Wednesday. The leaves are really turning now and I'm remembering how much I loved the colors of fall last year. Does anyone else feel just a little bit sad when autumn arrives? I love this season maybe more than any other but it can also make me feel just a little bit melancholy.

Some of my trees are already so pretty but I have not taken any photos because did I mention it has been raining all day every day? Yeah. Good housecleaning weather (or so I've heard). How does my house get so dusty? There are no little ones running around making messes and we're gone almost more than we're here, and still that dust just continues to collect.

I have a few stray thoughts (ya think?) that I need to corral so I figured I'd end the week by wrapping up some loose ends...

First off, do you remember my birthday? Kidding! Sort of. I wrote two posts answering questions readers asked and there was one I promised to get back to once the dust settled. That would be the figurative dust, not the dust in my house which apparently will never settle. I may have had one too many cups of caffeinated tea this afternoon. Sorry.

A-ny-hoo, Carol asked me to post my favorite recipe and I said I would never be able to choose so would just share a favorite recipe. Fudge Pie. Yum! It's simple and delicious and I generally have the ingredients on hand so I can make one up if unexpected guests drop by. Or whenever I feel the need for fudge pie. The recipe found here is just like mine except I use 1/2 cup of flour instead of 1/4. Enjoy!

Secondly, crock pots. I love to pull out my crock pot this time of year but I have two issues with them. One is the clean up. My pot lifts out but it isn't easy to clean. Recently I was in someones home for Bunco and she had her dinner going in the crock pot. We were discussing this very problem when she showed us these-

Am I the last person to know about Crock Pot Bags? I love them and no this is not a paid endorsement. My supermarket carries them and you just pop the bag in the crock pot, put your meal in the bag, cook, eat and then toss the bag. messy crock pot.

The second problem I have with crock pots is the taste. I love making soups and stews and chili in mine but those recipes generally call for lots of seasoning and spice. I find that many chicken and pork dishes lack an essential ingredient which is called flavor. Too bland. Or if they're not bland its because they are smothered in cream of something soup which I love but try to avoid. I found a good crock pot pork chop recipe online (seriously people, what did we do before google??) and I'm sharing it with you here. If you have one you love send it my way pretty please.

Lastly, during my birthday hullabaloo I was given a lovely bloggy award by Alex and I wanted to say thanks. Thanks Alex! That same week I was tagged by two different bloggers in a game that requires answering 8 questions for every tag. I'm cheating a little because I'm pretty sure you are, at this very moment, holding your breath and praying that I am not going to answer 16 questions at the end of an already long post. You may exhale...I'm answering the first four from Tina at a View from a Hill and the last four from Carrie at It's Not Easy Being Queen.

1. What is your favorite season and why?

Fall...the changing colors, the cooler temps, football and especially breaking out the boots. Cute boots I mean, not snow boots. They're for another season. Well we hope they're for another season-last year we had a snow storm on Oct. 8th. That's just wrong.

2. Do you have a bucket list and what is one thing that is on it?

Not an official written down bucket list but a mental one for thing?...write something that is published (and I don't mean by Blogger)

3. Do you go to Starbucks and what is your favorite drink there?

Occasionally. No haters please. We don't have one in our little town but we do have a Dunkin' Donuts and I prefer the taste of their coffee. I'm not a fan of the really filling flavored coffee drinks so if I go to Starbucks I usually order a tall skim latte or cappuccino and when I'm out of the box I get it iced. Whoo hoo.

4. What book are you currently reading (or have just finished)?

Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I really liked the book but will tell you its a bit 'dark'. We discussed it in my neighborhood book club on Tuesday night and it got mixed reviews. I think that was mostly because you need to be in the right frame of mind to read something that isn't all sunshine and light. I like those kinds of books too but I think its good to read things that make you squirm a little. The world is not always a nice place and for those of us living in America its easy to avoid thinking about the not so nice stuff that's out there.

5. Do you like to wear orange?

If I'm at a Tennessee football game I do. Actually I like orange as an accent color. I have two scarves with orange in them and they're my favorites.

6. What's your favorite thing to shop for?

Shoes and pottery. In Italy.

7. Do you watch Dancing with the Stars?


8. Do you think American Idol should just call it quits? Would you even miss it?

Yeah, I kinda think they should just call it quits. I have loved the show but I'm not too excited about the new season without Simon. Who will be the voice of reality for those folks coming on the show whose mamas have told them they can sing, and sing well, when clearly they cannot??? Aiyiyiyi.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So, a blonde walks into the random dozen...

It's time for the weekly random dozen which is always lots of fun. Don't worry...brunettes and red heads can play too. Just answer the questions on your own blog and click the donuts to link your answers with the masses.

1. Do you believe, somewhere deep inside, that blondes do indeed have more fun? That they are "dumber" than brunettes or redheads? Be honest.

As the mother of two natural born very intelligent blondes I definitely don't buy the part about being less intelligent. That fun part however, may be true...

My blondies are lots of fun...

2. Which animal would you most like to observe in its wild habitat?

Probably lions or another of the big game creatures. Hubs was in a game preserve in South Africa last week and he got to pet a baby lion. He said the fur was surprisingly coarse...

And since you asked...why yes, I am jealous.

3. This week the UN announced that Dr. Mazian Othman has been appointed the official "Alien Ambassador" should any extraterrestrials contact us. Have you, or has anyone you know, ever seen a UFO?

The story made headlines on Monday but is being denied today. I hope to goodness it is some sort of hoax. If it were found to be true my head might explode. Seriously UN, there are starving children around the world, people living in infinitesimal levels of poverty without so much as a well for water, there are wars and famine and the trafficking of minors for reprehensible stuff...please tell me our money isn't being spent on something too ridiculous to be believed.

