the hyphens that define my life

Eight Years Later September 30, 2013

Today is Andre’s, our youngest son, eighth birthday.  We celebrated on Sunday so he had plenty of time to play with his gifts.  Monday birthdays do not make for a successful week.  Being strategic and forward thinking, we parents congratulated ourselves, yesterday and today, on our genius planning.

Andre laid out the agenda for the day yesterday:

First, we need to have puff pancakes for breakfast.  Then, we will have Taco Bell for lunch (insert brothers groaning “ugh” in unison here).  After lunch I’ll open my presents, we will have HOMEMADE Gnocchi with Bolognese (homemade was highlighted because I tried to pass off prepackaged gnocchi once and have yet to live it down) and then we’ll have HOMEMADE chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, the yellow cookbook one (aka Ina Garten’s recipe).  Oh, and mom, you have to make cupcakes for my class too.  I suggested we buy some cupcakes but he quickly dismissed my comment with a wave of his hand as if he were shooing a fly.

We surprised his royal highness with presents after breakfast.  We really know how to get a party started don’t we?  We stuck with the puff pancake plan.  Do you know how to make these?  Dutch babies, puff pancake, german pancakes, it’s all the same recipe.

For my 3 boys, I double this recipe and divide into three 6″ skillets.

Heat the oven to 400.  Spray and oven safe skillet with cooking spray and add 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet.  Put pan (spray and butter only) in the oven until butter is melted and bubbly.

While the pan is heating, mix together 3 eggs, 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. milk and 1/4 tsp. salt.

Pour mixture into heated pan.  Cook for 20 minutes or until sides are puffed up and golden.

Squeeze fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Of course Andre received video games for his birthday!  While the boys played, without fighting once, all day, yes we should have birthdays every day, I started the labor intensive gnocchi with bolognese ragu, chocolate cake and cupcakes.

While the ragu was cooking on the stove, I started baking. The cupcakes were straight from the box, icing from the can, we are catering to third graders let’s not forget.  Third graders in mind, I made Despicable Me Minion Cupcakes. The boys were impressed (once again) with my mad skills.  My piping was pretty wobbly but what do kids care? Andre came home from school today and told  the Minion cupcakes made his classmates “go wild and it was awesome.”


The Chocolate Buttercream cake is simple with ridiculous amounts of butter in true Ina fashion.  This is my go-to cake and I have made it at least a dozen times with sour cream, buttermilk, espresso, bittersweet and semisweet chocolate, how can you go wrong?  Nothing fancy, just straight up chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yum.

chocolate cake

Chicken livers is the secret ingredient in my Bolognese Ragu recipe.  Biba Caggiano’s recipe that my kids beg for as soon as outside temperatures start to drop.  In Southern California we didn’t have it often.  The boys are trying to get me to make it on a weekly rotation!  Chicken livers may freak you out, but they are minced so fine you cannot tell what you are eating, nor do you care, it is so delicious.  Just don’t tell my kids.  Not only did they eat Gnocchi with Ragu last night, they willingly and happily ate it again tonight too.


Gnocchi doesn’t photograph well.  Or, I don’t photograph gnocchi well.  Gnocchi doesn’t need to be pretty to be delicious.

When I started writing this blog post tonight, I was going to tell you how much fun Vince and I had with the birth of our final child.  Bringing him into this world took about 8 hours and preparing Andre’s meal requests on Sunday took about the same amount of time.  Vince and I had fun because we knew what to expect, this was our final birth and we savored the moments as we walked around the inside of the hospital, the outside of the hospital, the surrounding neighborhoods, with me in my hospital gown pausing with each contraction, walking in between.  We sat and had coffee at Late for the Train inside Flagstaff Medical Center and had cappuccinos nonchalantly while contractions came and went.  We eventually returned to Labor and Delivery and produced baby Andre just in time for dinner.  Vince went to our favorite Italian restaurant and brought dinner for us into the hospital to nosh while we admired and cooed over our good work.

Eight years later, we’re still eating Italian food on the night of Andre’s birth, with a few extra meals and treats added for time well spent.


While Away September 29, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 9:11 pm
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This post is a shout out to my husband and children for managing and maintaining in my absence last week.  My ego encourages me to believe they can not function without me, but the truth is that they manage quite well.

