Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gardening. It's what we do.

Growing up, there were... things.... we did not talk about. Some of these items include, but are certainly not limited to:

That stuff that comes out of your nose.
That noise that comes out of your other end.
Wedding night activities.
Anything unpleasant.

While Catholic, we are very WASPy. It makes for great holidays and all things wonderful and I have ZERO complaints (hear that, Mom?) as my parents and brother are wonderful. Okay, disclaimers out of the way. But, let me be as clear as one can be: No One Talks About Gardening. We don't even say the word t-o-i-l-e-t. It's the bathroom, it's the WC, it's anything but t-o-i-l-e-t.

Not in my childhood home
Not in my mother's childhood home
And certainly not in the home of my grandfather- his sister's were the very definition of ladies. And there were a lot of 'em.

Gardening was no one's business but the one doing the gardening.

And it is a very, very private matter. Much like breast feeding, finances, and coitus. Maybe not just like that, but close enough for these examples.

Me talking about daisies is me moving lightyears forward. I still blush when I type about it, but at least I can type about it. My daughter though... my beautiful, blessing, shameless daughter... sometimes, I wonder if she really is the fruit of my loins. In some regards, she is 110% her father's child.

Gardening is her favorite topic. She tells An-Ew all about her successes. She talks about it at dinner (and lunch, and breakfast, and snack time) She even has a dance, a crown, and "PPCs" to go with her successes and failures. PPCs, you ask? That would be the Pansy Planting Chronicles. I am not foolish enough to forward out the daily videos we take of the PPCs when she says things like, "Ma-Mee, big ole' snake p..[daisies].. sssssssss" with her finger waggling to further show me in case I was unsure.

Or, when she says, "Hey An-Ew, I made MOON [daisies] on the [garden]!" It's these things that make me embarrassed and proud all at once. She makes "Mountain [daisies] and banana [daisies] and grape [daisies] and the list goes on and on, but the bottom line she is very interested in gardening.

Too bad she can't do it by herself yet. She has to get medicine. Remember "Stop Medicine, make dirt?" Since the Cialis Thinking, laid back Husband got involved, she won't unless made by medicine from either end. She is to the point that we are still all talk and no show. Those prize winning knock out roses only knock out when least expected.

Take for instance last night at dinner. Husband was discussing his gardening activities with LMC and LMC was, in turn, asking her mother about her gardening. Turning beet red and cursing quietly in my brain, the conversation I try to steer away just drifts right back to "Big ole' Snake [daisy]" sssssss... with that waggling finger of hers.

"Ma-mee, do you make mountain [daisies]?"
Honey, this is not polite conversation.
"but, daddy does. do you?"
A pipe-up from the man seated at the head of the table, "Yeah, Wife- do you make mountain [daisies]?"
Honestly, guys. This is not polite dinnertime conversation. LMC, what was your favorite part about today? (our standard question to each other at dinner)
"I made BIG [daisies] morning on Ma-Mee's [garden]."

I am at a loss. Just, absolutely, without a doubt, lost. Like on some highway in Virginia lost.

Maybe she was switched at birth?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A gardening assistant

So, it has been 10 steps forward 42 steps backward with LMC's gardening habits. Today, the third day that fertilizer has been directly... well... whatever... you get the idea...

So, today, we got an assistant...

Whatever LMC got- Boots got. LMC got fertilizer... Boots got fertilizer. LMC got cleaned up.... Boots got cleaned up... LMC flushed, er, weeded her garden... then she weeded Boots' garden.

See... even Boots has his (her?) own garden.

Gardening.... it's all about creativity.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A few of my favorite things...and people

I have made some wonderful and incredible friends up here. We have started to occasionally get together at Eastern Market for breakfast. There are rules:

* They only take cash.
* There is only one refill allowed for tea.
* If you don't know what you want by the time you get to the front of the line- you better make something up, because they will send you to the back.
* Be prepared to spend a small fortune. Last week, the group of four in front of me spent $83. Yes, on breakfast. With no free refills on those canned Diet Cokes.
* Don't ask for the gluten free menu- they are working on a GF crab cake (and have been for the past 64 years).
* After ordering, don't dawdle and start chatting. When your number is called- it is called- and you best be there, or it goes away.
* More importantly, do not try and go on Saturday. The blueberry pancakes are good, but the line is out the door... and they still only take cash. Try it with a two year old- I dare ya.

