Tag Archives: friends

A Long Weekend

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Is there anything better than a three-day weekend?  Last weekend was a fun one, filled with time with friends.  The weather has cooled down enough that I’m able to walk with friends in the afternoon after work and in the morning on weekends.  I walked Thursday afternoon with my friend Debbie, and on Friday morning with my friend Mary L., both of whom I met when our kids were six years old and in first grade.  Well . . . now our kids are 22 so all I can say is I love being with my old, dear friends who’ve watched me raise my family and have seen all my ups and downs and have never judged.

Friday at lunchtime found me at Pita Jungle with my “Europe Gals.”  I met these ladies  for the first time five years ago, while on a European tour organized by our middle school.  After ten long days of sight seeing with our families, we were fast friends.  We love to laugh together!

Hubby and I met our Scout parents for dinner Friday night at Mac’s (home of my favorite sandwich, the BLTTA which is  a bacon lettuce turkey tomato avocado stack on toasted white bread, with a side of Cajun fries with Ranch dressing).  These friends are the parents of our youngest son’s friends, and even though we finished with Boy Scouts many years ago, I think we made our best memories camping and hiking and cooking together while our boys were in their teen years.  These parents helped raise our William on camp outs, sleepovers, swim parties, etc.  We always laugh when we’re together, even though we continue to worry about our boys, even though they are almost adults. Good grief, I’m ready for all of our boys to GROW UP ALREADY! (For those of you with small children, let me tell you:  the college years are tough!)

Saturday I got up bright and early at the crack of 8:30 to walk with “band mom” friends.  Fran, Erika, Emily, and I walked around the “fake lakes” just south of my house and clocked in at 3 miles when all was said and done!  We saw snowy egrets hanging out in the canals and lakes, plus lots of ducks . . . and lots of old people walking dogs.  We talked about every little thing, and mostly it just felt good to be together.

Saturday evening found us at my brother and sister-in-law’s new house in Chandler.  I LOVE IT.  It’s so pretty and fresh, and I hope that someday soon Hubby and I can purge ourselves of SO MUCH STUFF and move into a smaller home.  We have enough board games, Legos, and wooden train paraphernalia that we could open our own toy shop. Grandchildren will likely be in the cards in the next few years, so . . . I’m hanging on to them, even though our house feels a bit cluttered.  (I am NOT a hoarder.)

One final friend story:  Last night I met three teacher friends from my school, two of whom have moved on to different jobs.  I’ve only known these women for two years, but as I always say, “You do playground duty together, and you are friends for life!” We caught up on each other’s lives, and again, mostly it was just nice to be together.

After each of these encounters, I felt so happy. I commented to Hubby, “How did I get so lucky to find such intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful friends?” To which he said, “You’re intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful, too.” (He’s so nice to me.)  My mantra is “Just give your love, and don’t look back to see if anyone takes it.”  (Arlo Guthrie said that.)

And I’m sending out a THANK YOU with an I’M SORRY for bothering everyone with photos of potential dresses for me to wear to our son’s upcoming wedding.  I tried some on at the mall Sunday and shook my head and muttered, “Putting on these fancy dresses is like putting lipstick on a pig.”  I ordered something and promise NOT to bother anyone again.

At this time in November when we are giving thanks for friends and family, I can truly say that my cup runneth over.  I started out life as an awkward, shy girl and somehow grew into a woman who is so lucky to find new friends wherever she goes.  Recently I was asked what my favorite hobby is, and I responded, “Being with friends!”

Cheers,

Mary

 

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All I Want for Christmas

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What gifts have you asked Santa to bring you this year?

