Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The End of October

Here it is, almost the end of October, and the month has flown by.  Halloween is just four days away.  My new grandson Peter is already eight days old!  For the past week, there's been such a flurry of activity in the home I share with my daughter Katie and her family.  Separated by a garage and a flight of stairs, my apartment is just steps away from their house.  We've established a balance of shared time.  I like to give them their family time together, though they welcome me into their part of the house.  For the past week, I've spent more time in their home than my own, helping a bit with Henry and now the new baby.  I'm proud of Katie -- she seems to have adapted from one-child-to-two with quiet confidence.  She has had a house-full of willing assistants (aka Grandmas) at the ready, and now it is time for her to fly solo, to handle two little ones for most of the day on her own.  I'm sure she'll be fine.

Last night, Katie set up the dining room table for pumpkin painting and carving.  She had grown a couple of pumpkins in her garden.  Massive pumpkin vines yielded lots of blossoms but just two pumpkins.  Henry had the happy task of painting those two pumpkins, the larger one for him and the smaller one for baby Peter.  We poured little puddles of paint on a paper plate.  Henry was in an artist's smock, and went to town like a little Jackson Pollock!  He kept asking for "more" paint, and was an intent little artist, quite pleased with his results.  Katie and Bill carved their purchased pumpkins.  Bill's is very creative, a 3-D pumpkin sculpture with eyebrows and a funny nose.  Katie carved a large monogram "H" for "Hofmann" on hers, to sit at the end of their split-rail fence on a bale of hay, greeting anyone who comes up the long driveway.  Along the top of the fence, she's strung little orange lights.  If you are wondering about my role during all this creative expression, it was to hold little Peter, who slept quietly in my arms while the artists were at work.

When the painting and carving were done, the pumpkins were lit with tea lights and placed on the front steps.  We turned the porch light off and went outside (it was a beautifully warm night) and spent a few minutes admiring the illuminated creations.   Henry was up on Bill's shoulders, in awe of the jack-o-lanterns and also of the beautiful night.  Trees were swaying in the night breeze, and fallen leaves were swirling about.   It was a peaceful, lovely moment with a growing, young family, and I thought, "I want to remember this."

Halloween postcard image:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Welcome Little One

Welcome to  my new grandson, yet unnamed.  He was born by cesarean-section early yesterday evening after a very long, laborious day for my brave and incredibly strong daughter Kate.  Her beautiful, blonde-haired boy is almost eight pounds and 20 inches long, and seems so tiny compared to her son Henry, now two-and-a-half who assumes the role of Big Brother.

I didn't spend the day at the hospital waiting for my grandson's arrival.  Instead, I spent the day at home with Henry.  He put me through my grandma-paces as any two-year-old will.  We had a very happy and good day together, and when he was napping a visit from his great-Aunt Carolyn and his Grandma Syd made for a lovely afternoon.  Like women have done since the beginning of time, the focus on a baby's imminent birth inspired us to share memories of our own experiences, which we dusted off and made new again in the telling.  There is nothing that marks our emotional and physical memories quite so permanently as our experiences of motherhood -- the successes, the disappointments, the happy endings, and the tragedies.  And there is nothing quite so bonding as women gathered toghther in the weaving of their personal stories.

Every time the phone rang, I jumped.  Finally, THE call came when my son-in-law Bill very quickly said, "He's here.  He's fine.  Katie's fine.  It was a c-section.  7 lbs. 15 oz., no name yet."  He asked me to spread the word (which I am especially good at) and the call ended.  First I called my daughter Meghan in California, who'd been waiting anxiously at such a distance, and we heard tears in each others voices as I shared the news. The waiting was over.  Waiting turned to Welcome.  Welcome, little one.  I will love you forever.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


This morning I am waiting for my new grandson to arrive.  I set the alarm for 5:15 a.m. and came over to Katie and Bill's side of the house.  Here I am in my pajamas, robe, and fuzzy slippers, trying to use up an over-abundance of anxious energy as Katie is checking in to the hospital.  Henry is sleeping, probably for another hour or so, and when he wakes up he'll look for his momma and wonder what is going on.  I'll try to explain to him what's happening, and spend the rest of the morning playing with him and waiting anxiously for the phone call from my son-in-law Bill. 

I made dinner and brought it down last night.  Katie has a freezer-full of meals for after the baby arrives, but last night we kind of stared at each other and said "What do you want to do for dinner?"  Bill was on his way home from Connecticut and wouldn't arrive for a while, so I threw together a qucik meal of Sloppy Joes, baked beans, and cole-slaw.  Then I thought, well, that's probably not the best pre-labor/possible pre-surgery dinner to have ingested.  She barely ate - there's not much room there.  This baby has taken up all her mid-section space.  He's grown and she's shrunk -- a miracle diet that any typical pregnant woman would wish for:  she's only gained 4.5 lbs. this entire pregnancy.  It wasn't intentional, but that's just the way it's gone.  She's quite the sensation in her OB/GYN office - the pregnant woman who doesn't gain weight!

