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Posts Tagged ‘weddings’

I haven’t written in a while. Truth be known, life just wouldn’t allow room for it. I miss it when I can’t fill a page or two on my blog. It’s been part of my life for nearly a decade now, and I’ve become accustomed to leaving a few words on the page for people kind enough to stop by and read them.

Two weeks ago, my son got married. Not only did I gain a new, and extraordinarily lovely new daughter-in-law, but she brought into our expanding band of ne’er do wells, three children to add to my list at Christmas time. Most exciting. The wedding was beautiful. It was held outside in their lovely, and very spacious back yard, witnessed by a hundred or so of their close friends and family. Vows were exchanged under the three hundred year old oak tree dominating the side yard, and was presided over by the bride’s father who holds down a side gig as a minister. Done and done. Another chapter opens up in our family history. Interesting how life at times seems to write itself.

I drove down and back to the Bay Area solo. This was not in the least a hardship for me. There is something so exhilarating about careening down the highway on a beautiful day, music playing, and the window slightly ajar to allow the breeze in to catch up your hair. As I’ve said many times, I think I was born to be a wanderer. Perhaps in a former life I was part of a nomadic band of souls who moved from place to place making their home wherever they found themselves on any given day. Even now, with my beautiful little house to keep me safe and warm, the thought of moving on slips into my thoughts now and again.

My feet hit the ground running once the wedding was complete. Back in my own territory, before I could draw a single deep relaxing breath, I was reminded I had signed up to attend my first play in twenty years with my friend, Richard the day after I arrived home. The play, based on the planes forced to land unexpectedly in Newfoundland when 9/11 was taking place, was very entertaining and quite funny considering the subject matter. It was performed in front of a packed house. Our seats were located pretty much in the center seats in the middle rows of the lower tier. Richard and I didn’t get dressed as if we were attending the coronation, but we did make an effort to look as though we hadn’t rolled out of bed five minutes before we’d arrived at the performing arts center. This was not true of fifty percent of the people occupying the remaining seats. There was a time when women dragged out their glitter and bling for a night at the theater, but honestly I don’t think people find an occasion to get dressed up much anymore. Do they even have a market for nylons these days? I really don’t know. Back in my grandmother’s day getting dressed for an evening out was a production. Nylons weren’t free flowing back in her day. They were attached by clips to girdles. Horrible inventions those. It was like wrapping a rubber band around a round of soft cheese, everything loose and gooey relocated either above or below the band itself like a muffin top on steroids. I guess the current answer to girdles might be Spandex without the clips. Then after you’d gotten yourself fully assembled, you had to pull on gloves and a hat before leaving the house. I fear my grandmother would be confused at how casual we have become these days. The other day I saw a young girl walking into a high school campus. She was wearing Daisy Duke shorts, fishnet hose, and a shirt so tight I felt perhaps she might be going to shed it the summer rather than throw it in the laundry bin when she got home. The most impressive part of “the look” however was the makeup. I hope she gets it at a bulk rate. The eyelashes covering her upper lids, if fanned, could have cooled a dozen people simulanteously on a hot day. Had I gone to school dressed like that when I was her age they wouldn’t even have let me on campus. Things change, we have to change with them. I remember my mother being appalled when I showed up in bell bottom pants and a fringed jacket. Each generation brings their own style to the table, generally to the chagrin of the one preceding it. I wonder if Amazon has fishnets in my size?

There really aren’t many dress up venues left. I can hardly remember the last time I saw a man in a suit, other than at my son’s wedding, and then only on the participants. Most of the attendees were semi-casual, with some in jeans and a shirt.

Vegas used to be a place where men took in a show suit and tie in place, but that too is long past. The last time I went to a show on the strip was in the 90’s. Sigfried and Roy were appearing. It was a sold out show, and we were packed into the showroom tighter than olives in a jar. The man sitting next to me was sporting well-loved flip flops on his feet. On his person, he wore cargo shorts accessorized by a tee shirt that read, “Honorary Member of the Las Vegas Drinking Team”.  I remember him specifically because he was sucking up beer as though there might be a shortage of the lager about to occur at any moment. After each generous gulp, he would then belch loudly and go “AHHHHHH” as if a signal to his stomach to make room for the next installment.

At any rate, dressed or not, the audience seemed to appreciate the theater production along with us, so it was a nice evening in spite of how tired I had felt when it began. Thankfully, the earlier scenario I had in my mind picturing me, head thrown back snoring like a drunken sailor, drool oozing down the side of my chin, never materialized, so for now my image remains untarnished.

The play behind me, the next thing written on my calendar was “VACATION”. Yay! Richard arrived after work last Saturday, towing his fifth wheel and his boat, to take me on an adventure in Plumas County on Lake Davis. Fun and more fun. I have camped many times in my life. I am beyond the “Let’s put up a tent, toss a blanket on the ground, and throw me on top of it” stage for sure. Been there, done that. Anyone who tells you they enjoy sleeping on a rocky expanse of real estate is either a liar or intoxicated. There is no other option. Even when I was a kid, I ended up walking like a ninety year old arthritic man after a night of roughing it in the woods. No way now, and no how. Over the years I’ve come to accept I like my creature comforts. As it is I don’t sleep well in my lovely comfortable bed, lying on a floor of rocks surely isn’t going to improve the situation.

