Thursday, October 25, 2007

San Diego October 2007

My husband and I spend two weeks in Carlsbad, CA every Fall. This year our weeks coincided with the worst fire disaster in California history. We observed the early stages of the Witch Creek fire from the air as we approached San Diego Airport on Sunday morning. Ironically, our rental car was upgraded to a convertible. Little did we know that the air would be too full of ash to even put the top down. The sky was blue over San Diego and held the promise of a beautiful day as we headed north on the I-5 toward Carlsbad. We were alarmed as we encountered heavy smoke but it cleared and the sky was once again blue as we arrived.

Monday morning the sky over Carlsbad remained blue, a small isolated, clear patch between the fires to the north and south of us. As we scanned the sky over the Pacific, a growing wall of gray-brown smoke formed to the south. We watched as birds flew in that direction, wondering if they would turn back as they approached the smoke. There was no hesitation on their part; they simply flew straight into the smoke and disappeared. By evening. the smoke from the fires connected somewhere over the Pacific, forming a dark, continuous layer between the ocean and the clear sky above.

Tuesday morning the patch of blue sky over Carlsbad had disappeared, replaced by the pale haze of smoke from the surrounding fires. By the end of this day there would be a mandatory evacuation notice for parts of Carlsbad, starting a mere three miles to the south of us. Everything had a fine layer of soot on it and many people wore face masks to filter the air they were breathing. The ocean front sidewalks usually so full of dog walkers, joggers, strollers and surfers was eerily empty. Hastily printed signs appeared on the doors of small shops saying, "Closed due to the fire. We will reopen tomorrow. Stay safe."
Our resort was booked to capacity, as were all other resorts, motels and hotels in the area. I met a woman who had spent the night in her car in the parking garage. I offered to share our condo with her (we have a sofa bed for guests) and a place to freshen up. She was on her way to check on some 35 animals she had removed from her kennels in the fire zone to a safe area further north in Oceanside. I waited all that day, hoping to hear from her. Then just as we were leaving for dinner, there she was, checking in! They had a room for her and all was well for another day. I haven't heard from her since and can only pray that her property was one that was spared.
The fires continue and containment, meaning only that the fire has been surrounded, not extinguished, is not expected until November in some cases. The citizens of this area have been remarkable for their calm acceptance of what had to be done and what remains to be done. It is humbling to be a guest in this city where so many are suffering. We feel guilty that we have chosen these weeks to be carefree while so many around us wait to see whether they will even have a home. Everyone has been touched by this firestorm and we can only stand in awe of the strength, generosity and hope of the people of San Diego county.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Hardly seems like Halloween is just a couple of weeks away. The temps are near 70 and the leaves are still green! When you do feel in the mood, or to get yourself in the mood, try some of these recipes.

Ghost Meringues, which are basically Forgotten Cookies styled as ghosts.
Whip these up before you go to bed, leave them in the oven overnight and they will be ready for your kids the next day. Great for gluten free diets. Substitute Splenda if you are avoiding sugar.

2 egg whites
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla
chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat oven to 350. Beat egg whites until soft peak stage then start adding sugar gradually as you continue to beat. Beat at high speed for 5 minutes then fold in vanilla.

Drop meringue from a tablespoon onto the pan, swirling it to create a ghost shape. Take care not to press too hard and make the cookies thin. They should not get much thinner than 1/2". Place 2 chips for the eyes and 1 for the mouth.

Put into the oven and turn off the heat. Leave overnight or 8 hours. Makes about 18 - 24 cookies depending on the size.

Caramel Apples are a favorite with older kids and they can even help!
This recipe will make 6 small apples.

6 small Granny Smith apples
1 lb bag caramels (freeze for 20 minutes and the wrappers will peel off easily)
2 T water
popsicle or craft sticks
chopped walnuts - optional

Wash, dry and skewer apples with the sticks. You can make a small slit with a paring knife in the blossom end to get it started.

Add caramels and water to a large saudepan over medium-low heat, stirring until melted and smooth.

Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment paper, waxed paper or foil and butter or spray with nonstick spray.

Dip apples into the melted caramel, spooning caramel over the tops, and allow the excess to drip off. If desired, dip into chopped nuts and swirl to coat. Place apples on the lined sheet or tray and allow to set.

This recipe works best if not doubled. Simply repeat the process for another batch of apples.

Dottie's Applesauce Gingerbread A recipe from a friend of my mother. This is real Fall comfort food and it couldn't be easier.

1 28oz jar applesauce
1 box gingerbread mix
1/2 c water
whipped cream or ice cream
chopped nuts, optional

Bring the applesauce to a boil in a 3 quart saucepan that has a lid.

Mix the gingerbread mix and water (it will be quite stiff) and drop by large spoonsful into the applesauce.

Cover tightly and cook over low heat for 22 minutes. NO PEEKING!

Serve warm with whipped cream and nuts or vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I have spent some time over the past two days looking for websites and blogs by and about WAHG's. What is a WAHG you ask?

I am a WAHG. A Work At Home Grandma.

And I am feeling quite isolated. I have been, at one time or another, a Stay At Home Mom, a Work At Home Mom as well as a Still At Work Mom. There are lots of sites and blogs by, for and about these Moms. I have read literally hundreds of blogs by SAHMs, WAHMs and SAWMs and am truly impressed by their creative expression and amazing achievements both as women and as moms. Their lives are overflowing and yet they still find the time to post to Tackle it Tuesdays, Wordless Wednesdays and Throwback Thursdays as well as maintaining their own blogs and websites.

But where are the mature Moms and/or the young Grandmas who are still involved with balancing family and working lives? Where are their websites and blogs? Google "blogs by grandmas" and you find sites by or about grannies in their 80's, their quilts, recipes, knitting, pearls of wisdom, or illnesses.

Have we made such a distinction between young moms and older moms that we have created a schism between the two?

Perhaps the young moms have yet to appreciate that once you are a mother, you are always a mother. Even though my baby is twenty-eight year old, I don't stop being his mother. Naturally, my tactics change, my involvement changes and my usefulness changes. But that doesn't stop me from worrying about him or offering my help from time to time. And because he is also a wise son, he asks for my input from time to time as well. I am pleased when my children ask for my opinion, amused when they discover something about parenthood and proud as they grow into productive, loving and generous individuals and parents.

My point is that Moms are tuned into caring for their children from day one and that doesn't stop when the kids leave home. I may be older now but I'm still a mom at heart. And when you stop to consider that there are women becoming moms in their 50's, there has to be room in the Motherhood for us all. While fashion, medicine and technology change, our experience as a mom, whether working away from home or at home, is universal and timeless.

Think about what we share:

pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, weaning

exhaustion, worrying over a fussy baby, caring for a sick child

that first smile, separation, day of school

finding the time/space/energy/money/inspiration/keys/shoe/answer

managing the household/shopping/schedule/clutter/appointments

learning how to nurture/feed/teach/inspire/discipline/console/encourage

finding time for ourselves

I don't profess to have wisdom or even all the answers. Give me another 20 years so! But I am a valuable resource! Let's hear it for all the boomer moms and grandmas, at home and in the work force! Go SAWGs and WAHGs!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Making a List...Checking it Twice

I like to make lists.
I need to make lists.
I am addicted to making lists.

I make lists for just about everything. My mother was a list maker. My father became a list maker and so did my brother. I hadn't realized there was a gene for lists but I think there might be. I'll have to check with my sons to see if they share this trait.

As soon as an event gets space on the calendar, a list is born. The farther into the future it is, the greater the number of lists that can be generated. My thinking is that the process of writing a list frees up valuable space in my brain for more important, creative endeavors. And, once the details are committed to paper, I no longer need to fret over what I might possibly forget. Of course, that gives rise to the fear that I will lose the list...which I do...all the time. Either lose it or leave it behind (and this after putting it in plain sight, right where I couldn't possibly forget it). You can imagine my moments of panic when a list cannot be found and I must rely on my so called memory. So I keep churning out lists.