Of course, they were left with a clean house, all the laundry washed, folded and put away and the refrigerator and freezer well stocked with lots of food complete with a cheat sheet of meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep them on track. To go astray after being set up to succeed probably wouldn’t have surprised me; however, they did really well.

The boys made it to school every day, they attended their activities (except Trace who is still out with a bum knee), and maintained our normal daily routine.

One of the only hiccup in the week was Wednesday night when the middle school had their back-to-school night that logistically conflicted with the Club Scouts first Den meeting.  Vince was conflicted, wanting to see our seventh graders school and classes, yet he knew the only choice was to go to the Den meeting.  Overall, not too big of an issue.  I visited the classrooms and met all the teachers during Sneak Peak before school.  We’re scheduling time for Vince to meet at a later date.

After my 21 hour day on Thursday, Friday morning I fell back into our routine and  assumed the morning duty of getting the kids off to school.  The older boys barely said hello to me when I woke them up, they each rolled over and lifted their pajama shirt, begging for a back scratch.  They do need me!

Our youngest, however, jumped out of bed and ran as fast as he could to hug me and kiss me and tell me how happy he was I was home.  He loves his momma.

The boys immediately wanted to know what was for breakfast.  Blurry eyed, my response was “uh, cereal?”  They proceeded to tell me how Dad made them hot breakfasts every morning.  When I asked what he made, our oldest boy said,”we’re not going to tell you Dad’s secrets.”  Fine, enjoy your cereal.  The only breakfast I was able to find out about was the one Vince boasted about making, hashbrown omelets.  I volunteered Vince to make breakfast Friday morning but he hightailed it to his office and let me serve up cereal. On very little sleep, I don’t compete.

That morning, helping get backpacks packed and reviewing homework due on Friday, I realized that Vince skipped the entire week’s worth of spelling homework for our third grader.  He claimed he didn’t see it, and Andre didn’t tell him, so no spelling was completed, all week.  I did get a little snippy at this point, asking whether or not Vince READ the homework where spelling assignments are clearly outlined.  Without reading the homework packet it is difficult to understand what has been assigned.  They get to choose their spelling assignment from a list of options – write the words, rainbow words, spelling city, among other options.  Andre, realizing that he didn’t do a week’s worth of spelling sent him into tizzy panicking that he’d have to cram that morning.  Not having the energy to deal with any of it, I wrote an apologetic note to his teacher begging for forgiveness, explaining my absence and Dad’s confusion.  The other two are responsible for their homework for the most part with little parental involvement.  Andre still needs to be managed.  His logic is that he goes to school six hours a day, five days a week.  Why is there homework?  Why do you have to do work five days a week, and weekend are only two days?  Got me kid, do your homework and change the world.

While away, I take comfort in knowing that life goes on without me.  Sure there are logistic issues we can not avoid and moments of delirium, but the male bonding (running around in their underwear, manners flying out the window, and not eating any vegetables) in true Animal House fashion is a good release for them.

Plus, they each realize that they miss me in their own way as I miss them while I am away.


Oh The People You Will Meet September 28, 2013

Two countries, five cities in 5 days done!  A whirlwind yet very productive trip.

In case you don’t know, I am a corporate recruiter for an international design firm, specializing in architecture, interior design, civil engineering and graphic design.  The company has fourteen offices throughout North and South America and I am responsible for recruiting all levels of employees for each of these offices, interns through Director level roles.  I’ve worked with the firm for over ten years, eight of which have been telecommuting from home.  Some days I don’t like working, but every day I love my job.

My travels are the result of university recruiting efforts to find architecture and interior design interns and new graduates for each of our offices.

This past week, I visited our Toronto office and supporting universities: Humber College, University of Waterloo, and Ryerson University.  After the job fair at Ryerson University I caught a late night flight to Columbus Ohio where I spent the night before heading to an internship fair at the University of Cincinnati.  The last leg of my trip was visiting our Denver office and the University of Colorado at Denver.

Having the gift of gab and being a freak magnet, this post is dedicated to the most interesting people I met on my journey.

Toronto’s downtown is reminiscent of New York City but on a smaller scale.  Dundas Square, near Ryerson University, looks like Times Square, Canadian-style.  One huge advertisement of HGTV’s Property Brothers made me smile.


