Grandma

How do I grieve such an important person as my Grandma Gladys? I’ve felt a little disconnected from her death, as if her passing was an event that I hadn’t been invited to. We aren’t having a funeral for her…most people who she was close to are long gone (she’d have been 88 at the end of November) and are planning an immediate-family-only memorial early next year.

It’s very anti-climatic.

She's in heaven

This is my grandma with my son in 2006. She was 82 and still living a completely full, independent life all by herself on the farm.

I don’t deal with death very well. My mom died, suddenly, tragically, when I was 14 and my sister was 11. All sorts of bad shit ensued after that, including my sister just fucking falling off the deep end. For a long time. Some could say she’s still there. Though, I am reconciling myself to the fact that she’s doing the best she can with what she’s got. Just like the rest of us. Her human-ness doesn’t look anything like mine does but that doesn’t make her less valuable or less precious or less responsible for her own station. In mind-blowing lesson after mind-blowing lesson, I realize that I love her no matter what. No. Matter. What. And I still strive to have connection and meaning with her even if she still keeps herself as loosely connected as humanly possible.

I’m getting off track.

You see, mom’s death threw us into chaos that still swirls. Still effects generations of us.

Death is serious, crazy shit and I think my gut and my heart just want nothing to do with it. Period. Which is why I check out when people are dying. My mom’s dad died (of old age and lots of senility) and I mostly didn’t visit him in those final years. His wife, the only grandma on that side that I ever knew….barely saw at the end. My dad’s long-term girlfriend (who was twice widowed after two 20 year marriages, then was rewarded for her struggles with panceatic cancer around her and my dad’s 3rd anniversary)….I totally checked out. Then, my grandma. She was one of the best friends I have ever had. I barely saw her in the 5 years that her senility arrived and her body slowly departed.

I’m not shaming myself when I say this, though there are plentiful puddles and ponds of guilt laying about with regards to people I’ve loved and lost. I’m no psychologist, but my heart tends to know the truth most of the time, whether or not I listen to it. I step in those puddles, wade through the ponds and try to do better. Last year I had an elderly aunt (my mom’s sister) fall ill and pass away. I was grateful that I’d identified that whole “fear of death” thing by that time so I could just lean into it, go visit her and then be with her and other family as she faded and left. It was surprisingly profound to have that “let’s gather around to love and support each other” experience.

With my grandmother, though, it was really sad to see such a vibrant woman fade into a shell of what she once was. All of us were shocked to see the course of her life in the last few years. We figured she would live to be 95 and die of a heat stroke because she continued to mow her own lawn (she really did mow her own lawn with a riding mower until she was about 82). Or because she got bit by a snake (she kept a shotgun for snakes and other unwelcome visitors perched up above her back door).

It was selfishly uncomfortable for me to be around to see the bizarre decline. Her bizarre decline came during my own bizarre decline from a “happily married” to “enthusiastically divorced”. There was only so much my heart could take during those first couple of years and by the time the magnet was back in my compass, she was gone. Here… but gone. It sucks and I will forever feel guilt for all of the above. She started fading away but I faded from her faster than she faded from herself. Bleh. Death and dying sucks balls.

Let’s talk about other stuff about her. Let’s not talk about ways I failed her, but ways in which she gave to me. Ways in which I hope to give to my kids and grandkids.

