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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Holidays!

The festive greetings seem louder this year and maybe they even mean more.

Bill and I once again managed to put the tree up and got it covered with memories. I am always so proud that each ornament carries its own story going back so many years.

There are the Hungarian hearts sold to me by a woman on a street in Budapest. It was my first trip to Hungary to see where my father was born.

And look at the smallest decorated glass globes! They are what are left of the very first ornaments we purchased 62 years ago when newly wed. We were so young and just starting our lives as adults.

I love the doggy memories too. One real ostrich egg has our pair of Golden Retrievers painted on, and another is of my brother’s Dalmation. The horses are there too – Martini and Lucy.

The list goes on and the finally the fully dressed tree each year is actually a biography of a family.

That is what Christmas is all about – Past, Present, and Future. So, I am wishing you, my family and friends, good health and happiness and more of the same and lots of great memories in days to come.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Well, the gang was all here for Thanksgiving in the country and it was a hoot (as they used to say in another of my previous eras). Son, daughter-in-law, 3 grandgirls and one Golden Doodle descended upon this quiet, mostly people-less, oasis of calm and serenity in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Even Elsa-the-dog was in shock and only began to adjust by Day 4.

Thanksgiving day and the day before were a frenzy of cooking. And in spite of my Grand-girl, Jessica’s brilliant pre-holiday spread sheet outlining each of our specially owned menu items, we largely proceeded to cook old favorites in our own unique ways. The results were a delicious (if not elegant) meal. This is not a criticism because there are obviously benefits to using paper plates liked fast cleanup and less chaos in the kitchen.

But I had envisioned setting the table with “good china” for the first time since the advent of Covid and in fact, bought a new cloth that would spotlight the glowing beauty, etc.

I think it was the day after Thanksgiving when we almost all went to the Great Valley Farm and Brewery just to check it out and for something to do. And for no real reason we stayed and stayed in a plastic wrapped bubble laughing and talking and of course sipping the wine and eventually the view, and made friends with a giant pit bull terrier named Ed who was happily visiting there with his own human family. And Ed was truly a gentle loving giant.

Since I had not had a drink in years you might understand why the giggles came on strong. I was also chilled since being housebound and not accustomed to real air. The girls noticed me shiver and proceeded to wrap up Grammy and the giggles got hilariously contagious.

After awhile we moved on down the hill to the Halcyon Days Cider place and sampled all their delicious hard cider varieties which only amplified the giggles. There was more of course…. more food, more games, more talking and laughter.

The gang was all here and now gone. There is an odd empty feeling of quiet.

So we decorated the Christmas tree.

And all the while we were wishing the family and all of you wonderful friends in cyberspace a Christmas laced with great food, grins and giggles.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

My mind is wandering. The chaos of the holidays is especially confusing this year and of course I can blame it all on the pandemic.

Is the Covid-19 pandemic evolving or devolving? Is it now called endemic because the cases are going down? Or is it because the numbers of hospital stays are decreasing? Or is it the number of deaths? Or maybe things are not improving at all.

They say there is a new “variant” emerging that could be faster at spreading than ever and maybe more lethal. Or is it? Boosters might help or might not. Hunkering down again might help or might not. Should I wear a mask all the time or just in public or just among the unvaccinated? Should it be made of cloth or what?

Really I have more important things to think about. Almost my whole family are coming for Thanksgiving. Who will bring what or cook what and how will we all be seated? My mind is wandering.

It is not even Halloween yet but I already have plans for Thanksgiving. Planning is the secret.

  • I will make a big beautiful chocolate bundt cake the day before. That is in case there is a pumpkin shortage. They are predicting shortages you know and pumpkin is one (due to some sort of fungus on the crops… or is it a dearth of trucks for transport?). I do love pumpkin pie but chocolate will take the yearning away if need be. I have all the cake ingredients now so Ready-Get Set-Go!
  • I will also make my own favorite cranberry salad two days ahead to give it time to set and merge. There is a joke in the family about the grand who added 3 cups of sugar to the salad making it inedible. Not this time although she has graciously offered to make it again!
  • But just in case there is a problem or a shortage of cranberries we have two cans of the jellied version – the old fashioned kind we used to get when I was a child.
  • I will also make my own favorite veggies with carrots and turnips the day before.
  • We are stocked up with Stovetop Stuffing.
  • There is nothing like instant mashed potatoes nowadays but I will have a bag of real potatoes on hand just in case.
  • My friend reminded me of the merits in making a marinated salad so forget the green bean casserole.
  • That only leaves the turkey and gravy!

