The Story of My Little Brother’s Wedding

I wrote this shortly after my brother’s wedding in April of 2014. I thought I’d share it here. Today is his three year anniversary.

I am big sister to a brother, and sister, we’re each two years apart, so the maximum distance between the oldest and youngest in our family is 4.5 years. Some people might view this as eons, or centuries, and at certain ages I definitely feel that is true. I am also blessed to have a sister who has actively acted much older than her age, and sometimes when she says things I disagree with, I have to remind myself of her age, and allow her the room to say those kinds of things.

My sister and I both have BIG personalities, I am particularly boisterous and loud, I don’t mind my niche in my family, which is center of attention most of the time, I generally am the moderator of conversation at dinner tables, I want to know what’s going on in everyone’s lives, I am nosy, and opinionated, and love a challenge, I laugh loudly, I love with all my heart, and I cry at sports movies. You get the idea. My sister is also a big personality and doesn’t mind being center show, but is not as opinionated or up for a challenge as I am. She’s got that “people pleasing” gene – My mom has it too, it somehow skipped me entirely, and I am constantly working on being okay with that. The relationship my sister and I have is great, we are best friends, confidants, we share secrets, opinions, roll our eyes over things my parents say, or my brother says. We share a lot of the same views on society, life, and what we want out of it. We have obscenely similar tastes in clothes, sometimes…ehem…TOO MUCH SO. Our friendship is easy, and its fun most of the time. We do have to work on some things – like I work on not reacting loudly or aggressively to things Kelly says, and she works on telling me HONESTLY her thoughts and opinions on things. I do my best not to judge abrasively and only when she asks me my opinion. We are ALWAYS working on that…ALWAYS.

My brother on the other hand doesn’t have a loud personality like I do. He is patient, and thorough in his approach, mostly of quiet demeanor, he’s funny as hell, and can quote pretty much any movie you’ve ever heard of. He is excellent at charades, and shares the same competitive spirit Kelly and I do – this is a gene we all inherited from my father. My brother can tell you any stat, about any sport, ever. He is thoughtful, and a hopeless romantic, he cares deeply without telling you, and often times is a quiet observer, of my sister and I spouting off about our latest idea/opinion/news article. My brother is very smart, and calculated, and his patience makes it easy for him to commit entirely to a strategy and see it through – this is especially annoying as my attention span is limited and must be fed constantly and quickly, he frequently beats me at games of long drawn out strategy, see; chess, risk, monopoly etc…

Being a big sister to these two wonderful souls for me, has always been a true honor, and a job that I take very seriously. The thing about being a big sister is that you are their protector,their confidant, the buffer, they can count on you- without ramifications and know that you’ll help them in a jam, This means that sometimes, someone will push your brother off the snow pile when he’s too little to defend himself, and that you, as a big sister, will take it upon yourself to tackle that kid onto the same snow pile, and beat his face until he’s crying and blood is running out of his nose. It means that you will walk your brother, and his bike back to your parents house after he falls off of his bike and you’re sure you saw the bone popping through his knee – but you don’t tell him that. It means that you have two tag-a-longs to whatever you’re doing, and wherever you want to go. It means that sometime in college, your brother will get himself too drunk, and call you the next day to ask for advice on how not to let that happen again. It means that sometimes, your brother won’t know which lasagna noodles are the right ones to buy, and will call you while he stands in front of them at wegmans. It means that your sister will call you after her  boyfriend breaks up with her two days before her eighteenth birthday, and you will abandon whatever you are doing to listen to her, and to tell her it is going to be okay.Sometimes you will have to tell your sister that you know the girl that she is hanging out with is going to stab her in the back, or help her pick up the pieces when her best friend really lets her down. It means that you’ll spend hours sitting on the swing at your parents house, telling your sister how great you think she is, and how she is a fiercely independent girl who doesn’t really need a best friend. It means that when you hear that someone has been mean to your sibling,you share equally in their hurt, and their tears. It means sometimes, letting your siblings fight their own battles with you as back up. Sometimes it means giving a different view point, or translating what your parents just said, sometimes it means being a sounding board, and just listening.

My little-big brother committed his life to his new wife this past Saturday. They have been dating for seven years, and I have no doubt that Kim loves my brother, I will admit, that it was a particularly hard wedding for me. There is a thing about when your brother gets married that is inevitably different than when your sister gets married. I know there is some saying like this for parents – something like – “have a daughter, you’ll have a daughter for life, have a son, have a son til he gets him a wife” It is hard to say good bye, and as I stood their shaking in my 4.5 inch heels watching him voluntarily committing himself to a new family, I grieved my brother, but I know that he loves Kim, and I know that Kim loves him. I know that their marriage is a good thing, and however hard it may be, we must let him go. I think it is our closeness in age that makes these kinds of things so hard. Its like one of your bestfriends went out and found a new best friend, and really, no one likes feeling replaced. While it was a hard day for me it was also an easy day, I know that my brother’s new wife loves him very much, and will happily love him til the end of their days. I know that he will still be just a phone call away, and that if we really needed him he will still be there. I watched him look into her eyes, the hopeless romantic that he is, and with his whole heart on Saturday tell her she was his best friend. I couldn’t help but think of my own husband, standing their on the other side of the aisle, making the same commitment to me, and remember how exciting it felt to find the other person in this world who wholly understands me. It was at this moment that a great feeling of peace came over me, and allowed me to open my heart right up to be thrilled for my brother that he found the same thing. He found the person who wholly understands him, suddenly I was brimming over with glee that he has a best friend who is as committed to him and he is to her. This Saturday, I watched my brother marry his best friend, and it was beautiful, and wonderful. Sometimes being a big sister means that you have to let go, and trust that your little brother is making the best decision for him, and instead of judge it, celebrate in it, and sing “don’t stop believin'” at the top of your lungs, for the last dance embraced in your brother and sister’s arms, and know, in that moment, that everything is going to be better than okay, that everything, is going to be great.

The Story of the Coolest Winter Coat

It was winter time, in the year 1991, and we were on the hunt.

The collective “we” I am referring to is my parents, and I. The “hunt” I am referring to is for a winter jacket. My mother being the always responsible mother that she is had a very specific criteria set in place for this winter jacket. It must have a hood – to keep my little ears from getting too cold, it must be of good quality – to last the winter through, it must be thick and warm – winters in Western NY are no joke. So as we wandered through the seas of clothing racks filled to the brim with winter jackets, all towering far above my little six year old reach, we searched fervently for a jacket that met these descriptions. A shopping trip like this one was boring for everyone involved. It was a shopping trip purely for a purpose, and not necessarily a fun one.

At the age of six I can tell you the last place I wanted to be was in a department store, shopping for a winter jacket that- per my Mother’s criteria was basically guaranteed to be ugly and totally un-cool. I would have much rather been shopping for arts and crafts supplies, or for food, or for something that was at least interesting to me. But here we were hunting for a new winter jacket. I remember wandering about the store, the dry air burning my little eyes, and the florescent lighting casting a strange blue light down on everything around me. Everything was above me, which I remember finding irritating, so I was totally reliant on one of my parents to hopefully pick out a winter jacket that ranked higher in coolness as much as possible to help me climb to the top of the competitive social ladder that is – kids with cool winter coats.

 At some point during the hunt, my father and I were wandering about and when we found it, when we found THE jacket, we were just about out of ear shot of my mother. I remember my Dad pulling the jacket down from far above my head, and taking it off the hanger and handing it to me, all the while telling me just how cool this jacket was. This jacket was the coolest jacket in all of the winter jacket land. It had denim and pink designs on the outside of it, with a cool collar that was striped with the navy blue, and pink with buttons going down the front of it, easy-to-snap buttons, and the inside was a soft pink interior- fluffy like a winter jacket, but not uncomfortably puffy. I slipped it on with my Dad’s assistance and it fit perfectly. Being that it had a collar, we both acknowledged immediately that it did not meet my Mother’s standards, meaning, there was no hood. So there we stood me in the coolest jacket I had ever seen, talking about how it was we were going to convince my Mother that the hood wasn’t as important as she had deemed so.

I could wear winter hats, or head bands or ear muffs, my friends all had ear muffs! We eventually decided we also should sell her on the sheer coolness factor and hoped that it would help overcome any objections. As we walked back within ear shot and eventually right up to my Mother both of us grinning because we had really done two great things – ended a boring shopping trip, and found the coolest jacket the store had to offer – I did a spin, and we started selling the coolness of the jacket, it was going well, and then we were met with a face of uncertainty by my Mother, we knew what was next….she’s gonna say there’s no hood, she asked me to turn around and saw that there was no “built in hood” or snap on hood, or anything like that, and then I spun back around to face her, and said, “I can wear hats! or ear-muffs, my friends wear ear muffs.” My Dad chimed in and brought up the coolness factor a third and fourth time, this sales pitch went on for a solid fifteen minutes before my Mother finally caved, and agreed to the purchase of the jacket. My Dad and I turned toward each other and expressed our win with a high five, they paid for the jacket, and I wore it right out of the store. To this day, I say that it really was the coolness factor that won over my Mother for that jacket, and my Dad and I still celebrate that as one of the best win’s of my childhood.

Lets Talk About Bacon Jam

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A while ago I started hearing about this phenomenon of “Bacon Jam” and, being that preserving is one of my favorite hobbies, I knew that I immediately needed to whip up a batch myself.

I must’ve scoured 20 different websites and blogs before finding a recipe that sounded to me, like it was going to taste delicious. I finally found it on Craving of a Lunatic’s blog  I won’t lie to you, I think the “Bourbon Bacon Jam” title is really what sold me. You see in this house, we are fans of Bourbons, Whiskys and Scotch. So I knew the second I mentioned the words “Bourbon” and “Bacon” in the same sentence to my husband he was going to be on board with my making some.

I discovered Craving’s recipe on a Friday and whipped up a batch early Saturday morning. I had planned, that if it was as good as I thought, I’d give it away as Christmas gifts. Ha! What a fool I am! The second we tasted it, I knew that not only was it not going to make it to anyone for Christmas – but that my husband was definitely going to covet it, the way that he covets the Cinnamon Red Hot Pickles that I make. There wasn’t a chance it was going to be in anyone’s Christmas gift basket this year. Let me say, it wasn’t just my husband who fell hard in love with this jam, it is everything you want it to be in the best ways. It’s sweet, salty and tangy, we put it on toast, we’ve slathered it over top of cream cheese and eaten with crackers (more than once making a meal of that). I’ve put it on chicken as a glaze, and I like to throw it into Kale Salads for extra oomf and flavor, plus you can feel slightly less guilty, because you’re eating it with Kale. You can even throw it on top of a vanilla bean ice cream for a real bourbon-mapley-bacony treat!

Besides that it is super easy to make, and doesn’t take too long (timing of canning I know can be really daunting for people). The only downside to bacon jam for me is that I don’t have a pressure canner and even if I did I’m not 100% sure that I’d feel totally comfortable calling it shelf stable without some further research / consult with a scientist. So instead of trying to make it shelf stable, I just put it in our deep freeze and whenever we want a jar, I just snag it and microwave it for 30 seconds or so and we’re good to go!

That said – Here’s Craving Lunatic’s recipe and directions so that you can make your very own bacon jam!

Bourbon Bacon Jam
Prep time
15 mins
Cook time
45 mins
Total time
1 hour
This recipe is really easy to make and will have you slathering this Bourbon Bacon Jam on everything in sight.
Author: Kim Beaulieu
Recipe type: appetizer
Serves: About 3 cups of Bourbon Bacon Jam
Ingredients
  • 1 and ½ pounds of bacon
  • 2 cups of shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup vidalia onion, or any sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in two frying pans to allow for room for it to crisp up properly. Cook over medium heat until it browns perfectly. You want the bacon a little crisper with as little visible fat as possible. Transfer to paper towels to drain excess fat off.
  2. Pulse your shallots and onions in the food processor or cut them by hand.
  3. Leave about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the fat in one of the pan. Add shallot and onion to the pan, cook over medium heat until they start to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for about one more minute.
  4. Add the chili powder and smoked paprika, stir to combine.
  5. Increase heat to high and add the bourbon (carefully) and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, stir and scrape the pan so all the little bacon bits comes loose Continue boiling for about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add vinegar and brown sugar, continue to boil for about 3 minutes.
  7. Using a sharp knife cut the bacon into small pieces. You can also tear it by hand so it looks more rustic, not too perfect. Personal choice.
  8. Toss the bacon into the pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, the mixture will thicken and look jam like in the process.
  9. Turn off the stove top. Drain any excess fat off the bacon jam by pouring it through a sieve or use cheesecloth to drain it through.
  10. Now you have two options, you can pop the mixture into a food processor and pulse until it breaks down more. Or you can leave it chunkier (I like the more rustic, chunkier look) and don’t bother pulsing it. Your choice.
  11. Transfer to jars and store in the fridge.
  12. You can heat it up in the microwave whenever you want to top something with the jam. I used it over smoked sausages cooked on the grill. Divine.
  13. Serve with a big old bacon loving smile!

 

A Carrot Harvest

 

So for the last two years, I’ve been able to space out my carrot harvests all throughout the summer beginning the second week of July. Every few weeks I pull a big harvest of carrots and we use them in a multitude of different ways.

The first harvest this year boasted all three types that we’d planted, Purple Carrots, Orange “sugarsnax” Carrots, and Red Carrots. We cut them up into carrot sticks to be served alongside smoked chicken wings and to be used to dip into our homemade bleu cheese dressing.

Here’s a photo of that harvest:

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This was less than a quarter of the harvest. I pulled these just for this meal we were having with friends. They are all delicious and such prolific growers. It was almost as though the almost-drought we suffered in Western NY increased the growth potential for these beauties, plus they were rich in flavor and tasted oh so sweet. They were the perfect dippers for blue cheese.

Later on into August, I harvested a whole bunch more carrots – it was over 45lbs! While we were in the middle of harvesting our little pup-dog Emma suddenly was hot on the trail and chasing something. I assume it was a vole and was ready to capture if necessary.But then I heard this shrill squeaking and squawking unlike anything I’d heard before and when I looked over I saw that it wasn’t a vole she was after, it was a baby bunny! I quickly scooped Emma up and away from the bunny and attempted to help him find his way back to the nest. That’s when I pulled the tops of that carrots back and away and there they were, six little bunnies hiding out snuggled up in their nest, in our carrot patch. Yup, you read that right, six baby bunnies, snuggled up in our carrot patch. Immediately I started thinking of Peter Cottontail’s story and promptly stopped harvesting the carrots. This was our first time having bunnies in the garden.

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Though we knew our fence wasn’t rabbit proof and a few weeks before I had seen a brave rabbit sitting in the space between the two pines on the edge of our property and our garden. She was just sitting there in the middle. I now knew why! She was close, but not too close to the nest as to avoid giving it away. After reading quite a bit about rabbits and bunnies and what it is we were supposed to do. Also- feeling conflicted because we knew that these six bunnies were going to grow up and weren’t going to go very far from what they now know is a food source – and were going to make more little bunnies. We opted to help them stay in their nest until they were big enough to hop away, and resigned ourselves to putting up chicken wire all along the bottom of our fence next year, to prevent the bunnies from getting in again next year.

Of course I fell in love with them, they’re tiny little babies! I named this one Bob the Bunny –

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Now, I knew we were approaching the time I needed to get my Thanksgiving Carrots planted, so I did have to harvest around the nest, and obviously our little Emma dog wasn’t allowed in the garden while the bunnies were still in their nest.So I harvested all that I could around the nest and left the major ones close by to provide shelter from the hawks and foxes that also live nearby. All in all, I harvested 45lbs of carrots and we’re still eating from them today. I’ve made three batches of carrot-ginger soup – one of my all time favorites. I have also chopped them into match sticks to make pickles for Bahn Mi Keto Chicken Tacos. I plan to make another batch of the carrot ginger soup and freeze some so that I can still enjoy the taste of the fresh garden carrots even deep into February when our final supplies will begin to be depleted. I also planted the next rations for our Thanksgiving feast. I serve them roasted with a teeny bit of balsamic glaze drizzled over top and they usually go over quite well. I plan to harvest those in a few weeks. Though I have noticed that since the bunnies have hopped away to make their new homes for the winter…there has been a cotton-tailed bum hopping around my garden in and around my Kale and something has chomped some of the tops of my carrots off – I always tell Jeremy that it’s Bob, because he and I formed a connection and he doesn’t want to move away. Jeremy always tells me that I have to stop naming the animals we find in the back yard.

A Carrot Harvest, but so much more! What treats do you plant in the summer and hope to harvest for Thanksgivings and other Holidays?

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The Story of My Dream About My Nonno

This post is funny because I wrote this essay about my dream, 6 months before Jeremy and I bought a house. At the anniversary of our owning it (the house I mean) – this essay popped into my mind and I thought I should share it.

Lately I have been dreaming vivid dreams, really colorful, and dreams that feel so real I have to double check that I am in fact still in bed when I wake up. They’re all about these past characters, who have made imprints on my life, and helped shape me as a person.

The funniest part about all of these dreams is that in each and every dream we are at a table, in a place unique to that person and we are drinking scotch, smoking cigarettes, and generally laughing. I have no clue what any of it means, but these people however large or small the imprint, definitely imprinted me. I mean we’re talking, grandparents, ex boyfriends, old friends, friends from childhood, teachers, etc.

 

The most recent scotch drinking session was with my Nonno, I grew up my whole life with a major language barrier in speaking with my Nonno, meaning his first language is Italian, and mine being English (I scold my father regularly for not sharing in his native tongue more frequently when we were children) and while I can understand Italian – almost fluently, identifying a word here and there, we mostly communicated through broken English, and large hand gestures and facial expressions. In my dream though, the language barrier was completely removed, we spoke fluent Italian back and forth, and talked with each other like old friends, and it was so vivid, like he was still alive, and here with me.

We sat at his kitchen table in the only house I’ve ever known him to live, the tea kettle clock sat above his head, and the remnants of what appeared to be lunch sat on the table; slices of mortadella and prosciutto strewn about on white plate, with a small bowl of olives, leftover martuciello’s rolls, asiago cheese with its accompanying dirty knife, and the skins and cores of apples. There we sat, each with a tumbler with two giant ice cubs, and a quarter cup of scotch. The wood paneling on the wall surrounding us, the telephone just above his head, and the television in the other room blaring out the words of a telenovella that my Nonna so adored to watch, she in her chair, and us in the kitchen, drinking scotch, talking about the direction my life was taking, his approval of my marriage to Jeremy, reaffirming my proper choice in a husband. He asked me when I was going to have children, and I answered him honestly saying I wasn’t sure I was ever going to have children, and that right now wasn’t the right time, he agreed that I should buy a house first.

He told me that if I wanted to go back to school that I had better do it so that I don’t wait too long to have kids. I nodded quietly, and we sat for a minute in silence, the hum of his old refrigerator taking over the conversation, and he reached out and touched my hand and said that he was happy with how I was living my life, and that he was proud to call me his granddaughter, and that he would always be there.

In that moment the scotch, the table, the mortadella, it was all gone, I was six years old again, reporting to him that while playing soccer in the basement with my cousins and siblings we had managed to break one of what we assumed was his prized possessions, after all, doesn’t everyone keep their most prized possessions in the basement? I was standing there, in my blue and pink wind-pants with the matching jacket, on the verge of bursting into tears, staring down ashamed at his ocean-blue rug when he put is hand on my shoulder and chuckled a bit and said in broken English, oh Jenny, this is not important to me. You are important to me, please don’t cry, Nonno is here, and I am not mad at you.

He knelt in front of me and hugged me and told me we didn’t have to tell my parents about the broken glass figurine, and he sent me off to keep playing soccer in the basement. Then as I am running down the stairs with the same jubilee I had when my dad didn’t yell at my for breaking the basement window with a soccer ball, the stairs fall away, and I am back at the kitchen table with him, and the scotch, and the mortadella, and we both are looking out the window it looks like a storm is rolling in, and we start to talk about the weather, and the conversation falls away, and I open my eyes and I am in my bedroom, staring at the blue and white walls, pondering everything that just happened.

For the record I am pretty sure he told my parents about the glass figurine that we broke, but my parents weren’t mad, I suppose because he wasn’t really. I think he was secretly happy that we’d broken it.

Let Me Start With The Patio Garden…

I can’t believe I haven’t been able to fill you in on the garden or the general happenings of our lives the last two months – I hope you enjoyed my stories, they are some of my favorite family stories to tell. That said, boy has it been a busy fall thus far.

Lets start with the patio garden, I can’t talk about the garden without talking about Aunt Andy coming to visit us. We had back to back guests beginning the day after my sister’s wedding, Aunt Andy was our final guest and was here the longest, and wouldn’t we have loved if she could have stayed longer. She is the kind of person who you sort of just want to be around all the time, even though she never stops moving- no I mean it, she never. stops. moving. She arrived on a Thursday evening and we promptly went to dinner with my Mom who was flying solo since my Dad was out of town on a business trip, we took both of them to a new favorite brewery/space of ours in the city – it was a great beginning to a great 5 days together. The next morning we took Aunt Andy for a wine tour along all the finger lakes – you see the last few times she’s visited, we haven’t really been able to show her all of what Upstate/ Western NY has to offer because she’s been here for big events (see graduations/weddings etc). So I think we reached the fourth winery before she said “Okay, now stop dragging me all over kingdom come and let me get to work in your gardens.” As a friend of mine put it – if only all of our guests were this honest right?

Aunt Andy is a professional landscape restorer/gardener herself, being the boss lady to a successful business called Andy’s Gardens back in Denver where she lives. Silly of us to think she’d want to take some time off and relax, instead she helped us completely restore/overhaul some of our over grown plants on the patio. The most amazing thing was to me that she could time it down to the minute exactly how long she’d need to complete parts of the project. We harvested over 45lbs of cherry tomatoes that day –

Here’s the beginning of one of the three baskets we filled:

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and after some hard work, here is another one of the baskets completely filled and heavy!

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And it wasn’t just tomatoes that we harvested, that was my job the harvesting, Aunt Andy did the harder work, weeding / clean up – man am I lucky. The job seemed so daunting/overwhelming, having her here to help was one of the greatest gifts.

That day we did a huge haul from the pepper patch, knowing that we were approaching the end of September we could feel the bite in the air and knew a frost would be upon us soon, so we wanted to be sure we got everything we possibly could from the pepper patch.

Here are some photos of the: Green Chilis, Tabascos, Jalapenos, Peach Habaneros, Banana Peppers, Fish Peppers, Brazilian Starfish Peppers, and Grandpa’s Red peppers:

We easily, easily, in this first big harvest pulled more than 50 lbs of peppers off these plants. I pickled some, made cowboy candy with the jalapenos, and jalapeno poppers, we turned a bunch into fermented hot sauces, and we roasted, de-skinned and de-seeded the green chilis to use all throughout the winter. There will be separate posts for those adventures.

So after a full day of working in the patio garden, knowing it was likely our last chance and we were covered in tomato pollen/dirt and whatever else we’d come in contact with, we stripped down to our skives and jumped into the pool for a “rinse off,” as Aunt Andy put it, prior to hopping in the shower. Our patio looked less like a jungle of plants- and so much prettier. Not to mention the mums, coreopsis, veronica, and pumpkins that Aunt Andy added as a fall touch. Mums are one of my favorite plants they’re so compact and perfect and beautiful. For the last month and a half I have enjoyed my patio in all its fall glory. Watching our Japanese Maples turn into their deep maroon color and our plants produced fruit all the way into November. We harvested our final peppers earlier this week- and it was twice the amount of the aforementioned.We’re up to our eyeballs in peppers over here and we love it.

Here’s a photo of us enjoying our pool on September 17th – SEPTEMBER 17th!!! Unheard of in Western NY. Yes it was cold, and yes it was also glorious.

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Aunt Andy didn’t stop here, we also added a fruit orchard to the front yard of our house – after telling her on a whim we’d been considering it, before I knew it we were in the car and on our way to adopt some of the most beautiful Peach, Pear, and Cherry trees that were available in the surrounding area’s nurseries. It was there I learned from one of the master gardeners that in our zone (6a) it’s actually better to plant fruit trees in the fall rather than the spring. Imagine my glee while we planted our first donut peach tree into the ground. Next summer should yield a harvest and each piece of fruit I pick will forever make me think of Aunt Andy – but then, I think that was her goal after all.

I have so much more to tell you about my garden, but I’m sure this post is already long enough. Another day I’ll tell you about the way-back garden, where we still have Lettuce, Kale and Brussels Sprouts growing despite heavy frosts and snow! We’ve been doing our best to soak up our fall days here and I have been trying to go for as many walks as possible while watching the leaves change. It is such a special time of year here in Western NY. I value it so much. It does make me sad that I have to wait again until next year to start growing all of my produce again, but I think that it is a great success that I just purchased vegetables at Wegmans for the first time since the first week of July. The garden has been so good to us.

How are your harvests going? Have your gardens also been good to you?

The Story of Tootsie Pops

I sent my Dad some of the essays I’ve posted here, he told me he loved them, that he loved hearing my perspective of things that he did as a Dad, or my account of how things were, because its so different from child to father. He pointed out something that I’ve talked about a lot, and well, I cried about at my wedding shower. Tootsie Pops.

When my parents first met, my Dad was living in Syracuse, NY working as an engineer at a company that I don’t recall the name of, my Mom was still living with her parents in Buffalo N.Y. where both my parents grew up. After they met, and got married (within a year – yes, they’re crazy, but very much still in love – its amazing – more on that another time) my Mom moved to Syracuse to live with him, well it wasn’t long after that that my Dad was offered a job in Rochester N.Y. much to their excitement which was about an hour closer to both families! So, that is how my parents came to be in Rochester N.Y.

Since both my parents families live in Buffalo N.Y. we frequently traveled there – I mean FREQUENTLY – we spent the night in Buffalo a lot, I grew up pretty much believing that Rochester had absolutely nothing to offer in comparison to the place that invented the GD Chicken wing – you know – the BUFFALO Chicken Wing.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time in Buffalo, which  meant a long drive, with three kids, and that drive started where I grew up, and a place that I hold dearly – Hilton N.Y. to get to the highway from the suburb that we lived in you had to drive all the way up route 259, and on the way was a mobile gas station – this was the gas station that we frequently stopped at for gas because, well, it was on the way, and it just made sense.

Well, this mobile gas station meant way more to us than it did to my parents because as far as we were concerned THIS gas station on the corner of route 259 and hilton-parma townline road, well it housed all the tootsie pops in existence as far as we were concerned. Knowing we were going to stop at this gas station made good behavior absolutely imperative. There was minimal arguing, rough housing and teasing, we traded these behaviors for the impending car ride with pleasant joking and our best behavior so that when we stopped at that gas station and my Dad went inside to pay, thoughts of his well-behaved children and their sense of humor would be at the forefront of his mind. And when he did go inside to pay I would sit in the car straining to see him inside the gas station through the inevitably dirty window of the 1990 red minivan that my parents had, I would strain and I would hope. I would hope for that brown paper bag.

I don’t know exactly when this started, or for that matter when it stopped. I can tell you this though, my Dad was (and IS) known for giving gifts without a reason, or unattached to a particular day, and I guess he started a tradition that he didn’t even realize the first day that he stood in front of the counter and grabbed three tootsie pops and threw them in that brown paper bag. But that bag, it became a symbol as time passed, and I would strain and stare and try to see through the window, did he have the brown paper bag? Inside the bag would be three tootsie pops! Rejoice! Quickly resume the normal arguing, rough housing and teasing, but not before expressing jubilance and joy over the simplest sucker of all – the Tootsie Pop, that came in a brown paper bag, at a gas station on the corner of route 259 and hilton-parma townline road.

To this day, when I drive by the spot where the gas station used to be, I still think about the brown paper bag, and the tootsie pops. It became a symbol, for sure, and on the day of my wedding shower, my sister handed me a brown paper bag with a note from my dad, and inside the bag – tootsie pops.

The Story of First Grade

First grade was a pivotal year for me and my life. I had a few years of being a big sister under my belt, my reading level was excellent, and I had a brand new pack of crayons and a great teacher. For me, first grade was full of firsts, firsts like – first time I ever thought anyone my age would kiss another person my age, in my head that was for moms and dads only and unique to them. First time I ever fell asleep in school, oddly enough during D.E.A.R (drop everything and read) time, I zonked out, I’m talking drooling on the book zonked, my teacher gently woke me which was basically like a shot of adrenaline directly to the heart, I ripped my slobbery cheek off the book in terror assuming everyone in the class knew I was sleeping and was obviously laughing at me. To my surprise, and relief this was not the case. I quickly wiped my cheek and went back to reading just as fast as I could. First grade was the first time had to share with someone I wasn’t related that really annoyed me.

In first grade we played Mum or Mum’s the word, or whatever everyone else might’ve called it. It consisted of us staying as quiet as humanly possible while tossing the dusty eraser from person to person. The best part about mum was that we got to sit on top of our desks, how exciting, six years old sitting on desks, I’m sure this isn’t allowed any more.

Anyway, if I am not my father’s daughter than I do not know who I am. I am a fierce competitor, I like saying things like “practice how you play” I grew up hearing “if your tongue isn’t dragging on the field then you didn’t play hard enough” from my father. I am the same child that wasn’t allowed to have dinner until I swished the basketball, kick the soccer ball -correctly- or knew how to throw a football properly. So bringing this attitude into the classroom to play mum made me a really good player, I got to see lots of action with that eraser. People knew I’d be able to catch it, and that I wouldn’t be the one to let it fall on the ground and disrupt the game.

I remember that it was hot, really hot, humid for June, and I remember being SO glad when Mrs. Melvin said to get on top of our desks so that we could play Mum. I quickly put away my work, jumped up onto my desk with all my six-year-old athletic prowess ready for some serious mum action. Well, not everyone in the class was athletic, hell some didn’t have an athletic or competitive bone in their body, and yes, the teacher made us pass them the eraser, because she was a great teacher and was always sure to include everyone. Well one of these…less athletic girls sort of pushed the eraser in the air in my direction, and being the competitor that I was born to be, I sure as hell wasn’t going to let that eraser hit the ground and I dove off my desk to catch it, and catch it I did, but as I caught it my body thud onto the floor expelling all the oxygen from my lungs so fast I was convinced I was dying.

I had never felt anything like it, and with terror in my eyes I found my teacher while trying to breathe, thinking, this is it? I’m going to die, I can’t die yet.  All while trying so hard to catch my breath and find it when I found my teacher’s eyes behind her tiny glasses, and being the great but firm teacher she was she reached down and grabbed my hand – the whole class watching me choke to death on no air- and calmly told me, you’re not going to die, just take deep breaths, the air will come back. You just had the wind knocked out of you, you will be okay. I didn’t believe her though, and I fought with my lungs, I fought for them to find the air faster, making all kinds of hideous noises thinking this is all that girl who can’t throw the eraser’s fault, at least I caught it. At least I caught the eraser.

My Favorite (Football) Snack

In honor of football season being underway I wanted to share what I always call our “Football Snacks.” The first time Jeremy ever made me a Jalapeno Popper it was as a snack for a football game (of which we are big fans).

We grow our own Jalapenos and they are easily one of the more versatile peppers in our arsenal. If I’m honest, I feel like we can never grow enough from pickling, to cowboy candy, to poppers, to hot sauces, there are never too many jalapenos. I don’t even know if I could pick a favorite way to eat them, but I digress.

If you’re into football and you’re into Keto then these are an awesome snack to have around. Its appallingly simple and even more delicious!

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Recipe:

  • 10-12 Jalapenos, halved and de-seeded
  • 1 block of cream cheese
  • 2 Tbs of BBQ Rub (we have a homemade rub we use, but feel free to use any you’d like)
  • 1-2 lbs of bacon
  • 20-24 tooth picks

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix the BBQ rub into the cream cheese – mix well here – you can make it as sweet or salty as you and yours enjoy. Then spread a dollup of cream cheese into each jalapeno half. After all the jalapenos are filled, take your bacon and wrap it around each and secure with a toothpick. Then Jeremy always sprinkles more BBQ rub on top of them before baking.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until bacon is cooked to your liking. I like it to be cooked to crispy. Pull out and let cool – as long as you take it, then plate up and eat up!

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Do you have any favorite football snacks?

Wild Things

The past few weeks have been littered with difficult and exciting things equally. We are now, 13 days away from my baby sister’s wedding. With weddings (unfortunately and much to my personal dismay) comes plenty of stress – what with the expectations of attendees, parents, bridal party, brides, grooms you name it everyone has expectations. So as Matron of Honor it is my duty to be there to listen, help and service this union in whatever way I must. As we are in the final stretch there have been a few kinks but nothing we couldn’t handle.

While handling these kinks and unexpected difficulties we received scary news of my Uncle suffering a stroke and continued brain bleed. It was pins and needles – 50-50 shot to make it through the night kind of thing. Thankfully we’re just on the other side of this now and Doctors predict an almost full recovery – nothing like almost losing someone close to you to put things in perspective eh?

As we’re recovering from the almost-loss our family suffered an actual loss of an important character in my Mother’s life. Someone who meant a great deal to her and played an important role in helping her to become who she is today.

I was really beginning to feel like the universe was piling it on – when more unexpected difficulties or transitions were beginning – as I was watching our September calendar now filled with funeral, then wedding, then guest after guest after guest after guest who will be staying with us it began to feel like I couldn’t breathe. My head was spinning – I was trying to figure out how to make everything happen – this is a common thing that I do – I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) which results in my trying to do everything and anything and squeeze this visit in here – that visit in there – and while I’m trying to schedule that and be there for my Dad who is suffering the almost loss of his brother in law and a sobering reality check- be there for my Mom who is suffering the loss of her cousin, Be there for my sister as her Matron of honor, be there for my aunts, my cousins…so on and so forth.

I found myself one evening bordering tears trying to process my roller coaster of emotions and I went out to my garden and just sat there. I sat and watched the flowers dance in the gentle summer breeze. I reveled in the smell of the tomatoes and the basil as the breeze blew through them. I watched the carrot tops sway and the purple bean vines hang in the heat. I just sat there. I stared out at it and took deep breath after deep breath. Honestly – this coupled with blabbering on and on to my husband (I’m forever in admiration of his endless tolerance for my endless blabbering) was the best therapy I could have given myself.

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That night I came inside and was scrolling through my Instagram feed and stumbled across this poem that spoke so exactly to how I was feeling, I’ve been waiting to write a post about it ever since.

Without further adieu –

The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Barry 

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Thanks for listening friends. How do you cope when the universe is piling it on?