Monthly Archives: January 2016

Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?

We train all year for this event, alternating cardio, weight and cartography workouts.  We pack with precision. Wicking clothes. Check! Running shoes. Check! Sunblock. Check!

On the big day, we hit the road early, well before sunrise, fielding phone calls from various family members, concerned about our progress.

My mother’s birthday has become an endurance extravaganza. As I’ve written about before, the woman, born in the shadow of Coney Island, loves amusement parks more than anyone we know. She’s been celebrating her birthday at Disney World for the past 17 years.

This year, she met us in the parking lot, handed us rain ponchos she “keeps in her car for just these occasions” and said, “Let’s go!” We hit two parks, five rides, and three shows, all before we even checked into our hotel.

In the face of unrelenting rain, my mother charged on. My Fitbit kept sending me congratulatory messages about new step badges I’d achieved. Halfway through the day I’d earned a Hiking Boot, Trail Shoe, Classics, High Tops, and Urban Boot badges. I have no idea what that means, but I know I earned them in the pouring rain trotting after my 77-year old mother.

We exited Animal Kingdom and made our way to the buses, intending to head back to Epcot for a late lunch at Mom’s favorite French restaurant.

I jogged ahead as I was anxious to drag my drenched butt to dry land. “Will the bus to Epcot be here soon?” I panted.

“‘Bout 20 minutes,” the park employee said. “You catch it on the other side.”

Thankfully, mom caught up

“Here’s what we’ll do,” she said decisively. “We take the Boardwalk bus. We get off, walk across the bridge and take the back entrance into Epcot.”

We did as told and arrived at our reservation 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

We’ll never take for granted the privilege of scurrying along in Grandma Peggy’s wake. I’d write more, but it’s only day two of our celebration, she’s waiting in the lobby and Splash Mountain calls..


We paused briefly during our sprint through the parks, appropriately in front of the Tree of Life.





And rides upon the storm…

“God moves in a mysterious way. His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.”

William Cowper 1779

I thought about that quote as I sat at the 10:30 mass last Sunday at St. Pius.

Pure laziness had brought us to this mass. We normally attend the 9:00 a.m. mass at St. Therese but decided to linger a little while over our pancakes and mosey over to a later service at a neighboring parish.

As it happened, an adventurous pilgrimage also delivered three busloads of teenagers to this particular mass, and a cool call to service brought a delightful young family of missionaries as well.

I spent a good part of the mass looking around in wonder and thanking God that all of us had converged.

Later, I spoke to Daniel Aragon, one of the chaperones on the Green Bay Diocese March for Life road trip that spent nearly 24 hours stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He also spoke of the God’s mysterious ways.

“Either I didn’t read God’s email, or He didn’t tell us, but I think maybe God planned all along that we would end up at that mass on Sunday,” he said. “I think He wanted all those young people to hear that there are other vocations and different ways to live their lives in faith…Had we left five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, we would have ended up in a totally different place on that turnpike.”

Instead, they arrived in Appleton just in time to attend mass and listen to young missionaries Jacob and Calena Rudd speak about their upcoming trip to Nicaragua to work in a settlement there.

It turned out to be the perfect coda to a weekend of faith that could have stalled in the Pennsylvania mountains, but instead gathered steam.

The group made its first adjustment to the weekend plans Friday night. In light of an approaching historic snowstorm, Aragon and the rest of the chaperones met with the priests and bus drivers and decided to leave Washington D.C. a day early. As they approached the Somerset, Pennsylvania exit, only about an inch of snow had fallen and they were poised to make it past Pittsburgh ahead of the storm.

Thanks to an accident five or six miles in front of them that shut down the interstate, they ended up stranded for 23 hours and 15 minutes although, according to Aragon, stranded is a deceptive word.

“When people hear the word stranded, it sounds like we were alone, lost and in the middle of nowhere  and no one knew where we were,” he said. “This couldn’t be further from our situation.”