[Photo credit:  Bing Images Dundas Square, I am not this talented]

Picture me with my roly-cart filled with brochures and other recruiting propaganda in one hand, and in the other hand, carrying my banner display (5″ x 5″ x 53″), half lost, half walking straight toward my destination when a guy, most likely homeless but with coveted transportation, approaches me and asks apologetically if I could buy him a cup of coffee. We were near a street vendor selling coffee.  I don’t like handing out cash but I appreciated his targeted marketing approach and bought him his coffee.  Which, by the way, took me ridiculously long to do since, unfamiliar with the Canadian monetary system – bills are mainly 5, 10 and 20’s.  One and two dollars are coins, plus all the other coinage.  Jingle jangling my coins, I successfully purchased this man a cup of coffee without incident.  A very non-threatening downtown environment.  Kudos Toronto!

Toronto is a melting pot of international students.  At one university, I met a Middle Eastern man, named Mohammad, that had his hair and beard trimmed in such a way, that along with his hawkish nose, was a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln.  He wasn’t tall, and I was tempted to mention the likeness but chickened out.

I met another man of Indian origin studying civil engineering.  He had dark brown skin and shaggy black hair, who had incredible eyes the color of blue crystals, .  While we discussed opportunities at my company, I was so distracted by his eyes I had to interrupt the conversation to ask if his eyes were truly that blue.   He laughed and said it was “a genetic impossibility” (it’s funnier when you say it with your best Indian accent as he said it to me).  Turns out he was wearing colored lenses.

Recently having read, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, I was intrigued that he chose to change his eye color.

Columbus and Cincinnati flew by so quickly I hardly had a moment to think let alone time to meet anyone of interest.  People from Ohio always rank high as the nicest people in the US.  I’m not saying that because I’m from Ohio either.  Ok, maybe I am, but aside from me, Ohioans are very nice.

My mind was pretty well gone by the time I caught my flight out of CVG, Cincinnati’s airport located in Kentucky, to Denver.  For the most part, I am a good traveller.  I do what I’m supposed to do, sit where I’m supposed to sit, be where I need to be.  For this leg of my journey, with no brain power, I sat in the wrong seat once I boarded the flight. Not entirely wrong.  I sat in the correct row, just in the “B” seat, not the “A” seat as assigned.  An elderly gentleman approached the row and, with an English accent, said “Madame, you are in my seat.” Flustered, I didn’t realize or understand my error, so he told me, basically, to scoot over one.

This guy was an interesting sight.  Approximately in his early 70’s, wearing khaki pants tucked into knee-high black leather boots, a white turtleneck shirt, with a khaki vest and black Greek fisherman hat.  Pinned to his vest were flight wings labeled, “Tasmanian Air Club.”  We spoke only briefly before he fell asleep.  When he awoke we shared why we were going to Denver.  He told me he was being interviewed in Colorado Springs.  He had just left a speaking engagement at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Based on what he had told me and his outfit, I couldn’t figure out his topic of discussion or interview.  I had to ask.  He told me his field is Applied Christianity. Internal groan, I thought for sure he was going to hit me on the head with an evangelical bible at this point.  I did notice at this point that a large 3″ cross around his neck, bedazzled with black crystals.

He told me he lives on the island of Malta and would return the next day.

Then, what he told me next, blew my mind.

Turns out this old man was Douglas Gresham, stepson to C.S. Lewis and movie-maker extraordinaire.  No bells ringing yet?  C.S. Lewis wrote The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Narnia.

Dougie, (yes Mr. Gresham, I know, but I’m still not connecting the wardrobe with The Wardrobe so we’re keeping it friendly), told me that he was born in New York, moved to London after his parents’ divorce, mother married “Jack” aka CS Lewis who adopted Douglas and his brother, Douglas married Merrie and they moved to Tasmania (aha the pin!) where he farmed and was a bush pilot.  They lived in Australia before moving to Ireland and establishing Rathvinden Ministries.  Mr. and Mrs. Gresham now live on Malta where he produces movies and she is an evangelist.

