Category Archives: Hobbies and Fun

Days of Summer: Week 6 – fluid

It’s Wednesday again, somehow that happens with quite a bit of regularity and without prompting. Wednesday follows Tuesday and precedes Thursday, always.

It’s early in the morning and my coffee has yet to take full effect, but it seems as if the past week has been fluid, but when I look back at the daily Instagram photographs, there were distinct events, moments which mattered.

the White Sox were better than my Astros – the score was 10-1. We got clobbered

The back yard is in full bloom. My wife’s planning and hard work are evident. My role is garden assistant and enjoyer. Nature has cooperated by providing ample sunshine and rain.

The backyard birds continue to visit the feeders. and I continue to refill them. The squirrels and bunnies continue to tease and taunt (mostly the squirrels) Fern and Ivy. Continue reading Days of Summer: Week 6 – fluid

remembering mom

Every time I roast a chicken, I think of my mom. Every time single time.

and after…

Friday night, I cooked dinner. Roasted chicken with rosemary and thyme, green beans, and a salad. It was just me, and Fern.

We are at the lake for the weekend, and it was just the two of us. I cut open the package and pulled the chicken out of the plastic wrapping, placing it in the sink and removing the neck and the giblets from inside the bird. I rinsed the bird and carefully patted it dry. My mom taught me that a crispy skin is because it’s skin is dry and light coated with olive oil. I placed the neck and giblets in a small saucepan, covered them with water, and placed them on the stove. Exactly like my mom taught me. I turned the burner to low and allowed the pan to slowly cook the contents – this part of the bird was for Fern.

I patted the chicken’s skin dry a final time before I placed it in a cast iron skillet lightly coating it with olive oil and then sprinkling it with black pepper and dried thyme and rosemary on the back, the breast, and legs of the bird pressing spices onto the skin. Then I placed it in the oven at 425˚F and waited.

Within a few minutes the aroma of a roasting chicken filled the cottage.

While it cooked, I fed Fern sprinkling some of the broth from her part of the bird and its some meat gleaned from the neck. Mom taught me that a whole chicken could feed a family and a dog. Every time I cook a whole chicken, I feed the dogs, too.

It took almost an hour in the oven and while it roasted, I busied myself with other chores and then prepared the salad and the green beans. I pulled the roasted bird out of the oven, checked the temperature, and then let it rest a few moments before carving off a thigh and a drumstick and plating it with green beans and a generous portion of the salad.

While I ate, I thought of mom and all she taught me to do and to be. Continue reading remembering mom

Today is the day

It’s Thursday morning and I am the only soul awake. Even Ivy sleeps. She woke when I did, went outside, and came back to the screen door and I let her inside. She is curled up in a ball on the footstool, grandma’s footstool. It’s Ivy’s perch, so to speak. The footstool comes with grandma’s chair, it’s grandma’s morning perch when she is here, too. There’s a marked depression where she lays and it’s now part of the cottage. Last summer, when grandma was up north, Ivy came over to the footstool, put her head on grandma’s leg and looked up, pleading. Grandma held her ground and Ivy retreated to her pad by the door. This morning Ivy jumped up on the stool without asking, though sometimes she does ask but this morning she didn’t.  I did not protest, as I often do, or almost always, she warmed my legs while I sipped my coffee and gazed out across the lake as early morning slipped into day and the lake slowly returned to light.

Ivy and the footstool
Ivy and the footstool

Yesterday was windy and it wasn’t a good day for boating, Tuesday was windy, as well, and taking the kayak out was a struggle, but I did it anyway. Today looks like it will windy and the lake will be choppy for another day. Nevertheless, I have other tasks to do; there is always something to do, to keep busy, some important task that needs to be accomplished. Continue reading Today is the day

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

It was good to talk with you this past Sunday and great to hear your voice. I am glad you got the letter I wrote in Michigan.

I gonna sit right down and right myself a letter....
I gonna sit right down and right myself a letter….

I write a lot about growing up on my blog. I reflect and write how growing up made me who I am, why I do what I do, and why I think the way I think. I have never taken an accounting of the balance on my blog posts between you and dad. If I had to guess at a ratio, it would be mostly dad, about 70 – 30. Abraham Lincoln said it best, or maybe wrote it:

“The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.”

The complete quote is, “There are no accidents in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future. All these are links in the endless chain stretching from the finite to the infinite.”  From the Lincoln Nobody Knows by Richard M. Current (1958).

But, it really should be 50-50, after all I am a product of the two of you.

Every once in a while I’ll call to thank you for something or to apologize for all of the headaches and heartaches I put you through growing up, especially that period between 13 to 25. I don’t know how you did it considering since that period of time was magnified three-fold and lasted until we all grew up.

Growing up is a process and I continue to grow and mature, even at my age. When I stop learning and growing, it’ll be time.

Thank you for all that you shared with me that shaped me into who I am.

I love to cook because you love to cook. You taught me that it was okay to fail, as long as I learned from it and moved on. Your maxim of no comments until after dinner is good advice for a cook. You taught me to be open to new foods and even though we were young, we all remember Julia Child’s kidney recipe as well as Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, S.O.S. – dad’s recipe from the Marine Corps – and so many other foods and dishes. Continue reading Dear Mom,

Weekly Photo Challenge – Silhoutte

an A340 glides out of the sun for a landing at O'Hare - Sunday August 17th
an A340 glides out of the sun for a landing at O’Hare field – Sunday August 17th

Lately, it seems I have been very good at coming up with diversions. Errands, movies, games, practices; and on the surface, they appear legitimate, but really, they are distracting. O and I have been distracting ourselves quite well, lately. Honestly, I think we are both nervous about the coming year. She is headed off to 6th grade in three days and I am headed to 8th grade science. Saturday, I took her to O’Hare to watch airplanes land and takeoff after getting her new eyeglasses, and we did it again yesterday after the softball game. Granted, O’Hare was close, but there were so many more important things we could have been doing, but we were distracting ourselves from what’s important.

1999 was my first year of teaching. I was in 6th grade and I lasted a year at the grade level before my promotion to 7th grade. Continue reading Weekly Photo Challenge – Silhoutte

Roadside beach

Sometimes you just have to pull over and take time and breathe.

“The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller (1880-1968); Author, Lecturer, Activist

sunset, Lake Michigan - eastern shore, June 8, 2014

I was up north for the weekend. I drove north Friday night and came home, reluctantly, Sunday evening. Saturday was busy. It was full of chores and full of pulling in air, something I desperately needed. Saturday afternoon, I slow-cooked a pork butt on the grill and made my famous cucumber and red onion salad, at least it’s famous to me. It tastes like summer. I sliced off some pork slathering it with BBQ sauce Continue reading Roadside beach

Priorities

I missed writing last weekend. Truly. We went away for the weekend – we went north to the cottage. I had a lot to say, or so I thought. Somehow, time got away from me and I didn’t write. In fact, I didn’t even open my laptop. I existed solely on my iPad and phone; and did precious little on them. It was time to restore – a time to rest and relax.

It was our last long weekend of winter and we wanted to head up north for one last snowy weekend. The kids could ski, snowboard, and play in the snow. I know we had a lot of snow here, but it is different up north. B and I could relax and just breathe. We did all that, but the kids didn’t ski or snowboard: they did play in the snow and had fun outside, even Ivy got into the mix playing in the snow. We had a fire Saturday night and I cooked. Just as dinner was ready, we sat down to play cards. Then, some of our lake friends joined us; and we played a very spirited card game. The rules are somewhat confusing, but it is a favorite of our friends and we’ve enjoyed playing it at their cottage. I am not sure what it is called, it probably has several names, but it is a lot of fun. The card game involves a separate deck for each player but there is a place to play on everyone’s hand. Each player plays on their hand but the goal is to get rid of your cards and play them in the middle on the group’s cards. You get points for playing in the middle and the winner is declared when they have cleared their own cards. The game moves quickly and players have to be paying attention. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and when it was over, and we had a winner, we sat down to dinner and the Winter Olympics.

Sunday night's sunset - it was warm enough to sit on the deck in the sunshine, but we had to be wrapped up!
Sunday night’s sunset – it was warm enough to sit on the deck in the sunshine, but we had to be wrapped up!

I have enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics. I have always enjoyed the Olympics. Continue reading Priorities

Plat du Jour

It is Monday morning. Saturday has passed, Sunday, too. It’s Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday weekend and there is no school. On a normal Monday morning, I’d be up to my eyebrows in teaching ELA, but today and last Monday, and the Monday before last – school has been out. I enjoy the three- day weekends, but I get lazy and don’t accomplish what I should. However, last weekend was a three-day weekend for my students, it was not for me, the teachers had a workday and I got a lot done. Full Disclosure, though it felt like a three-day weekend.

Saturday morning's sunrise....
Saturday morning’s sunrise….

The weather has been typical Midwest January – cold. Continue reading Plat du Jour

Saturday morning, again

saturdayweatherRight now, it’s almost fifty degrees warmer than it was Monday morning. By some standards, it is cold but it feels rather warm. Following our freezing cold of Monday morning with the incredible wind chills, we’ve warmed up, relatively. It’s still January and there are colder days ahead; and of course there is February and March and possibilities of more cold and snow. It’s winter in the Midwest. It is the price we pay for the three other seasons.

I grew up in south Texas where summer begins in early May and ends in late September, or November depending on the year. Winter comes for a week; sometimes, for two weeks, but it is like that houseguest you are glad to take to the airport at the end of their stay. Depending on who’s telling the story (I escaped \ I was released \ I ran away) Continue reading Saturday morning, again

Christmas

this morning's view from my 'office'
this morning’s view from my ‘office’

It’s a wonderful morning in Illinois. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue, and there is a blanket of snow on the ground. We, at least W and I are, are back after spending Christmas in Ohio. B and O stayed another day and will leave for Michigan sometime today. W and I will head north early Sunday morning to join them; in the meantime he and I, and Ivy of course, have the run of the house. We also have a few things to do, like study for finals (W) and grade papers (me), before we pack up and drive north.

Somehow, Christmas always catches me by surprise. It sneaks up on me, pounces, and leaves me dazed. No matter how hard I try, I never seem to be mentally, emotionally, or physically prepared for the season. Perhaps it goes back to my days working in restaurants when the Christmas season was a blur of long days and even longer nights, or maybe there is a deeper reason for my Christmas surprise. But, my restaurant days are behind me, almost twenty years behind and I still find myself lost at this time of the year. Teaching has replaced working in restaurants and there is a two week long break for Christmas. When Winter Break and Christmas do arrive, all I want to do is rest, sleep, or just enjoy downtime. There always seems there is more to do than we have time for, or places to go and visit, there never seems time to just, be, to enjoy the holiday. We have our family traditions – we put up the tree, decorate outside, and inside – B always does a wonderful job of making the home full of  Christmas spirit. O loves to listen to Christmas songs and when she rides along with me, there is usually a fight over the radio, but not during December. I believe it all goes back to scarcity and choices; or how I use time, or not. I do enjoy Christmas and the entire holiday season, I just never seem to have it all together. It drove my dad nuts that I was so, so laissez-faire. It drives B crazy, too. Continue reading Christmas