Oh wait, I didn't answer the

4. Name your favorite Hitchcock film?

North by's the story of an innocent man mistaken for a spy. He's chased across the country as he tries to stay alive. Oh, and it stars Cary Grant...need I say more?

5. Would you rather spend time at the library, the mall, a craft store, or home?

tough one...depending on the day and my mood I could pick any of those.

6. Which Disney Princess is your favorite?

Belle. She loves books and thinks what's on the inside matters most.

7. What kind of art is your favorite?

This is also a tough one...I love lots of different kinds of art and enjoy spending time in museums and galleries. With art much depends on my mood and what's going on in my life at the moment. If I have to choose a favorite I would probably say the Impressionists. I love Degas' La classe de danse and also his sculpture Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. Monet's Water Lilies would be another favorite. We saw a display of them in the Met this year and they are stunning.

8. How do you feel about viral videos, that is, videos made up by amateurs that end up on Youtube receiving thousands of hits?

I haven't thought too much about it. I've seen some great things on Youtube and I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of people so whatever. I think one of our faves is still the Asian Backstreet is one of the first things I remember seeing on Youtube and it still makes us laugh. They lip synch to Backstreet Boys songs and they are hilarious! It was posted four years ago and its a couple of college students who filmed it on a web cam in their dorm room. There's another random friend at his desk in the background and I think he's playing video games. Mom and Dad's tuition dollars at work! Anyway, these guys look like fun and they've had over 12 million hits. I suppose if you didn't live thru the Backstreet Boys craze with tween girls it might not be as funny to you as it is to us but we loved it when it first appeared.

9. Where do you buy your jeans?

Usually at The Gap.

10. Tell me about your first automobile accident.

I've only had one and it was ugly. I wrote about it here. You will find it under #5 in response to, 'Tell me about the scariest moment you've ever had?"

11. Have you ever been honest when you knew you would benefit more if you were dishonest?

Possibly but nothing is coming to mind on this one.

12. If you were appointed "Ambassador to Aliens" what would you show and tell first about life on earth? What would be the most difficult thing to explain?

Well for starters I'd probably invite them in for a cup of tea and some sort of wonderful chocolaty concoction. I think chocolate could go a long way towards the establishment of inter galactic peace. They can admire the changing seasons from my kitchen window and see what we earthling families are all about.

Most difficult thing to explain...hmmm, its a toss up between our country's political chaos and our unnatural affinity for reality television. I fear the two are not unrelated.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Hubs landed at 9:30 Friday morning after a week in South Africa. He got to the house about 11 asking if we had sudafed, benedryl, NyQuil, Dayquil or ANYTHING because his allergies had gone into overdrive while he was away. It is springtime in the Southern hemisphere which didn't occur to us until he was actually there. I gave him a couple of sudafed, he took a shower, repacked his suitcase and, at 12:30 we hopped in the car and headed back to the airport for a trip south. Parent's Weekend was on tap at Daughter2's university and we had booked it before hubs South Africa trip was rescheduled for the umpteenth time for the same week. Ugh. For him anyway. If it had been me I'd have gotten into my nice comfy bed and said have a nice weekend and say hi to the girls for me. He travels better than I do though. He would not disagree.

The weather was gorgeous Friday and Saturday and we enjoyed being outdoors most of the weekend. Daughter1 was working Friday night so we took Daughter2 to dinner and then for some ice cream and a walk down Main Street. Their sorority has a really nice tailgate for parents on Saturday before the game so we had lunch under the trees before walking over to the rugby pitch to watch Daughter1's boyfriend play in a match. Rugby is a tough sport and I didn't have a son on the team but I cringed a few times like I did. I'm pretty sure God knew I needed to spend years sitting in an audience at ballet recitals as opposed to sitting on the sidelines of a rugby pitch. That's why He gave me daughters. Not the only reason but I bet He considered it.

Anyway, did I mention it was hot? Because, wow, it was hot. We were melting and we still had an afternoon of football to watch. It's so much fun to sit in the stands at a college football game. And of course winning makes it all a little bit sweeter.

After the game we went back downtown for a fantastic meal...having my whole little family together for dinner makes my heart happy. Sunday we awoke to gray rainy skies but thankfully the temperatures had dropped too. The girls took us to the church they attend and having my whole little family sitting side by side in a pew also makes my heart happy. Sometimes I think it might actually burst.

Now I need to ask a question and that is this- are we the only parents in the universe who make one or both of our children cry on Parents weekends? No. No we are not. I know this for a fact because daughter2 told me the day we arrived that one of her friends had already been in tears over something her parents had gone on and on and on about gently advised her to do or not do.

Parenting is hard work isn't it? When my kids were young and I looked out into the future I somehow saw myself feeling less and less parental. I know I have some readers here with young children and I just have to tell you that is not how it works. Parenting does not get easier. In fact it gets trickier. Much trickier. Because young adult children have opinions y'all. So do four year old toddlers but they can't drive or live away from a mother's watchful eye or have boyfriends now can they? They also are not choosing careers and lifelong mates and making a myriad of other big decisions, the weight of which you as a parent will feel.

I love my girls with all my heart. And one of the things I love most about them is that they feel things deeply and passionately. This is all well and good when we're talking about changing the world but it is sometimes hard to take when we're talking about day to day life. I'm sure I said this about my 20 year old when she was 2. I'm also pretty sure my mother said the same thing about me.

And I do remember being 20 years old. I know my own parents tried to share with me the benefit of their hard earned wisdom and especially the benefit of perspective. At 50 you can look back and see full well how the decisions you made as a young adult have impacted you for all the years that came after. I'm not saying my daughters don't listen to us. They are thoughtful and bright and mature and they do take to heart what we say. It isn't that kids this age think parents don't know anything. It's more like they think they know an equal amount. And while they do know more with every passing year there are some things that can only be learned by growing older and looking back. When you are 20 years old that's not necessarily something you want to hear.

