Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gotta Finish This Post, Top Chef's On Soon!

It probably started with the Swedish Chef, if I'm being honest. I'm pretty sure I even did my own impressions of him.
However, soon after, I made the switch to real cooking shows, and watched them whenever I could catch them on PBS. I loved Jeff Smith on the Frugal Gourmet, and remember when I found out he was a United Methodist minister it seemed so appropriate, because boy, could he deliver a moving sermon on food.*
When I was in fifth grade, and my class was studying China, my best friend and I staged a cooking demonstration show, complete with a cardboard cutout of a television screen. We called the show "A Wok Through China." I think this may have been a rip off of another PBS show, maybe a special by the guy from Yan Can Cook? Sadly, my debut as a food network star was cut short by a disaster that involved tripping over the cord of the electric skillet we were using as our wok -- hot oil everywhere. Luckily, only some carpet squares were harmed.
In the mid nineties, I met and fell in love with the programming at young upstart channel Food Network. I loved the Two Hot Tamales, and Bobby Flay's first show "Grillin' and Chillin'" where he and his buddy in overalls cheerfully debated the benefits of gas vs. charcoal. (Bobby wasn't as much of an ass back then.) I continue to love the Food Network and keep it on as background noise a lot of the time. I adore Alton Brown, enjoy the Barefoot Contessa, and will defend Rachael against naysayers anyday. I get sucked into the Food Network Star every season, even though I say I won't. I wish the Food Network would go back to its roots of instructional cooking, because it seems like each new celebrity they try to launch is a little less about the actual FOOD, but I can't deny the power of those personalities at Charm City Bakery.
Which is to say, that my love of Top Chef, which is right up there at the pinnacle of reality television, is not surprising. It's a perfect mix of food knowledge, execution of cooking skills, and enough drama and personality to make me feel like these chefs could be my friends if I only could get out to dinner more often. In fact, I'm just now realizing that it takes the premise of another of my favorites from the early days of Food Network, Ready Set, Cook, (the game show where the contestants got a very small budget to shop, and something like 20 minutes to prepare a meal) and raises it to a whole other level. Not only am I fascinated about how in the world they will ever feed 200 people from a toaster oven! for gosh sakes, but I get to care about somone like Richard Blais from week to week, and really want him not to blow it.
So, this is my plug, that if you're not watching Top Chef yet, I think you should be. This season is in Las Vegas, and while I can't say from the first episode that the personalities are going to be all that endearing, perhaps that's just because I got so spoiled during the very recent run of Top Chef Masters. I mean really, who can compete with Rick Bayless?? Ever. We had a little Rick Bayless tribute dinner on Monday, fajitas that of course were not anything like authentic, but we had some really great fresh guacamole, and Frontera chips and salsa on the table.
I'm hoping for a better season than last one, but maybe that's just because I'm still bitter about Hosea earning the win. Did he really belong at that table with Stephanie and Harold during the last episode of Masters? I don't think so. Okay. Go watch, or at least catch up on one of the million times Bravo will replay the episode.

*I know his career ended in scandal, but there seems to be so little information about what the truth was, and he was never actually charged. I truly hope the accusations were not true. No matter what, it's sad that someone with so much love for food does not have an untainted legacy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Runaway Ralph

We now interrupt Food Week in the Small World in order to give you an update on some rodent happenings.
A couple of weeks ago, my parents spotted a mouse in our garage. We weren't home at the time, so we were hoping it was just a little guy that was taking a quick tour of the place and heading back on outside. However, then we began to see some "evidence" that perhaps we had some unpaid tenants in the garage. Let's just say when J. put O's booster seat back in his car it had some black flecks on it that were not chocolate cookie crumbs.
Sunday, we moved all of the toddler transportation items out of the garage onto the driveway, and swept a pretty extensive collection of these crumbs. No signs of nests, although there is a hole in the wall (J. swears it has always been there) that looks eerily like the entrance to Jerry's home.
O. and his friends from next door spent a good part of the afternoon engaging in their own mouse hunt throughout our house, carrying with them assorted rackets, flashlights and baseball bats in case they spotted something. No sightings.
I picked up some traps at the grocery store, both the old fashioned snapping kind and some of the glue variety. The glue ones advertise a natural anesthetic, so we went that route, thinking it cut down on some of the cruelty factor, and these seemed the best choices for an area where my kids play.
No results on day one, though O. was sure to tell everyone he saw not to touch the black trays in his garage.
This morning, as J. left for work, he is pretty sure he startled a furry visitor that was sitting by the door and sent him straight onto the glue trap. He was attached by a couple of feet and some fur on his back, but he was trying his hardest to get himself free. Now I was starting to doubt our choice of the glue trap.
J. decided to shovel him into a plastic grocery bag so that the kids and I wouldn't have to witness him struggling there all morning. (Do I have to remind you of O's reaction to the giraffe shirt? Can you imagine a DYING mouse? We saw a dead mouse outside of Home Depot six months ago and he still talks about it.) He volunteered to take the bag with him and chuck it out the window, but I thought that didn't sound very responsible. So he threw it in the trash can, which was already quite full because we missed trash day last week, plus the whole garage cleanout event.
As I was getting the kids buckled in the car on our way out later in the morning, I heard a distinctive "rustle, rustle" from the vicinity of the trash can. I peeped in, and sure enough, looking right back at me was Ralph S. Mouse, obviously having chewed through said grocery bag. He was still stuck on by at least one hind leg, and had glue all over him. So much for the anesthetic. I picked up the other glue trap and stuck it next to him, hoping he'd wriggle around on top of it. (I know, I know. I should have put the trap on TOP of him. Did I mention he was furry, had cute little ears, and was looking right at me?)
I left him in there, hoping against hope that the anesthetic or the heat would conk him out, and planning my disposal method from there. I knew if he was still alive I wouldn't be able bash him myself. After a couple of phone calls and discussions with others, I got a couple of alternative plans. One friend suggested I take the whole bag thing and back over it with the car. My mom said I should just wheel the trash can down to the curb two days early and weight it down with something. My brother would probably tell me to smash it with a rock (Ask him about his friend the possum). J. and I finally settled on a plan to throw the trap into the woods for the snakes/hawks, which is of course what we should have done in the first place.
However, all aforementioned plans are moot, as when I returned home, there was of course no sign of the little mouse at all. Just a grocery bag trampled down on top of a glue trap. I set all new traps, this time with some Sunbutter treat in the center of each to tempt his gluey little self. Maybe he'll run into some of his friends and he'll act as mouse velcro, and we'll catch a whole cluster at once. At least we have a living lint roller running around, collecting the loose dirt.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Real Food, Real People

Back in the spring, I read the book Animal, Vegetable Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver, and was simultaneously inspired and disheartened. Inspired to eat and shop better for my family and our country, disheartened that I don't have the land nor the book deal to support a whole year of eating only locally.
Kingsolver and her family (her daughter and husband are co-authors) moved from Tucson, a city where her girls had known as home their entire lives, back to her husband's family farmland in Virginia. Soon after, they began an experiment of trying to live solely on food produced within a 100 mile radius, much of it from their own land.
What I liked about this book is that it seemed like an honest attempt to not only research and discuss the very real food and farming crises facing our nation, but also tried to do something about it.
I don't think I'm a food snob, and eat enough junk and fast food to prove it. However, I do care passionately about providing real, good food to my family when I can, and without depriving them of treats. After all, it's kind of my job.
I also think we are in desperate need of saving our country's small farms, if only to preserve the variety of foods they provide. So much food has been bred to travel well, rather than to taste good, unfortunately. Organic vs. unorganic arguments aside, I'm all for food that actually tastes like something. (I will admit, Kingsolver convinced me to start buying organic potatoes exclusively-- I hadn't really thought about how much pesticides this particular vegetable absorbs, given how it is right there IN the soil.) There is a real need to change the way we subsidize farmers so that they are rewarded for growing something other than corn and soybeans that become, in essence chemicals in the form of corn syrup and soybean oil, rather than real food.
I grew up eating produce that came from the orchard my great aunt and uncle owned, lived on, and worked their entire lives, as well as from the vegetable gardens my parents and grandparents maintained each summer. Nothing has ever tasted better to me than the corn my grandfather walked into a corn field to pick himself (he rolled the hot ears directly onto a stick of butter), the small, spicy onions I shook dirt from before dipping them in salt and crunched into until my eyes watered, or the purple black cherries we pulled by the handsful off of low hanging branches to fill cooler after cooler one rainy Fourth of July weekend. All of those food memories came from food that was grown by people I knew and loved, and I think those relationships made it taste that much better.
I don't think I'll be raising my turkeys or making my own cheese, as Kingsolver does, anytime soon. However, after our experiment with O's garden this year, I know that my children at least know that food is something that comes from the earth after you plant it and work with it over a period of time, not something that appears magically on the shelves of the grocery store. They have eaten dishes made from the vegetable and herb plants they helped me plant, water and harvest, and can recognize what those items look like on their plate. They may not have eaten all of what I've made, but they have real food memories of real food to start them on their own discoveries of what tastes best to them.
I could go on for pages and pages about my own homegrown food memories about the ways that it has impacted my family (for example, one of my cousins is currently growing hops on his wife's family farm). I'd love it if you would share one of your own in the comments.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer Harvest

