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For Papa Daddy

Marshall Craig was my grandfather. He was an incredible man. If you were lucky enough to have met him, your life would be better for it. He was a World War II vet, a traveler, a professor, a lover of the written word, and my favorite – a storyteller. I don’t believe I ever had a conversation with my grandpa where he did not tell me a story. And when Marshall Craig told a story – you had absolutely no choice but to listen with utmost attention as he drew you in with the twinkle in his eye that immediately captivated you until the last word.

Sometimes the stories were of the war – mostly funny ones, my grandpa starring as the captain of a minesweeper in the Navy. Sometimes the stories were of growing up in the South. At Christmas, that southern accent, long-gone, would be brought out for a reading of How Come Christmas. At his dinner table, I heard about England, and China – the friends made and adventures created. And after she left, years before he would, he talked about my grandmother. He would tell me about their courtship through letters, or the time my grandmother refused to go to the bathroom all day because she was terrified of venturing out to the shared toilet in their new apartment building. How they collapsed on the bed after he got home, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. And so much more. His true love, brought back through words.

As much as I have loved every single one of my grandfather’s stories, no matter what the subject – my favorites were Shakespeare. Every summer since I can remember, my mother’s family would journey down to Cedar City for the annual Shakespearean festival. We would camp, as a group, up the canyon at Navajo Lake and then travel down to plays throughout the stay. And before each play, my grandfather would sit all of the grand-kids down to tell the story in his own, magical way. Understanding Shakespeare as an 11 year old kid is not the easiest task, but when Marshall Craig spoke of the betrayal and turmoil in Hamlet, you felt it. Later, while sitting in an auditorium, that feeling would re-surface and instead of confusion and tripping over the spoken language, you easily followed the characters through their adventures and misadventures. Through those summers, I grew to truly love these very special stories through a very special voice, and it is something I intend to pass on to my girls so that even though they will not remember him, they will be bonded to him by a troubled teen, haunted by his father, a play within a play, and a biting wit tamed by love.

My parents called me this morning to tell me that this wonderful man – the head of our family, had passed away last night, after years of struggling and pain. It was not unexpected, and there was relief for the family who watched him suffer. Throughout the day, as my heart has been aching, I hold on to what my sister Maiken reminded us of a few hours after I found out. Eleven years ago my grandmother left us and his words to her were, “When it’s my turn, I’ll come running.” No matter what I believe, or frankly, don’t know about what happens to us after we die – I will not hesitate to think of them, back together, re-living all the stories from their life, hand in hand.

I love you Papa Daddy, I will miss you so much.

She Might Have A Point

(I shared this on Facebook, so I realize it’s a repeat for some but it was too good to not share with the rest of the Internet.)

In which, I try to control the insanity that was my afternoon…

Mommy: Ella, I need you to take a deep breath, calm down, and be good for me, okay?

Ella: Well it’s HARD to be GOOD when NO ONE WILL LET ME HAVE CANDY!

Ella: Hey, Mommy?

Mommy: Yes?

Ella: I don’t think that zombie Daddy made has enough blood. She only has a little, and zombies are supposed to have a LOT.

Mommy: Um. Okay…

Ella: Why doesn’t she have lots of blood?

Mommy: I don’t know, Bird – maybe she’s just not a messy eater.

Ella: Oh….okay. Thanks!

Mommy: Glad to help.

 

Hope you all had yourselves an Apocalyptic Valentine’s Day!

 

1. Attend a birthday party for the pirate-loving son of our friends Ange and Brad.

2. Host a Superbowl party for a certain family of one lady+5 gentlemen.

What? Was that not enough tasks? Do you know what it’s like to prepare for 4 hungry boys to descend on your home? Okay, it’s not that bad. Not when you have a slow-cooker and half a cow in your freezer. Still – I was a little nervous about giving due time to each, individually important, line item. And I might not have been nearly as frazzled Sunday morning if I hadn’t been set back about 4 days by that damn cold. But – I can happily say that both items were crossed off the list as completed, and if I were the kind of person to draw happy faces next to my list items, I would have.

We had a great time with Ange and Brad, because I’m fairly certain it’s impossible to not. The theme was tie dying and I have to say that I thought Ange was crazy to do that with little kids, but it was really fun and I’m even convinced that we should do some more ourselves because the kids had a blast. The cake was even tie dyed with an entire rainbow of frosting and if I wasn’t already impressed by this woman and her mad skills (I was) then this would have done the trick. A massive, beautiful cake that surpassed anything I’ve seen in a store. And of course it tasted fantastic. Add in pizza made by The Chef (Brad) and you’ve got yourself a successful party.

