08 April, 2015


I don't even know what "Begorra" means, other than it seems to be used as an all-purpose expression of gentle surprise. Or maybe it means "Nonsense" - just don't know.

But here is the table of delights that Jim (mostly)  made for our St. Patrick's coffee hour at church.

Shamrock sugar cookies, Irish cream brownies, Irish potato candy, soda bread muffins, and cheese and fruit in the colors of the Irish flag. Also, little cups of snack mix for the kids, made with Lucky Charms, m&m candy, and peanuts.

24 January, 2015

Weeks late...

Better late than never, here is my report on What I Did on Christmas Vacation:

We left Maryland on Christmas day on a direct flight to the Minneapolis area. Parents and a 9 year old greeted us at the airport and whisked us back to my sister’s house, where we were given:
  1. Presents (We also passed out our presents that we brought with us.)
  2. Wine
  3. Snacks. Really good ones like smoked turkey, pita and hummus, chips and salsa and cheese olives. Frango chocolates. I love Christmas snacks.
We played Apples to Apples, a new game that we gifted to the kids. Then I sat down with Gran and the nieces and learned how to play Bunco. Yes, we broke out the dice on Christmas Day, what can I say, that’s the way we roll.
The 26th was another important family day, with visits from my brother-in-law’s family, including his parents and sister/sister’s husband and their two children. The kids roamed around playing and shrieking at the top of their lungs.
In the end, most of the adults wound up in the kitchen slicing veggies, bread, and cheese for our Raclette feast. Raclette is a Swiss meal that involves melting some delicious strong cheese and eating it over foods like bread, roasted potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, cornichon, pickled onions, and grilled onions. It takes a while to do and you get to prepare it just the way you like it – perfect holiday feast meal.
Other high points of the trip were a trip to the local rock-climbing wall facility (which was called Horizontal Terror, or Slanted Exertion, or Vertical Expressions, or some such silliness), a visit to the NordicWare outlet, and a visit to the meal/show at Benihana with all 14 of the extended clan.
We went to the gym one day. I rowed for ten minutes, learned how to do a kettlebell swing, punched a weight bag, and played basketball with Thing 2 and her dad. I had not touched a basketball for years, but it came back to me, and we enjoyed futzing around, shooting and screaming, “She shoots, she MISSES!” at each other. The young men around us in the gym were slightly bewildered, but we thought it was hilarious. We tried out some Harlem Globetrotter-esque shots, but sadly, Meadowlark Lemon doesn’t have anything to worry about.
There was also a lot of sitting around, doing crafts, drinking wine, and watching silly movies. We played Scrabble, and Bunco, and Apples to Apples and trivia. We sorted through books, and took a trip to the Goodwill to drop off old books and toys. We visited brother-in-law's new office and got to eat at a fun restaurant/bar in downtown Minneapolis. It was a good trip, just the perfect amount of time that everyone had fun and no one had a chance to get tired of each other!

23 November, 2014

Giving thanks

I will see this lovely, large, somewhat vulgar peach next weekend as I drive from SC to MD. It's in Gaffney, SC. Doesn't it look somewhat like a large bottom in the sky, from a certain angle?

We are going to SC for Thanksgiving with the whole family. I love Thanksgiving, it is my favorite, uncomplicated holiday. We just have to fix a nice meal, and for a while, focus on the things we are thankful for.

Here are things I am thankful for:
the whole family
Mocha, Sparky, and Punkin
good health
the public library (and books in general!)
that my foot has healed so well

30 August, 2014

World traveler returns home

I was in Deutschland for 2.5 weeks during August. It was a family trip in all the ways that count. My family went with and Thomas' family hosted all of us. Even my brother-in-law's parents stopped by for three days in their European wandering.

There are thousands of pictures and I'll eventually get around to posting a few. Most of the trip was good. We celebrated the 100th birthday of Oma, Thomas' maternal grandmother. There was a huge party with a tent, a beer wagon, and more food than you can imagine.

We weren't just in the village. Thomas and I went to Berlin for three days with my folks and then the entire USA family met each other in the Schwartzwald for four days.

Gallons of beer and wine and lots of schnitzel were consumed. We rode Segways around the sites of Berlin and viewed the city from the river Spree and from the Dome at the top of the Reichstag. We ate currywurst at the Sony Center in Pottsdammer Platz. In the hotel in the Black Forest I took my mother and two nieces through the most extensive round of sauna I have ever done. It was a good trip and I am glad we went.

I was also glad to get back to my home, my dogs, my bed, and my routine. Travel is exciting for me, right up to the point where I start feeling lost and unsettled.

10 July, 2014

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?


I spent some happy time on Wednesday reading this graphic book (graphic autobiographical story?) at the library. I picked it up because I recognized the drawing on the front as being by the same artist who often has cartoons/covers on The New Yorker. I spent so long reading the entire thing because, DAMN, Roz Chast knows how to tell a story in words and pictures.
Roz’s parents were, euphemistically, “older” parents. As in, they were older than dirt when they had her. And they were the kind of people who, due to family history, the Depression, WWII, and personality, never looked on the bright side of anything, if they could help it. When they were in their nineties, and both started having physical problems, Roz started cataloging her experiences as an only child trying her best (which admittedly, wasn’t always great) to help her parents, who most decidedly didn’t want anything she had to offer. After they died, she put together this amazing story, using text, drawings, and photos to chronicle the last few years of George and Elizabeth Chast.

There is a sequence about parental non-cleaning (grime): Roz comes to visit her parents at their apartment (the same place she grew up) and realizes that sometime in the past few years, her parents have stopped cleaning. "It's not ordinary dust, or dirt, or a greasy stovetop that hasn't been cleaned in a week or two. It's more of a coating that happens when people haven't cleaned in a really long time. Maybe because they're old, and they're tired, and they don't see what's going on." The "grime" page includes little drawings of household objects that have succumbed to neglect. And yet Elizabeth furiously will not allow Roz to clean anything or throw anything away. It is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
I am not an only child and my parents are nothing like the elder Chasts, but reading this, in the middle of the laughter, felt a cold sense of dread. I feel like the only one in my family that worries about these things. My sister has her own family and has distanced herself, both geographically and emotionally, from her “birth family”. My parents, despite (or maybe because of) grim experiences with their own parents in their final years, seem to have decided on a strategy of Let’s-Not-Talk-About-It-And-Maybe-It-Will-All-Work-Out-Okay. When I tried to open discussions with my mother what her preferred course of action would be if they ever needed to go into a home, the only answers I ever got were “Are you in a hurry to put me in a home?*” and finally “Just do whatever you think is best.”
Unless your parents are already dead or you have a grand plan for avoiding all end-of-life issues (and if you do, would you share it with me?) we will all be facing the sorts of things Roz Chast did between 2002 and 2007. Our stories won’t be the same, because all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, and we all deal with the hard stuff in ways that play out family history and personalities. We also don’t have Roz Chast’s gift for humor and her artistic talents… which are exactly what made this book about a difficult subject so enjoyable.
*Each time she said it I felt a little more in a hurry to do exactly that.