Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Everything Cookies

1 c unsalted butter
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
2 c flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 c oats
1 c chopped walnuts
1 c coconut
1 c raisins
1 c chocolate chips
1 c white chocolate chips

Mix wet ingredients (sugar, butter, extract, eggs) and dry ingredients (flour, salt, powder, soda) in two separate bowls. Sift dry ingredients into wet and fold in oats, walnuts, coconut, raisins, chocolate.

Form the dough using a small ice cream scoop and bake for 15 minutes at 350. Allow to cool for 2 minutes before removing from sheet.

To make vegan cookies:
In place of eggs, boil 2-4 teaspoons of ground flax seed with 1 cup of water for 5-10 minutes. Cool before adding to wet ingredients. Also, exchange margarine for butter and check your chocolate for dairy (dairy-free substitutes can easily be found).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Eating Raisins

My hands are clasped behind my back and I'm leaning against the wall waiting for a timer to go off. Somebody walks by and I smile as a hello. I realize I haven't taken a breath. Maybe I'm just taking immensely shallow breaths but it's as if I'm wearing metal armor.

My hands are cold and wet. They are wrapped around my handle bars. Reaching for the brakes and making a familiar right turn, I survey the trees. Drawing cold air over my lips, my nostrils sting and I fill my lungs to capacity. I force warm air through my teeth.

With my hands gripping a fork and stirring vegetables, I look out the window. There are yellow leaves on the driveway, and I count to ten. Ten days.

Ten days until the first anniversary of mom's death and I find my breath shallow. It is alarming and I am constantly forcing my chest cavity to fill. I can't logically connect the anxiety to this anniversary but I know they are related. I don't have religion and no tools to manage death. In some sense, I am creating the anxiety. I am expecting October 12 to be morose, and I can't quite fathom the connection but I can't breathe.

I am still angry that she has missed this last year. So much has changed. I have needed her advice on so many different occasions. I have reached for the phone to call her to celebrate more times than I can count. I don't feel like writing this because I'm having a hard time articulating these emotions. I like writing to be cathartic and indulgent, like eating a decadent slice of chocolate cake. This feels like old raisins.

It's been over a month since my last post and I have an idea that I'd like to share so I'll eat my raisins. No one looks forward to the anniversary of the death of a loved one but while chatting with Aunt Polly, we came up with a good idea. How about this date being the marker for a reason to do something good for yourself? (Like using your last child's birthday as your reminder to make a gyno appointment, which my mother did. Yes, I'm the youngest.) Since August I have been training for a triathlon and am happy to report that I've lost 15 pounds. The race will be in a week and channeling mom while exercising has been a great way to prepare for the impending gloomy day. I will get to spend the weekend with my Aunt Polly and Aunt Kathy. We will get to do a lot of exercise, maybe a little shopping, and certainly a lot of talking. I couldn't think of anything Cici would want to do more.

In the last year of my mom's life, she became involved in Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner and with them she reached a healthy weight. She was exercising regularly and eating healthier. I know she would encourage my plans and I want to motivate you to do something similar. Maybe on October 12th, eat a salad. Get off your ass and do a little stretching. Skip the chocolate cake and eat raisins.

Then, tell me about it. Please! I'd love to hear from you on that day. Tell me something you did for yourself!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First day of school


Last week was the first day of school. I'm not enrolled.

Instead I drove around my new neighborhood. I found my pharmacy. I checked out the grocery store. Their produce is mediocre but always on sale. I rode my bike to work four times last week and both days this week. The weather was perfect and it was glorious to have my body so close to the road and the wind on my shoulders. I am in control of my destiny. Isn't that what you used to say? It was something like that. I am the master of my destiny. Maybe. That's what it was. 

I did the 27-Fling Boogie three times. The kitchen is full of my dirty dishes and I only feel the urge to find a man and make love to him. To pretend that we are in love and on our way to some other life.  Or maybe I should call an old boyfriend to catch up. Where is my head? I haven't met anyone who meets the height and weight requirements. But, then again, I haven't been looking.

Last week at work a coworker chided me for using the screen name "Scientist Maggie," claiming that I'm not a scientist. "All you do is filter fluids!" he insisted. I was dumbfounded and focused on the trash cluttering the middle of the table. Maybe I could burn it away with my television. Sending it through the air like they did at the Willy Wonka factory and when it arrives at its destination, it will be much smaller as well. Less waste. I think about this a lot. This always seems like a logical fix. If I could only stare at that great Pacific garbage patch long enough. I'd send it all to my trash can. Then I'd stare at my trash can, and send the minuscule left overs to a Tic Tac box. You know how much I love those.

The conversation at work drifted from the fact that bats were mammals to weekend plans, but I was recounting my love and obsession with Fibonacci numbers during my senior year of college. I am a scientist. I filled up my bedroom with pinecones and flowers--anything remotely symmetrical--and counted the rows when I was unable to focus. In the next beat, I was imagining I had stumbled upon the most massive specimen of fruticose lichen. I am a scientist. I envisioned standing on the edge of a village that was once ravaged by cholera. It had undergone a transformation because of the work of epidemiologists. I am a scientist.

"I think we're all scientists," I finally replied. 

"Yay! Animal science!" another coworker added, tossing her hands into the air as if throwing the whole field, scientists and animals alike, into the air as confetti.

This is my reality, Mom. It isn't perfect but I'm making it work. I'm entertaining myself with science inside my brain, even if my technical title isn't "Scientist." I am still a Scientist and I am grateful to you as you were the first to recognize me as such. I'm preparing myself for school. I'll be getting a desk this weekend and I bought a chalkboard. I've written two things on it so far:

One thing at a time. You're only human.
A mental mind fuck can be nice.

However, I'm not so sure about the last one. (Don't worry, it's a quote from the Rocky Horror Picture Show and I found it the idea of it so appealing years ago. There's just something about the way those words fit together. Plus, sometimes it can.)