So this Parent's Weekend was like most Parent's Weekends we've experienced. Lots of fun, lots of laughter, lots of happiness at being together, and at some point in the weekend somebody sheds a few tears. That's just how we roll. At this stage of the parenting game we see our job as one of loving our children, praying for them every day of their lives, and then helping them consider issues they may face and decisions they must make from all angles. They will continue sifting through what we say, taking some of it on board and tossing some away and in the end making their own decisions which is as it should be. Everybody's growing up. And I don't mean just the kids.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

South Africa, William Penn and facebook...they're all here

My hubs left Sunday morning on a business trip to South Africa so I went to see my mom for a few days.
When I mention on my blog some of the places my hubs travels for work I always get a few comments asking why I don't go too.
Mostly it comes down to timing and my personal safety.
I'd love to see some of South Africa but he's working and I'd be alone much of the time so it didn't seem like the right thing for right now...hopefully one day.

He did send me this-

No, he is not a game warden.
He had the opportunity to spend a few hours in a game preserve before his meeting began.

It's almost like being there, isn't it?
And hey, who needs a day in a Safari Park in South Africa when you can hang out with your mom and her good friend at Longwood Gardens?
After all, Pennsylvania is very nice too.

When my siblings and I were kids our parents used to have to drag us there...
"Not Longwood Gardens!!!" we would whine say.
But these days we love it...over 1,000 acres of gardens, woods, and meadows and over 11,000 types of plants and trees.
Hubs has the better camera with him and the old camera I had with me would not allow my computer to read all the files so I cannot show you all the fabulousness.
You're relieved I know.

Tuesday was an absolutely picture perfect day so we had a wonderful time walking the grounds.
A friend of mine from the UK moved back to the states this past summer and she lives very near the town where the gardens are located.
It's too bad I didn't have her new phone number with me or I could have called her to join us. And it's especially too bad because when I emailed her later and said I'd been there she said she'd been there too.
The same day.
Remember that word?
Does anyone still say drat?
I'm sure my kids will let me know.

Longwood was originally a farm operated by a Quaker family who had purchased the land from William Penn of Pennsylvania fame.
Time for a random side note -William Penn's grave just happens to be in a tiny Quaker church cemetery in a tiny English village just a stone's throw from our house in the UK.
My hubs was out walking our dog one day and stumbled on it.
His grave is not in terrific shape...

History is packed into every nook and cranny there.

Anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah, back to Longwood...eventually Pierre du Pont, founder of the Dupont Chemical company, purchased the land in order to preserve the trees and he created most of what is Longwood Gardens today.
And what it is today is absolutely beautiful.
Really, it is so wonderfully designed and is full of magnificent gardens and flowers and fountains and big tall trees soaring to the sky...absolutely gorgeous.
There's something to see in every season so anytime is a good time to spend a day there.

As we approached the conservatory we noted a very high wall.
My mom and I both laughed at the sight of it and the memory of a trip our church youth group took to Longwood Gardens way back when.
One of the boys in our group hopped up on the wall and didn't realize there was a drop behind it.
Yes indeed there was a drop.
About 30 feet.
He broke his leg.
Mom's friend who was with us for the day was wondering how he had managed to fall because there is a black iron fence and railing running the entire length of the wall.
We told her we were pretty sure it was our youth group's visit that resulted in that fence and railing being there today.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, God bless youth workers!

Also this week... thru the miracle of facebook I was able to meet up with two old friends while I was visiting my mom.
One I'd known since kindergarten but haven't seen in 30 years so we had dinner and a nice long chat.
The other friend I know from the several summers we spent working together as camp counselors.
We agreed that as parents now looking back, we cannot believe people actually left their children in our care.
We also agreed that those summers marked and changed us and are some of the best memories of our lives.
And don't you think catching up in real life with friends you've reconnected with via facebook is every bit as exciting as an African safari?
I'm sure of it.

Okay, who besides me thinks I've had a lot going on here lately?
I feel like I'm popping in to blog a recap and then its on to the next thing.
I'm sure it will settle down soon.
Not this weekend though because, hello, more plans.
Fun plans.
I'll probably be back Monday to blog a recap.
It's what I do.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Falling into the Random Dozen

It's time for this week's Random can play along too by answering the questions on your own blog and then clicking the donuts to link with others who have joined in the fun.

1. Have you, or someone close to you, ever won an award for anything? (Linda just returned from her dad's ceremony wherein he was given a medal of Honor by the French government for service to France in WW2.)

Yes. My dad was awarded the Navy Commendation medal and also received the Republic of Vietnam's Navy Distinguished Service medal which is rarely awarded to a Marine. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnamese Service medal, the Joint Service Medal and the Vietnamese Campaign Medal.

2. Who is the nearest relative to you who has served in the US Military?

My dad was a career Marine officer. He served in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam.

3. Share something that stirs the patriotic spirit in you?

Gosh, all it takes is for me to hear the National Anthem and I feel patriotic. Seeing our flag fly, seeing our flag fly overseas, standing in a military cemetery here or on foreign soil, standing on the beach in Normandy, fireworks, watching footage of soldiers returning from war, standing at Ground Zero and seeing footage of the day, especially those firefighters running into the heart of the disaster, hearing Taps.

4. Where are you in the birth order in your family? Do you think your 'placement' made a difference in your personality?

I am number 3 of 4 and I'm sure it played a part in my personality. I'm pretty easy going and in general I'm a patient person. That might be due to the fact that third children spend a lot of time waiting. I know that I love having older and younger siblings.

