My Baby Turns 21

wehere2This week my baby boy turned 21 years old. He’s “legal”.

birthday3It’s hard to wrap my mind around it. He was just doing dishes with his sister after dinner yesterday.

Today he’s pretty much on his own in North Dakota, hopefully doing dishes in his own sink.

blizzard9I dug up some old photos in no particular order – in random memory throughout the years. The laughs – there were many of those.

blizzard91Like when he threw himself off the back porch into about three feet of snow.

 

blizzard6It was hilariously epic.

boys1He’s always had great taste in friends – some just as goofy as he is and all keep us in stitches.

face5He loves to photo bomb every lens.

face3And never likes to take a serious photo. Life is too short to do that.

hotfood4He’s always laughing – always.

upward3He learned leadership skills on the soccer team as a coach/babysitter. He was great at it.

driversed1The kids loved him.

homecoming3I never know what will come on any day.

annhand4Because he loves life . . . and bears.

driversed3Long photo sessions don’t always thrill him though . . .

madame8But if you ever need anyone to deliver a glass of wine to the next boat – he’s your guy.

boise4Ever since he was five years old, he’s looked to the sky and dreamed of being a pilot.

tom5So he went to school to study aviation. We left him on the plains of North Dakota on his 18th birthday. I broke out in hives on the 1500 mile journey home.

At the time it seemed traumatic – but he made friends. And went to hockey games. And now North Dakota is his second home.

flystock3And he became a pilot.
tom1We are so proud of him. And so was Mr Tom who the boy looked up to as a mentor and father figure and who passed away two years later. So much life happened in so little time. We have to grasp it quickly and with passion. He knows how to do that better than almost anyone I know.

instagram2In the meantime, this type of scene stopped happening here. Boys didn’t come around much anymore.

thanksgiving23And his sister missed him awfully.

ugly4He only comes home on holidays now but when he does come home it’s like he’s never been away. And he rocks the ugly Christmas sweater.

vacation2We do take the occasional vacation once in a while. This was Puerto Rico a year ago. We’re lucky the local federalies didn’t come after us for breaking and entering.

june7His school schedule is such that he misses some milestones, like his sister’s high school graduation and this year, we missed being with him on his 21st birthday.

virtual2He’s a great kid. Truly. And he makes us so proud.

photo-12He is fun loving, sweet, smart, grounded, wise, and sentimental.  We look forward to making many more memories with our boy.

We love you buddy.

A Tidal Wave

This week is turning into a week of My Favorites – today, it’s my favorite band to see live.

rockersLast week we surprised the boy with VIP tickets to see his favorite band, NEEDTOBREATHE. He was so thrilled. After a long summer of frustration with his flight training he was able to take a moment and just enjoy some time off.

rockers1After all the fun of meeting the band before hand and listening to them do a medley of Take A Load Off Annie (which was fantastic – they really can sing!), we went to enjoy the show.

But here’s what I wanted to tell you –

rockers2This is the boy’s third time seeing NEEDTOBREATHE – in one year. He saw them just a couple weeks before this concert in Minneapolis with his friends. He’s what we call, a rabid fan.

A couple of days after the band left Virginia, they videoed a live show in Nashville. We all logged into the website called Tidal and watched the show again!

If you have not seen or heard this fantastic band, you definitely should! Log into Tidal and you will see the same show but up close and personal and you’ll see first hand how amazing they are. The husband and I have listened to their live album several times now.

We’re already planning on seeing them again next year. We’re never too old to be rabid fans too!

Thai Iced Tea

thaiicedteaThai iced tea is one of my favorite things to drink – ever. It’s a creamy goodness makes my day and makes me want to drink it every day!

The photo above is from Saigon Palace in Edgewater where I always have the same thing when I go – the number 25 pho and Thai iced tea. A perfect meal!

You have not lived until you try it – here’s a recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, White on Rice. While you are over there, take a look around. I guarantee it will make you hungry, but it’s also a feast for the eyes! Their recipe uses half and half which floats on the top until you stir it, as shown above. I like sweetened condensed milk in mine which sinks to the bottom but has the same beautiful caramel color when stirred.

You don’t have to order any dessert after drinking this, it’s a perfect compliment to a spicy meal though. Enjoy!