I love you,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Cup of Tea

Again I woke up at 3:30 on Saturday morning. The house is quiet and warm with summer's heat. I collect last night's dishes, start the dishwasher, and sip on cinnamon tea. I feel sad again. I do not understand why my mom has gone missing. I do not know where to place this emotion.

I woke up in tears. I had been hanging out with my mom. She helped me look for an apartment and then I needed her opinion on a dress. I guess it was for something significant but I don't remember. She came with me to see a few apartments but she was distracted. When I'd turn around to ask her what she thought, she would be on the phone or meandering near the edge of the property. I looked for Doug to see if he could help but all he gave me was a shrug and avoided my eyes. 

My mom and I finally sat down to discuss the apartments and make a decision about my dress. This time I thought I'd have her full attention for sure. But when I began explaining, she picked up her cell phone, a big plastic ridiculous thing that looked like a child's toy. I lost it. The water I had just sipped was now spewing out of my mouth and onto the TV. It flashed and whirred and finally went dark. I felt monstrous, fists clenched and hair wild. Those around us looked at me in horror. I began screaming. I wanted her opinion, I wanted her input. Why was she holding that from me? In a flash I realized I was not mad at her, logically she could not give me her opinion any more. She is dead. That woman in front of me, ignoring me was not my mother. She was a mirage my subconscious had created to bring her back to life for me. I immediately collpased into tears.

I woke up on a damp pillow and looked at the clock. 3:30 again. Standing over the sink, I examined my hair. My head felt like it was too small for the amount of material inside, as if the pressure of it would compress my brain and I would fall onto the floor in a heap. I took a deep breath and ran my wrists under the cool water. I told myself the pressure would subside with a cup of tea. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Don't Eat the Hummus (DANGEROUS)


I just wanted to tell you, because I could never say this to you without hurting your feelings, your hummus is no good. When I became a vegetarian as a teenager (which I still am today) you freaked out. I was very active and you insisted, rightfully so, that I needed protein. In the mornings before school you'd make me smoothies filled with fruit, milk, and tofu (sounds gross but they were good) and you filled the freezer with my favorite bean burritos. On the weekends you'd make massive amounts of hummus and divide them into little plastic take-out containers. You were never able to make anything "just for two." It was enough for an army, no less.

After I went away to college I had hummus at a dining hall, over at a friend's party, or maybe dipped into a roommate's stash, and I realized that it was a mild, creamy dip and unbelievably delicious. It was easily spreadable on crackers and it fit perfectly into the groove of a celery stick. I compared it to the bricks of flavorless garbanzo beans you'd insist I take with me. Crammed into those little plastic containers, they'd get lost in my freezer and a pang of guilt would hit my gut everytime I shuffled things around enough to find one. Sometimes they'd fall out and the containers would shatter and I'd think to myself, "Well, I can't eat that now! When I thaw it out it will have shards of plastic pieces in it! Surely mom wouldn't want me eating that." When I raved about the hummus I had at college you questioned me. What was so good about it? Did it have a special seasoning? What was the texture like? I was caught off-guard and realized I'd inadvertently admitted that someone else's hummus was better than yours. I stammered but couldn't come up with an answer, focusing more on your feelings than the actual hummus itself.

You made hummus up until you became sick, although by that time there was plenty stocked away in both my freezer and yours. I had been eating your hummus for almost a decade and I was in too far to tell you the truth. Instead, I encouraged you to make Roasted Red Pepper Dip or Aunt's Sue's Marinated Cheese, both of which are divine.

Despite this bad news (I know, I should have told you the truth about your hummus years ago), I am writing you to share good news: I am becoming more like you! In short, I've begun sewing, I have your bad taste in music, I have weird sleep hours, and I've inherited your cooking skills. I bought a sewing machine second hand and made a bag (but only to house my new hobby of knitting). I dashed around the house in my pajamas all last weekend with little pieces of fabric in my hands, destined to be flattened by the iron. My hair was wild and I'd shout at every victory and frustration. Next I'm going to make a skirt and an apron. I also have horrible taste in music. You once admitted that while everyone was jamming to the Beetles, you were singing your heart out to show tunes. I make a hodgepodge mix of songs that I listen to until I become sick of it. I forget about it for two years and when it is rediscovered I overindulge in the same way. Additionally, because of my different work schedule, my eyes insisted on staying open at 3:30 am.  I had dreamt you made a smorgasbord of mouthwatering vegetarian food for me, my friends, and the family just to celebrate me. You were not present in the dream (although you haven't been lingering in my dreams for a last few months). This is disappointing to me because in the months following your death, I would be so grateful every time I'd dream about you, positive or not. It was a way to know that you still existed, even if only in my hallucinations. You could say in the dream I had last night it was as if I were seeing you indirectly, as I was enjoying the food you made. Mostly I remember the gazpacho.

When you reached a certain age, your body decided when and how long you were allowed to sleep. You'd get up and by 10 am have accomplished more than I would all day. You'd stitch a little, work a little, and eat a little. By the time I meander into the living room, you'd be resting in front of your needlepoint and offer to make me some tea and a little breakfast. We'd have an early morning chat, which, admittedly, sometimes ended in a fight. I long for these conversations now. It was often a time to talk about something we loved and enjoy each other's company, even though they weren't always pretty. Now without you here, I am awake at an unusual hour and using the wee hours of the morning to cook for those that I love, just as you had. I'm making gazpacho, your recipe for which I cannot find but I'm going to do this from Cook's Illustrated.

I ALSO CAN'T MAKE HUMMUS. But these days I just buy the stuff.

I love you, Mom, and I miss you madly.


