Who Knew?

Hair is a funny thing. It is always changing. An example that we are all familiar with is Casey’s hair, which was thin and straight until the age of seven when it suddenly exploded into a thick, unruly mane of curls. Taming it became a constant source of aggravation and expense for her. She chemically straightened it for years until she finally surrendered and learned how to manage the curls.

My change in texture from straight to wavy did not occur until after my child-bearing years. Could it be a result of all those years of coloring it, which began before my thirtieth birthday after enough gray hairs appeared that I finally decided to let Miss Clairol help me hide those gray strands of wisdom? Now I have a regular appointment every four weeks, because I am just not ready to submit to a full head of gray.

What I discovered today, while turning the pages of my baby book, was an envelope labeled “Karen’s first haircut—not counting bangs.” It was dated three weeks after my second birthday.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that I did not begin life as a brunette, but instead, I was a blonde! Who knew? I need to have a chat about that with Grandma today. Maybe I should mention that to my hairdresser. How do you think I would look now as a blonde?



Neigbor War!

There are many types of neighbors. There are the mysterious ones whose lawn is always mowed, their garbage can appears on the correct day, and their lights pop on at night, but we never actually see them.

Some are loud or perhaps oblivious to the local norms on caring for their property, while others are annoyingly particular and opinionated regarding their property and expect everyone else to meet their perfectionist expectations.

We lived next door to a perfectionist, and during the six years during which we shared a common border, we were always at war. Dad and I referred to him as “The Admiral,” because it was alleged that he was, in fact, a retired admiral, but I have never been able to verify this assertion.

He was annoyed that our driveway was not lined with what is called “Belgium-block curbs,” and he was angered because Dad never bagged the grass when he mowed it. He had the nerve to yell at Dad one Father’s Day because it was not manicured to his level of precision.

In retaliation, I indicated to his landscaper that the property line was not the driveway, so he could no longer mow up to the pavement. That instruction resulted in a very high area of grass between our two houses, and I told Dad I wanted to plant a border of nice big sunflower plants among the tall grass.

You may recall a tree along the curb that belonged to us, but The Admiral took possession of it and bordered it with bricks. I encouraged the three of you to remove his bricks and create a nice arrangement of rocks, which were not at all pretty to look at but made me smile because I knew it annoyed him.

He fired back by turning on his sprinkler, timed to coincide with your parade to and from the bus stop each morning and afternoon. He allowed his dog poop to accumulate for a week before disposing of it.

Then he planted a row of evergreens along the property line on a raised bed of dirt and railroad ties. This caused a huge flood in our backyard, so Dad attached a hose and pump to a tree and pumped the water back into his yard. That evening a policeman knocked on our door and asked us what we were doing with the hose, and Dad responded, “I am just allowing the water to continue on it natural path.” The officer shook his head and left, knowing that what The Admiral had done was wrong.

Thus it continued, day after day, week after week, year after year, until a “for sale” sign finally was spotted on his lawn. The war was final ended! Our new neighbor turned out to be my dear friend Margaret, who was literally a friend to her end.

I Will Pass on the Figs

Is it just our local stores, or is food sampling a phenomenon common in all supermarkets? On some days, if you time it properly, you can skip lunch altogether. Saturday afternoon at Sam’s Club is the bestftime for feeding its customers, but even our local Publix and Kroger have jumped on the food-tasting bandwagon.

We have enjoyed sushi and yogurt at Publix, and if you arrive when the Apron meal-of-the day is being cooked, you will leave with a sampling and a recipe as well.

Trader Joe’s has a corner that is set up for a tasting and a cup of coffee, which is where we first learned about our favorite pizza—butternut squash and kale pizza. While it sounds strange and maybe even awful to a connoisseur of the more traditional pepperoni or sausage pies, trust me, it was great. Note the word “was.” Apparently, this particular pie was not a hit, because after a year or so, it was discontinued!

A recent trip to Kroger had us sampling two different cheeses topped by “stuff.” Dad dove right in, but I hesitated because I wanted to first know the ingredients of the “stuff.”

“Figs,” he told me.

“I have never eaten a fig,” was my quick reply, so Dad insisted I give it a try.

Remembering that I have a recipe for “Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Fig Skewers,” I popped the cheese-topped cracker into my mouth, while at the same time Dad said, “It tastes just like a Fig Newton.”

Uh oh. It was too late. As soon as he said that, the fig-topped cheese had already hit my taste buds, and I remembered that I hated Fig Newtons.

When I was in second grade, someone sent them in for a snack, and our teacher, Miss Morrissey, insisted that we must eat the entire cookie. I distinctly recalled the sensation of gagging, but no one ever disobeyed Miss Morrissey, so I was forced to eat that yucky cookie.