5. Name one trait you hope you carry that was evidenced in your grandparents or parents?


6. If female do you prefer wearing a skirt or pants? If male shirt and tie or polo?

I am happiest in my blue jeans. With heels.

7. Approximately how many times do you wake during the night? What do you do to go back to sleep?

Women in mid life and mothers with newborns have something in common....interrupted sleep. Ugh. I have no problem falling asleep. It is only in the last couple of years that I've started waking in the night, usually just once, but sometimes its hard to go back to sleep. I don't usually get out of bed. I think, pray, write blog posts in my head, bemoan getting older...I rarely turn on the light.

8. Share a favorite movie quote.

This was a hard question. There are many I'm sure but I picked three that we like to throw into the conversation in our family...

"I have skills. You know, like nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills..." Napoleon Dynamite

'You're gonna need a bigger boat." Jaws

"That'll leave a mark" Tommy Boy

9. What is your favorite fall candle scent?

Right now I have Yankee Candle Farmers Market which is a combination of fall flavors...I always have something with a cinnamon-y scent burning. That's my favorite.

10. What is one fall activity you're looking forward to?

Parent's Weekend at daughter2's university coming up soon, hiking with our pup as the leaves change, a destination wedding we'll attend in late October and, of course, watching football. That's more than one I know but I love the fall.

11. Tell us about a pleasant surprise that has happened to you recently.

I know some of you are cringing thinking I'm going to launch once more into my birthday happenings but I'm not. Let's just say I've written two posts this week that were all about my birthday weekend in NYC which was a surprise most excellently planned by my hubs. If you missed the recap you can read about it here.

12. What was it like when you first met your in-laws to be?

Hubs and I met in college. My in laws have always treated me like another daughter and I have always felt like part of their family. We had only been dating off and on for a very short time when I met his parents. We met at his house and after I left his dad looked at his mom and said, "That's the girl he's going to marry." And he was right.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why Navy recruiters will never come looking for me

This is it. Promise. Saturday morning after a wonderful breakfast (you can relax- I did not photograph my meal) at an outdoor cafe we headed over to Chelsea Market. The market is housed in an old Nabisco Factory in the city's meatpacking district and is full of cute shops, mostly food related. Have you noticed a theme here of late?

After leaving the market we went up a nearby flight of stairs into High Line Park. This is a cute little park built on some old elevated rail lines that used to run thru this part of the city. An unexpected plot of green amidst a sea of warehouses, butchers, and brick.

Not much to look at from the street...

but really pretty from above.

We talked about what to do next and I asked hubs if he wanted to go see the Intrepid. It bills itself as an air, sea, and space museum and that's pretty much his love language. See? Not every minute of my birthday weekend had to be about me.

Your ticket allows you entry to the Intrepid (an aircraft carrier for those of you whose love language is say, shoes or handbags) a Concorde jet and a submarine from the Vietnam era. Which brings me to my post title...why the Navy won't come a-knocking-

  • Have you seen those bunk beds? They're stacked four deep with about 6 inches of headroom. If I were in the Navy I'd have a permanent knot on the top of my head. I thought I might have to ask for a paper bag to breathe into just thinking about sleeping on that very bottom bunk. Shudder.
  • There are an awful lot of hatches to hoist yourself thru on board a submarine. This is not easily accomplished in cute wedges.
  • Also not easily managed in cute wedges? Maneuvering oneself between decks via a steep ladder sitting perpendicular to the floor. deck. whatever.
  • I obviously am not 'on board' with the lingo.
  • And I'm pretty sure asking questions like, "Has anyone actually ever freaked out on here and bolted while under way" is frowned upon.
  • We haven't even begun to discuss all that motion.
All I have to say after standing on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and clambering thru a submarine is God bless the men and women who serve. And while I did actually enjoy seeing the Intrepid, when it comes to New York this is more my speed...

Times Square on Saturday morning.

I know you are wondering if this was the end of our day in the city. Almost. We needed one more meal. Of course we did. Our car was parked at the Marriott (or possibly in Connecticut because really, who knows where they actually park your car) and we walked down a street known as Little Brazil in order to get there. Guess what sort of food we had for lunch? Brazillian. Fab.u.lous. I might have had one more dessert but in my defense it wasn't chocolate cake, it was coconut pudding. I have a hard time passing up coconut anything.

Thus concludes my birthday weekend recap.
You are so welcome.

Let them eat cake

So, who's still reading here? I promise to eventually stop talking about my birthday but if you've stuck with me for this long you probably want details, right? Hubs did good. Very good. Very very good. He kicked off the birthday celebration by taking me out to breakfast. We went to a little place we often go and after we ordered our waitress started moving all the condiments around on the table like a mad woman. I was thinking she was just a tad bit OCD about tabletop organization when she appeared once more, this time with a big box and envelope. She handed me the envelope and then put the box on the table. This was in the box...

Let's pause for a moment to truly appreciate the beauty of this moment.

Yes you need to see two pictures. How else are you to know the awesomeness of my favorite cake in the universe...chocolate cake with a raspberry filling which must include fresh raspberries and a chocolate ganache icing. The sides are then smothered in shaved chocolate. Of course I had a piece for breakfast. What is the point of showing me a chocolate cake at 9:30 am if you don't want me to taste it? Our sweet waitress sang Happy Birthday to me all by herself so we rewarded her with a slice. She didn't have a problem with the time either.

Back to the envelope...

Inside the envelope was a booklet hubs had put together. Besides our itinerary for the weekend he included a very special Robert Burns poem and his own list of 50 things he loves about me. It was funny and sweet and one of my favorite things about my birthday.

After breakfast it was time for some presents and I did in fact get some 'bling'. Well, bling for a blogger Ipad, which was very exciting. My girls got me the keyboard dock and a really adorable Dooney and Bourke case to carry it in.

