Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gratituesday: VOTE!

Yep, I did.

I am a woman. 
I waited a few minutes in a warm building.
I was not bullied, in fact I was greeted with kind words and a smile.

My vote will count. 

The country will move forward no matter who is elected with no riots, no bloodshed, no war.

I cannot fathom having to stand in line for hours, with guns pointed in my general direction, knowing my vote is purely for show. Or worse, not being allowed to vote because I am a woman.
Voting in Sudan (2011) via
God Bless Us. The United States.
The Land of the Free.

I voted and I am proud.
And grateful to live where it is easy and convenient to vote.
Where I voted looked a lot like this (via)
Sometimes I think that is why half the people who can vote don't.
If it that easy, can it matter?

Yes it does.
AND...since this is MY blog and MY voice...
I will echo the words of Susan B. Anthony...who would have made her rallying cry 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dirt: I quite possibly, maybe could be...getting old(er)

We are lucky to hear good live music very regularly in our neck of the woods.

But I have been in a dry spell.

Last night I had the chance to hear one of our favorite local bands, but football, chili and my warm bed won out to a smokey bar and the band going on at Midnight.

Zombie Prom didn't hold a candle to a good night's sleep.

Hate to admit it, but I may be getting old(er).

Here's what I missed...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dirt: Friday's Fact...people are weird

Halloween is here.
My kids are right in the middle of too old and still wanting to celebrate.

We are not a haunted house family. 
But, in my town, it is a huge industry.

Never got the whole " Let's go be scared ON PURPOSE" thing.
But apparently a lot of people like it. Since the 1990's
 it has become a major industry in the United States. 

So, as my Friday fun fact, I am sharing the Nightmare's Fear Factory's photos of people being scared. On purpose. For money. 

My favorite is the group of Jewish kids. The boy in the middle looks like a trip.

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dirt: Bittersweet, Baby

Big milestone today.
Baby Girl Swann got her braces off!

Huge deal.
She is my baby and I have always treated her as such.
She was carried well into pre-school. 
She had her food cut almost into middle school.
I still feed her sometimes.

My baby is one of two and yet, she is just that, the baby.
Our last baby that needed us to carry her, feed her and keep away the loud noises.
Weird to think another milestone has passed and she is one step further away from needing us.

I hate that. 

So, today, I took her to get LOTS of chewy candy and gum. 
Then dropped her off at the orthodontist office.

She went in a baby.

Came out not so much one anymore.

Bittersweet, for sure.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cooking: Our daily bread

Cooking for your family can be a complicated, emotional event.
We cook because we have to meet a need, a very basic, physical and necessary need.
We have to eat to stay alive. 
But as a mother or parent, we feed our families for various other reasons as well.
Cooking a meal can be an act of control. I want my family to be healthy, and cooking dinner nightly gives me the control that they will eat at least one healthy meal a day. For my children, hopefully this is encouraging a lifetime of eating healthy and making good choices.
At the very least, it holds them hostage once a day to have to eat well, whether they like it or not.

Also, cooking a meal and eating at home encourages communication. We  are not dictators at the table, requiring certain topics to be discussed, but we all talk about various things that occurred during our day and tell stories about the past. Conversation tends to be silly.

The best thing about cooking (and the thing I most remind myself of when I don't want to cook) is that I am showing love to my family. 
My husband works hard and has a lot of stress in his work life. 
My kids work hard at a challenging school and usually rise to the expectations we put before them.
Our house, our dinner table is the oasis in the hectic frenzy that tends to be our day.
Dinner with the three other people who know what you are going through is the touchstone in our family life. Sometimes making someone's favorite meal can be the easiest way to say " I love and support you!"

So, as I sit and plan what we are eating, I am also planning an important event in our daily lives. Not just literal daily bread, but the bread that feeds our spirits and restores our resolve.

Casa Swann's Daily Bread Menu

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Fun Fact: Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is here in Chattanooga.

For my family, that means the Chattanooga Market all day with our friends.

A few years ago they branched out and held it on the Walnut Street Bridge, which is a walking bridge in our city. That day was magic to me.

I took my camera and took about 1,000 pictures. The day included some of my very best friends and their families being with us and that was the magic. Friends make your days full and rich.

Last year, my parents went to the original Oktoberfest Celebration held in Munich,Germany.

Like all the other tourists, they drank large beers and ate lots of German food. But their pictures tell me something else. Their Oktoberfest was magic as well. The common element? Friends.
These girls know what friendship means. And partying.

Oktoberfest is a 16 day festival held to celebrate beer, which is specially brewed during that time.
The de Wiesn started as a celebration for the marriage of Prince Ludwig in 1810, and gradually morphed into the Autumn festival  by the 1920's. It was not celebrated during WWII, but came back after the war shortages were finally over in 1946. Since then, it has steadily grown to one of the largest parties in the world with many traditions including food, music,  clothing (lederhosen, dirndle, and Tirolerhüte) and terms (passed out drunks are called beer corpses). However big and international it gets, Oktoberfest is always about food, beer and friends. Personally, I bet it is the friends that make it so much fun.

 AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
Happy Oktoberfest!
Guten Tag! 

*Sadly, my pictures from the last three Oktoberfests have been eaten by faulty computers...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dirt: My new obsession

I am late, very late to the game.

But I am extremely good at obsessing about things.

I did it with Harry Potter (three books were out before I finally read the first one) and I have done it once again with one of the most popular things around.

I started it Monday. 
Now I am half way through the second season. I should finish it tomorrow.

I was hesitant to start for that very reason.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cooking: Sometimes you gotta give in




Got your attention, didn't I?
As the weather here in Tennessee has turned a freakishly cool 45 and damp, I have turned to my favorite past time. Eating Baking to warm up my house. There is nothing like the smell of something baking in the oven. I have spent much time the past few weeks on Pinterest and reading my cookbooks looking for something pumpkin to bake that was not the run of the mill pumpkin bread. I am not a huge fan of pumpkin bread or for that matter, pumpkin desserts in general. I know that is blasphemy as I am in the demographic of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte lovers. But, while I have enjoyed one or two in my day, I am not a dedicated follower. 
But, I do love chocolate. Especially dark chocolate. And I love gingerbread and spice cake. Oh, do I ever so much love gingerbread and spice cake. Lately, I have had a taste for something pumpkin, spicy,chocolate and different.

She's not chocolate. Just spicy and different.
So, in my quest for pumpkin, spicy and chocolate I got in my head yesterday that I wanted pumpkin brownies.  I did what all people my age do when they want to find something, I Googled "Pumpkin Brownies." And, lo and behold, not only is there such a thing, there were loads of recipes. Some of them even have pumpkin AND chocolate in them.
 (Who ever heard of brownies without chocolate? Weird, right?)

I narrowed it down to one and then completely changed it to fit my wants and desires. 
I upped the cocoa powder by 240x and removed several spices. I also used both brown sugar AND molasses (How can you have mo' lasses if you ain't had no lasses?...it never gets old!). If you want a less spice cake taste, us only brown sugar. Also omit the cinnamon and add 1 tsp vanilla. 

I also frosted it after deciding it wasn't sweet enough. The brownies are just like I like them, fudgey and rich. A very little goes a long way, in other words.

With out further adieu, here is my version of that nagging taste in your mouth.
It totally satisfied my craving.

Tanya Swann's Pumpkin Brownies

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (unsweetened)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbl vegetable oil
Oven to 350. Spray a 11X7 baking pan with non stick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add pumpkin, eggs, molasses and vegetable oil and stir until mixed. Do not over mix.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 20 minutes. Do not over cook, the brownies will still seem a little like batter. Cool and frost. Yum-O!

Tanya's last minute frosting

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk ( I used vanilla almond milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Stir until mixed. Will be thick and require some muscle, but sets up nicely.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gratituesday: GIRLS!

I am grateful for my children.
Today on the way to school, I told them that I wouldn't change a thing about them.

They are smart, funny, quirky and truly amazing to watch.

As my youngest got out of the car this morning, I watched her walk into school.
She is confident and still "little" with her eagerness to be at school. 
Part of that is going to a school that embraces the "6th grade babies" (one of their school songs). 
I love that. 

So, as we count our blessings and watch our pennies to send our girls
to an "all girls" school, I am grateful.
Very, very grateful that they are a part of a culture that praises women for their strength, creativity and competitiveness. They are encouraged to be themselves at every age and for the most part are celebrated by their peers for their accomplishments and supported in their goals.
Pretty special, if you ask me.

