What makes a hero?

Our society places a lot of stock in celebrity status. Star in a movie (or even appear on screen), you're adored. Make it to the majors in any sport, instantly an icon. Sell a few thousand albums, gain a million followers. Or, appear sans clothing in self-made videos (a la Kardashian) and you might even get your own reality TV show. Many people consider these individuals to be heroes and idolize their every move.

I'm not much of a groupie person myself (other than revering Super Chef status, natch) because I feel that celebrities are just people like you and me. They get dressed every morning and brush their teeth. They have highs and lows. They love, lose, cry, mourn, rejoice, live, and die. And sometimes, the way in which celebrities live their lives is not only undeserving of hero-worship but downright shameful.  

Today I want to briefly mention a superstar who made a point of using his celebrity status to make someone special to me feel like she was the brightest star in the universe. My niece, Faith Elizabeth Kuhn, suffers from spina bifida. She is 12 years old, has been through 15+ surgeries since birth and she has a huge, pre-adolescent crush on Chicago Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant. Through a friend of the family in Albuquerque, Kris learned of her "feelings for him" (i.e. "He's hot!") and made arrangements to bring Faith, her two siblings, and parents to Chicago to watch a home game. It was a surreal experience for the entire family, of which Faith shared "was a like a dream come true." I am so grateful to Kris Bryant and his lovely wife for showing real love to my extended family. The very successful athlete was heroic in his compassion and generosity.

However, if you’re with me on this…you’ll agree that the spunky 12-year-old is the real hero in this story. My sister and her husband, from the time she was in the womb and learned that she would be born with this very limiting disability, knew there was a reason this child should share their life and appropriately christened her Faith. And with each year and new surgery, all of the pain and discomfort, missing out on school and time with friends, none of the trials seem to dim her thousand-watt smile. Faith has a strength of will and determination that many children and even adults lack, despite perfect health.

In two weeks, Faith will undergo her most trying surgical experience to date. Due to a major growth spurt, she needs a rod removed from her spine because it is threatening to twist her little body into a most unnatural shape. She will be in traction for two weeks to stretch her spine and spinal chord. After this painful stint in the hospital, she will possibly endure another surgery involving rib removal. And then another for final fusion in two places along her spine. Through it all, Faith and the entire Kuhn family will remain, well, faithful. Won’t you join me in praying for this little warrior who heroically trudges on through the trials of her young life?

To the Best Guy

It's Father's Day, another made-up Hallmark holiday that actually has turned into a worthy occasion. After all, without a card company to tell us that we need to celebrate the special someones in our lives, would we ever get around to telling them how much they mean to us? Maybe we would, maybe not. But I'm going to use this excuse to share with you about not a father figure in my life, but my husband, the father of my children.

In case I've never really said it, JB's kind of great. He is patient, sweet, funny, generous, intelligent, and ambitious. He has adored his children from the first moment he held them in his arms as infants. He also imparted his Faith to our children, raising them to seek God and follow His ways. JB preaches tough love to his kids but then worries about them incessantly. He loves to laugh with them, and to make them crack up. He looks forward to golf outings with his sons more than any other humans. He enjoys sharing what he knows about life, travel and business with his family, teaching them as much as he is able. All of these things make him a really great Dad.

But there is one thing that JB especially does well that makes him an all-star father:  He loves his kids' mom. In our house, we believe that the Marriage is the foundation on which the family is built. So we have always tried to put our relationship as the top priority. Not to say that the children are excluded from the inner circle, but that they are outer rings that form the family with parents that love each other at the core. So on Father's Day, I am so grateful to this man that has adored, protected and loved me like I never knew was possible. His commitment to "Us" is steadfast and true, and there would be no family without his dedication to all of us. Life is not perfect. But I am blessed beyond measure to be walking this imperfect life with the man that is The One for me.

On the lighter side...when our children were young, my husband was highly skilled at playing what came to be known as the "daddy game." It's a very simple game--someone starts to tell a story about their day and invariably, Dad repeats a part of the story back to the teller, but mispronounces one of the names as though he misheard. The storyteller corrects his mistake and he acknowledges but then continues to repeat the incorrect usage until finally, the child wises up and realizes that Dad is doing it on PURPOSE. It is a father's right to tease and torment his children, don't you agree? BTW, JB answers to many names in our circle: there's Dad, Pops, and Daddy; also JB, Loverboy, Butterman, Master of the Universe, Captain Obvious and lastly, Johnny B, when he speaks of himself in 3rd person, usually after performing a signature dive into the pool. 

Hope you all have a wonderful Father's Day filled with laughter and good food. Be sure to hug your daddy or your children's daddy or someone who likes to be called daddy. Hugging is always a good thing.

Partie Trois: Paris, Pain au chocolat et Escargot

Partie Trois: Paris, Pain au chocolat et Escargot

Three beautiful days…eating our way through the city of lights…

Seconda Parte: Varenna i Venezia, pasta i Gnocchi, mamma mia!

