A Sea of Hydrangea

In a little 'ol parking lot in the city.

May I have the manual now, please?

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, my daughter recently wrote a letter to her birthmom and was awaiting a response. I had exchanged a few emails with her birthmom and I knew that she was planning to respond. She has a new baby and I'm sure life has been a little crazy for her. She also struggles with depression and I know that's a challenge for her, too.

The letter arrived yesterday. I knew that J had planned to send a couple of photos and I could tell that they were in the envelope along with the letter. I took my daughter down the hall and into her bedroom and told her I wanted to show her something.

"You got a letter from your birthmom!" I said.  I handed her the letter.  She read it to herself. J answered the questions from the letter she had received (for the record, she has two dogs, six chickens, and used to play two instruments). Oh, and she confirmed that it is definitely hot in Texas.

Next I handed my daughter the two photos. In one photo, J is sitting on a couch with her three sons. The other photo is very similar but also includes her husband. I watched A's face as she looked at them.

"Do you know that it takes two people to make a baby?" I asked.  She nodded but did not ask for specifics.  "Well, you also have a birthfather," I told her.  I explained that I do not know much about him and do not know where he is (technically, I do know where he is but this is not the right time to explain that). She asked me his name and I told her.

I pointed to the boys in the photo. "These handsome boys are your half-brothers," I said.

She looked at the picture and looked at me. "I have brothers?" I attempted to explain what a half-sibling is, not that it makes much of a difference in the scheme of things. I also explained that her birthfather and birthmother broke up before she was born and that was one reason why J chose to make an adoption plan. She did not have a lot of stability in her life at that time.

We sat on her bed and chatted for a bit longer. I told her how great it is to have so many people who love her - both our family and her birth family. She asked me a couple of questions about when she was a baby. She sometimes seems frustrated or disappointed that she does not remember seeing her birthmom and often asks me questions like, "Did I used to have a different name?"  I have assured her that her dad and I have been with her since the day she was born and that her name has always been the same. I told her that I even ran the name past her birthmom before formally choosing it.

I thought she would have more questions after reading the letter and studying the photos. She climbed into my lap as I sat cross-legged on her bed. She clutched her overpriced Hello Kitty from Build-a-Bear against her chest. "Do you have any questions?" I asked.

She shook her head. "Can I play math games on the computer now?"  I nodded.

I am sure she will have more questions later on. I can only hope I am handling these things in the "right" way. I continue to feel that an open adoption is what's best for her, and I appreciate that her birthmom is willing to keep in touch.

Now I guess I'll just hold my breath until Short Stuff lobs the ol' "how are babies made" question at me.

Goodbye second grade!

Yesterday was the last day of school.  Kerri brought home an amazing report card.  And she told me she wishes she could attend school during the summer.

Congratulations Kerri, you are now starting third grade in September!  We are all so very proud of you, and all that you have accomplished this year.

I can't believe she is counting down the days until school starts again.

Life with Kerri reached another milestone.

Highly Recommended

Recently I received my annual order of leaf lard from my favorite supplier, Dietrich's Meats in Pennsylvania. They make the most luscious lard that comes in these handy one pound containers, shrink wrapped in plastic. I've been getting my precious lard from them for many years, ever since my pie contest winning days. With my latest order I found out from the person on the phone that pie maker extraordinaire, Kate McDermott, also gets her leaf lard from Dietrich's. I'm in good company!

The employee from Dietrich's who took my phone order had an interesting accent that I couldn't quite identify. That sweet and enthusiastic lady on the phone, who I suspect was the proprietor on the company's homepage, emphasized to me the high quality of all their meat products. The animals are well raised and the meat is processed without nitrates or other preservatives. She talked on about buying locally raised foods and the importance of pure ingredients for quality production. She was preaching to the choir and it didn't take any convincing for me to add some samples of their artisan meat to my lard order.
When I unpacked my shipment I could tell immediately that this was the real stuff- hand-made the old-fashioned way. Packed in cotton bags and carrying the strong aroma of an ancient and well-used smokehouse, my boys and the dog couldn't keep their noses away from my sausage samples.