As we sat at the table, her Blackberry kept buzzing.  I thought about how times have changed.  When my babies were due, the phone rang off the hook.  Not these days - nope, these days there are facebook messages and texts to cell phones wishing the new mother well.  Quite an interesting phenomenon for those of us who used the old land-line as our connection to friends and family. 

Henry's probably the only one of us who slept last night.  Just before they left this morning, Katie, in her typical efficiency, crossed items off the list on her legal pad, making sure she can leave household concerns behind as she goes forward into the next phase of her family.  You'd never know that the day ahead is filled with certain challenges, especially since this little baby has decided to wrangle  his way out of position and Katie and the doctors are trying to coax him back into place.  That's the first challenge she faces, and whether he cooperates or not, her new son will be born before the sun sets today. 

I want to be helpful, but there's not much to do here.  This house is ready for its new occupant.  There are baby bottles on the counter, tiny clothes folded and ready, car seats and strollers standing by.  I guess I'll go sit on the couch with Oden, the black lab.  His world is changing today, too.  He was "the baby" until Henry arrived a couple of years ago, and now a new "brother" will be shifting the order of things in the house, ala Marley and Me!  Odie, as Henry calls him,  and I will wait for Henry to wake up, and together we will start this new and exciting day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chicken Marsala, Crock Pot Style

This is an almost effortless way to serve an elegant meal.  I often order chicken marsala if I see it on a menu, and for such a delicious meal, it is deceptively easy.  Creating it in a crock pot makes it even easier.  I love crock pot meals.  It's so nice to walk in the door after a long day at work and know that an incredible dinner is waiting for you.  If you take 10 minutes prepping it in the morning before heading off to work, you're basically done!  When you come home, all you have to do is add your side dishes and voila!  Dinner is on the table!


1/2 cup flour  mixed with 1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder
1.5 - 2 lbs. boneless chicken breast halves cut in 1" chunks (partially frozen makes it easier to cut)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. sliced mushrooms (button, crimini, whatever fresh mushroom you like)
3/4 cup Marsala wine
1.5 cups chicken stock
2 more tablespoons butter
chopped fresh parsley

Early in the day, toss chicken in flour mixture.  Melt butter with oil in skillet and, when hot, add chicken.   Stir and toss chicken in the hot butter/olive oil and cook until it has browned nicely all around.  Remove from heat. Turn crock pot to high setting.  Place browned chicken in crock pot.  Cover with mushrooms.  Pour wine and chicken stock over top.  Cover with lid.  After half an hour, reduce crock pot to low and walk away.  Let it cook for 4-6 hours.  Twenty minutes before serving, add the rest of the butter and remove the lid. If you prefer a thicker sauce, drizzle and stir in a mixture of 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water at this time.  Let it continue to cook, uncovered for the next 20 minutes.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.  Serve with rice, linguini, or mashed potatoes, along-side or with the marsala over the top.  I also like to serve those thin, elegant green beans with this meal.  Enjoy!

Buy the poster at:
Painting: Ingham Marsala Wine by Marcello Dudovich.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I know it will happen.  I know it is possible.  But right now, I am wondering how I can ever love another little grandchild as much as my first grandson, Henry.  Henry is two and a half, his little brother is due to arrive any time now, and I look at him realizing how much his little world will change, and very soon.  His parents, my daughter Katie and her husband Bill, have been so in-tune with Henry ever since he was born.  She parents with a gentle confidence and a firm consistency, and has been able, so far, to keep her attentions on Henry without overly-focusing on the new baby.  Yet, here she is, ready to welcome her new son to the world.  I can remember how I felt when it was time to welcome a new baby.  I wondered how I could possibly love the next one as much, and then we "met," and the love was there, in abundance.  I know the same will be true for my new grandson.  I know I will look at him with the same awe and wonder as I did Henry.  I'll feel the warmth of his compact weight in my arms.  I'll drink in his new-baby scent, and realize the connection from baby to mother to grandmother, and think of my parents and grandparents and all the O'Farrells and McGeehans before him who are all a part of the legacy my family brings to his life.  I know that the day he is born will be etched in my memory forever. 

My Buddy Henry

Last night I looked closely at Henry.  The lights were dim and shadows from the TV danced on the walls and on his beautiful face.  He was in his pajamas, snuggled in a chair under a quilt made by his Grandma Syd, intently watching his favorite Toy Story DVD.  He didn't move a muscle.  Even though he's seen the movie so many times, he was mesmerized by Buzz, Woody, and Rex as if it was all new to him.  I thought of how much Henry has grown since the day he was born, how big he will seem in comparison to his new baby brother.  I thought of how fortunate these two little boys are to have Katie and Bill as parents, who will provide them with so much love but also with wonderful relationships and experiences to create full and active lives for them.

