Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saturday Soup Competition

 My husband, Rick,  graduated from Johnson and Wales. He bakes bread. He roasts coffee beans. He makes ice cream. He brews beer.  He marinates. He grills. He does amazing things with food every week, so when he challenges me to a cook-off, I get busy.

Our most recent challenge: butternut squash soup. I had the best butternut squash soup I have ever had a local cafe called Bikes, Beans and Bordeaux. Tour de France themed, the cafe seats less than thirty folks. Fare features freshly prepared soups, salads, and sandwiches in an eclectic, upscale atmosphere rich with local art. I raved about the soup.

"That was the best soup ever: a perfect savory sweet balance and not too creamy. It's seasonal, but the owner said the chef will make it a few days into November. I need to bring you some of this soup," I gushed in the kitchen still in my Gladiator gear, sweat-dried hair curling out in all directions.

"Hmmm, you haven't had the soup we serve at the Grand. Creamy, the chef garnishes it with Nueske's bacon and roasted pumpkin seeds: incredible," was his reply

"No, I don't think that would be as good. This soup is the essence of butternut squash. It whispers autumn. You..."

"You haven't had my soup. My soup is probably better than that cafe's soup," he asserted.

You can see how it went. Soon enough someone had a hand on the squash in the vegetable bowl and had set the oven to 400. The challenge was on.

We each created a butternut squash soup. His, cream based, came out the color of a Meyer lemon (tasting on the right). Mine, vegetable-broth based, boasts a caramel color (tasting on the left).

Our son and his spend-the-night friend served as judges. The friend is a renown soup-hater. The list of foods he actually enjoys is quite short: bacon, corn dogs, pizza, milk. We figured whichever he disliked least would be the hit. The boys devised some sort of scoring system based on taste and challenge etiquette  Texture, color and depth of flavor did not factor in to their evaluations. Threatening to dash a competitor's soup with vinegar counted as a deduction.

My husband prepared his soup in secret while I was otherwise engaged, so when it was my turn to cook, I had to guard against spying and sabotage. He came to wash the dishes. He came in to inventory the pantry. He needed to check the refrigerator. Empty the dish washer.  The minute I'd crossed the kitchen to chop vegetables for the week's mini-quiches, he had a spoon in my soup stock. The boys took off a point for that and for the vinegar threats.

Once my soup finished we ladled tastes into shallow serving bowls for the boys. Our son dipped right in to my soup. He'd prepared the table with water glasses and two spoons to insure a clean palate for each taste.

Judge #1: our son.
Judge #2: not sold on soup.
We did not anticipate a tie, but, we had a split decision from the judges. One preferred the creamy soup and the other preferred the vege-broth base. My husband declared both delicious.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pizza Crust Experiment

This summer I committed to getting stronger and eating healthier. That has meant avoiding processed food and sugar. I've upped the protein and vegetables and haven't been eating much in the way of white flour. Friday nights are pizza night at my house, so in July I made pizza using zucchini slices as the crust. I liked the flavor; it satisfied my pizza craving. I just can't keep eating like it doesn't matter. I'm not twenty-five. The extra weight I've been carrying needs to go. I won't balk at a monthly or semi-annual trip to Mellow Mushroom, but I can't indulge in cheat meals every week. Making pizza on a vegetable crust satisfies my need for melted cheese-y goodness and is better for me.

Last night's crust experiment was the best so far. Jicama (Yambean) is a crunchy vegetable related to the sweet potato. It reminds me of a water chestnut on steroids. Bland, it soaks up the flavors paired with it. I love it chopped in a salad or added to a stir fry. When I saw one larger than my fist in the grocery store, I immediately thought: pizza crust. Here is a vegetable that won't sag. Here is a vegetable with less water run-off. Perfect pizza crust.

I sliced the jicama with a big knife. I imagine a mandolin would create a thinner slice. I made two cheese and pepperoni pizzas and two fig, goat cheese and prosciutto. First the sauce.