Turns out his bedazzled cross was designed by his daughter who is a jeweler.  The black crystals are black diamonds, of course, silly me to think he picked it up at Walmart in Kentucky.  He wore several rings, two of which were also designed by his daughter, both sporting a Narnia theme, one with Reepicheep the mouse, the other, along with the cross, Aslan.

We found common ground discussing two of my favorite topics, gardening and jam-making.  His vegetable garden supports he and his wife and two missionary families.  Once he returns to Malta, Douglas and Merrie will visit their home in Australia (his island, he called it) mainly because the mangoes will be ripe and they want to attempt mango jam.  We also discussed his olive trees on Malta and how they put up 56 jars of olives last year, this year they will attempt olive oil.

We were trapped in our seats for 20-30 minutes on the tarmac in Denver waiting for a gate to become available as we were punished for arriving early.  We had a terrific conversation and not once was I beaned with a bible or even questioned on my religion.  He was thrilled to learn of my four children and their appreciation of the C.S. Lewis stories and the love of Mr. Gresham’s work.

Go ahead and google Douglas Gresham.  A very fascinating gentleman.  I snapped this photo as we were waiting for our carry-on baggage that was checked at the gate.

mr gresham

My day in Denver was good.  The folks at the University of Colorado Denver were great. Our Denver office is always one of my favorites.  I was also able to squeeze in a quick visit with some friends that Vince and I love dearly.

My trip ended well, despite the slight bump in Denver airport where my departing flight for home was delayed an hour and then the lid of my extra hot tea popped off and burned the heck out of me.  After waking up at 6 AM eastern standard time, I was delirious by the time I got home at 12:15 AM pacific standard time.  A long but adventurously good day.

My favorite part about my trip, beyond the sights and travel itself, was and always will be the people you meet on your journey.


Final Quatro Quatro September 20, 2013

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 10:20 pm
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One of my favorite football players is Chad Johnson, formerly known as Chad Ochocinco.  I guess he got into some trouble with the law and was released from his contract with the Miami Dolphins in 2012, I don’t support whatever mess he’s gotten himself into.  What I think is great about him is his love for his jersey number, #85, so much that he changed his last name to Ochocinco.

Ever since I’ve learned of Ochocinco, I refer to my age the same way.  Tonight I end my quatro quatro year.  Just as I’m sure the Spanish language has a word for eighty-five, I love the play on forty-four. I’m supposed to be learning Spanish, so I looked it up, eighty-five is ochenta y cinco in Spanish and forty-four is cuarenta y quatro.  Complicated!  Ochocinco and quatro quatro is much easier for this gringa.

My Spanish lessons are not going so well.  I’m should be spending time with Rosetta Stone every day but find listening to Pit Bull, Shakira, Enrique Iglasias and Ibrahim Ferrer while on my morning walks is a good daily dose of the Spanish language.  I sing along (or at least make up the words as I go), that should count for something.  Music is universal, right? when I travel to our Latin America offices and local universities, I’ll just break into song and everyone will love me.  Ok, probably not, but this is the excuse I’m going with today.

Back to today.

This post really isn’t about Chad Ochocinco Johnson or the lack of my discipline for Spanish lessons.  This post is about the end of my cuarenta y quatro, quatro quatro, forty-fourth year.

Forty four was good to me. A healthy year with more personal growth than decline. A year spent surrounded by friends and family and involved in all the activities that come with both groups. Of course it is the year we moved and have experienced so many new adventures and have so many more ahead.  Overall, it was a very good year.

And now moving forward to the big 4-5.  Five away from fifty.  Almost halfway to one hundred.  There’s perspective for you.  I really don’t have much to say about it.  Aging up doesn’t bother me.  I embrace my age, gray hair, crinkles, wrinkles and dents as they come.  All of it comprises where I’ve been, what I’ve done, what I’m doing and who I am.  Aging up is a fun ride, a long slow ride.


This is me at 40.  I look the same.  Trust me.  Just take a sharpie and add some extra “laugh lines” and sprinkle some flour on my head for the gray hair and the photo is current.

A toast to the old and cheers to anew (I’m raising my cup of chamomile tea – I’m getting old, do you think I’m out drinking and blogging? We learned a while ago that’s a bad combination).

Thank you for being part of my forty-fourth year. Whether I know you or not, connected to me personally or through social media or through this blog, thank you for being connected to me, part of my life.


