It’s that time of the year again! Fall is here, the weather is glorious, the leaves are changing, and my usual anal retentive, box checking self takes a chill pill and allows my inner domestic goddess to have her moment.

Last weekend was not nearly so glorious as today, but nevertheless I took Little M to the local Fall Festival and then to the “pumpkin patch” where we picked up two nice sized pumpkins and four mums for planting in the pots around the house. Last night (finally!) I planted the mums, hung the jack-o-lantern flag, and set out the pumpkins along with a scarecrow girl on a stick.

I’ve already gotten most of my interior decorations up, just a little tweaking to do here and there. Once I’ve done that, I just need to get the wreath up and some fall fabric on the pillows for the front porch, then I can turn my attention to…food.

An email exchange I had with my brother this week has me desperate to get in the kitchen and get busy. His description of the mashed potato volcanoes he made had my stomach at attention, but when I got to this:

            Yesterday while just tinkering around the yard, I decided to make some homemade potato soup.  Used 10 pounds of red potatoes, so it was a small batch.  Did I mention I love real food? We took some ciabatta rolls and hollowed them out to use for bowls. Topped with cheese, chives and fresh crumbled bacon… mmmm…”

I LOVE potato soup so naturally I’m reading his email and mentally inventorying my pantry at the same time, wondering if I have everything I need to make potato soup. Which led me to think that I haven’t roasted a pork shoulder for carnitas in while, and if I picked up some more apples (or pears) I could make Granny’s dumplings as well. And while I’m thinking of it, where is that Lentil Soup recipe I wanted to try, and oh wait, I forgot about this one…Brazilian Feijoada – gotta try that.

Next thing you know, a menu plan for the week and a (very long) grocery list was born. All of the labor intensive or slow cooking items I can do over the weekend and serve throughout the week interspersed with easier to prepare fare. Menu the for week, not necessarily to be served in this order:

Saturday – Burgers on the grill (its going to be a great day for grilling), dumplings

Sunday – Ham and Potato Soup, homemade bread

Monday – Shrimp and Fettuccine Alfredo

Tuesday – Carnitas

Wednesday – Italian Chicken

Thursday – Brazilian Feijoada

Friday – Roast (Beef)

Saturday – Meatloaf (Mexican Style)

(The Lentil Soup isn’t officially on the menu, but I still hope to make it to pack in my lunch for the coming workweek.)

Can’t wait to hit the grocery store and get cooking!

Cindy Bogard did a great guest post over at www.365lesssthings.com on Day 340 about what the “experts” say – via Real Simple Magazine – that we should save for our children.

My thought on the subject is that we should take our cues from our children – find out what they enjoy/value about us, or what holds special memories of us for them, and save those objects.

As I ruminated more on this subject, I couldn’t help but think about my parents and grandparents, and what objects that I would want to have of theirs as a personal memento. Some are still possible others are not. These items stretch beyond photographs or personal papers, which for the budding genealogist in me, goes without saying as desired items.

Here are just a few examples of things I’d love to have…

From my maternal grandfather – he died suddenly in July 1991 of a massive heart attack. I still remember getting the call from my Mom like it was yesterday. Grandpa was a quiet, to himself kind of man, but he always made me feel like I was completely adored. I would love to have any one of the worn Louie L’amour books that he was always reading, or anything from his World War II service. Mostly though, I would love to have the inexpensive little candy dish that was always stocked with Hershey Kisses (my grandparents called them Silver Tips). Whenever I came to visit, he would always open the candy dish and offer them to me by saying, “Sweets for the sweet?” I could recreate this on my own, but it wouldn’t be the same.

From my maternal grandmother – my grandma died in the spring of 1998. When I was a little kid I went every summer and stayed one week with my grandparents. It was a mini vacation from home life for me, and an extra pair of hands around the house for them since my grandparents both still worked full-time in those days. Over the years my grandma did many things for me, but every summer I did one thing for her that is now permanently associated with those summers in my memory. I rolled her change. (This was decades before CoinStar, debit cards, and mindless spending with credit cards, when cash was king and change was still considered spendable money by most people.)  

Grandma kept her change in a giant, plastic peanut and would collect it year round. When I came to visit, I’d dump that peanut out on the bed and would count and roll until I had orderly little stacks of rolled pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. It was one less chore for my hard-working grandma, and looking back, probably soothed my budding obsession with order and organization. Now, all these years later, I want that plastic peanut.

Sidebar: My paternal grandfather was a peanut farmer, so that plastic peanut is meaningful on a variety of levels.

From my Dad – I’m positive that there are a gazillion objects that my Dad owns that would remind me of different aspects of my Dad, his life and personality. But one object that forever shapes my memories of him from when I was a child, and my knowledge of his life throughout the years, and our relationship, has sat in his garage collecting dust since 1978. It is a blue, soft-top, 1968 Super Sport Camaro with white interior. I lust after that car in a way you can’t imagine, and I’ve told my Dad more than once that I would love to have it. His answer has always been, “I’ve got two boys that would probably love to have it too.” Yeah, but I’m the only one old enough to remember riding in it.