 

Key Lime Cupcakes

For those of you who bake – I love you. It’s not my forte and I’ve since heard that most cooks prefer either baking or cooking. I prefer cooking but my beautiful friend, Fraulein Valentina, prefers baking.

cupcakes1

She makes fabulous key lime cupcakes and I love them so much that I asked her to bake some for a party. I asked her to make 25 – then 50 – then 75. They were a smashing hit.

cupcakesYes, she eats cupcakes, has two young children and still looks like this – don’t hate her.

The recipe is below – enjoy!

Crust
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 6 sheets)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cupcakes
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons key lime zest
1 1/2 cups (7.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine), at room temperature
1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Key Lime Curd Filling:

1/2 cup key lime juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the lemon juice, sugar, and eggs together until well combined. Add the butter and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking almost constantly, until the curd has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers 160 F on an instant read thermometer. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a second heatproof bowl. Allow to cool slightly, then press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and store in the refrigerator. The curd will keep for a week.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Whipped Cream Frosting
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

To make the crust: In a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and toss until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Place about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each liner and use the bottom of a glass to press into an even layer. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the crust is set. Transfer the pans to wire racks to cool while you make the cupcake batter. Maintain oven temperature.

To make the cupcakes: Combine the sugar and lime zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the mixer bowl and mix briefly on low speed to combine. Add the butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla to the bowl and beat on medium speed until the batter is uniform, smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl then give the batter a few final turns with a rubber spatula to ensure all of the ingredients are well combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the liners, filling each about 3/4-full. Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes, then remove them to the rack to cool completely.

To fill the cupcakes: Use a small paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece from the center of each cupcake. Fill the center of each cupcake with about 1 tablespoon of the key lime curd, then replace the top portion of the cone (you’ll need to slice off the tip).

To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until the cream holds stiff peaks – be careful not to overbeat or the whipped cream will be grainy! Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe frosting into a swirl on each cooled cupcake – take care to cover the cone you cut out earlier for filling. Garnish with keylime slices, if desired.

Makes 12 cupcakes

 

Shadow Proves The Sunshine Redux

jonforeman1Four years ago, the girl thought she found her future husband. His name is Jon Foreman, lead singer of the band Switchfoot.

jonforeman6We went to a Switchfoot concert and she’s been smitten ever since. These photos are from that concert four years ago, she was right up front with all the other young girls who thought they would one day marry Jon.

I remember that wet, muddy concert very well. I was with Mr Chris and Miss Maria about a half mile away from the stage, soaking wet from the rain.

jonforeman1Last Tuesday we saw Switchfoot again as they are now touring with the boy’s favorite band, NEEDTOBREATHE. We surprised the kids with VIP tickets and as we waited for the band’s representative to show up, this happened . . .

jonforeman2Jon Foreman jogged by.

He was apparently doing his pre-concert routine. It was only a couple hours before the concert and he was out jogging. That’s pretty neat.

It was such an anomaly that we weren’t sure if it was really the girl’s future husband:) but we called out to him anyway and as it turns out – it was. And he came over to say hello. What a nice guy!

jonforeman3The girl immediately died a thousand deaths.

jonforeman4I caught this moment which the girl claimed as her own.

When she saw this photo she said, “We’re having a moment here mom.”

jonforeman5And then the moment passed, and then it was my turn to think, “He’s cute.”

jonforeman6He took a photo with the girl, who can blame him, she’s the prettiest girl there.

jonforeman7Thank you Jon for another great show! I was a lot closer to the stage this time. And thank you for stopping by and giving the girl a great memory.

We all think you’re pretty cute – and I am not only speaking for the girl:)

Today

today1Today it is raining.

I had plans to cycle this morning with my friend Miss Nancy and I was so excited for you see, I’m on a roll, pun intended. Last week I cycled with Neighbor Laura on Monday, Miss Robin on Thursday, and with Biker Michele and Neighbor Carrie on Saturday for a total of almost 89 miles, yes, I’m on a roll! I wanted to add to my mileage today, but it’s not to be. I wanted to catch up to the husband who cycled even more than I did last week. Watching the miles add up feels good, somewhere there is a competitive side to me.

today2I’m also nursing a little bit of a bruised leg because on my ride with Miss Robin, I crashed into some bramble bushes. I made a silly mistake, one that cost me a lot of bruises and soreness. I took Miss Robin’s advice to slow down afterward. I moved gingerly for two days afterward though I have to admit – I’m glad to have gotten my first crash out of the way! It was only a matter of time.

