Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Waffles and ....?

My cousin, Karen, posted a Facebook status update this morning about waffles -- specifically about the quality (or lack thereof) of the frozen kind. Comments erupted from all over, including from yours truly, extolling the goodness of homemade waffles over even the best of the frozen brands.

It seems funny to me that some of the longest FB threads have to do with food. Have you noticed that? I had one the other day that stemmed from my own status update in which I exalted over successfully smoking a batch of ribs on the grill.

What is it about food that causes such passion? I mean, these were lowly waffles that we were talking about today, but everybody and their uncle weighed in. So much so that Karen's later update confessed her amazement about peoples' passion for waffles. Another long thread erupted from that update, too -- which veered off to pork roll and other New Jersey style delicacies that we natives still crave.

As it turns out, Karen's eldest brother, Jim, makes some of the best waffles I've tasted. He graciously put his recipe out there on FB for all of us. I've got to figure out how to convert it to gluten-free flours -- and if I succeed, I will have an amazing waffle to offer to the world. Especially topped with our own frozen peaches.

Bon appetit!

- Catherine

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Real People

Pissed off my 13-year old this evening. Well, I guess it had to happen sometime, and now is as good a time as any. I asked him to bring his plate up out of the family room and back to the kitchen since I was ready to start the dishwasher. “Just a sec,” he yelled from the basement. I gave him more than just a sec, busy as I was with the final loading of dishes, but when I asked the second time – some 3 to 4 minutes later – I got a testy “I’m COMing” as a response. I fired back, “You’ve had more than enough time and I need the plate NOW.” I added “please” at the end of that sentence, actually. Up he came with a murderous look on his face.

I asked him if he wanted to clean the kitchen. He didn’t answer.

He will live.

I grew up in a home where your parents got mad at you frequently and didn’t talk to you other than to yell or to point out some wrongdoing on your part. We children seem to have been more nuisances than bundles of joy, I’m afraid. I have tried, with varying success, to rewrite that script now that I am a parent. Oftentimes I do get it right, and sometimes I don’t – and it always requires thought on my part.

I actually got it right tonight. Said son and I have a good relationship and my annoying him tonight is not going to damage that. He has a problem responding to requests in anything that resembles a timely manner, and his father and I are working on that particular trait with him.

But I still have to second guess myself so often in this parenting thing, trying to be sure I don’t lapse into the old script of just pointing out the wrongdoing, not ever really talking or relating as fellow human beings on the road of life. I don’t want my kids to think they are nuisances and that we can’t be real people together.

It’s a tightrope. But if God is refining me – and He is – then this is one of the methods by which He’s doing it. I should be grateful, although I confess I’m usually not. I watch other parents doing their job with seemingly no effort at all. And then I look at how messy and effort-ful my own parenting has been/can be. Argh.

I should be humming “Refiner’s Fire” right now, with its bold assertion that my “one desire is to be holy.” But I think the somewhat whine-y “Oh, for a Faith That Will Not Shrink” might be nearer my current feelings.

That said, I’m heading downstairs to the family room to see what he’s up to and find out if I can join in or at least hang out. And talk. Like real people.

- Catherine

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I spent yesterday at a rodeo – yep, a real, old fashioned rodeo, except the contestants were age 16 and under. One of those contestants was my great-niece, Chrissy, a natural born rider who seems to have been destined for this sport. She rides with amazing grace and is totally in her element when she’s on horseback.

Since this rodeo was held in our neck of the woods (of the Intermountain West, that is), many family members were in attendance and we decided to do a little tailgating. What you have to know is that when the family gets together and food is involved, we don’t do things by half. We have two professional caterers among the extended family, and most of us have worked for one or both of them from time to time. We all love to cook, to prepare good food, and to eat good food together. And we have a grand time doing it.

So, while others were gnawing on fried hamburgers from the concessionaires, we were feasting.

We had exactly one gas grill to work with, but no matter. We rotated preparing the food and cooking it, using chafing dishes to keep everything hot as it came off the grill. In effect, we had our own little kitchen area set up, with three long tables and the grill placed so as to make a square area inside of which we could work.

Our meal consisted of grilled shrimp skewers (with chipotle mustard or spicy raspberry glaze – your choice), grilled corn and vegetables (oh, those mushrooms!), sausages, hot dogs, and yes, a few hamburgers (we did have kids with us, after all). Dessert was one of my sister-in-law’s fabulous chocolate cakes with cream cheese frosting, followed by some drop-dead wonderful cookies baked by one of my nieces.

I didn’t need dinner last night.

In truth, I shouldn’t need to eat until tomorrow morning.

But…there’s another BBQ this afternoon.

- Catherine

Thursday, July 23, 2009


.... to my last post.

I had a good laugh with my mother about the day she skipped school to see Gone With the Wind. They were seniors that year, and she and a friend bugged out early (right after lunch) without permission. Mom said it was a miracle they got out -- because the movie was in town and was so very popular, there were extra precautions being taken at school to prevent kids from leaving early. But Mom and her friend were exemplary students and so they either didn't fall under suspicion or the teachers looked the other way.

Her eldest sister wrote her a "sick" note to take in the next day, forging their mother's signature.

My mom ran into her "partner in crime" at their 50th Reunion several years ago -- their first meeting since high school. The very first thing this woman said to my mother is that she vividly remembered the day they ditched school to go see GWtW! AND -- she'd never told her children about it!

- Catherine

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Surreal and a little bit funny

Today I emailed my mother's her, at her request. You see, the Uber-Planner wants everything ready in an envelope so that no one has to fuss about any of her funeral arrangements. That includes the obit, which I insisted on writing because, well, that's what I do.

I carefully included the many aspects of her life -- church, local politics, local service, work, etc., but without being maudlin (the phrase "asleep in the arms of Jesus" does not appear in her obit). I have a horror of the obituary style that seems to be so prevalent today -- where superlative adjectives are used to describe the deceased and every aspect of his/her life. E.g. "Hephzebah was a fantastic mother to fourteen perfect children and a doting grandmother to her fifty eight wonderful grandkids." I did use the adjective "accomplished" when I described her musical activities -- but that's because it's an accurate assessment of my mother's skill and talent. The rest of the obit is as straightforward as my mother. Fitting.

I did leave out the part where she skipped high school to go see "Gone With the Wind" and her eldest sister forged her absentee note. I thought that was a judicious call on my part.

We'll see what Mom thinks.

Surreal. And a little bit funny.

By the way, Mom is still feeling really good with the herbal supplements she's currently taking. Thank you to everyone who continues to pray for her -- it's still a terminal situation, even though the herbs are making her more comfortable right now.

- Catherine

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Home again!

The dog has been retrieved from Puppy Summer Camp, the avalanche of mail has been dealt with, the water softener has been repaired, my scooter's battery has been replaced, and we just finished lunch at the local greasy spoon.

Now for the unpacking of the suitcases. Ugly, that.

And then we'll move on to grocery shopping, getting the oil changed, going to the bank, and stopping at the local nursery to pick up some replacement plants (my one planter simply drowned in all the early summer rain that we had -- the plants didn't make it).

And somewhere in here, I need to work out. Oh joy.

Back to life.... back to reality.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How the years go by

I've been doing this gig for 13 summers now; I'm 51 years old and my husband is 53 (he's been doing this job with me for eight summers).

This morning my husband said to me, "What's going to happen in 7 years when I'm 60. Are we going to be too old to run this thing?"

Which stopped and made me think. How old is too old to keep up with the demands of running an event like this? As I blogged a week or so ago, this year really kicked my butt because I wasn't physically prepared for it - and didn't realize that until we got started.

Something I don't really want to think about --- how old is too old for my job?

- Catherine

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Home Stretch

Home stretch - just two more days to go after this one. (And today is a 1/2 day for the participants, so it is very quiet in the conference center this afternoon.)

Bad hair day for me, and I slept poorly last night -- so I've got a baseball cap crammed on my head and comfy sneakers on my feet. Will try to be more fashionable for the next two days.

We're expecting very high temperatures for the weekend, which will make our load-out day on Saturday rather miserable. It seems like just yesterday that we were loading in all our equipment and supplies -- and now we're about to load out! There's an eerie quiet that descends on the conference center on the day we load out. We don't even turn on all the lights, so it's like another world from the bustling center of activity that it is for three weeks each summer.

Looking forward, we'll be camping in Montana soon, and then my daughter will be home for a visit, and then this daughter will probably make a visit to her own mother (in the dog days of August, no less -- that's how much I love you, Mom!).

- Catherine

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Life at the moment

It’s been a long and tiring couple of weeks since my last blog post.

A little background – I am the Program Officer (research administrator) of a summer mathematics institute for researchers, grad students, undergrad students, college faculty, and high school teachers of mathematics. The summer session is three weeks long, residential for the 285+ participants, and takes place at a conference center in Park City, Utah. I’ve been doing this gig for the last 13 summers, and I really do love the work and the people with whom I work.

I was a much younger and more agile person when I first took this job, though. I’m 51 years old now, and the past year of major hormonal changes, rotator cuff problems, and general aging has taken an unexpected toll. I was not physically prepared for this summer – in fact, I didn’t realize how physically demanding this job is until this summer when I wasn’t ready for it.

My work during the institute requires far more than just sitting at my computer all day – which is pretty much what I do during the year. Instead, I’m moving equipment, running around, up and down stairs, checking this, checking that – in short, everything that goes into running a major event. Couple the increased activity with my hormonal insomnia, and by the end of 12 days without a break, I was so close to collapsing from exhaustion that I was frightened. I’ve never been that tired in all my life. Horrible feeling.

On top of it all, I’ve got about eight participants who are sick – either with the flu (one confirmed, three more suspected) or some other, milder bug. First epidemic we’ve ever had at this institute. Unfortunately, the sick ones don’t want to miss anything and a few of them keep popping in to the sessions and activities, then they relapse and have to go back to their rooms for more rest. In the meantime, they’ve also spread germs again. Sigh.

When our institute dates encompass the 4th of July, our participants get together and create an entry for Park City’s annual 4th of July Parade. This is not your typical small-town parade, by the way. “Whimsical” is one word that comes to mind, “wacky” is another. We are one of the wackier entries, I think, and we are known in Park City (and very much missed in the occasional years when our institute’s timing doesn’t include the holiday). This year the group created a torus out of pvc pipe and balloons. In fact, they created two of these shapes (they look like enormous doughnuts, but have mathematical meaning), and they were carried down the street in the parade. Sandwiched between the two tori was a “Torus Line” – a group of high-kicking participants who sang and danced to a take-off of the song “One” from the show “A Chorus Line.” Great fun – got lots of laughs, too, as we walked along the parade route. I will know later today whether or not we won an award (we usually do, if only because no one knows that the heck we’re doing).

The air conditioner in the conference center building is temperamental. Yesterday I froze to death in my meat locker (oops! office), today I am toasty. No doubt there will be complaints from the meeting rooms. Every year we are assured by the management that the air conditioning system has been fixed/reinstalled/replaced, and every year we have major problems getting the system to be stable. Very frustrating, and one day I hope what they tell me will actually be true.

My mother and my stepfather started on a new regimen of herbal supplements a week ago, and she reports that both of them are feeling fantastic and more energetic than they have in a long while. The herbs may not cure the cancer, but at least she is feeling pretty normal and is much better able to get on with daily life. I like that a lot!

And that’s the news from condo 632.