  1. She taught me how to sew.
  2. And how to bake.
  3. She kept a few drawers of old dresses and slips for us 4 granddaughters to play dress up. And a big plastic shoebox full of retired costume jewelry (which I inherited and is one of my prized possessions).
  4. When she’d make a pie she’d let me work up the crust scraps with cinnamon sugar into cookies (kind of)
  5. She babysat me and my sister nearly every single Wednesday night for years. YEARS.
  6. She loved to watch M*A*S*H at 10:30pm and mostly fell asleep before it was over.
  7. WTH?! Does that mean that she was letting me stay up until at least 10:30pm on a school night? I just now realized that.
  8. Her pantry was this closet without a door in her kitchen and where the door should have been there was a bamboo curtain that I used to play with constantly. I’d lean against the door frame with the kitchen to my right and an insane amount of canned goods to my left (no, really) and fiddle with that bamboo bead curtain.
  9. She kept a big ceramic tea kettle (ornamental) on top of the fridge and it was full of quarters. I still don’t know why.
  10. For a very long time the running water in the house was hard well water and salty. So, they’d have to haul drinking water in and there was a shelf adjacent to the kitchen that held a enamel bucket full of fresh drinking water and enamel ladle from which to serve it. Sometimes I’d drink from the ladle just like my grandpa did, not realizing it was rude.
  11. I’d give my eye teeth for that bucket and ladle.
  12. She was somewhat of a food hoarder, as many people who survived the depression were. A coat closet-sized pantry full of stuff, a fridge and two deep freezers full. Plus a cellar of canned stuff she’d put away.
  13. She loved to compete. Every year she’d enter into the Lincoln Country Fair and win oodles of blue ribbons and a little prize money. The money helped her try to break even. I think she just liked the purpose and activity and competition and recognition.
  14. And I mean she’s enter over 100 categories with her GAME FACE ON. I loved August because it meant her house was loaded with all kinds of confections.
  15. She made perfect pecan divinity. It was “her thing.”
  16. When I make toffee and people love it I feel close to my grandma because now I have a thing like she had a thing.
  17. But she was a homemaker for 60 years. She had a LOT of things.
  18. She loved to play cards and, when I was little, she and grandpa often had friends or family over to play. I don’t remember which games but I’d guess gin and spades.
  19. She’d serve sliced kielbasa and cheese and crackers and pickles and I’d think that was the greatest thing ever.
  20. She made the best Swiss Steak.
  21. And the best mashed potatoes.
  22. And HOLY LORD, the best potato salad. With American cheese chunks, tomatoes, red onion, bacon…everything.
  23. A cornbread salad that was very similar and to die for.
  24. When I read The Pioneer Woman I am often transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen and that’s one reason I love Ree. She’s keeping that part of Oklahoma alive.
  25. She always, ALWAYS gardened. I mostly remember the tomatoes.
  26. She’d grow these big, beefy tomatoes and would serve them at every supper. She’d peel, then slice them in 1″ rounds. Sometime they were still warm from the sun and I get weepy that stuff like that exists in my memory and not in my present.
  27. She made great hot rolls. One Thanksgiving I made hot rolls that were killer and everyone raved. I think she got jealous and I took that as a huge compliment. All I did was follow a recipe and I wouldn’t have even known how to follow a recipe if it weren’t for her. AND the recipe was in a cookbook she’d given me as a wedding gift.
  28. She inscribed it and had the most beautiful penmanship.
  29. I have her edition of that same cookbook and it’s totally beat to hell.
  30. I also have a clean and unused edition of that cookbook that I’d like to give Gabi or Tanner when the time is right.
  31. She used to help me throw tea parties for me and the baby dolls when I was a preschooler. I still have the tiny table on which we’d dine.
  32. She wrote my name on a tag on the bottom of the table 10 years before she started declining.
  33. I hope I’m that thoughtful when I begin thinking of my end and who gets what.
  34. She helped run a dairy farm and I can remember walking out to the barn in the late 70s/early 80s to watch her check on “the girls”.
  35. I can remember her lifting me up to look over into the massive vat of milk in the big silver holding tank thing.
  36. She used to pack picnics for us (me and the other granddaughters) and we’d eat creekside on a small offshoot of Deep Fork Creek.
  37. Mostly I remember sandwiches and baked beans served out of a mason jar. Chips, too, I’m sure.
  38. She sewed my freshman winter formal dress.
  39. She sewed my junior and senior prom dress. (Same dress. I loved it so much and just did one modification between the two years to make it “different”.
  40. I was SO overweight that she really had to alter the pattern to make it work. And she did it like it was no big deal. I remember her making the bodice out of muslin to test her pattern so that it would fit well. It did and I felt very pretty (which was quite the feat in those times).
  41. She fried french toast. Floating-in-oil fried.
  42. Every Wednesday night I made and ate an ice cream sundae. She always made sure that there were ground peanuts, ice cream, carmel sauce and chocolate sauce in the house.
  43. She’s prolly a big reason I was a fat kid.
