Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Irish Style

My youngest chick arrives home this evening for the Thanksgiving holiday. As I type, he is homing in from Duluth. The arrival of the oldest three will be staggered throughout Wednesday evening and an hour before dinner on Thursday. They are all looking forward to coming home, eating mom’s cooking, watching football on the television and socializing with one another. For the next six days if anyone is looking for me, I will be in the kitchen, stirring, grating, peeling, stuffing etc. I am exhausted, thinking about it.

On Thursday, we will have a traditional meal. Our traditional meal is more Irish Christmas, than American Thanksgiving. There will be butternut squash soup masquerading as carrot soup. For mothers of fussy eaters, I know you will appreciate that one! Name it something they like and they might actually eat it! The soup is accompanied by second son’s all time favorite, brown soda bread. The main course will consist of turkey, with my mother’s bread stuffing, a favorite of all, even though it contains chopped onions. Stuffing is the one dish not subjected to a magnifying glass inspection in an attempt to remove all offending onions. They actually watch one another as the stuffing is passed around, to make sure no-one takes more than they should. There will be roast and mashed potatoes. The roast potatoes being a strange new phenomenon for the American son-in-law and American girlfriends. The holiday meal would be a flop for my two oldest children if marrowfat peas where missing from the menu. They love those marrowfats! Carrots in lemon butter, with the usual accompaniments, one of which is gravy, made with the giblets. To my amazement another favorite of my fussy eaters. Strange I know. Cranberry sauce and Kerrygold butter, yes, there will be real Irish butter on the table, shipped via internet from New Jersey. I have commissioned the three oldest to bring a vegetable dish this year. This insures there will be at least one or two vegetables that will appeal to each. Desert is chocolate bread pudding with custard and pumpkin cheesecake with whipped cream. I haven’t come up with a disguise for the cheesecake yet, still working on that one.

The soup and turkey are all that qualify as traditional Thanksgiving fare. The traditional pumpkin pie having morphed into a cheesecake to make it more appealing. Of course, there will be wine and beer. That goes without saying. But the most important thing, the thing that warms my heart and makes all the stirring, grating, peeling, etc. worthwhile is, all my chicks choose to be at my table for Thanksgiving and for that I am truly Thankful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bio Trepidation

Why is it so hard to write a bio? Is it just me? Does anyone else struggle with bios? I had to write two of them today. The first, for my Creative Writing 101 class, which started yesterday. This one caused me a night of sleeplessness as I tossed and turned composing and editing in my head. The class is online so the bio is important. It is my introduction to the instructor and my fellow classmates. The people I will be interacting with over the next 10 weeks. I wanted it to be crisp, witty and informative. I wanted to come across as a person who loves to write, wants to write and has the potential to write well. So this is what I came up with:
The first thing people tend to say to me, in shops, restaurants etc. is, “I love your accent. Where are you from?” The reply, “I am from Ireland, but I live here in Eau Claire.” Fifteen years ago, I moved to Eau Claire, WI with my husband, four children and thirteen suitcases. Oh the grand old days when baggage was a realized necessity! We moved from the seaside Gaeltacht village of An Rinn, Co. Waterford, the beautiful, lush, green, sunny southeast coast of Ireland. We still have a home in Ireland. This allows me spend the summer months and every second Christmas in the land of my soul.

Reading and writing have been hobbies of mine for as long as I have been able to read and write. I asked Santa Claus for a typewriter when I was nine. I love books. When my husband thinks I need some cheering up, he will suggest a trip to one of the local bookstore chains. Hours pass like minutes for me in bookstores and libraries. I have stacks of books in practically every room in the house waiting to be read, from these jaunts.

I am hard pressed to name a favorite book, there are so many. I would need more than the allotted 500 words! Authors I cannot pass, reading over and over are, Nuala O’Faolain, Colum Toibin, Deidre Purcell, Jane Austin, James Michener, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy to name but a few.

I write as I speak. And I speak in run on and fragmented sentences. I am hoping this class will cure me of this ill. I also hope this class will add much needed polish to my writing. Once, I am a bit polished confidence might follow. Then I may feel brave enough to submit something, somewhere.”