In celebration of the finale of Top Chef Masters, and the premiere of the new season starting up in Las Vegas, as well as the general hype that seems to be surrounding food media these days, what with Julie/Julia hitting the theaters, I was planning to write a whole series of food-based posts. I wanted to have them all composed and ready to be published in my absence while I was traveling to my family's cottage in Pennsylvania last week. Alas, I was lucky merely to get some laundry done and some bags packed before we hit the road. The cottage gets three channels on the tv if you're lucky, and cell phone coverage is spotty, so you can imagine there are not many wireless signals to pick up. Therefore, food week has been rescheduled for this week!
First, I'd like to share with you, as promised, some of the dishes and recipes we have been enjoying with the bounty from O's garden.

1. Oven Roasted Tomatoes
For two days straight while J. was traveling, I lived almost exclusively on oven roasted tomato sandwiches. Using the first cherry tomatoes from my own plant, as well as some vine ripened ones I bought at the store that were threatening to go to mush, I tried this technique that was mentioned in the local newspaper. Basically, you cut the tomatoes into wedges (just halve the cherry tomatoes), spread them out on a cookie sheet (I lined mine with foil to make cleanup easier), and drizzle them with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake them in the oven at 200 degrees for at least six hours, until they are shriveled up, but still maintain their shape. I also put a bulb of garlic in with them, but it did not get as done as I would like, so I'd probably advise doing this separately at a higher temperature.
You can store the tomatoes in a tupperware container in the fridge for several days at least. I was planning on making sort of a bruschetta with them and some goat cheese, but then found that they were delicious if I put them on some bread with a little bit of butter and stuck the whole thing in the toaster oven for a little bit. I topped the sandwich with some basil before eating.

2. Linguine with Tomatoes, Baby Zucchini, and Herbs
I first tasted this recipe at my brother and sister-in-law's house. They were serving it as a side with some pork chops on the grill, but noted that they had also enjoyed it as a main dish. After I got the recipe from my brother (if you didn't click on the link, it's from Food and Wine, but seriously, you need to click on this link.) This is a super easy, fresh fresh tasting sauce that can be thrown together very quickly. We had it last evening minus the zucchini, and mixed in some grilled chicken and green beans as well. Every vegetable on our plate, including the herbs, came out of our garden. This will be a staple recipe in our house for a while to come.

3. Refrigerator Pickled Hot Peppers
As I mentioned in a previous post, the peppers that are coming out of the garden are spicier than I had anticipated. While they would be great in salsa, I could probably only use one or two for each batch, and I have quite a few more than that. They are a little too spicy to just throw on a sandwich as is. So, I thought I'd seek out a way to tone down the heat and increase the flavor by pickling them. I don't really have it in me to attempt a full scale canning operation, and don't have quite that many peppers to justify it anyway.
I found this recipe for pickling the peppers in a refrigerator method, which means you prepare them and store them in the fridge rather than on the shelf. It was very simple, just involved slicing the peppers and boiling some water, vinegar and salt together. I used a combination of the small cherry peppers and a couple of the larger green peppers, and also threw in some green beans, because I had picked some that day and there weren't enough for a side dish for a meal. I just used an empty pickle jar to pack them in, and also added some dill that I got from my mom's neighbor.
J. enjoys them on his sandwich wrap creations for lunch, and I like the green beans right out of the jar. They remind me very much of these pickles that J. and I used to eat at Crowley's, the bar where we met. One of the guys he meets there to watch football brings them in and serves them spread out in a disposable foil pan. They are both tart and spicy, and while they are much hotter than I really can stand comfortably, I could never resist eating a few more than I should.