Once we wrapped up, we headed back to the house and immediately finished getting ready for the Superbowl. And again…how can you go wrong when you surround yourself with friends? To be honest, I didn’t really care about the game seeing as I’m still unhappy that The Pack killed their insane season in the playoffs but – oh well. Food, friends, even a little knitting – not a bad way to spend a Sunday evening.

The next day I finished our party favors by soaking and washing them, and then since we had a warm spell yesterday (that sadly disappeared overnight) – we donned them to go spend time outside and spread the message of peace and love to the suburbs of Harrisburg. Very groovy, I must say.

 

 

 

Currently Reading

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Oh hey y’all – how have the last 10 days been treating you? They’ve been a little mean to me and I’d like to tell them to knock it off, thankyouverymuch. I had a head cold start at the beginning of last week and for a cold, it was a nasty little bug – knocked me down in one day from Fully Functioning Being With A Tiny Sniffle to Curled Up On Couch-Not Sure If It Was Me Or The Dog That Fed The Kids. And Tom was gone for most of it so what energy I had was reserved for taking care of the kids (I was the one that fed them – come on – the dog can’t reach the peanut butter – note to self: put peanut butter on lower shelf) and not for creating or even reading blogs. I did however surf a lot of Pinterest – that requires minimal brain function – pretty shoes (re-pin), yummy food (re-pin), yummy Adam Levine (re-pin), etc. And here I had a Currently Reading post waiting to be written because what? I read a book – IN 6 DAYS. New since-I-had-kids record. Seriously. How did I read The Help (which is over 500 pages long) in 6 days? I devoted every single second of free-time to it. No knitting, no TV, no Pinterest (okay – maybe a little Pinterest) – just reading. WHY did I read it in 6 days? Beth.

No one who reads my blog should be surprised that I got an e-mail one day from Beth saying we should try something new. Beth loves trying new things. I do not. This time it was book club. They were reading The Help and we had 2 weeks to do it – want to go? Um. No. I actually love the idea of book club but hi – slow reader! – and I like picking my own books. If I were a faster reader and could squeeze in even two books a month, I could see going. Beth doesn’t really always take the first no you give her though, and through a lure of beer (the club is held at an Irish pub in downtown Harrisburg) and the solution of watching the movie, she convinced me. After all, time with Beth is a good time so why not? Except then after a few days, when I received my Netflix copy of The Help – I looked at it, thought about watching it instead of reading it, and it just felt wrong. Like I was cheating on a High School paper by getting the Cliff’s Notes. So I put in a request at our library for a copy and put the movie aside as back-up.

I have to give a bit of a shout-out to Tom for being supportive in this read-all-the-time venture. I’m not the best cleaning lady anyway, but during those six days I didn’t touch a broom or a vacuum, and only one emergency load of laundry was done. It probably helped that at least at night, he had an interesting book he wanted to read as well because instead of our usual TV ritual, we would both pull out our books and settle in for the night. And it worked. I finished the afternoon before book club.

I realize at this point, this post is not really about the book and more about the Miracle of reading it in a reasonable time period but that’s the way these blog things go sometimes.  The book is set in Jackson Missisipi, in the early 1960’s.  Right in the heart of the civil rights movement. Skeeter, a young white woman, has returned from college and wants to become a writer. Through the advice of an editor in New York City, who counsels her to write about something that bothers her – something new, she decides to write about the black maids in her town and the white women they work for – all from the view of the maids.

The book is narrated by Skeeter and two maids. Aibileen, a loving and kind maid who cherishes her time with each child and does her best to instill values of hope and kindness in them, despite seeing them grow up in to their parents over and over – and Minny, a sass-talking fireball that manages to get herself fired, and due to her legendary cooking, re-hired often.

I was surprised at how emotional I got reading this book. It is heartbreaking – so much so because you know despite this being a work of fiction that these people existed. These stories existed. There were times when I felt sick from the hatred expressed, there were times I cried from the treatment of the maids, or of the children by their own disinterested parents, and there were a lot of times I laughed out loud. The characters were all so real. You could as easily love Aibileen as hate Hilly for the people they were. And in the end, it was about hope and the persistence of change – a force that changes civilizations.

I loved the book and would highly recommend it to anyone. I believe it’s an important story and from the animated discussions we held in book club, it definitely gets people talking and thinking. This seems to be a natural fit to slide in to high school curriculum, and whether it does or not, I will be buying my own copy to hand down to my children some day.

As far as book club goes – I loved it. Beer, books, and Beth. All good things. The group was large and fun and I’m glad she nudged me to go. The next time I see a book on their itinerary that looks interesting, I will be happy to grab a copy and pull up a stool, beer in hand, ready to discuss.

Next up: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson

I had to go check, and then double-check, and then triple-check – just to be absolutely sure that I have indeed, never shared the recipe I use for chili. It seems I have not, so I think we should rectify the situation. Last week Tom and I had decided (much to the kids’ dismay) that it would be Soup Week. Seemed appropriate, considering the weather decided to switch from Feels Like Spring to Tricked You! It’s Really Winter! Ella perked up once we told her she could help pick the different soups, and immediately suggested chili. Of course once we told her that no, we could not have chili EVERY night, she folded her arms, put on her best frown and grumbled something about soup being of the devil. (Maybe that wasn’t her exact phrase but trust me, that was the gist of it.)

So here it is – my modified version of a recipe Kari found through Weight Watchers (hence the turkey) years ago. I was never a fan of chili before I tried this one and, although I’ve tried several others and liked them, it’s still my favorite.

Hearty Turkey Chili

Servings: 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs paprika (I like smoked)
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced into rounds (I use a couple handfuls of baby carrots – slice them in half so they won’t roll on the cutting board and cut them into fairly thin slices)
  •  4  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 can/bottle of your favorite beer (or a cup and a half of chicken broth if you’re not inclined to malt beverages)
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (or beef if you prefer, or have half a cow in your freezer)

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large pot coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add oil and onion; saute’ onion until soft. Add garlic, peppers and carrots and cook until garlic is softened. Add ground meat and brown, about 5 minutes. Stir to break up lumps.

Add chili powder, paprika, cumin and red pepper flakes, tomatoes and tomato sauce, broth and vinegar. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Add beans. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Enjoy!

 

I’ve had a conflict battling inside my head for the last few months. Snow. I hate it. There are so many things I miss about Utah – giant piles of snow is not one of them. Pennsylvania normally has fairly mild winters – a real plus for the Weird Hat State, in my book. A few inches of snow will shut the state down until the two snowplows they employ can make it around to dig people out. Obviously there have been exceptions but this year, along with most of the country, has been extra mild. We had a freak storm in October and then nothing. No white Christmas, no white New Years, no white Week After New Years…you get the point. The conflict arises when you add my two beautiful daughters, looking at me with wide, hopeful eyes, almost every morning – “Mommy? Do you think it will snow today?” I dutifully pull up the weather app on my iPhone and have had to say that no, there is no snow today. The blow-up animal sleds Santa brought will have to continue to sit in the closet, unused.

So when Saturday morning arrived and low-and-behold, our driveway was covered with about 3 inches of snow – I was fighting the grumpy attitude emerging from the relization that I wouldn’t be able to go to my pottery class, because I had two EXCITED, EXCITED, EXCITED girls tripping over themselves to get snow gear out. Can we go out now? Breakfast first. Can we go out NOW? Get dressed first. CANWEGOOUTNOW?! Yes. (Imagine a squeal that I think only Koda could hear inserted here.)

We have a very small hill on the side of our house. Perfect for a 2 and 5 year old. And later, a 36 year old. And okay, a 33 year old got in on the action as well. Despite the trepidation shown in the video I’ll be sharing below, the girls stopped being nervous and fully embraced the track that became packed and slick, leading them straight in to the shed, where they stuck out their feet and called out “SHED!” and bounced off – funny EVERY time, apparently. Mommy and the puppy with a million ice-balls stuck to her fur gave up after about 40 minutes or so to head inside and get hot chocolate going. Daddy dutifully stuck it out until first, the Princess, and then the Bird finally gave in to the cold. Although – I think it was really the lure of marshmallows floating in a hot beverage that brought them in. They had to live it up while they could – the rain from yesterday has melted the white blanket into slushy piles of No Fun, and who knows if we’ll get more this year. I’m good. Set, really – for my snow intake, but I can’t help think that if Mother Nature could see the pleading blue and brown eyes that I see – she’d give in for one more go.