I have asked for a fox (live), a hedgehog (live), and tickets to see my favorite band, Bastille, in Vegas (also live).  I bought myself a fetching pair of earrings at Cost Plus  ($6) and gave them to Hubby to wrap up for me.  I bought them months ago, so truly it will be a surprise (and something I like since I chose them, ha).  My kids pressed me for gift ideas, so I asked for a copy of the book Lord of the Flies because a) I loved it when I read it in college and b) I’ve become interested in boyhood interactions after all my hours of school playground duty and c) the library does not have a copy.   I also asked for recently reprinted books by a charming favorite author, Beverly Nichols, who wrote about his plants, his home, his neighbors, and his cats in England in the 1950’s.  He was a blogger of his time and place 70 years ago, and was quite influential to my writing style.

I must explain the desire to own my own personal hedgehog:   I’ve loved the author Beatrice Potter since a young age, and her character, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, is a favorite, not to mention Jan Brett’s Hedgie in her winter books. Two summers ago, we took our boys to Ireland for two weeks. We drove hither and yon, stopping in rural areas to greet cows and chickens, always with an eye out for hedgehogs.  Why, you ask?  Because they are adorable! But alas:  We never saw one hedgehog.   Same thing happened when we took William and Eve to Scotland last summer.  I asked the young woman at the hotel desk where we might find a hedgehog and she said, “Me Mum has some that sleep in her garden, and she lives just down the road.  I dunno, they come out at night, don’t they?”  Well. We had no idea they were nocturnal!  The next night we went out into the dark armed with flashlights, exploring the vast property . . . yet never found even one hedgehog.  As for wanting a fox?  Check out this video and you will want one too!

I’m confounded when I think back to my Christmas list from just ten Christmases ago:  A diamond ring?   A Viking stove?  A Kate Spade bag?  Those things seem more ridiculous than the fox and hedgehog on my list this year.  The older I get, the harder it is to make a list of “stuff” I want, because truly I have more than a person would ever need. Christmas is laughing with friends at our annual White Elephant Christmas party, the joy of finding an unexpected package at your door, the pleasure of tasting a homemade baked good from a dear friend.  I am blessed with a happy family, fun friends, a comfortable home, and opportunities for travel.  What more could a girl ask for?

Cheers,

Mary

Cleaning the Tops of Things

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Our annual Christmas cocktail party is this Saturday, so naturally I am experiencing my annual “pre-party anxiety”.  I actually enjoy this manic bout of energy when I try to do a year’s worth of cleaning in just a few days.  I clean doors, baseboards, oil the wood furniture, and even clean the Tops of Things, like the refrigerator, the ceiling fans, and the book cases.  Ruby the Wonder Dog barks at me as I stand on a chair with a dusting wand because she is so unaccostomed to this behavior. I am almost 5’5″ and do not notice the dirt on the tops of things. (I used to omit from our guest list anyone who stands over 5′ 8″ so I could ignore these high places , but unfortunately I have a number of Tall Friends.)

Yesterday I decided to sponge off the walls and window wells near our kitchen table.  This is a favorite hang out for our three cats. I stood on a chair to look into the lamp and found spider webs and approximetly 20 dead moths.  OMG.  On the walls I found enough cat hair to make a whole new kitten.  Egads, no wonder we are always snuffly and sneezing!  After removing the layers of cat hair, I noticed with horror that we need new paint.  I’ve always enjoyed painting, but have mostly viewed this as a team effort with me drinking beer from a can while rollering the paint onto the biggest swaths of wall and singing loudly with favorite song on the radio—while Hubby paints the tedious bits at the tops and bottom. Many years ago when we were feeling flush, we had a charming, handsome friend come paint for us, but a) Rob charged an arm and a leg and b) there is no reason (except for a vast feeling of laziness) that I cannot do it myself.  However—-I do not have time to repaint our entire downstairs before Saturday.

I was brought up in a household where we entertained endlessly.  Look up the word “party” in the dictionary, and you will likely find a photo of my parents.  Their attention to detail in our home was amazing—my father would build a bar in the back yard for a special occasion, and my mother would plant petunias and roses in our front yard. Baseboards would be repainted and every surface scoured.  New recipes would be practiced and new music purchased to suit the occasion (housewarmings, graduations, goodbye parties, happy new job parties, unbirthday parties, and their biggest of the year:  St. Patrick’s Day).  I grew up in a household that celebrated everything.