So, for today I am off to work. I will fill you in on my Lake Plumas adventures in the next installment. Happy weekend to you!!

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Outside my window, the gardeners are bending and standing scooping huge rakes of fall leaves into my compostable bin. A cool breeze is keeping the supply of leaves needing sweeping swirling to the ground, and the days have turned cooler. Hard to believe, just last week we were laboring through the worst heat wave since weather has been reported here in Northern California. I am getting myself and my car packed for my trip down to the Bay Area to watch my son get married. Miss Boo is sitting in the corner tossing ugly looks in my direction from time to time, while I pull things from my closet to fill my suitcase with. Please, save your pity for an abused kitty somewhere. Boo has a house/pet sitter coming for the days I’ll be absent, so by no means is the cat being disregarded. For the price of a car payment, I am providing her company, plentiful treats, food in her dish, water in her bowl, and a companion to snuggle with in the middle of the night. Sometimes I think the cat lives better than I do.

Though this week is slated to be a busy one, life in general seems to have at last slowed down to a manageable pace. For one, my dating life has certainly quieted down. Again, save your pity. I quieted it down. Life was getting confusing. I don’t want or need confusion right at this juncture in my world. I cleared the playing field of all but a single competitor, and went back to square one to regroup and take a break. Perhaps, and that is a perhaps, I am not ready to step into something new quite yet. That being said, I am taking a long hard look at what it is I would like to do. I’ll send up a flare when I have any answers to that dilemma. Actually, I don’t HAVE to do anything exactly at the moment except head down to watch my son share his name with the love of his life. That, I have to say, is more than enough for now. Having my children, though they are far removed from that description these days, settled and happy allows me peace of mind and makes my heart smile every day. In August, my dear little mama moved on as well. All this leaving me standing at the crook in the road of late trying to decide whether to go left or right, or simply sit on a rock under a tree in the warm sun and take in the scenery.

It is smoky outside today. The biggest fire currently in progress in California, is in our back yard. Not literally, thank God, but twenty miles as the crow flies east of here, and that’s not nearly far enough away for me. We’ve been sucking up smoke for several weeks, and it’s only 25% contained. The location is difficult for firefighters to access, prone to steep slopes and valleys, and we are so dry here it can quickly spread with no lack of fuel. The fire fighters have a good battle on their hands. Watching the enormous plume spiraling up into the air leaves me with an admiration for the incredible power of nature.

I think a lot about the power nature wields in our universe. Last week I watched a documentary on the Dust Bowl. There wasn’t enough misery with the heat and the smoke, I thought I’d add a little extra to the pot. I had no idea those people endured that for ten years. Wow. They had dust in their teeth, their food, their homes, and most likely every other accessible orifice. Horrible.

Leaving thoughts of fire and dust bowls behind, while loading my car up with what I felt I needed for my trip, it became obvious to me I know not the first thing about “traveling light”. In my defense, I have learned over the years no matter whether leaving town for one night or a week, you basically have to pack about the same amount of belongings. Also, I was trained by the best. My mother, a self proclaimed “clothes horse”, would devote an entire suitcase to shoes, and another to handbags, when she went on a trip. Another problem lies in as we age, there simply is more equipment to take with because the maintenance of our bodies becomes more labor intensive. Before leaving the house in the morning I have at least forty-five minutes of upkeep required on my person before I can go out the front door. This is not including showering, hair and makeup. Truth is, I could use a team these days to help me get presentable before being allowed to run free in the general public.

My esthetician has me using a three part beauty treatment twice a day which she insists MUST be applied in the correct order. 1, 2, 3. Really it isn’t rocket science. Yet, she has thoughtfully numbered the bottles for me, apparently sensing I, 1) either don’t care about this order in the least, or 2) likely would forget what the order was by the time the words exited her lips. Both answers would have been correct. According to her, you must apply the products in this order lest your skin slide down your face and drift into a puddle at your feet. Let’s see, 1, 2, 3. By George I think I’ve got it. Really?

There has also been a sinus rinse added to my regimen by my allergist, which when the liquid is shot up your nostrils is tantamount to sliding your brain under a rushing waterfall for three minutes. This requires distilled water, a special dispenser, which has to be sanitized, and a saline packet. Sigh.

Next, I have a mask for my dry eyes which is popped in the microwave each morning while listening to the news, then applied for the pre-determined effective time of fifteen minutes. Siri has been kind enough to count this off for me every day until the caffeine has taken effect.

I am wishing my mother was here to witness the joining of these two dear people. Knowing how much she appreciated a good party and how much she loved her grandson, I’m sure she’ll be perched like the Cheshire Cat on one of the massive limbs of the oak tree they are to be married under, not missing a single magical moment.

As I say often in my blogs, life is like a movie with a series of frames. You must capture the most from each frame in order to absorb the story to its fullest.