Just in case you think I am joking about the role of lists in my life, I have prepared a list of my current lists, works in progress if you like:

To Do list for week ending Oct 12th
To Do list for week ending Oct 19th
Grocery list
Menu ideas for weekend dinner with A & R
Fall clean-up list
Packing list for trip to CA
List of reach numbers and instructions for family while we are gone
To Do list for A's company
Thanksgiving Dinner list
Holiday party themes for One Mom and a Party
Holiday menus for One Mom and a Party
Birthday gift list for Nov and Dec birthdays
Christmas gift list
Winter packing list for SC
To Do list for website

Now either this makes me very organized or a control freak. Either way, I am now comforted that I have stared down chaos and restored a semblance of order to my life. Not to mention all that extra space in my brain.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Soup Weather?

Twice a year four couples on our street get together for a Progressive Dinner. If you haven't tried one, it's a great way to entertain without the stress of planning and preparing a multi-course meal. Each couple prepares one course and everyone moves from house to house for each course, from appetizers, soup or salad, entree and finally to dessert.

Last night we had a Harvest Progressive Dinner, complete with appletinis, soup, pot roast, apple and pumpkin pies. A perfect Fall weather feast, planned at a time when we expected to have typical Fall weather. But for the past week we have enjoyed a glorious extension of summer weather with temperatures in the 80's, not at all typical for the northeast.

Nevertheless we persevered in our celebration of Autumn. Our porches boast marigolds, pumpkins, Fall wreaths and our tables were decorated with fall foliage, fruit and acorns.

My course was soup/salad and I opted for soup thinking how much we would enjoy it on a chilly evening. I made a cauliflower soup garnished with tomato, kalamata olives, goat cheese and fennel fronds. It was really very easy to prepare, just a lot of chopping.

2T plus 2t evoo
1 large cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped
4 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cans chicken broth plus 2 cans water
1T kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1/4 t saffron threads
16 pited kalamata olives, cut into slivers
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
8 T crumbled goat cheese

Heat 2T evoo in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add cauliflower, fennel, potatoes and onion and cook stirring constantly 4 minutes. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and sweat mixture 10 minutes.

Add broth, water, salt, bay leaves and saffron. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover pot and simmer 25 minutes stirring several times or until veggies are very tender. Uncover, remove from heat and puree directly in the pot using an immersion blender or puree in a blender in 3 batches.

Combine olives, tomatoes and remaining 2t evoo in a small bowl. Ladle soup into bowls and top each with a spoonful of the olive mixture. Top with crumbled goat cheese, freshly ground balck pepper and a fennel frond. Serves 8

So by 11:30 pm, the air still unseasonably warm, we were walking home, our Harvest Progressive Dinner a delicious memory. Despite the warm weather, there was one undeniable sign that Fall had arrived. The Saturday Night Football Purdue v. Ohio State game started at 8:00pm so the entree and dessert courses also included some time around the tv. Some things just are not affected by the weather.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hamburger, Lamburger

My firstborn son is a sheep farmer...or is that sheep rancher? I think in New York State we have farms, not ranches. I called him a shepherd but I was wrong. He says he is a "flock master."

Since we are a major investor in the sheep farm, the flock master gifts us with all the lamb we want. Now understand, this means the entire lamb....not just a rack or a leg or some chops. We are all familiar with those cuts. The lamb shanks are not a problem either, think lamb osso bucco. The shoulder chops were just a bit on the tough side so when it came time to tackle a shoulder roast, I decided that a shoulder deconstructed was the way to go. After separating all the bits of meat from the gristle and sinew, I marinated them overnight in evoo, garlic, lemon juice and mint. Next day I threaded the little morsels onto skewers and grilled them with peppers, mushrooms,onions and potatoes.

I tell this story because last night we used up the last of the lamb "hamburger" or so it was labeled. I think "lamburger" is a more appropriate name. And on the lamburgers I used the last of the mint sauce I had made for the skewered lamb. In fact, the lamburgers were so good I would even consider entering the recipe in a "hamburger" contest. I just need to tweak a few things. Like how to make the burger so it doesn't fall apart and how to size the burger so it fits into the human mouth.