(Mine is on of the last ones who stops and hugs her "Cat" on the way to her seat)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cooking: I loathe Fall

I am probably the only person in the south that loathes the Fall.
Other than football and s'mores, I really don't see what is so redeeming about Fall.

The weather is weird. Today is is 50 and raining. Yuck.
Trees lose their leaves and make a wet, slippery mess. 
The temperature is too hot for a coat and too cold for just a shirt and sweater.
Conflicted dressing at it's best...shorts and tee...sweater and vest.

The other redeeming thing about Fall is soup.
I love soup. 
I am going to be an amazing old lady.
Soup and beauty shops. 
Yep. I am going to rock.

I found a great website with loads of soup recipes. 
16 Fall Skinny Soups is the title of the post. 
Love it!
We had a great weekend of bluegrass, visit from Grandpa, cultural eating at Culture Fest, a hike, shopping for jeans for the kid who is outgrowing clothes faster than I can buy them (literally, she had no jeans this weekend, but had 4 pairs in her drawer that fit in August) and a fire or two.
Now we are enjoying our last lazy day until Thanksgiving break and finishing up laundry and the last season of Glee.
Doesn't like Fall...likes to grow instead. And dress well.
Okay, Fall may be sorta fun.
Casa Swann Fall is okay Menu 
  • Spaghetti with meatballs
  • Vegetable taco soup
  • Garlicky tomato with spaghetti squash
  • Delaney's Steak and Vegetable Stew (recipe next week)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Commentary.

Yonder was amazing and I am sore from dancing my bee- hind off!

Here's a song we heard last night.

Friday Fun Fact: Jam band bluegrass for the one I love

You make sacrifices for the ones you love.

My husband has watched many Wes Anderson movies and saw this one in the theater.

I am going to hear a lot of bluegrass this weekend. 
Which may be a little lopsided as I like bluegrass in small doses, and I sense that he doesn't share my love of all things Wes Anderson.

 We are attending the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival this weekend. The festival is one of the many amazing music events held in our fair city. We have been before and it is really nice, as far as bluegrass festivals go. Yonder Mountain String Band and Keller Williams are both playing. If you like bluegrass, you know who they are.

If you don't, well...here's Friday's Fun Fact(S).

Yonder Mountain String Band or just, Yonder if you are a fan, is a band from Colorado. Two fellas met and formed a band when they were at Harvard, one of them not knowing how to play the mandolin he owned. They formed various bands until finally Yonder was born. They have traveled all over the country playing festivals such as Bonnaroo with various "jam bands" such as Railroad Earth and String Cheese Incident.

They are huge.

Keller Williams is a funky bluegrass/jazz musician and  his voice is truly amazing. Keller hails from Virginia and has toured with Yonder and various other bands around the country since the 1990's. As a musician he is freakishly talented and his music is hard to describe. Apparently he has endless energy as he is in numerous bands and side projects. He is currently touring as Keller and the Keels, and they have an amazing sound.

He is huge. They are amazing.

I have to say, my "sacrifice" is not really all that huge.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dirt: Got my hair did

Got my hair did this morning.

 I grew up in Texas in the company of a lot of older ladies.

They all went to 'The Beauty Shop" and " got their hair done".
I love those terms. Salon sounds so snotty.
Beauty Shop....that is where I want to spend my time.
Hairdresser...so pedestrian.
Beauty operator...GLAMOROUS! 
I want to render the services of her.

Sigh. I am an old lady waiting to happen.
But I am fighting it tooth and nail.

Behold today's beauty shop visit's work.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gratituesday: Legs that run

I have legs. 

Most people do. 

Mine are 41 years old and carrying me around pretty darn well.

For the last 7 years, they have carried me around at a faster pace than they had before.

I started running when I was 33 years old as a way to get into shape for a ski trip I was going on.
I ran a 5k, then a 15k three weeks later. The day after I finished that 15k, I registered for a marathon.

I got bit.

Now, I was extremely slow. The first race I did, I came in last.
The 15k I ran just under 15 minute miles. I walk faster than than now.

But, as I continued running, I got stronger and faster. 
I placed in a few races in my age group, climbing up to 2nd in one race.

But what I got most of is this. Confidence. 
I started believing I could do things that were athletic. I grew up not playing sports. I played outside a lot, climbing trees and making forts.  I never really learned swim strokes and definitely never dove. My family spent a lot of time outside as well, hiking all over the southwest. But I never played any sports other than youth group volley ball and kickball. 
In my twenties, I joined gyms and did step aerobics.

So, when I married my hyper active husband, I started having to do stuff. 
We rollerbladed all over St. Louis. We walked our dogs miles and miles to get ice cream. 
HE played roller hockey, ice hockey and was on a crew team. 
I watched.

Once my kids were born, I decided I want to be a fit mom.
One who can pick large things up and run after balls, kids, dogs, etc.
I also decided at 39 to be a better swimmer.

But at 33 is when I became an athlete. I trained for and ran a very painful marathon.
Since then I have run many 5k race, several 10k races and 5 half marathons. Last year I ran three legs of a race between Chattanooga and Nashville.

I fall in and out of love with running.  But I always come back. I like how I feel when I finish a run. I like how my mind wanders and my head clears when I am out running. I like that when I hit the gym,  can lift more than double my body weight and I have strong abs, all due to running. 

I am running my last relay race next month. My team is a fun group of misfits that all are runners. 

We share war stories of plantar faciitis, shin splints, dogs bites and best times.

All of us are athletes.
I am grateful for that first race I did and also for all the runs since. But mostly I am thankful for healthy legs which carry me around.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cooking: Fun, fun, fun

We had a busy weekend...

Friday, we watched the girl's classmates play soccer and then went to dinner with one of the best soccer players on the  team ( and my youngest's bestie) and her mom, my dear friend, Ann. 
Taco Mamacita was delicious as always. If you are lucky enough to live near one
 (Nashville, Chattanooga or St. Simon's Island),
 go and order ANY of their tacos and their Mexican Chop Salad.
 Best.Salad. Ever!
Also, the chipotle sauce on the table is amazingly flavorful and HOT!
 Great on anything, but be careful, it is really hot.

Saturday, we hosted our Ragnar Relay team (GO Pacer & Chasers!) at our house for chili, football and s'mores. We had 10 kids at our house and it was really fun. Our house is like a redneck oasis in the middle of the neighborhood. Tree fort, trampoline and a big yard that we don't really care about keeping  "nice".  Super fun and of course, there were s'mores!
I have to say, it was the cleanest my house has ever been after a party with 10 kids in attendance. 
Testament to a fort and a trampoline being excellent sources of party entertainment.

Sunday, which is always Funday at Casa Swann was a day of church, confirmation class and then...
Chili Cookoff.

My husband and one of his funniest buddies entered  The Chattanooga Market's chili cook off.
They were reluctant to enter, as our lives are always so busy on the weekends. But the powers of persuasion of Paul Smith were excellent.

I don't know about Ken, but there was chili making going on at Casa Swann until 2 am  with my husband working on  his masterpiece. 
They set their tent up and once our girls got back from mass, they proceeded to sell samples. 
We had lots of  girls selling chili and taking money and talking trash.

Dutch oven was the first to run out and when the judges tasted it...


Classes of 2016, 2017 and 2019 representin'
Had no doubts whatsoever, although Alchemy Spice gave them a run for their money, for sure.

After the market closed and we loaded the dutch ovens into the cars, we headed with the celebrants over to one of our favorite restaurant/brew pubs for some excellent salmon dip and salad. I am so predictable. Every time I eat there, I order the  Brew house Salad. What can I say, it has goat cheese, nuts, apples and goat cheese?!?

All in all, it was a delicious and fun weekend. 
I ran twice and got to have coffee with friends Sunday and then hung out off an on
 the rest of the day with various ones as well.


Casa Swann's Lovely Weekend...Now it's Monday Menu

  • Pesto  baked chicken*/roasted carrots/ spinach salad
  • Tomato, chickpea and squash stew
  • BBQ chicken Sandwiches/baked sweet potatoes/roasted zucchini
  • Mexican Pork Tenderloin, sauteed collard greens, roasted carrots
*didn't get made last week...carried over til Monday