And there you have it. This is what happens when my mind wanders.

Now onto Christmas!

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I was in the hospital a few weeks ago, recovering from total hip replacement surgery. The nurses and all the staff were wonderful and I was trying to be cooperative as well. I was scared but putting a brave face forward and trying not to be too demanding. And I was also asking questions about their own families and lives.

One of the nurses told me she was from Finland and had married an American. She said she was not entirely happy here because she was pregnant. And she said that in Finland, new moms get a year off when the babe is born. And yes, I looked that up!

Finland offers a very long parental leave to its employees, where starting in 2021, both parents are entitled to parental leave of 164 days each. Parents will be able to transfer 69 days from their own quota to the other parent.

Another long-time nurse was an animal lover who had horses, dogs, cats and other creatures she adored. We shared happy dog and horse stories like old-time good friends.

Then another of my favorite nurses said, “I want to be you when I grow up.” She was not a child of course, but she said that in the most matter-of-fact way.

Finally another long-time nurse wheeled me out to the car at discharge time. And as we left, she said to Bill, “Take care of her because she is precious!”

I have been thinking about those nurses and the things they said and the stories they shared ever since.

“I want to be you when I grow up” is the most unique and unforgettable compliment I have ever received.

What is the greatest compliment you remember?

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The 3 grands cooking

Complete with dogs and grandgirls and son and daughter-in-law, our house became a home again after nearly two years of no visitors due to the Covid-19 virus restrictions. I still think of the three grands as children but here they were, all gainfully employed and taking time from their busy schedules to meet up again and comfort this Grammy with the new hip.

The youngest grand-girl arrived with some beautiful flowers that promptly set off an allergic reaction. The middle grand put them out on the deck so we could see them through the glass doors but not get close to the pollen.

There were also Dove chocolate bites – no allergic reaction there. And a bandana for Elsa!

Then they cooked and made it a double celebration. Not only were we reunited after such a long time, but they also wanted to celebrate Bill’s upcoming birthday making a ham and noodles dish he loves. After telling them the story of his Mom making apple streudle, they looked that up and made that too.

While I was in surgery and Bill was biting his nails waiting, our son and daughter-in-law were taking care of Elsa and the house. I came home to Emmy’s famous chicken noodle soup and other fabulous dishes that kept her in the kitchen. and waiting on me “hand and foot.”

Son, Corky kept the house together, fixing things and comforting Elsa, who now loves him back and is pining for him. Though she kept up a steady stream of barking, she seems to be missing all the chaos.

Our middle grandgirl brought her GoldenDoodle 8 month old puppy (named Indie) who we decided to keep separated from Elsa. Elsa is a rescue and we were not really sure how she would interact. Fortunately Indie and the family fell in love with the pool, the weather was good and everybody was happy. I am not allowed in a pool of course so I watched from the kitchen window.

Daughter-in-Law, Emmy
Son, Corky

I always envied folks their family reunions but never suspected there would be one of my own. We are a relatively small unit but how lovely to know how committed we all are to each other and how much love we share.

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Well, tis done. A week ago I got a whole new hip. The surgeon who was there when I opened my eyes told me so. And the whole episode was a kind of strange other-worldly experience.

PRE-SURGERY I stayed in a hotel in a handicap room with a “roll-in” shower.

I figured if I could roll in, I could walk in.

Not so.

I managed to slip on the very slick floor and thought I landed close to the bad hip. Then dragged myself to a carpeted room, and decided since there was no intense pain anywhere I could stay mum about the fall and go forward with the operation in the morning.

And that is what happened.

All went well in the morning including anesthesia with numbing of the back and me asleep in a flash with no nausea or any distress upon awakening!

But the saga went on.

It was agreed I would spend one night in the hospital. I was off to my own little room and bath and right next to that was a man who began a long diatribe of groaning, moaning, swearing, praying, and screaming. With colorful language and an actor’s ability to project, I began wishing relief for him via a sedative.