Part Two: Varenna and Venice, i.e., Italy, where pasta and gnocchi reign supreme! From Barcelona we headed to northern Italy, landing in Milan and taking a train directly to Varenna, a lovely town situated on Lake Como. (Well, to rephrase...the Milan airport is NOT close to the city but after a couple of trial and error attempts with a finicky train ticket machine, we managed to take a train to the city center of Milan and THEN navigate our way through the confusion of finding the correct train to Varenna.) Needless to say, no time for lunch!

Happily, our hotel in a tiny little haven in the hills was a five-minute taxi ride from the train station. We were deposited at the Hotel du Lac, just 8 minutes after arriving, checked in within 5 and out on the cobblestone path to find sustenance within 20 minutes of landing in Varenna. The weather was a little drizzly so searched no further than il Nilus Bar, where we sat on the covered patio directly at water's edge to have our first meal in Italy. Starvation had no bearing on the deliciousness of our roasted sopressata-potato-gorgonzola pizza, which we immediately scarfed down with a glass of wine. Oh my. Superb. 

Did I mention that within the 20 minutes from train stop to seated for lunch, we managed to ask our hotel receptionist/concierge/girl Friday to find a reservation for dinner? She found us a table at La Vista, a terraced restaurant atop the Albergo Milano. It's a tiny town but we experienced some trouble finding which little alleyway to climb. But so worth the search, steep hill, and confusion. Sitting outside, wrapped in a fleece blanket provided with each and every table, we watched as the lights twinkled on in Menaggio, the town directly across Lake Como from Varenna. After the hustle and bustle of the big city Barcelona, we were drawn into the calm, quiet beauty of the water and the Alps that towered above.

And our dinner! What a fabulous meal we had that evening. The menu offered a la carte and either a 3 course or 4 course fixed price option which included the entire menu. If you tell me I can have a starter, first course, second course and dessert for 45 euro...it's a no brainer! After all, this is RESEARCH! I definitely researched my way to satiation in the most delicious fashion.

  • Starter-  RB: charcuterie platter, JB: velvety potato soup
  • Primi-    RB: ravioli with seafood, JB: risotto with scallops
  • Secondi-   RB: baked lake fish with creamed potatoes, JB: lamb shank osso bucco
  • Dessert-   RB: cheese plate, JB: chocolate cake with raspberry sauce

Oof. It was too much food. But so enjoyable. 

On the dawn of our 5th day in Europe, we had a light breakfast in the hotel cafe and went out to explore Varenna. At 10am, we were picked up by van to take us to Ristorante il Caminetto (in the hills of Perledo), for a day-long cooking class. Our driver was also the chef, owner and instructor, Moreno Maglia. It was a delightful six hours...Moreno is charming, humorous and well-versed in American culture. The class was made up of two other couples from the US, a couple from Manchester, England, two young girls from Poland and a lady from the Netherlands. We watched our host prep a veal roast, form pasta dough entirely with his hands, and we learned to shape gnocchi. Then he rolled and cut the pasta, adding a dollop of ricotta filling to each square and allowed us to shape the packets into tortelloni. He demonstrated one porcini mushroom sauce for the gnocchi and then a fresh tomato topping for the tortelloni. And finally, we lunched on all of these amazing dishes, helping ourselves to refills of wine and laughing at his references to American rock and roll and movie stars. If you are ever in the Lake Como area for a few days, I highly recommend this cooking class--such an insight into meal prep at a small local restaurant. I loved it.

Following the class and being dropped back in our little town square, we had just enough time to walk to the train station and meet our son, who arrived from Rome after a semester at John Cabot University. What a happy sight to see him step off that train! He looked taller, wiser, and tired; it was so wonderful to put our arms around him after 4 months apart.

That evening, we had a very late supper at Osteria Quatro Pass, another tiny restaurant. Sometimes it is a challenge to order food coherently when trying to soak up each moment with a child you haven't seen in some time. But we managed to have a delightful meal which we shared family style: salumi board, cheese plate, seafood spaghettoni, fish fillets in an almond sauce, and a cheese ravioli before consuming a sweet apple tart to finish. Note: you can never order too much food when you have a 21-year-old at the table.

The next morning, the three of us hiked to Castello de Vezio, a wonderful castle ruin with beautiful views overlooking the lake and town below. It was a gorgeous morning and the hike was a perfect bit of exercise after the previous day spent wining and dining.

That afternoon we headed to Venice which also provided some physical exertion in the manner of hauling our luggage through tiny little streets, inaccessible to any other form of traffic. We spent a quick 24 hours touring with just one real sit-down meal. A carafe of wine, a little bourbon, some lasagna, gnocchi, and fried calamari was consumed and delighted in while sitting at a small table on a cobblestone street, 15 steps from our hotel. The next morning when we walked through that same street, any evidence of the quaint little eatery with a gregarious host had been shuttered away, only to be discovered again later in the day by other lucky wanderers.