Aunt Sue's Marinated Cheese

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
3 tbs chopped parsley
3 tbs minced green onions
1 tea sugar
3/4 tea dried basil
1/2 tea salt
1/2 tea black pepper
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 jar diced pimentos (2 ounces)
1 block of Cracker Barrel extra sharp (white) cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
1 package of cream cheese (8 ounces)

Mix all ingredients together, excluding the cheeses. Slice the cheddar cheese into 1/4 inch pieces and assemble both cheeses in alternating layers in a storage container. Pour marinate over cheese and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, remove the cheese from the storage container and place on a serving platter. Pour excess marinate on top. Serve with bread or crackers.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip


  • 1/3 cup whole natural almonds
  • 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Put the nuts into a processor and finely chop. Add pepper, vinegar and shallots to the bowl and process until smooth. While the processor is running, drizzle the oil into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

I don't have a copy of the original recipe so I've lifted it from here. I've tested it out and it is just as I remembered.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Your birthday came and went and I didn't get you anything. Are you surprised? I remember you calling me on your birthday. You always did that, as if your children were too selfish to pick up the phone on your day. Jeez! You'd call at 7:30am! Give me a chance!

If you were here, I would have cleaned the entire house (we were at the beach to celebrate your birthday) and your kids, nephews, and nieces would have cooked you a delicious dinner. I would have made strawberry shortcake using pound cake. We wouldn't have much pomp and circumstance--I'm no good at that. In fact, the cake would probably look like a mess but I promise it would have tasted delicious. Your sisters would have provided you with special golf socks and shiny jewels.

Everyday during our week at the beach, you would have woken up hours before anyone else and silently watched TV as you tediously added stitches to your latest project. I might wake up early too and sit with you while I read my book. At times we'd stop our activities to chat. These early morning talks would invite a comfortable space for mother-daughter discussions. Unlike most times, I wouldn't feel threatened to respond the way you'd want me to. We'd talk about my frustrations with my sister or current boyfriend and your worries over my living situation. We'd mull over an argument you recently had with someone and decide a course of action. Try the 50 noncommittal phrases: "Oh, really?" "That sounds tough." Or just plain silence. You'd question me about my finances and I'd reassure you that I have it under control. However, later in the day you'll slip a little money into my hand saying, "This is just-in-case mad money. Use it just in case you're about to go mad."

We had the Cici Case Jersey Shore SMACK DOWN and it was quite fun. The cousins were partnered up and ran around the boardwalk completing tasks and getting our exercise. It was great bonding and I know you would have planed it just the way it was. It's important for us to honor you for your birthday. Your last wish was that we would continue loving each other. Although we did the SMACK DOWN, I felt like the celebration was lacking. I wanted to do more to honor you.

Then I realized that I do honor you. Everyday. Everyday that I eat a salad, everyday that I run an extra mile, everyday that I do good work, it's in your honor. (Wow, this quickly turned into that Bryan Adams song LOL)

Well, anyway. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ice Cream for Dinner

As a means to assert my independence, I used to eat ice cream and cookies in place of a meal. I'd call my mom and the conversation would go something like this:

Me: Hi, Mom! How's it going?

Mom: Good, I'm just headed out the door on my way to work. Wassup, G? (Yes, she would ALWAYS answer the phone, and yes, she would say things like "G")

Me: Well, I was just calling to tell you about my breakfast. I think I've really started the day off well.

Mom: Yeah? Tell me about it.

Me: I had a big freakin' bowl of ice cream and cookies! It was delicious!

Mom: Oh, that might mess up your appetite for the rest of the day.

Me: Yeah, it might but it was worth it and I'm going to be smiling all day about my ridiculous indulgence.

This was my way of proving that I could eat whatever I wanted regardless of what she insisted for me. As expected she pushed 5-a-day and plenty of protein. I had to find a way to rebel and this is almost as harmless as it gets.

I left work today in great spirits. I completed all my tasks and numerous times my coworkers and I doubled over with laughter. One of the very last lessons my mother taught me was that I don't have to save the world before I get to bed but I can do good work with good people and smile about it. Today I did that.

Everyday is still underscored with the loss of my mother and even though my heart was soaring with happiness, I decided to listen to the sad songs to think about mom. For the first time in a long time I told her I missed her; I told her it was a shame that she couldn't be here with me; and I told her I was happy and doing good work.

Today I ate a big bowl of ice cream and cookies for dinner. (Don't worry, I had a stupid big salad for lunch.) I relished in the sweet dessert, savoring each bite and wishing I could call my mom to share this joy with her. I am so grateful that I can have this moment and honor her in my own quirky way.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


During my mother's semi-conherent stay at the hospice, she wanted to communicate her situation to the immediate family. On October 11, 2010, she was fairly lucid for most of the day. While Justin, Katie, Doug and I surrounded her bed, she began explaining. "The doctors have given me 6 months." We nervously exchanged glances. Just outside the door we had discussed this at length with the entire family. Katie sat closest to mom, hunched over and holding her hand. I sat on her other side studying the insteps of my shoes. Doug stood leaning on the foot of the bed donning his listening face, his head tipped back looking over his nose with his mouth hung open. Justin braced himself in a wide stance and his hands folded over his chest.

"They suspect I have pancreatic cancer, and at this point I have growths that are blocking my GI tract." Somebody swept her thought away, maybe a nurse came in or maybe she got sick again. After she fell asleep, the four of us sat outside and came to the conclusion that none of us needed her to explain this. We knew she had days, not months.

We helped her into a wheelchair sometime that afternoon and her head looked swollen. Someone asked her how she was feeling. "I feel, like," she explained and she waved her head back and forth to describe. The muscles in my body tensed and I found myself in a basketball defense position, although out of my mother's line of sight. I traded glances with one of my siblings. We were all doing the same thing.

