I see shiny things . . .

76164-a_charlie_brown_thanksgiving-showI give up. I no longer have an attention span. Or a memory. Or a focus. I get things done but my younger self would be appalled at the way I flit from unfinished thing to unfinished thing. The chaos is disturbing. For now, I try to have something I’m working on in every room of the house. That way when I walk into any room and immediately forget why I’m standing there, I see the unfinished project, abandon whatever I had been doing previously and start on that. It’s not pretty but I’m tired of fighting it. Things still get done – no one needs to watch the process.

We’re having Thanksgiving dinner here. I think it will be 26-28 people. I’m kind of excited because we sort of have room for them this year. Last year a bunch of people were only able to get seconds by crawling under their table to escape. This year, I’ve planned emergency food exits for everyone.

20161108_231026I’ve been on a quest for a table for the screened in porch. Our old IKEA table (which served us amazingly well for nearly 12 years) could not withstand a Florida summer’s humidity and I’m pretty sure it’s harboring some kind of mutant mold. Really. After the last rain storm, there was something orange growing where the laminate top had peeled off. Two weeks ago, I stopped by my favorite thrift store – which hasn’t been kind to me lately – and low and behold – an awesome table for $18.18.  It’s times like this that I miss the suburban. I could fit anything into that car. Mike came with the truck and picked it up for me.

20161112_205857The timing is perfect. We now have two very long tables for Thanksgiving and one six foot table. It won’t be pinterest perfect but we’ll all be able to sit together, shouting from end to end and hurling rolls back and forth. I think it will be fun. Like I do, I took an old, beat-up table and made it look older and more beat up. I kind of love it. It’ll be my desk after the holidays and my current desk will return to porch duty. Hopefully, the garbage men will take away the moldy IKEA table.

20161110_184126While waiting for various layers of paint to dry on the table, I ventured into the Harry Potter closet under the stairs in search of my few Thanksgiving decorations. I had written the first chapter of Harry Potter on the little doors inside the closet when we first moved in but I’ve never been happy with them. So I started another project. Bonus? I could see the television from there so I binge-watched The Crown on Netflix while I worked on it. I think it’s fun now.  And, I thought The Crown was really well-done – great casting.

20161120_223744In final preparation for Thanksgiving, Mike made some new benches to go with the “old” new porch table but which will also be perfect for the dinner. Mike built, I painted. I think we can squeeze four small-ish people onto each one. Add the other benches we have and that’s 12-16 people. I think we have enough random chairs to fill in the rest. If not, I have lots of floor cushions.

I’m struggling to keep my focus on this post … so much to write about and so much doesn’t fit in this heading. Thanksgiving. Focus.  I’m kind of excited – we’re doing Charlie Brown themed appetizers (in a grown up way) this year. Still have to figure out how to decorate that table but it should be fun. I think I might just find a yellow sheet and paint a black chevron on it and call it a tablecloth.

Dinner is pretty standard Thanksgiving fare. I’d be happy with stuffing and gravy. I’m pretty excited about the lasagna our old neighbors are bringing – Norman makes the best lasagna ever. And, we’ll be having a mini-birthday party. Norman’s mom, Miss Mary, will be celebrating her 88th birthday with us. Isn’t that awesome? If you have any ideas on a good 88th birthday gift, let me know.

If I’m not back before then, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.


What’s Your Super Power?

Mike’s super power is cake.  Look at that thing!  It weighed about 10 pounds.  Chocolate layers of cake – each with a graham cracker crust, chocolate ganache between the layers, all covered in a marshmallow-y meringue (slightly burnt with a torch).  The best s’more ever. 

We, along with our across-the-street neighbors, invaded our old neighbors’ new home (and pool and kitchen) with cake last night to celebrate all four of their birthdays.  The kids swam, we soaked in the hot tub (to work off the amazing dinner and cake, dontcha know) and played music old enough to scare the kids into the house.  Excellent night. Happy Birthdays Lori, Platt, Vanessa and Norman!!!! 

It was nice to have a fun night. I’ve been in a funk since returning from the beach. Too much happiness, sadness and bittersweet-ness to process. I haven’t been able to collect my thoughts long enough to do anything coherent.  As a result, Ian (who leaves for Tallahassee on Wednesday) is suffering from my random attempts at shopping to get him ready, the walls are splotched with four different color paints as I try to decide on a neutral color.  I’ve never really done neutral and it’s making me crazy. The one I like is called hummus and that is just a terrible, terrible name for paint. It’s actually making me hesitate.  In addition, I’ve been setting up Andy’s school for next year, dealing with car repairs (it’s almost right!) and ghost-writing an e-book for someone.  Throw one more shiny thing at me and I might just explode or burst into tears.