I had to play with it a little bit and download all my music before we headed into the city but we eventually got out of the house and checked into our hotel. In Times Square. We stayed in the Marriott Marquis which is a place we've stayed many times and its an ideal location if you plan to see a show which coincidentally was also on our agenda. Here is the view we saw upon entering our room on the 20th floor Friday afternoon...

This is also the view at 4 in the morning because, hey, it's NY, the city that never sleeps. The weather was perfect so we walked a bit...guess what show we saw Friday night?

Turning 50 is definitely worthy of a champagne toast so we stopped in Sardis to do just that...

There were a lot of fun people who had the same idea and we made a few new friends. This is my new jeweler....

Well, he could be...we met him in Sardis and he is a jeweler and also an actor. He had some stories to tell that had us all laughing and hey, it never hurts to know a good jeweler in NYC if you know what I mean.

Way back in January we were in the city for New Years Eve and we stopped in the Mandarin Hotel on Columbus Circle. I said then that I definitely wanted to come back sometime because it is beautiful. And hubs remembered. So we did. We arrived a little bit early so we could sit in the lounge and enjoy spectacular views of the city...

He had reserved a table by the window overlooking Central Park...

And then there was the food. Oh my. I'm still talking about it. The restaurant is called Asiati and I may have to edit my post from Friday and add this starter to the list of 'best things I've ever eaten'. I loved it so much I kind of wanted to pick up my bowl and drink the last drop of broth. I refrained. I am fifty now you know.

For my main course I had butter poached lobster with white polenta, hon shimeji mushrooms and a kaffir emulsion. I have a picture but I felt the food photos were getting ridiculous so just imagine a perfectly cooked lobster sitting in a pool of the most delicious sauce and you've got the idea. Oh, what's one more picture at this point, right?

Our waiter as it happens was from Montenegro. Because hubs makes friends everywhere he goes the waiter and hostesses and whoever else was running the show let him get an up close and personal look at the wine case. And he had them all laughing so they said, 'Hey, let's take your picture opening up the 'frig'.' Why not? And fyi-If you need to inject a little bit of fun into your life, go to dinner with my hubs.

Now, even though I'd had chocolate cake for breakfast I had to have dessert because it was a 3 course deal. I debated between the chocolate cake and the sticky rice creme brulee but went with the creme brulee because I knew I still had 3/4 of a chocolate cake at home waiting for me. These things require thought people. Anyway, after they brought out hubs dessert, and my creme brulee they brought out this ....

Yay hubs...he really did think of everything. And this chocolate cake was part cake and part mousse and I was so full I could only have a couple of bites but it was rich and delicious. Three desserts. Can a birthday get any better? I think not.

On with the show...we had tickets to see Promises Promises. Kristen Chenowith plays the female lead and she is without a doubt, absolutely, positively adorable. We were on the third row and I'm pretty sure she smiled at us. Sean Hayes (Jack of Will and Grace fame) played the male lead and nearly stole the show. It was fabulous!

But wait. The night's not over yet. After walking all over Manhattan in four inch heels my feet were screaming, but I was not going to let that stop me from having just a little bit more fun. You only turn 50 once you know. So, it was back to the Marriott to ride the fast wobbly glass elevator up to the 48th floor lounge known as The View. The lounge revolves so if you sit for an hour you get a 360 degree view of the city. New York is such an amazing place.

And my hubs is a keeper. I'm going to post Saturdays fun in a separate post because you know this is the birthday that never ends. In the meantime though, I must just mention one of the very best parts of my weekend-Daughter1 wrote a post for my birthday and you can read it here. If she isn't the sweetest thing on the planet then I don't know who is!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Milking it...

I have successfully managed to stretch my birthday out to a full week here in the blogosphere. Pretty sure it's had at least a mention every day since last Saturday. And guess what? My birthday still isn't quite here. It falls on the weekend but I'll be busy having chocolate cake in an as yet undisclosed location so I need to finish my birthday Q and A today. Here's the final four. Well, final seven but final four sounded more exciting.

Maribeth asked, "Where in the world have you had your best meal?
And what was it?"

Oh my word. I've had so many fabulous meals I'm not sure I can pick a favorite. For certain one great meal we had was at a beautiful English estate called Cliveden...

It was once the home of Nancy Astor and we celebrated an anniversary there one year. I don't remember every course but I do remember one of the chef's treats between courses was a peach champagne soup. It had a dollop of vanilla ice cream in the center. Nobody wonders why I call it the ex-pat fifteen do they?

We once had an amazing lunch in a tiny off the beaten path sort of place in Stresa, Italy. It lasted four hours and was course after course of fresh from the market, that- day, ingredients accompanied by homemade pasta and molto vino served by the owners, an adorable husband and wife team. I'm pretty sure this was the best meal I've ever eaten. The restaurant did not look like anything much. In fact it looked like this-

Oh, but the view from our table looked like this-

And I still talk about a steak I had in Chamonix, France one December. You could cut it with a fork and I finally understood how people could eat tartare. It was that good. And practically that raw. Let's just say I could write a book on fabulous meals I've eaten.

Now for a couple of travel questions....

Cathy asks, "Since you've traveled a lot what is your most absolute favorite place you've traveled and why?"

Well, this is a bit like asking me about my favorite meal. So many factors go in to the answer...the timing, the people I was with, the weather while I was there. My favorite trips always include my family and Italy is my favorite place to travel. I wrote a whole post about the trip we took to Stresa, but I have taken several trips to Italy and have loved them all...the people and the scenery and the food and the wine and the language and the shopping and the air. The air is different in Italy y''s like a drug.

