Happy Birthday, Grandma!

me and grandma

This picture was taken in 1981 at our house in Simi Valley, CA. It was my Mom’s parents’ 45th Wedding Anniversary party. This is my Dad’s mom: Grandma Eileen. She lived with us from the time I was 2 years old and we were very close. Today would have been her 101st birthday.

I spoke at her funeral in January of 2010. She died just two weeks short of her 95th birthday. I wish I still had a copy of the eulogy I wrote to her, but it is long lost on some flash drive or old hard drive that no longer exists in my world.

She does though. Every day I think about her and miss her. She was my third parent and was the one who kept me from being a latch key kid. I remember when I had the flu she was so intent on finding something for me to eat that she listed the entire contents of our kitchen until I decided that yes, I could maybe eat some celery and keep it down.

Grandma taught me to many things to enumerate. But the qualities I inherited from her are a fierce streak of independence, tenacity, and never giving up. I can’t believe she’s been gone five years now.

I shall raise a toast to you tonight, Grandma. Happy Birthday and thank you.

Challenge on Photography Day 1

I was nominated by my dear friend Danielle to post seven Geology/Nature photos in seven days. I do love taking pictures and gladly accept the challenge.monarch on leaf

This butterfly was captured at the Naples Botanical Gardens back in 2008. This is a really lovely place to visit… they have all types of gardens to wander through. At Christmas they put up lots of lights and have evening visitation hours which is a beautiful and fun experience.

The Ramblin’ Palates at Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, Sarasota, FL

The latest quest for a fabulous meal took me and my group of friends to Sarasota, FL. It was Val’s choice this month and she picked Yoder’s Amish Restaurant. There were seven of us this time: Tammy, Di, Val, Cary, Kosta, me, and Kim, our newbie, who is a good friend of Val. Tammy believes taking multiple cars is “unacceptable” so we rented a van for the day to accommodate all of us, because no one can say no to Tammy. At least not when she rolls out the “unacceptable” tactic.

How can you say no to that smile?

How can you say no to that smile?

Yoder’s Amish Restaurant was profiled on Man vs. Food and you can watch the episode here. It was raining and cold, and the perfect day for some comfort food.  And let me tell you, the place was PACKED.

We stood in line for 20 minutes for a table.

We stood in line for 20 minutes for a table. Ooh, check out the guy doing the un-photo bomb in the back. 


Di and her chicken livers and mashed potatoes.

Di and her chicken livers.


Tammy with fried chicken.

Tammy with fried chicken and mac and cheese.

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Kosta with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans, and Val across the way with meatloaf, fried okra, and mashed potatoes.

Yours truly with fried chicken, potato cakes, and fried okra.

Yours truly with fried chicken, potato cakes, and fried okra.

Let's get a close up of that lunch, shall we? The chicken was amazing.

Let’s get a close up of that lunch, shall we? The chicken was amazing.

Of course, you can't go to Yoder's without having a piece of pie. Because it's PIE.

Of course, you can’t go to Yoder’s without having a piece of pie. Because it’s PIE. That is a slice of cokernut cream being shared by the Dynamic Duo.

Oh hell YES.

Oh hell YES.

Afterwards we didn’t necessarily want to call it a day, but the weather was miserable so a few of the girls wanted to visit the HSN store. Some of us who are not so into shopping popped into the pet store next door where a puppy extravaganza was going on.

Look at that adorable face. The pug is pretty cute too.

Look at that adorable face. The pug is pretty cute too.

Good heavens. Just rip my heart out and take it, will you?

Good heavens. Just rip my heart out and take it, will you?

Tam's fetching makeshift rain gear.

Tam’s fetching makeshift rain gear.

Finally, we decided to stop at BJ’s Brewhouse for a drink before calling it a day.  We just wanted to sit at the bar but the staff wouldn’t let us pull the high top tables together and made us sit in the restaurant, where we took up two tables pulled together. The waitress was not happy that she was losing major tip money and was rather brusque. I can’t blame her, but for crying out loud it wasn’t our fault.

