Sling-Shotting and Flying

Fall poked its head in this week. The nights and morning have been downright chilly. Long sleeves and light jackets have reappeared, but I’m refusing to retire my sandals and flip-flops before the end of this month.

I had big plans for my Saturday. After having been on vacation through last weekend, I was looking forward to a day at home to restore order around the house, restock the groceries and get the laundry under control again. And then I was reminded of a saying. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I was anything but at home yesterday and my chores weren’t tackled nearly to the degree I’d hoped. My mom is having a rough time and I ended up trekking her to and from a couple of appointments, and made a trip to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription. And then because Mom was feeling so under the weather, I took my dad to his church for five o’clock mass where he was on deck to preach and then went back to pick him up later. It occurred to me that I might have just stayed and spent some time in church, but I didn’t. It’s been years since I regularly attended and I was grateful Dad didn’t ask about it. I’m sure it bothers him greatly, my drifting away from his faith, but I appreciate him respecting my choice by leaving it be.

I ran on the treadmill at the gym last week, finally conceding to the mornings that have grown steadily darker as the summer days wane. But this being Sunday, I was happy for the luxury of sleeping until the sun was already up, with no particular schedule to meet. I could run outside again. Lucy was thrilled, though she about drove me nuts as the hound portion of her mixed breeding kicked into high gear and she stopped to sniff the scents she’d been missing all week. Her four legs have this crazy ability to stop dead in her tracks without her toppling over. My gears need time to gradually slow before stopping. We must have been a sight, the two of us, with her pulling up short to investigate every single ever-loving smell. And me sling-shotting past her time and again. I think it’s time for Lucy to start having daily walks that are separate from my runs. I’m pretty sure this stop-and-start business is impeding any forward progress I hope to make in my running abilities.

Still, I enjoyed my time outside again. It’s funny how much changes even with even the gradual shift in the season. One thing I noticed all summer long is how few people I’d encounter around the neighborhood as I ran along the pedestrian-friendly asphalt paths. This morning we shared space with a surprising number of other runners, walkers and dogs. In summers past, I used to exchange good mornings with a regular stream of people, but not so these past few months. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the warmth. I can’t say heat because it really didn’t get all that hot here this summer, particularly in the early part of the days before the sun had fully risen. In fact, I was grateful all along for the kind of temperatures and air that made it easier on my lungs and allowed me to keep working toward improvement as a runner.

And there was wind today like I don’t remember feeling in some time. As Lucy and I moved west and then south along our usual route, it seemed fierce and I felt it rushing in my ears, even though I knew this was somewhat of an illusion. Experience told me that when I reached our halfway point and turned back the other direction toward home, it would turn into a gentler breeze. The walkers today sported long pants and fleece jackets. I’d dressed in capris and short sleeves, knowing I’d work up a sweat and I was grateful for the wind that kept me cooler.

Sky 1The sky today held a heavier hue, confirming the transition of seasons that’s beginning to take shape. I do love the fall months and can only hope that signs of winter remain at bay until it’s their turn. Already one morning this week, I awoke to the feeling of cold air on my nose, my arms clutching the blankets in a tight curl around my body. I succumbed to the warmth of my bed and snoozed the alarm clock beyond hope of working in any amount of exercise before getting ready for work. That is a bad habit I really hope to squelch over the winter months.

My back and my inner spirit were glad that I resisted the urge to hibernate this morning. Spending time outside, appreciating the scenery of my neighborhood, and getting my heart rate going always gives me a boost that tends to carry me through the rest of the day. And truth be told, I knew Lucy was revelling in the return to a routine she greatly loves, so I couldn’t be too upset as she stopped me mid-stride once again to investigate a spread of gorgeous purple coneflowers beneath an electrical tower along the way. I stopped to let her sniff to her heart’s content and took the chance to study the prickled brown center of one of the flowers, knowing soon enough they’ll be fading away for the season.

Sky 3Today is shaping up to be a gorgeous day, with a few remnants of summer and a glimpse of fall evenly sprinkled within. A high school acquaintance shared some inspiration on Faceb00k this morning and we exchanged a few comments as a result. He left me with encouragement to go forward and create, to fly, and to enjoy this beautiful day. I’m going to go do my best!

Celebrating October

For a week or so, I’d been semi-contemplating what to wear to work on Halloween. Office appropriate costumes, the announcement said. There would be trick-or-treating in the break room as well. Always being in touch with my inner child, I signed right up.

First I thought I might dress as the company VP. I could have pulled it off by wearing one of Mark’s dress shirts and my own pair of khaki dress pants. The VP has a strut that I can imitate pretty well. This would have been the icing on the cake of this costume. But I decided it would only have been funny to a select group of people. Then I thought about this leopard get-up that Kacey wore last year, but I tried it on last night and after checking myself out in the mirror, couldn’t imagine wearing it around the office all day. So around eight o’clock last night, I started rummaging around Kacey’s closet. I sent her a text message and asked if she still had any softball jerseys hanging around. She said she did, directed me to where to find them and asked if I was planning to dress up as her. I said I was. It turned out to be office appropriate and comfortable. And I was glad I made the effort. When I got to work, I was greeted by a rocker and a Catholic high school girl-jock, otherwise known as my office team mates.