But, the cake was amazing enough for me to get back here to show off my amazing husband’s talents.

My plan is to get my act together this week and get back to blogging regularly. We’ll see. 


My baby will be fourteen (14) tomorrow!  We celebrated tonight with Andy’s best friends and some of my and Mike’s best friends.  At Andy’s request, there were “Awesome Sandwiches”* and cake and ice cream and a lot of laughing all around.  I think Andy had a good time.  He’s fourteen, who knows?  

This time next year we’ll be talking about a Learner’s Permit and whether I still have the ability to get my feet quickly up to the glove box while I cling to the “Jesus” handle of the car – you know, because that is how you control a car being controlled by a new teenage driver?  For now, we’re just proud of Andy for his diplomatic temperament, his incredible ability to stick out the tough stuff and the fact that he’s hysterically funny and fun to be around.  I think he’s kind of cute too. 

Pass the tissues, I’m all ferklempt.

*Awesome Sandwiches:  London Broil, grilled and sliced super thin.  Sour dough or good Italian loaves of bread sliced open and some of the inner bits scooped out.  Heat the steak in a pan with some spicy marinara sauce.  Put steak on first layer in the bread.  Top steak with caramelized onions.  Top the onions with chopped up pepperocinis (Greek peppers).  Top the peppers with non-smoked provolone.  Stick whole thing under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and beautiful.  Slice to suit whoever is eating.  Repeat until everyone is full.

Bittersweet December . . .

I guess I knew it was coming.  Eventually everything changes.  Kids grow up.  Situations change.  But, why does it have to happen to me? I wish I had known when the boys were little that I would miss it.  But, I didn’t know it and I would not have believed it anyway.  And, I can’t say that time flew by because while I was living it I felt every excruciating/joyful minute of it.  

We finally found a night this week when all four boys were here in one place.  We decorated our trees – yes, two trees this year!  Somehow Mike and the boys make something as dainty as decorating a tree into a tackle sport.  

I just stood on the sidelines, watching Christmas Vacation and counting my blessings (l-r: Dan, Ian, Andy, Tim, Mike – it’s nice that they’re interchangeable, huh?).  We had fun – I had forgotten how ridiculous the boys are when they’re all together.  At one point Danny inhaled a mouthful of tinsel.  I’m not sure how that even happens.  I stood in the background shouting (in my most compassionate Mom voice), “I AM NOT taking you to the Emergency Room for something this stoopid!”  Ahhh . . . Merry Christmas.  

We have a kitchen tree – which is bright and decorated with all of the boys’ ornaments that they will eventually take with them when they settle somewhere for good.  It’s covered with gobs of tinsel and topped with our Harry Potter (Book 4) gnome.  I love that gnome, though about half of the people who see it cringe and grimace and ask WHY?????   C’mon people, this is the best use of an old pair of panty hose ever! 

We also have a tree in the living room this year.  It’s a skinny thing with fake snow that I’m sure will kill us with chemicals, but I love it so much.  I put all of the other ornaments on this tree.  I had never realized how many white ornaments we have.  The kids swear it looks like a tree out of one of their old “I Spy” books. 

December 19th  marked the first year without Scout.  I still miss her. 

Today was Andy’s best friend’s birthday. Paul turned 14. (Andy will be 14 in less than a month!)  We headed across the street for pizza and cake and general merriment.  Our other neighbors joined us . . . they spent the day moving into their new house that is not in our neighborhood. Their son, Connor, Andy and Paul have been inseparable since Connor moved here.  Talk about a sad group of kids.  

As we adults were talking, we realized that today was exactly 7 years since we first met these neighbors.  They were new.  They came down for Paul’s birthday.  The kids were little (Andy was 6, Danny was 14) and there was a bouncy house.  The new neighbors handled all the little kids coming out of the bouncy house missing teeth with aplomb.  I think we lost a total of 6 baby teeth that day!  

Since that day there have been so many memorable events.  Now, Connor has a learner’s permit.  All of the kids are so grown up. And the little neighborhood posse is broken up.  I think we’ll all remain friends, but it’s not the same if you cannot walk down to your neighbors’ house in your pj’s at 9 pm to see if they have two eggs and horseradish.  You know?