Bi-cycle! Bi-cycle! Bi-cycle! September 19, 2013

I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

~Queen, Bicycle Race

My super stealth new bike is AWESOME!

Maybe it isn’t so stealth or super or new, but I do have a bike to peddle around town.  Last weekend, we bought this vintage three speed, wicker basket included, through Craigslist and managed to meet a cool couple in the process.  We dropped the bike at the bike shop for a tune up and new tubes and picked it up this morning, shiny and new to me.

I am giddy.  I want a mountain bike (a basic model like the one my husband sold at our “we’re moving” garage sale) to take on the awesome trails around Spokane, and/or I want a road bike, to compete in at least one more sprint triathlon and to ride the Centennial Trail through Washington and Idaho.  For now, my Sears Robuck, 70’s model, brown 3-speed with boss orange and yellow stripes will take me where I need to go.

My first ride was at lunch today.  I went at midday mainly because it was 45 degrees (F) at 6 AM when I could have gone instead.  No thanks chilly weather, I’ll wait until the day warms.  I set out for the library branch that is nine-tenths of a mile from our house.  From there, I headed to the grocery store and picked up a couple of things I needed for dinner.  Within 31 minutes, I rode 3.6 miles roundtrip and burned 257 calories (thank you Endomondo App). AND I managed to run two errands while getting some exercise.  That’s efficient multi-tasking right there my friends.

I would love to tell you that my ride was smooth and the bike is flawless.  No.  Like me, the bike is aging quickly.  I only found two of the three gears and though I was shifting, the gears changed when they were good and ready.  No worries, I understand.  My spiffy new basket was great empty and performed well with four library books.  However, when I added a bag of groceries it started squeaking like a mouse.  Eek, eek, eek, eek, eek, the entire mile and a half home.

Spokane roads are rough and rugged.  Locals will tell you that all the state money goes to Seattle so our roads get little to no attention.  Local legend also claims that studded tires that people use all winter tear up the roads.  I don’t know about funding, but studded tires are not the issue.  Freeze and thaw yourself time after time and you’d buckle eventually too.   The roads in a car feel bumpy.  On a bike, let me just inform you that I stood up a good portion of my ride.  The bike does sport a very comfy fat ass seat for which I am thankful.

My boys told me that it looked like a Mary Poppins bike.  Wrong, Mary Poppins had a carpet bag. My friend asked me “Where’s Toto?” I can only assume she was calling me old spinster Miss Gulch.  Hmph!  I love my bicycle and really don’t care if I look like Mary Poppins or Miss Gulch or Kermit the Frog or even worse.  My boys won’t laugh when I can outride them on their bmx bikes. My gears will kick in eventually.

Bicycling around my local neighborhood has me super excited, if you haven’t noticed.  I can’t wait for my next ride.



Activity Bliss and Juggle September 18, 2013

As if my seventh grader didn’t have enough issues with starting a new school and having a bum left knee and tweaked IT band, now the poor boy has caught the same cold I was down with all weekend.

He’s limping, feeling sorry for himself, puffy watery eyes and snot-dripping nose.  A pitiful sight only a mother could love. House rules is immediate quarantine to your bedroom and enjoy every book on your bookshelf.  No video games, even if FIFA 14 just came out.

He will start physical therapy on his left leg next week.  Soccer is on hold until he is able to run, and breathe it seems.

Rest up, my child, and get well soon.

One down, the other two boys are unphased and bouncing off the walls.  This week they begin their activities (can I get a hallelujah?).  We delayed their start to make sure school started smoothly, we knew the homework load and just to buy us some time.  Let’s be real.

Our 9-year-old does not like to run or chase a ball.  He likes movies. playing with his mini-zoo and talking with friends. Finding something he’s interested in has always been a challenge.  Gymnastics has been a good outlet for him in the past and he starts tomorrow at a new gym.  The highlight of his week will be Saturday when he takes his first-ever archery class.  His goal is to be a target marksman, not a bow hunter.  The one time his dad took him hunting he cried and cried over the poor bunny getting shot.  Even telling the story was brutal.  He ate the rabbit though, no issue there, he just doesn’t want to witness the killing.

