Author Archives: Mary Vaughan

Soup Days

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By Golly, it’s been a long time since I posted anything here.  To be honest, I was plumb tuckered after all of the many wedding festivities!  Hubby and I hunkered down for a good two weeks, only making last-minute plans with friends.  What wonderful memories we have with friends and family from the wedding weekend!!!  Thanks again to everyone for their well wishes for the young couple.  Pat &  Sam’s wedding will go down in the books as one helluva party!

But now we are back to our usual busy pace, very happy and productive. I’ve planned a Spring Break trip for Hubby and I to San Diego, and both of us have spent approximately a bazillion hours looking for cheap flights to London for a summer vacation to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  If you fly to JFK first, the flights are reasonable, but then you risk missing connections which adds stress.  I’m sure we’ll figure it all out.  I heart London so much, and we will spend a few days there before renting a car to tour (drum roll, please!) . . . WALES!  Wales has amazingly beautiful countryside and a rich history; you can’t swing a cat without hitting a castle.  Right now I’m revisiting a novel I read in my youth about Welsh history called Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.  At 704 pages, I’ve assigned myself 50 pages a day so Hubby can also read it before our trip in late June!  It’s so good that it’s hard to put down.

I’ve spent way too much time googling stuff the past few days and giggled while viewing my browsing history.  Here’s a brief list:

  • Dulse Seaweed butter–a chefs secret weapon (can’t wait to try it)
  • Black Panther movie trailer (looks good)
  • Cheddar Broccoli Soup recipe (YUM!!!)
  • How tall is Charlie Barnes? (never did find that–he tours with Bastille)
  • List of the busiest US airports (Atlanta, LAX, then Chicago)
  • Phoebe Buffay’s fake names (just couldn’t remember Regina Phalange)
  • What is motor boating?  (er, umm, that’s what I thought it was–too much time reading weird stuff on FB lately!)
  • Henry Plantagenet family tree (to assist while reading a historical fiction novel)
  • 24 Things Not to Miss in Wales
  • SOOOOOOO much flight pricing!!!!!!!!

I’m just INTERESTED in stuff, you know?  Now I’ll give you the soup recipe.  I changed it by adding two potatoes and decreasing the amount of cheese and butter and flour.  My family thought it was delicious!  I love to make soup.  I find it homey to have a large pot bubbling on the stove, filling the house with yummy aromas.  My daughter bakes to relax.  She must’ve had a really stressful week since she made three different types of macaroons on three separate days this week!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
1 cup butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup flour
5 cups broccoli, chopped small
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)
4 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and white pepper to taste
one teaspoon chopped garlic

Get out a big-ass pot.  Melt the butter, adding onions and sauteing until soft. Stir in one cup flour to give the soup some legs to stand on.  Add in chicken broth and milk, then the carrots, potatoes, and the star of our show–BROCCOLI!  Reduce the heat or else the milk will foam up into a huge cloud, which will spill all over your stove top and be a nasty mess.  (This happened to a friend—not me, of course.)   I simmered everything for maybe 45 minutes, testing the carrots with a fork for softness.  When all veg are tender:  add salt, pepper, and garlic, then stir in the cheese.  I used an immersion blender because the potatoes were still in chunks, and also because it’s a fun toy that I rarely get to use. Plus it scares the bejeezus out of the cats, which makes me laugh.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feeling Giddy

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We are feeling quite giddy post-wedding.  Last Saturday I let out woot woots of happiness throughout the day, joyful at not having anything wedding-related to attend to:  No deep cleaning of the house, nothing to purchase, no outdoor yard sprucing to be done. We could bask in the fact that everything wedding related went smoothly, and all had a great time at Patrick and Sam’s big wedding party!  The newlyweds enjoyed three days honeymooning at Disneyland in LA (the bride is a huge Disney fan), and they will soon be getting down to the arduous task of writing 200+ thank you notes!  I was amazed at the lovely, generous gifts they received.

Yesterday was a good day at my preschool.  Nobody wet their pants, only two of our three-year-olds would not nap, and only twice did a child lay prostrate on the ground, kicking and screaming. And happy, happy news:  I have off work today and tomorrow due to parent-teacher conferences. I love my job, but I also love time at home. I tried to tone down my gleefulness in front of my lead teacher, who was facing 13 one-on-one meetings with parents during the next few days. But how lovely today to meet my BFF Gail for lunch at The Farm at South Mountain instead of my typical 15-minute lunch while our students are at recess.  Gail and I have been lunching in this verdant pecan grove in South Phoenix for 20 years.  We ate our yummy sandwiches, then walked the grounds, exploring their vegetable gardens, the chicken coops and the cute gift shop, all the while catching up on our lives.

