Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Making Gramma's cookies for Puppa's Birthday Season

I didn’t grow up with my Grandparents close by.  Dad’s mom was in Wisconsin, his Dad was deceased, Mom’s were in Boston, travel wasn’t as easy so we just didn’t see them much.  Every other year my Gramma Porter would come out on the train or plane for Christmas and those were the best years, because she made cookies.  And cinnamon rolls.  Both were the best I had ever tasted.  My mother recalls the kitchen being a mess, I just remember flour all over the counter and cookies, lots of cookies.  Tomorrow’s my Dad’s 86th birthday.  What the heck do you get an 86 year old that can go get anything he wants himself?  I decided this year I would make him his mom’s cookies.  It wasn’t an easy task getting the recipe. However, after a few phone calls and a trip down memory lane with a cousin in Michigan, I got the recipe for Gramma Porter’s cookies AND her frosting.  I made up a batch today and from the very first bite, I was a little kid in the kitchen with my Gramma.  I guess the thing I am most grateful for is that my Dad is still around to enjoy the cookies.  And that he is really good at keeping in touch with folks, so he can call around the country and get phone numbers for me to call.  Happy Birthday Dad.  I hope you enjoy the cookies as much as I enjoyed making them.

PS  For those of you who have recipes in your family that you love, make sure you get them while you can. Rumor has it that Gramma made the best lemon meringue pie, I sure with I had tasted that too.

I hope this finds you having a great day.

In Health and Love,

Roy and Eugene loving on Gramma, I'm just along for the love.

Good things start here.

Here's the flour!!!!

Decoration supervision
Puppa and Mr Poppins

Puppa's Box of Birthday Booty... Aunt Grace Style

Friday, November 15, 2013

Back to Texas

I know my life is a sound track.  I have a vivid memory of crossing the street in New Brunswick, New Jersey, behind Caitlin and her friend Rosie.  I was just singing my usual stream of consciousness when Rosie turned around and said “Catherine, I think your life is a soundtrack.”  Well, it is.  I may not be able to carry a tune too well, but they always seem to be filling some space in my brain and occasionally have to bust out in song and dance.

I can’t believe that I’m moving my daughter to Texas and that this event would be the catalyst for the return to me blogging.  The last time I blogged was after I had driven her and her stuff FROM Texas, post her college graduation.  Blogging is a lot of work.  In writing, I remember things and get to share my adventure with others.  Some things are just too good not to share.

It seems that just about every day for the last couple weeks, I’ve made some kind of goodness in the big yellow bowl to either say thanks to someone for being so awesome to my daughter, or just because I needed a little comfort and making pie or Caitlin’s favorite foods seemed to be the best thing to do. Tears that fall into pie crust or turkey loaf seem to be the perfect seasoning.  This morning, after last night’s feast, I thought, “Well, today is the day, time to hit the road.”

Yesterday, it seemed better to work on my “play list” for the big road trip than pack the one back pack of clothing I was allowed to bring on the trip.  By not packing and focusing on the music list, it meant the trip wasn’t really happening.  As I was revisiting my CD’s in the sewing room, I found my Honk CD, the soundtrack for a surf movie from the 70’s, “Five Summer Stories”.  I thought, “This is perfect!”, and I immediately emailed a photo of the album to my friend Chris, because I knew he would totally get it.  I said, “No road trip is worth it’s salt without this one.”  This morning, I had a response in my inbox, “Absofreakinglutely!!” and one verse... “The dew of your back drop changes, and each new day brings more delights.”  Despite the sun not shining today, despite the fact that my baby was off to live the rest of her life, everything was gonna be ok.  So after a nice walk to Swami’s with Caitlin and Rodeo, and the best poach eggs I’ve ever made, we set out in Caitlin’s car packed full of her worldly belongings.  First days destination was Tucson, Arizona.