We have banned our 7-year-old from archery.  He thinks he’s ready, he’s excited and he wants a crossbow (on sale now at Big 5 he pointed out in today’s flyer – thank goodness I got rid of the Cabela’s ad before he saw it) and wants to hunt.  For no other reason than to pace ourselves (for everyone’s safety) we are making him wait until he is 10. Again, buying ourselves time.  Instead, he gets his “lifelong wish” (really, he said that) to join “Club Scouts.”  Yes, Club Scouts.  His old school had Club Scouts but we boycotted because we weren’t up for it.  Welcome to the world of four children.  Now, faced with crossbow training or Club Scouts, Club Scouts wins.  He is excited for the meet and greet tomorrow night because cake will be served.  As if there are not enough of baked goods in our house at any given time.  He knows it’s Cub Scouts, , but I let him call it Club Scouts about 50 times first before we set him straight – there are only so many little kid moments left in my house.  For his second activity, he wants to go to Sky High and jump on the trampolines for an hour every week.  I’m planning to join in the fun and take a SkyRobics class while he’s playing and occupied.  I’m all about killing two birds, with a stone, not a crossbow.

The fun doesn’t stop there.  University application submittals start next week for our nearly 19-year-old.  Upcoming trips to Toronto, Cincinnati, Newark/NYC and Chicago are in my immediate future too.

All of our activities are Monday through Thursday and Saturday.  Friday is our family movie night.  Sunday is our family adventure day.  My husband and I divide and conquer to manage schedule overlaps.  Dinners are moved up to accommodate the schedule so we retain our sacred tradition of having dinner together at home with mostly homemade food with a few insta-fixes in the cupboard or freezer in case of emergency.  Just wait until you see the October menu (with recipes this time).

Our plan really looks great and manageable on paper.  Let’s hope everything falls into place as the events take place.

I hope your kids’ activities are going well, their business gives you bliss and your juggle isn’t making you lose your mind.


Open House September 17, 2013

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 8:55 pm
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School has been in session all of 12 days, time to have Open House at the elementary school.

We were excited to sit in the classrooms and learn about Spokane Public Schools.

Our 3rd grader has struck a chord with his teacher, and she loves him already.  Thankfully she has a soft spot for squirrelly boys and appreciates his charm and energy.  His class consists of 23 kids, a fourth fewer students than his 2nd grade class.  This can only be good.

Our 4th grader is in a 3rd/4th combination class.  When I first learned that he, our most diligent student, was in a combo, I nearly lost my mind.  I marched to the school office and said, “No way, no how.”  That weekend, at a block party the weekend before school started, I met two moms with 4th graders in the same class.  They told me the teacher was a dynamo and rest-assured that she will challenge my son and there will be nothing lost on his 4th grade experience.  “Uh-huh, ok, let’s see.”  The first day of school, I poured out my heart to this lovely teacher explaining that school is the one place my middle child gets to be himself and shine.  I didn’t want my 4th grader to share a 3rd grade experience.  She listened and appreciated my concern, told me “he will do just fine” and sent me on my way.

Sigh.  I was concerned.  Then, as time passed, information came home, and then sitting through the class presentation tonight, I am on board with the combo class and this incredible teacher.  My kids have been in combo classes before and I don’t mind them typically, since I’ve known the teachers.  Coming in blind, I was neurotic.

The 3/4 combo has 25 kids, again, a fourth fewer than his prior class.  What an amazing difference in what a teacher can accomplish with 8 less kids!

The biggest noticeable differences from California to Washington schools are that music and art are separate classes.  Fine arts lives in the northwest!!  My 3rd grader proclaimed he was a singer and sings, out loud, every day.  He does manage to carry a tune fairly well too!

The boys were first shocked that the cafeteria was indoors – and in the basement – not outside, not realizing that serious weather is on the way.  One thing both boys love about their new school is the gymnasium complete with a rock climbing wall. Their all-time favorite difference between their old and new schools is the school hours.  In California, the kids went to school from 7:45 AM – 2:15 PM with early release at 1:15 on Wednesdays.  In Spokane, school hours are 9:00 AM – 3 PM with late start at 9:30 on Thursdays.  I love the school hours too!  No more early morning battles to get out of bed.  They are hoping for snow days in addition to what is built into the calendar, little do they know that they make up those days in the summer.