Thank goodness for the Tic Tacs in my purse, which helped mask the taste in my mouth. I don’t think I will include the pork with fresh figs in our family cookbook!

Nosy Neighbors

Jamie has moved into a new place, and today she mentioned that she had just met one of her neighbors. That comment got me thinking about some of our former neighbors.

We met our first neighbors while choosing our floor covering and bathroom tiles. They were arguing, which did not give us a warm and fuzzy first impression. We later learned that the man of the house was an attorney, who just loved suing everyone, including our builder. Dad and I decided to maintain a polite, but distant relationship with them.

After we moved into our house, Mrs. Next-Door-Neighbor and I were having a casual phone conversation, which touched on a moving van located on the street. After I rhetorically asked if they had children, she responded by saying, “Wait, I will get my binoculars.” That was the moment that I knew I had to watch what I did.

When I became pregnant with Kelly, I recalled a story Grandma relayed to me about the nosey neighbor on her street. She was expecting me and was determined to keep the news a secret from Mrs. Nosey Pants, so whenever she left her house, no matter how warm it may have been (Remember that I was born in June), Grandma threw on a long winter coat. She was successful in maintaining the deception, and her neighbor was shocked when Grandma was sited taking me for a walk in my baby carriage.

I was inspired, so I decided to repeat history. Luckily, Kelly was born in December, which made the charade simple.

Those were not our only colorful neighbors. In fact, our next house introduced me to a man who made binocular lady look tame in comparison. Stay tuned for more.

Unexpected Detour- Dare You Ask Where?

This past week we went on a family vacation, and on our return home, we had some car trouble, which resulted in a detour to the city of Roanoke, Virginia. Most of my visits to the “Virginia is for Lovers” state have been while en route to someplace else—except for the time we visited my friend Mitzie while traveling to Memphis.

Anyway, Dad and I suddenly found ourselves dining in a Mexican restaurant in Roanoke while we waited for the gentlemen in the Subaru service department to have their lunch. Recalling my history classes, I thought we could take this opportunity to check out the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Perhaps there would be updates on whatever happened to poor little Virginia Dare.

Thanks to my good friend Google, I sadly learned that that famous colony was located 350 miles southeast of that Mexican Restaurant where Dad and I were having an impromptu lunch. The Lost Colony of Roanoke is in North Carolina, not in Virginia. I guess I was not paying attention in class.

Now I am ready to answer a question on that topic the next time I play trivia. It’s time for a road trip to North Carolina!

Come for Lots and Lots of Visits

As a parent, you spend years having your life overtaken by your children. Those leisurely Saturday mornings when you don’t get dressed until noon, those romantic candlelight dinners with adult music, and those spontaneous weekend outings are in your review mirror for what seems, at times, like forever. But as a mom and dad, you cherish those moments, because they are truly driven by pure love. When you feel those hugs and wet baby kisses, you want to freeze those special moments, but suddenly, you look at those babies and realize that they have become adults.

If you have done your job, they are taxpaying wage earners and have left the nest. Perhaps they have families of their own. When that happens, sad as it may be to see them leave, you have succeeded.

So it was this in mind that I had an interesting conversation with four-year old Bryce recently regarding his thoughts on becoming an adult.

Bryce: I decided that when I am a grown-up I am going to live here in my house forever with my family and parents.

Me: Don’t you want to live in your own house?

Bryce: I don’t want to miss Christmas.      

While I want my children to always love me, by the time they have their own families, I don’t think I want them staying “forever.”

I think I will be happy with just lots of visits and an amazing Christmas at their “grown-up house.”

Celebrating the Red, White, and Blue

Today is the Fourth of July, and I am recalling the year we traveled to Kiawah Island in South Carolina with Aunt El and the kids. As you recall, for several summers previous to that year, we rented the beach house on Long Beach Island from Mona from Verona. We had a great time hanging at the beach, swimming in the cold New Jersey ocean, and meeting that famous crab on the beach. (Remember Part of Your World?)

We changed our vacation venue after reports of medical waste washing up on the beaches surfaced in the news. Based on some articles in the “Asbury Park Press” and the ages of all of you in my old photos, I believe 1996 was the year of our first migration south to avoid the medical beach trash.

The journey was not uneventful. Chris got carsick—I believe hurling the contents of his stomach into the radio. I remember being car-bound twice because of those typical South Carolina afternoon sudden monsoons—once at a rest stop outside of Charleston and the second time on the island.

Kiawah has bike trails winding throughout the island. On the 4th, we all met at the Town Center, where we were given materials to decorate our bikes. You all had a wonderful time adorning your bikes with crepe paper and flags and then riding in the Kiawah Island parade.

We returned many times after that Independence Day vacation, but never, during the thirteen years since we have lived in the South, have we ever returned to Kiawah for a beach vacation.

What is wrong with us!