Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Smells of Fall

Yesterday was our first "cold" day this fall. When the forecast foretold temperatures in the low 70s after a week of 90s, I made a plan. Right after breakfast, the kiddos and I set out on our bikes for the grocery store. We needed just a few items to supplement our pantry and make it the perfect fall baking and making day. Halfway to the store, I realized Dave moved the bike lock from my basket over the weekend. This almost thwarted our plans, but the amiable security guard at the store let us park our bikes just inside the front door. With list in hand, we quickly made our way through the mass of aisles. Laden down with goods (and with small bellies full of donuts), we soon sped back home.
Once home, I opened the windows to let in the breeze and cooler air before setting to work in the kitchen. First up was potato leek soup. This staple in our household was Eamon's long-time favorite until recently. After much chopping and dicing, a slow simmer on the stove released delicious smells throughout the house. While the soup cooked, I began two separate recipes for banana muffins. For some reason, we have been slow on our banana eating and have a lot of muffin-worthy bananas. As those breakfast treats baked, I made some bacon on the cast iron griddle. Initially I thought I would just add those slices to our lunch salads, but then I remembered I had brussel sprouts from the farmers' market. I immediately chopped the brussel sprouts for lunch. Slow roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper, they were perfect tossed with the bacon and a little balsamic vinegar. Last up was a batch of sugar cut-out cookies. We were going to make ghost and pumpkin cookies until I discovered our lack of cookie cutters. Apparently I donated them in one of my cleaning and purging sessions early in the summer. Set in the refrigerator to chill, the dough will be perfect for cookie making as soon as I borrow some cutters.

Throughout the day the kiddos meandered in and out of the kitchen satisfying their hunger and curiosity. The plumber visited to repair one of our showers and quickly commented on the delicious smells in our home. One friend came over, and two kiddos left to play at other homes. We made side meals together and shared our food with others. There were requests for poppy seed muffins and cakes as well as plans for more hearty, cold weather meals. There was bike riding, game playing, painting and crafting too. Truly it was a perfect fall day.
(I leave the cupboard doors open while I cook and bake. It drives Dave crazy. I am worse in this house because the cupboards are sometimes hard to open. Apparently my grandmother did the same thing when she was in the kitchen. I take that as a good sign.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Plethora of Plastic

Aine has a new-found obsession - her rainbow loom. One of her friends introduced her to the craft of rubber band bracelet making over a month ago. Hooked, Aine begged for her own. We went to three different stores before we found a loom for her and a stockpile of rubberbands (Michaels is currently the sole supplier of the loom where we live). She immediately set to work making everyone in our family as well as most of her friends and cousins bracelets. One afternoon at the park, she made another group of children bracelets exhausting her supply of bands. She has watched videos online for new patterns, read the booklet and experimented with her own designs. Her enthusiasm quickly spread to her cousins and soon there were three more looms in the group. She is quite proud of her work and carries that loom with her all over the place crafting as she goes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Little Hug

It has been a tough few weeks here in our household. The funeral was quite nice. The priest did a good job, and the chapel was full of family and friends. There was a lot of visiting and connecting with family we had not seen in a year or more. My father's ashes finally arrived from Italy last Friday; we joke that he wanted an extended vacation stay. My mom has returned to work. It is surreal, but it is our now. We are moving forward.

Throughout the past two and a half weeks one thing has become amazingly clear to my family. We have an amazing group of friends. So many of our friends have helped during this time. I received cards and emails of condolence from friends, both close and far - a few I only know through this virtual world of the web. Some friends brought us food knowing it would be tough to make dinner. Others brought clothing for the kiddos to wear during the services, so we didn't have to run around and shop. Another loaned us her car when I was involved in a collision with our only vehicle while taking Eamon to a class (Eamon and I were fine, but the car requires quite a bit of work). And others had the kiddos play at their homes, gave us rides to park days and offered general support and love. These friends of ours came to the rosary and funeral to remind us of our bigger community, to show our family that they care when we are hurting. Their generosity, support and love have been amazing. As a reminder of that support, one dear friend gave me this a little wooden cutout. She told me that it is a little hug for when I need it. It is one of the best reminders of this community of ours. We are very fortunate to have these people in our lives.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jack B.