With plenty of food, water, heat and bathroom facilities on board, the students and their chaparones made the best of their situation. Many went to help clear off cars and semis nearby, and invited drivers to join them on their bus. As they relayed information the National Guard provided them, they also listened to stories.

“It was really amazing. Some people were trapped for 24 hours and they were only five or six miles from their destination,” Aragon said.

One man in a rental car borrowed a cell phone charger. No one thought anything about it until the buses were freed and the group stopped at a restaurant to refresh themselves as best they could.

“When we parked our bus the man was there and he had the charger in his hand. He was looking for the student who had given it to him,” Aragon said. “Those are the kinds of things that happened. People were so thankful for the help they received from other people.”

The lessons of faith and love proved invaluable and, though they wore the same clothes they’d marched in 46 hours earlier, the group themselves had evolved by the time they arrived back in Appleton.

“You feel the hand of God playing there,” Aragon said.

(The following pictures are courtesy of the Green Bay Diocese)



On wily deer and the road not taken

Appropriately guided by a blaze orange sunset, we went tramping Saturday.

We followed an impressive line of tracks into the woods, our boots recklessly crunching through the hoof prints of a hundred deer.

I imagined them rolling their big doe eyes at us as we cautioned each other to be quiet so we might spot them.

Thick-coated, relaxed and wily, they rested, easily hidden, while we clomped along. We’d been down this road before, and they knew our visit would be brief. They may have passed each other big bowls of tasty roots as they kicked back their hoofs and enjoyed our show.

We followed our frozen breath around their favorite spots, circled a pond, and waited near a small hill where our paths diverged.

Darkness spread and cast an eerie air over our adventure. I heard a howl.

“Wolf?” I asked.


Both relieved and disappointed, I walked on, eyes darting back and forth, cold finger poised on my camera’s shutter release.

In other seasons, I’d seen plenty of wildlife as I tramped through these woods, and had even found myself embarrassingly pinned by a porcupine once on that very path. We’d seen twin eagles swooping high above our heads, whole families of deer darting back and forth across the path, gaggles of turkeys loudly running with their awkward wattle waddles.

Saturday, though, we tramped alone, eventually consoling ourselves with the wonder of a rare opportunity to make our own tracks through the snow.

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I like this sign, with its optimistic martini glasses and the ice shanty city growing behind it.

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I thought the angled line of these trees looked cool with that little sliver of sunset.

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White winter sky, white frozen snow, and a blaze of light in between.

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Those are all deer tracks and we followed their winding trail into the woods.

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But we didn’t see any deer so, eventually, we left that path and enjoyed the rare opportunity to make our own.

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And this was our reward as we made our way out of the woods. So beautiful!

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It’s always good to see the warm lights of the cabin after a good winter tramp.

My 30th and last semester as a high school mom

Yinz ought to treat yourself to this Pittsburgh Polish deli

Thanks to the Red Devils for a golden opportunity

Golden footballs and priceless memories

A perfect little corner of Wisconsin

Flagged for a fan interference (Sorry folks. Won’t happen again)

We take our game day preparation very seriously around these parts. For cold home games we dress for warmth, for early season games we dress for comfort and always, always we dress to honor the juju.

If the Packers lose when I’m wearing my favorite vintage jersey, of course I put it away for the season. A win streak makes my game day attire easy. I choose every single thing I wore to the previous game.


You don’t mess with Big Mo.

Yesterday, in a flurry of uncharacteristically thorough house cleaning I can only attribute to pre-game jitters, I discovered our Packer flag stuffed into the back corner of our linen closet. To my horror, I realized it had been there all season.

Normally, we open the season by hanging the Packer flag from our balcony. It stays there until the Packers lose. Then, we take it down, shake out the bad mojo, and wait until the timing is right to hang it back up. In 2011 the flag hung on our balcony all season; we worked it into our Christmas decor because we knew if we took it down we would threaten our beloved team’s historic win streak.

