Simple

Sunday evening, as the sun was setting and the air was gaining a fall-like crispness, I sat on the front porch of my parent’s home and chit-chatted with my 7 year old niece, Allie.  Her parents and grandmother were loading up the Jeep, it was time to head on home … the weekend was coming to a close, and I too would be leaving moments after they drove off.

A wedding on Saturday (welcome to this crazy family Tom!) and a milestone birthday (90!) on Sunday, had my family smashed together for most of the weekend, eating too much cake and drinking just the right amount of whiskey sours.  It had the kids falling in love with horses and riding a mechanical bull.  It found us in a photo-booth wearing mustaches and dancing to Blurred Lines for the millionth time.

We spent time in the horse barn and walking the stone covered lane.  There was talk of riding lessons and becoming a veterinarian.  Of owning a farm and having her own horses.  Grandma and I chuckled…those words and thoughts and dreams were once and still are, words and thoughts and dreams that still live within us.  What is it about a girl and a horse?  Or the smell of a horse barn?  I couldn’t breath in deep enough.  Or wide open pasture…there is a calmness that overtakes the soul when one views such an expanse- dotted with queen anne’s lace and blue wildflowers, lined and divided by fences, and barn cats scampering through.  Perhaps it isn’t just the horse…

Sunday, we celebrated Grandma’s (Allie’s great-grandmother) 90th Birthday.  There was a three tiered cake and coffee ice cream.  Peach pie and vanilla ice cream.  We did it right.  Grandma told me she stopped counting birthday ages ago and perhaps maybe we should too.  I think it is pretty cool that Allie will remember her Great Grandma.  She will have her own memories and not just those created and formed by others.

It is obvious that Angie, Mark, and I are the fun ones in this bunch…

Fast forward to Sunday evening and we are back on that front porch, chit chatting.  Allie was heading to Canada in the morning by way of Niagara Falls…at the moment she is none to happy about this excursion.  Leaving for Canada and a fun-filled vacation means she has to leave grandma and grandpas earlier than she normally would have.  She is so focused on the now.  When does that stop?  I curve the conversation to school…she will be starting 2nd grade in less than a month and this kid LOVES school.  She is excited about science, and subtracting larger numbers, and she thinks she will be a good test taker – I believe her.  She is most thrilled by the books she will read.  She finished Charlotte’s Web (my old tattered and loved copy) earlier this summer and the glimpse of that book sitting on mom and dad’s table makes me giddy…

I wanted to know if she had a book for vacation.  No, she said…she spends most of her time having fun – which means, outside getting dirty and fishing.  But then she asked if I had a book in mind.  I did.  I told her dad to hold the car for a few minutes and ran inside and pulled out a plastic storage container from beneath my childhood bed.  Little Women sat atop the pile of books.  The full original version, it isn’t … but a simplified children’s version, that came in box set with Black Beauty and Anne of Green Gables.  Perfect for a 7 year old.  She grabbed it and another book titled, ‘Mom, There is a Pig in My Bed!‘.  I told her to start with Little Women as it is the better of the two.  She ran to the Jeep and hopped in behind the driver’s seat.  Happy as pie.  Ready to go.

As they drove away and her brother was hollering out the window ‘ Testing testing 1, 2, 3 ‘ – I yelled over the boisterous 4 year old and told Allie to let me know who her favorite sister was and let me know if she falls in love with Teddy/Laurie as much I did and still do whenever I pick the book up.

Jeff (her dad, my bro) texted me Monday and said she had read 72 pages, that Jo is her favorite, and she adores Teddy.

It kind of sorta made my Monday.

Kinda sorta makes any moment I think about it.

 

 

Oatmeal Pecan Scotchies

Food is quite the memory jogger.  A trigger of sorts.  Much like music.  Or certain smells.

I don’t know if everyone is like this, but I want to think that a warm chocolate chip cookie takes everyone back to their childhood – I think my first memory of a chocolate chip cookie and looking back, probably the first time I took comfort from food or felt love through its simple preparation, was when our first childhood dog – ‘Puppy’ – original, I know…died.

I was curled up on dad’s lap in our old gray (it wasn’t old yet) recliner and I was sobbing and mom, from the kitchen, offered to make cookies – ‘maybe that will make us feel better’.  I don’t remember the taste of the cookies or if we even ate them that night – I am sure we did, with large glasses of milk and spoons to fish out soggy lost bits and pieces. What I remember, as dad sat reassuring us that Puppy was in heaven causing ruckus up there, was that mom, while also mourning the loss of her beloved dog (even though she would holler and throw spoons in his direction from the back door when he would bark and howl), took time to bake us cookies – hoping they would ease our tears and cheer us up a bit.  Which, I am sure they did.

Cookies have that sort of power.  Especially if mom is making them.

Oatmeal Scotchies … guess what..you got it, comes with a memory.  Like any cookie, they remind me of my grandma.  As most things I bake do, but these are most definitely a Shirley memory.  On Wednesday evenings, grandma had church choir practice or perhaps it was the Women’s Society meeting…all I know, is that she was at church on Wednesday nights and the church was just 2 blocks from our house.  Therefore, Wednesday nights always guaranteed a visit from grandma and she normally brought a bake good ( and I wonder where I get this habit from).  Cookies or pie.  And if it was cookies…4 out of 5 times, they would be chewy oatmeal scotchies.

 

As grandma and mom sat and chit chatted and gossiped … we 3 kids scarfed down cookies, leaving just crumbs behind.  Sore jaws and crumbs.

I hadn’t had an oatmeal scotchie in years.  Years!  Quite devastating, seeing how the recipe for these magic little guys are on the back of the bag of Nestle butterscotch chips.  And when something is this good, there is really no need to tinker with the recipe.  Well, I kinda did…I added roasted pecans, because pecans kind of rock in cookies.  No?

Of all the cakes, cookies, and pies I have taken into work…I believe these cookies received the most hubbub.  The container was returned with a pleading of it being refilled with more.  People were hiding and stowing away cookies in lockers.  They were being eaten 2 and 3 at a time.  I wanna believe it was because these cookies were not only chewy and delicious, but because their flavor and texture and slight hint of cinnamon took them back.

Back to grandmas, school lunches, after school snacks, Wednesday nights.

Oatmeal Pecan Scotchies
 
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Ingredients
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ Cup white sugar
  • ¾ Cup, light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1¼ Cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ Cup Roasted Pecans, roughly chopped
  • 3 Cup Old Fashioned Oats
  • One 11-oz bag butterscotch chip
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream together softened butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in vanilla.
  4. With mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated – the dough will be tacky.
  5. With a wooden spoon, stir in the oats, pecans, and butterscotch chips.
  6. Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough onto parchment lined (optional) baking sheets and bake for 7-8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9-10 minutes for crisp cookies.
  7. Remove from oven and let sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.

Adapted from Nestle TollHouse

Ohio Tough Mudder 2013

We did it.  Again.

 You may remember last year. 

We are all a year older….and none the wiser.

Apparently we didn’t get enough of  mud, dirt, and grime.

Didn’t get enough of the camaraderie and team work.

Didn’t get enough of the 20 foot walls and electrical shock.

First, as the picture above shows….we have added a member to our small crazy team.

Four strong.

Matt, Shawn, Me, and Jeff.

Second, if you aren’t familiar with the Tough Mudder.  Check them out.

It always begins (and will end) with a bus ride.

Yellow school bus, bus ride.

Followed by packet pick up and baggage drop-off.

Then, bib numbers on forehead.

And always, me finding my inner-Elvis.

And this year, Jeff and I were chosen to record a bit for a Tough Mudder commercial.

Fingers crossed we make the cut!

To make it to the starting line…there is a wall to climb, or in my case, a wall to be boosted over.

 

Remember at the end…my socks were once PINK.

Overall, there are about 20 obstacles within the 10 mile course.

Monkey bars and rings ( I consider them swimming events) to muddy trenches and log carrying.

Andrea, my awesome sister-in-law, traipsed through the muck and the mud – along with Matt’s mom, girlfriend, and sister – and took all the pictures you are about to see.

Huge kudos goes out to them!!

We might be crazy.  This dude was bonkers.

Keep Calm and Chive On!

Kiss of Mud or army crawl under barbed wire.  No bigs.

 

 Nice and muddy brings a smile to my face.

 

Arctic Enema.

aka…fill a construction sight waste bin with ice and a touch of water.

Cold is an understatement.

Muddy Mile.

Or…claw, dig, climb over loosely packed muddy mounds and slide/jump/fall into water filled trenches (of unknown depth)…and repeat x 8.

Post muddy mile.

Stairway to Heaven.  Or was it Hell?  Glad I climbed fences when I was a kid.

Conversation between Jeff and I at the top…

“mom can never come to one of these” – me

“yeah, no joke” – Jeff.

Walk…

The…

Plank.

Boa Constrictor.

Claustrophobics need not apply.

Matt just dove in.

You go in and down…

Across, in, and back up.

Being short has its advantages here…

Everest.  Oiled/mud slicked quarter pipe.  Same thing.

It takes a bit of contemplation.

Some game planning.

A bit of praying.

First up, Jeff.

Boom.  Boom.  Pow.

With one of my guys up there…it was my turn.

With Jeff pulling UP and some random guy grabbing my ass…I made it up and over.

Matt…Killed. It.

Hands out…ready for Shawn.

This is my favorite shot.

It sums up the entire event.

Shawn.  Up.  and Over.

We are 4 for 4.

The guys hung out up top for a bit…until their spots were taken by other tough mudders…

Without the help of others, 99% of us would never be able to complete this obstacle.

Fact.

Next up, Electroshock therapy…

Matt bites it first.

And then Shawn goes down.

I get it on the hay bales…

Goes down Jeoff.

We. Are. Tough. Mudders.

The electrical shock may have caused damage.

Michigan, you are next.

#Gemini.

I might turn into a lobster

Well, I just packed up my mom, grandma, and aunt and sent them home.  Well, I didn’t send them.  I would have liked them to stay longer, but vacation can’t last forever.  That is right, we were on vacation.  Jealous?  You should be, it was fantastic.  7 glorious days, spent with 3 of my favorite ladies.  Three generations of women, in one motel room, with 2 double beds, and one bathroom.  Oh and the TV was non-HD.  But since there was no men on this trip – that whole TV thing didn’t matter.  Space was a bit crowded, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Plus, did I mention the ocean was just steps away?  Well, it was. 

Yep, that is the one I am talking about. 

Where did we go?  Rhode Island.  I love Rhode Island.  I didn’t know I loved it until we started going there 3 years ago, but my mom, grandma, and aunt were hip to its wonders.  And grandma knew long before my mom and aunt.  You see, grandma was born and raised in Providence.  However, 63 years ago she married my grandfather.  My grandfather, who was a farmer from Ohio.  So my grandma, got hitched, packed up, and moved west.  City gal gone farmer’s wife.  That’s the short version.   So we go to the east coast.   Makes sense. 

Let me show you what made me fall in love with this tiny little state. 

Scarborough beach.  We were tossed in its waves and numbed by its frigid waters.  Crazy?  Yep.  People stared.  We laughed.  We found random bruises and scabs at weeks end.  Extra Motrin was needed.  I still have sand in my ears.   I’d say boogie boarding was a success. 

Narragansett, Rhode Island is close to the fishing community of Galilee and Jerusalem.  It smells a bit,… well fishy, and that is putting it nicely.  But each boat is full of fisherman, whom I bet also smell like fish.  These fisher of men spend their days catching lobster and swordfish and flounder so hungry gals can feast upon it in the evening.  I LOVE these men. 

What intrigues me most about this community is the boats.  Not just the boats, but the names inscribed on the hulls of the boats.  Who are these women?  Are they wives?  Long lost loves?  Or like the one above ” Hopeful” , is it just a plea with sea.  Here are a few more. 

I bet she was a bombshell in the 50′s. 

Wendy Lee, she has strawberry blond hair and moved to the sea, escaping the fields of the mid-west.  She found herself a fisherman.  At least that is what I like to think. 

Who is Martha Porter, Helen or Lois Virginia?  Oh my curiosity is killing me!  I’d love to hear the story behind Foxy Lady. 

We took a day trip to the cape.  Cape cod that is.  We meandered along the southern coast, driving through one small, quaint, old town after another – turning off at any mention of a beach or harbor.  The above is Bowman’s beach. 

This is Truro.  This is what I hope heaven looks like.  Seals were floating in the chilly water, just off shore.  When I retire or win the lottery, this is where you can find me. 

We eventually made it to Provincetown.  Tip of the world.   Last year, we took a whale watching tour, but this year we decided just to eat like whales while in Provincetown. 

Lobster Pot, the home of my 4th lobster roll, out of 9.  In case you were wondering.  Anthony Bourdain got his start here.  Great food, great views.  Oh and their lobster bisque, well I could swim in it.  Fact. 

Wednesday, we spent playing in the surf and sand, but Thursday we travelled up to Newport.  The International Boat Show was starting.  Oh Boy!  We decided to take a little sailboat ride.  And by little, I mean it was a 4 sail, 80 foot schooner.  And I raised a sail.  Learning to sail is going on the list. 

Clingstone.  Smack dab in the middle of Narragansett Bay.   This house was built in 1905 by the Wharton family.  It is said that Mr. Wharton built it as a get away from his wife and children (they have another mansion up on the coast).  First man cave?  Its rather stunning.  Albeit, eerie as hell at night. 

I have a thing for blue sailboats. 

Warning - this here fact may make you sick.  This is Jackie Kennedy’s childhood doll house.  Its four stories and has an elevator (for her dog).  It was first intended to be a guest house for the mansion, but since the mansion had fifty rooms, there really was no need…so Merry Christmas Jackie!  Holy Moly.  Her and John exchanged their vows in Newport and their wedding reception was held in that front yard.  Kinda cool. 

We spent our last full day at Point Judith.   I grew up with this lighthouse.  It is all over my grandparent’s home.  I like it better in person. 

When the tide is low and the surf is not as strong, we like to go poking through the rocks.  Star fish, crabs, and snails are what we normally find. 

But no poking around on this day … a tad bit rough. 

Amazing.  We don’t have this in Ohio. 

We also don’t have lobster rolls or clam cakes in Ohio.  Ridiculous if you ask me.  Just not fair.  I had 9 lobster rolls in 7 days.  I never looked at a menu.  I would do anything for lobster rolls or clam cakes.  Anything.  Test me.  I dare you to.

OH! and oreo coffee ice cream.  Well, this is what I hope heaven tastes like. 

Narragansett Beach.  Surfing was popular on our last day.  I must learn.

Here are a few tidbits that I learned this week.  New Englanders, nicest people in the world.  Seriously – they are genuinely lovely people.  They are also dog people.  Well behaved dogs everywhere.  I am thankful for yoga pants ( 7 days of lobster rolls and clam cakes doesn’t do the waistline good).  George’s of Galilee has the best lobster rolls.  Brickley’s has the best coffee Oreo ice cream.  Aunt Carrie’s clam cakes are amazing.  I love cedar sided houses.  I want a New England accent.  Oprah was right…Moscow Mules are delicious.  I can’t wait to go back next year.

It Took 88 Years…

 

It took 88 years for Grandma to have a pool party for her birthday.  She turns 88 today.  88!  Happy Birthday Grandma!   She said she is done counting.  And to think I want to stop counting at 28!

 This year, instead of heading out to her house and playing a good round of kick ball in the orchard or a pick up game of baseball – Jeff and Pete vs. the rest of us – by the way guys, that still isn’t fair – we headed over to James and Megan’s house for an official pool party. 

It was the perfect day.  We swam until pruney, ate until stuffed, and laughed until our stomachs ached.  Here are a few snap shots of our day…I apologize to all my family who did not expect to find themselves -swimsuit clad- on my blog.   :)

 

There is the birthday girl.  She makes 88 look good!  She enjoyed watching the shenanigans of the day…

 

 

Aunt Sue…

There are just no words…

 

 

Mom…where are your goggles?  

 

 

Allie, the little water bug herself.  I bet you ten bucks she will call to tell me she made the blog again….

 

 

Grandma…really?!?  Poor kid is still picking that wedgie…

 

 

James…

 

 

Jeff…

 

 

This photo illusion never really worked, but Jeff’s face was spot on…

 

 

She is learning early…

 

 

Because they can talk you into doing anything stupid…I am just glad it is her and not me any longer :)

 

 

I am going to shave this dog…I have always wanted to shave an animal.  Its weird, I know, but I can’t help the urge…

 

 

Fearless…

 

 

Cannon Ball!

 

 

We did this all afternoon…

 

 

Grandma, Happy Birthday!