  44. When I was in elementary school we had something called the junior olympics. I only chose a couple of places to compete because I was SO not an athlete. I ended up coming in somewhere near dead last in my competitions and was mortified. Luckily it was a Wednesday so I was going to her house that night. I remember being way too grown up for her lap but sitting on in anyways and bawling. Cried my little eyes out to the person who most loved and understood me.
  45. I tried to write a book one time in my early 20s. The protagonist was based on her.
  46. Her middle name was Irene.
  47. Gladys Irene Siebenaler. She has a Catholic name in there somewhere but I don’t remember it.
  48. She married my granddad and became a practicing Lutheran, so I guess it doesn’t much matter.
  49. Her and my granddad met in the mid 1940s during war times.
  50. He was in the army, but riding around in big planes away from intense combat.
  51. But when they met, he was stationed near Alliance, Nebraska. I may have my military designations wrong. For all I know he was in the Air Force….I just know he wasn’t a pilot.
  52. She was working as a beautician and had put herself through school to do so.
  53. Her dad was an alcoholic.
  54. I never, ever, ever saw her drink a drop of anything. At all.
  55. Her mom had something like 13 pregnancies but only 4 babies. And only raised 3 children. I can’t imagine living through times like that.
  56. There was a diner in Wellston, OK right along Route 66 when I was really young. She’d take me there to get a dip cone.
  57. In junior high, she gave me perms. I wanted them kinky curly so she gave me tedious perms, often piggybacked, on 1/4″ rollers. She got so good at those that I’d only need them every 6 months or so when my hair just plain grew out. The curls never faded.
  58. For a few years she had a church organ on her back porch. She bought note labels to cover the keys so that whoever wanted to learn them, could. I don’t remember what happened to it, though I kind of assumed she was borrowing it or holding it for our church. Or someone’s church.
  59. We sat on the second to front pew on the left side of the sanctuary. Only. If we ever were anywhere else, it was because so many were in attendance that bled onto the next row back.
  60. She mowed her own lawn on a riding mower until she was probably 80.
  61. The year my mom died she drove in from the farm to bring my sister and I dinner at least a few nights a week and to be there when we got home from school.
  62. I don’t remember how long that lasted but I remember how comforting it was.
  63. My dad took her to Hawaii on one of the trips he’d won.
  64. I do think that besides kids and grandkids, it was the highlight of her life.
  65. She often worked into the conversation, “When Gary and I were in Hawaii” 20 years after she and dad were in Hawaii.
  66. I was her favorite, or at least perceived to be.
  67. When I was young it made me feel special and when I was older it made me incredibly self-conscious and feel guilty. But she was just being herself and the notion of favoritism makes me a better mom.
  68. One time, when I was a poor college kid, she slipped me a $20 and told me not to tell my grandpa.
  69. On my way out the door that same day, my grandpa slipped me a $20 and told me not to tell my grandma.
  70. She sewed nearly all of her own suits, skirts and non-jeans pants.
  71. I have one of the suits hanging in my closet. It is a million years from fitting but I kept it anyway because I’m as sentimental as they get.
  72. I also have a lot of her brooches. Mostly they are cheapie things she picked up at Wal-Mart or JCPenney, but I still like having them because she always wore one.
  73. Her favorite perfume was Opium. She almost never bought it, though, opting for the knock-off scent called Ninja.
  74. I stayed with her for a week when I was a high school freshman 5 because I had mono.
  75. I couldn’t figure out why her chocolate milk was so much better than any non-commercial chocolate milk I’d ever drank. Eventually figured out that it was because she used whole milk, chocolate syrup and a teaspoon of sugar. Of course.
  76. She liked swinging on the porch. For all of my childhood (and probably before) she had one almost identical to this. I’ll own one like it someday.
  77. She had two daughters, a son (my dad) and four granddaughters.
  78. Most of us went to her house on Sundays just to hang out. This happened for at least a decade, probably two.
  79. If we got there and she was at church, there would be a note left on the cutting board for whoever got to the house first. It let us know where she was, when she was returning, and what we could do to start or finish lunch if she’d already prepped it.
  80. She never owned a dishwasher.
  81. She drank a metric ton of coffee everyday. Always had a cup nearby.
  82. She always wore gradually tinted eye glasses.
  83. When she sat at a table she always had an arm crossed to the other and the uncrossed arm up so that it looked as if she were resting her chin/cheek. I often do the same thing.
  84. She started a free clothes closet every August for back-to-school. Or maybe she just ran it…I can’t remember anymore. But for years her back porch would get BURIED in garbage bags of clothes that got sorted and distributed to people who wanted to come and shop.
  85. She sang alto in her church choir for decades. Sometimes she was 1/3 of the choir but did it anyway because she loved it.
  86. She practiced her songs by playing a cassette tape of piano music that her choir-mate had performed while grandma recorded it on her portable tape deck.
  87. She made quilts for money and for fun. She made me one as a a wedding gift. She made a lot of simple ones for kids in foster care (think sewn and yarn tied). The most beautiful one is with my cousin in Seattle who when asked, picked the Hawaiian quilt grandma had made after her return from the island. It is gorgeous and took an eternity.
  88. Man, alive. I miss her.