That being said, once the rules have been established, the Market is beyond awesome. The babies love it. The girls love it. The ladies behind the counter are full of sass and just delightful, if you know what you are doing.

You throw that sass right back at 'em. Hard.

Sassy Lady behind the counter: "Listen, girl. You've already had your refill of tea. You can't have anymore."
Sassy Me: "It's totally fine to give me a refill. Thanks, Ol' Gal."

The Score: SM: +1 SL: +433

SLBtC: "Girl, do you know what you want or don't ya?"
SM: "I'm looking."
SLBtC: "Well, move it to the back until you know."
SM: "No."
SLBtC: "Really?"
SM: "Listen up, Ol' Gal- I'll find your boss and tell him all about you and your sass." (with a wagging finger)
"SLBtC: "Oh, go on. He's right over there."
SM: "DOH! Guess I better hurry up, hugh?"
SLBtC: "Guess you better be moving to the back of the line."

The Score: SM: -1 SL: +434

SLBtC: "Girl, do you know what you want?"
SM: "YES. YES, I do. Thankyouverymuch"
SLBtC: "Well?"
SM: "OK, I want..."
SLBtC (to the girl next to her): "Here she goes again, ready for this?"
SM" "HEY! As I was saying, I want a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich- but would you please use my bread? It's gluten free."
SLBtC: "Seriously?"
SM: "Seriously." (deadpan. Show. No. Fear.)
SLBtC: "Tell ya what- you make the sandwich yourself."
[wait a second, I'm about to spend $12 on breakfast AND give you my own bread... AND I HAVE TO MAKE IT MYSELF? Sassy Me was about to turn to Bitchy Me.]
SM: [deadpan]
SLBtC: "That'll be $3.75"
SM: "Sweet! Thanks Ol' Gal!"
(apparently one egg with a side of bacon is cheaper than a sandwich!)

The Score: SM: +1 SL: +434

SM: "Hey Ol' Gal."
SLBtC: "Seriously? What do you want? You've already maxed out on tea."
SM (quite huffily): "I have not. I've only had one! But, how 'bout a free pancake for my daughter?"
SLBtC: "That little thing over there?"
SM: "yes."
"SLBtC: [a pause.........] Sure, why not?
SM: "Seriously?"
SLBtC: "Girl, you want me to change my mind?"
SM: NO! You go, Ol' Gal! Thanks!"
[A high five]
SLBtC: "Go on, get outta here, we'll bring it to you." (Please note that I didn't have to wait at the next window. The Mickey Mouse pancake was hand delivered.)

The Score: SM: +433 SL: +434

A scoop of sass and double secret parking? Yes, please.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crystal Clear

I just want to be as clear as possible and make no bones about it:

Last night's dinner was awful. It was the worst thing I have made since I lived in Milledgeville and tried to cook noodles in the spaghetti sauce before spilling thyme in the crockpot. The noodles were red and chewy. There was zip in the sauce department. The thyme was crunchy.  
And last night's dinner hit the hall of fame, replacing my worst meal ever. 

It was That Bad. Just in case you were curious how I knew it was that bad, let me tell you: When your husband remarks that he feels a little like Cousin Eddie eating Christmas turkey, your suspicions are confirmed.

I tend to be more critical of my cooking than Husband [who eats tuna from a can and is totally cool with fat free sliced cheese]. What chef isn't? Well, critical as I may be-- there was no saving last night's dinner. Eternally cheap and often mistaken as being from The Oldest religion, I actually threw out the leftov.... wait, let me rephrase that: I asked Husband to please throw out the leftovers [before I could figure out some way to recycle them into a "better" dish.]

He obliged. I did not argue. Chicken fingers were forged for LMC and Husband. Wife decided to do penance and go to bed hungry.... Who am I kidding? I had a turkey sandwich, which is really the greatest meal ever.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What do you do?

What do you do on these stupid cold days when not fighting off a head cold, negotiating with the leasing department about rent, and trying to keep some semblance of house around these 1056 square feet?

You make a big mess in the kitchen.