Then the cheese.
You can see that the size of the slice is 4-6 tablespoons. Jicama is a low calorie food but nearly all carbohydrate. A cup (or 120 grams) of Jicama delivers 46 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, 2 grams of sugar and 0 grams of fat. It gives women 25% of their daily fiber and is chock full of vitamin C.  
I baked them in the oven for 8-10 minutes on 350. 
See not much water on the plate from the Jicama (with Zucchini there was more water). 
It stays strong for pick up (one of my favorite features). 

Kept well in the fridge for the Disney worker's dinner. He reheated them in the toaster oven and they came out just as crispy. I'll definitely be on the look out for large Jicama. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Zucchini Pizza Planks

My son has a friend over. The friend boasts a limited menu from which he will eat: pizza, jello, cheese, bacon, bread, milk. Those are his basics (and nearly any chip known to man). Finding myself out of bacon and nearly chipless, I decided to make them pizza rounds for lunch. I used whole grain sandwhich thins for their pizza crusts (the food critics didn't even notice all the grainy seeds!). I knew I'd want pizza, but real pizza with crust does not fit into my summer health goals, so I decided to try Zucchini Pizza Planks. 

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 
Slice thin and season with salt and pepper.
Top with 1 Tablespoon of tomatoe sauce (no or low sugar), part skim mozzarella cheese and turkey pepperoni.

Bake at 350ยบ for 12-15 minutes (until cheese is melty and pepperoni crisps up).

Loved them! Cheesy, pepperoni goodness definitely satisfied my pizza urge this afternoon.  I like zucchini, but I can see where a person who does not like zucchini would not like them as pizzas either. It makes a soft, rather juicy, pizza crust. I wonder if you can crisp up the zucchini plank first and then top it with pizza goodness? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Food Favorites

Having fresh ingredients on hand makes all the difference in what I eat. So this week, I used the blender to make some fresh herb cubes. I whipped rosemary and parsley together with just a bit of water (1/2 cup to a cup maybe). I spread the smoothied herbs into an ice tray and froze them. Delicious when I'm stir frying chicken or making salad dressing, I can defrost in the microwave and mix in!  

A shopping goal for my summer is to do most if not all of our grocery shopping at a local meat and produce market. The prices are fantastic. Forty three dollars last week bought a plank of salmon, 12 boneless skinless chicken breasts, a package of ground turkey and a wealth of fresh fruits an d vegetables. There I get twelve limes for three dollars. I am in love with lime. I use it in marinates, salad dressing, and drinks. The dinner salad pictured combined 1/2 chicken breast, a roma tomato, snow peas, broccoli, 1/4 avocado and a lime dressing. I got the lime dressing idea from my friend Kristin. Combine the juice of one lime with a bit of olive oil (I think I did a 1 to 1 ratio), add fresh herb (I used the rosemary and parsley), add garlic (optional), salt and fresh ground pepper. It's delicious and I only need a tablespoon the flavor is so intense.
Last but not least, aren't these mini-molds fun? I love my rainbow colors. They come in packs of four, so I got two.  They are the perfect size for portioning the large jello box: 8 servings, 80 calories. I don't bother taking them out of the mold to eat (though for a dinner party that would be fun). I think they will pack well in a cooler for the beach! Sugar free jello breaks my dependence on Eddy's Tangerine Popsicle. My friend Beth and I came across them in the Baldwin Park Publix last week.  I wonder what would happen if I froze them? 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gotta Do It

Image from Health Science Research

This summer I've dedicated myself to exercising and eating right. I need to get stronger. 
Two broken wrists in two years have all but ended my roller skating fun. I need to rehab the left hand and work on strengthening my core to bring my back into line.  I have lots of excuses for not eating right or not exercising. Time, fatigue, work, family. You name it and I've probably used it to convince myself to stay put, sit on the couch, and read one more book. 