From my Mom – Mom has a lot of wonderful things, but the most sentimental of them to me would be her recipe collection – handwritten in little notebooks. My Mom is an incredible cook, from a long line of incredible cooks and those books would be an irreplaceable item of my heritage, our shared love of good food, and a pathway through her life.

There you have it, four eclectic but meaningful objects that remind me of dearly loved individuals and time spent with them. Now there are my paternal grandparents, my step-parents, my siblings, and countless aunts and uncles still to think of…

In the past I have gotten involved in various ways (Secret Santas, walkathons, fundraisers, Relay for Life, literacy tutor), but at times it has been sporadic and there have been long stretches (especially during times of illness or stress) where I found it easier to write a check for a cause as apposed to doing.

But with parenthood comes hopes and dreams for a childs future and subsequently a lot of self examination. We all have ideas about the type of person we want our kids to become, and as I look at my daughter and consider my hopes for her future character, I know the best way to convey those traits is to emulate them myself. Which leads me to…getting involved.

There are a number of avenues that come to mind that I want to pursue – some now and some later when Little M is a bit older and can take part. But two that have been nagging at me of late are Relay for Life, and becoming more involved in supporting our troops.

Relay for Life is particularly near and dear to me because of the devastating affect that cancer has had – especially in the last ten years or so – on my family and friends. It seems almost epidemic. I participated on a team long distance a few years ago and had a blast, but this year I’d like to form a team locally so that I can be more involved in fundraising. Now that vacation is over, this will be my next major project to tackle.

Supporting our troops is a no-brainer, and doubly so because of the large number of family members that have served. I have been looking at soldiersangels.com and am interested in a number of their programs. I’ve decided to start with their letter writing program – because showing our gratitude is one of the single most important ways we can show our support. Then I’d like to join one of their sewing project teams.

Yesterday I talked about how vacation had inspired me to edit – by addition or subtraction – my life so that it is more in line with with what I value and want out of life. Getting more involved in the community and world around me is one way of adding to my life things that are important to me. It also gives me a prime opportunity to demonstrate to my daughter my values and to help her see beyond herself.

If you have children (or even if you don’t), I would love to hear from you about how you incorporate community service into your lives. What do you do? How do/did you get your children involved? What has been their reaction to it? What have you/they learned from the experience?

For months I have been working at getting my creative juices flowing again after a long lapse, and have been doing pretty well. I’ve made some summer dress and tops for Little M. I’ve mapped out sewing projects for the fall including sleep mats for school, her Halloween costume (Little Red Riding Hood), and some PJs among other things. I’ve made a ton of progress on my decluttering and reading projects. I’ve started working on my ancestry project that I talked about HERE. I’ve put out feelers about starting a Relay for Life team at my church. I’ve even been working on designing my own Christmas cards to make this year. I was feeling pretty good about getting out of the work work work, box-checking mindset with some great projects, then it all came to a screeching halt. What happened?  It took me a little while to figure it out.

I’m contemplating a move. Not like from the couch to the recliner, but from one side of the state to the other, or one coast to another. Let me explain. My husband is considering a career change of sorts. He would be staying within his same field, and even the same company, but it would be a different type of job and the next natural progression within his field. The thing is, to be considered, you have to be willing to move. Anywhere.

At first the whole idea of it gave me a knot in the bottom of my stomach…we are comfortable here, our families are relatively close, so much to pack, etc. The possibility of it threw me off my tracks. In the past, talks about moves were based on other factors, not a job change.  Then, my husband took the leap, and the more I thought about it and what it meant, the more I realized, we are comfortable here, and that is the problem. With excessive comfort comes lathargy, boredom, sameness, lack of growth, and that my friend, gave me an even bigger knot in my stomach. I love change. I love to grow, evolve, see new places and try new things. These are the things that inspire me, and keep me feeling creative without having to force it. And my husband, he needs a change too.

So, now that I’ve made the mental leap into the exciting possibilities for the future, my creative juices are boiling out of the pot. The problem is they are running amok with thoughts about the life we might lead – if these changes come to fruition – and not about the life I currently lead. Time to redirect. Time to refocus on what I can do now – those projects for Little M, and what takes on a heightened importance were we to move – decluttering, reading through and getting rid of the stacks of books and mags in the basement, and working on my ancestry project with my cousin who (for now) lives relatively close.

2pm this afternoon…

Breathing: A natural state of being we all take for granted, until we can’t.

