Tag Archives: family

Leftovers can be Tasty

29 May

Here’s a little taste of something from The View From my Window

Why is it that if I preface lunch possibilities with the word, “Leftover” then at least half of my family says an automatic “no thanks” whereas if I say, “Macaroni and Cheese from a box” (which just might happen to be the same thing we had two nights ago) then they’re fine with it?

Why is it that I know that soup, for instance, is even better the next day, but that they haven’t yet learned this? Or, perhaps, they just refuse to believe it?

I have, however, discovered a trick.

If the child makes the food, the child then wants to eat it – even the leftovers!

Isn’t that a great trick? It kills several birds with one stone. 1) They’re learning to cook – a life-skill and a boon to busy mothers everywhere. 2) They’re learning the value of their work and the loss of spoiled (and rejected) food. 3) They’re learning to better appreciate the work that it takes to prepare, present, and clean up after a meal.

At least I fondly think they are.

My nephew didn’t want his face shown…so here’s his hands.

When we were out in Washington over Christmas, one of my favorite memories was cooking together with my sister and her family every evening. My sister has a large kitchen – large enough to hold 5 or 6 adults all working in the same space. Not to mention my three kids running around underfoot.

It was the most fun ever. My brother-in-law was grilling outside, though he mostly was inside with us as it was cold out. My sister was making several things as once – dips and batter for onion rings and slicing the onions too, as I recall. My husband was deep frying the rings. My nephew was making sushi which, if you’ve ever made it, you know is a detailed and many-splendored thing. I was helping him a bit by cutting veggies and tuna with his direct-from-Japan sushi knife which he warned me about with no uncertain words.

It’s very, very, very sharp.

Did I mention that it’s crazy-sharp?

I was also making chocolate chip cookies (though perhaps that was on a different night? I can’t remember – we had several of these wonderful evenings!). I am required, by law, to make Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies for my brother-in-law whenever we visit. I have lived under this law since 8th grade. I always make a double batch, because it’s hardly worth all the work otherwise. I even fried them like pancakes on their woodstove one time when the power was out for 8 days.

Aren’t they beautiful?!

I know that on one of these fun nights, my nephew made whole wheat noodles. And that on another, my nephew-in-law, who had come over for the evening with my niece and great-nephew, was in charge of deep-frying oysters. (If you pull the fryer out, you might as well get a lot of use out of it!)

The kids, during this time, were “helping”.

Boo was a helper…with the scraps.

As we worked we talked, laughed until our sides ached, and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s not often that we’re together as a family, as Minnesota is a long way from Washington, mores the pity.

The next day we ate the leftovers – the few that there were – and relived the memories of the night before. Those kinds of leftovers will never get old.

Pseudonymns in Blogland

15 May

I have been thinking – for quite awhile – about giving my family pseudonyms in blogland. I read many bloggers who do this – and they all have funny/appropriate/applicable names they have chosen for their loved one. Names which give their family members anonymity, yet also describe their personalities to some degree – I assume!

I love this idea. I love that I then wouldn’t have to call my husband “him/he”, or call my son “my son” or confuse you readers when describing my two daughters.

I have finally arrived – due to a new acquisition in our household – upon my chosen names. It’s only taken me a year.

My husband: The Sailboat King. More about this in a moment.

My son: Jack Pumpkin Head. (He’s 12. Need I say more?) I hope that using this name isn’t an infringement on L. Frank Baum’s copywrite. I tried to check but had no luck on turning anything up.

My oldest daughter: Meep. This has been her nickname for years, so it seemed appropriate.

My youngest daughter: Boo. When I was young we had a cat named Boo. She was a bit feisty. We named (with permission from her soon-to-be owners) one of our current kittens “Calli Boo” and she is an explorer, a runner, a cutie. ‘Nuf said.
Now for the explanation about my husband’s moniker.

I came to my husband a couple weeks ago with a request. A kinda major request that involves free airmiles and being away from home. He, looking slightly relieved and slightly guilty at the same time, said, “I’m glad you asked because I want to ask you something too.”

He wanted permission – my blessing ? – to buy a small sailboat. A Laser, to be exact.

The upshot: I am going out – with the kids – to Washington again this summer, and he went out to Wisconsin – with two of the kids – and bought the boat.

Then, of course, he had to sail it. I forgot that risking his life would be involved in this agreement.

Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating. He can swim well and he wears his lifejacket. When he remembers.

The only picture I have of The Sailboat King and his trusty craft. I promise, there will be more to come in days ahead!

He took the boat out the first time with his mentor-in-sailing, his boss, sailing alongside in a sailboat of his own.

Everything went well.

He then took it out for the second time by himself. In 25 mph winds.

He’s a determined guy. Two friends, passing by on their way around the lake, stopped to watch as he struggled against God and the wind to get it in the water. They, the luckies, drove away. I, on the other hand, had to watch as he tacked across the bay, nearly spilling at least once, and decided that the errands I had meant to run while he sailed would have to wait while I put “911” into my speed dial on my cell phone.

The kids and I sat in the car and winced watched. Finally, after what felt like ages, but really was only about 15 minutes, he came in to shore, happy that he’d proven he could sail in such winds…and freely admitting that he would not likely ever do it again…at least, not on purpose.

I am pleased to say that nothing was wrecked or lost despite the spills the boat took while being launched and landed. I am displeased to say that I had forgotten to reinsert my memory card into my camera so I have no shots to prove any of this ever happened.

The next day we saw one of the friends who had stopped to marvel at The Sailboat King’s tenacity.

He was pleased that The King was still alive.

As am I.

Dancing the Bolero in my SUV

3 May

I was listening to the classical music station while driving the 15 minutes home from town the other day, and a piece of music came on the radio that I hadn’t heard in a long time. A piece of music that is steeped in my family’s lore. A piece of music about which no one can be neutral.

I’m talking about Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.

I don’t know that I remember the very first time I heard this famous piece of music, but I do remember the first time I was old enough to understand my mother’s feelings about it.

She was not amused.

In fact, if there is any piece of classical music that my mother can be said to hate, it would be Bolero. I think mom’s issue with it is that she hates the repetition of it and she hates the way it makes her heart beat in the rhythm of the drums.

Mom is not a fan of drums.

My father and sister, on the other hand, love it. My dad’s love for it might come more from teasing my mom about it than from real love, I’m not sure. My sister, though, will turn the music up loud and dance around the house and, if I know her, collapse on the floor dramatically at the culmination. Well, if she doesn’t, she should.

The first time I remember hearing Bolero, I decided that I hated it, too. I decided this for several reasons. One being that it was different than anything I’d heard before, and was, therefore, suspect. (My parents listened exclusively to classical music, but this was NOT like the usual stuff they listened to.)

But the main reason I disliked it was that Mom disliked it.

Now I don’t disparage my mom at all in this telling – everyone is entitled to their opinion and, as a mom myself now, I know how hard it is to never express my opinion on anything and thereby impact my children’s opinions about those very things. It’s impossible. And our kids pick up on that.

When I first heard Bolero, I was at the age where whatever my mom thought, I thought as well. I remember looking at the Sears catalog with Mom once (remember those honking huge catalogs, the stuff of dreams and visions and uplift for short guests at the dinner table?) and every dress that she liked, I liked. I remember echoing her views about the dresses, and my sister saying scornfully, “You only like that because Mom likes it.”

“I do not!” I said. But suddenly it dawned on me that I did.

It was the beginning of autonomy.

But I had not yet reached that when Bolero came along.

And so, for many years (not giving a lot of thought to Ravel or his Bolero) I disliked it.

And then one day, along about late high school or early college, it dawned on me that I actually liked Bolero! I actually got a kick out of the repetition, the change in each repeat, the different instruments entering in (and trying to identify those instruments as they did so), the rise in volume and intensity. I especially liked the rapid slide at the end, signifying the dancer’s collapse on the stage in an exhausted heap. (At least in my mind that’s always what happens at the end!)

All these thoughts went through my mind as we drove home the other day – dancing along as best I could while in the driver’s seat – listening to Bolero.

And my daughter, in all her five-year old wisdom, said (without prompting), “I don’t like this music! Can we listen to something else?”

I laughed out loud and turned up the volume.

Being very careful to keep my opinions to myself as I did so.

When we got home, I stopped the car in the driveway and we listened to the last couple minutes. I laughed in delight when it came to a crashing end.

My daughter’s response? “Finally it’s over! Can I put on Veggie Tales now?”