Fast forward:  When I was 33 years old, I was invited to a new friend’s house for a Christmas party.  We shall call her “C”.  We rang the bell, entered their home, and met so many interesting, friendly people.  The food was plentiful and yummy (potluck) though the beer quite disgusting (who buys Keystone for guests?). But the thing that I took away from that first party at C’s house was this: The house was messy. The bathrooms could use cleaning.  The yard was not mowed, and the house was, well, not immaculate..

Those parties at C’s liberated me.  What a grand idea that I could host friends even though my house was sloppy.  So even though I “try” to make our house as perfect as my parents used to make theirs before a party, I realized while attending C’s parties so many years ago that having your house look perfect is not what your friends notice. The reasons people keep coming to our home year after year are friendship and laughter and silliness at our White Elephant gift exchange .  . . and the pleasure of singing a few Christmas carols together.

I will vacuum up the dust bunnies, buy good wine, and make yummy food.  I plan to fill the medicine cabinet with marbles (the idea is if anyone peeks, a loud crashing sound will teach them a  lesson lol).  I hope my guests won’t notice the tired paint on my walls and our outdated furniture, but instead will feel my sense of joy at welcoming loved ones into our home to say, “Merry Christmas!”

Cheers,

Mary

A Cool Breeze

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It’s Wednesday evening, and I am making “Empty the Crisper” soup while listening to Mumford and Sons sing their banjo-strummed wistful songs.  A cool breeze is wafting through the kitchen window.  WAIT!  WHAT????  Yes,  you heard me right.  A COOL BREEZE IS WAFTING THROUGH THE WINDOW.  Our never-ending desert summer has finally come to a close  (maybe possibly fingers crossed it might happen perhaps it’s a trick we’ll see tomorrow).  Today was the first day since April that I walked out of my school at 3:15 and did not think, oh yuck, my skin is burning, but instead, smiled at the world as if I’d just won the lottery because the sky was overcast and the temperature was under 80 degrees.  Hallelujah and praise be to Mother Nature!  I knew you wouldn’t abandon us!  Good to have you back!

I sat down to write every day this week but felt so jarred from the election results that I just couldn’t find joy in anything and did not want to glom on to the massive  posts from people whining about the election. I have many opinions about the election and have on my to-do list to figure out (finally) where this crazy electoral college idea originated and how we can stomp on it.  But for now I am licking my wounds by spending time with friends and making vegetable soup while all the while listening to beautiful music, surrounded by my three cats, Ruby the Wonder Spaniel, and my husband, (who is currently in our home office cursing at his computer). Ruby and I visit our backyard garden every afternoon and are excited to see the carrots, chard, leaf lettuce, and pole beans are sprouted to an inch high!

I felt so totally yucky last week. For me, the best way to heal is to spend time with friends. We spent an evening with my brother and sister in law sipping cocktails while listening to Big Band music from the 1940’s (so fun), and Saturday Hubby and I went to the Phoenix Art Museum to visit my old friends (favorite works of art), then had dinner at Angel Trumpet Ale House where they have a vibrant atmosphere, 31 flavors of beers on tap, and yummy food.  Sunday afternoon found me at a favorite friend’s house with my art book group, and Sunday night we had dinner at Mac’s with old friends made through Boy Scouts.

I felt a little bit better.  I know some of my friends voted differently from me  (or worse, chose not to vote at all).  At the first news of the impending Trump presidency, I cried thinking of dear friends who likely “voted wrong”  (clearly, my humble opinion).  But spending time with so many friends over the weekend, I focused on the long-term relationships we’ve made together and how important these people are in my life.  We’ve brought soup to each other when we were ill.  We’ve given hugs when we’ve been uncertain or sad.  We’ve sent out prayers and positive thoughts into the Universe when our kids are making bad choices, never judging, only being supportive.  We’ve brought dinners and flowers when we are alternately celebrating, or grieving.  And most importantly, we’ve been constant, listened to each other, shared recipes, and sat down for meals together. Because nurturing our relationships might just be the thing that buoys us through this super-weird, divisive, angry, confusing time.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

Singing the Old Songs

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Last night I had a lovely happy hour with Susan, Erika, and Patti at Pita Jungle. Each one of us have boys who graduated from high school last week, making all four of us empty nesters. We sipped our cocktails, nibbled at our appetizers, and did our best to solve the Problems of the World.  I was feeling so great when I got home that I decided another cocktail would be a good idea, especially since I needed to clean the floor and do some cooking.  All we had in the booze cupboard was gin.

Well.

William was out with friends, and the house felt too quiet.  So after my cocktail, instead of cleaning or cooking, I decided it would be fun to do a little kitchen dancing so I turned on the radio (I like the randomness of radio).   The music stirred up deep emotions, and I became very introspective (read: sauced).  I texted strange things to a variety of friends, mostly telling them how much I care about them and how much they’ve meant to me in my life.  Then I shed some tears over how much I’m going to miss my students (only five more days until summer vacation, and many of our students are transferring to other schools.  It breaks my heart, truly).  My thoughts turned to William’s high school graduation last week, and my eyes filled with happy tears as I thought about how proud Grandma Summers and GG Mom Evelyn would have been of our wonderful boy. I was maudlin, melancholy, and generally a big puddle of sorrow.

Funny how songs can trigger emotions and memories.  “Tiny  Dancer” by Elton John took me back to a summer night in 1982, driving with the car windows open singing along loudly as my boyfriend smiled his “pirate’s smile” at me.   A while later Peter Gabriel was singing, “Sledgehammer,” which took me back to 1988 when Hubby and I were dating for the third time around and making plans for the future.  Tired of the radio commercials, I put in a cd and sang along with “Sleep on the Floor” by the Lumineers. This song stirs up strong angsty feelings of my youth when I was so desperate to move away, to start over, to be something great and make a difference (things I never did).  I was filled with disappointment at myself thinking about lost opportunities, lost relationships, and the very normal and unimaginative life I have lived. From The Lumineers:

“Pack yourself a toothbrush dear
Pack yourself a favorite blouse
Take a withdrawal slip
Take all of your savings out
‘Cause if we don’t leave this town
We might never make it out
I was not born to drown
Baby come on.”

Last night I did not vacuum.  I did not cook anything for dinner.  I did not mop my floors.  I DID put myself to bed early, where I continued to text people and watched a few sentimental music videos on my phone, then finally fell into a  fitful sleep.  Ruby the Wonder Spaniel sensed my mood and chased the cats very loudly off and on all night.  I woke up with the dawn feeling completely exhausted and ridiculous and wondering what other people do in their free time.  Because I’m thinking it’s probably not what I do.

And that is why, my friends,  I should never, EVER, drink gin.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Secret Sauce

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Why is it that Wednesdays find me only able to offer brief, “Twitteresque” updates?  I blame it on over-stimulation created by interactions with my Kindergartners, which is a really fantastic way to spend my day, however, does not lead to cohesive thinking in the evening.  So here’s a spattering of thoughts drifting through my brain in the past half hour:

First of all, a big shout out to Mother Nature for dialing it down as far as our desert temperatures are concerned.  90 degrees in February ain’t no way to be treatin’ us.  You be illin’.  (I apologize—I revisited the Beastie Boys over the weekend.)   Thank you, Ma N, for the breezy cool days and for the feathery clouds that decorated the sky over the playground at lunchtimes this week.  YOU ROCK!