Other favorites...Italy's Amalfi coast, Rome, The Normandy region of France, Chamonix,France, Salzburg Austria, Seefeld Austria...and Paris. J'aime Paris et toutes les chose francais.

Jill wants to know, " With all the traveling you've done around the world is there any place you haven't been that you've always wanted to go?"

Oh, yes indeed. In fact there's a long long list of places I haven't been and want to go. If there is one thing I've learned while traveling it's this...the more you see the more you realize how much you haven't seen. I'd like to see the Western side of Canada, Alaska, there's still a million little towns and villages around Europe I'd like to see, parts of Africa, some of Asia...I'd like to spend a week or two lying on a beach in The Maldives and I'd love to go to Australia and catch up with some friends who live there. Seeing someplace with a 'local' always makes a trip more fun.

And from the facebook contingent Andrea asks, "Have you ever thought of writing a book? Do you think you might one day?

Yes to the 'have I ever thought about it'. Me and about a billion other people. I've always said I needed time and most especially I needed space in my head to even attempt it. I kind of have that now so do I think I might one day? I want to say yes. Yes. I'm saying yes. You should know that what I lack in self-discipline I make up for in optimism.

And also from Andrea-Having enjoyed living in Europe so much and visited quite a few places around the world, where could you imagine your ideal place to settle/live (not taking into account the necessity to be near your loved ones), which is undoubtedly number one priority, right?

I would love to live near my children. Nearer my children. Within an easy drive at least, of my children. But life being what it is I'm not sure that will happen. Because one lasting legacy of living abroad is having children who also understand that the world is huge and wide open with possibility and opportunity and people to meet and places to see. My children may very well live overseas again one day. We may very well live overseas again one day. And much as I would love to keep them round the corner (or at least on this continent) I know that may not happen.

Hubs and I have decided we're going to live where we want to live and make it someplace inviting so our kids will want to come and hang out there and bring our future grandchildren to hang out there too. We'd like a house on the water. Probably a lake and definitely south of the Mason Dixon line. Hopefully the Carolinas because I like the coastal states. And an airport that is not to hard to get in and out of so when the travel bug bites we can get up and go.

Deb knows me from way back when and she asked, "Who was your most memorable student and where do you think they are now and do you think they think of you?"

Well, of course all my former students think of me. And I'm positive that even though they were in my kindergarten class and are now in high school they still talk about me with great fondness at their dinner table every night. They all remember me as their absolute favoritest teacher ever. Yes I know favoritest isn't a word. Hey, I was a teacher remember?

Who is my most memorable? She did say memorable could go either way. Here's the thing....I loved all my students. Really. I cannot think of one that I did not love. Now, granted some of them could also make me a little bit crazy and some required a lot of work to find that love but I can always find something to love in even the most difficult child. Kindergarten is my favorite age so I suppose if you made me choose I'd say one of the easiest to love was a little boy named M. He once squirted an entire can of whipping cream into his mouth while my back was turned and his mom and I were talking. The ones with the twinkle in their eye and the mischievous smiles get me every time.

And now, the envelope please...the winner of my favorite question is...Kara. Everyone go say hi to Kara please because she's sweet and her writing is real and filled with humor. Its funny how blogging can connect people...Kara and I are, ahem, not of the same age, but we have bonded over our shared love of Needtobreathe and I think that's what inspired her question. Her question was really fun to think about and when I asked my hubs how he would answer he quickly threw out the names of three bands. I had to give this some serious thought and tweak my list a hundred times and lose sleep but anyway here's the question-

"Your dream concert line up would be? And where would it be? And if it is super awesome can I come too?"

I like so many music genres it was almost impossible to narrow this down. I have a cramp in my brain if such a thing is possible. I toyed with the idea of a lollapalooza because that allowed me to pick lots of bands but in the end that became stressful and I decided to just go with a line up I know I'd love-there are other line ups and other genres I'd also love but this would be a good one.

I think we'd kick things off with Needtobreathe. They are my newest favorite band and I would want them to play every single song off their Outsiders cd. It is that good. Kara and I would sing along at the top of our lungs and she might regret for a tiny minute coming to the concert with me but only for a minute. Then I think I'd have to have the Boss because he's the original Jersey boy and also because he's awesome. He'd be followed by The Eagles who would sing all my favorite songs and fyi that would be pretty much everything they have ever recorded. And we'd end the night with U2 who would rock the house. Or rather they'd rock Wembley Stadium because that's where we'd be.

I'm sure it would be one of those crystal clear perfect London nights, with not a drop of cold wet miserable in sight. Before the show I'd take Kara shopping on Oxford and Carnaby Streets and then we'd have tea in the beautiful atrium of the Landmark Hotel. The Landmark is conveniently located beside Marylebone station so after we finish with tea we'd hop on the train and go out to the stadium with the masses. Because it would definitely be a sold out show.

Can y'all tell I got a little carried away with this one? Kara-email me your address and I'll get your prize sent out asap. And thanks everyone for playing along on my birthday post! Have a great weekend. I'll be doing something. I don't know what that something is but I know its something.

For the record...I do know what we are NOT doing and that is spending a weekend in London, having dinner in Rome, or getting a visit from my girls. Actually I don't really care what we do as long as there is chocolate cake somewhere along the way. And hubs has known me since my big 2-0 so I'm pretty sure he's got that covered.

It's my party and I'll blog if I want to

I'm going to write my birthday post in two parts and post half today and half tomorrow.
I figured my birthday was a good time to turn over a new leaf and cut my blog posts in half.
Yes, this post is half its original size.
You're welcome.

Anyway, hubs has some super secret plans for the weekend and I don't think blogging is on the agenda so I'm a posting a little bit early.
Thanks to everyone who sent me a question.
You'll have to read to the end of tomorrow's post to see who wins the prize with my favorite.
Or I guess you could skip this post entirely and go straight to the end tomorrow but that would be cheating and you know how I feel about rule breakers.