For years my husband has suffered from seasonal allergies that for a few weeks each year would shut down his ability to breathe without lots of OTC medical intervention. He had always dealt with the allergies and the occasional sinus infection with minimal (okay, a bit more than minimal) complaining until this past winter when he began getting sinus infections every month. Yes, infections every month, and complaining every day. That’s when we had both had enough.  A trip to the doctor and then to an ENT determined that his allergies were multiple and some actually off the charts, but his real problem was that his septum and sinuses were a mess. A really big mess.

So now my husband is in surgery and I am sitting in a freezing cold waiting room beside a giant bank of windows overlooking a parking lot, and wondering…

– will this help?

– will he be able to breathe again?

– if he can breathe again, will he be able to sleep again (finally)?

– if he can breathe again, what will he find to complain about instead?

– and finally, what will this surgery do to the endearing little curve in his nose? (A result of a fight long before I met him.)

As I wait and ponder those questions I can’t help but also consider how our roles are reversed today. Since my diagnosis with Crohn’s almost ten years ago,  it has always been me in the hospital gown and slip resistant socks with tubes in my arms while he sits wondering how long the procedure will take, and if when its all said and done, will it help, will everything be okay. Now it’s the other way around. The circle of life.

10pm this evening…

Home again.

It was a long surgery followed by a very long time in recovery. The doctor’s exact words to described my husband’s septum and sinuses was “jacked up.” Doctor speak for REALLY BAD. We left the surgery center with instructions, prescriptions, and  a bunch of gauze pads strapped to my husband’s nose with rubberbands and medical tape (an odd but very efficient system to contain bleeding).

A quick stop to pick up the baby and a surprisingly decent drive through rush hour traffic landed us at home in good spirits and hopeful for a restful evening. Instead we discovered that our air conditioning had decided to die while we were out. As it turns out, the A/C’s capacitator was “jacked up” too.

Well, today is my birthday and the official launch date of my family history project. Yay!

Now the work begins…

I pulled out that old photocopy of my paternal family history and noticed that 1) the last entries were handwritten in the early 80’s, 2) some of it is faded and difficult to read, and 3) really old photocopied paper makes yours fingers itchy.  Ah well, its a place to start.

My aunt put me in touch with a family cousin who is supposedly really into geneology and has been keeping up with the itchy paper side of the family. I sent her a “may I pick your brain (and files)?” email this morning. Then I sent out an email blast to a large chunk of both my side of the family and my husband’s announcing my project, and asking for any help they could give, and warning them that I would soon be pestering them for info.

My husband has been out of town on business since Wednesday so I haven’t even told him about the project yet. Surprise! Tonight’s dinner conversation should be interesting. I think overall he will be pleased though as he knows very little about his ancestry.

Wish me luck on my project, and if you have any tips on geneology research I’d love to hear them!

A number of years ago (before the days of personal computers in every home) my Dad gave me a photocopy of my paternal family history dating back before the Revolutionary War and involving a land grant from the King of England. At the time I thought it was “really cool” and read through the whole thing, then took it home and filed it away. I’ve pulled it out once or twice since then and flipped through it, and then returned it to its folder. 

Years later my Mom gave me a copy of my maternal family tree dating back to our original clan in Scotland. That family tree is handsomely framed (thanks Mom!) and hangs above my great-grandmother’s Singer sewing machine. Occasionally I’ll have a look at it, find my grandfather’s name, and look at all the brackets of family members that came before him, and wonder. 

From time to time over the years I’ve thought a lot about examining those two family histories, researching them further, updating them, and putting them together in some kind of cohesive fashion, but life always got in the way. Lately, however, I’ve starting thinking about this again, and more urgently. 

Having had Little M a bit later in life than expected, I’ve begun thinking about the importance of having a family history available for her to know where she came from. The more our society becomes digitally connected and less face-to-face connected, the more priceless that sense of history, roots, belonging becomes…at least to me anyway. 

Another thing I’ve thought about is how much I’d love to explore the countries of my ancestry. I’m English, Irish, and Scottish. At a recent networking event related to my day job, I met a woman who was born in Scotland, but has lived stateside for three decades. She still had a lovely Scottish lilt and just listening to her speak had me mentally packing a suitcase and boarding a plane with Little M in hand and my husband bringing up the rear. 

To my knowledge my husband’s family doesn’t have an assembled family history, but it’s a question I’m about to ask. 

I’ve read a lot the last few months about yearlong projects people have undertaken in every conceivable category, and have thought a lot about what I would do as a project without great results. Thinking about my family tree, that lovely Scottish lilt, and what a wonderful gift a sense of history would be for my Little M would be (especially since we live so far away from most of our relatives), I think I’ve find my project.

Friday is my birthday and what better time to start? I’ll devote an hour a week minimum to the project.  I’ll pull out my the family history my Dad gave me, photocopy the family tree in the living room, send out some email inquiries and see where it gets me. I’ll even start a spreadsheet to track my efforts, and maybe a page here, and next August 27th we’ll take a look at my progress.