64 things about my favorite 64-year-old

Grandpa and Baby

  1. He got us up in the middle of the night to drive us to Carlsbad Caverns, even though one of us was a grumpy and self-important 13-year-old. Ahem.
  2. And didn’t murder me as we toured said caverns, though I’m sure he wanted to. I was such a hormonal jerk that day.
  3. He loves to make cookies then deliver them all around Chandler, OK. For fun.
  4. One time he was babysitting a toddler-aged Gabi who pooped while they were at the coffee shop. He drove her home to change her so he could be sure he got the job done well.
  5. He’d give you the shirt off his back.
  6. He laughs really, really loud.
  7. And will often slap a knee.
  8. Today is his birthday.
  9. My son looks a lot like my dad’s kid pictures.
  10. He retired about 10 years ago.
  11. He walks 6 miles a day most days.
  12. He’s been a type 2 diabetic since he was 15.
  13. That disease has taken a lot of “normalcy” from him.
  14. But he just rolls with it. Always has.
  15. He loves a good bargain.
  16. At almost every holiday gathering, he makes gigantic spinach salad.
  17. Over half of the time the spinach is from his garden.
  18. He has gardened every year since he retired.
  19. My favorite year followed several non-cooperative tomato years. That year he put in 50 plants and by the end even I didn’t want any more of his effin’ tomatoes.
  20. Whenever we visit, we always leave with a grocery bag or two of produce from his garden.
  21. Whenever we visit, we always leave with a grocery bag or two of food from his pantry.
  22. This came in handy when I was in college.
  23. He plants gardens in spring, summer and fall.
  24. He makes awesome apple pies.
  25. Except one time he didn’t stir the mixture well enough and I almost chipped a tooth on a golf ball-sized wad of brown sugar that had baked into a clod.
  26. He likes to invent baked good recipes.
  27. He loves diet orange soda.
  28. There isn’t a single coffee bean in his house. He prefers to drink coffee with friends twice a day at his hang-outs.
  29. He grew up on a dairy farm.
  30. One house he lived in was so poorly insulated, that the water glass he kept on his nightstand would often have a thin layer of ice when he woke in the morning.
  31. That room was in the attic.
  32. But that’s still pretty nuts by today’s standards.
  33. His big activity in high school was FFA.
  34. I have his FFA jacket. It hangs next to my high school letter jacket and both my graduation gowns.
  35. He types in all caps with terrible punctuation and spelling. I find it endearing.
  36. I have a picture of him somewhere in a seafoam green suit and white belt.
  37. Dressing up nice: very pressed long sleeve western shirt, starched jeans. And back in the day included boots and a Stetson hat.
  38. Dressing up fancy: Suit and tie and knock-off Rolex he bought in an alley in Hong Kong.
  39. Has been to Hawaii twice.
  40. Has been to Hong Kong once.
  41. Has been to Puerto Vallarta once.
  42. Paid for zero for those four trips. Chevrolet and/or Subaru sent him as rewards for being a Customer Service badass.
  43. He was the service manager for a Chevrolet dealership in Moore for 11 years.
  44. The first macadamia nut I had was one he brought back from Hawaii.
  45. He used to let us roast hot dogs and marshmallows in the fireplace of his apartment. We didn’t think this was ghetto, we thought this was THE GREATEST THING EVER.
  46. Sometimes he’d let my sister and I walk across 12th Street in Moore to the Pratts to buy BBQ sandwiches. He’d send us off alone (ages 10 and 7) with a $100 bill.
  47. We never got mugged or hit by cars or were worried about either thing.
  48. As a freshly divorced, every-other-weekend dad, he took us to a lot of movies, which was very new to us and also awesome.
  49. His first apartment had Grover blue shag carpet.
  50. His second apartment (right next door) had been renovated with nice carpet and fresh, non-70s decor. I nearly set the kitchen on fire one day when I was 12. Then lied about it. He did not murder me.
  51. One time he bought, I don’t know, something like 10 cases of Shasta and stored them in the extra bedroom closet. I get the bargaineer thing from his side of the family.
  52. When my mom died, he moved back to Chandler immediately and commuted to Moore for work for two years.
  53. He gave let me use his 1972 Chevy Cheyenne as my first car. It was terribly embarrassing but all the cowboys at my high school thought it was cool.
  54. He wouldn’t hold my children until they were at least 6 months old because he feared he’d drop or break them somehow.
  55. When I told him I was getting a divorce, he said, “Well…it’ll be fine. I’m living proof that people survive divorce.”
  56. He could eat a metric ton of air-popped popcorn. Dry, flavorless, air-popped popcorn. He actually makes it in a brown paper sack in the microwave. I think it’s cause he loves crunchy things.
  57. He loves spray butter. I broke his heart a little when I let him know that even though the bottle says 0 calories per spray, there are about 900 calories in the whole bottle.
  58. His love of popcorn pales in comparison to his love for sugar-free Jello. He buys the stuff 40 boxes at a time.
  59. When I was 19 he flew to Vegas (where I was living) and drove my broke-ass home, then let me live with him for months until I was back on my feet.
  60. He doesn’t ask people how they are. He says, “Hey man! Whattaya know?!”
  61. He has a damn fine handshake.
  62. And enormous hands. Thank God my mom had small hands so that I can at least buy gloves at the normal people store.
  63. His shoe size is 14. Unfortunately that translated into me *not* being able to buy shoes at the normal people store. I don’t hate him for that, though, because….
  64. He’s the most generous person I know and I hope to learn how to keep my own heart that open until I’m at least 64.