Later it felt like a treat to have alone time at home to multi-task.  Our daughter was away attending class at ASU and Hubby was at work, so I was a total spaz doing housework/checking Facebook/googling summer travel plans/finishing the novel Lord of the Flies/petting cats on the couch.

As sunset approached, I looked for a friend to walk with, but I ended up walking alone north through our neighborhood to the horse properties.  I smiled at the children having soccer practice in the park. I breathed in the scent of the pines and the horses and pots of flowers as I walked our Tempe streets. Best of all, I heard the hoo-hooing of our owl as I returned home, and saw two Gila woodpeckers on the tall pines in the park.

Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary

A Wedding

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Our oldest son got married on Saturday!  After a year of planning, last week was “crunch time” when we hammered out the final details before the big day.  Monday, Patrick asked for wine recommendations, and Samantha gave me three hours to decide on what song Patrick and I would dance to at the reception.  Patrick and I texted back and forth starting with serious choices, then the conversation devolved into him suggesting Eminem’s Lose Yourself and me replying with Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.   We both love The Gun Song by the Lumineers, but shoot, some of our guests might be gun lovers (pun intended).  We finally agreed to You’ll Be in My Heart by Phil Collins, and it was perfect.  I love that the DJ invited other mothers and sons to join in after a few minutes.  It was a lovely moment during the event!  The father of the bride and the best man-made poignant speeches.  (I requested to read Where the Wild Things Are as a dramatic interlude, but was shot down.)

On Thursday, family arrived from California from the bride’s side, and from Illinois and Tucson from the groom’s side.  We had dinners and lunches and brunches and lots of time to lounge at the Mission Palm’s Hotel where my peeps were staying.  Global warming aside, it felt like a treat to have temps near 80 degrees in January and a great view of downtown Tempe from the rooftop pool.  I can’t tell you how touched I am that friends and family traveled long distances to be with us to celebrate Patrick and Samantha’s wedding.  At big life events, I tend to think of those who are no longer with us.  I teared up talking to a friend, explaining that it felt wrong that Patrick’s great-grandparents would not be at the wedding.  They would be SO proud of the man Patrick has become, and they would fall in love with Samantha, just like we did.  I looked through inherited jewelry, and on my left hand wore my Grandma Florence’s wedding ring from the early 1930’s and Hubby’s great-grandmother Lillian’s ring from around 1890 to the ceremony.  From my Grandma Mary I only have cookbooks, which would have been bulky to hide under my skirt, lol!

Saturday arrived, and everything went perfectly. From the lovely weather, to the happy and stylish guests, to the touching ceremony in a verdant garden, to the yummy chicken cordon blue for supper, and ending with hours of dancing, the wedding was all we’d hoped for and more.  It was FUN!!!  I took off my pinchy shoes about 10pm and boogied with friends until midnight.  Highlights were dancing with my nephew Owen (who is 12) to Brick House (his request–I’m thinking he does not know what those lyrics are about),  to September with sister-in-law, LeaAnne, and to Stayin’ Alive with high school friends Gail, Pete and Amy.  Ahhhhhhh, weddings!

I’m not sure why I was anxious and emotional about this wedding.  Part of it was the potential for disaster when entertaining 200 wedding guests.  But I was not in charge, so perhaps the stress was because I had to let go of control and trust that all was handled. But on the practical side, the kids have been dating for five years and own a frickin’ house together!  They committed years ago, and we’ve always felt they were a good match.  I’m a sap for any type of ceremony and loved every minute of this past month—- filled with anticipation for the Big Wedding Day.  I’m so grateful to the many friends who last week texted or emailed me saying, “Thinking of you, do you need anything, I’m here if you need help, good luck, congratulations, can’t wait to hear all about it!”  I’m feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for my wonderful life . . . which is a great way to begin this new year.

Cheers,
Mary

 

 

 

Strong Women

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I am in Mexico.

Hubby and I drove down yesterday morning.  We were greeted by a smooth-as-glass sea and short-sleeve weather in the high 70s.  Bonus:  In the group of 20 single-level condos, there are only three occupied.  It feels downright sinful to have this slice of Paradise all to ourselves.  The ocean water is very cold.  After walking barefoot in the tide pools, I was eager to put on my thickest socks to warm my icy feet.