My first step is acknowledging the problem. I can't argue with the Body Mass Index chart (BMI). I know where I should be and what I need to do to get there. If you're curious about how BMI indicates health Dr. Oz's experts have recorded answers to frequently asked questions at Dr. Oz's Share Care site here

Second step? Exercise. I began Camp Gladiator last Wednesday and am about to go out for a couch to 5K run this morning. I like Robert Ullery's Couch to 5K podcasts. On my list of projects is mixing my own by combining the voice prompts from  with music in Audacity, but for now there are plenty at C25K site from which to choose. 

It's been a long time since I exercised regularly. One thing I appreciated about the Camp Gladiator workout last week was how I didn't feel pressured to keep up with other folks in the class or work at levels that were out of my range. Trainers, Kristy Lee Wilson and Christine Richardville consistently offered modifications that fit my healing wrist, back and fitness level. 

All for now! I better get out there before it gets too hot!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who Leads Your Pack?

8 weeks, ears back, still shy-ish

It's a good thing puppies are cute. Otherwise we might not put up with the bad behavior that are part of the first months of a puppy's life. Our family's new dog, Daisy, is three pounds o' love--well, most of the time. We've had her for two weeks and in that time she's settled in and started to develop a personality.

9 weeks
A personality that is sometimes snarly and sent me looking for how-to articles on becoming a pack leader. Dogs are social and live in packs: not herds, not prides, not gaggles even, but packs. Every pack has a leader and dogs instinctively follow their pack leaders. As pack leader, I eat first, I walk through a door first, I assert my will and the dog follows. That's the prevailing theory anyway.  Cesar Millan says so in his book Be a Pack Leader and many other animal writers and trainers agree.

Being Daisy's pack leader does not seem so clear cut. Does she follow me? Yes. Mostly. It depends. She prefers to follow when I am not actually holding the leash. She cries for me when I walk out of her sight and given the option she stays at my heals as I go from kitchen to family room to office to bathroom. Does she look to me for permission? Dogs in a pack wait for a signal from the pack leader before eating or before doing other things. Daisy waits on me to eat, yes, mostly. She’s taken to watching me make her breakfast and dinner. She sits patiently; she doesn’t growl or bark for the food bowl. Those good manners haven’t transferred to how she acts in the yard yet. 
She doesn't ask permission to eat weeds or other tasty morsels she finds outside.

10 weeks, ears up and confident
Good things she’s so cute. I keep reminding myself: she’s just a puppy.She's learning to follow and I am learning to lead.

The pack idea has been in my mind since we brought Daisy home. It reminds me of something Mom used to say: "You're only as good as the people you hang around." I think I started hearing that as a teenager. It wasn't until later that I would live Mom's words. In college, in graduate school, as a beginning teacher and beyond, I learned that hanging around certain folks helped or hurt me. So I chose to hang around the smart people, the nerdy book club types, the readers and artists, the passionate teachers. People who love to learn are part of my pack. Pack matters. 

Who's in yours? 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mom's Blueberry Muffins

Pappy's patch in Oviedo has blueberries in addition to the strawberries this year, so we took advantage of the late season (for Florida) picking this morning and brought home nearly two pounds. That's two pounds in addition to the pint Mom shared with me from her pick last week. We hit the berry lotto this week!

With so many berries I thought I'd make muffins and maybe a cobbler (if we don't eat them all by the handful first!). You know a recipe is good when you've written out measurements for a double or triple batch next to the original. Such is Mom's recipe for blueberry muffins.

Blueberry Muffins

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup salad oil (I use Canola)
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup blueberries

Pre-heat oven to 400. Whisk together milk, egg and oil. Combine dry ingredients. Mix together to create thick batter. Fold in blueberries. Line muffin pan with muffin cups. Spoon 1-2 heaping tablespoons into muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Driving Miss Daisy

Saturday afternoon I found an ad for a black and white Shih Tzu girl. I'd been looking for about a month and dreaming of a new dog since soon after Lilly passed. I emailed the breeder about visiting and she replied, "How about tomorrow?"