I thought this might be difficult but I think I could do 65 more next year. He’s rad. Happy birthday, Daddy! (Yes, I still call him Daddy. I figure if my aunts in their 50/60s can refer to their father as Daddy, then so can I. It’s a rural Southern thing.)

I Love the Internets

There’s a lot of stuff I share on the Internet every day. Here’s a weekly round up of the things I most enjoyed last week by category.

Inspiration

Nifty

Ermahgerd! Cermp Mertee!

One thing I have scarcely mention is my Camp Mighty attendance next month.

I am freaking geeking out.

Earlier this week we got our small group assignments. Camp Mighty is a life-improvement retreat. Or a blogger micro-conference. Or a clean water volunteer project. Or a chance to escape the everyday and make big plans with other (mostly) women who are making big plans, too. It’s all of those things and, undoubtedly, way more.

Camp Mighty is a weekend structured around skills. The objective is to improve your life until it cannot be further improved. Before you arrive, you’ll draw up a Life List — about 100 things you’d like to do. The retreat gives you time to think about what you want, a team to help, and a pool. For floating.

That’s a description straight from the Camp Mighty website. There are guest speakers, too,  including Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and Ben Silbermann (co-founder of Pinterest), among several others. I’ve even been updating my own Mighty Life List, too, in preparation for camp (and just ’cause I started that list 3 years ago and haven’t finished it).

An odd discovery was made earlier this week. I thought that I had been coveting Camp Mighty for 3 or 4 or 5 years. Turns out, next month will only be the second camp. I think my memory rolled Mighty Summit in with Camp Mighty (the former is the birthplace of the latter). I’d love to be at Mighty Summit someday, too, but it’s not something to which you pay tuition. I think it’s more of a “Be awesome and the Universe will send you there.”

I can do that!

As I was saying, we got our small group assignments this week and I am in camper group 2. So far we are a group of 12 to15 women from various places. Being an Okie, I’m an island. But there are 3 or 4 from the Bay Area, a couple from NYC and then a scatter from around the US. We’ve only stuck our pinky toes in the water of getting to know each other but, so far, it’s been neat.