The one nice thing the waitress did for us.

The one nice thing the waitress did for us.

Would you look at that handsome devil? Dear reader, I married him.

Would you look at that handsome devil? Dear reader, I married him.

Next month is Shorty’s BBQ in Miami. Stay tuned for another drool-fest of food!

What I Did for Love

This story starts way back here:

Mom and me at about 4 years old

Mom and me at about 4 years old

My mom and I have had a very close relationship for my whole life, and I know how lucky I am in this. She and I have been good friends for as long as I can remember. My Mom is one of the sweetest ladies on this earth (besides her mother). Don’t get me wrong, she can be salty and curse if the need warrants. But to me she is soft, loving, and a super cuddler.

Mom has had some health problems in the past few years that has left her unable to drive, walk very far, and otherwise do a lot of stuff she used to do herself. But she keeps on going, a tough woman for sure–especially after all she’s had to endure.

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow

When I was young (still in a car seat) Mom took me everywhere with her–shopping, to see my cousins, and to preschool. And all the time I was strapped into that car seat I was listening to the tapes she played of her favorite music. This was the late 70s folks, and that includes Billy Joel, Rita Coolidge, Crystal Gayle, and her all-time favorite: Barry Manilow.

As a teenager I got into heavy metal and hard rock and shunned and teased my mother for her musical tastes. (What can I say? Sometimes teenagers can be assholes.) As I grew up I didn’t bug her about it so much but I never saw the attraction.

Fast forward to this Christmas this year. I heard Barry was coming to town on his final tour. The man is 72 after all.  And as easy it would have been to buy my mom “stuff” for Christmas, I think you can imagine where this is headed. I opted to give my mom the experience of one final Barry Manilow concert. With me.

barry manilow one last timeShe was rendered speechless when she opened her gift. Not that my mother is a constant talker (I’m married to that) but it was wonderful to see her so excited.

The concert was this last Monday, February 1 at the Germain Arena in Estero. And if you think Barry Manilow isn’t popular, think again. They actually added a second show this Saturday to accommodate the call for tickets in the Southwest Florida area.

The traffic was a nightmare getting in. I certainly hadn’t anticipated the amount of cars once we got off the freeway. Usually it would take five minutes to get to Germain Arena but it took us nearly forty minutes that night. And there was no handicapped parking left, so I had to park out in the sticks. Mom can’t walk very far so we used her wheelchair, thank goodness. It was a hike into the venue.

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Let it go, let it go…

Our seats were great. We were up on the top right next to the box suites and had a terrific view of the stage. As we came in the opening act, Dave Koz was wailing on his saxophone. Playing “Let it Go,” I might add.

Waiting for the main event!

Waiting for the main event!

All right, so let me be the first to admit it. Barry Manilow puts on a pretty good show. I can’t believe the pipes on this guy, and his energy levels.

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It’s a miracle… A true blue spectacle.

Have you ever heard that your brain stores the memories of all the moments of your entire life? It’s your recall that isn’t quite as developed. Well let me tell you that all of those songs I was forced to listen to at a tender age came back to me. I was astonished to realize I knew almost all the words to all the songs. There were only a couple I didn’t know.

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I think the most amazing thing about Barry Manilow is his enthusiasm. He really REALLY loves performing and it shines through in each moment. And seeing Mom so happy made it very easy to sit through the concert and even (gasp!) enjoy it.

I’m not a convert, sorry. My musical tastes have not changed. But I can say that I can appreciate why so many people love this guy. He may write the songs that make the whole world sing, corny as some may think they are, but his appeal lies in his positivity, his love of what he does, and his lovely voice.

When my husband reads this he’ll think I’ve gone over to the dark side. But he didn’t get to see the look on my mom’s face when she clasped her hands and sang along to “Weekend in New England.” Sometimes we do things we don’t necessarily like to do for the ones we love. I surprised myself. I had a good time.

My mom did tell me that the concert tickets were the best Christmas present she’d ever received. I think that’s a win for all of us.  As far as I know, she’s still basking in the Maniglow.