While I do believe that the best burger is one that drips and oozes and ultimately falls apart while you are eating it, I take issue with the BIG burger that doesn't fit into your mouth even for that first bite. Unfortunately, after the ciabatta bread, the tapenade (recipe follows), the feta, the onions, the tomato, the lettuce and the lamburger, taking that first bite was a challenge. Complicating the matter was the fact that the burger itself was falling apart. Now lamburger is not what I would call lean so I simply mixed it with garlic powder, salt & pepper, some of my homemade mint sauce (recipe follows) and some ketchup. They barely made it off the grill in one piece and eating the completed lamburger was beyond our abilities. So we ate the lamb with a fork accompanied with the remaining bread and toppings in hand. Delicious! Just not a dish that would win over a judge until I can figure out how to get it from plate to mouth!

TAPENADE I made this as an appetizer last week and had some leftover for the burgers.

1 c pitted kalamata olives
1 c pitted domestic black olives
3 T grated romano cheese
1 T pureed garlic
1 t fresh basil, minced
1/2 c evoo

In a food processor chop olives until finely chopped. Combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Makes 2 cups. Serve with bread, crackers. Good on lamburgers.

MINT SAUCE Made this up to go with the skewered lamb. Used the leftovers mixed into the lamburgers and also spooned on top of the cooked burger. Soooo good!

1/4 c water
2T sugar
1/4 c finely chopped mint
1/2 c fig balsamic vinegar (or malt vinegar)

Combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in mint and vinegar. You may increase the sugar if desired.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


If you haven't visited, take a minute to check it out. It's written by twin sisters, Susan and Janice, both of whom were expecting baby girls in October.

I say were because one sister, Janice, gave birth to baby Olivia last week! Congratulations! Baby Olivia was warmly welcomed by her family and the blogging community, everyone thankful for her safe arrival. Every birth is a miracle unto itself and the wonder of it all never ceases to amaze.

I have a miracle Olivia too. That's her picture as Princess Olivia. She's my little 4 year old granddaughter, as active, fearless and rambunctious as they come. But there was a time when Olivia's life was at risk. Early ultrasounds revealed that she had a condition known as gastroschisis. In Olivia's case this meant that her tiny intestines had not been enclosed in her body; they were resting outside her body. I'm sure that if this had happened back in the 70's when my children were born, baby Olivia would not have survived long. In fact, I didn't even have ultrasounds for my first two babies! But in 2003, there was a procedure available to insert her intestines back into her body through her umbilical opening. She had to be heavily sedated for the days prior to and after the surgery and there were all the risks that any neonatal surgery entails, not to mention the complications that could follow.
Olivia was delivered naturally, amazingly enough. You would think a C section would be less traumatic for her, but the doctors said not. Her parents said "hello" to her in the delivery room and then she was whisked away. She wouldn't get the newborn cuddling until she was recovering from her surgery and I know she missed it. After she came home, she would snuggle into your arms so tightly, as though she just couldn't get close enough. Sure, her system was sensitive, but by and large she sailed through her first year without complications.

Olivia's parents took pictures of their little baby before, during and after her treatment. They were uncertain whether they should.....and whether at a later date they should even show Olivia the photos of her newborn condition. The only sign that she had this lifesaving surgery is her navel that is a tiny bit larger than most. Maybe it's best just to leave it at that.
I should mention that Olivia is an absolutely fearless child.....she jumps off decks, swings from playground equipment with utter abandon, runs like the wind. I think she doesn't know fear because she has already seen the face of God. And she will tell you that she knows she wasn't alone when she was a little baby. She doesn't have a face to go with the memory, but she recognizes a scent. Every once in a while she will ask, "Mommy, what is that smell?" Mommy doesn't know but Olivia will tell her that it was the smell she remembers when she was being held when she was born. Yes, a miracle.