Last time we drove through Tucson, it was late at night and we were on a two fold mission.  To get to Encinitas in one day from Carlsbad, New Mexico.... And for me to find the sign commemorating Jerry Garcia... In the blink of an eye, in the middle of the night, we saw that sign! I screamed for Caitlin to pull over.  About the length of a football field later, she did, and proceeded to back up.  Now mind you this is late at night, there are big rigs hauling past us, she’s tired and just wants to get home, and I want to find that roadside sign because I thought it would somehow make up for the fact that I hadn’t gotten to go to the Grand Canyon or White Sands National Monument.  I hop out of the car, trying to get a photo, and Caitlin yells “Mom, get back in the car!  I have a bad feeling and you told me to listen to those bad feelings so get back in the car NOW!! Who am I to argue with my daughter about listening to her gut?  So I get a lousy photo and I arrive in Encinitas at about 3 am.  Fast forward 2 more years.
It’s today, November 15th and I’m driving to Texas to drop my baby off to be with the man she loves. . .A new life that doesn’t include Mom making poached eggs or asking about her day.  We get closer to Yuma, she had googled where the sign would be on the road and has me keep my eyes posted.  We get closer.  I tell her if we listen to some Jerry Garcia, maybe that will help... We drive though Yuma, no sign, and I decide it’s OK, it’s just a sign.  I put different music on the ipod, I look up and at the same time, we see it.  IT’S THE SIGN!!!!  “Caitlin, pull over!!!!  We can run back!!!!!”  She keeps driving, I know she’s thinking.  She keeps driving.  “Mom, do you want me to pull a U Turn?  Do you really want to go back to that sign?”  I’m uncertain if I said yeah, let’s do it, or no, don’t worry about it, but then, out of nowhere, Caitlin pulls a UTURN!!!!  I thought Lady, (Caitlin’s Car) was gonna slide out on the gravel, but my race car channeling daughter pulls it off, we figure out where to turn around again safely, we pull over and she’s taking my photo and I’m just overwhelmed by what my girl just did, and then we see a truck slowing down and pulling over.  “Hey, do you want us to take your picture?”  It’s a nice clean cut looking couple.  “Yeah, and then we’ll take yours.”  We’re just a couple of people, hanging out on the highway, taking pics with a sign and loving life.  And I’m thinking this trip’s gonna be OK.

After the photo incident, we’re driving along.  My heart’s overflowing with what just happened.  I put on some Grateful Dead.  The song Willing comes on, Caitlin likes it so much, she wants to hear it again.  She asks about the lyrics and I explain.  Yeah, this is a great road trip and I’ll just say thank you.

I’ll leave you with another favorite quote from The Grateful Dead.  “Sometimes the light’s all shining on me, other times I can barely see.  Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.”  I’m sad that I’m going to be an empty nester, but I also know that Robert and I grew a couple of really awesome kids.  Kids that are nice to people, that love whole heartedly, are kind, smart, know how to read maps, and love a good road trip.  I’m excited to see tomorrows delights.  Maybe I’ll relive them and share them with you.  Regardless,  I hope this finds you having a good day/night.

In Health and Love,


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All Gone To Look For America - The Final Chapter

this is Westbound Lola... Loaded to the ground
Our route, on a map......Yes, Catherine will use a map and a gps.....
Do we know how to pack or what??? Vintage Saxton Road Trip
Hello!!! What's a road trip without Jerry Garcia? I'm gonna go look for this.

This is going to be a quick one. Three years ago, Dr. Farrell wrote down on a little yellow card from an epidural kit, "No hay mal, que por vien no venga." There is no bad that some good will come. I was driving home from a work meeting today and decided to think of the things I'm grateful for. Besides the usual bitchen house, relatively decent health, great husband and dog, roaming turtles, great kids, I was grateful for all the places I've gotten to go because my daughter ended up in New Jersey for the last three years of school. Yeah, and I am still going. Tomorrow I leave to fly to Texas, to do the last portion of what Caitlin has called Westbound Lola. I kept waiting for blogging action from her, guess I'm going to attempt to do it. Wanderlust occurred at an early age for me. Road trips, that's what our vacations were. Still are. Right here in America.