There have been a lot of goodbyes over the past few years. As with everything when one door shuts, another opens. It will be lovely to be part of a new beginning once again.

Happy Friday! We are being gifted with a lovely preview to fall sort of day as we embark on a day of pre wedding festivities. Enjoy every moment.

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Well, we are rounding the curve and the finish line is in sight. Thankfully, by the end of next week we should have some idea how the citizens of the United States have plotted our course for the next four years. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a decision on who’s going to run the assylum one way or another. Bickering makes me tired.

Aside from the loss of freedom imposed by the Covid pandemic, there have been a lot of losses in my world this year. My son just reported his beloved Labrador retriever, Sadie, passed away. Sadie was a senior citizen in the dog kingdom, but that does not make her passing any less sad. My granddaughter lost her golden lab, Pita, last month and those are just the members of our inner circle who sit beneath the table counted missing. Blessedly, my loved ones are healthy and thriving. I am grateful for this every day, and each night before I go to bed I picture each of them surrounded in a golden light that keeps them protected and safe. In this environment where you find yourself constantly looking over your shoulder or waiting for the other shoe to drop, it is important to lean heavily on whatever faith you might have and steadily kindle your joy and sense of humor. My sense of humor has literally lighted my way through the darkest times in my life. I have been married four times, buried two of my husbands and divorced the other two, and said goodbye to Rick over two years ago, my partner of twenty years. One cannot walk through that minefield without losing a few body parts along the way. Always, in spite of whatever was transpiring in my world, I seemed to be able to retrieve a good laugh I hadn’t used yet. I can’t tell you how that has helped to make difficult situations more tolerable.

I did not know my dad, but from what I understand he was a funny guy. Now, from what I hear from my relatives on his side, he was more of the life of the party guy. When dad walked in, the party began, I believe was how it was put. That is not me. Born November 1st, I am a Scorpio baby. Scorpios, though they enjoy lifelong friendships (we’re very loyal) and deep, passionate relationships, they do not enjoy huge gatherings of strangers and a lot of gibbering small talk. I can do it, mind you, I’d just prefer not to. Intimate gatherings of dear friends or new acquaintances are far more my cup of tea.

Huge groups of unfamiliar faces make me want to open the closet door and step inside. Many times over the years I have been forced to face this fear, and each time I’ve approached the plate and gotten myself through the experience. Public speaking is high on people’s lists of fear inspiring events. I would never be happy with the spotlight pointed directly at me, which perhaps is why I was placed in a family where millions of people have absolutely no interest in what we are doing from one moment to the next. I am good with that. The good news is I’m good at a number of things, but excel in none. Fame has not eluded me, I have successfully managed to elude fame. Yay for me.

The first time I was called on to speak in front of a large gathering was at my best friend’s wedding when I was twenty-two. Prior to that, the only experience I’d had with speaking to a group was giving an oral book report in my high school English class. Not that getting up in front of my class wasn’t intimidating, but it was a walk in the park compared to the enormous turnout for this wedding ceremony.

Mike, short for Michaelin, had been planning her wedding since she exited the womb. On the way down the birth canal she was caught jotting notes on paper selection for the invitations and which flowers to choose for decorating the aisles of the church. At five, she had a subscription to Brides. The bulletin board in her room was completely obscured by wedding suggestions and ideal venues for the big event. When she finally met her prince, I was invited to be her maid of honor. This was not the first time I’d stood at the altar with a friend. In point of fact, it was the third. In each case, the attendants are always assured the dresses they’ve selected for you to wear can be worn to other functions after the ceremony. Right. Each of mine ended up on the Halloween clearance rack at the local Salvation Army. It was bad enough I had to seen in public once wearing them, why on earth would I subject myself to that humiliation another time?

One particular nightmare, as I recall, was bright lemon yellow. You needed sunglasses to safely look straight at it. There should have been a warning label attached to it. The citrusy monstrosity was accessorized with a matching hat that would also have served nicely as a landing pad for a B52. Huge and floppy, it was made even more gaudy, if possible, by the addition of long yellow ribbons that draped down the back. It would have done Scarlett O’Hara proud. I spent most of my march down the aisle trying to see past the brim to keep my bearings so I could find the rest of the wedding party when I got to the front of the church. The dress itself had a satin sash and was embellished with what appeared to be shower poofs attached to the upper sleeves. Yup, guaranteed I’m wearing that out again, most probably on my next trip to Raley’s to pick up a gallon of milk. The dresses for Mike’s wedding were to be red. The wedding was in late November so the color ideally suited the holidays which were in full swing. Actually, they were less awful than the previous contenders, but still I never put mine on my body again after the vows were said and done.