The nurses on the ward were in a constant huddle whilst taking abusive language as he was shouting, “Please, PLEASE, PLEASE! DO SOMETHING. I AM NOT GOING TO MAKE IT. HELP ME!!! OHHHHHHH, AAAAARGH, OWWWW, JESUS, DEAR GOD”, etc.

His language was so colorful and the nurses were so distraught that it became like an exciting audio story with dramatic sound effects.

Through this drama, nurses were still tending to other patients and would come in to check on me and would provide updates. Some said there was no reason for him to be carrying on like that, and how they were trying to get an on-call surgeon to come in. It was around 4:30 AM when I learned the Moaning Man was finally given morphine and was asleep which could not be said of the other patients on the ward.

The Moaning Man turned out to be a blessing because he actually kept my mind off my hip and on him.

I have been home a week since then and doing the exercises, walking inside with a walker, being pampered by Bill, son, daughter-in-law, and my three grandgirls.

All seems to be going well with more news to come as I progress from a slow gimpy gait to racehorse status.

So, how was your week?

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Elsa, our quirky rescue dog is terrified of loud noises. She is convinced the sky must be falling and she is the target.

It is thundering as I try to describe this shaking, shivering fur ball who is hiding in the well of my desk. At least it is walled on two sides and make it three with the wall behind, and the desk top makes for an igloo or cave-like spot. Then there is the added comfort of my knees for human reassurance.

I only hope there will be good weather next week during my hip surgery. There are no worries over hospital equipment or expertise, but the weather?

The weather can make or break Elsa while I am away.

But believe it or not, our son and daughter-in-law are traveling thousands of miles to be here – yep – for Elsa! The paranoid pup does truly love our son but I exaggerate a little. Corky and Emmy are actually coming to help wherever they see a need. How wonderful is that?

The skies are quieter now and so is Elsa.

The storm has passed and she is in her safe place.

Elsa in her safe place under my desk!
Elsa when the sun shines!

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Sixty plus years of marriage is a lot to celebrate, but once again Bill and I are recalling the “I Do’s” spoken to a justice of the peace so long ago. We wanted to elope but Mom said that would break my father’s heart, so we stayed in town and Dad cried anyway as he predicted Bill would leave me as soon as he graduated from college.

Dad is the one in the background of our wedding picture, hands on hips, predicting doom.

Dad was so wrong.

Because here we are, still together.

And even through self-quarantining for over a year trying to avoid Covid-19, we have still not run out of conversation.

And even through my BigFoot and now arthritic hip, we are still a dedicated pair.

Life has thrown us some curve balls but we stuck together anyway and we still celebrate

the good times and the growing family and the good friends, those who still linger and those who are gone.

It was a day in a lifetime, our wedding day, but it was only

a preface to a long story.

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

My Dad was Hungarian and a very good cook. I think he even had his own Hungarian restaurant once.

Mom, on the other hand, was known far and wide for her burnt porkchops and except for a few tried and true ultra-simplistic recipes, she was not considered an inspiring cook.

Maybe it is true that opposites attract.

But Mom’s brave attempts at gourmet cooking caused Dad to make a teasing proclamation he repeated often at the family dinner table. It was an anonymous quote guaranteed to make Mom angry when she had done the cooking.

And the impact of those words echo in my memory and remain a constant reminder today of what constitutes a good cook.

What did my Dad say to provide such contemplation and inspiration?

He said, “The cook is not in love!”

And that meant there was not enough salt!

Nowadays we all seem to be “watching our salt” intake. Still, there is something to be said for tasting as you go. And that was the way of the best cooks in my Dad’s experience. Poor Mom stayed quiet and just kept trying.

On occasion Dad would give me his recipes for the dishes I liked best. Here’s a good one, for the most favorite dish in my family.

HUNGARIAN CHICKEN PAPRIKASH

For a family of four: 6-8 chicken pieces or more.

In large pot, melt 2 sticks of butter.

Add 2 large chopped onions and saute until onions are translucent.

Add the larger pieces of chicken (breasts) skin side down.

Spoon some of the onion over each layer.

On top of that, add the smaller pieces of chicken skin side down.

Simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Reverse and turn everything.  Now put smaller pieces of chicken on the

bottom skin side up and the bigger pieces on top of that, skin side up.

Simmer covered for 20 minutes more.

You should now have lots of juice.  If not, add some water.

Also now add lots of paprika – 4 or 5 or 6 tablespoonsful. 