We are thrilled with the boys school, teachers and classrooms.  Hurray!

Next week we have middle school open house.  From what I’ve seen already, and our 7th graders reports, our school research prior to our move has really paid off well.  WHEW!


Another Day, Another Adventure September 16, 2013

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 8:56 pm

No posts for a few days, you may have noticed or perhaps not. I have been slowed with a cold.

Sunday night I felt better but then this incredible wind storm kicked up (40-60 mph winds – so say my neighbors, unconfirmed but I believe it) and the congestion returned thanks to the dust that infiltrated my house before I could run around closing all the windows.   There was thunder but not enough rain to wash away all of the dust.  A rough night’s sleep at best.

In spite of the dust and tossing and turning, I woke up this morning feeling great.  So great in fact, that I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood and see if there was any storm damage before the kids had to wake up for school.

With the exception of a whole heck of a lot of pine needles, twigs and leaves not much was disturbed until I neared Manito Park, about three-quarters of a mile away from my house.  As I walked down Manito Blvd, where there is a high concentration of trees, I spotted what turned out to be the biggest damage in my two-mile walk.

tree down view 1 

tree down view 2

What the photo doesn’t show is that if the tree fell less than eight feet to the left, instead of falling to the right, the tree would have smashed into the house.  Yikes!


Big broken branches were strewn up and down the green belt en route to the park.  

block sidewalk

A huge branch blocked the path on busy Grand Avenue too.

A lot of action within a two-mile radius of my front door.  Just when I thought I had seen quite a bit, I was reminded that I’m new in town and there is always something incredible waiting for you just around the corner in Spokane. 

whole flock turkey crossing road lone turkey

Turkeys cruising through the neighborhood.  There were at least 15 turkeys, almost a whole rafter!  Go ahead and think I’m smart, I googled it…a group of turkeys is called a rafter.  A single rafter consists of approximately 20 turkeys. Now we’re all in the know.  Admittedly, I was kinda scared.  I was outnumbered.  The turkeys were not shy either, they did not race away as I continued on my path.  Vince said I should have tried to grab one.  I said I was scared, not stupid.

My neighbors have chickens, so I thought that because they weren’t afraid of me, perhaps the turkeys were someone’s farm animal.  My neighbor informed me that they are wild turkeys.  Wild animals have been known to invade our neighborhood.  Where do they possibly come from?  Two or three miles southwest of our house is a bluff or ridge.  The animals come up over the ridge and end up in our neighborhood.  I am still confused about the two to three miles that they roamed in the middle.  My neighbor said an adolescent bull moose once found its way to our street! 

WHAT?!?  Hold the phone.  I live three miles to the heart of downtown Spokane, in a very residential neighborhood, and there is potential to have a MOOSE in my yard?  Maybe I should start baking…in case I need to give a moose a muffin.

Books and baking are always the answer.


Attack of the Grandmas and Grandpas September 12, 2013

Spokane has an incredible amount of restaurants.  Not the corporate chain dining variety either, though that type is here too.  The restaurants in Spokane are primarily independent restaurants, some family owned, some just a chef and a dream.  Because there are so many restaurants, we have decided no repeat visits unless the restaurant is unanimously agreed to by our family as absolutely terrific. Not many unanimously pass the test as we have a diverse batch of taste buds in our family fivesome.

Tonight was not a planned dinner out, but it was 95 degrees today, Vince was busy, so the boys and I decided to venture out and grab a meal.  Andre was on a one way path directed straight for a chicken pot pie.  The trick is, finding a chicken pot pie is not so easy the final days of summer.   There’s this little restaurant near our house that had a yelp review as a “Grandma restaurant”. If any place would have pot pie on the menu, this would be my best shot.  

A Grandma’s restaurant it was indeed!  Wall to wall silver hair matched the wall to wall industrial carpet.  My boys were the youngest in the room.

Two minutes before walking in the door and they were messing around and driving me batty.  Then, we walk in, all the old eyes looked our way and bip-bam-boom, the boys pulled their acts together and fell in line.  Old lady hands reached out to them to say hello as they walked by and my boys were kind and considerate and loudly spoke hello.  Once one lady got a handshake, the whole row we passed held out a hand or patted them on the back.