Sunday found us driving north west on on 417and 408 and the Turnpike to 75. It was a day trip. We left prepared, pocket ready, money in hand. It was good we made the drive prepared.

Papers signed, photos taken we loaded up for the drive home. Rick, Collin and I played name that puppy nearly all the way.

"What about Tipsy?"
"No! Turtle? Turtle's fun."
"Those aren't flowers. I want a flower name, like..."
"Lil Sucker? She's tiny that fits."
"Dad! We're not calling her Sucker!"
"Ivy's nice. Put that one on the list, Collin."
"Skunky! Thorn? How about Thistle?"
"No! Daisy!"
"Mom, you've been calling her Daisy for weeks. She's already Daisy isn't she?"
"She might be."
"What about Bean?"
"Bean is cute."
"She is tiny."

And so it went as we drove home from the Breeder's place with our new puppy. It was a long drive, so Rick entertained us with funny dog names: Lickey, Tripy, Chompy, Lil Sucker. He's good at getting our goat. Collin called a family vote once we reached the north side of town. He'd narrowed the list down and Daisy Bean won. She's maybe 3 pounds and has spring loaded little legs. She's met all of the grand parents and thankfully slept a solid six hours last night!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Face Painting Smiles

Face painting at St. Luke's Lutheran Church
The line of parents, strollers and children winds across the basketball court, a sea of pastel, flower garden, plaid pants. Polished and smiling, the children dart between parents Easter baskets in hand.

I am set up with other face painting volunteers for the Sunday afternoon Easter Eggstravaganza at church. On my table are paint brushes, a Snazaroo palette of paints, paper towels. Silver glitter glints on a white plate as I swirl a brush in water and smile at the pink organza as a little girls poofs into the brown bucket seat   in front of me.

"Hi, what's your name?" I ask.

Eyes peek at me from under fresh clipped bangs, wisps of hair escape the barret. I lean forward to hear the soft-spoken name. Sometimes it's Chloe or Jasmine or Austin or Grant or Porter or Grace or Johnny.

"Would you like me to paint something on your cheek or one your hand?" I inquire.

Doe eyes look toward the ceiling, a glint of grin peeks across a cheek. Children reply on my cheek or my hand or my forehead or my WHOLE face! Answers (and Mommy's wishes) vary.

"What would you like me to paint today?" I display the painter's page of quick and easy Easter designs. Some take the bait, others dream: a unicorn, a penguin , Lightning McQueen, a zebra.

"A zebra, huh?" I stall trying to pull the shapes into my fingers. Dabbing a makeup sponge with white, I begin.  I  paint as heads wobble or turn, some lean into my holding hand, entranced by the feel of the brushes on their cheeks.

"Would you like a little glitter?" the standard finish.

Yes or no or sure or okay, or maybe just a little bit or a LOT or no thank and it makes me break out.

Sparkles flutter and flit. I will glitter through Tuesday, I'm sure.  I hand over the mirror and wait for the grin.

Friday, March 30, 2012


"Tell me a story. Draw me a picture. Want to play?" How long do children demand or ask us to play with them, to turn our love and attention their way? 

Not long, I'm sure. My son is 10. I figure I have about 5 years before my cool factor turns icy in my son's eyes. I've got to maximize our play time.

My brother and sister-in-law play Draw Something, an iPad, iPhone, all around smart phone app, that allows you to draw pictures for friends to guess. My niece who's four, loves it. She loves checking for new drawings to guess or watching a friend solve a drawing she and her Mom sent. Part Pictionary, part Jumble, you play by connecting with other players via Facebook or email. 