You are looking for a very orange colored gravy.

Simmer another 15 minutes.

Your Hungarian Paprikash is done!

Serve over cooked egg noodles or spaetzle.

Serve with sour cream on the side.

The odd thing about this recipe is the only spice is Paprika. NO salt or pepper are called for and in fact discouraged. Each diner can add salt or not at will. And no comments will be made about the cook not being in love.

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This is Me, Elsa

They call me a Rescue Dog but I am really just a dog, a descendent of the mighty wolves of long ago. I actually remember bits and pieces of that ancient time when we depended upon our wolf families to survive. This leftover is a dog who still thinks the family/pack is everything.

I remember my ancient mother licking my face to tell me I was safe and cared for. And I remember roughhouse playing with my siblings as practice for real hunting and fighting. But mostly I remember the “now times” and my first, second and third human families.

My name is Elsa.

I am a little rescue dog with big wolf ideas.

In this life I have some bad memories.

My first human family did not really want puppies so they gave me to a kennel where I lived in a cage. Then a mean couple finally adopted me. I had a home but it was not a happy place because the man hit the lady and made her cry. I would growl at him and bark but he hit her anyway and he hit me too. I think he broke one of my ribs because it still sticks out and I don’t like anyone touching there. I also cringe and flinch if you try to pat me on my head.

The mean couple trained me to never to “go” on the grass. They thought the neighbors would complain. To avoid getting hit or kicked I learned to always go on the edges, on the concrete or gravel even though that was uncomfortable and sometimes hot on my feet.

I never learned to play either because there were no toys in that house. As hard as I tried I suppose I never did anything right because the mean couple ended up leaving me at a kennel. Their reason given was they simply did not want me. I was back living in a cage.

The next people who adopted me gave me back too and said it was because of hospitalization. I never bit anyone but maybe they thought I did. I am not sure why they were hospitalized. Then I was put in a foster program instead of in a kennel. The foster people tried to be nice but they had too many dogs to care for. Every Saturday they took us to a pet store in Virginia where people came to meet us and maybe take us away.

How I hated Saturdays! The noise was unbearable because all the foster dogs barked and cried at once. We were all so afraid of all the strangers and there was this awful smell of fear.

But there was a lady who walked with a stick who came in that Saturday.

They brought her a chair and they took me to a cage that was right next to her. I fought with the two attendants who were trying to put me in there when the lady said, “Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.” And so I sat on-leash, next to the lady with my head on her foot, shivering and looking into her eyes to thank her in the only way I could.

That nice lady was named Dor and she was with another nice one named Emmy. They did not know me and I could not tell them how afraid I am of cars. Cars always take me to another horrible place. But Emmy and an attendant put me in the back seat of a car where I did some serious shaking and shivering. Emmy drove and Dor sat next to me. She wrapped me in her coat, held me close, and talked to me in a soft voice. She said, “It’s o.k. You are going home to a nice place where people will love you.” And she kept stroking my face and my ears like my real dog mother used to do and all the wolf mothers before her.

And I thought, “I will never forget this human. I will never forget.”

We drove for a long time to a house with other people and even a dog named Kota, who was much bigger than me and very very nervous. In fact, Kota turned out to be so nervous, she could not be still.

We went inside but I was sure they would soon take me to another kennel and another cage. I really wanted to explore but there were so many people talking at once and Kota kept running around nonstop. Finally I growled as if I were Mighty Wolf and scared Kota onto a chair with her mistress.

It was a relief to sleep that night in a dark room with Dor and Bill. I slept on a blanket at the foot of their bed and it was heavenly quiet. Everybody left in the morning except for Dor and Bill. Now we three would get to know each other and I somehow knew this would be my forever family,

I think I am as smart as any other dog, but it took a day and a night and some more experiences to believe I had a new home where the humans actually liked me.

Dor was the one human I decided to take care of.

I followed her everywhere and still do.

I sit behind her chair but if she moves I move.

I have been here two years now and all this time she thought I was the one who needed protecting. Even when I bark at strangers she thinks I am afraid for myself.

The truth is, I am protecting HER – not me. I do love all her soft words of praise and love and the gentle petting too. But I know my real purpose is to protect her and my family.

I knew this from the very first moment I heard her say,

“Please don’t put her in that cage. I will hold her.”

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