Today, Danny and Andy did heavy lifting to help the neighbors move to their new place.  Dan has been working all week on restoring the koi pond in the neighbors’ new yard. He’s fixed pumps and lights and all kinds of things that I would never have believed he’d be able to do just seven years ago.  

This is the first year that the kids (mine and neighbors’) did not want to decorate Christmas cookies.  I guess it’s time to retire my box of rolling pins for a while. I figure I’ll give the rolling pins as wedding gifts one day as they are marked with all of the kids names. Mike did get to make cut out cookies and decorate some with our youngest neighbor, Preston – 8 so that was something.  Waaahhhh . . . .

So, deciding to eat the lemons that life has handed to me I decided to visit some websites and learn how to make those pretty cookies you see in magazines.  (I’m joking about the lemons! My life is good, great even, but bittersweet can hit anyone at anytime, right?) If I can’t have kid decorated cookies, I want the other extreme.  

And, once again, my inability to read and follow directions was brought to the forefront.  Mike, not knowing the kids were not making cookies this year,  made a boatload of sugar cookie dough.  I think I have 12 dozen now.  I did not start until about 9 pm last night.  By eleven, poor Cally the dog was in a sugar coma from licking up icing and I was actually sugar-coated and crunchy.  

I cleaned up, went back and read the directions.  Funny how things work when you follow the instructions of multiple people who have taken the time and care to write out how they do things and photographed each little step. Who knew?  They seem to be on to something.  I’m off right now to fix last night’s cookies and start on the rest of them.  I’m not sure I am cut out for this.  (Get it? Cut out cookies . . .  sorry)

I win!

I have the coolest mom ever.  I should have said that about 35 years ago, but here it is now.  This morning Dan and my mom, aka Bing, celebrated their Sept 4/5 birthdays by skydiving.  They left here around 8 am, both looking a little gray, but in good spiritis.  Andy and I waited until about 8:30 to leave.  :::sigh:::: I got lost, of course, so we missed it all.  Fortunately, Deland Skydiving takes care of this stuff.  

By the time we caught up with Dan and my mom, they were celebrating in the bar/restaurant.  Dan bought my mom a Bloody Mary – breakfast of champions!  They were so excited and happy.  I’m just floored that my mom jumped out of a plane – on purpose!  Dan, I kind of expect that from him, but MY MOM????  She’s already talking about her next jump!  

Here are some pictures to give you a feel for their adventure!  Honestly, how many people can say they spent their 21st birthday skydiving with their grandma?  How awesome is that????? 

Dan is ready to go!

So they threw him out of the plane!

Bing might be having second thoughts.  Unfortunately? Lucky? for her that cute guy behind her is strapped to her back.  Don’t tell my dad, but they’re talking marriage . . . 

And, she jumps!!!!!!

Dan lands safely!

Bing lands safely.  

More tomorrow!

Thirteen and ????

 Oh my!  Andy turned 13 over the weekend.  As you can see, like most teenagers, he enjoys having his mother making him put on a birthday t-shirt and having his picture taken.   Yep. He loved it. 

Actually, just in time for his birthday, Andy has decided to turn semi-surly and mostly quiet.  Gah. I know it doesn’t last forever, but it sure feels like it while it does.  Fortunately, he still has enough moments where he is nice and fun, so I think we’ll make it.  

Saturday night, we had some friends over for pizza and cake.  Andy has never liked being the center of attention, so the best picture I have is of his cake – a nine-layer coconut cake that Mike made.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, Andy’s birthday and all of that, but that cake???????

THIS is the cake Andy requested. It sounds like a lot of work, but Mike whipped it up in no time. The raw, roasted  coconut is so much better than the sweetened stuff you get at the supermarket (though I love that too).  I am not a lover a cake, but, for this cake I make an exception.  

Andy and his friends had fun building a fire and running around (not necessarily in that order).  That’s the beauty of “cold” in Florida. “Cold” usually means you want flip flops, not just bare feet.  Rough stuff, I know, but that’s our reality.

I cannot believe my “baby” is 13. Everyone here just pats me on the head and laughs anymore.  I knew it was coming, but now it’s here.  Waaahhhh. 

Well, that was kind of weird.