One of the reasons we are gathered together pre-camp is to plan some fundraising. Upon enrollment, you could pay $200 for a clean water project that Camp Mighty is funding at Charity Water. OR! OR! OR! You could opt out and find a creative way to raise the money as a team. That’s the choice I made.

So….now….my biggest dilemma. “What to do?”

My first thought is toffee. I have made toffee every December for at least the last 6 years. I know it up one side and down the other. People crave my toffee and I’ve always wanted to turn it into a fundraiser. And I have a friend who has a shop in Oklahoma City where I could sell it. And I have access to a commercial kitchen so I could make it in whatever quantity I want and have it be health-code-compliant and all that. BUT…that means lots of moving parts coming together in a short amount of time. I also prefer to make toffee when it is cold outside because it behaves better.

Another thought (borrowed from a teammate) is to throw a fundraising brunch! Open up my house to 10-20 people, make lots of muffins and mimosas and bacon and stuff and throw a brunch. Either charge a fee or request donations. That sounds FUN and is more engaging. More connections, less boiling sugar. The only drawback is that it will make for an intense weekend and my weekends are filling up quickly. (But as I type a menu is forming and it is totally kick-ass.)

But I could do both….you know. I could sell little bags of toffee at brunch. Or the toffee could be a parting gift…

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.

I just checked my calendar and there’s a Sunday in November when my kids will be at their dad’s house AND it is before I leave for camp. November 11.

Eleven. Eleven.

It is a sign.

Thank you. Glad we had this talk. I’m off to plan a menu!

Kitchen equipment advice needed

I need a food processor.

My last one, may she rest in peace, was burned out from one too many batches of hummus. I bought her in great condition at a thrift store for $10 ten years ago. I need a new one. I’ve needed a new one for almost a year. I thought my Vitamix could perform some of the same duties but….it’s just not the same. (Y’all, I overheat that thing nearly every time I use it.) I need a food processor.

Halp!

They come in all sorts of capacities and I have zero idea of which one to buy. There’s nothing worse than having one that’s too small…but it seems that one that is too big would be a mistake, too. Here are some of my contenders (each pic links to Amazon for more information):

Cuisinart, 11-cup. It also comes in an array of colors ranging from purple to red to stainless steel. $160 to $200 depending on color. It also comes in a 9-cup version.

Old-school style Cuisinart, 11-cup. $129. There’s a 9-cup version for $99.

Big ‘ole 14-cup Cuisinart. $199.

My needs

  • Right capacity for my workflow. (Mentioned in my intro.)
  • A workhorse. (I make my own tahini and hummus about once a month.)
  • Inexpensive. (Meaning, I can’t buy whatever is the “Vitamix” version of a food processor. Unless one of these are that….then…..rock on.)

I’m open to suggestions or additional considerations I seem to have missed.

Food on plates, y’all

We ate.

And ate and ate.

Then ate some more.

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It was absurd. We took eating to an artform.

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No, really. One day…just because it was there…we snarfed Mondrian cake.

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When we went to Tartine, I got a Morning Bun, just as I was told to do. Then, just because it was there, I got a cup of seasonal bread pudding. Take a closer look at that action…

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I’d never guess that I’d voluntarily eat a sardine but when Chez Panisse touts a prix fixe… That night it was bucatini with sardines, pine nuts and all sorts of goodies I can’t remember.

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Truthfully, some of our foods were on jackets and sweaters….not just plates.

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And sometimes food only needed fingers.

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Paper plates and raw seafood, y’all.

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Of course I had to visit Bi-Rite Creamery.

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And we ate food in bowls. This was, maybe, the best breakfast I’ve ever had. Ever. In my life. And I’m a fat kid. Who works in the restaurant world. Just. Saying.

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Mushroom marshmallow

Chocolate lavender macaron

Chocolate & vanilla "adult" variety

So…yeah. You get the point. I’ll stop now.

Napa Valley, y’all

Of course Food On Trees was a fantastic attraction in our 3.5 days in Napa Valley. Another draw for us? Wine, of course!