This was not an Oscar Meyer bologna!

Since we love our bacon I ordered a few pounds and I have to say it was by far the best bacon I have ever bought. We have had many kinds of home raised, hardwood smoked and cured bacon from different butchers over the years but this bacon stood out from the crowd. It was almost like a prosciutto it was so beautifully cured and precisely and thinly cut. The color and texture of it testified to the quality of the pig and the processing. Sam and I actually tasted a piece right from the paper. It was tender and delicate like an Italian prosciutto.

I decided that this premium bacon was going to be eaten only as a special treat when its flavor could shine on its own. I cooked it up for BLT's on my freshly made sourdough bread. The flavor of the bacon was delicate and not overly salty and made a delicious sandwich.

I used the leaf lard to make some oven-fried potatoes to accompany our sandwiches. I couldn't help but remember my grandmother at her stove in her northern Minnesota kitchen when I ate this comfort food. Delicious!

The very bad thing I've done

Ella Fitzkitty, my strange but sweet little cat, seems to be dying. I took her to the veterinarian, who ran lots of blood work. Other than a slight case of anemia, her blood work was unremarkable. Ella is 13 (she will be in the 8th grade in the fall), so I suppose she is "getting up there" for a cat. I am hoping she will rebound from her current crisis, though.

Ella came to me when she was just a few weeks old. My middle sister found her and a littermate on a golf course, as I recall. She called a local shelter about bringing in the kittens. They were overly full. Since the kittens were too young to be vaccinated, they faced almost immediate euthanasia. The sad fact is that cats and kittens are almost literally a dime a dozen. They are efficient reproducers and shelters can seldom keep up with the flow.

I had two cats and two dogs at that point (this was June of 1999) and didn't really need another, but agreed to take in this kitten. My sister found a home for the other kitten. She was headed my way for a visit, so she brought Ella with her. The little tabby cat was so tiny that when I first took her to the vet, she did not register on the scale. I still have that first vet receipt showing her weight as 0 pounds.

Because the dogs were upstairs (and are obnoxious and like to chase cats for sport), we set up the basement for our cats. We installed a cat door on the door leading from the basement to the dining room. My other two cats, Bobby Shafto and Franklin, died a few years later. That just left Ella.  By 2000, I was heavily involved in Boxer Rescue and was bringing in foster dogs all the time. Ella mostly stayed downstairs. I did my best to make her environment comfortable for her. I bought one of those multi-level carpeted deals so that she could jump up and get close to a window.  We gave her our old couches so that she could sharpen her claws to her heart's content. I supplied her with toys, catnip, plush cat beds, two litter boxes, and high quality food. I've taken her to the vet every year like clockwork.

But here's what I didn't give her: a good life.  Although Ella is not a social cat (I am the only person she tolerates and she hisses at me pretty regularly), she is sweet in her own way. She has always, always used her litter boxes. She has never really caused me any trouble at all. Up until six months ago, she maintained a rather Rubenesque figure. So, when she started eating less a few months ago, I didn't rush her to the vet immediately.  I mean, what would I say? "Excuse me, but my cat is somewhat less fat than before!" But eventually she plummeted past "ideal weight" and headed straight to "downright skinny."

I know from living with cats all my life that the last thing they do, before the end finally comes, is to become very thin. So, that seems to be where we are now. The veterinarian prescribed a vitamin called Pet-Tinic, so I've been giving Ella two doses a day. She is too weak even to fight me off at this point, although she still manages a respectable hiss when she sees me with the dropper. Sometimes I go downstairs and sit on the ruined couch with her. Sometimes she even agrees to sit in my lap. "Do you want to get stoned?" I ask her, sprinkling some cat nip in front of her. She is no longer interested. In anything.