At about midnight, all of us had gone home for the night (except Justin). Mom decided she wanted to get out of bed. Because of her oxygen tube, catheter, colostomy bag, and lidocaine IV, this made things complicated. Alarms bellowed and nurses rushed in. Justin stood palms up. What was he do to? She was dying. He couldn't stop her from anything, not that he could have on a normal day.

The nurses helped her into a wheelchair and she asked to be taken to the solarium at the end of the hospice. "Is there something that you'd like to do?" Justin asked. After a few minutes, he continued, "Is there anything you'd like to talk about?"

"Let's go to that side of the room and see if we can think of anything." Oscillating her over-sized head from one end of the room to another, she asked, "Is there a curtain here? I need some privacy." At one point during their short trip, she looked at him in her quirky way with a little shrug and a demure smile and said, "Blast off!"

She passed away just hours after this conversation. There was no curtain. She was awarded no privacy. Throughout the day, I heard my brother recount the story to our family. "When mom was coming in and out of consciousness and hallucinating, she asked me when the event was happening. She asked me multiple times when the blastoff was going to happen." She did not ask my sister or me. He assumed our mother was just losing her mind after the intensity of hospital care and painkillers but she was trying to communicate to him that she was going to die soon. None of us know what heaven is to be like, and couldn't it be just like a blastoff? Couldn't we just shoot off into space, into the infinity, into a place that we can't describe? Justin is an aeronautical engineer and speaks in space metaphors. This was her way of lightening and conveying such a dreadful message to her eldest child.

I now have BLAST OFF tattooed under my right clavicle. My sister has it on her left wrist and my brother has an entire rocket ship on his forearm. When I spot this black ink in the mirror, I don't feel saddened at all. In fact, I smile to myself. My siblings and I had our work done in the same tattoo parlor the day after mom died and I see this mark as my last attempt at pissing her off. As I've told my friends, "This is what she gets for dying!" When a stranger asks about it, I tell them it's a means for living my life and omit the idea that it could be a mantra for getting to heaven. I'm blasting off into my next adventure; I'm moving forward in my life. That is what my mom would want for me and these words remind me everyday.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Note from Mom

Mother's Day left a bad taste in my mouth. I arrived at work on Monday morning trying to focus on the task at hand. As Aunt Sue put it, she was "feeling a bit emotionally hung over." So was I. I spent two days on cruise control--the farther I got from Mother's Day the better. After work on Tuesday I took a minute to chill before I left the parking lot. Hundreds of employees leave at the same time and there is always a jam getting out. It was a beautiful spring afternoon with a bright blue sky. The blue stretched unscathed all morning until a few clouds wafted in to dance around horizon. Stuffing trash and used tissues into a bag, I popped the glove box open to find this note:

Dear Maggie,
I am hoping that your
days are looking a bit
brighter for you. Know that
I love you, I am proud of
you, and I want the best
for you!
Love, Mom
I sucked air and tears instantly filled my eyes. I pushed my sunglasses closer to my face and glanced around the parking lot. Slinking into the driver's side, I hung my head in my lap. My mom would have wanted me to erase the touch of sadness surrounding Mother's Day. I thought of the interchange we had hours before she died when I told her that I'd be ok. I thought of the changes I'd made in leaps and bounds since October. And finally, I thought of the new bonds I share with my extended family.

Ok, Mom. Ok.

It's been a week since I rediscovered this note. My throat is tight as I write this but everyday is better. Everyday I feel a little happier. Everyday I feel like it is easier to be happy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day.

No joke. Today blows.

It's Mother's Day and my mom's dead. My mother would want me to celebrate and honor her. I did that. I baked delicious cookies to share with my aunts and extended family. We exercised (a long bike ride, basketball, and catch with a softball) and I know she'd be proud. She would have been out there grimacing and flexing her muscles at all of us while shouting, "I'm gonna kick your ass on this bike ride! Watch this hook shot!"

Usually I try to have a sunny out look on my situation, but you know what? Not today.

I have been busy with my new job. Saturday I went hiking with my dad, stepmom, and little brother. When I returned home, I cooked up a storm--veggie burgers, meat burgers, portobello mushroom caps, yuca root, raspberry-chocolate cookies, and almond-fig-anise cookies. The house was hazy with oven smoke for hours. I finally admitted to myself, dad, and stepmom that I was crazy with energy because I was freaked out about Mother's Day. For the entire week, I had been successful at avoiding thoughts about today. Around 10 pm, I crashed.

After hours of bizarre, stressful dreams, I woke up at 8:30 am. Crystals flooded in through the window. The sunlight on the floor will always fall (Sarah Harmer in the song Uniform Grey), I thought to myself. I frowned at the wall. As I finished reading the PostSecrets from this week, I heard Andrew present a card to my stepmom.

"What's this?"

"It's because you are such a great mom. Happy Mother's Day."

Endearing and incredibly sweet. Later I presented the gift Andrew and I bought for her at the garden center--a yellow hibiscus plant in a red pot. She had admired it last weekend and was ecstatic to see it appear on the porch.

I packed my bike and headed to my Aunt Susanne's house. In the car I allowed myself to cry, listening to the songs that make me miss her the most. I arrived at the same time as the Glowatz's. Polly noticed that I had been crying but I had to walk away, afraid that if I started again I wouldn't stop. Maybe that's what would have been expected from me. Maybe it would have been ok.

I had a blast visiting with my family. In addition to the exercise, I got to pet the rabbits, and I had a good conversation with Katie during the car ride home. Now it's almost an hour and a half from being over and I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obsessive Drawings

While I was staying in DC, I made a few friends and we galavanted around to museums and bars. My good friend, Hannah, from Indiana came to visit for her spring break and we stayed with my friend, Roy. I spent a week in NYC with my cousin and was so happy. At one party I met two girls who were a comedic duo. Laughter flowed out of my lungs and throughout the room. They divulged later that they were trying to make me laugh because it was so infectious. I got my laugh back.