Just finished up the opening ceremonies for the Olympics.  I like the Olympics, I know a lot of people have issues with them and I respect that.  I am not really looking for that debate here.  Leave a comment if you like, just don’t be mean.
If you watched, what did you think?  We had some friends over to watch the ceremony and to celebrate a host of July birthdays with a really ugly tower of brownies I made.  (It looked so much prettier in my head – sigh. I think some strawberries and kiwi around it might have helped – oh well, they were chocolate and delicious and they’re gone.)   
We were all talking and eating and not paying too much attention when things started.  Slow start? I dunno. I’ve never watched opening ceremonies with a group of people. I thought it was kind of strange.  I wish they had had some high-up cameras, I wonder if it looked very different from the stadium stands.  I’ll bet it did.  
Everyone left around the time Albania marched in.  Kids were crashing all over the place.  You can see Katie (the token girl in the neighborhood) crashing and she NEVER crashes.  

Mike, Andy and I (and Ian at the very end) watched it all.  I’m not a big fan of Paul McCartney, but yay! him. Good song choice and nice way to end the thing.  Now, to watch the games.

ETA (Edited to Add):  Just saw this. If you watched the opening ceremonies on NBC, they cut it out in favor of a stoopid interview with Michael Phelps (and I’m a fan of Michael Phelps). Why??? I think it’s beautiful and actually one of the more visually compelling things about the first half of the opening ceremonies.  Tribute to those who died on 7/7 after London officially became host of the 2012 games

Happy 11, Andy!

My BABY of all my babies is 11.  How is that possible?  And, then, I think to myself – I do that a lot . . . I turn 46 this year and my mom is still living her life and not clinging to me and weeping every June when my birthday rolls around.  But, really, 11?  That’s stranger to me than Danny turning 18 this past September. 

And we roll on  . . .four more inches and I will be the shortest person in the house. 

How Many Candles??????

Or, more to the point, why even have a building full of gorgeous young firefighters right here in the middle of town if they can’t come to my birthday party?  Do you see this picture?  Do you see the flame 45 birthday candles make?  It’s a wonder my hair didn’t catch fire.  Yet, no cute firemen showed up.  Just Mike and the boys.  I guess that’s fine.  

The boys made a four-layer-cake today. The cake was so pretty you’d never know how much abuse and violence was involved in it’s making! :::sniff::: 

Mike came home with beautiful flowers and a mini-sushi tray just for me.  He then proceeded to make dinner for the rest of the family.

I have to say, one year of having your family forget your birthday makes subsequent birthdays way more fun.  😉  Sure, it’s better if they never forget, but, trust me, if they do … it will never happen again.

The boys gave me the Diamond Anniversary Scrabble.
Mike gave me a Scrabble Dictionary.  Pure nerd heaven.  The scrabble board has wheels and spins in any direction!  It’s crazy.  Everyone played tonight, but I’m sure I’ll be left on my own again soon.  It’s ok, with my new board-on-wheels, I can play Scrabble with myself like the old guys playing chess in the short film before Bug’s Life.  Winner gets to wear the teeth for the day.  Here’s the link to the short, called Geri’s Game.

All-in-all, a great day to celebrate. 



Goodwill Hunting

(totally stealing the post title from the awesome ami. mental.)

But, I really did go hunting for stuff at Goodwill today (no Matt Damon – ewww and no math – double ewwww).  I found an excellent dresser for the porch to store Andy’s Lego’s and the older boys weird props and photography stuff.  It’s narrow and about 6′ long. Perfect for $30.  I started painting it tonight (with Kilz – the humidity is so high out there, the Kilz should buy us five or so years out of the thing).  

I’ve also been checking out books each week or so at Goodwill.  This year is our family vacation at the beach.  Two weeks where I have to do just about NOTHING – and even the stuff I have to do, I am doing while watching the surf so it never sucks.  Anyway, now that the boys are older and swim better than I do, I get a lot of reading done.  So, I’ve been picking books up at Goodwill as I find them.  1) I can’t afford to buy that many books new and  2)It’s pretty much a guarantee that I’ll drop the library book in the surf.  I found five interesting-looking books today and added them to my “beach shelf.”  

School stuff is cleaned up and ready for storage or donation or my “I dunno” box.  Whoo hooo.  The Desk Apprentice has been relegated to the bookshelves for the summer. I might actually put flowers or something pretty in the middle of my table for a change.  

Also at Goodwill?  I found two monster boxes of 50 birthday candles (with funky holders, no less) for $.99 each.  I have them sitting on the counter. That and the monster calendar with “MOM”S BIRTHDAY” marked on Wednesday might attract someone’s attention, right?  😉  I know you ALL have done your shopping for the big day, haven’t you?