Once I had accepted the invitation to participate in Mike’s wedding, the fun had just begun. The ceremony would be a full Catholic mass with the church filled to capacity. Following the nuptials, the reception was to be held at a large upscale venue replete with all the trimmings including a sit down dinner for the three hundred guests expected to attend. God knows what all this was costing her poor father, but I’m sure with three girls to marry off he probably went into debt by the time the third one said “I do”. To make matters worse, Mike and her prince divorced ten years later so it was a great send off but lacked a flashy finish. At the time, I lived in the Bay Area with the bride still residing in Southern California where we had gone to school together. The real estate in between us presented some logical problems with me managing a full-time job and two little ones. I flew down for several showers, and a weekend of cake tasting and floral shop hopping. After that, my presence was not required again until the night of the rehearsal dinner. All the plane tickets for the three out-of-area attendants were also picked up by Mike’s poor dad, who never complained, God bless him. He was a lovely man who died in his early fifties, probably from stress or impending bankruptcy.

After some discussion, it was decided I would attend the wedding without my husband. Not a big fan of weddings, he preferred to opt out and stay home to play Mr. Mom to our two rug rats. Trying to manage the two of them for several hours in a church probably wasn’t an assignment he was interested in signing up for anyway, and it was, after all, football season.

On the day of the wedding rehearsal I arrived at the San Francisco airport early in the day to give me ample time to catch my mid-afternoon flight. It was a rainy, blustery day, and I wanted to be sure I didn’t run into trouble on the road and miss my plane. As it turned out, once inside the terminal I discovered the plane had been delayed due to poor visibility. Sigh. In those days there were no cell phones (I know!) so I schlepped over to a pay phone, deposited the requested amount of change, and let Mike know I would be late. As it turned out my mid-afternoon flight turned into more of an early evening flight. By the time I arrived at the Ontario Airport I had already missed the rehearsal dinner, and dinner in general. Exhausted from trying to find one comfortable spot on the terminal seating (news flash, this spot is an illusion), I rented a car, checked into my hotel, and folded myself neatly on top of the bed. Mike called after the rehearsal dinner to make sure I was live and in person and advise me someone would be picking up at the hotel early in the morning so I could spend some time with the wedding planner discussing my part in the ceremony before the show went on the road. K.

Arranging a wake-up call for 6:30, I showered, put on my make up, fixed my hair and stopped for a bite to eat before meeting Mike’s sister, Marie outside the hotel at 8:00. On the way to the church, Marie filled me in on what I had missed. It seemed in a high mass the maid of honor has some work to do. Goody. The wedding planner was going to walk me through where I was to be and what my duties were during the ceremony and before I gave my speech. Speech? Que es speech? Nobody said anything about a speech. Both the best man and myself were going to be expected to step up to the podium and deliver a three minute speech about marriage. Swell. I was twenty-two what did I know about marriage? I had barely scraped the surface about life. Good Lord. My knees were already knocking as we pulled up to the enormous Catholic church where the goings on were in full swing.

Mike, normally rock solid, was a puddle of nerves by the time I got to the back of the church where everyone was getting dressed. One of the bridesmaids, a friend from school now living out of state, had neglected to mention she was pregnant and unmarried, before saying she would be happy to be part of Mike’s big day. Though not in full bloom, there was definitely no doubt about her condition, and in the red dress it made quite statement. It was decided to add flowers to our bouquets last minute to hide what we could of her “bulge”.

The wedding planner grabbed me once I was dressed and took me out into the church to walk me through my paces. I hoped there wasn’t a test on this later, because I was quite sure I would fail. At one point I was to hand my flowers to the attendant next to me, lift up my skirt so as not to trip while ascending the four stairs to the podium, and deliver a pre-written speech. Thank God it was pre-written. Had I had to sum up marriage at that age, it would have been a very short speech.

Somehow we made it down the aisle. The ceremony seemed to last for days. Finally, my cue came to step up to the podium. Handing my flowers to the girl next to me I held my skirt up slightly as instructed and made my way successfully up to the third step. On the fourth my heel caught and I performed an ungraceful half gainer across the floor nearly falling on my face. The small ringed hat and veil perched atop my head moved forward nearly obscuring my view. Gathering myself up, and reseating my hat and my dignity I proceeded to the podium. Looking out over the sea of faces, I suddenly needed to use the restroom. Calming myself, I somehow opened my mouth and said what needed to be said and made it back to my appointed spot at the altar without leaving a trail of urine on the way. My mom, in the audience, said she would never have known I was nervous. That, I say, was definitely a miracle.

I had one large wedding out of four. Never sorry I did that. That day remains very special to me. We didn’t pull out all the stops. The reception was held in my parent’s back yard with around 100 people attending. I bought my own dress and paid for the invitations. The honeymoon was a gift from the groom and my parents paid for the rest. Nothing over the top but a special day nonetheless with few scary moments beyond making such a huge commitment at such a tender age.

A therapist once told me when facing a scary situation ask yourself “what is the worst thing that could happen”? This bit of advice has been very handy in a life filled with strange and unusual happenings. In the case of the wedding the worst thing was that I tripped and was embarrassed. My mum used to say I could walk into an empty room and find something to fall over. We each have our crosses to bear, mine is I tend to move before I think. By the time we reached the reception nobody but myself remembered what had occurred. Once there, I too forgot about it and enjoyed the people and the delicious food. Life passes by in an instant. Sweat the big stuff and laugh at yourself over the small.

Nowadays we do not want to concentrate on what is the worst thing that could happen because it seems to be happening all around us. Guess the best we can do is be positive and creative and try to stay vigilant.