Currently, I am cooking wild rice in the microwave and bulk sausage on the stove in a large pot. The leeks are caramelizing next to the carrots and celery slowly sautéing. I am not really sure what I am making, but in the end- it kept both LMC & I entertained for two hours. While flambéing, julienning, and balancing the right amount of time my 2.5 year old can play with my cutting knife and peeler (three minutes seems to be the right amount of time before she cuts herself), we whip up makeshift play dough with self-rising flour (Where in the hell is my AP flour?!), salt, cornstarch, more SR flour, more salt, and more water. It holds her attention long enough for the sausage to drain safely in the sink. I felt a little like a Who down in Who-ville with her Jing-Jinglers.

"Little bouncy balls!" She cries, gleefully.
"BIGGGGG bouncy balls! White balls, ma-mee! I CUT IT! Ma-mee, Oobleck tool, please. I make big, little bouncy balls for ma-mee! Ma-mee, help? NO! I do it!" She continues without a nap.

Outside, what is normally a beautiful view of the Basilica is covered with cold white fog too dense to see more than 1/4 mile up second street. The windows are closed and I have decided that today will be the day we hibernate.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Maybe it's time.

When we lived at 2635, meat could be hung from our rafters. That is how cold we kept it. Even in the summer... especially in the summer... we wanted to make our noses numb. For us, it was comfortable. After LMC came along, we slowly brought the temperature down from a balmy 78 degrees. LMC was probably the only baby in our zip code to sleep in fleece footie jammies in August.

But, before LMC, there were those frosty evenings cuddled up on the couch and watching tv. We had our favorite Mobile implants over for dinner one night on one of those frosty cold evenings and realized that maybe it is not normal to keep our thermostat hovering above freezing.

Mr & Mrs Mobile never took off their jackets. Mr. Mobile found his wife's scarf and wrapped it around his neck. It finally dawned on me that they might be cold, so I said in my short sleeve shirt, "Husband- why don't you go ahead and cut the heat up about five degrees to 64?"

Yeah, I said it. Cut the thermostat up to 64.

We laughed, Husband flipped it up to 64 and the night moved on. The next day, Husband had a speech prepared:

"Wife- I am a viable part of this family. I work hard for us. I pay the mortgage and I love you. There will be no negotiating on this. The thermostat will stay at 63. I am the man of this household and that is the final say-so we will have about the wintertime temperature. Understood?"

"Seriously? 63?" I whined,"That's so warm. Can't you just put on a sweater when you get home?"

"NO! It's cold."

I scoff. I stomp my bratty feet, but in the end- he won at 62.

That's all find and good living in Georgia when there are about 16 really cold days during a year, but here in DC, well that's a different story.

It's January 19th and I am holding out. Don't tell Husband, because I would never admit it, but my nose is cold. Sitting here at the kitchen table with music in my ears and LMC not napping in her crib, I have to continue typing to keep my fingers warm. Do not tell Husband as I'll deny it, but it's cold.

The other day, we were sitting around this same kitchen table and Husband said, "Honey, it's time to cut on the heat."

"Are you cold?" in the tone of voice reserved for someone referencing lobsters growing out of ears.
"Well, put on a long sleeved shirt," I realistically retorted.
"Cut on the g-damn heat."

And we giggle. Giggle a lot. Fall out laughing because who argues about the heat? Not the temperature- but the fact if it should be ON... in January... on these 35 degree days and 17 degree evenings. I might try and negotiate to keep the heat off if we start sleeping with the windows closed. He parleyed and won the right to close the bedroom window at night- he lost the battle when it came to the den window. A girl has to keep her options, and her windows, open.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Compassion for strangers

I keep thinking about fun blogs that I want to update YFBF (Ye Few But Faithful- from the priest on Sister Act)-- like our successes and failures in gardening (trust me on this-- it gets messy), or that Husband is coming off two months of being on service and starting a four week block of research- which is always exciting to have Husband around for more than just sleeping and bathing LMC, or how cold it is and yet I am too damn stubborn to flip the switch on the heater... things like that....

But, I am caught up in this horribly sad story about the little baby. She had nothing when they found her but the towel around her. Naked, no diaper, and left for dead. I cannot shake it.

It makes me want to put a sign on our front door that says, "If you don't want your baby- please- knock and run. We will keep them warm and fed until something can be done. You have my word."

It makes me want to believe more in the humanity of people and yet... I fail.

It makes me want to scream.