I had been blissfully ignoring thoughts about my mom, and for a few weeks I had successfully forgotten that she's no longer here. The sadness dissipated, and I stopped answering calls from my brother, sister and aunts.

However, when it would reach 1:30 am and we'd be sitting at the table with our empty wine glasses, I'd start drawing. The first night it was a colorful rocketship made with crayons and when it was completed, I made everyone countdown from 10 and we all yelled BLASTOFF and feverishly covered the edge of the page in yellow, red, and orange wax. When that didn't work, we burned the paper. The following night I had only a pen and drew a large rocketship on my calf. The next night I drew a small one on my hand, which Hannah turned into a night sky. I walk around with BLAST OFF written on the insides of my shoes. I doodled on napkins, receipts and socks. I stuck a note to Roy's fridge that read, "I tried to blast us off into space but it didn't work."

It is apparent to me that although I wasn't talking much about my mother, I was missing her madly. This is grieving. It's not pretty and you can't turn it off but you learn to deal with it. It doesn't always come out in typical ways like anger or depression, and for me, it made me doodle.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

27-Fling Boogie

This week is the third week of work, and it's been as expected: busy, intense and fun. I try to keep the stress from my personal life at bay and focus on the task at hand. At present my immune system is at battle with the second (or is this the third?) allergy attack.

My room is also a mess but I just used a Cici Case technique: the 27-Fling Boogie. Sometime during my childhood she began making the entire family participate in the boogie. In the rush of the early morning, she'd shout, "ONE!" and toss a used napkin in the garbage. 

Putting two breakfast bowls and spoons into the dishwasher, Katie would reply, "TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE!" 

Justin would fold the throw blanket over the back of the sofa, "SIX!" 

"SEVEN, EIGHT!" I shout from the bathroom as I tied the trash bag and put the toothpaste away. 

This would continue until we reached 27 and our boogie would be boogied. With the excitement of a new job and the stresses of daily life, I wanted to share this little tool with you in hopes that my mom can help you smile while you simplify. I just did the 27-fling boogie, and although my room is still pretty messy, it's a start.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Keep Hope Alive

When I was a kid and my mom was a single parent and practicing attorney, she put us in charge of the household chores. Today one of her chants popped into my head, "KEEP THE LAUNDRY ALIVE."

Or, as Jesse Jackson would say, "Keep hope alive."

She would shout it as she dashed out the door, all the while keeping her freshly-painted nails dry. Over summer breaks, she'd be out the door earlier than the sun and leave me a list of things to do. This would be written at the bottom in all caps.

I'm keeping hope alive. I'm keeping the laundry alive. In fact, I'm keeping myself busy and making lots of laundry.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Start of Something New

Hey Mom,

I have clean socks and undies. I've printed out the directions. I packed my lunch: a protein (hummus), lots of veggies, hearty soup and grapes for dessert.

If you could, you would have written me a note that would say:



You would have stuck twenty dollars and a few napkins in my lunch box, and you'd set out the soy milk, oatmeal, raisins, and cinnamon for breakfast. "You'll need something that sticks to your ribs," you'd insist. "You get cranky when you're hungry; you want to make a good first impression."

But you know all these things.

Tomorrow is a big day for me as I start my new job, and I know you're proud of me. I'm going to make a good impression, don't worry. Katie has offered her services to replace you when I'm looking for someone to call on my lunch break.

My intestines are in knots, although I've done everything I can think of to prepare and relax myself. This emotion is more than first day butterflies. I am lingering and tiptoeing towards the end of this letter because I don't want time to continue. In fact, I want it to go backwards.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Make U Cry Mac N Cheese

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Muenster cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup (8 ounces) Velveeta , cut into small cubes
2 large eggs , lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2-quart casserole.

Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the oil, then the elbow macaroni, and cook until the macaroni is just tender, about 7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well. Return to the cooking pot.

In a small saucepan, melt eight tablespoons of the butter. Stir into the macaroni. In a large bowl, mix the Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, the cubed Velveeta, and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the buttered casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and dot with the remaining one tablespoon of butter.

Bake until it's bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Please note: I would have a beautiful picture of this in a lovely blue dish but it was so good it was gobbled up immediately.

This is only one of the recipes that I found of my mother's. There were many and I just had to choose one. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cherry Blossom Intricacies

Today, the sisters (my mother's sisters) made our way around the river basin to enjoy the cherry blossoms. The sky was endlessly blue and we walked inches under a cloud of snowballs. As we made our way to the FDR memorial, Mary and Polly paused. I turned and saw them embracing. "We're having a Cici moment," Polly explained, and she put her arm around me. Cici would have so loved to be with her sisters enjoying the flowers and bright sunshine. I felt awkward yet privileged. These women knew my mother her whole life. They were sisters and nothing can compare to or replace that.

On the other hand, I am so grateful that I got to share the weekend with them. I see my mother in each of them: her prowess, her compassion, her temper, her unconditional love. They made me feel welcome. They let me talk about my mother. They made me laugh.

Standing in a sea of white petals and tourists, I imagined what my mom would be doing. She would have pulled a branch to her nose and taken in the scent. Putting the flowers to pursed lips as if to kiss it, she would have proposed, "How can someone not believe in a higher power? Look at this craftsmanship." Holding out the flower for me to examine, she'd continue, "Somebody had to design those intricacies."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I just wanted to make sure this was ok with you

During the few days my mom spent in hospice care, we took turns visiting with her, making runs for food, and sitting quietly with other family members. I was stretched out in a big, ugly chair reading when my brother leaned through the door and said, "Mom wants to talk to you." I gave him a confused look and he responded, "She just needs a minute." He had a crazy look in his eyes and they conveyed a sense of urgency I had never detected in him. When we were kids, he was terrified of being late for school, and because he was the oldest, it was his job to walk my sister and me. To ensure we arrived on time, he ushered us out the door. Justin had urgency in his eyes then too but that day in the hospice was more intense. More pleading.

I crossed the hall and saw that my mother was alert and serene. I put my hand on her forearm, and my fingers rested upon her paper-thin soft skin. That day had been a very good day. Less than 12 hours before, my mom had emerged from hallucinations around 3 am and asked my brother for ice. Justin, who never left the hospice, almost fell out of his chair when she so quickly snapped back to reality.

Later that morning, it was my turn to sit with her. I was wearing a nasty wintergreen short-sleeved sweatshirt from Goodwill. Before drifting off to sleep she said, "You look so nice in that color." A big, genuine smile spread across her face and she looked tired. She was trying so hard to brighten a room with such a gloomy atmosphere. (For the record, I am wearing the sweatshirt now. I have always made unhealthy attachments to old clothes. This one is going to be particularly hard to shake.)

An hour later the mayor of the city came to say hello. I was sitting by my mom’s bedside reading. Or trying to read but doing anything to remove myself from the reality of the situation. I ignored him, not realizing or caring who he was. After an awkward minute of questions and monosyllabic answers, my sister came in the room. She was wearing a beautiful purple shirt and immediately recognized the mayor. Always so gregarious and sweet, Katie's presence relaxed me. "Oh! Mr. Mayor!" she exclaimed. "How nice to see you! How nice of you to come!" My sister’s friendliness quickly swept up my anxiety and the awkwardness hanging in the air.  

After a few minutes, my mom began explaining that if she felt tired, she could ask people to leave. "My doctor said I shouldn't get too excited," she joked. My siblings and I were filing out behind everyone else, and she said sharply, "I didn't excuse you!" She wanted a few minutes alone with her children. She was always in charge.

I am grateful to say that she gave us the opportunity to say anything we needed. I have read a bit about losing a parent and I recognize this opportunity as unique. Some parents whither away over weeks or months, while their loved ones watch in confusion. Before the patient really grasps the severity of their situation, they are too debilitated to pose this question. On the other end of the spectrum, death can move swiftly and not allow this opportunity. Because my mother was an immensely smart woman, she recognized her approaching death and made time for this question.

“Is there anything you want to say or talk about?” she asked. I can’t remember who went first so I’ll deliver this now in birth order. Justin, who is currently getting his PhD in one of the most complex mathematical sciences, thanked our mother for supporting him as she did and always being his biggest fan. Katie, who gave our mother the most number of grey hairs in her teenage years, asked if she was proud of her. I, the daughter who was always described as the quiet one, told her that I’d be ok.

Just a few hours later I was standing next to her with my hand on her forearm and she was proposing another question. Katie sat at the foot of the bed and Justin flanked her other side. She explained about her health condition, as if we hadn't picked it over thoroughly in the other room out of earshot. Her words blurred together. My vision blurred. Someone handed me a tissue. She wanted us to have an understanding of what was happening to her. "I think I'm going to die soon, and I just wanted to make sure this was ok with you."

NO! Of course that's not ok with me! Are you kidding? The only thing that would be ok with me is for you to get your ass out of this bed and make a full recovery. This is stupid. This whole thing is stupid. I don't want you to die. Who am I going to be without you? No, this is not ok with me.

I didn't say any of these crass things. I nodded, unable to do anything else. Doug came in the room and she asked the same question of him. Leaning forward in his chair, he let a pregnant pause hang in the air as he studied the tiles on the floor. “You’re gonna be missed by a lot of people,” he offered in his subtle Midwest way. His brown eyes were shiny and bloodshot and I commended this kind response. In the previous two weeks, Doug hadn’t said much other than, “It just fucking sucks,” and “I’m sorry you’re losing your mother,” before embracing one of us or lighting a cigarette.

When she had spoken to the four of us, she rearranged the blanket on her legs and continued, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen logistically. My legs feel heavy and I know it is time.”

The next morning Justin called me around 5:30 in the morning. Leave it to mom to make sure we were all up before the sun. Less than a mile away, I was the first one to the hospice, and Justin met me at the door. "Maggie, I just wanted to warn you. Mom has already passed,” he explained cautiously. “She died just minutes after we got off the phone."

I nodded and walked down the hall. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye as we walked, unsure if I was in shock and waiting for me to start wailing.

But I didn't. I knew this was eminent and I wasn't ready to cry about it yet. She had granted me the opportunity to say what I needed to say. I wasn’t expecting to watch her cross over to the other side. I didn’t need to say goodbye one last time. The tears would reach me when I would listen to Motown or the Beatles en route to and fro her siblings’ houses, when I’d need an opinion about making a big decision, and when I wish she were having another discussion with me long after the dinner plates had been cleared.

Waiting for Katie to arrive, I sat in the room with the big ugly chair and flipped through a photo album she had made. The front picture was from Mother's Day, when Katie had made her own edible arrangement.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Emeril's Wedgie Salad

1/2 pound blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 large heads iceberg lettuce, cored, washed and patted dry

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the blue cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt, and black pepper. Using the back of a fork, mash the mixture together to form a thick paste. Drizzle in the olive oil, stirring continuously with the fork until the mixture is creamy. Add the buttermilk and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut the heads of lettuce into 4 wedges each. Spoon about cup of the dressing over each wedge. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Country Breakfast Casserole

You can mix up this egg/sausage/hash brown casserole and chill it overnight. Bake it on a Sunday or holiday morning to serve with fruit and sweet rolls.

12 oz spicy or mild bulk pork sausage
0.5 cup chopped onion
4 cups frozen (now thawed), diced hash brown potatoes
1.5 cups shredded colby jack cheese
3 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
pepper to taste

In a large skillet, cook sausage and onion until no pink remains. Drain.

