Category Archives: Family

On Being a Flyers Girl in a Penguins World (12/99)

Flyers - Pens

Chalk it up to the push-pull effect of place that I always feel when I’m here, but there I was:

Thursday night, solidly back home among everything Philly, hitting refresh on all my social media streams for the final score of the Pens game.

Believe me, I wasn’t sure who I was either.

You see, I’m a Philly girl, born and raised. I love and am proud of my hometown.

Most of the time.

Growing up, mine was not a sports family but it didn’t really matter. If you lived in the Philadelphia of the ’70s and ’80s, it was impossible to not cheer for the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. Sports events became part of our births and christenings, our graduations and weddings, all the milestones that make up a life. Athletes were local celebrities, held up as heroes; on neighborhood streets and school playgrounds, every boy I knew dreamed of being Ron Jaworski, Mike Schmidt, Julius Irving, and Bobby Clarke.

I imagine — no, I know — the youth of Pittsburgh experienced a similar phenomenon. Different names, same dreams.

I completely get it, this passion for the home team when living in a sports-crazed town. Even if you’re not a sports person, which I admittedly am not, this loyalty has a way of seeping into your soul.

This summer will mark five years since we moved to Pittsburgh. Although there are aspects of our lives where we still feel like newcomers — our friendships are peripheral, at best; we don’t have the close relationships we have (had?) in Philly; we still get lost when driving —  in many ways, this city has become home. My kids identify more with being from Pittsburgh than Philly, as this is the longest stretch of time they’ve lived in one place.  They’ve made friends here, my work is here, and hopefully The Husband will again have a job here. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

And speaking for myself, I admit I have embraced most of the Pittsburgh sports teams. I’ll always root for my Eagles, but I admit my cheers are louder for the Steelers.  Our family reluctantly abandoned the Phillies years ago in favor of the Yankees, but I’ve discovered there’s a lot to love about the Pirates.

But the Penguins.

I can’t quite get there with the Penguins.

I think it has something to do with this dichotomy I have of being from one place I love and living in another that also has a hold on my heart. Loyalty to a sports team becomes something tangible when you find your identity and sense of place shifting, as I’ve discovered can so easily happen when you move away.

Maybe that’s why I found myself compulsively checking the Penguins score last night.  Because as much as I cling to the orange and black, and as much as I felt like an imposter for doing so, a part of me craved that sense of belonging, that rootedness of being home.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is Post #12 of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

 

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Weekend Cooking: The Joy of Culinary Arts (6/99)

Like most parents, I dread homework. The nagging, the whining, the procrastination — the whole thing.

A few weeks ago, however, The Girl brought home one particular assignment that delighted me to no end.

Cook dinner for the entire family.

From planning and preparation to cleaning up. Parents were only allowed to supervise (and, presumably, purchase the food).

Now that’s a homework project I wouldn’t mind being assigned every night.

(Well, technically I am, but you get the point.)

As I’ve written previously, dinnertime tends to be a challenge for our family. And now each one of my offspring would get to experience the joy of creating a meal appealing to a gluten-free vegetarian (me); a vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables (The Husband); a carnivore (The Boy); and The Girl herself, who won’t eat red meat but who will consume chicken.

Mix these ingredients with the teacher’s instructions, which stated that the meal needed to have a grain, protein, vegetable, and fruit. Plus, they were allowed only ONE convenience item (something already prepared, like sauce).

She chose to make her favorite dinner: Chicken Alfredo, using gluten free pasta and vegetarian chicken. Tomatoes stood in for peas, which were being recalled during the week that this was happening.  Grapes were the fruit, offered as a side.

Culinary Arts

It turned out great, in my opinion.  (Her teacher disagreed somewhat, taking off five points for having TWO convenience items. When I asked about this, apparently pasta and sauce was one convenience item too many. My bad: I must have missed the instructions about growing and harvesting the rice and quinoa that was used in the gluten-free pasta.)

I’m certainly not complaining. Besides my delight that Culinary Arts is a required class in our school district’s middle school curriculum — along with shop class, in which the kids made functional wooden clocks — there was a bonus to this.

With twins taking Culinary Arts — albeit at separate times — this meant TWO SEPARATE DINNERS that I didn’t have to plan, prepare, cook, or clean up.

Extra credit bonus points for me!

Weekend Cooking - New

 

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #6 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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we could all die any day

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (65)

It’s been seven days since the news broke and I’m still listening to Prince at top volume in the car, still singing at the top of my lungs about doves crying and horses running free. I’ve exhausted my inventory of appropriate-for-work purple clothing.

My kids are perplexed at this behavior. “So, when did you become so crazy about Prince?” they half-sneer, their teenage mortification on full display.

We see this attitude frequently, The Husband and I, whenever we give off any indication that we are … well, human.  The eye-rolls when we kiss goodbye in the morning for a few seconds longer than usual with a sly slip of tongue or when we dance in the kitchen when our wedding song shuffles into queue on Spotify. To our offspring, we have no life besides folding laundry and cooking dinner, and despite our assurances to the contrary, we never did. And we certainly have no idea what it’s like to be a teenager. Never were we caught up in the adolescent maelstrom of emotions and hormones and young jungle love.

My attempts at explaining my sudden Prince obsession fall flat with my kids.  Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a passionate Prince fan, I have an appreciation of his music and his artistry.  And, like all of us who came of age in the mid-’80s, Prince’s music is an indelible part of the mixtape of my life.

Which is why, like everyone else, I was shocked upon hearing Prince had died.  Thursday was a surreal day; I wasn’t feeling well and took a sick day from work. By mid-afternoon, I felt well enough to pick up my son from school for a previously-scheduled doctor’s appointment. We were early, for once, with enough time to stop home so I could throw dinner in the crockpot.

“I texted you,” my husband said, greeting me as we walked in the house.  “Prince is dead. Flu-like symptoms, they’re saying.”

I stopped in my tracks.  If anyone knows how possible it is to drop dead of the flu in one’s prime, it’s my family. In 1985, my dad was a relatively healthy father of two teenagers when he got the flu.  Unbeknownst to any of us, the virus was silently and quickly attacking his heart and at 44, he became fourth in line on the transplant list at Philadelphia’s best hospital for when your heart breaks. He died several hours later, having been sick for less than a week.

We could all die any day. 

The aftermath of my father’s death ushered in several confusing and sad years for me.  In college, it was easy to party like it was 1999 because that represented a life we couldn’t fathom from our dorm rooms — Christ, we would be goddamned geriatrics when we turned the century, forty fucking years old.  It felt impossible, far in the future. We made a solemn, beer-buzzed pact: no matter what happened in this life, we’d be together on New Year’s Eve 1999, dancing our lives away.

We weren’t, of course. We became scattered and unknown to each other. Close friends we thought would be in our lives forever went missing, our long conversations now silent.  Instead of partying like it was 1999, we became adults, on edge and hunkered down with emergency cash from the ATM, cases of water and canned goods and duct tape, backups of our financial lives at the ready for Y2K, a moniker that could have been ripped from a Prince album.

Now on this side of 1999, in this strange year when nostalgia becomes more and more clouded with sadness and when we face our own medical crises and wonder just how much of our time and minds are left, our own Judgment Day feels closer than ever. Prince was right; two thousand zero zero really did mean we would be out of time or damn close to it.

I can’t convey all this to my wiser-than-their-years kids when they ask why I’m blasting Prince’s Little Red Corvette in my decidedly uncool red Chevy HHR as I shuttle them around town.  And part of me doesn’t want to.

Let them believe they have all the time in the world.

 

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Weekend Cooking: Goodbye to Geiger’s Bakery

Geiger's

photo courtesy of Geiger’s Bakery Facebook page

Come Monday, yet another piece of my childhood will cease to exist.

Michael Klein’s brief blog post on Philly.com tells of the imminent closing (due to retirement) of Geiger’s Bakery on Frankford Avenue in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia, where they’ve been a staple of the community for 38 years.

My grandparents lived a few blocks away from the bakery; whenever we visited (which was often) my grandfather would have already “walked up the Avenue” to get us a treat. It simply wasn’t a family dinner without a Geiger’s butter cake for dessert or a sleepover at Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s without half a dozen powdered cream doughnuts waiting for us for breakfast when we woke up in the morning.

Growing up, the Geiger family themselves lived right up the street from my family. Those were the days when you actually knew every single person in your neighborhood. One of my best friends from those days reminded me of how her family used to babysit the youngest Geiger son and how his mother would bring home an unsold butter cake from the bakery for them to enjoy.

If you didn’t grow up in Philadelphia, chances are you probably don’t know what I’m talking about with this butter cake. I was shocked when we moved out here to Pittsburgh and people had NEVER HEARD of this. Suffice it to say that butter cake is the food of the gods. I mean, if they serve food in heaven — and I would like to imagine that it’s a 24/7, all you can eat, calories and carbs be damned to hell smorgasbord — then Geiger’s has earned a place on the menu.

As decadent as their butter cake and doughnuts and pound cake was, this isn’t about the food. Because all of our memories of food are really about something else. It’s a reminder of a time and a place that’s gone and of the people who shared that time and those places with us. Read the comments on the Geiger’s Bakery Facebook page and it’s person after person remembering cakes for special occasions, probably celebrated in homes that have long been sold and with loved ones who are no longer here.

Thank you to the Geiger family for making my childhood so sweet.

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

 

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currently … wrapping up christmas

Christmas Eve - presents

Christmas Eve, 2015

Currently
It’s our last night of our Christmas vacation in Philly. We’ve been here just shy of a week, enjoying a nice balance of seeing family and friends (usually over brunch or dinner) while also having some downtime (usually spent reading or writing).  It’s always impossible to fit in everyone who we’d like to see and all we’d like to do, but I think it worked out well this time.

Tomorrow’s a travel day back to the “Burgh, then I’m off on Tuesday. Whenever possible, I try to give myself a “re-entry day” on the tail end of these trips. It’s back to work on Wednesday — along with one final dentist appointment this year to use up some insurance dollars — before another few remaining vacation days segue into a long weekend.

Christmas Reading

Like FamilyRDear Mr. You

I admit, I’m scrambling to meet my goal of 52 books read in 2015.  Right now, my tally is 47 (much lower than previous years).  This may be attainable if I stick to shorter books, but I’m not sure.

Reading short books was my strategy for this trip.  So far on this vacation, I’ve read one —Like Family by Paolo Giordano. I was so excited to see this one at the library because I loved (but, sadly, didn’t review) his previous novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers.  I really liked this new one, which I breezed through in a few hours (if that). Told in flashback and set in Italy, it’s about a couple who hire a housekeeper, Mrs. A., to help out during a difficult pregnancy and who stays on as a nanny for several years. After Mrs. A. is diagnosed with cancer, she decides to leave the household abruptly. The book, then, is about how she has changed the course of the couple’s marriage and their lives.

Right now I’m reading Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker, which is incredibly well-written and very likely to be on my favorites list. This exactly the reason why I usually don’t post my best-of lists before year’s end; this time of year often brings more opportunities than usual to read and more often than not, something I read while we finish up this trip around the sun surprises and delights me.  Dear Mr. You is going to be that book. The concept is fantastic: it’s structured as a collection of letters that Ms. Parker has written to each of the significant men in her life.

Christmas Not Reading …
For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed spending part of Christmas week with a holiday-themed story. The timing of this needs to be carefully considered and calibrated; I don’t like to start this particular book much before Christmas Eve and I like to be finished by the day after Christmas. This started in 2011 when I reviewed A Clockwork Christmas, a collection of four steampunk tales.

A Christmas Carol was my 2012 selection, followed by The Chimes last year. (I’m not sure what happened in 2013. Maybe A Christmas Carol again, I don’t know.)  I wasn’t impressed with The Chimes, and I was even less enamored with this year’s selection, The Cricket on the Hearth. Slightly less than halfway through this one, there was still no sign of Christmas in Dickens’ long-winded and discombobulated narrative.  This happened to be one of my Classics Club selections, too (although not the one for this most recent spin), so I’ll probably replace it with something.

Christmas Listening …
Between wrapping gifts and a few bouts of insomnia, I’ve been listening to more podcasts than usual. Here are some of the best:

The Writer’s Almanac: “The Meeting” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (12/25/2015)
Such a perfect poem for Christmas when you’re missing someone special.

Burnt Toast: “Someone Put a Diaper on the Turkey” (12/17/2015)
Listeners’ stories of hilarious holiday disasters involving food.

New Yorker Poetry: Ellen Bass Reads Adam Zagajewski (12/16/2015)
Adam Zagajewski’s poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” resonated with me.

On Being: Martin Sheen: Spirituality of Imagination (12/16/2015)
Fantastic interview with actor and activist Martin Sheen about his spirituality.

“Yeah, the love that I longed for, and I think all of us really long for, is knowing that we are loved. A knowingness about our being that unites us to all of humanity, to all of the universe. That despite ourselves, we are loved. And when you realize that, and you embrace that, you begin to look at everyone else and you can see very clearly who in your vision knows they’re loved and who does not. And that makes all the difference. And I began to give thanks and praise for that love. You know how, so often, people say they go on this journey — and I said it, too — that “I’m looking for God.” But God has already found us, really. We have to look in the spot where we’re least likely to look, and that is within ourselves. And when we find that love, that presence, deep within our own personal being — and it’s not something that you can earn, or something that you can work towards. It’s just a realization of being human, of being alive, of being conscious. And that love is overwhelming. And that is the basic foundation of joy. And we become enviable joyful. And then we see it in others, and we seek to ignite that love in others. You can’t do it. You can’t force someone to realize they’re loved, but you can show them.” – Martin Sheen

The Moth Podcast: Eve Plumb and The Pittsburgh StorySLAM (12/15/2015) 
Eve Plumb (you know her as Jan Brady) is hilarious in this episode of The Moth where she shares stories about her childhood on and off the set of The Brady Bunch, and her relationship with her mother. In another story (not involving Eve Plumb or Jan Brady), a slideshow of photos intended for an audience of two winds up being shown at a family gathering.

Christmas Shopping …
The Husband, The Girl, and I all received some great books for Christmas — and The Girl and I went on a little bit of a shopping spree (thanks to her Christmas cash burning a hole in her pocket) at two local independent bookstores.  I need to wrap up this post, though, and get to bed, so I’ll plan on doing that recap separately.

Anticipating … 
I can’t believe this is the last Sunday Salon/Currently for 2015!  I really like doing these posts (even though they tend to take me forever) and in looking back over my blogging this year, oftentimes they’ve been the only posts I’ve written in a particular week.  I’m hoping to remedy that in 2016.

In addition to the book haul from this week, I have a few other fun posts planned.  Hope your holidays were good ones and that you have a great last week of 2015!

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and i do come home at christmas

“And I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday–the longer, the better–from the great boarding-school, where we are for ever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest. As to going a visiting, where can we not go, if we will; where have we not been, when we would; starting our fancy from our Christmas Tree!

Away into the winter prospect. There are many such upon the tree! On, by low-lying, misty grounds, through fens and fogs, up long hills, winding dark as caverns between thick plantations, almost shutting out the sparkling stars; so, out on broad heights, until we stop at last ….” ~ Charles Dickens

We traveled across the state, over low-lying, misty, foggy hills. Into a brief blue of dawn and the brume of day.

There are sugar cookies waiting. Books for reading.  Dinner plans with friends who are like family. Who are our family.

It is good to be home.

 

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thanksgiving 2015: unplugged (or not) and thankfully reading

Thanksgiving 2014 - cropped

Thanksgiving, 2014

Thanksgiving 2015, and we’ve been experiencing some maddening Internet woes here on the homefront today. On, then off for a few minutes. Repeat at inconvenient intervals. Season with an impromptu shutdown of the laptop for an update.

A sign that we should be spending this holiday unplugged from our technology and more connected to the things that really matter?

Yes, perhaps.

(The irony isn’t lost on me that I’m writing this with the benefit of an Internet connection. For now.)

There will be some unplugged time today and throughout this weekend. I’m participating in the annual Thankfully Reading Weekend hosted by Jenn’s Bookshelves. I need to start Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann for a review, and I’m also still reading The Witches by Stacy Schiff. That one is taking me forever — it’s definitely a chunkster. I don’t have any goals for Thankfully Reading; it’s meant to be a low-key event, which are the best kinds of read-a-thons and challenges, in my mind.

Today I’m cooking dinner for The Husband, the kids, and my mother-in-law.  Started last night, actually, by making a few things ahead of time:  cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie. In the crockpot are sweet potatoes and carrots.  The turkey breast is already taken care of, courtesy of a gift certificate to Honeybaked Ham, and we have a Quorn turkey roll for the two of us who abstain from meat. Stuffing (two kinds — one regular, one gluten-free), mashed potatoes and biscuits still to come.

It will be an abundant, delicious meal on this, a bit of a difficult holiday.  The past five months have brought several significant challenges and stress, and as the year quickly draws to a close, there’s some real apprehension about what 2016 will bring.

I’m trying very hard to look past all that — beyond what’s been lost and what lies ahead — and trying to focus on being grateful, for now.

To stay plugged in to what truly matters.

 

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