My friend, OR, commented about the story, "What a desperate place that parent must have been in." OR has more compassion than me. She adopts a teenage mother each year at Christmas and fulfills their wish list. A wish list containing things like a car seat and bottles. Like I said, more compassion.

Or, maybe she sees more silver linings and good things in humanity.

So, I sit. I sit in my [obnoxiously expensive] apartment and pay more in rent than some make in a year's time. I have the luxury to at least have the option to have the argument with Husband about the heater. We want for little [nothing], that has little to do with saving money by keeping the heater at bay.

Instead of praying for the baby, maybe I should take a page from OR and pray for the parent that left her. But, what do I pray?

God, please don't send her straight to hell. Let her freeze to death first. Amen.
Nope- I don't think I want my name on that one. 

God, please let the police catch her and let there be swift judgement. Amen.
While probably getting warmer, I am still thinking that is not something that I need to pray for. What will happen will happen and judgement will come to everyone, if not on earth, than after this life.

God, I have yet to walk in her shoes- if she has shoes-  in her skin. LMC came home to a warm house in a nice car, and this parent that left her did not have those things for their baby. Was the towel she was wrapped in the only possession of the parent? Will you continue to guide me in raising a loving and caring daughter?  Also, if we can work on my compassion department for strangers and see that they are part of the picture, that would be great. Thanks, God. I'll see you Sunday. Amen.
Okay, maybe I can put my name on that. 

Maybe now I can talk about the funny things again.


Monday, January 16, 2012

A Special Place

I have said it before-- there are few things that I will scream from the rooftops.

So, allow me to start a list of things that I will scream from the rooftops.

Take a moment and read this. But- prepare yourself. While few details are thankfully given, a baby... a tiny, helpless, totally defenseless in this world baby ... dies.

Left on a doorstep
Wrapped in a towel
In the cold

With temperatures last night hanging ferociously in the teens. 

In case you have forgotten how small, and truly helpless a baby that has been out of the warm womb less than a week can be, let me remind you....

That's LMC at five weeks. In this picture, LMC has four weeks on the little girl that was left for dead last night. Four more weeks of nourishment. Four more weeks of love, warmth, strength... 

There is a special place for that little baby- someplace warm and wrapped in Our Mother's loving arms- she who holds us all. 

What hurts my heart is DC has a safe haven law which allows any child under 7 days of age to be dropped off at any hospital, EMS station, fire department, or police station- the parent shielded from prosecution for abandonment with the cloak of anonymity.

It appears that the parent must not have wanted to wait at the bus stop for the six minute ride to the police station half a mile up the road. It appears that the parent's index finger must have been broken as the door bell was not rung. It appears that the parent must have been half naked and not in a jacket of their own as to leave a baby swaddled in a towel on a January night before going and doing whatever was more important. It appears that the parent must also be deaf in both ears and probably blind as to not hear, what I am sure, were pathetic cries from the six pounds of helplessness and see what a horrible heartless thing that was to do. 

It appears that I have something that I will shout from the rooftops. 

It also appears that there is a special place-- a warm and special for someone like that, someone who drop a baby off on a doorstop and just simply walk away.

Allow me to scream.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Four Pot Soup

I’m calling it Four Pot Soup- because that is how many pots it took. It can also be referred to Potato Soup... or if you are LMC... Rocket Soup.
the goldfish on the side were a happy (messy) accident

1/2 large green bell pepper
1 med-large onion
4-6 cloves of garlic (I’m a big garlic fan)
2 stalks celery
Melt 2 tbsp butter in your first pot. Coarsely chop all of the above and sauté over medium to med-low heat, stirring every few minutes. These are going to be on the eye for a long time, so we are not looking to win any speed medals here. 
4 white potatoes, peeled & chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped
3 cups chicken broth
In the second pot, add the taters and broth. Cook over medium heat. Add water as needed to keep the taters covered.
Back to the first pot... reduce heat and continue to cook over low heat- switching the  heat on and off as needed to keep the goodies warm but not burn them. Add salt & pepper to taste. (remember though, there is chicken broth in that other pot that is simmering away all the water. Less is more at this point)
If the second pot is too small... switch to a third pot... which is what I had to do, and there is still one more pot to go.
After 30ish minutes (when the potatoes are complete broken down, look really sad and can be cut with a baby’s spoon by a baby), switch off all heat and get out the BIG stock pot. Combine the contents of Pot One and Pot Two into Pot Three (or Pot Four if you were me & planned poorly).
Place over high heat to get everything back to a boil and reduce to low for at least an hour. Two would be better. I have no idea if three would be better or worse- the family was chomping at the bit at this point. We’re looking to cook the stew out of it (no pun intended... okay, maybe a little one)
Stir several times over the next hour or two (or three, if you are patient or started early!) to make the skin disappear and keep everything moving. 
Pull out the immersion blender & go to town. It’s going to look like mashed potatoes in the end and you are going to think that I am crazy. Don’t worry-- I thought the same thing. So did Husband & LMC wanted nothing to do with Rocket Soup.
1/4 cup half and half
3/4 cup whole milk
1-3 cups chicken or veggie broth (depending on the consistency you like your tater soup. Me? I like it thick and golden and went for a little over a coup- but did not measure it)
Stir to combine (or immersion blend, we aren’t judgers around here). Once the desired consistency is achieved, add 1/4 cup white/mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of cheddar cheese- both shredded. 
Let sit on the warm eye for about 15 minutes to let everything mold and marry together. 

NOW-- salt and pepper to taste. 
Serve with a handsome dollop of sour cream over a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.


I’m going to spend another minute on this double secret parking business. Why? 
Because it is that good.
Several years ago, it was a Saturday in Athens & dad called while we were driving into town. 
“I’ve found double secret parking.”
“Trust me. Turn on XXX St, count to three and make a sharp right. You won’t see the parking spot until you make the turn, but you will see our car.”
Seriously. Those were the directions. (much like the time the directions included, “Go about 15-30 minutes and fork to the left at the big rock,” more on that one later.)
So, we did as instructed- turned on XXX, counted to three & turned right. It quickly became the stuff of legends. Not only is the parking free, it’s so hidden that even those that could make money or be annoyed have not thought about it. We would park & head to our tailgating spot up the way, as only one car is allowed into the tailgating lot where we set up shop. 
Quickly, our friends got wind of this “DSPS” that Brother and I had. Where was it? How could it be that good and still be both free and close? We were making this up. Surely.
Oh, but no. It is real. And, for the most part, still secret. Please, take off that crazy hat- I am not sharing. 
My Athens DSPS or my Eastern Market DSPS.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Boots!

LMC & I spent the morning at Eastern Market with friends and fellow tiny people. A leisurely breakfast, babies running to and fro... fro and to, with free refills of tea (mostly because the ladies behind the counter like me... not because they are actually free. Just the first.), and thick brick walls halting the 45 mph wind that has been rapturing the city on this cold, 39 degree, teeth chattering kind of day.

Having found my new favorite "double secret" parking, we wandered over to Dawn Price to see what kind of things they had on sale. The winter items were 30% off, but no, oh no, not even a little maybe- we  paid FULL retail (a whopping $30 + tax) for red ladybug boots that she insisted on

(a) wearing out the store
(b) showing every stranger that walked by "my new BOOOOOOOTS! Rojo boots! Look, lady- Lady Bug boooooots my Da-Dee gave it me." (which, in fact, is correct- we did use Husband's income to pay- he just won't know until he gets home this afternoon.)
(c) not taking them off upon arriving back home
(d) taking a nap in them. Not with them. IN them.

Wanting to show off said Ladybug Boots, we head down to the leasing office to let the ladies admire her and her two small shopping bags. "I no carry, Ma-Mee. You carry."

"Honey, look. Put one on each arm... flip your wrist and sport a little sass."
"Ohhh... So Beautiful, Ma-Mee."
"See? Now, let's adjust those sunglasses & show the ladies your new boots." (yes, we are inside.)

An open door and four VERY PATIENT and kind leasing ladies all say, "Ohhhhh.... LMC... you are so beautiful! And look at those new boots!"

"Danks! ON-SHON-TAY!" with a kick of her foot and she is off again.


PS- You are crazy if you think I'm going to share where double secret parking is at Eastern Market. CRAZY. But, trust me. It's good. Real good.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Ugh. Daisies. LMC and I were making such strides in the world of gardening... then a more laid-back Cagle got involved...

"She might not have to go every day...." (yes, she does)
"You can't schedule these sorts of things" (yes, you can)
"The mood has to strike her...." (what is this? A Cialis commercial?)

So, trying to be more like the Non-Type-A personality Husband, I adhered to this Cialis kind of thinking. Gone went the fiber, er, fertilizer. Gone the schedule. Gone the clean panties.

It has become two steps forward to thirty three steps backward.

Sitting "in" her garden ("on" her garden?), she screams at me, "I  NO T-T POTTY! I NO T-T!" Time out turns into naked time out as she shucks her clothes in defiance. I close the door, eat my waffle leaned against the wall, and contemplate if diapers would be cool on an 8 year old. Screaming Naked Baby wailing in her crib until she has forgotten why she was crying. Maybe she's cold? It's not we have the heater running.


"LMC, are you ready to talk about it?" I call from the other side of her bedroom door to the SNB. My sunglasses have fallen to my nose and they stay put.


A few minutes later, the door slowly opens: "Take a breath little lady and listen to me. We are going to go as soon as you calm down."

A breath later.... "I go T-T potty, ma-mee?" with a smile and forgotten tears on her cheeks.

SURE! Let's go!

A successful "Mountain T-T" and we move forward.
(Why in the world would a darling little girl call it "mountain TT" you might find yourself asking.... we're getting there)

Four times today, she has watered her garden and four times she has been asked... "Do you need to [plant a daisy]?"

Noooo.... in that sing-song voice only a 2 year old can have.

After lunch and watering her garden, she walks to the den where she says, "Uh-Oh. [daisy] in my panties." she starts clapping at herself "No medicine! Yeah, Leenie!"

"Honey, this is not how we stop medicine."

Ready for this embarrassing little number? .... She starts clapping and singing, "Stop medicine, make dirt."

Who teaches their precious little two year old daughter to call [daisies] dirt? 
I will give you one clue-- it wasn't me.

What started our strides toward success was an extended period of time without gardening. Medicine, um, directly planted was the solution.... It was a "mountain of [daisies]" per her father. And thus, we now have "mountain" this and "mountain" that.... we even have mountain French Fries and mountains of laundry (we always have mountains of laundry).

Three days and we have had as many accidents. It might be time to toss this Cialis way of thinking out the window.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Small Worlds, small babies

Are we really strangers in this small world? I have a friend who introduced me to her friend here. Who, in turn, knew my friend from Mobile.

That friend in Mobile has a husband went to law school in Birmingham and sat for the bar with a friend who had just finished law school.

A friend of that friend introduced me to my most favorite person, Shannon, who found a mentor in my cousin, unbeknownst to the family relation.

That cousin had a baby- well, my cousin had three babies. Before this, her husband's father gave me a scholarship to UGA, relationship between us held in oblivion.

My SIL was in South Georgia for the holidays and ran into an old classmate who lives two blocks from us in DC. A friend came to visit me here and ran into three classmates from her high school in Georgia on our rooftop deck- neighbors.

My grandfather grew up with several of my friend's grandfathers and Husband lived on a farm 15 miles from my aunt's home in Thomasville.

Brother and SIL gave birth to Ford at University Hospital five years ago, three doors down from his childhood best friend giving birth to his son, Matthew. They had not seen each other in 15 years. Matthew's mother and I are now friends.

Are we really so far apart?

My aforementioned cousin is named Tara- for some land in Ireland, not for the house in the South. Tara has three wonderful boys, the Band of Brothers. When Brennan was diagnosed with cancer several years ago this band of brothers grew from three to a flock of several. With open arms, open books, and open hearts they shared their tale of happiness, loss, fear, faith, and most importantly, love.

Love for God.

Love for each other.

Love for children.

Love for the fellow bald comrades.

Love for strangers.

Through CarePages, they have shared with family, friends, and strangers in kind the joy and tragedy that comes with a child battling an unseen enemy that has taken root. Through their candor, Tara and Turner have shown us how both faith in God and faith in each other can lead to a new day.

Brennan has lost comrades through his battle. Cassidy was added to the choir of saints this fall.

Cassidy, a complete stranger to me, was a journey I followed and a little girl I prayed for.

Brothers in arms continued. One of Brennan's friends, Patrick Chance, was diagnosed at the small age of just three years old. LMC will be three this May.

If God only gives me these three years with my sweet baby, than those are three years I am given- and those that I will always cherish. The Chance family lives in Atlanta and the father, Stephen, is a lawyer. While the Chance family were strangers to me until just a few years ago, I have followed their journey- the perils of love, the joy of defeat, and the ability to take both one day at a time and find saving graces through sadness.

While I am a stranger to them, they are not strangers to me.

It snowed yesterday. As the white flakes fell hard and fast from the sky in DC, the Chance family was quietly celebrating Patrick's ninth birthday in Atlanta. Not with wind up toys and dinosaurs, but with morphine, soft words, and machines helping him quietly and sweetly find his CURE.

LMC & I suited up and ran outside to cherish this moment in time. We have each other. If this is all God gives me, I will treasure each moment.

Shannon sent me an email this morning asking about Patrick and if he had passed. Shannon's a lawyer and thinks highly of Patrick's father. For the unequaled Shannon to call Stephen a "class act" says more than just words.

Are we really all strangers?

Rest high on that mountain, Patrick. The battle is over. There are many angels waiting to greet you and envelope you with the love you always knew on this earth.

As JGW would say, "Hug your people, people."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Being a better Catholic

I'm getting back to writing. It's not fair to those few out there who enjoy what I have to say that I "cheat" and post pictures just because there is an obsession with my fancy new camera.

But, it is really a cool camera. Behind the lens, I can take any moment and encapsulate it on my computer. Looking back, everything is there- the color, the shadows, the energy, the moment.

So, I digress.

This year is the first year that I have made a New Year's Resolution. And not only did I make one.... I made several. But, what is a resolution without sharing, putting yourself out there and making yourself accountable?


(1) I'm going to floss every day more often. These are my teeth and if the young me does not take care of them... the old me will be in dentures before I know it.

(2) I'm going to learn about my fancy camera and post a picture every day.

(3) We're going to church. Period.

#3 ain't so easy around these parts. Back in Georgia, LMC and I went religiously (no pun intended). Initially, we went in the afternoon, but eventually it was every Saturday morning with Fr. Mike. While not a vigil mass, it was pretty much all I could do with a wiggly, squirmy, squeaky baby as I flew solo.

Moving up here, I tried several times. Several different masses... and failing miserably, alone with a screaming child in my arms. At one point, we ended up in the Shaw District, behind Howard University attending mass in lunchroom chairs in an old auditorium of a forgotten Catholic school. Why? Because it was too expensive to run the air conditioner in the sanctuary. LMC would wiggle out of my arms and push the lunchroom chairs into each other saying, "BONK!" for her audience of 18, including the priest. It was about as unimpressive as imagined. This part of my life was tough. I gave up. Literally, I gave up. If there had a been nursery... if she were calmer... if I were more patient... if ... if... if... The devil weaves a long cloth with ifs.

She is a year older. I am a year older. We are both more used to this new world and enjoying our time together. Husband & I were remarried in the Catholic church. I am, finally, Confirmed. I joined the altar guild. Just to get my family to church? All the other parts were there.

Welcome, New Years. Welcome, 2012. Welcome back, Cagles.  It was a wonderful Sunday. The three of us walked into church together, the first time in a long time. LMC sat impressively quiet between us, asked to use the restroom, and returned to our pew without a peep. LMC & I walked up the aisle for Communion and walked to lunch afterwards.

I stumbled over the changes that were put in place on the first Sunday of Advent. But, we all stumble along the way. Some more than others. But, we all get better.

I'll keep you posted on the flossing.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

So the question arose... Homemade Vanilla Extract?

Yeah, I said it. Homemade.

It's so easy, so yummy, so great to receive as a gift, and so cheap to gift- Give it a go.

[insert picture of my homemade vanilla extract here]

Where the heck is your picture with your fancy camera, you might be asking.

Well, let me tell you. Homemade vanilla extract- once done percolating is not that attractive to photograph. Picture opaque colored yellowish water with things floating in it. And beans. There is a reason that the store bought stuff comes in a dark container. So, trust me... I tried. And failed.

That being said, much like baklava, just because it does not look amazing does not mean it cannot add some serious panache to your kitchen. When I made my first batch of HVE there was about an hour spent on google trying to figure out how to do it. Fact of the matter is... There is no WRONG way to do it. So, grab the vodka and let's go!

What you will need:

sharp paring knife (those beans are waxy)
smooth cutting board
vanilla beans
a jar with a tight fitting lid- like a mason jar
(I'm a fan of these and these for after the HVE is done. Both hide those floating things and look pretty cool in the cabinet)
and, of course... vodka. Any brand from your liquor cabinet will be just fine. Unless you drink Mr. Boston, than there are bigger problems in the kitchen than a lack of HVE.

On your cutting board with your sharp knife- hold the bean steady with your finger and slice it open. You can take your knife to pull out the goods, but you don't have to. You can do a bunch of fancy things to the bean, but cutting it in half is all that is necessary.

* Drop the bean halves in your jar.
* Cover with vodka.
* Give it a good shake.
* Let sit for two to six weeks.
* Drain into your cool blue jars.
* Prepare to be dazzled.

Not kidding. 

Okay, okay... you want measurements. I know you do. I did, too... But, here is the thing: some people (like myself) are in love with vanilla & use it any chance they can. Some people (people with no taste buds) don't care for the flavor of vanilla flavor and thinks it should be more of a background tap dancer and not Sammy Davis, Jr.

Check it out:

12 vanilla beans to one 750ml of vodka
40 vanilla beans to 1750ml of vodka
18 vanilla beans to 750ml of vodka
4 vanilla beans to 750ml of vodka
3 vanilla beans to 475ml of vodka

So, what does this mean?

(a) one should never use a whole bottle of vodka for vanilla extract. What will the Bloody Marys be made with? Or the Cosmos? Or, a favorite around Augusta, the Azaleas?

(b) beans are expensive... so's the good vodka.

(c) I, personally, like half a bean -ish ("up to down" half, not "left to right" half) per cup of vodka (plus an extra half) and let it sit at least a month. If I am making 2 cups of HVE, than I will use 1.5 beans.

And, yes, I do use about half a bottle of vodka per the making. Why go against my own advice? I like vanilla diet coke... almost as much as I like wine.

In the words of Dorothy Rohn (my grand uncle's sister in law- yeah, you like that too), "do write and speak of your mistakes."

She did is all by herself...

She picked out her HORSEY dress... her shoes... and her "pups" all by herself. While I helped with the buttons, she did everything else. A mother can be so proud!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Like 10 kinds of yummy

I love vanilla aioli. It's one of those things that adds some zing to dinner-- whether it is gills, fish, or feathers (or even just a spoon). Give it a go. It's awesome.

Vanilla Aioli

1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (me? I'm a Hellmann's girl)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
juice of 1/2 lemon (maybe a little less- depending on your love for the tanginess)
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (homemade. Don't second guess me on this)
kosher salt
1/4+ Cup (1/4 to 1/3) cup evoo

In a medium bowl combine the mayonnaise and garlic. Whisk in the juice, vanilla, and salt until the goodness is silky smooth. As you are whisking, very-very-very slowly drizzle the evoo over your whisk until the mixture reaches desired consistency. Let sit in fridge until read to serve.

Something to think about... if you have horseradish in the back of your fridge- add a tablespoon or two at the beginning. The zest of the lemon and the sweetness of the vanilla will compliment the piquancy of the horseradish. (yeah, I totally thesaursed that word)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best Friends Reunited

Not too long, a friend asked me if LMC interacted differently with boys verse girls. I had to be honest-- she does not hang out with a lot of girls. She dresses like a super "pwin-cess" and has no qualm saying that she is "so boo-T-full" but- she runs in the grass and plays in the dirt with the best of any example of the male persuasion.

After our unexpected trip home, we missed our best buddies before their lengthy trip back to B'ham. But, today-- oh sweet goodness, today-- they were reunited & I got to savor Chick-Fil-A. It was a good day. An-Ew and LMC held hands, kissed each other good-bye and hugged each other hello.

Such friends.

If you have not yet-- check out my handiwork.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A slow start...

January 1 was off to a slow start... And I cannot imagine why...

But, with great friends...

And great babies....

With a little social lubricant...

and snacks...

With a little more social lubricant...

And boys to kiss at midnight...

And killer leopard print shoes...

... did I mention the precious babies?

and a kick-ass centerpiece...

Why not let 2012 ring in a little slowly?
Happy New Year, y'all! It's going to be an awesome one!

(just in case you were curious, these pictures uploaded from the end of the evening to the beginning)