We first visited Odisea, a wine company formed from a partnership between Adam Webb and Mike Kuenz (a couple of oenophiles from Oklahoma). It is situated in an unassuming corporate park location, but once inside I realized I was walking right into where the magic happens.

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We tasted wine that had been aging in their barrels anywhere from 2 weeks to two years. Was mind blowing to walk into a warehouse stacked six high and twelve deep and maybe 24 long with beautiful oak barrels storing all manner of lovely liquid grapes from many years and varietals. As we were tasting through the funhouse, Adam said,

“I need to go visit a vineyard this afternoon. Do you two want to come with?”

Uh, yeah.

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We hopped in his truck and headed out to Phoenix Ranch Vineyard. Brian Phoenix greeted us at the gate and walked us through several rows of grapes. Some of his grapes go to folks like Odisea or other wine makers and Phoenix make some themselves. My favorite was the viognier varietal which fruited super-tasty grapes that were also gorgeous.

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Later in the week we bought a bottle of Phoenix Ranch Viognier at Back Room Wines. It’ll be nice to revisit that vineyard in a couple of years when the bottle gets uncorked. We’ll taste the sun and soil and smile.

Adam graciously scheduled another winery/ranch for us to visit the next day: Black Sears. We made the graceful, winding drive up Howell Mountain just outside of St. Helena to the tip top where Chris met us with two glasses and a bottle. We tasted and hiked up the syrah-growing sandy soil to this vantage…

I advise seeing wine country with a doctor.

Of all the wine experiences we had while in California, Black Sears is probably the story I return to most often…

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Eating cabernet grapes while drinking cabernet wine. Cool stuff. This photo also reminds me of the conversation we were having at that very moment. In the distance we could hear the workers destemming grapes that had been brought in during the week. Like any laborers, they were blasting music to get them through the day and as we were tasting cabernet, the soulful vocal stylings of Eddie Money filled the air.

Those wine boys may know a lot about grapes but I TOTALLY named way more Eddie Money song titles.

More drinking and tasting happened in those 3.5 days. How much? Nearly 80 wines before we arrived in San Francisco. Dear Napa Valley…I hope you have some sort of liver repair service.

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If I had a million years

…I could get caught up on all the blog posts in my head.

Last month we opened a new restaurant, which is always an intense time in the home office. Then right after it launched my daughter had a birthday. Then the day after that we got on a plane for a 10 day vacation to one of our most favorite places in the world doing all of our most favorite things in the world. On day 2 I got a phone call that my most favorite person in the world had passed away after a long, full life with the exception of several years of dementia and sharply declining physical and mental health. Services won’t be for 6 more weeks so…power through! Wine country then the city and in the middle of that I read two books and averaged 5 miles a day (as opposed to the 50 feet to which we are accustomed) of walking in San Francisco. Oh! And we tasted well over 100 different wines. We also attended two concerts and spent an obscene amount of money and calories that WERE WORTH EVERY MORSEL AND CENT. Someone remind me of this in December when Santa fills our stockings with coal.

My brain. It is FULL of stories. Full of tears. I haven’t the slightest idea of where to begin. Life has been like that all year. I don’t know where to begin because so much is constantly coming at My Thinker for processing. Y’all…there are all these stories about buying the house I haven’t told!  Concerts I’ve been to! Pastries I’ve eaten! Pinteresting things I’ve made! ALL OF THE PHOTOS! Memories to share and, mostly, document before they fade.

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I do want to tell you briefly about this book. It is likely responsible for pushing me past this writer’s block of having TOO MUCH to say. And wanting to say my things at a million miles an hour without eloquence. Imperfectly.

Go read this. Then loan it to a friend. Or buy it for a friend. Chances are, he or she will want to mark it up and highlight it and spill coffee on it and sleep with it under their pillow. Here’s one of her TED talks, if you want a hint of what she writes about…

2012 TED Talk

I also read this:

…which was just pure joy, especially if you have a certain sense of humor. Jenny Lawson is in the category of what I call, “Me in my head.” I can’t wait for several women I love to get their hands on this. It made my 5+ hour plane ride feel like 30 minutes. I wish Jenny Lawson would write a book for every time I need to fly 2,000 miles. I’m sure she’d do that, right?