Best Things

img_4159I was just thinking that the best thing about today was the sunshine. Blazing, almost blinding at times sunshine.

And the brilliant blue sky.

And the sound of chirping birds filling the air as I stepped out of my car upon arriving at work today…

…Taking a break from a challenging day to enjoy a walk around the pond with a coworker/friend. Sun on our skin. A slight breeze and fresh air. Catching up on one another’s weekend doings and forgetting, for fifteen minutes, about the things going wrong back inside the office.

An email from my oldest with a picture attached. Sharing his past weekend’s adventure.

“I think I want to spend more time at the North Shore,” his message said.

I opened the picture and replied, “Wow. Can I come with next time?”

And, “Is that you in the photo?”

“Yup, that’s me,” he replied. “Fighting a fish. Or a rock.”

Spontaneous cooking at home once I’d left work and picked up Mom. I hadn’t thought tonight was going to be one of my nights. Jack is at work for the evening, so … nothing planned for dinner.

“I’ve been thinking about making your goulash,” I said to Mom as she settled in the living room chair waiting for Wheel of Fortune to begin.

“Oh, that sounds good,” she agreed.

“You’ll have to remind me what all goes in there. It’s been forever since I’ve made it.”

Ground beef, onions and garlic cooking in frying pan. Salt and Pepper. And after the meat had browned and was sizzling, stewed tomatoes and some pasta.

“Put a few tablespoons of ketchup in too,” she reminded me.

Mom wanted a slice of buttered bread to accompany her meal. I said that reminded me of dinners at Grandma’s house, where there was always a plate of sliced white bread and plenty of butter with every meal. I pulled some cantaloupe out of the refrigerator and put that on the table too. Not exactly the healthiest of meals, but it was hot, and it tasted good. Then again, food always tastes better when you’ve got someone to enjoy it with.

Just a really good day…

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c’est la vie

During the later half of last week, there was rain, rain and more rain. Spring is gradually pushing winter out of the way, as evidenced by the mama ducks I noticed hanging around the building at work. They’re probably making nests in the landscaping, the pond being just a few yards beyond the parking lot. One of the ducks made me laugh as she paced in front of the glass doors, peeking inside and eyeing up employees coming and going from the nearby copy room.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, I awoke to a fiercely howling wind. Or maybe it was Lucy all snuggled against me that woke me. While still sleeping, I’d unconsciously sacrificed my own comfort for hers. All of my blankets  had been pulled off of me and were pinched beneath her. I was shivering, curled up in an unnatural position and had a clear ache radiating up my neck and into my head. Lucy makes herself comfortable like this when she’s cold and wants to warm up. Good thing we love that dog so much, ’cause sometimes she pushes her limits!

When I wandered into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, I noticed the yard was dusted in snow. The wind continued to howl, and Lucy spent the morning sitting and looking curiously out the patio door. Last week when Chesney was home, she’d pulled an adirondack chair out of the shed – some cheap plastic thing the former neighbors had gifted to her when they moved to their new home. Chesney had plunked the chair on the deck with the intent of sitting outside in the sunshine before realizing it wasn’t really that warm. She abandoned the idea altogether, but of course, never put the chair away again and it’s been on the deck ever since. Yesterday, the wind pushed it back and forth across the wooden decking all morning long. Lucy was fascinated, her head  moving right to left, over and over as her eyes followed the drifting chair.

Another week has come and gone too quickly and I find myself surprised that it’s already April. Middle son, Ryker turned twenty-five yesterday! We celebrated with a breakfast of birthday donuts and then he took off to spend the day with his buddies at the Northwest Sports Show, and an evening celebrating with friends. After a couple of weeks of asking Ryker what he might like for a present, and receiving no response, I told him yesterday if he didn’t come up with something, I was going to buy him new jeans (because he desperately needs some that aren’t torn, covered in  grease, or smell like asphalt.) He said that was fine. Proof that he’s not a kid anymore. Clothing is an acceptable gift.

The last couple of weeks at work have been incredibly busy. One team member was out on vacation last week, and the remaining two of us had additional time-sensitive projects on our plates. That meant extra hours and no lunch breaks. On Friday, after an exhausting and stressful week,  our boss pulled us aside to acknowledge our efforts and express appreciation, not only his own, but that of the management team above us. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed. We’re ready to do it all again on this week!

In the midst of keeping my head above water at work is the constant battle to have something resembling dinner when I come home at the end of the day. This has become especially important because several times a week, I invite my mom to join us. I want to make sure she’s eating a decent meal on a regular basis. And that means we can’t just skate by, like we often used to, with everyone just finding sustenance in whatever’s in the fridge or cereal cupboard.

IMG_4101Problem is, after almost 28 years of marriage, I’ve finally realized that taking charge of dinner is just not Jack’s thing – even though some of his weekends fall during the week and he’s free all blessed day long! And even if he’s working the day shift and arrives home hours before I do. (But I’m not complaining, really. The man does laundry!) Jack’s more than willing to get take-out or go out somewhere, but I try not to agree to those options too often. However, consistently preparing a variety of enjoyable meals while working all day is a challenge for me. I make use of the crock-pot as much as possible, but one day last week, I realized I could prep something in the morning, and just leave simple instructions for Jack so things would be well underway by the time I got home. I used our kitchen doorway messaging system to leave instructions. (Who needs technology?) Jack says he almost didn’t see my notes! Luckily he did, and we enjoyed some tasty country-style ribs, mashed potatoes and broccoli.

I don’t like the way the days are just ticking by lately. I’m still fighting a tendency to continuously look ahead and worry about what’s next, still always feeling like there’s never enough getting done. In the back of my mind, there’s usually the idea that I’m not stopping to enjoy simple pleasures often enough. Today, an entire (mostly) unscheduled Sunday lies ahead. I have a lot on my to-do list, but I’m going to really try to just be in this day and enjoy it.

Make these brownies. Then make s’more.

I don’t generally get my recipes from Faceb00k, but this seemed just too easy. And I needed a dessert. I’ve made them three times now. People love them. I mean LOVE them. And I mean everyone! 

The FB recipe for S’mores Brownies included a video, but I promise, you don’t need it. What you will need is:

  • a 9×13 inch baking pan
  • a box of brownie mix (Be sure to get the kind that makes enough to fill a 9×13 inch pan. My preference is any variety that includes the words rich and fudgy.)
  • about 4 standard sized Hershey Bars… plus extra for eating along the way
  • jumbo marshmallows

Assemble your brownies:

  1. Grease the bottom and sides of the pan. (Use Crisco and not a cooking spray. Trust me on this.)
  2. Mix the brownies according to the package directions.
  3. Pour half the brownie batter in the pan and spread it until the bottom is covered.
  4. Snap the graham crackers in half and layer the squares over the batter. (Don’t put so many in that they’re “wall-to-wall” in your pan. It’ll be too much. Again. Trust me.)
  5. Break the Hershey Bars into sections and layer them over the graham crackers.
  6. Arrange a nice pattern of jumbo marshmallows over the Hershey Bars.
  7. Drizzle the remaining brownie batter over the top.

You should end up with something that looks like this:

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Bake the brownies according to the package directions.

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Let them cool. Cut into squares. Then serve them and accept accolades for being such an amazing baker.

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p.s. There won’t be leftovers.