4. Green Beans with Bacon and Onions This is the kind of recipe that almost seems to cancel out the healthy goodness of the fresh produce you're bringing in from your garden, but it's one of our all time favorites, one that J. grew up eating. If you aren't familar, basically, you just chop up some raw bacon, throw it in a sautee pan with some sliced onions (I like to use red ones for the color and the flavor they offer), and stir them around over medium high heat until the bacon is crisp and the onions are softened. Throw the green beans in (you can steam them a little first, or you really don't have to -- they are better if they are crunchier here), stir a bit, and serve. Great with anything from the grill.

5. Roasted Herbed Potato Salad in Mustard Vinaigrette
I made up this recipe a week or so ago when I knew we were having flank steak, but hadn't yet thought about a side dish. I had some redskinned potatoes and some sweet potatoes, so I chopped them up into about 2 inch chunks, spread them on a cookie sheet with a little oil, salt and pepper, then put the in the oven at 450 degrees for about a half hour.
While they were cooking, I mixed up some brown mustard with a splash of olive oil and several tablespoons each of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
When the potatoes were done, I put them in a big serving bowl, and tossed them with the potatoes, along with some fresh herbs. I used rosemary, basil and dill. I was afraid it would be a bit too much with both the basil and the dill, but it ended up tasting quite good. There was perhaps a bit too much of the vinaigrette, so I'd probably use less next time, but it was tangy, yummy, and easy. It would be good either hot or at room temperature.

In addition to the vegetable pasta last night, we also enjoyed some fresh peaches sliced up for dessert. The peaches came from the orchard now owned by my mother's cousins in Pennsylvania, and they were the first I've had all year that were ripe when we brought them home, and actually tasted like something. The whole meal was the taste of summer encapsulated. All that was missing was some corn on the cob, and while I don't have a patch of that in my backyard, there's a farm only fifteen minutes away that is growing and selling it for us for at least a week or two longer.

Friday, August 14, 2009

With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells...

I have been waiting to provide an update on O's garden because I wanted to provide some pictures, but the camera situation has not improved. Yes, I do have the neon pink Insignia, but the quality of those pictures is sub par at best, and also, we do not have the USB cord for it, so getting pictures off of it involves about at three step process utilizing J's computer, a flash drive, etc. So for now, the kids use it to take pictures of their animal setups, until the batteries die; I don't have a camera. My old camera is at Canon getting repaired free of charge, so I'll have that one back some day or another. But until then, you'll have to imagine what the garden is looking like.

I'd say it's been a project of middling success. So far, we have gotten a pretty decent crop of green beans, some great herbs (basil, parsley and rosemary), a few tomatoes, and some hot peppers. The squash plant continues to look impressive, but not produce any fruit. The cucumber and pumpkin plants died because Scout kept walking on them. The scallions are being choked out by the green beans in our cramped space, and the carrots may yet work out, but there won't be very many of them.

I think I might be most disappointed by the tomato plants. I have three plants, one cherry tomato, one that I thought was Roma but is looking more like small beefsteak, and one Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato. They are impressive looking plants, and have turned my front door area into a little bit of an overgrown looking jungle, not super attractive. I would be fine with this if I was receiving a bumper crop of delicious tomatoes in return, but so far, I've had probably 20 cherry tomatoes, and two of the larger red ones. One of those was rotten on the bottom. There are only about six other larger tomatoes waiting to ripen. I know it hasn't been a hot and sunny summer, but I'm still thinking I might try a different spot for tomatoes next year.

The hot peppers are much hotter than I had planned. I picked up my vegetable plants on the fly this year, stopping by a garden center while J. and the kids waited in the car. Sure, it was easier than doing it while trying to wrestle O. and N., but it did mean I rushed a little. I thought I got at least one bell pepper plant, but I did not. A couple of the plants are these cute round little red cherry peppers. I imagined they would taste like the peppadews that I love on Panera's vegetable sandwich, but they are much spicier than that. And the others are bigger than jalepenos, but still quite spicy, so I'm not sure what they are.
Luckily, the unusually cool and rainy weather has meant that my flowers are doing quite well.

The Limelight Hydrangea on the corner of the house has never looked more lovely, and my impatiens have only had a couple of days that they looked droopy and thirsty before I got a chance to water them. The wave petunias are doing fine, though they lose blooms to N. quite often. She brings them to me saying "Ear?" so that I will tuck one behind her ear so she can be "pretty."