In an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish (2 quart size), layer potatoes, half of hte cheese, sausage-onion mixture and remaining cheese.

In a bowl combine eggs, milk and pepper. Pour over cheese.

Bake, covered in a 350˚ over for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Cut into square. Pass the salsa. Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monkey Bread

I cut the recipe in half made mine in cupcakes instead of in a bundt pan. Still delicious!

4 packs refrigerator biscuits (country biscuits), cut into quarters
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1.5 sticks butter
0.5 cups brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚.

Cut the uncooked biscuits into quarters. Place them in the bag with the white sugar and 1 tablespoon or cinnamon. Shake to coat and place in sprayed bundt pan.

Melt butter and add brown sugar and remaining cinnamon. Streusel over top.

Bake for 45 minutes and immediately remove from pan by flipping onto a plate.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pistachio Tofu

2 packages of firm tofu, sliced into cutlets or squares
1 quart nondairy milk
0.5 cups of freshly ground flax seed
1 pound salted pistachios, shelled and toasted
1 cup almonds
1/4 cup fresh thyme
1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 cloves garlic, minced
In a food processor, chop almonds until it has the consistency of parmesan cheese. Boil flax seed with 1 cup of water until thick (approx 20 minutes). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix the boiled flax seeds and milk.

In a food processor, place the pistachios and herbs. Pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture is finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour, salt and pepper, and garlic.

Dip tofu in the flax seed/milk combination and coat with pistachio and flour ingredients. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Spinach Balls (Vegan)

4 10 ounce packages of frozen, chopped spinach

4 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing

2 large onions, diced finely

0.5 cups freshly ground flax seeds

1 cup almonds

2 garlic cloves, minced

1.5 cups melted margarine

1 teaspoon thyme

salt & pepper

Boil ground flax seed with 2 cups of water until mixture becomes thick (approx 20 minutes). Chop almonds in a food processor until they have the texture of parmesan cheese.

Cook and drain spinach well. Mix all ingredients together. Chill 2 hours or more. Roll into balls. Freeze until ready to use. When ready to serve, bake 30 minutes until golden.

Spinach Balls

4 10 ounce packages of frozen, chopped spinach

4 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing

2 large onions, diced finely

8 medium eggs

1 cup parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, minced

1.5 cups melted butter

1 teaspoon thyme

salt & pepper

Cook and drain spinach well. Mix all ingredients together. Chill 2 hours or more. Roll into balls. Freeze until ready to use. When ready to serve, bake 30 minutes until golden.

Pistachio Chicken

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 shallots , minced
2 blades lemongrass , chopped
3 pieces (1/2-inch) fresh ginger , thinly sliced
1 cup sweet white wine
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons Chinese black bean chili sauce
1 can (8 ounces) coconut milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , softened and cut into pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 brind boneless chicken breasts (see brine recipe below)
1 quart buttermilk
1 pound salted pistachios , shelled and toasted
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh thyme
1/3 cup chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grape seed oil to taste
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns

For the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the tablespoon of butter, the shallots, lemongrass, ginger slices and wine. Reduce to half. Add the broth, red curry paste and Chinese black bean chili sauce and reduce to half again. Add the coconut milk and reduce to half a third time. Remove from the heat and whisk the bits of butter into the sauce until all the butter has been incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. If you reheat, do not allow the sauce to boil or the butter will separate. **For the record: I never remember mom making the sauce. Does anyone?**

For the chicken: Remove the chicken from the brine and cut in half. With a meat mallet, pound until 1/4-inch thick and place in a nonreactive bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken, cover, and let sit for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

In a food processor, place half of the pistachios, half of the parmesan cheese, and half of the herbs. Pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture is finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat this step with the rest of the pistachios and combine with the other pistachio mixture.

Preheat the oven to 250°.

Place the flour in another bowl and season it with salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and prepare it for assembly. Preheat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-low heat with a thin coating of grape seed oil. Remove one breast, shake off any excess buttermilk and dust the breast with flour on each side. Dip only one side of the chicken back in the buttermilk and press pistachios onto that side. Repeat that step with all the chicken. Place the chicken in the sauté pan, pistachio side down, and cook for 2–3 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Place in the oven to finish cooking for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove, let rest for 5 minutes and then slice to serve with the Coconut Chile Ginger Sauce.

Brine for Chicken (Makes 1 1/4 cups) 
Place the salt, sugar, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and 2 cups cold water into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

When brining chicken use a nonreactive pot or plastic container. Completely submerge the poultry in cold water and weigh it down with a plate. Add the brine and cover. Let the chicken sit in the brine for at least two hours, preferably overnight.


Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic Soup

3 heads garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 white onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 heads cauliflower; 3 cored and thinly sliced, 1 broken into small florets
8 sprigs thyme, tied with twine, plus 1 tablespoon chopped
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock, plus more to thin, if desired
2 cups heavy cream, plus more to thin, if desired
2 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut off tops of garlic heads. Place each on a piece of parchment-lined aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly in foil, and bake until garlic is very soft, about 1 hour. Let cool. Squeeze garlic from peel; set aside. Increase oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft but not browned. Stir in sliced cauliflower, thyme bundle, and wine. Simmer until wine is reduced by half. Add stock; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove cover, and simmer until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove thyme and stir in cream and 2 1/2 cups Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in garlic. Puree in batches until smooth. Thin with more stock or cream, if desired. Return to pot; keep warm on low heat.

Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over high heat in a saute pan until almost smoking. Add cauliflower florets, stirring until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pan to oven and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in thyme, parsley, and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan. To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, and garnish with cauliflower florets.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Short Stories Make Me Angry

I love short stories. I love the way writers draw a little piece of a picture, and if they've done a good job, the reader will be able to infer the whole drawing. I relish in the ambivalence this allows for the reader and the creativity needed from the writer.