I am hoping the vitamins will help but realistically, I doubt they will do much. She is eating less and less and I fear I will need to make a tough decision very soon. I am engulfed in guilt. Sure, I have helped a lot of dogs over the past 12 years, but I feel like I sacrificed my cat on the altar of rescue. She has spent years in a quiet basement (it is a finished basement but still, it's a basement) without a lot of companionship. I tell myself that re-homing her was never an option because, well, people don't exactly line up around the block for a chance to adopt a fat tabby who hisses at them. Plus, she was and is my responsibility. I have taken good care of her, in the literal sense, but I have not done right by her. It's hard to reconcile.

This came out of her mouth.

The other day, Kerri asked us how many times we have had sex.

I almost choked.

I told her we don't have sex. (my fingers were crossed).

She said we must have at one point if we wanted to have a baby.

Her Daddy reminded her we didn't and that is why we adopted her.

I quickly jumped in and said we were not going to try to have any more babies.

Kerri said she would give us some privacy if we changed our minds.


Life with Kerri is growing up too fast!

Seize the day.

Yesterday a needle was stuck in my arm.  A vial was filled with my blood, and it will be examined to see if the abnormal white blood cells are still present.  And then I will get a phone call with the results in a few days.

The wait is horrible.  Not knowing is worse. 

So I am concentrating on being here now for my family and my sanity.  Taking pleasure in the little things.  Giving and receiving love at every opportunity.  Hugging a lot.

I am fully expecting to receive a call saying that all is OK.  This was just another wake up call in my life about how short our time together really is, and that I need to make the most of every moment.

So Carpe Diem. 

Go hug everyone, for no reason.  Smile at strangers.  Take a moment to look around you and find beauty in your surroundings.  Use all your senses.  Do a random act of kindness.  And most of all, tell those you love that you love them.

Life with Kerri sends you love.


Over the years that I've spent making the special center-piece cakes for wedding receptions, I have seen quite a few cake toppers. Though cake toppers are not as common as they used to be, they still appear occasionally. Toppers today are never the traditional bride and groom posted seriously on the top of a tower of white wedding cake. Cake toppers these days are meant to be more representational of the actual human bride and groom and their personalities.

This was one of the first toppers I was asked to use. Though at the time I thought it was an extremely odd choice, the classical story of the Frog and the Mouse was incorporated in other parts of the reception. All the children attending had hand-made masks that represented the other characters of the tale. The bridal couple were clearly trying to inject fun and whimsy into their special day. Another example of the thoughtfulness of the details is the hops flowers on this cake- they were added because of the groom's hobby of brewing beer.

Another topper representing the playful personalities of the bridal couple. Butt-pinching is a bit unconventional in a wedding don't you think?

This cake topper was sculpted by a friend of the bride and groom. I'm not sure exactly why a unicorn was chosen but clearly the topper was made with a lot of love for the friends.

Another fun, hand-made topper. Can you guess what the groom's name was?

 I made this topper out of fondant for an outdoorsy couple. The bride worked with wild birds in her job as a wild life naturalist.

This cake topper is actually a pair of salt and pepper shakers. One has a mustache and the other has curvy lips.

This topper was from my Saturday wedding that was clearly a wedding fit for a princess with lots of bling and hundreds of pink roses. I felt this too was quite representational of the whole affair...

How we spent our weekend.

Saturday was spent here at home.  We invited Carol and Andre over for an Argentine BBQ.  It was such a beautiful day that we set up the table outside and spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening chatting the hours away.  Kerri spent most of that time in the pool.

On Sunday, Daddy had an appointment to replace the snow tires with the summer tires on the Mama Mobile.  It should have happened months ago, but he hurt his arm and could not lift the tires up from the basement.  Although he got the job done, he re-injured his arm and may have to go back to physio.

At the same time, Kerri and I headed out to her friend's birthday party.  We had an awesome time!  And the parents were such good sports.  They even allowed the kids to soak the Dad with water balloons (the Mom gave Kerri the hose so she did a great job of ensuring he was really wet).

Kerri spent the rest of the afternoon playing outside with her friends here in the neighborhood.  And then we were surprised with a visit from Nana's friend Meg, who had just returned from Montreal and brought us back fresh bagels (a gift from Nana).  So we asked (forced) her to stay for dinner, and had a lovely visit with Meg.