Halloween 2013(The vampire teeth were my contribution to the treat pool. I bought about 90 sets of teeth last night for the office party!)

The house was full of other October activity this past week. While Kacey was home, she wanted to make Old-Fashioned Soft Pumpkin cookies.

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We made a double batch; half for her to take back to school and half for the rest of us to enjoy at home. These are one of our favorites! SO good!

Jake was hungry for something pumpkin-y too. He had asked a couple of weeks ago if I could make Pumpkin Spice bread. I didn’t have a recipe, having never made this kind of bread. But the first one I looked up sounded good. So after the cookies, we baked the Pumpkin Spice bread. And it was delicious! Jake proclaimed it to be amazing and phenomenal. Coming from a kid who doesn’t elaborate much on anything, I considered it high praise.

005bAnd it wouldn’t be Halloween without a jack-o-lantern, now would it? Last Friday while I was making hot dagos for dinner, Kacey eyed up the pumpkin I’d bought at the grocery store and had plunked on the front step. She announced that she was going to carve it. I said she should have at it. If it were left up to me, we’d just have a punkin. But thanks to Kacey, we now have a cyclops jack-o-lantern to greet the trick-or-treaters.

006bIt’s been cloudy and rainy the past couple of days. It’s done raining now,and it’s a cold night. But that won’t stop the trick-or-treaters. And we’re ready for ‘em!

Halloween 2013 BHard to believe tomorrow we turn the corner to November already!

 

 

 

 

Happy Goals

Kacey came home from school for the weekend. She and Connor had a wedding to attend – his uncle’s. It was a casual affair, a second marriage for both the bride and groom. The event was a  fifties-themed backyard party and Kacey and Connor dressed accordingly, to the best of their ability anyway. As college students on limited budgets, poodle skirts and leather jackets weren’t really in the cards. But I thought they looked great.

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Mark and I went bowling while the kids were gone. We were home at a decent hour and the kids were already back from the wedding. They said they had fun. The food was good and there was even some dancing, which they love to do.

This morning, Mark, Kacey and I went to the farmers market in St. Paul. We bought carrots, bell peppers, sweet corn, radishes, beets, cauliflower and apples. I think Mark would have bought more stuff, but I reminded him that we had to be able to realistically eat all this stuff before it went bad. Besides, we couldn’t carry anymore in our overloaded arms.

At home, Kacey and I baked. I had a bunch of bananas going bad that we made into bread and I’d been craving some pumpkin cookies I made for the first time last year. So we did those too. I always have so much more fun working in the kitchen when she’s there to work alongside me or just keep me company.

We packed up some of each for Kacey to take back to school. She also took a little cooler of things I’d been freezing in individual portions for her. The oven in her apartment gets hotter than it should and the girls have burned a lot of food in their attempts at home cooking. So I’ve been stashing stuff in the freezer for Kacey – a couple of containers of pot roast and potatoes, some chicken and wild rice soup, pulled pork and taco meat. Kacey was thrilled. She said something about feeling a little bit bad for letting me do so much for her. I told her I enjoyed the chance to still “mother” her whenever I could. She said, “Good. ‘Cause I like it when you do.”

Everybody’s happy!

Speaking of being happy, I’ve been thinking about things I can do to promote a more positive attitude. I found a good quote to keep in mind this week. Considering where the idea of “happy goals” began, this seems appropriate.

Anger QuoteI’ve thought and thought and thought about what my specific goals should be. And I finally realized I was putting too much pressure on myself to come up with something really impressive. But then I finally realized that starting simple might be the better way to go, at least at first. So, this week I will strive to:

  1. Look for the good – There are usually more smiles, laughs and positive exchanges in my days than negative. I will choose to let the good stuff take up residence in my head and let the negative stuff roll off my back.
  2. Get outside – I spend too much time inside, at a desk, behind a computer. Fall is my favorite time of year. And I have a dog who loves to go for walks. She has plenty of room to run in the yard, but she would much rather go exploring around the neighborhood.
  3. Eat better – at least one vegetable a day. (I’m good with fruits, not so much with vegetables.)
  4. Perform a random act of kindness

In a week, maybe I’ll be willing to share how it all went. :-)

Thanksgiving Time is Here

Had a few shopping errands to run this weekend so Mark and I found ourselves in several stores this afternoon. It’s clear that as far as the retail world is concerned, Christmas time is here. I just can’t get all that excited about it yet. I’m just not in that big of a hurry. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, and not simply because it’s a passage to the Christmas season. I like Thanksgiving. I love the holiday feeling it brings without all the hurry and rush.

I’m fortunate to work for a company that shuts down operations and gives employees time off, not only for Thanksgiving Day but the day after as well. My kids who are away at school will be coming home and I’m anxiously awaiting the happy chaos that fills the house when everyone is here. I’ll have four wonderful days to enjoy having them all back in the fold again. We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with Mark’s family at his sister’s house. And I’m sure we’ll all overeat and come home exhausted.