Over the holidays I picked up a copy of the 2003 edition of the Best American Short Stories, and I am elated to report that I have finally finished it. It took me 10 weeks because the guest editor, Walter Mosley, selected shorts that address the extreme of human emotion. When I read the introduction, I hoped reading stories about death and the grieving process would be a good exercise for me. In some ways it was, I always appreciate knowing that other people have gone through similar experiences, even if it is fiction. Before starting each story, I prepped myself by reading the few paragraphs hidden in the back of the book written by the author about the scope of their story. This usually seemed benign, and I would tear into another short story with high hopes.

Unfortunately, with end of each story I became more sad and frustrated. Written words have always been my best means of communication. For those of you who knew my mother, she didn't leave much room for others to talk, and I grew up as a very quiet and introspective little girl. It was hard for me to envision that in the middle of my book I'd slam it down on the bed next to me and wonder who the hell thought it was a good idea to let the kind and altruistic son die. It's ludicrous! Where is the poetic justice? Now this blind, poor father has to continue his life as a shell collector without company. Sometimes I'd gleam a tiny morsel of a lesson but it lasted brief seconds, and it was not worth an hour of reading.

My ire had reached a new level with literature through this book. With the end of each story, I never wanted to start the next but felt hopeful that the new one would make me feel different. When I'd reached the final story, I wasn't looking forward to redemption but now this book became a challenge. It was a battle of wills and I couldn't back down. I had to finish it. I told my Aunt Polly about the contents of these stories, and she agreed that it might be a good opportunity to help me grieve but that I shouldn't be masochistic. As I sat in a nail salon with my head hung over the book in my lap, I read the description of a mother on her deathbed from the vantage point of her two daughters. "Maggie!" my aunt shouted across the room. "What are you reading?" knowing well enough what I was reading. I gave her a solid stare and tried to turn the corners of my mouth up. "You look so sad."

I put the book down for that day, but after a good night's rest I was enjoying an early morning by myself in Starbucks. I feverishly combed through each sentence. It was wrong for the author to describe a woman in such a state while depicting the tension shared between her children. These things are immensely personal. I felt like I was reading about my own mother's death and the stress put on my family. I would never write about them in such a forward way, and it was dragging out all the emotions tied to this event. How could anyone do this? It was torture. Nonetheless, I kept reading, knowing that it would all be over soon enough.

That's when that guy sat down. I'm within paragraphs of closing this book and that guy wearing a brightly colored Dr. Huxtable sweater asked to share my table. Over the course of 5 minutes, I learned that he continually hurts himself seeking adrenaline, he is going through his second divorce (his first wife took his money and children, the second took his heart, but he will fall in love again because he likes to hurt himself), he works third shift at a grocery store, that guy has bunions, and he is 42. He extracted my age and insisted that the difference was comparable to that with his second ex-wife, although she was older. That guy liked being significantly younger than his partner because, well, he liked being a boy toy. That guy giggled, and shrugged his shoulders as he contemplated a younger partner. Somehow I managed to not punch him and made my way to the bagel shop down the street.

I sat as far away from anyone as I could at a table with only one chair. I sipped orange juice and bit into a delicious bagel. As I read tears ran down my cheeks, one hand gripped the edge of my chair and the other squeezed a snotty napkin. My knuckles were white. Air passed through my teeth when I finally closed the book. I jumped up, wet cheeks and all, and ran out of the shop, inadvertently scowling at the other customers.

Now I can put this book on the bookshelf. The feeling that I desired when I read it, that feeling of being free of sadness, the craving to let life continue, has come back to me. Finally.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Almond Toffee Brickle Recipe

40 Saltine crackers
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
12 oz bag of chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

Preheat over to 400˚ and cover the bottom of a cookie sheet with tin foil. Place crackers on the sheet, covering the entire area without overlapping.

Melt butter in a sauce pan and add sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and stir for exactly 3 minutes. Pour over the crackers and distribute evenly with a spoon. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and place in the over for 3 minutes (just enough to melt the chocolate).

Spread chocolate with a spoon and sprinkle with nuts. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Sharing Healthy Recipes

Me, my mom, and my sister Katie after completing FWSW half marathon!
When my mother was married to my father she would claim that she didn't like to sweat, and by the time she was 45, my mom's weight was so out of control she had gastric bypass surgery. We all thought her head would explode. Weighing more than 300 pounds, she could run circles around her teenage kids. What would happen when she would shed 150 pounds?

She achieved this by the time I was attending freshmen orientation at Ball State University. Now standing in front of a room crowded with my classmates, all of whom had the taste of parental freedom on their lips, she had convinced the orientation leaders to let her lead a cheer.

I say Ball! You say State! Ball! State!
I say red! You say white! Red! White!
Ball! State! Red! White! Ball! State! Red! White!

Almond toffee brickle: AKA
an excavation site.
This was my mother. Running circles in front of 250 teenagers in size 10 jeans. I couldn't have been more pleased.

Although at this time she was in control of her weight, it was a lifelong battle. My mom became a participant of Fort Wayne's Smallest Winner (FWSW). Learn more on their facebook page or webpage. FWSW is headed by a one-two punch couple, Tina and Rick Walters, who are devoted to promoting healthy lifestyles. The FWSW program selects members of the community who are committed to losing weight and health improvement. At the time of her participation, my mom welcomed other members to her house to cook healthy recipes.

Brown rice pizza, vegetarian on
left and vegan on right.
Today I realized that I've been contributing to this blog since October and have yet to post any of her recipes! Where have I been? I've posted some of my mother's "healthy" recipes. Check the list to the right to see these and other additions.

For dinner tonight, I made brown rice pizza (vegan and vegetarian) and almond toffee brickle. Aunt Mary and I enjoyed dinner together and I am glad to learn that I cook like a Case family member--always enough for 10 people.