Thank you Nana for the bagels, and thank you Meg for delivering them and for the pleasure of your company!

Life with Kerri had a great weekend - hope you did too!

New glasses.

Life with Kerri can see clearly now.

Cake Collection

This weekend's weddings and cake orders required me to spend two whole days in the kitchen baking over twenty cakes (I lost count) of various flavors and sizes.

Cake Baking Tip:  Wrapping the cake pans with damp strips of cloth like terry cloth, slows down the baking of the edges so that the cakes rise evenly. This makes the cakes flatter on top without the usual center dome.

The reason there were so many cakes was because one bride wanted a collection of mini wedding cakes at her celebration. It took me all day to ice them and the other cake orders I had, much longer than one average size wedding cake.
The largest tier here is eight inches. Most of these cakes are six inches, the top tiers are four inches. She wanted them to each have different decorations and to be all white.

This little one was my favorite. My friend generously let me prowl her garden for white flowers. These lovely double clematis blooms were the perfect size and style for the cake. Thank you, Karen!

Though it was complicated to execute, the idea resulted in a display of simple elegance. I was pleased and I hope the bride was too.

Today is bring your dog to work day.

To be fair, hubby has the day off.

Life with Kerri thinks the boys are working too hard.


I completed 108 sun salutations this morning.  Well, if you want to be all technical about it, I missed half of one salutation because I had to blow my nose. When you are inverted over and over like that . . . well, let's just say that I think I cleared out mucous for colds I haven't even caught yet. I rocked the other 107 1/2, though!

This was a special "summer solstice yoga" hosted by the studio where I take classes. It started at 5:30 a.m. I attended solstice yoga last year and really enjoyed it. This year, they changed it up a little with the repetition of the sun salutations. There were also some drummers and other musicians in attendance, which was very cool. It's nice to hear the steady drum beat and to pair it with your breath. 

In case you are wondering what a salutation is, basically we repeated this (below) series of steps 108 times.  There are different series of sun salutations (A, B, and C . . . I'm still pretty new to yoga so there may be others I just haven't seen yet), but this is the one we did:
  1. Tadasana (mountain pose, standing)
  2. Forward fold
  3. Halfway lift (flat back)
  4. Forward fold
  5. Plank
  6. Chaturanga (lower yourself from plank)
  7. Upward -facing dog (or cobra)
  8. Downward-facing dog
  9. Return to front of mat
  10. Forward fold
  11. Halfway lift
  12. Forward fold
  13. Rise on the inhale and return to tadasana
So, that is one complete salutation. You can see how doing that 108 times is fairly challenging!  The instructors split them into four sets of 27, with a few minutes to rest in between each one. After the second set, I was feeling pretty fatigued. I ate a handful of nuts and drank some water, and resolved to finish the whole thing, come hell or high water or excessive mucous. When I first entered the studio, I looked around and a voice in my head told me that everyone there was fitter, thinner, less clumsy, and more focused than I am. At the risk of sounding a little bit corny, I overrode that voice and replaced it with one that said, "You can do this." No kidding - I literally repeated that under my breath.

When it was all over, I was super sweaty and my legs felt shaky, but I felt proud of myself. I felt strong.

The owner of the studio drew names for some door prizes and I won a five-class punch card (five free classes, in other words). So now I know that I am strong and lucky.  Yay me!

New Board Installation Night

What a fun time we all had on Friday night saying goodbye to the old board members and hello to the new ones.  Thank you so much for a wonderful year ladies!  The club wouldn't exist if you didn't step up to help lead the group.  Congrats to the new board. We know it will be a great year for all the moms and kids.  Thank you also to all the coordinators this last year.  You planned so many fun gatherings, outings, field trips and activities.  
Such a cute dessert!

So fun to go swimming and not worry about kids that night!


Having Fun

Our new co-presidents!

Hanging out before taking a dip!

Such a fun night!