It's no wonder the game shot to the top of the apps charts. After your friend guesses the picture you drew you get to watch a quick video of the drawing creating itself and see at what point your friend got it. You can skip that part, but it's fun to see. It's even more fun to draw.

Speaking of which, it's my turn. 

Happy Friday! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Speaking in Code

“ Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. ” - Brian Kernighan

Early morning finds me sitting at my brother's kitchen table. I'm cradling a cup of hot coffee watch the  blustery woods wake up when I ask my brother to describe to me what he does for a living. In my mind I know he works on chips. His team worked on a chip for the iPhone years ago; they worked on a chip for a router for the country of France; he's written code and more importantly, I find out, he debugs it. "Debugging," he tells me, "is much harder than creating." I liken it to the work of a sharp editor. It takes talent and skill to see above and around and into and beyond the creation.

"Tell me about this chip that's coming in today," I request. "What's it look like?"

"Imagine a human hair. The wires in the chip we're testing today are only a fraction of the width of a human hair." Hard to imagine something so small, so invisible, so fast. He's expecting a new chip to arrive from Taiwan today. It means a late night at work testing the chip and getting it to do what it's designed to do. He and his team will begin the debugging process today.  I asked him if he works on microchips and got schooled in the language of chips and processors.

Apparently microchip is an old word, a word that described the smaller chips that were measured in microns. The chips John works on are measured in nanos--there's not a word for that. Nano chip isn't really used.  "There are ASICS (application specific integrated circuits) and network processors.  But we  just call it a chip," he said.

 The chip they will test is a network processor. I can't quite visualize what that means. John explained that this chip will transmit 300 million packets (of information) a second. Of course in my mind, I'm seeing small packages--like the painted magnets my four-year-old niece wrapped in white butcher paper and gave me-- moving from hand to hand.

Three million is beyond my mind's eye. The packets are computer code, those 1s and0s that make everything happen seemingly in the air right before your eyes. John says he is "a solution looking for a problem" and I think really he is a creationist, making something where nothing seemed to exist before. Conjuring magic.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Little Big Brother

My brother is younger than me. Two years, three years. The gap varies based on who's just had a birthday. For the first time since we've both married, I'm visiting by myself. No husband or son came along. It's my birthday spring break adventure.

This morning found John and I snuggled up in the family room. No one else was up. Morning found us, he in the big chair, me snuggled into the corner of the couch. We were talking about educating our children and the state of schools taken over by testing. He's only 2 and a half years younger than me, but as he said "I prefer to think of it as you're 3 years older than me as of today and for half the year at least!"

My brother, John, or JT, used to chase me around the house with a blow dart gun. He was probably in middle school then. He never actually hit me, but I knew he could. He could pin a lizard to a scrub oak tree from twenty feet away. is a father. His accuracy fueled my screams and made run a little faster. He liked the chase, I think, and to take me down a notch.

His daughter, my niece is 4. We don't live close together, so seeing my brother and his family is special. Who knew that he takes videos of stuffed animal dramas at work and messages them home to my niece throughout the week? Currently, an orange dinosaur is raiding his change drawer and over indulging in candy from the vending machine. The poor creature had tummy trouble last episode. Who knows what JT will find at his desk come Monday! My brother does all the voices--bringing his daughter to the delightful "oh no" cliff only to postpone her delight until the next office installment.

Orange Guy (the dinosaur) is not alone in his repertoire. There's the "Ballad of the Bear Who Ran with Scissors," or the Bear that didn't hold his Mommy's hand in the parking lot, or the Bear that didn't cut his fingernails and ripped up his sheets. Another favorite is the story of the pig who jumped over the fence (and lost his legs), or the "Case of Poop in the Pants", the story of when Belle soiled her drawers. He tells stories. He built an "artist's loft" in a shed in the backyard.

My brother, lizard hunter, has grown up to be quite a Dad. How I love seeing it and seeing him, all grown up and fatherly. Love you, JT.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


"Auntie, Auntie! Can I play with your crayon paints? Auntie, Auntie let's play dress up! I'm going to get your wings, I'll be right back!"

