Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thinking about Thanksgivings.... 

1959-1966- Philadelphia-- we alternated between our house and Aunt Pat's....
1974, my first as a wife, and the first turkey I'd ever done solo. 1978, My first as a mom, and the ill-fated trip to Philadelphia to my parents' Swarthmore condo ... the saga of Aunt Pat and the Waterford relish jar. and 1 year old George nearly putting my brother Stan in the hospital with a well-placed kick with the white Stride-Right hightop leather shoes my mother insisted he needed to wear. 
1980... the last one I would ever celebrate with my sister, Peg. Three weeks later she would be gone forever.
1983- the beginning of the end of that phase of my life....Michael recovering from his accident, the last one hosting people at the house on Ohio Ave....My parents never spent another holiday in Ohio.
1985--- the first one of many with the Houser-Cable clan.  
Early 90's-- some in Atlanta, the last ones with my Dad....
2000- New Orleans with Michael....  I still smile when I think about that trip. for Mom and Aunt Pat in Florida The road trips to Naples with both of them in tow. One 80 year old backseat driver is a challenge, two was grounds for alcoholism. 
2003- Pittsburgh with Ed and Gail... they probably don't know how important that trip really was to me... I was hanging on by a thread

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Parenthood by choice

We have some family birthdays coming up, and a new member of the clan due soon, so I have parenthood on my mind.

I am Pro-Choice.... But I wonder if you and I define that the same way?

I do support the right for a woman to have control of her own health care, (and think the State needs to stay out of the examining room) but it is more than that. 

I think people who are parents should actively choose to be so. Because it is a tough job, without holidays or vacations or paid overtime. It is a full-time job for at least 18 years, and often much longer. And, even when the kids are "adults" you aren't out of a job, you just become a consultant, rather than a direct supervisor. 

I have 2 sons. Both amazing. Both loved more than life. And, in both cases, there was nothing even mildly accidental about their presence in my life or our family. In both cases, they were desperately wanted, anticipated, and unconditionally loved long before I ever held them in my arms. We became a family, and I became a parent, completely by choice. Twice.

With George, we became parents by adoption. Anyone who has ever been through an agency adoption knows that it is not a simple, casual, or non-invasive process.  If we hadn't wanted a child more than we wanted our privacy, self-esteem, time, effort, money, or anything else in the world, all we would have had to do, at any point in the process, was just stop turning ourselves inside out to please the agency, the court, and the social workers. No need to ever say "no"-- everything would come to a screeching halt if we'd just stopped saying, "PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!" every time we were asked.

I physically gave birth to Mike, but Michael came to us, small and sick and way too soon, after a pregnancy that no one really believed could be or would be successful. We knew Michael was enroute to us before George's adoption was finalized. In both cases, had we not made an active decision to become parents, it likely would not have happened. 

If we hadn't wanted children, simply doing nothing would have been sufficient.

You see, in order to BE a parent by choice, you have to believe with everything in you that love trumps biology. That the heart and mind are more important than genetics or biology. That fate (or God or the Universe or whatever you call that entity bigger than all of us) intended for this particular small person in need of the strength and support of your hands and heart to fill the empty space in yours.

Doesn't matter how the children in your care came to be there. Traditional birth, adoption, surrogacy, marriage to a spouse who already had one or more kids.... kids need parents BY CHOICE.  People who are ready and willing and happy to be there of their own free will.

It's OK to make a different decision.  It's OK to decide not to have children, no matter what anyone else says. And it's OK to say, "I can't make that commitment," and allow someone who is willing and able to step up and care for them. 

Because children need parents who want to be there. 


Monday, November 03, 2014


Tortellini Spinach soup

OK, I write recipes like I context.  I'm going to assume you know the basics of making chicken stock. (You could also use the Turkey carcass after thanksgiving.)  I like to use chicken thighs for making stock (I buy them cheap when they are on sale) because they don't have lots of little bones that you need to pick out later. I like to cook, but I hate drudgery.

Make about 3 quarts of chicken stock. (I suppose you could buy it in a pinch, just buy low sodium stock) Add LOTS of crushed garlic, roughly chopped carrots, onions, celery, fresh parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano and -- this is important--red pepper flakes or other heat.  You should end up with a not-too-salty but rather spicy broth. If it doesn't make your sinuses clear, add more pepper flakes. It should have a definite kick.  The spinach and tortellini are bland, so the stock needs to be more intense than you would make for chicken noodle soup.  But don't oversalt it. (Yes, I say that a lot) 

When the stock is done, remove the chicken and other solids and set aside. Strain the broth.  If you like, you can chop the celery and carrots and add them back at the end, or put them in the bowl with the chicken and use it for chicken pot pie or something the next day.  (the cooked chicken gets great flavor from all the herbs and aromatics)  Let the stock sit while you rinse the stockpot. so you can skim off any excess fat. I use a cheap glass beer pitcher and a bulb baster for this. A tall container (rather than a wide one) seems to make it easier. My mother had a trick she used with ice cubes, but I never mastered it.

If you are making this for consumption later in the week, stop now, refrigerate the stock. Do the rest of the steps the night you are going to eat it.   

If you have premade stock in the fridge or freezer, you can skip all the previous steps and just season the holy crap out of it. Go easy on the salt, but anything else you like is fair game. Lemongrass can be nice, if you can find it, or even lemon pepper (salt-free)

Put the clear stock back in the pot. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down a notch so it's just simmering.

Add a bag of frozen or fresh tortellini.  I buy the mushroom or spinach ones, but you could use cheese ones, too. Tricolor ones make it look pretty. Cook according to the timing on the package. Frozen ones will take a little longer. When the tortellini is done, add  as much fresh spinach (washed and trimmed) as you want.  I usually do a 16 oz package of Tortellini and an 8 oz package of baby spinach, but that makes a pretty hearty soup. 

Add fresh spinach in handfuls, stir, keep adding. If the stock is hot, it will only take a minute or two to wilt the spinach. Don't overcook it. And don't do this part too far in advance. Once the stock is done, and you get it simmering, you can be ready to eat it in under 15 minutes

Add the cooked carrots and celery back to the pot just before serving, if you like. 

If you have vegetarians in your life, start with vegetable stock. 

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