The bed in between our house and the neighbors continues to be a little sad looking. We had a tree taken out of it last fall, and J. tilled it at the beginning of the summer to at least move some of the wood chips around. We planted a lilac bush which has not yet died, and some butterfly bush looking stuff, as well as some daisies that did die. I want to have my great-grandfather's peony moved to this bed so it has a chance to actually bloom, and also two hydrangeas that did not do so well this year in the side yard, and my benefit from some more sun.

And that's the garden report in the Small World. What have we been doing with the harvest we have gotten so far? Stay tuned for a post with some of the recipes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hands Off the Giraffe

O. is not very picky when it comes to clothing. Occasionally, he has an opinion when given a choice between two shirts, and he would prefer to wear "soft pants"(sweat pants or knit shorts) over jeans. He does have a Lightning McQueen shirt that was a hand me down from his cousin that he asks to wear all the time. Since it's long sleeved, I have had to discourage this outfit choice for the last couple of months. However, he's never really expressed much of an interest in dressing himself, or choosing which clothes to buy.
So I was surprised at the beginning of the summer when he told me he did NOT like one of the t-shirts I was planning to buy at Target. There were not many options on the four dollar shelves in his size, unless I wanted him to wear a camo print or something in a bad combination of orange/green stripes.
(Really, don't get me started on the lack of choices for boys sized 24 mos to 5T, at Target especially, but really anywhere. And once they're out of stock once, too bad if you need something else. Say a plain colored polo shirt to wear to a funeral when you only have time to stop at Target.)
I had picked this (what I thought was cute) light blue t-shirt with a cartoon graphic of a monkey painting spots on a giraffe. He likes animals. Likes wearing animal shirts when we go to the zoo. Good choice, right? Not so much. He told me in the store that he didn't want me to buy it, but I had a credit, and there really were no other ones, so I got it anyway. Every time I have tried to put it on him, he protests, pulling it off over his head and throwing it across the room.
"Mom. I do NOT like that shirt."
(Oh, my mom also bought him this shirt and gave it to him when he was staying with her for a few days. She told me he was quite clear to her as well about his dislike for it. Nice manners.)
He has worn it a couple of times. I assumed his issues had more to do with the fact that I didn't obey his command that I not buy it than any real issue with the shirt.
Today, he had it on for an hour or two, but then it came time to change to go to the pool and I heard him telling N., "I HATE this shirt." When I came in the room I saw he had thrown it behind her crib.
"So what's the issue with this shirt?" I asked.
"It is not nice."
"What do you mean? It's just a t-shirt. Is it itchy or something?"
"No. It's not NICE. Painting a giraffe. It's probably a zoo giraffe. And you shouldn't paint on them. It's not nice. That's why I don't like it."
So, here we are back to the ethical treatment of animals. Please, no one give this child a copy of Charlotte's Web. Or tell him there's such a thing as PETA. I'd like to be able to continue having a steak or a chicken sandwich at least every once in a while.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Yearning for a Thoughtful Spot, Preferably No Drizzle.