Let's get this one out of the way right off the bat...

Kathy asks, " Exactly how old are you?
Is this one of those round number birthdays?"

Kathy's blog is one of the first blogs I ever read and in her defense she says she's pretty sure she is older than me so she feels like its okay to ask.

Yes. Yes it is. Birthdays are good, right? As a matter of fact, it is a round number birthday~50. I want you to know that in my head I am way younger. And telling people I'm turning 50 sounds so much nicer than saying I'm hitting 'the half century mark' don't you think?

Along these lines Tina wonders what my first few days on earth were like.

Well, obviously I'm going by what my mom has told me. First of all, she says I was her best baby. Sorry siblings but you all know its true. Apparently you three were trouble early on. My mom says she felt like out of four children she deserved one easy baby and that was me. I was born in Hawaii. My dad was in the Marine Corps at the time and my baby pictures almost all have beautiful backgrounds.

This is me and my dad in front of a banana tree in our backyard. I think my love of all things ocean-beach-sunshine related was in my DNA before I took my first breath.

Christine asks, "Are you a coffee or a tea drinker?
Do you need it to wake up?"

That would be a yes, yes, and a most definite yes. I drink coffee. And I need my coffee first thing in the morning much the same way I need oxygen. I also drink tea. Pretty sure its against the law to reside in Great Britain for any length of time and not drink tea. Every day around 3 ish I have a cuppa as they like to perks me up so I can stay awake until
8:30 PM 10 ish.

Carol asks, "What's your favorite recipe and will you post it at some point but not necessarily your birthday week?"

This one is too hard. Whine whine. I have many favorites but since its a birthday party I will post a recipe one day next week that is handy to have in your repertoire. It's called Fudge Pie and it is super easy and delicious. Everyone always loves it and the ingredients are items I generally have on hand because let's be honest...there are moments in life when you need to whip out a fudge pie and I never want to be caught unprepared.

Leaving the food genre for a moment and moving on to a blogging question...I almost picked this one as my favorite because as I've said before I do love a good post title....

Catherine wants to know "Is it easier to create the title then write a narrative or create a killer title from the narrative you've written."

Most days as I'm writing a post a title forms in my head. I can't think of a time where I had a title but didn't have at least an idea of a post already sketched out in my head or online.

FB friends chimed in too and
Connie asks, "What makes a great birthday present?
What is the best present you've ever received?"

A great present is one that shows thought...that a person didn't just feel obligated to buy me a gift because its an occasion but that the person really and truly thought about it more than five minutes prior to the giving. Maybe its something that I've mentioned in passing that the giver remembered or something they saw that made them think of me. One year my daughters gave me a salad spinner. They were just little bitty things then and remembered me saying I wanted one whenever the ads came on tv. It was so sweet and they were so excited to have me open their present.

Of course you can never go wrong with jewelry. One year I'd had a 'mishap' that required surgery on my hand. I had a ring that I'd always worn on that hand that had to be cut off. The ring, not my hand. Anyway, my hubs surprised me by having the stone reset into a new ring that I loved so much more than the original setting. Plus it was a complete surprise and for me, surprise is often a key element in a great gift. That ring is still one of my very favorite pieces of jewelry.

There's more. There always is with me. This is sort of like the blogging equivalent of the British Prime Minister's Question time where every Wednesday Members of Parliament have a half hour to ask the Prime Minister questions. Yes, I did just compare my blog to Parliament. Hey, it's my birthday, remember?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Running on into the Random Dozen

First things first...The Random Dozen is hosted every week by Linda over at 2nd Cup of Coffee. She asks a dozen random questions, people answer, and we all link up over at her place on Wednesdays. This week she referenced a Jackson Browne song in her intro to the questions and since I've been here a while I just know there are people reading that are scratching their heads saying, "Running on empty? Huh? Jackson Browne?? Who? So here you amazing songwriter. A poet. You're welcome. are my answers to this week's random dozen. If you want to play along just answer the questions on your own blog and click on the donuts to link with the rest of the internets.

1. Do you do garage sales?


2. Name the last thing you fixed?

um, dinner? Even that wasn't too taxing...fall was in the air so I put a sausage and cabbage combo in my crock pot.

3. Name your A) favorite item of makeup or B) your favorite tool.

I guess I should say my concealer because hey, did I mention yet that I have a big birthday coming up this weekend? Yeah. That whole dark circles under the eye thing is not getting better with age.

4. Which room in your home needs organizing more than any other?

Our office. It's not exactly disorganized but I want to have some built ins put into the wall for all my books and I'd like to have the walk in closet customized. Currently there are a few piles in the closet and a few more piles in another closet upstairs that are crying out for organization. We had trees removed this week though which is so ridiculously expensive that I guess the closet thing is moving down a notch or ten on the wish list.

5. Which room could use re-decorating?

Daughter1's bedroom. Well, technically daughter1 has her own apartment too many hundred miles away but when we moved here a year ago we designated a bedroom for each of the girls. They double as extra guest rooms when the girls aren't home which, by the way, isn't nearly often enough, but I won't go there today. Daughter1's room needs paint along with a new dresser and nightstand. Maybe a small comfy chair too.

6. Share something unique about your town.

Unique...hmmm....well, as I was driving home recently a big ole bear lumbered across the road in front of my car. Conveniently daughter1 was with me. Not so conveniently my camera was in the boot and although her iphone was handy she was too dumbfounded to snap a photo. Seeing a bear is not an unusual occurrence in our town but I suspect it is an unusual occurrence in most towns. I am bound and determined to capture one on film for my blog.