I know, but it was the best my exhausted brain could muster!

The second bio of the day was for the twitter page I started about a week and a half ago. I have no clue how to manage twitter, what it's for, or what to do with it. It is an enigma I am attempting to fathom. I followed the instructions and everything was moving along nicely until I came to the bio section. The mind just went blank. I mean really, what was I going to say about myself. I have mulled over this for the last 12 days. Today I just decided the best thing to do was to describe my mindset when it comes to twitter. So, my twitter bio is, “Confused and bewildered, but still laughing.“ The laughing came with the acknowledgment of my confusion and bewilderment. Hopefully this too shall pass. The confusion and bewilderment I mean. The laughter I am trying to hang onto.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saturday at the Met-Well Nearly

On Saturday afternoon I attended the Met’s Live in HD movie-theatre performance of Turandot, Puccini’s final and unfinished opera. These HD transmissions are being hailed as the next best thing to a performance in the opera house. And for the likes of me, this most certainly is true. Of course nothing can compare to the thrill of a live opera performance. But if like me, you love opera, and live a three hour plus plane journey away from New York, this technology brings the Met's opera season within an attainable proximity. HD live is a gift.

Unfortunately this particular performance was marred by repeated interruptions of the audio and video signal. During the intermission the cinema management informed us this was a global glitch and the Met were trying to repair the feed. As way of compensation, all attending were offered a free pass to the encore presentation, Wednesday November 18. In addition, as patrons left the theatre, management handed out free movie passes.

In spite of the glitches, the production was truly spectacular. Marcello Giodani gave a wonderful performance as Calaf. His rendition of Nessun Dorma was spine tingling. I was prepared to be disappointed, being so familiar with Luciano Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma. Of course Giodani is no Pavarotti, but then Pavarotti's voice was magic.

A talent to watch out for and one I will be following is Russian soprano, Marina Poplavskaya. For me she stole the show. Her performance was breathtaking. Her voice was clear, lyrical and surprisingly strong. Combined with grace and beauty, she is the complete package.

There were interviews during both intermissions with cast members, the conductor, two musicians and the prop designer. Here I learned, Charles Anthony, portraying the Emperor, first sang at the Met in 1954. My parents enjoyed many seasons at Met from 1957 to 1962. It made me feel strangely close to them when I realized they must have seen Anthony in numerous productions. During the interview Anthony also revealed that his real family name was in fact Caruso. This behind the scenes view is the advantage HD broadcasts have over live opera performances. In addition to the interviews you are taken behind the closed curtains and are privy to the scene changing with all its hustle and bustle.

I thoroughly enjoyed my operatic afternoon. I can't wait to attend the January HD feed of Carmen. I left the theatre feeling happy and contented. The only thing that could transform this idyllic day into a blissful one, a brief stop at DSW.

Well of course I did!!! Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today my baby is twenty. This is the second time in his twenty years he has not been home on his birthday. He did stop home Sunday for a few hours, en-route from Madison where he spent a fun filled Halloween weekend. After dinner, I produced a cake with candles. He humoured me, blowing out the candles as the obligatory photos were taken. When it was time for him to leave, he gathered up the few groceries I had put together for him along with the leftover cake and continued his journey to Duluth, where he is attending university.

For me this is one of those double-edged sword days. I am proud of the wonderful, caring loving man he has grown into. He has only crashed my car once. Gotten a few speeding tickets but overall he has been very responsible and trustworthy.

What I miss and what never fails to bring a tear to the eye is the memory of my beautiful boy with corn silk blond hair, perfect little bow mouth and big vibrant blue eyes, the colour I can only liken to that of the Aegean Sea. The baby boy who the first eighteen months of his life was a permanent fixture on my hip. Who would grab my face with both his hands turning it towards him, if my attention strayed from him for too long. A toddler, who squealed with glee, wrapping his arms around my legs when I arrived home after an absence of more than ten minutes. The way he ungracefully mimicked his older sister’s Irish dancing. Stomping around the hallway with feet of lead, in his own enthusiastic interpretation of a reel. How he would inform me he wanted to sing and as I put on the “Woman’s Heart” CD he put on the massive headphones and sang his little heart out, “Only da wubans, only da wubans.” His other headphone and party piece favorite was, “Sonny”. Even as I write this, my eyes fill with the wistful tears that always accompany these cherished memories.