It's taken approximately six months, but our kitchen is finally on the way to having some attractive walls. I started stripping wallpaper in March, I think, hoping that at least starting the project would move us toward some sort of improvement. I knew a full scale renovation wasn't in the works for us for a couple of years, and decided I just couldn't live with the circa 1987 wallpaper for that long. It wasn't too too bad, but the little repeating tulips had started to mock me, so it was time for them to go.
I feared what I'd find under the wallpaper. I'd heard scary stories from neighbors, seems our builder was infamous for slapping wallpaper on unprimed walls. Our master bath is a study in what can happen to walls if you try to remove wallpaper in such situations: the previous owner of our home tried to "fix" the gouges in the drywall by applying textured paint, the kind with sand in it. J. has started a repair process in there as well, and while it will eventually be an improvement, it is not so pretty in there right now. But that's another story.
The story is, my Charlotte Perkins Gilman moments are over! I'm talking wallpaper induced dementia here, not suburban housewife depression. It could have been a lot worse in the kitchen. In fact, the dining room, which we did a couple of years ago, WAS a lot worse. Some of the unprimed drywall did disintegrate as I wet down the wallpaper, but lots of the pieces came off in big sheets, rather than fingernail size multi-layered segments.
I climbed behind the fridge over the weekend and pulled the last strips down, J. spackled and sanded, my bucket of hot water and I had some quality time together rubbing off all the last wallpaper specks.
Now we wait for the painter to fit us into his schedule, which is annoying, but not as annoying as trying to paint with two kids underfoot.
It's been such a long process that I've had the time to change my mind on paint colors a dozen times now. I've been deep in the world of paint swatches, taping up different choices all around my kitchen window.
There's an article in the most recent Consumer Reports discussing the names that accompany the actual colors on those little swatches. It's a dissatisfying article, doesn't really explain much of the process except to say that there are designers that have that job, and that they try to "tell a story" and the onest hat are best selling are successful at evoking memories. Whatever. I read Consumer Reports for the charts and graphs, not the investigative reporting. Still, they gave some intriguing color names I haven't yet come across: Marry Me (light pink); Jamaican Aqua; Amphibian (black).
I'll admit, I'm affected by the names on the strips. I know they're all about selling a state of mind, and I should just disregard them, but I can't help being swayed and dissuaded by them. I tend to be drawn to the colors that describe a mood, rather than an object or the actual color. Among the colors I've chosen for other rooms in the house:
  • Pensive Sky
  • Quiet Moment (chosen for the master bath weeks before we even moved in. Four years later, it's yet to go on the walls: perhaps appropriate, as I've not had a quiet moment in the bathroom in more about that length of time)
  • Thoughtful Spot
  • Christopher Robin's Swing
  • Morning Breeze
  • Winter Garden
  • Cheyenne Rock
  • Relaxed Khaki
  • Bluberry Popover (okay, so this is an object, but it's one of my less successful choices. I was going more for a cobalty blue, it turned out what J. calls "Boo-berry. It's just the downstairs bathroom, though, and it has grown on me).
My sister in law recently told me that she at one time had a color she really liked for her apartment bedroom, but couldn't commit to it because it was called "Yearning." Bad sounding word, bad feeling state of mind
I'm having similar problems in the kitchen. This is the room I spend more waking hours in than any other, so I have to be feeling okay about the name as well as the tone.
For a time, I was all about this green called "Asparagus." And I really like asparagus. But I just wasn't sure I wanted to think about asparagus all day every day, or the fact that it makes my pee smell funny.
So then it was on to a green called "Grass Cloth" and an accent blue called "Gulf Winds." These seemed okay. Then the painter told me he uses a different brand of paint, and while he said he could match what I had, I don't really trust it will look the same. So it was back to the paint store.
The closest I could seem to find to match my "inspiration" (this is sad: a little picture of a striped pillow I ripped from the Crate and Barrel catalog and has been lying around for months. What, I can't even order the actual pillow? It isn't as if I haven't had time) were paints named "Shagreen" and "Drizzle." These seemed depressing options, when what I'm trying to gain here is a little happy. One more trip to peruse the swatches and discuss with J.
And now we've settled on "Dancing Green" and "Reflecting Pool." I don't know if I'll actually like the colors on the wall, but the names make me happy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Missing

Missing here is the BlogHer post I was planning to write. There was so much to process about the whole experience, and I really haven't had the chance to do so. Believe me, I wish it was laundry and swimming lessons that have kept me occupied.

A week ago, our family got word that our brother-in-law passed away suddenly of a heart attack. He was the husband of my husband's oldest sister, and he left behind three children who mean the world to me. He was a kind, strong man.

The last to marry into my husband's family, I only knew him for eight years. In that time, I had the chance to collect quite a few fond memories. We were both in-laws to the Small World, sometimes sitting together on the fringes of family events reading books and shaking our heads. He was an excellent host, always at work to make sure those who visited his lake house had all they needed to enjoy the vacation. He loved my children, and often took the time to find one of his cats that was hiding from them so they could pet it. I'll always remember sharing cups of coffee and conversation with him in the mornings when we were visiting them, often looking out over the lake with oldies playing in the background.

I'll be trying to write more of my memories down to share with my niece and nephews, but I doubt they will find their way to this blog. Sometime, probably soon, I'll be able to write about some of the other things going on in the Small World. But I didn't want to skim right over this sad time. Much of my attention right now is with a family that is too far away for me to physically offer support, and I'm aching far too much for all that we are now missing.