Our town is built around a beautiful lake. It started as a vacation spot for folks working in the city but as the 'city' has expanded it's now a suburb of said city. You know when I say city I mean the city...New York City. No bear photo but here's the lake...

7. If you could send a one sentence message to your great grandchild what would it be?

Jesus loves you.

8. Do you facebook?

yes. I'm there for the finding...I have my blog linked to my page too and lots of my real life friends read it there.

9. Describe your favorite shoes.

Oh dear. Hard question. I'm going to say my boots...knee high black suede boots with a high heel. Or my ankle length black suede boots with a high heel. I live in those in the winter.

10. Do you listen to more talk radio or more music radio? What kind of station is it?

Seventies/eighties music of course. In the car I do listen to talk radio but can only take so much before I think my head might explode. Then I switch over to whatever station is coming in sans static. We live in an area with extremely poor radio reception which is why I heart my Sirius radio in the house. We really should get it for the car too but it seems like an unnecessary expense. We listen to a lot of CD's in the car. I listen to a lot of Contemporary Christian and country too. Oh and fyi there are not a lot of country music stations in Northern NJ.

11. How far would you travel for a really good favorite meal?


For example, if my hubs came home tonite and said,

"Hey remember that fantastic little place we ate in Rome where the owner asked us what we wanted to eat and then said, "No, I'll bring you something. You will love it.
And he said it in his cute Italian accent?
Well do you want to have your birthday dinner there this weekend?"

My reply would be, "Let me just grab my purse. And my passport."

I'd go far for a great meal. As I mentioned in the previous question, we live out in the country and there's a few good places around but mostly we have to drive in closer to the city or to the actual city to get a fantastic meal.

12. If you were totally honest with yourself and us what should you probably be doing right now instead of blogging.

Cleaning my baseboards. No 'probably' about it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sometimes it is all about me

As I may have mentioned a time or a hundred I have a birthday coming up in a few days.
I've decided to take a cue from my daughters and stretch it out to the nth degree.
Consider this a pre-pre-birthday post.
I'm older and I've earned it.
I love birthdays and I don't even care that I'm turning a certain age that we won't specifically mention here because every birthday is special and meant to be celebrated.

So, how did we kick off Birthday Week?
Silly reader, of course its going to last all week.
Anyway, we spent all day Saturday hiking in a nearby State Forest.
We didn't mean to.
We had planned to just take the dog for a walk and then hubs read about some waterfalls in the forest so we decided to check them out.
Let's just say that thanks to the lack of recent rain they were high and dry.

That didn't stop us from climbing the extremely steep steps all the way to the top.
Still very pretty, even without the water.
And then of course you have to climb back down which is no easy feat with an enthusiastic dog in the lead.

We had to drive a bit further to get to the car park at the trail entrances and along the way we saw this...

It looked suspiciously like a Cottonmouth minding his own business in the middle of the street.
Of course we had to stop the car and hubs had to poke it til it reared its head and loudly hissed.
And I had to calculate whether or not I could find my way out of the forest should anti venom become necessary.
Thankfully it did not.

Cottonmouths are not typically found in NJ and after checking with all knowing Google we could not find anything that looked exactly like this one.
Except a Cottonmouth.

We eventually pulled ourselves away from the snake and headed for the trails.
Since we'd already climbed a thousand steps with the dog we opted for a trail marked mild but somehow ended up merging onto a difficult trail which ended up merging somewhere along the way with the Appalachian Trail.
It's lucky I'm not old yet because towards the top you had to use your hands to get over the rocks.

Good times.

We did it though and the view was worth it.

The dog might not agree.

It was a long way up.
And a long way down.
Apparently the way up was identical to the route down but that did not stop me from having the following conversation with hubs-

Me: Didn't we take the light blue trail up?
Him: You don't know where you are, do you?
Me: I know where I am.
Him: We took the green trail.
And why do you question me when it comes to directions?
I could have pointed to the car park from the top of that mountain we were just on.

insert here pulling the map out of the backpack with a huff

Him: !Look! !Look at the map!
Me: You don't know what its like to go thru life without any sense of direction.
(no metaphor intended)
Him: How do you not know where you are?
Me: How is it we have been married for 26+ years and you continue to ask me that question?
Him: All you need to do is look for the sun and you'll know which way is west.
Me: Huh?
Him: Sigh. I give up.

Tonite we have tickets to see the NY Jets play the Baltimore Ravens.
I'm feeling conflicted because we lived in the Baltimore area for almost 10 years so I'd like to root for the Ravens.
But we're in Jets country and will most likely be surrounded by Jets fans.
Plus, this is the Jets first game in their new stadium and they gave us Commemorative tickets that are hard plastic attached to a very nice Jets lanyard.
Free bling wins me over a little bit.
Is an NFL Lanyard bling?

Friday my hubs has something fun planned.
He has had it planned for a while.
It's a surprise.
He asked me this weekend if I wanted to know what the surprise is.
Hubs is great at lots of things.
Keeping a secret is not one of them.
He can keep a secret.
He just doesn't like to.
Anyway, I said no.
Because I like surprises.
As long as they're the good kind.
I'm sure a birthday surprise is the good kind.

I hope there is no map reading involved.

Finally, lovely blog readers....
I'd love to take questions from the studio audience for my actual birthday post.
I'm not sure there is anything left to tell as I'm pretty much an open book here, but if there is some piece of minutia I haven't covered then please, fire away.
Send me a question and I'll answer it at my blog birthday party this weekend.
If you read my blog on facebook you can come to the party too...just message me your question there.
ensure that somebody sends me a question make it a little bit more fun, there will be a prize awarded to the person who submits my favorite question.
No criteria-no rules.
Just submit a question and I'll answer them all and then pick my favorite.
That's right.
My favorite.
Hey, it is my birthday.