I’ve had coffee dates every day at AJ’s after work this week.  The woman at their bakery counter is beginning to look  at me suspiciously, though I’m doing nothing more shifty than showing up at the exact time every day to order a medium coffee (room for cream, please), then hanging out on their lovely patio with friends.  I love my job, but I so very much miss my two-hour lunches plus how-about-a-little-shopping afternoons of the past few years. I am the luckiest girl in the whole world that friends agree to meet me for a coffee at 3:45 (not the most convenient time) and stay for hours until we’ve caught up on every little thing.  AJ’s prices are ridiculous compared to Fry’s where I shop, however, the people watching is so much better that I found myself thinking it might be worth the extra clams to be shopping among The Handsome Ones.  This afternoon I was doing some serious rubber-necking whilst checking out the handsome men entering the store.  This is not a thing at Fry’s.  Not ever, not one time in all the 20 years of shopping there.  I miss our recently closed Fresh and Easy store, which was so hopping with attractive singles at 6pm that my friends and I nicknamed it “Fresh and Sleazy.”  A special bonus this afternoon (aside from being with dear friends) was the appearance of two peach-faced love birds in a tree near our table.  These elusive birds have been sighted in Tempe for at least 30 years, and these were the first I had seen in probably five years.

I got home later than anticipated, opened the fridge, and examined the beef roast which was supposed to have been placed in the crockpot BEFORE I went to AJ’s.  Well.  I lifted it to my nose and it smelled fine, but upon closer examination, I could clearly see a spot on one end which was turning a decidedly non-beef color.  Green, to be exact.  What to do?   The beef needed to be cooked today!   If I started the French Dip at 6pm, the house would reek of spicy beef and nobody would be able to sleep.  It was then I had a light bulb moment: Place the crock pot on the back patio!  I gave myself a high five for thinking of this brilliant idea, fetched an extension cord, threw the ingredients into the pot, plugged it in, and forgot about it.

Well.

Ruby the Wonder Spaniel and Cosmo (the Elderly Siamese with Dementia–we are working on a better nickname) tend to go in and out our back door approximately 100 times each evening.  I’d let both of them out about 5:45 to enjoy the sunset and had forgotten all about them.  Busy in the kitchen, I didn’t realize anything was amiss until I heard the sound of clattering glass. What the what?  I opened the back door to discover Ruby had pushed aside the crock pot lid and was licking the meat!  She’d also lapped up half the beef broth and had licked all of the garlic off.  I’m going under the assumption that the beef will be safe to eat after cooking for six hours in a crock pot, but at this point, Ruby thinks it belongs to her and is nose-whistling longingly out the back door window at the crock pot.  This is not the serene evening I had planned for myself which involved taking my boots off, lolling lazily on the couch playing Words with  Friends, reading the latest Esquire mag, and sipping a strong cocktail.

Hopefully tomorrow night will be more relaxed, when we will feast on delicious spicy beef sandwiches complete with “secret sauce” (dog spit).  Here is the recipe:

Crock Pot French Dip

Get out your crock pot. Try not to notice the icky drips that are stuck on the sides from the last time you used it. What IS that???

Put your beef in the crock pot. I used any cheap cut of beef that’s on sale. Today I’m using Bottom Boneless Round Steak. Pour one can of beef broth over the beef. (I’ve used chicken broth when I’m out of beef broth and it worked fine.) To this add a ½ cup of soy sauce, ½ cup of water and three garlic cloves.

Cover, plug her in, and let ‘er rip. After four hours, I like to take out the beef and slice it, then put it back in the crock pot for another hour. That way I can add salt or more soy sauce if I feel the flavor is lacking.  Serve the sliced beef on hoagie rolls with any kind of cheese, grilled onions, pickled jalepenos, and/or jarred red peppers.  Or just eat it straight out of the crock pot—it’s delish!

