Friday, October 30, 2009

Game Over

Hurricane Volleyball is now done. And the same can be said for me . . . I am done. I am sooooooo done with the season. It was wonderful while it lasted. But now I am done!

I have taken admissions, sent e-mails, washed uniforms, collected monies, and planned parties. I have been a cheerleader, line judge, team mom, intercessor, and chauffeur. I have been communicated through, screamed at, bumped to, paid for, and spiked over.

And I have loved it!! But now I am done. And the two most wonderful words in the world to me would be "Mediterranean . . . . . vacation." Smile.

And I'd do it. Yes, I'd do it. Don't know where I think I'd get the money, but I'd soooooo do it. I'd march right over to some travel agency and book a flight to Greece and pack my bags.

Except for three words.

"JV . . . . . Basketball . . . . . Season."


And I will love it. Go Hurricanes!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Things to Delight The Heart of a Five Year-Old

Glitter shoes from the consignment store:

Destroying the competition in a fast-paced game of Kitty Memory:

Black olives on all five fingers:

Blowing bubbles at a wedding:

Six candles on a plate of cupcakes . . . celebrating that you're five no longer:

Happy Birthday, Youngest Daughter!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's Time for Comfort Food

I had a hard time letting go of summer this year . . . a really, really hard time. But after about a week and half straight of grey skies, drizzling rain, and wet-cold air, I'm ready to concede and face the reality that summer is, indeed, gone.

So, in turning away from the joys of warm air and headily sweet flowers and cotton clothing, I am embracing one of my favorite joys of winter and autumn . . . the deliciousness of comfort food!!

Comfort food just doesn't work in the summer; does it? There's something about sitting down to eat dinner on a sweltering night in July, knowing that in the morning you will be taking your children to the pool with nothing between you and the world but a scant piece of spandex-enhanced nylon that makes tucking into a plate of homemade macaroni and cheese with buttered bread crumbs on the top less than inviting.

But autumn and winter? Now, that's a different story. Bring on the comfort foods! A large, flaky chicken pot pie, perhaps? Or Shredded Italian Pot Roast . . . bubbling away all day in the crock pot.

Yes, this past weekend was time for Italian Pot Roast. So, in tribute to the joys of cool air and dazzling fall leaves and grey, dripping skies, I'll post the recipe below. And you can celebrate with me!

Shredded Italian Pot Roast

8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large onion, cut in half and sliced
2 1/2 - 3 pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed (I used eye of round, which the recipe said was a lower fat
alternative. It was wonderful!)
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 - 1 oz. envelope dry onion soup mix.
1 - 14 oz. can beef broth
1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Place mushrooms and onion in the bottom of a 5 1/2 quart slow cooker.

Sprinkle roast evenly with pepper. Brown roast on all sides in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place roast on top of mushrooms and onion in slow cooker. Sprinkle onion soup mix evenly over roast. Pour beef broth and tomato sauce over roast. Cover and cook on HIGH 5 to 6 hours or until meat shreds easily with a fork.

Remove roast from slow cooker and shred.

Skim fat from juices in slow cooker. Stir in dried Italian seasoning and tomato paste. Stir together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. Add to juices in slow cooker, stirring until blended. Cover and cook on HIGH 20 to 30 more minutes or until mixture is thickened. Add shredded roast back to slow cooker. Cover and cook until thoroughly heated.
Serve over hot, cooked egg noodles or hearty brown rice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Forever Young!

I have a pretty great brother-in-law, which is exactly why, when celebrating his birthday, I made a generous offer. I told him I would make any . . . any dessert that he wanted for this big birthday . . . this very big birthday!

This would, of course, include any type or kind of cake:

any variety of delicious pie, cobbler, or crisp:

any sort of pudding, trifle, or "delight":

It would, of course, even include the prima donna of all desserts, and my personal favorite:

Now, before I tell you what he chose, I have to tell you that this is a guy that still flies kites on the beach, can't wait for the 4th of July to set off fireworks, gets excited over all his nieces and nephews sporting events, and lights up the house at Christmas within an inch of its life. Definitely a kid at heart!

So, it should be no surprise that when offered the chance for any dessert he asked for:

Yes, Pillsbury "Funfetti" cake with Betty Crocker whipped butter cream frosting. The addition of sprinkles was mine because you can't do "funfetti" on the inside of the cake without doing confetti on the outside!

You've just got to love a guy that stays "forever young"!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Caught in the Middle

I had an odd experience this weekend. I walked down the front walk, up the front steps, in the front door. There to my left were 5 smooth, perfect pumpkins . . . waiting to be carved. Mmmm, lovely fall images come to mind at the sight of those pumpkins . . . wickedly glowing jack-o-lanterns, candy corn, the mad bobbing to bring an apple up out of a tub of water, crisp mornings. Fall . . . such a tinglingly delicous season.

I walked through the house and heard a noise in the back yard.

I walked out the back door, across the back deck, down the back deck steps. There in front of me was Youngest Daughter . . . wearing a bathing suit . . . jumping on the trampoline . . . with a sprinkler blasting up from the bottom of the trampoline . . . freezing water wetting her down. The sun up above roasting hot.