I found this link to Bolero on You Tube and it’s 5 minutes of your life that will not be wasted if you give it a watch. It is vastly shortened from its usual 15 or so minutes, but that’s fine – you can find the whole thing on You Tube or anywhere else if you like.

This is a “flash-mob” made up of members from the Copenhagen Philharmonic in Copenhagen’s Central Station. I love the way the musicians gradually enter in (which is so perfect for Bolero, as it’s a gradually building piece of music), and the realization that dawns on the faces of the audience as they sit on the floor, point, whisper, and clap wildly at the end.

I absolutely love this video.

If you’d rather watch it actually on You Tube, click below.

Ravel’s Bolero

Polly Put the Kettle On

1 Nov

When I was expecting our first child, Colin bought me a tea set. That particular child doesn't appreciate it, but our two girls do!

So, having written about coffee last week, I felt that tea deserved equal time. Not iced tea – it’s far too cold for that right now – No, I’m talking about hot tea. “Polly put the kettle on” kind of tea.

Tea is in my blood, though it took me 40 years to be comfortable with that. My grandparents came from Scotland, which, as anyone who has British connections knows, means “Tea” with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “Cure-all”.

Even the screen-play writers of Harry Potter know this, when, in one of my favorite bits, Ron Weasley suggests, somewhat sheeplishly, that the harassed Harry and Hermione have a cup of tea because, “My mom always says that helps.” Molly Weasley is right: tea does help. It’s in the British psyche.

A Peter Rabbit tea set from my mom. Chamomile tea only, if you please!


My mother, being raised by good Scots (though in the United States), has this hard-wired into her brain. This was proven when her cousin and her family came as houseguests, many years ago, all the way from Maine. Living on an island means that people like to come for a visit. (Strange how no one seems to want to visit the prairie.) When we were expecting company, Mom’s hearing became acute. Every tiny sound from outside was a car and every car was filled with the expected loved-ones. (Which, to be fair, living on a seldom-used dirt road as we did, was often true.) Finally we heard a real car, and it was really them. We went running down the gravel path, Mom’s arms open wide.

Hugs were exchanged (translation: we kids blushed awkwardly) and then, immediately following the words, “You must be so tired,” Mom said, “Come in for a nice cup of tea”. The cousins BURST OUT in laughter. “We knew it!” they cried. “We KNEW it!”

Cue a bemused look on Mom’s face.

One of the kids explained. “We took bets that, if you were a true family member, you’d offer us tea first thing.” Everyone laughed, everyone understood. And the kettle was put on.

I bought this in Tunisia for my mom way back in 1987. Service for 6!


Yes, tea is the cure-all. But then there’s me: the odd-ball in the family. As a second generation American, the tea-lust has been diluted. Apparently Dad’s German blood was still at war against the Allies in this case. I grew up not understanding Mom’s need for A Cup of Tea in the middle of the morning, A Cup of Tea in the afternoon, A cup of Tea before bed. I didn’t like the stuff. Not even a little bit. And I felt, though I never said it, that there must be something wrong with me. Did I really belong in this family?

I tried to fit in. On our honeymoon in Victoria, B.C., Colin and I visited my great-aunt who, being a good Scot herself, offered us tea. In my great ignorance, I accepted – both the cream and the lemon – which, as any person with half a culinary brain can tell you, is nothing more or less than a curdled mess. Tea was (unfairly and permanently) relegated to the “gross” category in my mind. (My dear Aunt Jenny never knew of my foolish behavior that day and, unless she’s reading this from heaven, she never will.)

This one has been used more than any of my tea sets. For some 35 years it was pristine. Then Lucy came along.


It took an airplane ride on British Airways, 14½ years later, to change my mind. I know, I know – airplane tea? How can that possibly have done the trick? Well, I was thirsty. And if ever I was going to try tea again, I figured this was the time. So, on the airplane flying from Paris to Berlin via London last February (I know, wrong direction: long story) when they asked if I’d like tea, I said, “yes”. The matronly flight attendant didn’t ask if I wanted cream in it – she just assumed that I knew the proper way to drink it – and she poured it liberally in.

I loved it. Suddenly whole new horizons opened before me, rising faster than London on our descent. “I’m not an adopted orphan from some non-tea-drinking country!” I held out my pinky. (Lucy would have been so proud.) I sipped like a pro. I inhaled the fragrant steam. I BELONGED.

Do you belong?

I do have an actual adult-sized tea set! Just don't forget the cream.


P.S. – If you ever plan on serving me tea, please, please have half and half on hand and please, please, please, in the name of all that is good and right in the world, look the other way if I nervously add lemon along with my cream. Perhaps you should have extra tea on hand. Just in case.

The Ruler of her Universe

1 Oct

Lucy and I are tip-toeing through the house with our couch-pillow shields and a burned-out lightsaber. Or, as my fearless leader calls it, “lightsaver”.
Her curly hair is completely unruly today, though she has tried to tame it with ten “hair pretties” of assorted color and dubious success. The effect is quite stunning.
“We’re going through the peanut butter river,” Princess Lucy tells me. “If we get hungry, we can [she mimes slurping] lick it.”
“How much better can this get?” I wonder, licking the air with great exuberance. “Tasty!” I say.
“This is the one-th time I’ve had it,” she says, glancing back at me to see if she said that right.
I can’t help but laugh, though I try to cover it up by admiration. “The ‘one-th’ time?” I ask, confirming what I heard.
“Yep.” She gives me a hard look. “Is that right?”
“Well, no, but I like it.”
“It’s ‘first’, isn’t it?”
“Yes, though that’s not near as fun to say.”
Undaunted, she plows ahead. “We have to get the bad guys, Mama. Oops – ” she cuts herself off, shaking her head, “I mean, ‘Josie’. And I’m not Lucy, I’m Princess Rosa.”
“Okay, I’ll try to remember.”
“You’re not very good at remembering that, mostly.”
“I know. Yet somehow, you survive.”
“Shhh,” she says, and I wonder if she’s trying to change the subject or playing the game. “They’re behind the play house.” She puts her finger to her lips. “We must whisper.”
“Are you certain that they’re there?” I ask worriedly.
“Yes. I saw them before they ducked behind.” She mimes “ducking” and nods her head seriously. “They’re there, trust me.” She puts a finger to her lips. “Shhh. They are good of hearing.”
“Okay,” I say, biting my tongue to keep a straight face. “But what do I do since I have no weapon?”
She looks around, considering. “You can use this microphone,” she forgets the whispering rule as she grabs the suggested item from beneath the piano bench and hands it over.
“Do I sing them to death?” I inquire with a straight face.
She looks at me pityingly. “No, Mom. You pretend.”
“Ah,” I nod my head sagaciously and grip the microphone, ready to take on the baddies.
“I hear them!” she cries. “Follow me!”
Together we creep around the play house, weapons at the ready, and fall upon the unsuspecting – but for some reason, terribly offensive – pod of whales.
“With my microphone I jab at thee!” I cry.
“Mom. You don’t have to say that,” she turns to look at me. “We got them already.” She is almost – but not quite – rolling her eyes at me.
“Oh, we did?” I am surprised because it was so easy; so quick. Almost as if the baddies gave up without a fight.
“Yes, they’re nice now.”
I look at the lavender dolphin masquerading as a whale, and the gray creature that I think might also be a dolphin and I smile. “Oh, well, that’s great! I like friendly whales.”
“Me, too. Let’s have a tea party for them. They can be our guests.”
“Yes, I’d like that.”
We gather up the dolphins formerly known as vicious whales and walk up the stairs to the coffee table, where a tea party is always ready and waiting and the guests are always kind and multi-colored.
Care to join us one day? You’d be welcome. Just don’t be surprised if you’re asked to play the role of a servant, because the queenly roles are all taken. By Lucy. Every single one of them.

Oh, to be four and the ruler of the universe once again.

The Morning After the Previous Two Months

16 Aug

The whole family! Three angry French villagers...plus two nice Americans who came to the show!

So…our community theater production of Beauty and the Beast is over and now I hardly know what to do with myself. Just kidding! You mean I actually have energy and time to cook? I’m home in the evenings to hang with the kids? I don’t have to wake up each morning and go over the lyrics to my songs before I even get out of bed? Wow. I like normal life.

But, that being said, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m glad I did it. Colin is glad he did it, and Katie is thrilled that she did it. It’s been fun getting to know people we either didn’t know before or only knew at a distance. It’s been fun exercising our rusty skills, doing things we hadn’t done in years, if ever. Yes, it’s even been fun “dancing”…though I never thought I’d say that a few weeks ago. I actually found myself thinking, “What? I was worried about this?”

Ian and The Beast!


One of the joys of doing live performance is, of course, the crowd’s reaction. When the crowd is more responsive, it gives us, the performers, more energy. It was in the third performance (out of six) that I discovered this. The crowd laughed more, they clapped more, they radiated energy…and we were exponentially more “tuned in” to our performance when they showed us how much they enjoyed it. It was so fun! “They like us, they really like us!”

I’m only on stage for three songs, though I have backstage duties during the rest of the time. In fulfilling these duties I have learned several things. 1) After setting down Gaston’s chair (in the dark) exit stage LEFT…that way you don’t bump into the Silly Girls (who are also entering in the dark). 2) When your husband warns you that your flower cart – which has sat in the corner of the family room for years doing nothing – will never be the same again after its debut as a bookseller’s cart, BELIEVE HIM. (No, acting hasn’t gone to its head, but its wobbly wheel is going to force it into an early retirement.) 3) You must UNTIE BELLE’S LACES ALL THE WAY if you’re going to get it over her head and microphone pack in the two and a half minutes you have to redress her for the ballroom dancing scene. 4) Always have fingernail polish in your costume bag for those untimely runs in your black “Villager #2” stockings. 5) When you see your husband laughing until he cries – laughing like you haven’t seen him laugh in years – just sit back and enjoy it. This is good. This is part of our developing story. 6) If you’re going to buy a “prop cheese” from the actual grocery store, be sure that there’s a fridge you can keep it in between performances, otherwise it will look and smell more like Roquefurt than Colby Jack.

Beast, Menu, Lumiere and Belle!


One other thing I have learned: if your director asks you, the night before the first performance, to do the scream in the mob scene where everyone first sees the beast in the mirror, don’t underestimate the power of a good Faye Wray scream. I didn’t know I could scream. I have avoided screaming for many years. In fact, when I was in 4th grade and played the part of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, I had to ask another girl to do my death scream. I’m not a screamer, but I grimaced (in character) and obeyed when he asked me to. Well, apparently, now I have a reputation. I cannot tell you the number of people who have said, “You do a great scream!” Who knew?!

We had an evening off last week and Colin put on The Music Man (apparently we’re now all about the musicals) and an interesting thing happened while we watched. Lucy and Katie began to dance around the room, they were dramatic, they were expressive, they were acting. I think – and I’m only just now realizing this – that we’ve watched less television since all this has happened, too. There are other things to do…better things…things like dressing up in outfits that trip the wearer (sending them into fits of laughter), and wearing crazy hats, and singing at the top of our lungs while roasting hot dogs in the back yard.

Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth!


Another thing I enjoyed was the multi-generational aspect of community theater. It’s been fun to work with the “little girls” (“We aren’t ‘little,’” they insist). And it’s been fun to work with…well, okay, I’m like almost the oldest performer there, so nevermind about that contrast.) But it’s been especially fun to work with the high schoolers. I haven’t spent much time around high schoolers in the 23 years since I’ve graduated and there are certain things I forgot about. Energy. Shyness. Energy. Self-consciousness. Talent. And did I mention energy?

Lucy wouldn't get her picture taken with the Beast...but Belle was another story!


It’s funny, performing. You do things you never knew you could do. You gain confidence. You gain perspective. You gain friends. Yes, it’s possible that you gain aches and pains from the granny boots you have to wear that used to fit you before you had children but which decidedly DON’T fit you any more…but hey, those things are temporary. They’re forgettable. So forgettable that, it’s possible, I’d do something like this again someday. Especially if there’s screaming involved.

So now my boots have been tossed in the back of the closet where they belong, my Villager #2 tights with the red finger-nail polish “patches” have been thrown away, Lucy has her fake vegetables back because I no longer have to pretend to buy them, and all my kind friends no longer have to avoid answering the phone because I won’t be bugging them to watch Lucy and Ian during rehearsal and/or performances any more. (A HUGE thanks to everyone who was willing to take them for us!) Nor will I be bugging everyone I see to, “Get your tickets today!”
But there’s one thing that isn’t done: I’m still singing the songs in my head.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, I never hit that high note again. Not once.

QUESTION: Have you ever done community theater and what was your experience?

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