Sunday, December 30, 2012

Whatever: Where your heart is your treasure

Holy Macaroni (favorite phrase from one of my funnier friends)!

2012 is almost over!

How in the world did it go by so quickly?
Guess I need to order some of these beauties...

Seems like just a few weeks ago, I was planning my year.
Now, I am faced with a brand new blank year, with lots of possibilities.

Amazing how fast time flies, especially once you have kids (or more than one). I feel like I am on fast forward through my life anymore.

I have lots of plans for my 42nd year on this planet.
Some are long term and some are more easily one and done. Most are not life changing, but hopefully will be building blocks to a better and continually improving life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope all was calm and bright in your necks of the woods.

Ours was lovely and truly wonderful.

I get so sentimental about the holidays and enjoy every single second of them once they are here.

We did it up right this year with the girls doing a fair amount of wrapping (they are Daddy's little wrappers) and after one lesson, they both are on their way to being master wrappers.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Lists

I went to the mall area not once, but twice yesterday.
All my lazy holiday spirit lead to the first trip.
There were last minute "Santa" items that needed purchasing.

The second trip was to take my beloved baby girls shopping.
They were not impressed by the crowds any more than I was.
Actually, I was impressed they were not as bad as I thought they might be.

We had first tier parking, for Pete's sake!
And didn't wait very long in any of the lines we stood in to pay for last minute items. 
We NEEDED to purchase a pair of saved for shoes for my oldest daughter
(baby sitting has it's perks!) and looked for some dresses for my younger "hipster". 
I have to admit it was really fun and once we left, I got out of Dodge with only minimal waiting at one traffic light.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Whatever: Traditions and a cheap mom

*As a "glass half full" person, I am ready for some good news.*

My kids are almost ready for Christmas and the talk of that has taken over the tragedy that is all over the news has quieted down some.
 We are  gathering up our Christmas traditions and celebrating them as much as possible.

I started a tradition a few years ago with my girls that we celebrate the countdown to Christmas with a little gift starting 12 days before. They love it, knowing they get the yearly Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve and random little things up until then.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cooking: Soup is my one true love

We went to a couple of parties this weekend in our neighborhood.
They were really nice. However, we ate pretty much nothing at either one of them.
A few bites of dip and some delicious cookies. 
Needless to say, we did not get enough to eat.

That usually leads to cheese and crackers at about midnight.

 So by Sunday, we were not only starving but in need of some healthy food.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gratiuesday: There but for the grace of God

The same thing is on every school age parent's mind this week. 

Are my children safe at school?
A terrible thing happened and babies are gone. 
My daughter came home from school Friday and wept for the parents who, in her mind, have Christmas trees and presents but no children to share them with. 
 The horror of the situation comes to me in waves. 
Yesterday Ellie told me she and her friend planned where they would go and how they would get away from a shooter in their school. That is my 11 year old.  The same girl who was terrified of rain after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

My heart is so sad for  those families who lost a 6 year old child and for those children who will never be able to feel safe in their school ever again. The eagerness you have for learning in first grade is gone forever for them. 
 But I am angry as well. Angry that my daughter, a thousand miles away from this incident has a plan of escape in case a shooter comes to her school. I am mad that instead of mourning these 26 people who lost their lives in a senseless act, we are remembering other senseless acts and comparing and contrasting the links. Also, I am so angry that once again we are held hostage by two lobbies group that have bullied us into allowing high powered automatic weapons to fall in to the hands of mentally ill people legally. 
I am grateful to live in a country that has access to medical care and freedom to bear arms. I don't think we have made good choices on either front. We don't need assault weapons to protect our homes or hunt. We don't need to medicate every feeling or expression out of our children. 
SSRIs and legally bought assault weapons make a bad combination. 
Just ask the kids at Sandy Hook.

I am not against guns. I am against owning assault weapons when we profess to be a peaceful country that just wants to protect our homes and hunt for food. 
I am against medicating children, especially when the side effects are unknown and the known ones cause people to kill random strangers. 

I am fortunate that my children have come home every day safe. 
I plan on calling on my representative and my community to make sure that they stay that way.
 I call on all our lawmakers to look around, find their conscience and say no to the drug and the gun lobbies and say yes to us.