So here's a few of the places and things I'm grateful for.....My daughter's college education. Rutgers and the Rutgers Women's Volleyball Team. New Jersey including Glen Gardner and Rahway, New York including NYC, Nyack, Fiddle Camp, The Jersey Shore, getting to hear warm ups for Social Distortion for free, good places to eat in Edison, NJ including Rasaoi and the thai place, Laramie, Wyoming, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, all the great National Parks and State Parks I got to see bits of, Indiana, Chicago, The Carri bean, Michigan, getting lost somewhere on Lake Michigan, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Florida... I been a lot of places that had Caitlin not gone so far away to college, I may have never seen them. Big Shout out for NCAA women's athletics, all the staff at Rutgers University, those nice young ladies at the Hyatt New Brunswick, all the wonderful people I came in contact with, who helped when I was lost and had time to talk story with me. Thank you. OK, I hope I have time to write while Caitlin and I are on the road.

In Health and Love,


PS, I haven't quite learned all the tricks of my new computer so the pics are not where I want them... enjoy them anyway :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

St Catherine of Craftlandia

I stayed home from work today. I didn't feel well. I folded laundry, watched daytime television, drank tea, talked to a friend on the phone. I kept looking at the dried up, dead flowers in my Mermaid Vase.... It's a bad economy. It's extravagant to buy new flowers every week. Especially when I'm staying home from work and not getting paid.... But I LOVE my vase and don't want her to be empty... There went the lightbulb, I could make some tissue paper flowers!! They turned out great. I sent a photo via phone to some of my peeps. Molly replied, "Mom, you need to blog about it." Margaret replied, "St Catherine of Craftlandia." My favorite mermaid blogger replied, "I LOVE IT! So crafty!" She needed some pop, so I made one last gold one, in honor of Jules, and Mermaid Diaries. She had made some big paper balls using the same method for Caitlin's Golden Birthday. It was just what my arrangement needed, tonight and at the birthday. So tonight's blog is dedicated to Jules. And Molly. She's the one who said I didn't have to write a lot.

All I did was fold and cut tissue paper. I used pipe cleaners to hold the accordion folded paper, and then got pieces of bamboo from the garden and attached the flowers to the bamboo with the wire pipe cleaners.

I hate doing dishes. I don't like picking up messes. I did both tonight. After I finished my crafty floral arrangement.

PS..... I also like my new nickname..... Saint Catherine of Craftlandia.

I hope this finds you having a groovy day.

In Health and Love,


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Catherine, Warrior Daughter....

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of having a few hours off from my current season of parental duties. I had three hours, I folded laundry, loved on my dog, went to yoga. Some days everything comes together, some days it doesn't, I was most pleased to have Daniella teaching. So we're going through our asanas and for once I am actually breathing, praying, getting in the groove, and we get to the Warrior Series. I love the Warrior Series. I'm a big girl and I love the gracefulness that comes with moving in this series. Graceful, yet strong. The poses were named for the mythic warrior sage, Virabhadra. It encourages strengthening the entire body while improving mental capacity and self control. We can all use a little of that. While Daniella was explaining and encouraging us to be Warriors, I thought to myself, "I'm a Warrior. I'm in battle for my Dad." I instantly got stronger and while I went through the series in a second set, my prayer went up to the high heavens, for strength for me and all of the people involved in getting him back to Baja, and self control for me, when I get pissed off at the lack of communication in the health care system.

I've been sleeping at mom and dad's. This morning my mom called me into her room to show me one of her treasures. It was a music box that my dad had given his mom. He got it in Japan on one of his ship adventures. I told mom I remembered how I used to dust it and how I was super careful because if I didn't do it properly, "Mrs Clean" would surely let me know. And there at the top, I saw the Warrior.I tried winding up the music, the mechanism had not been wound in many many years. I took it apart and got it to work. I was talking to my mom. "Mom, you know why this is really cool that you brought this out?" I then proceeded to tell her that yoga is where I breathe and set intentions for myself and other people. It's where I can pray, uninterupted. I demontrated downward dog, and then showed her my warrior pose. "Mom, I'm going into battle for you and Dad. We're gonna get the correct feeding tube and Dad's gonna get back to his real life."

I enjoyed my early morning chat with mom. Being around here all the time, I get some special moment's, in between the not so special. Good is overwhelming bad. Today.

Tomorrow, Dad goes in to get a feeding tube placed in his stomach. It's going to give him more freedom, more time to get his broken flapper fixed.

By the way, God was making dad's bed tonight in the form of mom, straightening the Lovey and saying good night one last time for the day. I need to get to bed, we have an early day tomorrow and I need to be at my best as we go into battle. Warrior Style. Lot's of mental capacity and lots of self control.

As always, I wish you health and love,


Saturday, February 26, 2011

God Showed up in the thrift store

15 days ago, my dad went in to the hospital to have what was supposed to be a “relatively” simple surgery…. For an 83 year old… The surgery itself, you know cutting and stitching, removal of a kidney and the cancer that thought it needed to take residence in dad’s body. All that went well. But then dad’s tongue swelled up, he thought he’d have some chest pain, and his body forgot how to swallow properly. Note to self… Do not EVER take the ability to swallow for granted. What was supposed to be three days in the hospital turned into 6, along with Puppa being discharged with a feeding tube that goes from his nose to bowel. All this for a man who has never made a big deal about himself or caused too much “commotion”. Even now, as he and my mom’s house is over run with their “Gestapo” daughter, the brother’s, my mom, and any help I can gather along the way, I have not heard one complaint from dad, other than “I thought we were going to get to go have some oatmeal.” This after his second failed swallow test. “My flapper’s not working” is Dad’s description over the phone to his people that call.

If Dad’s “flapper” was working properly, he’d be doing groovy, instead he’s hooked up to a pump 16 hours a day. My brother’s and I have all taken turns running the show; I have taken on the position of patient advocate. It’s all trial and error, I am in previously uncharted territory, and I seriously wonder constantly what the people who don’t have an advocate do. I suspect get sicker, stay in hospital longer, wither away, and don’t go fishing.

Spending a large amount of time in the role of scheduler, Dr. caller, list maker, direction giver, nurse, daughter, mother, and sister…. I’m pretty worked. As my friend Erin put it, “Even if you’re not physically there, you are there.” So I look for God, wherever I can find him. I thought I would share some of the places I saw God this past week.

I turned my head to look out my front window, and there he was in some peach blossoms in the yard next door.

He’s my brother Roy making food, perfecting the medication time list on the computer.

He’s my husband just doing what I say, even when I don’t say it in a nice way.

He’s my brother Pat providing his expertise on stuff I don’t know about and making us laugh.

He’s my mom saying, “Bob, I missed you,” when Dad and I have been gone all day in an attempt to get things going in a better direction.

God came to the yoga studio when I needed to be reminded to just breathe, when my teacher walked on my feet and pushed on my back when I was in child’s pose, or when another gently eased my shoulders down and rubbed my head in savasana.

God showed up at orchestra Tuesday night. As we played Andante and Nocturne from the Rabinowitz Suite, He helped everyone find their correct notes and me smile and silently cry at the same time in the beauty of D minor. He was my buddy Mary sitting next to me giving me insight on what the piece was written about. Brian telling a new person that the only reason he stayed with orchestra is because I told him (Brian) to just play the notes he knew. Brian is in his third season with North Coast Strings. God was here in the Dome when I came home and had Robert was playing something in a minor scale on his harmonica. He’s Irma who vacuumed up all the threads up off the sewing room floor.

God’s the speech pathologist who shares the same name as a friend from fiddle camp. He’s a home care nurse. He’s a dietitian who plans my dad’s feeding and calls to check on us. He’s the Dr who put his feet up on the counter today while he talked to Dad. I took it as I’m going to just sit here, be with you, and listen gesture.

God is my dog, Rodeo, who is so happy to see me when I come in the door, who will follow me around mom and dad’s house if he comes with me, who is happy to let me smell his dog nose, who gives unconditionally when I want some quality dog time on the sewing room floor.

God is my kids who call or show up when I need someone to give someone a ride or spend time with Gramma, so I can be where I need to be with Dad to learn some new thing to help him get better and go fishing. So he can go back to taking care of Gramma.

He’s my brother Giles and his blunt practicality, Giles who is here being Eugene and Giles, because it doesn’t work for both to be here.

He was the wonderful sunshine and the smell of the sea on Shelter Island, as Dad told me about ships and we watched them come and go. He was in my friend’s back yard today, while Dad and I sat under an umbrella, and I could hook up the feeding so Puppa could get a little nutrition to go the long haul.

He was a snail mail letter from Sue, a phone call to my girlfriend Shelly, emails from other folks. He is one of my co-workers who brought in a book to work that I need for a test. He’s an art project. He’s all over the place, even if he decided Dad was going fail his swallow test and I would be pissed off at Him, he still shows up in the most random places.