Oh if I could only describe my niece,Charlotte's voice. Part little girl, part Glenda the good witch, all curiosity and glee.

"Auntie, Auntie here come the special birthday hats! We can wear them to dinner!" little does she remember I made these birthday fezzes for her first birthday several years ago. Oh what fun to have Charlotte hand me a feathered, bedazzled fezz and say,"here you go, you're the special party girl, Auntie!"

Off to make art and play butterflies! In the end we had a Fancy Nancy sort of birthday dinner with good wine and sugared steaks on a patio with a fireplace. We wore the hats too . Pink stone all the way today.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St Patrick's Day

This post is #18 of 31 for the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers

I forgot yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. It slipped my mind in the sweetness of Saturday morning. I can't believe I forgot. In my forty plus years, I've never forgotten St. Patrick's Day. 

I've never forgotten because for me, St. Patrick's Day isn't about wearing green and drinking beer. It's about my Dad. 

Mom & Dad on Park Ave. for the Art Festival today.
Eventually, I remembered. I remembered the minute I saw I'd missed a call from my Dad.  At 1:20 in the afternoon on our way home from a conference, Collin and I called him back. I was kicking my mom-self. I hadn't shared any stories of Ireland with Collin that morning. We didn't pull out the old photo album and look at pictures from Donegal. We didn't read an Irish story much less say the Irish blessing or laugh over the curse. How did I forget? Usually, it's a first-thing in the morning sort of celebration, sometimes green pancakes or waffles have even been involved. I wanted to kick myself, but I was driving. 

My Dad's first language was Gaelic. He spoke Gaelic at home with his mother. He was the first of his family born in the United States. Dad forgot Gaelic once he went to school. He doesn't speak with a brogue either, but he puts one on for St. Patrick's Day.Ever since I was a child, Dad would perk us up with a lilt and a laugh in his voice, laying the accent on thick the more my brother and I giggled. It is one of many things about my father that delights me, no matter what he and I may have been fighting about when I was a teen and young adult, he was always joyful when he spoke with a Brogue on St. Patrick's Day. 

I think it is his joy and the sharing of it that still gets me. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Drawing in Church

I've got a confession to make. I've been drawing in church. It started more than a year ago. A retreat speaker introduced me to Praying in Color. Since, I've drawn my way through nearly 2 accordion Moleskins worth of sermons.

Our church, St. Luke's Lutheran, is celebrating 100 years this year. One part of the celebrations, I've loved are the history presentations. Here's a link to the first 25 years' video. It amazes me think about the families who founded the church in 1911, pooling their resources to get away from the newly industrialized city of Cleveland, Ohio.

As part of the birthday celebration, today's sermon was delivered by the President of the Lutheran Missouri Synod, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. He spoke about coming to church with our sacks empty and having that sack filled by the spirit, by Christ. I definitely arrived empty today. Here's what I drew:

Drawing the sermons has connected me to the word in new and different ways.

At the end of our service today, we watched a short video showing the second 25 years (it's not online yet or I'd link it). I wasn't too surprised to see that St. Luke's began a radio ministry in the 1950s. That sort of forward thinking is obvious today in how the church has reached out through the Internet. Services are broadcast live each week. Sermons are archived on the site. The church tweets.

I am sure I will be drawing through many more decades at St. Luke's.

Happy Birthday!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Eat Quiche

My teacher friends and I were talking at the lunch table one day about recent restaurant meals we'd had. I said, "the food was so good, I had to take a picture of it." One of the teachers laughed, nearly snorted her soup out her nose actually, and replied, "Lee Ann you always take pictures of food."

She's right. I just hadn't realized it. I love taking pictures. Its one way I appreciate things.  I photograph. I thank and remember.

And I do love good food. I love the colors, the textures, the image food makes on a well presented plate, all of it. That's given me a thicker waist than I'd like (I'll be working on that this spring and summer). In the meantime, I'm getting back to basics in the kitchen and avoiding processed things, no more protein bars for breakfast for me. Here's what I'm cooking up to "heat and eat" for breakfast this week:

One cooked, these also freeze well. Microwave 1 minute to heat.
Quiche Cups: Ready to Go
adapted from a South Beach recipe

6 eggs or 3/4-1 cup of egg whites
1/4 low fat milk
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
handful of low fat cheese (probably a 1/4 cup)
handful of fresh spinach (cut in ribbons or use to line the sides of the muffin cup)
Mrs. Dash
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Wisk the eggs with the milk. Add in vegetables. Blend. Spray foil muffin cups with cooking spray. I use olive oil in a Misto sprayer I can refill. Line the muffin cup with spinach leaves. Drop about a  1/4 cup of the mixture into each foil muffin cup. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Serve with hot sauce!


PS: I'm participating in the Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life blogging challenge. The challenge has us posting a slice a day for the month of March. This weekend (slice 9, 10 and 11)  I thought I'd write slices on my personal blog instead of my teaching blog to bring a bit of balance--in my writing life of late--between the two. We'll see how it works out.

Friday, March 9, 2012


This post is #9 in 31 slices of life, a blog challenge hosted 
by Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers.  

The road stretches her black asphalt in front of us. A tarry ribbon, two-lanes, a straight shot for most of our 25 mile drive home from my son's school. Orange groves on one side and subdivisions, livestock and lakes on another.

"So, Mom, what's your favorite animal?" Collin asks after we grin at the kids climbing the dirt mountain-- a field of goats tucked between a church and a day-care center. We've stopped to say hello to them before.

I have lots of favorites, I think to myself. "Maybe a llama, " I reply. "Oh, or a horse!"

"Why do love horses?"

What first comes to mind is the smell. Rich, dark, earthy, warm, a mixture of leather and hay,  I don't think I can describe how I love the smell of horses, or horse barns so I say, "their spirit--they are independent and powerful, strong, beautiful and fast."

"They are elegant too--you might say that," Collin reminds me.

"That's true they are. Why do you like squirrels?" I ask giving him his turn to tell me.

"They are quick and they have bushy tails. I love too that they climb trees because I do like a good tree to climb."

Our conversation reminds me of a scrap of a poem I wrote for Collin when he was little. Once we got home I went to my journals and find it.
Not a backyard squirrel, my parents caught
this rare black squirrel in Petosky, Michigan!

I saw a squirrel today
running along a fence top
his tail busy and twitching
eyes on the bird feeder
he jumped
And the poem reminds me of stories we were sharing around Mom's dinner table just hours before.A family friend--someone who's laughed with my parents for 50 years--is visiting from Washington state. We lingered over stories at the dinner table last night. Mom was regaling us with tales from the bird feeder. Squirrels, the crafty creatures, are big players in the back yard. In Mom's backyard they want one thing: bird seed.

Mom keeps a double feeder in the back yard. The feeders hang from green metal hooks which curve and arch like Ms at the top of a thick pole. The pole,a stick figure in a plastic ballast skirt. The inverted cone keeps the footed-creatures from the seed. My parents love to watch the birds come to the feeder. Yellow finches are hear now and have been for winter--they will take wing north soon. The squirrels, nature's clowns, provide just the right amount of mischief to keep Mom and Dad on their toes.

Mom once watched a squirrel hang, as if on a trapeze, from a scrub oak branch over the feeder. She said he eye balled the bird feeder then scrambled back up to the tree. He tried another branch, hanging, looking, stretching, but still retreated. In the name of keeping the squirrels out of the seed, Mom greased the pole, vaselined it,  from top to bottom then sat back on the porch to watch. She said that squirrel'es eyes opened right up the minute he hit the pole and slid slowly to the ground.