During normal seasons, the hanging of the flag ritual prompts earnest discussions — should we put the flag back up to turn this thing around? Should we leave it and its current-season-bad luck tucked away?

There’s a lot of pressure when you hold the fate of an NFL franchise on a shelf in your linen closet.

I shook it out and, due to the unprecedented nature of the situation, called for a committee vote. We had never gone a whole season  without hanging the flag. Would it offend the football gods to hang it now? Having found it, would it be even more offensive to stuff it back on the shelf?

We bravely decided to risk the former, and, with 27 minutes to spare before kickoff, I stepped out onto the balcony (wearing my Christmas present Packer sweater that I would need to remove just before game time because the Packers lost last time I wore it) and I hung that flag.

I sat down to watch the game (having switched out my Christmas Packer sweater for my Kostelnik jersey that was too big in an unflattering way but had brought the team a win last time I had worn it). I remained poised to jump up and remove it through the entire first quarter. But, the flag worked its magic as the game went on. It flapped out there in the wind, and our offense began to click.

As the sun set on the flag’s first day, I saw Aaron Rodgers grin and I knew that, finally, all was right with the season.

You’re welcome, Packer fans. I’m just sorry it took me this long.


Molly B and Me

Molly B and Me (Circa 2012). I love this game-day shirt, which my sister Kathy and I bought in 1989, but, if the Packers lose when I’m wearing it, I put it away for the season.

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I also love these cool Packer sweaters our son Charlie gave us for Christmas. But I can’t wear it on game day during the actual game this season, because the Packers lost last time I wore it.

Packer flag

The flag is back on our balcony and all is right with our team. Go Pack Go!


Welcome to Kale University

For the most part, our kitchen is more Big Ten than Ivy League.

Inspired by a sweatshirt Molly’s brother Charlie gave her for Christmas, though, I invited my family to spend the week at Kale University.

Lux et veritas.

We’ve long been kale fans in this house. I like the way it holds up in soup and salads, especially in packed lunches. I also like the way it tastes and its crazy nutritional value. A cup of cooked kale has 35 calories and 1,180% of your daily requirement of vitamin K. That’s not a typo, that’s a super food.

Given a choice, we both prefer curly kale to baby kale. I’ve learned that kale season peaks right now (as, hopefully, will our Packers).

So, this week I bought a big bunch, and had a little fun.

I am including two of the dishes that developed. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Welcome to Kale

Welcome to Kale University. 

Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms

Pizza stuffed mushrooms


1 large package common button mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed

1 large sweet onion

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

4 smoked Mozzarella sticks cut into four pieces

5 large leaves of kale

5 green olives

Penzeys Frozen Pizza seasoning (a Christmas gift we wanted to try out)

Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375

Naked mushroomsPlace mushroom caps on a jelly roll pan, cap side up.

Pizza mushroom ingredientsSautee onions and chopped mushroom stems in olive oil for three minutes or so, until onion is translucent. Add chopped kale and cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with pizza seasoning. Cook for a few minutes more, until kale wilts. Do not over cook.

Stuffed mushroomsSpoon mixture into mushroom caps. Top each cap with a piece of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with Pizza seasoning. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese bubbles.


Pork Roast with Kale and Apples


1 boneless pork loin (Ours was 2.5 pounds)

Four apples, peeled and chopped

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1/4 cup leftover dried fruit from Christmas if you have it. Raisins if you don’t.

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 large leaves kale, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350

Add onions and apples

Drizzle olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Brown pork loin on both sides over high heat. Season on both sides. Add minced garlic, onions and apples. Sautee for two or three minutes.

Cover and bakeRemove from heat. Add dried fruit. Cover and place in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes (depending on the weight of your pork loin).

Add kale Remove from heat and add chopped kale. Cover and let the pork rest and the kale steam, about 10-15 minutes.