It brings a smile to my face and my heart as I recall him standing in the kitchen, watching me intently, and then very seriously informing me, he thought it was a, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” day. He loved that movie, filled with singing, dancing and bright colours. With a pot of tea, we would head into the sitting room put in the tape and make ourselves comfortable on the sofa. He would snuggle up to me positioning himself, as close to his afore mentioned favorite hip and together we would watch the movie. Hitting pause to answer questions he would inevitably pose during the viewing.

I savour these and numerous other special moments spent with my precious boy. As I watched him sing or sat with him on the sofa, I was keenly aware, these wonderful years were borrowed time. I was conscious to the fact it would all pass too quickly. What I did not anticipate was the lightening speed in which these days of wonder actually did flash by. It seems I blinked and my beautiful baby boy became a man. So, today I smile and those wistful tears fill my eyes as I remember. As I celebrate my beautiful boy who is twenty today.

Any precious memories you would like to share?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dogs Gone Wild

Last week I discovered that in Wisconsin, Halloween is not only for humans. We attend a puppy kindergarten with Louie, every Wednesday evening from 6-7pm. Last Wednesday, class was cancelled for a Doggie Halloween party. We received our invitation via email, with instructions that costumes for dogs were required, human costumes were optional. My husband informed me Louie wanted to go to this party. This is the same man, who in our first year of marriage cringed, telling me how ridiculous it was, putting lights on the windows for Christmas. I was dumbfounded, speechless, had aliens taken over his body? That would explain how he knew Louie wanted to go to the party.
The night before the party, we headed to one of the larger pet stores to purchase Louie’s costume. The alien inhabited husband pulled a Dracula costume off the rack. "Louie would love this," alien husband stated. I reminded him of Louie totally freaking out and nearly choking himself trying to pull his dog tag off. He was hardly going to tolerate being wrapped up in a cape. He,(the alien) moved further down the aisle and pulled out an expensive devil costume. This consisted of another cape, with a pitchfork attached and a hood with devil ears. I guess the bit about Louie’s level of tolerance hadn’t registered.

I noticed a little black glow in the dark t-shirt on sale for half price. This was it, we had found Louie's costume. And to be perfectly honest, I had no intention of purchasing a dog costume costing more than any of my children’s costumes. Granted I always made theirs but that is beside the point! After much hemming and hawing, by said alien, the black T-shirt was purchased. On exiting the shop, alien sadly informed Louie he would not be winning the best costume competition. I don't know maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed both alien and Louie threw an accusing glance in my direction.

We arrived at the party and as promised, it was an evening of canine chaos. Not only were all the dogs in costume, but many owners, not just children, were in complimentary costumes.
There was a booth for Madame Zelda Poochini,the paw reader/fortune teller. A large queue formed snaking through the hall as people waited their turn to have their dogs paws read. There was a portrait photographer on hand if you wished to capture this Kodak moment in your dog’s life. We milled around the hall for about an hour. Stopping to admire the dogs in their costumes and engage in small doggy talk with owners.

At the opposite end of the hall, a game of dunk for the frankfurters got underway. Louie and I watched the proceeding for a short while at a safe distance. Smiling to myself, I wondered if a doggy adaptation of pin the tail on the donkey something like pin the tail on the owner was next on the agenda. Doggie payback!

The noise level was reaching fever pitch with yelping, barking and growling. When Louie started ruff ruffing, I knew we were partied out. It was time to leave. I turned around but but there was not sign of alien. Scanning the crowded hall, I spotted him beside the cupcake table. I watched as he scoffed down one of the chocolate frosted cupcake. Yes, my husband was back, the alien had left the room!