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday

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It was an alright day overall, excepting that my undies kept rolling down (which is way more annoying than you might think).  Surreptitiously I pulled and tugged at them from the aft and stern, however, there are so many windows and doors at my school that I’m certain someone must have spied me, covering their eyes and gasping in horror. Seriously the women I work with are so cool that if I had shared my discomfort, a serious discussion would have ensued and tales would have been told about That Time My Underwear Was Driving Me Crazy, and we all would have laughed. (Have I mentioned how much I love my job?).   The elastic has been worn out since BT (before Trump),  but somehow buying new undies never seems like a glamorous way to spend my time off. (Penciling it on my calendar, next Saturday at 9.)

We had a lovely Valentine’s Weekend, did you?  We’d thought about going to Mexico to see the whales, but ultimately decided since we are just months away from being “Empty Nesters” that we would stay home and keep William company.  Which is hilarious because we barely saw the kid.  We sighed a bit over the photos of leaping fin whales and humpback whales in the Sea of Cortez shown on Facebook, but truly it was a nice weekend just being at home.  We had happy hour with friends on Friday night.  We worked at the ASU House where our daughter lives on Saturday, finally capturing the last of the huge goldfish from the pond (read large, sunken metal bucket) and set them free in a nearby lake, followed by a nice Italian Valentine dinner out that night.  Sunday afternoon Hubby and I took a long bike ride, delivering Valentine’s Day cards to my friends in the ‘hood (a long time tradition).

After three weeks of babying my knee after tripping on the dog bed in the dark, it felt HEAVENLY to tootle about on my old bicycle (it was a present on my 30th birthday!) with Hubby by my side, the breeze in my hair, and Valentine’s surprises in my bike basket.  We biked on the curvy, hilly greenbelt paths in our ‘hood, and for this timid non-athletic person, it felt exhilarating to almost “wipe out” on a few of the sharp turns . . . and giggling with Hubby is one of my very favorite things in the whole world.

Hubby and I exchanged sappy $7 Valentine’s cards which basically said, I love being with you, and I’m so glad you’re mine.  After 32 years of knowing each other (and 27 years of marriage), I’m quite proud of that wise decision to get hitched back in 1988.  For the most part I love him, and after this many years, I know to walk away when he is making me want to punch him (like in Costco the other day).  And when he does things to annoy me, like:  blowing his nose like a flugelhorn (how does he even DO that?), snoring at night, and dropping his work shoes VERY loudly on the kitchen floor right before he leaves for work each morning, I think to myself how these are the very things I would miss if he were ever to go away.  I love you, Honey!

On to another favorite topic:  COOKING!  Yesterday It was pointed out to me from someone near and dear to me that she finds my recipes confusing.  Food for thought.  I felt really bad, since I enjoy sharing my cooking experiments here at this site and to ME the recipes make sense. So instead of rewriting the recipes I’ve morphed, I’m going to try a different approach.  I will provide a link to the original recipe of inspiration, and tell you how I changed it.  (I do not make money on my blog so it shouldn’t be a problem to link to a site.)

Tonight’s new recipe was a hit with the family.  It is called Three Cup Chicken and was sent to my via email by the NYTimes.  It is a Thai recipe and was delish!  Okay, this is what I changed:  I did not want to chop up the bone-in chicken thighs I bought on sale, so I sauteed them whole in sesame oil for 15 minutes (in two pans since there were 8 thighs), then removed them from the pans and put them in a greased 11 x 14 glass baking pan.  I preheated the oven to 350.  In the still-hot pan, I sauteed 4 T garlic, half the amount of ginger called for  (about 2 T), and the 4 chopped green onions for five minutes. I poured into the hot pan 1/4 cup rice vinegar and 1/4 cup soy sauce and sauteed for another five minutes. (I omitted the red pepper flakes entirely because they make me gassy , lol.)  I poured the garlic mixture over the chicken and baked it for 40 minutes.  I served it over rice and like I said, it was a hit.

Cheers,

Mary