God showed up in a thrift store in San Diego today. Dad wanted to take the scenic route to my friend’s house. I turned off the GPS, and let Dad lead the way. I heard more stories about when my parents were in the Navy, where my dad worked on boilers, I heard bits about my parents honeymoon. I learned Dad’s first car was a ’47 Nash, named Milou. Part of “the scenic route” passed a thrift store I had seen from the freeway on my way to the airport, never managed to get to it. “Dad, can I just run in and do a quick walk through?” “Sure, go ahead, we’ve got plenty of time.”

Mom was angry this morning because she was missing a yellow bowl that had made it’s way to my house over Christmas time and wasn’t returned. I didn’t need to start my day with someone getting angry with me for something I had no control over. “Mom, you’ve got two others, do you need it right now???” “No, I just want it back.”

I walked up the ramp to the entrance to the DAV Thrift Store. I thought to myself, “How is it that I have never been to this mother of all thrift stores???” I looked down, and there on the shelf, waiting for me, was a big yellow Pyrex bowl. I had no eyes or need for anything else, I was just too excited to go to the car and show Dad.

I have never before, seen the beloved big yellow bowl in a thrift store in California. Today, God was a big yellow bowl at the DAV. Before I left to take Dad this morning, I stuck 5 dollars in my sweater pocket, thinking I would use it to pay for parking. Dad paid for parking. I bought a yellow bowl. I don’t have to look for the one that came to my house. Mom’s happy.

For now, this moment, I give thanks for all the times I got to see and feel the Divine in random places and not so glorious times. I ask for patience for all of us in this situation. I also say thanks for God’s sense of humor. I look forward in anticipation for when He shows up tomorrow.

In Health and Love,


Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's a Lovey

It's a Lovey.

At the beginning of December, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer and learned he would have to have one of his kidney’s removed. Dad and I had just gotten the news at the hospital, I had told mom over the phone, and by the time Dad and I got back home, mom had a bag by the door. Bags, from my mom, by the door, are not an unusual occurrence. What was unusual was how she grabbed me by the elbow and dragged me into the other room. “I have Daddy’s robe and his Merchant Marine jumper, I think you need to make a blanket for him for when he goes to the hospital.” I opened the bag, pulled out the robe, and with it my entire childhood of Sunday morning “dutch-rubs”, Christmas’ with dad in the chair with his robe on, mom with curlers in her hair, and Uncle Walt, all filled my thoughts in one split instant. Next, I pulled out the blue wool jumper. I put it up to my nose to see if it smelled like Puppa, the sea, or mothballs. Just wool. I was happy to see the fabric of both garments had maintained their color for over 50 years. I looked at mom, “I can’t cut these up unless he knows.” She replied, “He doesn’t know I have them.”

Not two seconds later, dad walks around the corner into the kitchen and I blurt out, “Dad, mom just gave me your robe and merchant marine jumper and she wants me to make a blanket with them.” He gave me a Puppa style grin and said, “She took those from me and hid them. Uncle Walt gave me the robe, I guess it has some holes…. and she shrunk the jumper.” I said, “but are you ok with me cutting them up?” He just chuckled a little, I took it as a yes.

I took the bag home, knowing I had Dad’s blessing for an art project. A few days later I was telling my friend Erin about mom’s idea. “That may be the best idea your mom’s ever had.” Next thing I know, Erin’s bringing over a pair of blue jeans that had been worn by my daughter Caitlin for 4 or 5 years, and then by Erin for another 4. Erin had patched and re-patched the pants to the point of not being able to wear them in public. Erin had thrown the pants away, heard about Puppa’s lovey, and soon the soft worn denim called to Erin from the trash, “We want to be used some more!” Erin heeded the call and from the trash returned to my house.

Christmas came and went. All the while the lovey was in the back of my mind. What fabrics would I use, how big was it going to be? What would I use to accentuate the beautiful red patches of the jumper? Red corduroy!! I had decided it would be mostly recycled, soft clothing. Robert donated some shirts, I had other fabrics from my stash that I thought would go well with what the clothing donations, I was assembling a pile of old clothes in the sewing room. Then, I tried on Puppa’s robe.

I walked around the house in it. I examined the holes. Overwhelmed with reminiscence of youth, my brothers, the houses I’d lived in, the dog’s I grew up with, I announced to Robert and Caitlin that I couldn’t cut up the robe. This followed with Caitlin taking her own little trip down memory lane and soon she was trying on her 7th grade jeans! We all agreed that between her and Erin, those jeans had gone on many adventures, as had Puppa’s jumper.

I started to cut and piece and sew and cut and piece and iron and sew the lovey together. The song by Dolly Parton, “Coat of Many Colors” would pop into my head. The song speaks of a coat her mom made from a box of rags. I think it was appropriate considering Dad’s Kentucky roots.

As with any art project, once I get going it takes on a life of it’s own. As I ripped apart the shirts I thought about my dad’s generation that wasted nothing. The shirts, jumper, and pants, all had pockets. How could I incorporate the pockets without ripping them apart? They seemed so useful. I remembered Sue’s lovey and one of it’s square’s had a pocket. Norma called it a God Pocket. Puppa’s could have lots of pockets and he could hold tissues or anyone who wanted to write him a little note could write a note and put it in the pocket! Or treats!!! Snickers bars!!!!

Initially I started designing the lovey on a sheet hung up on shelves in the sewing room. When it got too big, I moved it to the living room floor. Robert stood over me as I placed the sewn strips together. “That is a handsome lovey.” Having it on the floor gave me opportunity to walk past, move squares around, visualize the size, and let Rodeo, the dog, walk around on it or take a nap on it when no one was looking. Part of what makes a lovey a lovey is having Rodeo spend time on it. Considering he is my constant companion in the sewing room….I sew and cut, he will lie down between me and the machine and the iron, wag his tail when I have to walk over him, and occasionally we have a little quality dog time on the floor, we rub noses and I tell him how much I love him. Plus, Rodeo loves a nice blanket and Puppa. So spending time on the unfinished lovey is his way of sharing the dog love. I don’t worry about germs or dog hair as lovey’s are made to be used and washed in the washing machine.

With the top layer completely stitched together, the batting, backing, and tying process begins. My back gets a little tired getting all the layers just right so I’m grateful for my work table. With the lovey spread out, I have the opportunity to take a little rest on my creation, feel the fabric textures, say a word for the person that will receive it, basically get it ready to give.

You may have asked yourself, “What is a Lovey and how did it come to be?” A lovey is my own style of blanket. It is usually an old quilt top that was never finished and I either found it in a thrift store, it was given to me, or I bought it on ebay. I wash it, dry it, and figure out where and if it needs repairing. I repair any worn fabric or holes with bits of fabric from my own stash. The fabric tells stories and gives pictures of different eras. I like to imagine the lives of the women that made them. Then I put in new batting and soft flannel for the back. A few lovey’s have been made with new fabrics. One was made with blocks designed by all different people for a friend that was undergoing chemo. The name “Lovey,” came to me when I finished my first one. I wrapped it around my body and felt enveloped in its softness and warmth. I thought to myself, “This is a Lovey.” The name has stuck. I have been told, by more than one person, that their best nap or a night’s sleep was under one of my lovey’s. They lovey enjoys going to Baja, to fiddle camp, on long car rides, or just when the kids come home from college and want to keep warm watching television. I also feel they are the blanket of choice for anyone recovering from surgery, just ask my daughter Molly. So, I just keep making and giving them when I feel led. Or when my mom suggests it.

Erin and I have decided that Puppa’s is the Luviest of the Lovies. Yes, we also agree that this particular lovey is one of Mom’s best ideas.

It’s dark outside. I have a nice view to the northeast from Puppa’s hospital window to my left, Puppa and his lovey to my right. People here are enjoying looking at the lovey and putting their hands in the pockets. One sweet nurse recognized 7 jeans immediately. Puppa won’t remember much of this, but I wake him up every hour and make him do his breathing exercises. Anesthesia and surgery can take its toll on the old folks. I want Puppa to be able to return to the sea and the people he loves. I’m thinking he needs a few more fish stories. All, with the help of a lovey.

I hope this finds you and yours having a good day.

In Health and Love, Catherine