I brought a stack of novels and magazines, but instead sat in a chair on our patiodaydreaming and watching the birds dive into the ocean, admiring a long line of at least twelve dolphins swim slowly by.  I breathed in and out, letting my thoughts go here and there, losing myself in the gentle movements of the ocean.  I smiled thinking about happy hour with best friends the night before.  I LOVE my bossy friends–the strong women who don’t just smile and nod, but instead snort and say, “You’re doing it wrong!”  I was told I am too intrusive in my adult children’s lives, and more importantly that I am NOT allowed to wear sensible flat shoes to our son’s wedding in two weeks.  “But I want to dance all night,” I whined.  They patiently showed me photos of pretty shoes that would not hurt and would have hours of dancing built into them.  Another friend has been coaching my diet, sending me great ideas of how she lost weight last Fall, and another friend tells me how bad my brassieres are every time I see her.  To G, S, T, L, and L:  I will stop starving myself, and I will go to the mall this week to buy pretty party shoes and a new bra.  And I’ll consider not texting my children every day (not making any promises)!  I’m honored to have your love and friendship.

Speaking of strong women, I re-watched Terms of Endearment for probably the twentieth time.  You know, that old movie with Shirley Maclaine and Debra Winger.  (I love the expanded viewing choices on Mexican Netflix.)  The scene where Debra Winger gives her mom a small goodbye sign with her hand as she is dying gets me every time.  I thought this movie was an appropo choice since this past week I’ve been negotiating  a new situation of co-existing with our adult daughter.  The film gave me lots to think about and induced some waterworks from yours truly.

I mopped up my tears after the movie and went out on the patio to say goodnight to the stars.  Hubby and I gasped!  It was so dark you could barely see your hand in front of your face, but the sky!!!  The sky looked as if someone had thrown a hand full of diamonds onto black velvet.  It’s been years since I had a proper view of the stars.  The vastness and beauty felt overwhelming!  I was filled with an immense sense of peace while breathing in the ocean air and admiring the sparkling heavens. I felt as if the Universe was giving me a big hug and telling me, “Everything is going to be okay.” (And I’m pretty sure I heard, “And wear comfortable shoes to the wedding.”)

Cheers,

Mary

 

Peace and Quiet

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As a teacher, I look forward to the long holiday break as a time to see friends and family, and even more so as a time to get loads of peace and quiet.  Hubby also has off a week at Christmas, and besides organizing the garage and fixing stuff about the house, he also anticipates our quiet week with time to sleep late and and time for reading on the back patio.

Imagine our distress on our very first day of holiday break.  At 6am we were awakened to the sound of a bobcat in reverse. “Beep! Beep! Beep!”  We put our pillows over our ears, but this continued for hours. What kind of madman would schedule home renovations on the 23rd of December?  Turns out it was our neighbors two doors to the west of us.  Seriously?  Whatever happened to the etiquette of not having work done on the weekends?  And two days before Christmas?? The beeping and other construction noises continued until yesterday.

Christmas Day was quiet in the hood.

But the day AFTER Christmas, we were greeted by the sound of a wood chipper in front of our house.  WTF???  Whose idea was it to have all the neighborhood trees trimmed while so many of us were home for the holiday break??  The sound of chainsaws, Mexican music, and wood chippers are still being heard today, two weeks post-Christmas.  We have many common areas in our neighborhood with many trees. Since I am on the HOA board now, I’m definitely going to do my best to get the schedule changed for December 2018.  As I often say, if I were in charge, things would be a LOT different!!!

On the bright side, I got enough peace and quiet that I was eager to get back to school Monday.  I simply feel better when I’m on a schedule.  I truly missed my wee preschool friends–they’re just so stinkin’ cute (three years old)!  Today a boy arrived a bit late, and one girl was so happy to see him that she ran up and planted a big smooch right on his kisser!  The boy’s reaction was one of being completely stunned . . . and then the girl looked right at me, knowing she’d been naughty.  We talk a lot about germs, and they all know kissing is a no-no at school.  I totally let it go because it was such a heartfelt greeting that warmed my heart.  It was an adorable, unexpected moment . . . just one of many I see at my school each day.

The wood chippers are finally gone, and one of the sounds in my home is William playing computer upstairs on Skype with friends.  He leaves for college in two days, and I will cry.  We miss him so much when he is away, but are proud of the good grades he got last semester while pursuing his Chemistry degree.  Another sound is my persistent hacking.  It’s been two weeks now, and I’m tired of this cough!  And lastly, there is the sound of our daughter’s voice.  Eve decided to return to our nest for financial reasons.  We are proud of her grades, too, and (crossed fingers) she will be graduating from ASU with her Bachelors of Science in Biology in December.  Here’s hoping all of you found peaceful moments over the holidays.  Here’s wishing you all the best in 2018!

Cheers,

Mary

 

Hungry!

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I started a diet today.

It started out great.

I am never hungry in the morning, so I met a friend for coffee at 10 without eating first. It was an interesting exercise. The smells at The Hillside Spot were tantalizing: Waffles, eggs with a side of fried potatoes, and lush buttery pastries. My mouth was watering, and my sense of smell was keen. I caught myself turning my head to get a better whiff as the full platters went by.  I most likely resembled my Springer Spaniel following her nose about while I’m cooking dinner. My hands shook a bit from the lack of food combined with the jolt of caffeine, but I was doing well.