Happy Halloween. One of my favorite holidays. Stay safe, have fun, eat lots of candy and remember to say “I love you” to those special people.

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finalAs mentioned in my previous blog, last weekend we flew to Arizona to attend Rick’s daughter’s (I consider her one of mine as well). The accommodations were amazing. The hotel itself, oddly called the Valley Ho, was originally built in the 1950’s. Investors, obviously seeing potential there, painstakingly renovated the hotel holding firm to the original retro style. The attention to detail evident everywhere was mind-blowing. Seated outside poolside, Johnny’s Angel could be heard playing the background, or perhaps The Beach Boys cooing Little Surfer Girl.

Two pools as well as a hot tub decorated the beautifully landscaped grounds. The larger of the two pools mainly attracted the younger group also prevalent in the outside bar areas at night. Afternoons this pool was well populated Photo_RmSpa_04with well tanned abs. Umbrella bedecked drinks passed by on round trays and a band, playing mostly country rock, helped set the party like mood. Towards the back of the property was a large lap pool where families with children and the older crowd slathered on suntan lotion and reclined in the luxurious chairs provided for guests.

It’s been a long time since I’ve said something excellent about customer service, but if asked to grade this hotel I’d give them an A+. Whatever you needed seemed almost to appear in a Disneylike fashion at your fingertips.

Small touches in the rooms such as a silver tray of high-end liquors available at a price naturally, chrome racks with rolled fluffy towels in the bathroom, a spa robe for your use while there, and brightly colored walls with complimentary accents on the bed made staying there fun. A large private patio overlooking the pool was a great place to open up a book or enjoy a quick nap. Room service, if you wanted it, arrived quickly and the food was excellent and the coffee hot. Truly not one complaint from this guest, who would stay again in a hot minute.

On the day of our arrival we were instructed to meet downstairs at 3:00 for the wedding rehearsal. The weather, for Phoenix, was ideal. Hovering in the mid to high eighties with a slight breeze, it was desert living at it’s best. Phoenix at this time of year lures you to relocate. However, go there in a few months when the asphalt is so hot midday your shoes stick to the surface, and at least I will rethink any such thoughts and shelve them for another day.

At three we hopped on the elevator with other wedding party members and took it to the 8th floor. Doors opened onto a beautiful deck with a panoramic view of the city. The wedding, scheduled for 6:15 the following evening, promised to be Photo_Mtg_01spectacular. The minister, also the stepfather of the bride, put the wedding party through their paces. I sat with a glass of ice water enjoying the breeze against my skin and taking in the interesting rock formations all around me and the general hustle and bustle of the city traffic below us. Gorgeous.

Rehearsal over, we were told to meet once again in the lobby to carpool to the groom’s mother’s home for the rehearsal dinner. I have to say I was totally looking forward to the “dinner” part of this statement as nothing had passed my lips since breakfast and my stomach was starting to complain. The home where the event was held was incredible. A rambling ranch style home in Scottsdale, Arizona, reminiscent of homes you see displayed across glossy pages in magazines such as Sunset or House Beautiful. Each room was perfectly attired, walls lined with fabulous artwork, huge vases overflowing with unusual floral arrangements. Happily I would have settled in in the massive kitchen and made myself at home. Asking if there was anything I could help with, I was told the hostess was a little stressed because her housekeepers were off for the day. Hmmmmm. That must be stressful. Since they’re off perhaps they could head to my house. There’s work to be done.

Outside through French doors leading off the kitchen a massive covered patio made way for a huge expanse of well manicured lawn. To the left a fire pit flickered and off to the right a bartender stood behind a fully stocked bar waiting to fill your glass. Music coming from two incredibly small, but powerful, speakers helped to set the mood.

As the clock pushed forward and appetizers dwindled guests began politely inquiring about dinner. News came out the caterers had experienced plumbing problems and dinner was not, as originally thought, on it’s way to the table. Ach. I should have accepted that second prawn when asked. People gathered around the appetizer table as though the earth was on twenty-four hour alert and there was no more food to be had.

The hostess, now looking a bit the worse for wear, announced pizzas would be arriving in 30 minutes. There is a God. Crowds dispersed, weapons were holstered, and peace ruled the land once again.

In the end it was a glorious night. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who sends out signals to mosquitos in the area that the dining room is open and seating is available. Like a bear I kept rubbing up against whatever was handy trying to stop the infernal itching. By the next morning my skin looked like a relief map, but after a quick trip to the pharmacy calmed down a bit.

After lunch we grabbed ride from Uber to the Scottsdale Fashion Square. First time on Uber. Other than the driver getting lost coming to get us it was a good cheap way to get around town I have to say. The mall was impressive. OMG. I could have stayed there for hours, possibly days. I’m not a born shopper, but even I was enticed by the heady aromas of expensive soaps and perfumes and gorgeous window displays. Every elegant store yet created was represented. The trip, however, was to get Rick a shirt. The one we’d brought with us was cutting off his air. At Macy’s we located the right neck size but couldn’t pair it with the proper sleeve length. In the end we grabbed the one that allowed him to breathe and decided he’d hike up the sleeves the ceremony. If you’ve heard the expression, what a dog and pony show, please insert it here.

On to the wedding.

Yesterday Rick requested a homeland dish for him. Koshari is a traditional Egyptian dish. A bit of work but in the end proves to be an excellent meal with layers of flavors. This can be made ahead of time and pulled together at the last minute for serving. Yum.

Koshari

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Pita bread

For the rice

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup medium grain rice
2 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add rice and cook and stir until rice is a light golden brown (about 4-5 mins.) Add vegetable broth to skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 mins. or until rice is cooked. Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 mins. Fluff with fork. Keep warm.

For the lentils

1 cup brown lentils
4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rinse and sort lentils. Place in medium saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and partially cover. Cook for 25-30 mins. until lentils are tender. Drain. Keep warm.

For the macaroni

2 cups dry small elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp. butter

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain. Add butter and mix. Keep warm.

For the sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 1/2 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. Baharat spice blend (see recipe below)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 6 mins. or until onion is translucent. Add garlic. Cook until lightly browned.

Using food processor emulsion blender puree tomatoes with juice and 2 Tbsp. tomato paste. Add to skillet. Add tomato sauce, Baharat spices, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook on simmer for 20 mins. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fried Onions

2 onions sliced thin
oil for frying

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add onions in batches and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Baharat Seasoning Blend

1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 cardamon pods ground

Whisk together in small bowl. You will have seasoning left over. Keep for later use in sealed plastic bag.

Directions

Mix together rice, lentils and macaroni. Top with generous dollop of sauce, a sprinkling of chickpeas and the crunchy fried onions.

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1Our plans to attend Rick’s daughter’s wedding went just about as expected for my life. We had to rent him a suit because his went out of style about ten years ago. All this being a bit last minute for us, we found a place downtown renting formal wear and had Rick measured. The suit arrived at the store the two days before we were to leave. Stopping by for a fitting the pants were perfect, but that last late night donut stood in the way of the button meeting the buttonhole on the jacket. Oh-oh. A pinch of panic nipped at my spine. Not sure which size to move on to we called the people supplying the suit, or the saleslady did. Rick was measured again and a debate ensued about where to go from here. I asked if they could send the next two sizes in case the one up doesn’t work, or another glazed twist comes into view. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible I was told. Prom season in full swing all their suits are in high demand. One size would have to be picked and fingers crossed. Naturally. So, we closed our eyes, pointed a finger at one size on the page, and made a decision.

After that experience we came home and I started packing. This was to be such a quick trip you would think a pair of clean underwear and a tube of toothpaste would suffice. Since there’s a wedding and rehearsal dinner packed in the middle, it required appropriate clothes for each so took a little planning. Literally I threw together an outfit for the wedding. I found a pretty skirt and located a top that went perfectly. At another store I picked up a feminine lacy shawl. A necklace and earrings were added, a pair of shoes purchased and I was good to go. At least as good as I get. Noticing my blouse needed ironing I wiped the cobwebs off my ironing board and set it up. Laying my blouse across the board I pressed one shoulder. Immediately a dark blue stain became noticeable draped across the top of the sleeve. Really? Now there was no time for me to run about finding something else to match so I flew downstairs and applied everything from carpet stain removal to Easy Off to the stain and tossed it in the wash. “PLEASE”, I thought, “let this come out”. My ulcer was working itself up to a frenzy in my nether regions. Ach. After an hour I heard the machine click off. Closing my eyes I retrieved my blouse and prayers answered the stain had disappeared. Yea for my team.

This brought to mind my prom days. I went to three proms during high school. My own and two at other schools. Two in my junior and one in my senior year. I was majoring in boys my junior and senior year and got an A for effort both years. All this promming required only one dress as each dance was at a different school saving my mother considerable outlay. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth girls had their shoes died to match their dresses. I know. Peau de soie, I believe, was the fabric the shoes were made of. Apparently it lent itself well to dying.

At the last of the three, my date and I went out to dinner with two other couples prior to going to the dance. By this time I was a year older, two inches taller, and probably slightly filled out from the twelve-year-old boy physique I’d been rocking the year before. The dress was a rich shade of peacock-blue. Fitted just to the waist, with a long flowing skirt, it had been snug to begin with. Add a fully loaded baked potato, a steak, a couple of yeast rolls and butter, plus dessert, and there wouldn’t have been room for a skinny gnat to take refuge inside. What? I was a teen. Feeling as though exhaling was my only option I managed to fold my body into the back of the car before I heard the sound of tearing fabric. Truthfully, that lovely blue fabric never had a prayer pitted against the slabs of cheese sauce the restaurant loaded on the once healthy broccoli they served on the side. Like lava squeezing forth from an erupting volcano my back let itself out of confinement and was laid bare for all to see. Not good. Not good at all. Dropping the two other couples at the dance we made a quick trip to his parent’s house, the closest one to us. Surveying the damage his mother took out the sewing box and in a half an hour literally sewed me into my dress. Back in the car and breathing wee breaths of air we went to the prom. A made it through the night without passing out or vomiting, which was amazing because I spent most of my time thinking I was on the brink of both. This gave me compassion for all the women going before me whose bodies were pinched, strapped, and corsetted into submission all for the sake of beauty.

cute-shar-pei-puppiesAll wrinkles seem to iron themselves out if you wait long enough. My life has contained enough wrinkles to put together a litter of Shar-peis but I keep rolling along.

I will write of the wedding when I catch a breath and pull my apron out of the drawer.

This eggy spinach salad is delicious. We ate the whole bowl between the two of us.

Spinach and Egg Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing

1 bag baby spinach
2 avocados
5 radishes, sliced thin
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
3 hard boiled eggs, cut in wedges
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Place all salad ingredients in salad bowl. Toss with dressing just before serving. Serves 4

Sesame Seed Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. lemon infused olive oil
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. sesame seed oil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together ingredients. Chill for 1 hour.

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The royal wedding looming on the horizon, has brought my mind to weddings in general. I was just a few months short of nineteen when I first took the plunge.  My fiance proposed eleven days after we met.  As I was my mother’s “only chick” she was duly traumatized, and, probably if I hadn’t been of age, would have handed me over to the nuns at a local convent. However, my mind was set so we began to plan a wedding. 

I often think of those times.  It seemed all my friends were getting engaged (we got married younger back in the day) and I found myself either hosting a shower for one of them or going to one hosted for me.  A good deal of my free time was spent making wedding dresses out of toilet paper and ladling punch into a cup. Being incredibly young and idealistic, I don’t think I allowed a thought to enter my head about whether or not I was making a wise decision.  For the brides-to-be in my little group it was all about finding the perfect dress, chosing the flowers, selecting the attendants, wedding invitations, guest lists, and, oh yes, the grooms, in that order.  Smile.  Poor guys, you had to feel bad for them, basically they were there to create balance at the altar and provide a dance partner to their new wives at the reception. In their defense, I would hazard a guess that the majority of men could care less whether a dinner plate has fleur-de-lis or caterpillars doing the two-step on the edge as long as dinner was to be found somewhere in the middle of it. Most men I’ve associated would indeed prefer paper plates because that eliminates the additional “washing step”.

There’s a difference, I believe, in getting married at a tender age and moving directly from your parent’s home to one of your own as opposed to getting married later down the road when you’ve already tasted some independence.  Perhaps the latter of the two groups might find themselves more prepared  for what married life brings to the table after the “I do’s” have been exchanged and the rice has been swept up.  I don’t know.  What I do know, is that I had no idea.

Up until the time I got married, and only a year prior, my mother ironed my gym clothes and made all my meals, the meals which continued until the night of the rehearsal dinner.  Nowhere in the program did I factor in laundry, dishes, cooking, or paying bills.  Sometimes I wonder if this has changed much over the years.  Young couples with more hormones in play that the crew of a submarine, and blinded by love’s glow, sometimes forget to ask pertinent questions, like if your partner to be in life wants children, likes animals, prefers pineapple and ham on their pizza to the meatlovers special, or what their dreams and goals are.  The important things.  I had a job, which paid a whopping $300.00 a month, and a small checking account, really, really, small.  Living at home my bills consisted mainly of gas, lunches, clothes, and nylons. I had never paid rent, or made a car payment.  My car was an embarrassing white 1961 Plymouth Valiant that my parents had purchased for $100.00 when I graduated.  When something broke down on it, which was often daily, my step-father fixed it.  Whoa.  Was I prepared or what?  My money’s on the what.

If asked at the time what I’d accomplished in my eighteen years on the earth I would have said, “made the tennis team, went to most of the dances during my four years in school, and managed to graduate with a good enough GPA as to not totally humiliate my parents”. Not exactly a flushed out resume.  I was like a partially completed portrait of a person with only the cheeks and the forehead painted in.  The rest of me was still be determined as strokes were added along the way.

Following the ceremony we celebrated at the reception, then spent seven days of glorious freedom in Carmel, California, where we sealed the deal.  All good.  On our return home we continued the honeymoon to the point that three months later I discovered we were to add a new member to our little family.  Whoops.  This was definitely not in our five-year program which included work and finishing school, and most certainly not in our budget which had about as much wiggle room as a girdle on a well padded behind.

Now, if I had no idea about what married life was to be like, I had, if possible, even less information on what being a parent might entail.  Exit, stage right.  Jeez.  During those months, between trying to come to grips with what being an adult meant, working a full-time job, being a newlywed, and anticipating the birth of my first child all simultaneously was a challenge. In retrospect, I spent most of my time sitting at the drive-thru window at In ‘n Out, placing an order.  A woman has her cravings.

It’s funny how being thrown in the deep end of the pool when you can’t swim, instinctively makes your arms and legs move.  I survived.  I found that having a small baby in my care was far more challenging than caring for the man who helped to place her there.  I learned to cook, not without a series of burnt offerings and what appeared to be experimental lab projects gone horribly wrong, but I managed to keep my head above the water line.  Still, I learn every day, and continue to make mistakes in the kitchen and elsewhere in my life, it’s just that I have a little more meat in my resume these days.