This month we met up at Carl's Jr. with the kids.  They had a great deal for kids meals that day and the little boys enjoyed the Spider Man theme and acting out being super heroes. 
Having fun while waiting for the food!

We kind of took over the main area. :)  

The twins having fun watching the boys!

The Twilight Zone

So, the other day I was in the Twilight Zone.....I mean Costco

And things got a little wonky when I realized that I...was....IN Costco....
....I mean, my own written words, published in a book (okay, only one page, but still!)... and I was right in between Walter Cronkite and Michelle Obama.

{Cue Twilight Zone Music}


True love.

Tomorrow is our 11th wedding anniversary.  On June 21, 2001, Corey and I exchanged our vows in a beautiful gazebo by the lake at my parent's Florida home.  It was a very private, intimate ceremony and celebration.  Only a handful of people knew about it and witnessed it (since we had a big wedding planned for September in Canada).

We still have (and fit in!) the clothes we wore that day.  And I still have the empty bottle of Dom Perignon champagne that my Mom and I finished all by ourselves (giggling like little girls). 

But more importantly, we are still that same couple.  Yes we have changed: we are older, we are parents now, and we have been through some very difficult things together.  But our love and respect for each other has only gotten stronger.  And we are still each other's best friends.

I'm so glad I listened: to my friend Christopher, who told me to give Corey a chance.  And to Maggie, who told me that if I did not marry Corey, she would.  And to Veronica, who told me that Corey was a good man and that I would be a fool to let him go.  And to my parents, who told me that Corey was  the son they never had and always wanted.  And to my soul mate Corey, who never gave up and got on his knees three times to propose.

Life with Kerri hopes our daughter finds true love someday.

A daddy's girl indeed

They read comics and play video games together. They wrestle and rough-house (well, until she starts to cry because he forgets that he's four times her size). They talk about super heroes. They both think bodily functions are funny.

Now if they'd just team up and do their own laundry, life would be grand! 

Shaking my head.

Yesterday I chastised Kerri for giving away half of her lunch at school.  And then her Daddy came home.

He proudly handed me a Toonie (two dollar Canadian coin).  I asked him what that was for, and he explained that he gave half his lunch away to one of his co-workers.  But the co-worker left the coin on his desk, and when hubby tried to return it, the co-worker insisted on "paying" for the lunch.

In disbelief, I shook my head and blurted out: "You sold your lunch?!"  And then told him how I had just finished chastising Kerri for giving it away.

My neighbor, who was sitting on my front porch listening, just laughed. 

Life with Kerri is still shaking my head.


My peonies. When I see the new blooms it's like I'm seeing them for the first time ever.

This variety came with the property. I've seen it every June for nineteen seasons but I don't remember it ever being this beautiful! The pink in the middle!

This is just the common pink variety and yet the ruffliness of the center is so lovely.

I planted this after being inspired by a similar flower at Butchert Gardens in British Columbia. It still slays me whenever it opens and displays its unusual yellow center.

When blown fully open after cutting the colors of the first variety get more subtle, the layers less distinct.

Peonie bouquets in my house make me happy.

Father's Day.

Kerri woke her Daddy up this morning with a bowl of cereal she prepared herself, and a hand made card.  And then we invited Carol and Andre over for an Argentine BBQ for lunch.

Pookie made sure he was always close enough to beg.  And after lunch, Kerri and Carol started playing "The Game of Life" board game that Kerri picked up at yesterday's garage sale.
Except that the fathers in the house took over, and Andre and Corey started playing too.
Kerri was not too thrilled with having to get a job, or pay rent.
And Andre was busy having way too many kids.
Carol became the banker by default. 
I think she did a pretty good job!
And Kerri made sure that Andre always paid her when crossing over her toll bridge.
Here they are trying to figure out what to do next.
Meanwhile, Carol kept busy counting money.
In the end, Kerri won the game!

And after a lovely afternoon with Carol and Andre, Kerri and her Daddy went to the movies to see "Madagascar 3". 

And that's how we spent Father's Day.

Life with Kerri wishes all the Dads out there a very special and happy Father's Day too!