After Thanksgiving, the next three days are ours.  I love to stay up late at night with the kids, watching movies and talking and laughing, knowing I won’t have to wake up to an alarm clock. I love to wake up in the morning and know that they’ll be here to spend lazy mornings with me, sitting in our pajamas, eating big breakfasts and drinking coffee.

And maybe the weather has a little something to do with my mood too. It’s been a beautiful, warm weekend. Rather unseasonable for this time of year, you might even say. The weather man says it’s going to continue through Thursday. When I drive through the neighborhoods, so many of the homes are still displaying their fall decor. There are pumpkins everywhere and it makes me want to bake. Something… pumpkin-y! So today I did just that. Don’t these look good?

Trust me. They are delicious!

No, I’m not ready to immerse myself in the Christmas season just yet. This week is Thanksgiving season and I play to enjoy it to the fullest.

You’re never too old to carve a jack-o-lantern

Kacey and Connor came home from school for the weekend. Both were craving some home cooking! Connor’s grandma made him a special meal of barbecued ribs. Kacey had asked for Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder. She got her wish too.

While at the grocery store on Friday night to pick up some of the necessary ingredients, Kacey mentioned that she wanted to carve pumpkins. Her friend, Amanda was home from her school for the weekend and they wanted to make a little party of it. So we bought chowder ingredients and pumpkins.

Saturday afternoon, the kids gathered at the kitchen table and went to work.

Scoopin’ the “guts” out

Kacey generated a pattern on the computer for her pumpkin.

Connor worked on a shape of the state of Minnesota.

Amanda created a pretty elaborate spider web pattern.

I made a caramel corn snack mix while the kids worked.

Proof that you’re never too old to have this kind of fun.

The finished jack-o-lanterns

The kids talked while they worked. Amanda is having boyfriend problems and she didn’t seem to mind my presence as Kacey and Connor offered her sympathy and advice. I marveled over the fact that they are grown-up enough to be in love, grown-up enough to offer mature perspectives to one another, grown-up enough to manage college and vote and balance a checking account, and yet, they could still make an afternoon out of pumpkin carving. Once again, I was reminded how lucky I am to have such good “kids” in my life.

Picture-Perfect October Weekend

It’s been a beautiful weekend; the kind of weekend that reminds me why fall is my favorite season. The sun came out, the air was warm and there’s still plenty of color in the trees.

Under the Maple tree out front

October clouds

Halloween is in the air. A handful of Halloween decorations have appeared around our house.

One of the witch hat luminaries that light the way up the front walk

On the front step, there’s a large, plastic, light-up jack-o-lantern. Jack has seen better days. His left eye has a slight puncture. But he stands proudly on the front step every year. He’s the same one Kacey picked out when she was three years old and out on an errand with Mark to the local do-it-yourself store. Jack was as tall as Kacey back then and when she pointed him out and told her daddy she wanted him, Mark’s inner softy made a rare appearance and they took him home. As long as Jack continues to light up, he’ll grace our front steps on Halloween.

Mark and I made a trip to Target today for some necessities and while we were there, we strolled through the Halloween section. Mark pointed out a pair of sound-activated googly eyes that made scary noises. I picked them up to try them out and soon noticed a little boy of about three years looking up at me. I held the box down at his level and asked, “Did you want to see these?”

He looked up at me and nodded as his mom watched, smiling from a few feet away. I showed him where to press the button to make the eyes light up and make noise but he made no move to take the box from me. He was content to let me hold it while he pressed the button.

Mark asked the little boy, “Are those scary?”

The little boy shrugged. Mark asked him, “Are you going to go trick-or-treating?”

The little boy ran over to his daddy who was standing nearby with a shopping cart. He reached into the cart and whipped out a pirate costume, holding it up for Mark.

“Is that your costume,” Mark asked?

“A pirate,” the little boy proudly announced! He then held up his Halloween themed sippy cup for Mark to see and said, “Look what I got!”

His parents and we were laughing by now at how quickly their son had befriended us. Mark explained, “Our kids are all grown up now. No more trick-or-treating for us.”

The mom said something about looking forward to that day. Mark told her, “You say that now, but you’ll miss it all too soon.”

We said goodbye and went on our way.

Back at home later on, I picked up a recipe card I’d set aside earlier this week – Secret Recipe Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’m not sure what it is about fall that makes me feel like Susie Homemaker, but I like it. Last weekend there was all that cooking. This weekend, it was baking. Yesterday morning I took one look at the overripe bananas and soon banana bread was in the works. Earlier this morning, I made a batch of granola. Then came the cookies.

Yum!

Wait… Let me give you a little perspective on just how big these cookies are. The recipe called for three cups of chocolate chips and said to use an ice cream scoop to scoop them. I could only fit six on a cookie sheet as opposed to the usual twelve. I’m not sure who I was thinking was going to eat all these, but I sure don’t want more than one … maybe two. Okay, maybe three.

Cookies, anyone?

I just heard the weather man say something like, “… more active weather patterns this week,” and “… possibly snow.” I’m glad I took notice of this weekend and enjoyed it.