I think with all the mess going on in the world we should be thankful to have food in the cupboard and a pot to cook it in. Life is a dance, sometimes we’re in step, and other times we just listen to the music.

Spicy Crockpot Short Ribs

4 lbs. beef short ribs
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 Tbsp, red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. light-brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
Egg noodles

In large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Brown short ribs on both sides. Place in bottom of 6 quart crockpot.

In bowl combine onion, green pepper, garlic, cinnamon, tomato sauce, tomatoes, 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. vinegar, and salt and pepper. Pour over short ribs. Cover and cook on low heat for 9 hours.

Transfer ribs to serving plate. Skim fat from sauce. Stir in remaining vinegar and brown sugar. Pour sauce over meat.

Good served over cooked egg noodles or white rice.

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I thought of this time in my life during an unfortunate episode of Bridezilla that I turned on while pushing the iron across the board yesterday.  Never having seen the show before, I originally thought I was tuning in to a nature documentary, which, after observing the behavior of these brides to be, you could call more of a “human nature” documentary.  What I found amazing after watching them verbally mistreat their husband’s to be, their families, their wedding attendants, their wedding planners, hair dressers, bridal consultants, make-up artists, even their dogs, that there was at the end of it all still a willing groom waiting at the end of the beautifully appointed aisles.

My first wedding was the full monty.  High Catholic mass, flowers, flowing white dress, attendants, three hundred guests, and a wonderful honeymoon.  The months leading up to the big date were filled with the usual frenzy of choosing flowers, type of cake, the usual hideous bridesmaid’s dresses you always told them, “you can wear again”, knowing they never would , venue for the reception, and food to be served.  A guest list was assembled, argued over, and settled on, wedding invitations selected, addressed and mailed. Let the games begin.  I was thrown four bridal showers, which required me to wear hats made out of bows from the gifts, create toilet paper wedding dresses, scoop cotton balls out of a bowl with a spoon while blindfolded, and countless other mind numbing games.  The best one was a surprise shower held in a restaurant.  A hen party with twenty young women can get fairly loud, so we were placed in a back room.  Nonetheless, the din was substantial.  The door opened and a police officer came in saying that he’d been called to quiet us down.  Music began to play at that point, and he began shucking his clothes.  The crowd went wild.  This was much more fun than trying to get those damn cotton balls in the spoon.

The date was set for September the 7th, which ironically turned out to be the hottest day of the summer.  To add to the mix we’d planned an outdoor reception in my parent’s backyard around the pool.  Fortunately, it was a large yard with a very large thatched patio cover that provided some shade.  However, the beautiful pastel butter mints melted into a lovely rainbow pool within fifteen minutes in the heat, as did many of the guests.  Appetizers were passed for the first hour, followed by a buffet which included turkey, prime rib, mashed potatoes, and a choice of vegetables, as well as an assortment of breads and salads.  Perfect for a day where you felt like you were crawling across Death Valley.  Ah well, people ate well, and nobody ended up in the emergency room, so I guess that’s a win-win.

As it seems there are always more people at the reception than the wedding the air conditioning in the house, as guests milled in and out, was fighting a losing battle.  Finally, I had to take my wedding dress off and opt for a summer shift to keep from melting into the cement. 

I married into an Irish clan, whose members at the reception lived up to their reputation for never passing a bar without hoisting a pint.  The best man, my new husband’s brother, in a moment of well lubricated thinking decided it would be an excellent idea to go down the slide into the pool in his rented tuxedo, as well as his rented shoes.  Between the heat and the champagne several others went in after him and the tone was set for the beginning of my new life. We later found him in the bushes on the side of the house taking a wee nap. I believe I heard he ended up purchasing that tuxedo.

All in all it was a wedding planner’s nightmare, but it was fun.  My mother, losing her only chick, as she always referred to me, got well into her champagne and lost her mind when it was time for us to leave on our honeymoon, grabbing my leg like a love crazed hound and refusing to let go.  After throwing the bouquet and managing to hit the ceiling fan where it shredded like wood in a chipper we were on our way. Ah yes, I remember it well.  I’ve included a picture of that day.  Check out the hats.  Smile. 

Recently a friend of mine asked me to stand up for her.  Having walked down the aisle four times in my life, she indicated that she felt I might be able to offer great input.  Actually, I do plan a great wedding, reception, and honeymoon, it seems the marriage portion of the program is where I fall down.  I’ll give it a shot though, what the heck.  At least I get to pick out my own dress.

This is a different approach to prime rib that I like for a change.

Charcoal Grilled Prime Rib

7 lb. standing rib roast
1 1/2 cups olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 cup lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle roast with freshly ground black pepper and salt. Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until rare on a meat thermometer. Remove and allow to rest.

Slice meat into 1″ slices. Marinate in oil, garlic, onion powder and lemon juice for four hours.

Drain meat and grill over charcoal grill. Sear both sides first. Cook to order. Serve with a flavorful au jus and fresh horseradish sauce.

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