I felt strong.

Mind over matter.

This time I was going to stick with it and lose at least five pounds before our son’s wedding in three weeks. I was going to feel so much healthier, and wouldn’t it be nice to NOT have to unbutton my jeans every time I sat down?

But then I got home.

I sat down to my computer to do some research for a summer vacation, and that’s when it started. My mind began cataloguing the food in the fridge. First the top shelf:  Half a leftover steak. A raspberry yogurt.  A bowl of pudding. Second shelf: The bag of expensive cheeses leftover from our holiday entertaining.  Deli sausage slices!  Chicken tortilla soup!!!!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

I ate a banana and drank a big glass of water and got back to work. My stomach growled madly but I ignored it and started to answer email.  My mind wandered uncontrollably back to the contents of the fridge. Black beans with tomatoes and onion. Sour cream! The last slice of coconut cake.

I slowly peeled an orange and savored every juicy segment. I heated up another cup of coffee and settled back in at my laptop.

That was an hour ago. My work is constantly being interrupted. Did you hear that? I swear I just heard the pepperoni pizza calling to me from the freezer. “Just one slice. I’m so tasty. I’ll fill you up so you won’t be hungry anymore. I’m greasy and delicious. EAT ME!”

I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. The coconut cake is competing with the apple pie, and the half and half is mad I didn’t put it in my coffee. All dozen of the eggs insist I fry them up in just a little bit of bacon grease.

I think I’d better peel another orange–I am not feeling strong. I am feeling . . . HUNGRY!!!

Cheers,

Mary

Christmas 2017

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Another Christmas on the books, and it was a good one.  My winter break from school started just three days before Christmas, so I didn’t have the usual planning time.  And my school’s evening Solstice program was during that last week (so stressful–I hate being on a stage!) but our students performed well.  We wrapped up our semester feeling proud, accomplished, and mostly exhausted.

It’s a lot of work, but we pulled off another fun Christmas cocktail party on Saturday the 16th with 25 of our closest friends, followed the next week by Christmas at our house.  Two days worth of meals for ten people is also a lot of work, but the Christmas Eve fondue was a hit, as were the ham and cheese strata for Christmas morning (I heart cheese) and steak dinner with English trifle for Christmas dinner.  So fun to have my sister and her family with us at the holidays!

And then, as happens many years after the holiday madness, I got sick.

Actually William got sick the day before I did.  He is 20 and home from college for the holidays.  He woke us up at 6am saying he had severe stomach pain.  Then the barfing started.  Then the diarrhea.  Dear God, the amount of liquids that exploded out of that guy!  It was horrifying and impressive all at the same time!  We let him continue this way for eight hours, then administered an expired tablet of Zofran, which indeed worked on the puking.  William begged me for Gatorade all day but for every sip he took, a cup would regurgitate!  My gag reflex is weak, and I almost lost it myself several times.  I was afraid to eat anything for two days wondering when I would begin with the stomach flu, but now it’s four days later, and hopefully Hubby and I are going to be okay.  Hubby missed most of the drama while refinishing our back yard gate in the garage.

And the next day I woke up with a cold.  It’s not much, though my cough sounds quite scary.  For two days I lay on the couch watching old movies (Dances with Wolves is so good!) and old tv shows (nope, I did NOT rewatch two seasons of Sex in the City because that would be wrong), but yesterday felt well enough to venture over to Steinmart to return a blouse.  The Gilbert store is staffed with and shopped in by elderly, chatty women.  Nearby the store are retirement communities, so many of these women are from other places.  Friendly places!  So while shopping and waiting in line I made ten new friends, and after not being out for several days, it was lovely to smile and chat with these nice people.  I also bought a pair of ballet flats for our son’s upcoming wedding. I tried on some heels and while nobody was looking, I did a few dance moves and almost fell on my keister.  Flats shoes it is!  I don’t want “remember when your mom fell down on the dance floor?” to be one of the cherished wedding memories.

I have another week off from school, but poor Hubby returns to work on Tuesday.  I just looked at the list I made of Fun Things To Do Over the Break:  Zoo Lights, Coach House for drinks, Breakfast at The Farm at South Mountain, bicycle to Twisted Cactus Pub, and hike.  Well.  Hike is the only thing we did before William and I got sick.  Coach House is the oldest pub in Scottsdale and apparently goes all out with Christmas lights, and The Farm is a lovely outdoor cafe in a pecan grove.  Perhaps I can find girlfriends to do these things with next week.  Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary