Category Archives: Friends and Family

My Brother-In-Law Flew 30 Pounds of Crawfish Up Last Saturday

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Small Boy on Drums!

Birthday Cake Wishes

Says our friend, Mr. Morgan, in his signature deadpan, in regards to the candles on his daughter’s birthday cake, “I wish for world peace.”

Says my Small Boy, “I wish for a little piece.”

Christmas

Lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner, one gift from under the tree, which meant one that was from an aunt or family friend, as gifts from my parents and Santa always appearing magically in the night. Would it be a Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightie from my fabulous Aunt Helen (And by “aunt” I mean my mother’s stepfather’s stepmother – I think. Either way? Truly a hot ticket!)? Or a wonderful new book from Aunt Linda? Would my Uncle Pete make his bus from New York? Baking gingerbread cookies from my grandmother’s recipe, the decorating always starting out ambitious and deteriorating into a few raisin eyes and a cinnamon buttons; my little brother’s cookies always horribly mangled a little crooked. Last minute shopping with my Dad. A fire in wood stove. Reading aloud from my Mom’s ancient copy of The Night Before Christmas, hanging the stockings, leaving the best of gingerbread cookies with milk for Santa. My Dad negotiating how much it would cost him to have me wrap the gifts he bought. Listening to our vinyl copies of John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Waking Christmas morning to my little brother in my room with his flashlight. “Is it time to open presents?” “No, not until seven o’clock.” Coming down the stairs together, after my parents had gone down to turn on the tree and start the coffee get the camera ready for pictures. My Mom’s coffee cake, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. Squeezing the oranges for fresh juice with the meal. The four of us, together, spending the morning opening gifts, my job, and then in later years, my brother’s job, to hand out gifts, to be the Elf. My brother’s best friend, our neighbor Jeff, calling him at a ridiculously inappropriate hour to ask him about his haul. Christmas dinner, wearing the crowns from the Christmas crackers, trading the bad jokes and showing off the toys inside. A long, easy afternoon, playing with new toys, reading new books, watching movies, eating too many red and green M&Ms. A late night, knowing there wouldn’t be school for another week, at least.

This week’s prompt featured the word tradition and a photograph of a beautiful handmade ornament, courtesy of the lovely and talented Lori at In Pursuit of Martha Points.

L’Chaim

When Death walks among the young, he is particularly unwelcome.

At twenty seven, my brother should not have been carrying a best friend’s coffin. And yet, today, he did just that.

I am sad, and angry, and reminded of losses of my own.

I spent today, while my parents, brother and sister-in-law said goodbye to someone taken far too young and far too suddenly, with my brother’s children and my own small boy. I was reminded, as is so often the case, that life refuses to be put on hold for our grief. Children still need naps, and they will persist in laughing, crying, and perhaps if we’re exceptionally lucky, requiring changes of clothing in the middle of the day.

Life will go on. And to properly honor the memories who leave before us, we ought to live. Well, truly, fully, honestly, hilariously, tragically.

So, to Nick, and always to my dear Glenn, you were loved. You will be sorely missed.

To everyone I love, whose lives touch mine, in every way, l’chaim.

To life.

Not Kiddo or Rumplysnort

Perhaps someday, I’ll get my Dad to explain to you the precise origins of my childhood nickname, for I do not know them.

My Dad is the Guy Whose Nicknames Stick. He called me by mine well past the age where I became vaguely embarrassed about it. (Of course, now, when I have moved through acceptance and into embracing such a goofy nickname, he has forsaken it for the more literal Daughter.) He called my neighbor, Juliet, JB (not her actual initials) the whole time she lived across the street. My brother is Boo Boo, my high school friend, Jason, he called Ed. I could go on all day.

While in some cases odd, none of these nicknames are embarrassing, right?

None cause the innocent eavesdropper to snicker, do they?

For me, though, his firstborn?

Not Boo Boo, Ed, JB, or Larry. Not Peanut, or Sweet Pea. Not Hey, You! Not Kiddo or Rumplysnort.

My Dad called me Stink.

For years.

Into high school.

Though in his defense, not in front of my friends. Unless they happened to be at our house. Which was often, since our house was where people often gathered.

And you know what? When I look back, I don’t find that I am scarred by it. In fact, I love it. For my Dad, it was a term of endearment, and indicative of our family’s slightly… um… quirky humor.  So, to the naysayers out there who worry about calling your youngest child Baby, I say, “Be thankful it’s not Stink.”

Stink.

Better Than Sex?

Friday night was my dear friend N’s birthday party, a beer and cheese themed birthday party! I thought well, play to your strengths, woman! bring a cheesecake!

What cheesecake to bring, though? So I flipped open my go to cake book, The Whimsical Bakehouse. I read this on page 46:

A customer once said our Mocha Chocolate Chip Cheesecake was better than sex.

Friends, that it is mighty claim, indeed. Gauntlet? Thrown.

Here’s what I ended up doing, screw ups included. The results? Quite a few people who read here ate some. Your comments will be appreciated. I dunno about better than sex, myself, but it was pretty damn good.

Thanks, Fibby, for both of the photos!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

1 Package Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1/4 c. + 2 T. sugar
4.5 oz. melted unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 10″ x 2″ springform pan. (If you’re me, your springform is 9″ x 2″ and you just plunged merrily ahead.) Wrap the bottom and outside of the pan in foil and set it in a large, deep roasting pan.

Put the cookies in a ziplock bag, seal it, and smash the bejeezus out of it with a rolling pin or saucepan or frying pan or meat tenderizer (not the pointy kind, the flat kind!).

Combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl and blend until moist. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of and about an inch up the springform pan. Set this aside while the oven preheats and you make the filling.

1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. instant espresso powder
2 pounds cream cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 1/4 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the cream in a small saucepan to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the powdered espresso. Let the mixture cool a little while you whip the cream cheese.

In the bowl of an electric mixture, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone on medium speed until it’s smooth and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl thoroughly and often. Reduce the speed to low, and add in the warm cream, beating to incorporate, scraping often. One at a time, beat in the eggs, beating only until they are incorporated into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. (If, like me, you flagrantly ignored the pan size recommendations, you will have about an 8 oz. take out container’s worth of extra batter. Your spouse may or may not eat this raw.) Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the batter, and swirl them into the batter with a butter knife. Fill the roasting pan about 1″ full of hot water, and pop the whole thing into the oven. Bake for 70 minutes, or until the top of the cake looks just set and doesn’t wiggle too much if you gently nudge the pan.

Take it out and let it cool for at least 2 hours. Chill it overnight for the cool, dense texture that makes cheesecake so very divine.

About twenty minutes before serving, make the ganache.

4 oz. dark chocolate, rough chopped
4 oz. heavy cream

Heat the cream to a simmer in a small pan. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let the hot cream melt the chocolate. Whisk the mixture until thick and combined. Let the ganache stand for a few minutes until it’s body temperature or cooler.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan, then release the springform sides. Pour the ganache onto the center of the cake, and gently smooth it across the top, allowing just a little to drip over the sides.

Dish it up with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday!” and two dozen craft brews to taste!

My Small Boy’s Birthday Party

Yesterday was Felix’s birthday party. The pictures tell it better than I could.

There was cake. Chocolate chip cake, with vanilla frosting in the middle, and chocolate on the outside. And sprinkles. He may only be turning three, but the boy knows how he likes his cake. Why five candles? Three for him, the big white one is musical (why not?), and a pink one for my Mom, whose actual birthday it was yesterday (happy birthday again, Mom!).

There were presents. It took a village to open them.

He was suitably impressed with his cake.

And he blew out the candles like a pro.

But perhaps the highlight? He got to play with his hero, his idol, Big Brother J!

Overheard at the Family Reunion

“It’s always good to have a high tolerance for cheap wine.”

He’d Totally Cheat at Car Bingo

If you could spend the afternoon with anyone who is no longer alive, who would it be and what would you do?

It would be fourteen years ago in Vermont (because if I could have him back? I could also bend time to my will), and I’d call Glenn. Wake him up. He loved his sleep. Are you ready to go? He’d answer me no all groggy and foolish. We’re leaving in half an hour. Get your ass downstairs.

It would be fall, right about this time of year. The Green Mountains wearing a skirt of painted foothill foliage, perhaps a sugar dusting of snow on Mount Mansfield. The air would be cool, the sun warm, the sky blue. Pulling up in front of his dorm, leaving the Subaru running, I’d run up and knock on his door. He wouldn’t be ready.

In the end, he’d sling a book bag and a sack of laundry into the wayback. Usually, we’d have another friend with us for the drive, but not this time. This time would just be us. We’d drive through town, around the funny corner by Steve’s diner and Neil & Otto’s Pizza, and we’d sigh over the home fries at the diner – so good! – and the crust at the pizza place – so bad!

Just south of town, out on Route 7, we’d stop for gas. I’d man the pump. He’d go in to pay, and come out with a convenience store cornucopia of treats masquerading as lunch.

And then, I’d slip the car through the gears, feeling the road south unfolding as I approached fifth. I’d tell him to pick a tape. Yeah, a cassette, from the compartment under the radio. He’d spend ten minutes mocking my music mercilessly before producing some obscure thing from his book bag and putting that in. Today? It would be the singer/songwriter/humorist whose name I can never remember*, or maybe his Chuck Berry tape.

Whenever we passed farms, and in rural Vermont we’d pass farms every few miles, he’d make me join him in a chorus of animal sounds, and threaten to make me play car bingo to pass the four hour drive. Of course, as I am driving, he’d be playing my bingo card, and he’d cheat.

We would talk, about stupid things. Life things. Big things. Mean things. Strange things. Small things. We would laugh. Oh, how we would laugh! And about the time we hit southern New Hampshire, he’d tell me he had to pee, but mostly so I’d stop at the McDonald’s in Keene. He’d eat a bag full of cheeseburgers and fries, and talk me into some, too.

I’d pick on him about the pit stop, since the Massachusetts state line is only a few minutes from Keene, and his parents house only a few minutes from the state line. He’d make some crack about there being no food at home, which would be a lie, because there always was. And then, we’d be there, on the side street in the Chair City where he grew up. I’d come in, maybe say hi to his parents, and then, quickly, hug him goodbye, and promise to call him about picking him up on the way back north in three days.

And then, I’d kick a few dry leaves under my shoes, slip back into my worn out Subaru, and back out of the skinny driveway, past the house, to continue on another forty five minutes to my parents home, with my own music playing, knowing I’d see him soon.

*His name is John Forster. I looked him up. His song, “Entering Marion” is forever linked to Glenn in my mind.


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