(Please excuse the tattered net. Yes, of course there's a story, but now is not the time : ) )

In that moment, all fall images faded away. And I was instead pulled back into the world of popsicles, sunscreen, flip flops and beach towels.

And the house . . . it was caught in the middle fall at the front door, summer out the back.

I love this time of year when for a little while I can drink deeply from the cup of both seasons.

Summer winding down . . . wearing out. Fall gearing up . . . sashaying in.

And for a little while I can have "the best of both worlds."

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Note to My Dinner Guests

To My Dinner Guests:

I know you live in a calm and peaceful home. I know you were alarmed when havoc broke out while we were cheerfully discussing family history around the dinner table.

I know the two of you do not ever over stuff a toilet with toilet paper. I know you were surprised to find that not only can our toilets be stuffed with toilet paper, they can also overflow for quite a long period without anyone in the household being aware of such.

I know your dinner conversations usually revolve around traveling to interesting places, home renovations, and orderly schedules. I know you do not generally have someone say, "Is it raining?" while sitting at the dinner table and then walk into the kitchen to find raw sewage dripping down into the kitchen . . . and the hallway . . . and through light fixtures.

I know if you were ever to have a flooding toilet disaster you would sensibly reach for dishpans, buckets, and plastic storage bins. I know you would not reach for pasta pots, large salad bowls, stir fry pans, or mixing bowls.

I know you were probably alarmed to see me do exactly that . . . to catch the mess . . . cascading down . . . into my kitchen.

So, lest you refuse to ever come over again, I must tell you.

My nice beach towels have been laundered on hot with extra detergent. The wood floor has been disinfected. And every one of my pans, pots and large bowls have been thoroughly washed in soapy water and bleach.

You wouldn't let a little thing like this scare you away . . . right??

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hot Coffee and Lessons Learned

On Sunday, I knew God was trying to get my attention. The pastor talked about the way God's Spirit whispers in our hearts and tells us to reach out to others. So often, we think, "Oh, surely that's not Him. That's just my own silly thoughts. Surely He's not asking me to do that." And we miss opportunities, we quench His Spirit, our own spirits shrink.

"Yes, Lord," I whispered. "I want to hear You. I want to do what you lay on my heart. No more balking or questioning You. I'll err on the side of of thinking it is you, not on the side of thinking it's not you." Lesson learned.

Well, yes, lesson learned, but have you ever had a lesson that did not have a test to see if the lesson was, indeed, learned??

The very next day was, of course, Monday. It was cold and wet . . . drizzly, damp . . . the kind of chill that gets in your bones and makes you miserable. Youngest Son and I did most of his school in front of the fireplace. That was where you wanted to be on this nastiest of days.

At lunch I ran out to do an errand and drove down a long, winding road with many small hills and valleys. On the right shoulder of the road a scruffy, middle-aged man walked, arms crossed over his chest, sheltering himself from the chill. Drizzly rain fell over his hair and dripped down his shirt.

"Buy him a hot coffee," the Spirit prodded.

"See, now, there I go again. Now I think I have to help everybody. Gotta get this errand done. Poor guy; he does look miserable!"

I ran my errand and then headed back down the same winding, hilly road. Same guy walking up the same road. Shoulders hunched into the wind.

"Buy him a hot coffee," same prompting.

Deep breath.

Okay, I don't usually do this kind of thing. But I think this is Your prompting!! Yes, Sir. I'm off to McDonald's.

At McDonald's I ordered the coffee. No little $1.19 cup. No, I'll order my favorite . . . steaming hot mocha, lots of whipped cream.

I hurried back to where I'd seen the man and pulled to the side of the road. His eyes showed startled alarm. I'm sure he assumed some crazy woman had lost control of her car and his life was already beginning to flash before his eyes.

" Hi! I've driven by you twice, and I just think no one should have to be out in this rain. I wanted to buy you a hot coffee to warm you up."

Turns out he was taking the bus home and ran out of money and had been hitchiking/walking from Charlotte, NC . . . 95 miles away.

"I just want you to know God cares about you today. He loves you."

His eyes brightened, he smiled. And as I drove away I watched him in the rearview mirror. I saw him lift the cup and sip, and I knew he was licking up all the mounds of whipped cream with the chocolate drizzled over the top . . . and feeling warm.

And I felt joy.

"Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you do for Me."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We Had A Wedding!

Oooh, we had a wedding! No, not in the immediate "Imperfection" family but in extended family. And it was a family affair!

We squeezed into dress clothes:

And took gifts:

(Now, that was worth it!)

We slowly walked the aisle and adjusted the bride's train and generally looked pretty:

We lit candles:

Dropped silky white petals in thick clumps up the main aisle:

And resignedly handed out programs at the door:

I directed the wedding, and the Man of the House shuttled people back and forth, ate pizza patiently for too many dinners, tried to ignore the fact that his shirts hadn't been ironed, and paid for all of us to look beautiful.

The wedding had all the things we love to love in weddings!

Beautiful bride:

(sweet niece)

The moistest, lusciousest, bestest wedding cake we ever tasted:

(This is all that's left of an entire cake round after a post-wedding brunch and then being generally attacked by my brood.)

Dreamy flowers:

It was hectic and exhilirating and poignant and exhausting. And it's over. But it sure was fun while it lasted!