It has been an emotional week here at our home. Last Wednesday started as most do in our home. After breakfast, Eamon was complaining of a sore throat, so I cancelled our commitments for later in the day, tucked him back in bed and sat down with Aine and Benton to watch Rainbow Loom instructional videos. I took a break from the rubber band manipulations to hang our sheets out and throw another load of laundry into the washer. While outside (yes, our washer and dryer are outside - yes, it is odd), I heard my phone ring, I asked Aine to grab it, but she was too late to answer and didn't recognize the name or phone number. I dismissed it thinking it was a telemarketer, so I finished my task. When I looked at the number, I also did not know it. I called it back thinking I could be removed from "the list." The dial tone was weird, so I hung up. As I did, my voicemail chimed. It was my uncle's phone; my mom's voice was on the message. I knew immediately when I heard my mom's voice.

Just two days prior I had said goodbye to my mom and dad as they left for a cruise of the Mediterranean. I was charged with checking on their house, so they reiterated the details. They would be traveling with three of my mom's brothers and their wives. It was to be a fantastic adventure, and I would not see them until later this month. Their trip drastically changed. While walking along the streets of Venice, my dad became very tired. He and my mom dropped back from my uncles and aunts. He continued to complain of fatigue and that the walking was too much. My mom started to walk ahead and heard him stumble. She turned, and tried to catch him as he collapsed. She began CPR, the police arrived, an AED was used, others tried to help; it was to no avail. He died there in Venice with my mom at his side.

This past week has been surreal. My mom had to deal with the Italian authorities, her travel insurance and the local consulate. She was finally able to return home last Friday. My dad's remains are still in Italy. We are trying to move ahead, but it is tricky. My kiddos cried when told, and now say it just feels like GrandDad is at work. My siblings and their families are here and create quite a distraction, which I appreciate. It will just be hard when it is quiet again. I am very sad for my mom, and hope my local brother and I can help her through this next chapter of her life. She is tackling it with much grace and poise although she feels broken inside. I am very sad for her and for us all.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Mountains of Mulch

The phone rang at 6:21 am as I was tying my shoes before heading out the door for some exercise. I didn't recognize the number and was surprised when I answered. It was a local tree trimmer with a truckload of mulch for me. I found the company's information on our local permaculture website and had inquired about their free mulch. Apparently most tree trimming companies, as well as some utilities, will deliver free tree mulch, since it helps them avoid the cost of dumping at the landfill. When I had inquired about the mulch, I thought it would take a few days or weeks. I was quite surprised when the early morning call came just a day later.

The truck backed into our drive and emptied the entire bed onto the pad. It is a whole lot of mulch! Steam wafted off the pile in the cooler morning temperatures. The kiddos complained about the sweet, decaying tree smell. Dave wondered aloud where we would put it all. I had a plan. Initially I put a few wheelbarrows full around our newly planted desert trees in the front yard (another free program from the local utility companies). Then I worked on filling our backyard. It has been hard work. Dave hasn't been able to help, but Eamon has. Together we fill the wheelbarrow, dump and rake. There is still a large pile left, but hopefully the yard will be mulched soon and we can install our tree-less treehouse and a few raised beds. I think this yard may be coming together. Next up is ordering fruit trees.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Those Boys

Horrible shot from my phone (taken only after I deleted ~45 kid selfies!)
When my friend mentioned that these boys would be coming to Arizona in October, I jumped at the chance to go with her to the concert. Dave didn't really want to go, so it was just me heading out last night. Earlier in the day I didn't want to go. I wanted to see The Avett Brothers perform, but I really wished they could just perform in my family room. The day had been busy with an early morning class for Eamon, clothes shopping with Aine, and general errand running(which I usually avoid at all costs on the weekend!). After a quick 20 minute nap, I was recharged for the evening (although I still wished I could wear jammies and listen in my home).

Clad in jeans and a tee, I headed to the music venue. The evening was gorgeous with cooler temperatures and clear skies. The concert was in an open air venue, which was perfect for the night. Going to that event space brought back a few memories of concerts past. I told my friend that I had not been to the amphitheater, since high school when I went to see New Order. Eventually we found good seats on the tiered level of the lawn at center stage. The Avett Brothers took the stage to great applause and whoops of delight. The set went on for quite a long time transitioning from older songs to upcoming new releases. Their seemingly boundless energy had the whole audience, including some children, moving to the music. I told Aine she should come with me the next time the band is in town. She would love the energy and fullness of sound at such an event.

Those boys are great performers, and I admit to cranking more of their tunes on the drive home and even listened to a bit as I fell asleep. Oh, it was such a good night. I am so glad I went.