Now about the corn –

Last week I spent some time photographing volunteers for a FoodStock event where we gave out bushels and bushels of fresh produce, including corn . . .

today4And cucumbers . . .

today3And zucchini . . . yellow and green.

today5And potatoes too . . . you get the point.

today6We had a lot of fun . . .

today8I saw this gentleman and I said, “Have we met somewhere?”

He told me I once took a photo of his belly.

potta10I remember now – too funny.

today9And lastly for today –

The boy is home for the weekend! He does have to go back to North Dakota this week but that’s a long story for another day – or not. When he comes home his friends come to visit and I’m just as happy to see them. LCAT Daniel came to visit last night and we took all of them out to dinner. We dropped him off at his college house afterward and he hesitated to invite us inside. We understand.

Once again I mused on how different these boys are – and how much they love each other. They were best friends in high school and still have the same sense of humor. Their life paths have diverged yet when I watch them together I can’t help but smile. It’s like they have never been apart these last three years.

I have to admit – I did ask him about his choice of clothing after I hugged him. After all, he looks like he stepped out of the 1960’s. I can’t help but be a mom. He answered by question about his pants with this outburst, “Hey look at my new sandals! I can dance in them, they’re practical.” Gosh he knows me . . .

jan13Here they were back in January of 2011 when they both had on regular pants . . .

Love those boys.

Contagion

You may have been wondering where I’ve been as I have been absent from LifeSignatures for a few days.

Or not – either way is fine.

I had plans on attending Uncle Ed’s party back home in Pennsylvania last weekend – the same party that I attended many summers in a row but this year, I was attacked by a stomach virus or something of that nature right before I was to leave on the trip. I literally didn’t know what hit me. In any case, a six hour drive with a stomach virus didn’t appeal to me so I succumbed to my misery and stayed close to indoor plumbing.

So I missed the party.

But – I feel better now!

walmart1And the people are cheering all over the world!

I had the honor of photographing Walmart volunteers at our warehouse a couple of weeks ago and they did the “Walmart Cheer.” It was fantastic – people who work at Walmart are happy people!

walmart4And you and I know that anyone who serves others are happy. I had a great time photographing the entire Walmart team.

This week I will be photographing various volunteer groups from local businesses, all leading up to our FoodStock event this weekend. It’s going to be a fantastic time – I love hanging out with them, they make me forget about my own puny problems.

As far as the virus goes, I’m starting to feel like myself again today. Although I wasn’t 100% the last few days, I did some cycling and cooked some dinner for friends last Sunday, among them Neighbor Paul. Today he said his stomach was not feeling well and this afternoon the girl showed up to my office and complained her stomach hurt.

I hope I’m not Patient Zero of a contagion. Gas masks please . . .

All I Want For My Birthday

happybirthday5Back in March, my friend Songbird Lauren sang happy birthday to her “adopted” mom and my friend, Biker-girl Michele. It was beautiful, I cried.

Biker-girl Michele and I cycle together – she’s a part of my biker gang:)

Lauren is an incredible singer. Her voice is powerful, her personality is big and I just love her to bits.

happybirthday7I’ve spent years listening to her on stage. She’s incredible.

happybirthday10And I’ve spent years photographing her on stage. She’s also very photogenic.

happybirthday9I love my girl Lauren.

After listening to her sing Happy Birthday To You to Biker-girl Michele, I told the husband, “All I want for my birthday is to have Lauren sing Happy Birthday to me.”

happybirthday4Last May, I was sitting around the dinner table with Songbird Lauren again. This time it was Michele’s husband Gary who was the lucky guy to be serenaded.

happybirthday3He was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed. I may have cried – again.

happybirthday1Someone save that kid in the pool!…

Last weekend, we had a little birthday party for me. It was so much fun and guess what happened?

A few weeks ago, the husband and I were sitting at our dinner table and without any warning or explanation, he blurted out, “I can’t take it anymore! I have to tell you the surprise! Lauren is going to sing at your party!” That was how the news was broken to me and it was the best news a girl could have.

happybirthday2She had an accompanist – and it was beautiful – just beautiful.

happybirthday8I was overwhelmed and felt so honored. And the other best part is that the boy flew in for the weekend for the party.

happybirthday6I should have died Sunday night because my life was just complete.

Happy birthday to me . . .