Cooking: Oh, slow cooker, oh slow are my best friend!

The holidays are here! 


I am in the spirit in every way except buying gifts. 
I have bought a few, but nothing grand or exciting.
I miss having little kids for that very reason.

I am really excited, though, by how much fun I am having with my kids.

This morning for instance, we went and bought presents (Hershey Kisses and nail polish) for one daughter's friends after her plan to make them all cookies fell apart last night when we realized we needed about 100 cookies. We sat in the parking lot of Walgreens stuffing bags, tying them up and listening to and singing Christmas carols. I noticed the moment for once and it was really awesome.

This week, we are finishing up school for the year. Then the real fun begins. 
Marathon movies (did this Sunday and it was glorious), hot chocolate, starting finishing shopping, wrapping presents, making cookies and just having fun is the name of the game.
 Swim practice is our only obligation. Meals will be easy and hopefully in the crock pot
 The holidays are here.

Casa Swann Week Before Christmas Menu
  • Tomato soup, frittata with mushroom, zucchini and red peppers, bacon,corn bread
  • Crockpot bbq chicken sandwiches, oven roasted eggplant and zucchini,  sauteed kale, baked sweet potato for Momma
  • Chicken Tortilla soup, Veggie tortilla soup
  • Baked Chicken, sauteed kale, sweet potato biscuits
  • Chili

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dirt: Memories of my grandmothers


My daughters made a paper chain for our tree last night and it set off a chain of childhood  memories for me. I was taken back to when I was ten years old and my grandmother (Grandmomma) and I made a popcorn chain for her Christmas tree. 

That led me to thinking about all the amazing things I know how to do, thanks to my grandmothers (Grandmomma ,Grannie, Grandmother and Memaw).  I am who I am because of their love and the important things they shared with me. 

As a kid, my parents were divorced. I was two when their divorce was finalized. My father remarried that December and my mother the next year. I began the dance of the shared custody that many kids are very familiar with. My parents were young and as a result, I got to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I loved my grandfathers, but my grandmothers were my world.

They could not have been any more different, but that worked out well for me.

My Grandmomma is still with us. She is the pillar of her church and really a pistol. She retired three years ago at the age of 81 from being the church secretary, mostly because I think she was grieving my grandfather.  She was 4'11 in her prime about 30 years ago. Now she is about 4'9", but her attitude  and extroverted personality made her about 6'5". 

She has tiny feet, so I could wear her shoes when I was about 9 years old. I rummaged through her closet and she let me wear her jewelry. She was not fancy at all, so her jewelry was small, like her. I also spent a lot of time trying on all of her lip gloss, trying out her combs and generally making a mess of her bathroom.
I now know she was patient beyond all belief as I spent a lot of time playing her vintage harmonica collection, perfecting my playing and making her sit for my concerts. She taught me how to boil eggs, how to grow a garden, and how to have an old fashioned Christmas. She is the popper of the popcorn. That same Christmas I learned how to crochet, and I made a chain for her tree as well. I thought it was the most beautiful tree in the world. We sang carols and drank cocoa, and she told me stories of being a girl during the depression. I know those stories still and a few years ago, got the more adult version of them. I look back at her and realize that she was just three years older than me when I was born, yet she has so much more patience than I do.

My other grandmother was a pistol as well, and knew  how to shoot one. 
She was wild and had my mother at 15, so she was young when I was born. She was my nude sunbathing, bikini wearing, country dancing Memaw. I loved being around her as she was the funniest person I knew and the most glamorous.

She made sure that my birthdays were super special, spending hours looking for that one important thing I had asked for. Thanks to her, I had designer jeans, a roll purse, a sweater with shoulder pads, and ankle boots (I am the child of the 80's). 
My step mother would have never have bought me any of that, so I think she took pleasure in buying it for me for that reason as well. We always went to Red Lobster and I drank Shirley Temples like the sophisticate I was trying to mimic.

Memaw was very into fashion, always had whatever was super cool in the way of high heels, clothes and especially makeup. She loved the " gift with purchase" and would always let me play in it. I wore loads of makeup when I was with her and lots of White Shoulders perfume. 
My sister got that gene from her, along with her sense of humor. 
I however, got the reading gene.She was a voracious reader and we would lie in bed reading til 2 am when I stayed with her. It was heaven.

 Being with her was always fun. I learned to cook, how to organize my address book, lots of dirty jokes, how to dance and how to paint my nails during my stays with her.  I learned about bras and she is the one who had THE TALK with me. She bought me a guinea pig and it lived with her for awhile. She took me to movie premiers and bought me my first real pair of cowboy boots, feeling both of these were important for a girl to be relevant as a teenager.

She had cancer and when it came back, she wrote down our family history for me. At the time, I was a ignorant teenager and did not appreciate what was happening or what she did. I lived with her the last year before she died, as the turmoil at my house was too much. I thank God for that time.

I was lucky, in that with remarriage, I got a third grandmother. She was my Grannie and loved me unconditionally, just as if I had been born into her family. I loved her with all my heart as well and spent a lot of time with her. She was a calmer person, which was something I needed in my life at the time.
 Going to her house was so calm and I learned the beauty of a routine. There were always cold cuts and 'Nilla Wafers. She was not the high strung glamor gal or the outgoing church lady. Instead, she was  a mother to five children, whom she loved unconditionally. The woman who prayed her rosary daily and took us little heathen to mass with the promise of gum if we were good. She  taught me to play dominoes and how to vacuum. I saw the office where she worked and the green house that she loved. I sat at the kids table in her kitchen as formed some of the best memories of my childhood there. The thing I took away from being her granddaughter was that family is the most important thing and feeding them is the best way to show love. 

I am a weird example of what family is. I am an only child with siblings. 

My mother divorced my step father, who became my Daddy when I was less than 3. So, when he remarried, his wife became my family as well.  As a teenager, my fourth and only Grandmother entered the picture. I have written about her before, but suffice it to say, she brought her A game to my life. I think about her often, for she was the person who made me think about what it means to believe in something enough to make a difference. 

I am a grown woman with two middle school daughters and I lean on those lessons I learned from four very different, but equally influential women.  As a mother, I have to temper all the fun things with discipline and rules.  They, however, had the license to be fun and the time to share the important things they had learned while mothering their own children, but at a more leisurely pace. Two of the three have seen or saw their great grandchildren and those were even more special, if that is possible, than the grandchildren they doted on. My children receive birthday books from my Grandmomma every year on their birthdays, usually they are relevant to things I have told her the girls are into at that particular time.

These women shaped me and my personality.
I experienced being the absolute center of attention from all of them, even though I had siblings and cousins to share the attention. I also learned skills and traits that have carried me into my adult years. I am a sentimental girl at heart, but I hate sappy cards, preferring dark and twisty humor. 
I am a Catholic like three of the the four, but I can sing the Church of Christ hymnal like it is my job. I love the old fashioned things about Christmas, including why the ornaments are special and why we have the same stockings our entire life. I put in a garden and try not to kill every house plant that comes my way (I usually fail). I love to cook and feed my family, but I also love to play game, drink and swear like a sailor. All of these things I learned, not from my parents, but from my time spent with my grandmothers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Whatever: Decorations are done, man!

I went and got my hair done on Wednesday. 
FAVORITE thing in the world to me. 
Love it like most people like getting their nails done.

I digress. While I sat in the chair, I chatted up my most fabulous hairdresser and her co-worker about the lack of insanity this Christmas. They work on the busy road that leads to the mall and both remarked on how very light the traffic is this year.
Christmas seems to be slowly, slowly trickling in, rather than punching it's way into town.

I personally love that. As someone who is finally into the Christmas spirit, and who is really enjoying the slow pace of it all, I am relived that apparently everyone else is as well. I feel that the spirit of Christmas is peace, love and fellowship.

That being said, my house is decorated for real  now. 
We have lots of things that didn't make it out into the house, but we have just enough of things that did. My girls get an ornament every year and those all made their yearly appearance. 
I love looking at them every year and for them to see how they have changed by how their tastes have evolved. (Two years ago, my oldest picked this ornament.) 
I also had several  from college that have managed to linger over the years. I lived in a house that had a mantle when I was 22 and bought ornaments to decorate it. This is the only one from that lot that survived. Prophetic, I believe. 

My husband is huge Florida Gators fan. With the exception of one year, I have bought him a gator ornament every year that we have been together. That means after this Christmas, we will have 16 of these suckers on the tree.

My two playgroups that I belonged to merged into a dinner group that met for almost 10 years. We started having ornament exchanges about 3 years into it.
 I also have participated in one with moms from my daughter's kindergarten class since she was in kindergarten. She now is in 8th grade and I am lucky enough to be meeting them next week. There also are a fair amount of the cute ornaments that Delaney and Ellie have made over the years in school, beginning when my oldest two and in a mother's day out program.

We have two trees now to hold all the ornaments. My lovely vintage white tree holds  our glass ornaments. I love the tackiness of Christmas and the traditions that go along with the holidays. 

My sweet Aunt made jars of my grandmother's ornaments for my sisters and me after my grandparents passed away. Now, I get to have a little their home with me at Christmas. 

I love this part of the holidays. The traditions and the fun of reliving the past and planning for the future, whatever it may bring.

I  hope that is what folks are doing right now as they are slowly getting ready for Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gratituesday: By George, I think he's got it!

Oh my...
I am a huge fan of George Takei.

Apparently everyone in the universe is as well.
Love, love, love the laugh I get every day from the stuff he posts.

The mix of cute and riotous humor is the perfect mix.

If you are looking for something to make you laugh everyday...George is your man.

Here are a couple of my personal favorites.

 virus kept me down on Tuesday...I am cramming now!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cooking: Holiday kickoff

I had an awesome weekend.
I hope you did as well.

My children in the midst of final exams and end of year projects.
 I worked a fair amount last week and we had various home projects going on, including getting the dry wall fixed in our bedroom (mess!).

We actually had no firm plans this weekend other than we had tickets to a local highschool's Christmas program on Saturday night.

On a whim, Steve and I went to a movie Friday night. 
Saw the new Bond movie (as the only girl in my house that had not seen hottie Daniel Craig running around in a well fitting suit, I was felling left out.)
We even got popcorn AND split a Diet Coke. Wild.


Saturday, Steve went biking and I worked out, while the girls did their chores. Cleaning rooms that stay clean for about 13 minutes is a Sisyphus task for them. Not sure how they get so trashed. But, after Steve got home and we all showered, we drive to a neighboring "town" and went to a cut your own Christmas tree farm. I wasn't sure what to expect. 

What we got was a memory that will last a very long time and a new Swann family tradition.

 I put a shout out on the Facebooks looking for a farm and my friend Maria came through, for sure.

The sweet couple at the Reese Family Christmas Tree Farm were so nice and the guy who helped us with our tree and took our Christmas card photo was truly a gem.


 They didn't bat an eye when Steve chased the girls around the farm with a stick.

 Or when we pretended we were giants. Or when we made Ellie "work"

. Or when we tried to take their dog. (Joke, but I really have a soft spot for Jack Russells). We tromped around on that farm for a good hour touching every tree and running around, laughing like lunatics.

After we had our fill of the tree farm, we came home and relaxed.

The girls and I went to hear the McCallie/GPS Candlelight Christmas concert. The music was absolutely top notch and put the three of us in the holiday spirit.

Sunday we did the church thing, shopped for secret Santa, did some homework and worked on decorating the tree. We are taking our time with the decorations and it is truly a great way to do it. 

The girls made my aunts recipe for Molasses Crisp cookies Steve and I went to dinner and went to hear the Carolina Chocolate Drops as the final icing on a lovely weekend.

If you have not seen or for that matter heard the Carolina Chocolate Drops,  you must do so as soon as possible. One of the best folk bands around (just nominated for their second Grammy).

Casa Swann We gotta Eat Menu 

All in all, a great weekend and a truly great way to ease into the holidays.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Whatever: Decorating for the holidaze

Well, I have begun giving into the peer pressure.

Yep, slowly, ever so slowly...
I am decorating for Christmas.

My next door neighbor is the holiday guru.
All holidays are celebrated with gusto, but Christmas is her wheelhouse.
The new girl two doors down had her tree up before Thanksgiving and a wreath on every door and window before the Black Friday sales were over.
 I don't really know her, but she seems a little overachieverish.
One of my best girlfriends has a tradition of decorating the tree on Thanksgiving eve so her family can enjoy it at dinner. That is actually a nice sentiment.

They are all hardcore.
 I envy their excitement and endurance. I was like that for awhile, when my kids were little and even before that, when it was just Steve and I.  We traveled more for holidays then and had an artificial tree that would not die on us. Plus, I was younger.
 (Lame excuse as two of the three mentioned above are either the same age or older than me.)

Now, though, I want to savor every holiday and suck the symbolic marrow out of my holidays. 
I want to horde my Halloween candy.  I want to bask in the glow of  Thanksgiving gluttony  before I move onto the peace and joy of Christmas.  I am reluctant to jump from one holiday to the next, but it could also be the coma I am just now coming out of after eating 4 pieces of pie in one seating the day after Thanksgiving...just a thought.

But the pressure is on. So, Tuesday,  I hung a wreath on my back door. 

Yesterday, I pulled the decorations out of the attic and put up my special vintage white tree.
AND worked on putting up another wreath. 

Ever so slowly my drab and boring house is turning into the tacky holiday experience that we I love.

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gratituesday: Mag Rag

I have started reading a magazine that I used to think was a little mature for me.

I actually bought a subscription to said magazine after I found myself buying it in the checkout lanes at various stores around town.
I kind of hid it under my Real Simple and my daughter's Mental Floss for awhile and then realized, that no one in my house knew what this magazine was, so I stopped.
My sister came for Thanksgiving. She asked my daughter if I was the one who bought said magazine.
Yes, she said. Then my sister gave me the look.

You know the one. The one that says "What is up with that?"

In case you are wondering the magazine is More
A magazine who's tag line is "Celebrates women of style and substance with articles on style, health, work, spirituality and relationships."
Whose readership's average age is 51. ( I just googled that.)
Yep, I am reading the old lady magazine.

In my defense, when I first bought it my idol Sarah Jessica Parker was on the cover.  Now, I am not one to pass up Ms. SJP on a magazine cover. After I realized what magazine it was, I was a little embarrassed. But then I bought the Salma Hayak cover and haven't looked back. 

For the record, most of the articles are exactly age appropriate for me, except there is little about the delicate dance of raising teenage daughters. Instead, it is about staying healthy physically, mentally and monetarily as we enter the second half of our lives. 
Check...I am about 9 years away from *gulp* middle age.

Also, when I was 16 and 17 I read Cosmo, and I definitely was young for that rag, for sure.

I am really grateful that I have a little bit of humility about aging.  I don't plan on getting "old" anytime soon, but I do know that the opposite of dying is aging. 

And, if I can get eating and health advice from Salma Hayak in the meantime, I am going to take it.
I am grateful for my downtime with my More magazine.

PS. I have also started reading Redbook at the gym. I may be in trouble.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cooking: It's Monday!

Well it was a lovely weekend here in Chatt-town.
Gorgeous weather and lots of fun.
I am sitting in my office barefoot with the windows open enjoying the silence.


After a weekend of running, driving kids around, having plans, changing plans, canceling plans...
you get the picture, it is nice to plan something easy and predictable such as  dinner.

We had a blast at our Mainx24. 

We ran in a race, watched a parade, looked at art, square danced, ate tacos, watched fake sumo wrestling and listened to all manners of music.

Definitely the best things my family loves about our town were experienced, for sure.

Then we went to the last day of the Sunday market and stayed until the very last minute.

Now it's the Monday of a very busy week.

Here's what we will be eating.

December is finally here at Casa Swann Menu

  • Baked Chicken, salad and roasted broccoli
  • Baked meatballs and spaghetti squash
  • Open faced feta, leek and zuchini omelettes, avocado and grapefruit salad
  • Salmon, black eyed peas with spinach