Henry blew me a kiss as Katie escorted him off to bed, and I said, "I love you, little buddy."  I'll love his little brother too, and I can't wait to meet him.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pulled Pork Sandwiches This Weekend

My friend Mary told me she made "the best" pulled-pork sandwiches, and the recipe was so easy.  She got it from one of those crock pot cookbooks.  I love pulled pork.  If you don't eat pork, you can also use boneless/skinless chicken (breasts and/or thighs) instead.  This makes a terrific meal, for lunch or a casual dinner. 

Here's Mary's recipe (I added the seasoned salt). 


1   2-2.5 lb. pork tenderloin or pork butt
12 oz. can diet pepsi (really) but you can use the real thing - this was from a "lite" cookbook
1 bottle barbeque sauce (average size)
Seasoned salt

Soft rolls (Kaiser, or something similar)
Cole slaw

Mix together soda and barbeque sauce in a crockpot.

Rub the pork with seasoned salt or your own favorite barbeque rub.
Place in crock pot in the sauce.

Cook on low 4-5 hours.  Pull pork apart with two forks.  Keep heated on low.

Serve on soft kaiser rolls with cole slaw on the side. 

Photo image found at:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No Room at the Inn

There have been some changes to my abode in the last week.  My long-grown son who came to stay for "a little while" in March, just moved into his own apartment.  For a long while, there were three of us inhabiting my apartment built for one:  me, my son, and his bloodhound!  Once the bloodhound found a new and very happy home, it was my son's turn to find one for himself, and he has done so.  It's a terrific apartment for him, in a gorgeous setting.  With him went my old couch, chair, and ottoman.  The old carpet - thrown out.  After steam-mopping my bamboo floors and magic-erasing my new-last-year walls, my home was ready for its new arrivals:  a black leather couch and a black/red/tan faux-version of an Oriental-style rug.  I bought it because it was pretty, though it was not hand-woven in the far east.  I purchased the couch at a large furniture retail store, and the rug came from T.J. Maxx (Maxx for the minumum!). 

I'm so glad my son has his own space again.  Grown children and their single parents don't do especially well after extended months together, particularly in a small space.  It was necessary for a while, and we had to exercise a lot of patience and understanding with each other (not always successful), and sometimes even avoidance to make it work!  I'd be baking while he was sleeping.  I went to bed and he created late-night, exotic meals for himself.  We lived separate but parallel lives while trying to co-exist.  Now that my space is indeed my own again, I look forward to picking up where I left off when it was all so new.  I can now truly make it my own.  My kids are always welcome, and I absolutely love having each and every one of them in my home, but with that comes this caveat: my new couch is just that.  A couch.  It is not a spare bedroom, though it will be happy to host my kids' posteriors for long hours, but most definitely not weeks or months, at a time!

Image credit:

Friday, October 1, 2010

October 1st, a Rainy Nor'easter, and Split Pea Soup

Here in upstate New York we're experiencing a nor'easter which is dropping buckets of rain and quenching the earth's thirst after a long dry spell.  We've been pretty lucky here in the Saratoga Springs area -- to the south and west the rains have been causing a lot of problems.  The only disadvantage I've experienced is a lack of sunshine and a pair of soggy Weejuns, but that's not tragic.  The sun will come out again and a few puddles are no match for my time-tested loafers. 

On a day like this I like to think of a warm, welcoming meal, something to look forward to.  I wish I had planned ahead and gotten my crock pot out for storm duty.  That didn't happen, and since tonight I'm watching Henry while his parents enjoy an anniversary dinner (5 years today) dinner will likely be quick and easy.  My "what if" dinner tonight would have been a pot of some slow-cooked soup.  Here's a recipe for split pea soup with a little twist of chorizo or andouille instead of the standard ham.  It's from the Food Network's Robin Miller.  She's a home-maker turned TV cook who knows how to pull meals together to please her family and her audience.  My sister Patsy LOVES pea soup, and if you can get past the Linda Blair of it all, be fair and give it a real try.  Pea soup is delicious!  This one couldn't be easier.  The crock pot does all the work!  So, set it up, let it go, and serve it up with a loaf of crusty bread and a little butter.  Now here's a meal worth staying in for.


* 1 pound green split peas

* 10 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 1/2 pound diced chorizo or andouille sausage
* 1 1/2 cups diced carrot
* 1 cup diced shallot
* 1 cup diced celery
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 bay leaves
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. Remove bay leaves and season with salt and black pepper before serving.

Photo image: