Tag Archives: Florence Welch

Home, Then and Now


It is 7:30 pm on Sunday night, and I am in the middle of cooking my mother’s famous lasagna recipe.  It involves making your own bechamel, and it is the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted.  I seem to remember that she found it in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine which seems hard to believe, but you must remember that in the late 1960s and the early 1970s Julia Child was on tv encouraging housewives to venture away from meat loaf and pork chops.  I’m not going to share the lasagna recipe here because lately I’ve found it hard to amaze my dinner guests, which is not surprising when the NYT and Epicurious send us their best recipes on a daily basis.  Better, sometimes, to reach back in time and return to the classics.

Tonight I was so happy chopping onions and garlic and stirring pots and singing along with Florence Welch and then it occurred to me that WHOOPS I’d forgotten about the pasta. Our stove is awful and takes forever for a burner to heat, so now I am in a holding period waiting for the ziti to cook.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I am making my mother’s famous lasagna recipe using ziti, simply because the lasagna noodles located on the top shelf (way in the back) were so petrified they quite possibly may have been purchased during Obama’s first term.  You see, our cupboards are very deep, and I am short and cannot see to the back.  And I’m lazy to fetch a chair to look into the bowels of my cupboards.  I hope I gain back some of your faith when I tell you I used fresh oregano from our backyard garden in the meat sauce.  That’s about all that’s left growing in this tremendous heat. That and a basil plant that has quadrupled in size during the few months since I bought it at Trader Joe’s.  I completely forgot it was there and am sad thinking about all the days when I could have had Caprese salads.

I’m making this complicated lasagna recipe so Hubby will have comfort food when he comes home to an empty house each night during this coming week.  William and his friends are off camping up north in the cool mountains, and tomorrow I get on plane to see my aunts and uncles and cousins in my hometown in northern Illinois.  I have not been in three years and am so excited to see my family . . . and to see and feel and smell the town where I was born and where I lived until I was ten years old.

In my dreams I ride my bike down the streets of this little old town.  I go through the squeaky screen door to hug my grandmother and then at other times, I have coffee with my Aunt Linda and my cousin Bridget.  In my dreams, memories of my young self get tangled up with the reality of the older self I am now.  Because I am the oldest of three, I keep the childhood memories of this place for all of us.  I tell my brother about driving to Grandpa Koppen’s house when a tornado was coming, our mother shouting at us to roll down the windows, we will be there soon!  Our own basement was mud walls and big spiders, and grandma and grandpa were just up the street with a lovely finished basement complete with pool table and full bar.  I say to my siblings, don’t you remember when we lived on Grover Street and Aunt Linda and Uncle Bill and Matt and Bridget lived just twenty steps from our own front door?  Their dog, Arfrang, was so cute and was always jumping at their screen . . . and their spunky little cats, Amos and Andy, were so fun to chase and pet.  Remember Thanksgiving and Christmas at grandma and grandpa’s when we would sit at a fancy long table in the dining room?  Then after dinner the men would smoke and drink, and the women would do dishes and talk in the kitchen.  So much laughter, and I remember it all so fondly.  I try to keep this place of my youth alive for us because I am the oldest thus have the most stories, and this is the place where we were born.

I could share here many more childhood memories from my small town in Illinois, but a big storm is moving in, and I’d rather watch that through the window than continue driveling on here.  We have lightening and huge storm clouds and a rumbling of thunder in the distance.  We so rarely get weather here in the desert; this storm is a treat.   As always, thank you for reading my words.




That Day I Almost Met the Queen


A few days ago we returned from a two-week vacation to England and Scotland with our two youngest children, Eve and William (who are 20 and 18 respectively).  We had many adventures, and as circumstances would have it, had brushes with Very Famous People while we were in London.

On our first full day in London, we woke up early and got to the Tower of London by 9am. We knew we’d have fewer crowds if we arrived early, and it would be easier to catch a tour with one of the witty Beefeaters who dress in brilliant red costumes and wear silly plumed hats.  We were having a fantastic time exploring this tower, and then that tower, and since it was our first day of vacation, we happily paused to read each and every didactic, soaking up all the great British history.  I’d put it in the top ten of all the places we visited, and I would highly recommend it.

Anyway.  We were having a grand time, but I began to feel annoyed with a family who had a very loud, obnoxious “private” tour guide.  It seemed they invaded our space each time we entered a new room.  The guide’s voice was shrill and self important, and finally, I glared at her, hoping she’d understand she was being too loud.  It was then I heard a very distinctive voice—the voice of Katie Couric, once known as America’s sweetheart of the morning shows.    It was Katie on vacation with her family!

Allow me to pause my story for a moment and state for the record that I am NOT a superficial person, however, I take great interest in current culture, including famous people. I’m intrigued at their stories, since they, too, were once lowly folks such as myself yet now have international fame and boatloads of money.  So when I meet a “star,” I get pretty excited.

And Katie Couric it certainly was.  She is tiny.  She wore no make up and was still cute as a button.  She was dressed very casually and had a cap on with a ponytail  under it.  Her daughters (in their early twenties) are taller and thin, and her husband just looks like a plain Joe. I could have followed them (and their rude guide) but instead I watched her using my peripheral vision while sneakily pretending to look at my phone.  I figure the woman deserves to have a hassle-free vacation with her family without a sort of/kind of fan following and staring at her.

So.  THAT VERY SAME DAY we missed my favorite band who just happened to be playing a concert in a park ONE MILE from where we walked that afternoon.  I leaked out a few tiny tears when I found out, and kept thinking that if we’d known, we could have lingered about and heard them outside the venue since it was just in a big park.  In the end I calmed myself by remembering we were not in London to see Bastille perform, and we had a perfect day seeing the sights we’d seen.

The very next day we spent the morning at the National Gallery, walked an hour to see one of my favorite artist’s (Yayoi Kusama) thrilling new exhibit at a small gallery on the edge of town, and after many tube stops, finally arrived at Westminster Abbey.  It was at the top of our list since the ridiculous coach tour we’d taken three summers ago had not included entry, yet we spent a teasing hour lolling about the lobby and gift shop.  We arrived  at the huge cathedral to find many people milling about outside the gates, but nobody going in. My family walked the entire periphery but I (per usual) cut to the chase by asking the uniformed man at the gate.  “Closed today for a special memorial service, mum.”  I looked around and sure enough, there were signs announcing the vigil marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.  The vigil remembers those lost in the battle, which claimed over one million lives and affected the lives of millions more at home during WWI. Those who took part on all sides of the Battle were represented, and the internet said all were welcome . . . but that was clearly complete HOGWASH because the uniformed men at the gate were keeping everyone out,  excepting the Very  Fancy People who were arriving in limos.  We had fun watching the swank guests arrive, and the next day found out the Queen (yes, THAT Queen) had arrived just minutes after we’d moved on to find a snack. A SNACK.  I missed seeing the Queen of England enter Westminster Abbey because we wanted a SNACK. (Kicks self in the arse.)

And yes, there’s more.  You remember I’m a fan of the band Florence + the Machine. You guessed it—she was playing Saturday afternoon at Hyde Park—which was only a half hour from where we were at the British Museum when I first heard the news.  After just missing Bastille, I was determined not to miss another opportunity and besides, Florence Welch is the coolest chick ever who happens to have the voice of an angel. I searched and found tickets were available but a) we had a full day planned, b) the tickets were expensive,  c) the concert was starting soon, and  d) the sky looked threatening.  Hip hip hooray for me that I did not insist upon seeing Florence because that afternoon, the rain came tumbling down sideways, drenching us from head to toe, the nasty wind inverting our umbrellas, ultimately causing us to board a bus to who-knows-where just to save ourselves from what seemed like an Emergency Situation.  Not the best day to be attending an expensive outdoor concert!