The boys’ eyes were as big as saucers when we finally got to our table, asking me what kind of place is this? Andre commented “This restaurant is full of grandmas and grandpas!”  Of course I’m laughing and telling them it is the best restaurant ever.

The need for pot pie vanished as Andre’s love for dinosaur chicken reigned supreme.  Really?  I’ve left the comfort of my home for dinosaur chicken?  All entrees came with peaches, pears or green beans if that is any indication of the menu selection.

There was a table of three ladies that walked in right before us.  They only ordered dessert and the boys were impressed with their choices and could hardly wait to finish their meal.  Like a cafeteria, this restaurant served anything pre-made, canned or frozen and reheated.  Even their pies were purchased across the street from the grocery store. 

In spite of my years of hard kitchen labor to produce incredible dinners, my boys loved their meals. Our dinner took longer than usual to eat as every time a group got up to leave, they purposefully walked by our table to say that they had been admiring my boys, or what good boys I have or to tell them to be good to their mom (my personal favorite).  All the grandpas shook the boys hands or patted their backs and the grandmas squeezed their shoulders or tousled their hair.  By the end of our meal, the boys were forewarning each other “Here they come behind Niko,” “on your left, Trace.”

The boys then ordered dessert – the Brownie Thrill – a brownie with ice cream and a ridiculous amount of whipped cream piled high.  This sent the old folks into a tizzy and gave them such joy to watch the boys mow down their treats.

When we finally “escaped,” the boys all agreed we would never go back.  I think I found my favorite new restaurant.  Not for the food, that’s for certain, but for the ambience and entertainment, albeit torture, for my boys.  Attack of the Grandmas and Grandpas is the best.


Results Are In September 11, 2013

Seems that in Spokane, I talk the talk but sort of stagger and limp through the walkin the walk.

The results are in.  Correction, the results have been in.  Six days later, I managed to run over to the Spokane County Interstate Fair & Expo today to see how my wares fared against Spokane competition. 

I had six entries, one each in the following categories:

Pie – Apple                           

Gluten Free – Pie                                 

Bar Cookies                         

Quick Bread – Banana                     

Fleischmann’s Yeast Best Baking Contest – Category 1, Baked Goods

Fleischmann’s Yeast Best Baking Contest – Category 2, Dessert Pizza

Drum roll please. 

The Gluten Free Pie, a Nectarine Frangipane Tart, was disqualified for reason unknown.  I think the judges may have thought the frangipane was a custard which is an automatic disqualification.  Terrific.  It looked good, too bad it went straight into the trash.

For as much as I have been squawking about my awesome pies, hosting my own pie camp, and being in shock over the $5K Upper Crust Pie Camp this week, please know that karma jumped right up and bit me the ass.  My apple pie – my award-winning apple pie – received a lowly participation ribbon.  My pie didn’t place.  I showed up and got a ribbon to prove it.  

My Raspberry cCardamom Focaccia took third in the Dessert Pizza contest.   Woo!

My Parker House Dinner Rolls took second place in the Baked Goods contest.  Thank you very much, I’ll take that $50 prize. 

As in previous contests, my banana bread and peanut butter jelly bars earned first place blue ribbons.

Not a sweeping all blue ribbon performance, but not too shabby.  Two blue first place, one red second place, one white third place, one green participation (grrrrr) and one disqualified.

Tonight at dinner, I told the kids that I ran by the fair today.  Mayhem ensued.  “You went without us?” “Why didn’t we get to go?” First let’s remember that I went to the fair to see if I earned any ribbons for my baking entries and second, you were in school.  Plans to go to the fair were set before the kids got around to ask how I placed.   My youngest fist pumped for the banana bread blue ribbon as he would eat a whole loaf if I let him, daily.  My twelve-year-old son hooted and whooped it up for the peanut butter and jelly bar win.  My middle child wants me to bake all of them again because he can’t remember what any of the entries taste like.

My husband just grimaced.  He hates the peanut butter jelly bars and will gripe all year because they won another blue ribbon.  He’s also pouting because my pie didn’t win, or place for that matter.  

Pie Camp at my house is cancelled until I get my mojo back.  Until then, I’ll stick to what I know and go bake a banana bread.