The final brush with greatness occurred days later in Edinburgh, at the East end of the Royal Mile.  It was our second day in this beautiful city, and William (Eagle Scout, Lover of Hiking) had requested we do a hike.  Lucky for us, there was a strange, yet accessible mountain called Arthur’s Seat which looked like what we in Arizona would call a butte.  Anyhoo, the bus system let us down and when we finally arrived to the little flat mountain, the weather was threatening, and because we had tickets to an underground ghost tour at 2pm, the hike was not doable.  William was disappointed, and because we didn’t have a Plan  B, we plunked down dejectedly at the edge of a fountain in front of the Scottish Parliament Building. It was our first low point of the trip, and we weren’t sure what to do.  The gates to Holyrood  Palace were right there, but we’d heard it was closed that week for some reason or other.

We began to notice crowds of well-dressed people walking toward the palace.  In fact, they looked so dressed up that we wondered if there was a wedding or a formal party.  After asking in a shop, we found at the Queen was visiting for one week and today was her big Garden Party!  As we shopped and lunched along the Royal Mile, I had fun watching all of the Fancy People in their finery, on their way to have tea with the Queen.  SO COOL.  Most women had a hat of some sort, even if it was only a “fascinator” which is a head band with some decorative stuff happening on the top of your head.  The following day, I met two people who had attended this party and they said it was to honor volunteers and also service men and women.  I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to curtsy for the Queen, then sip champagne and nibble sandwiches at a palace, but alas, that is not what we do here in America.

Tune in tomorrow for “The Many Sausages of the UK” when I’ll explain the mysterious Scottish dish of “neeps and tatties” and many other strange menu items seen on our trip to the UK.





Not Vacuuming


I am supposed to be vacuuming right now, but my Ipod is dead. Clearly, the matter is out of my hands. One cannot be expected to vacuum without listening to tunes. William is at a band event, and Hubby is eating dinner. I said to Hubby, “I am going to vacuum now. I hope you like me singing out of tune to my Ipod. Because that is what is going to happen now. Because I need to vacuum. Don’t I? Yep. Vacuuming is what needs to happen.” I waited with a hopeful look on my face, imagining there was a chance he would say, “Oh Psshaw. You don’t need to vacuum! The house looks great!” But instead he made a frowny face and said, “I guess I could vacuum.” All this as Ruby ran swiftly through the kitchen chasing two cats . . . quart-sized tumbleweeds of fur flying up and dancing in the air, gracefully floating onto the table to rest next to Hubby’s dinner plate of roast chicken and salad.

I will vacuum. Hubby works practically 24/7 and has for our entire married life, and I only work 32 hours a week and do not pay for much in our life. That is why I will vacuum instead of him. My Ipod is charging, and I am excited that I have recently downloaded my new favorite song called Build This Ship to Wreck by Florence + The Machine. She’s so cool. I’ve always liked Florence Welch and her songs, but this song grabbed me and made itself at home as an ear worm for many a day now. I do not know the artist’s intent while writing this song, but in my imagination, she is talking about a few of my past relationships that came to an end without me knowing exactly what I’d done wrong. What do you hear in this passionate song?

Eh Hem! *clears throat*: I have a public service announcement of momentous proportions! Here is the official announcement from Changing Hands Bookstore: “The actor, Jason Segel, best known for his roles in How I Met Your Mother, The Muppets, and Despicable Me visits with the second installment of his New York Times bestselling middle grade series about a boy who lives in a purple mansion that just happens to contain a portal to the Netherworld.”

OMG!!! I can barely contain my excitement and anticipation! I HEART JASON SEGEL! Of course, he will always be Marshall to most of us, but I beg you (you of all ages) to check out his roles in Judd Apatow’s movies. Mr. Segel is always hilariously endearing and makes you wish he lived nearby so you could call him and ask him to meet you for a beer on a Wednesday night. Like I was wishing tonight, on this very warm Wednesday night on the last day of September in Tempe, Arizona.


NOW I will go vacuum. My Ipod is charged, and I have a fresh cocktail to ease the pain of the boring house cleaning. INVENTION IDEA: A drink holder on the vacuum!