Next week: follow along as we wrap up our trip in the City of Lights. ❤️ Ruth

 

a brunchin' we will go

 a beautiful day at the Dallas Arboretum

a beautiful day at the Dallas Arboretum

Spring has been an absolute whirlwind. Maybe because I have been sleep deprived beginning with Daylight Savings or perhaps it's due to trying to schedule FaceTime sessions with a son on the other side of the world. Whatever the reason, I feel constantly behind, always running to catch up. 

Long weekends spent with family are usually a great way to slow things down. In that spirit, our Easter week began on Palm Sunday with church services alongside our son and his pregnant wife. Oh wait. Haven't I told you? Our family is being blessed in 2018 with new babies. My eldest daughter (residing in Arkansas) is expecting her fourth child, due in May and our eldest son (lives here!) is expecting his first....TWINS! SO. EXCITING. I. MAY. JUST. WRITE. LIKE. THIS. UNTIL. SUMMER. Jk. But we are indeed overjoyed by all of these tiny blessings headed our way. 

Back to Palm Sunday. After mass, the four of us came home for brunch because a leisurely meal accompanied by mimosas is a surefire way to slow time. The menu was Eggs Benedict as requested by my DH. It's a timeless breakfast entree, isn't it? Crisp english muffins topped with canadian bacon, a pillowy poached egg and rich, decadent hollandaise sauce. In the Butterfield house, we like to change things up and sometimes replace the muffin with hash brown potatoes, or even stack the potatoes on top of the toasted bread. Also, we seldom serve the traditional skinny slices of canadian bacon and opt for slabs of smoked ham. Or, maybe a crab cake for ultimate, sinful gluttony. Whatever version, the crowning glory remains the same--bright, lemony hollandaise, and I'm sharing my recipe at the end of this post. 

Dinner that evening was also a feast. Expertly grilled New York Strip steaks, baked potatoes, sautéed spinach, roasted eggplant, a lovely crisp green salad with balsamic dressing. And there was chocolate cake for dessert. That was just for 4 of us! But our celebratory week was off to a good start.

Happily on Thursday, my in-laws arrived from Albuquerque without incident. They have not been in Dallas since 2015, the year of two weddings, a graduation, and a family reunion. We scheduled a number of outings for their visit and tried not to wear out their 80+year-old bodies too much. They were able to see our son's new home and hear the glad news that the twins are GIRLS! (see how I keep sneaking those announcements in..?!) On Friday, our youngest daughter, husband and canine child, Frank, were here with us from Round Rock. We enjoyed a margarita lunch, strolling around the Arboretum and a fabulous meal at 20-Feet Seafood Joint in Lakewood. 

Side Review: If you haven't heard of this little hole-in-the-wall seafood restaurant, I am here to endorse the establishment and send you as soon as your little feet can carry you that direction for the following reasons:

  1. It's BYOB. We brought 3 bottles of wine with us: rosé, sauvignon blanc, and a red blend. Also a premixed shaker of Manhattans (the in-laws go-to cocktail.) (we did NOT consume it all!) And they will uncork your bottles as well as provide stemware in which to enjoy your beverage of choice!
  2. The Lobster Roll. It's amazing. Also, the Green Room Mussels, Fried Oyster Po Boy, Fish & Chips, and any special they're offering that day.
  3. Service is better than any I've encountered in a casual setting. You place your order at the counter, but the servers are patient, pleasant and helpful. The table bussers are young and sweet, also helpful. There's just nothing to complain about. Tables are first come, first served, but they'll help put tables together and find an area, outside or inside for you. 

The weather was ideal Thursday-Saturday so we sat out on the patio and enjoyed our mussels, french fries, Lobster Rolls (3), Fish & Chips (2) and Shrimp Po boy (1). Afterwards we indulged in a little custard from Wild About Harry's and came home to play cards.

Saturday breakfast was 2 casseroles I pulled from the fridge making my life so easy. The kids returned to Round Rock and we prepared for the next round of guests--my brother-in-law, wife and canine arrived from Houston. We supped on homemade lasagna and caesar salad and dined al fresco while watching the NCAA Final Four.

Easter Sunday dawned cool and cloudy and the mass was just beautiful, uplifting and joyful. And then we headed to another brunch, this time at The Mercury, where although our server is the best (Medy?) the food was honestly, just ok. Not that they didn't have variety: prime rib, fried chicken, sushi, salads galore and waffles. But it's really hard to do Eggs Benedict for a crowd because it's always cold and a little congealed, don't you think? So that brunch was a bit disappointing. 

I know right now you're thinking, all those Butterfields do is EAT! And sometimes, it feels that way to us too. I have omitted the boring details of walking pups, gardening, and any exercise that made it's way on to the schedule.

Sunday dinner was a bit of a masterpiece, if I'm allowed to say so. Beef Tenderloin roast, perfectly seared on the grill by my hubby and accompanied by au gratin potatoes, maple-bacon roasted brussels sprouts, spring salad with asparagus, fruit and citrus vinaigrette (on the menu this week!) and finally a luscious Chocolate-Espresso Cream Pie for dessert was shared with my dear friend, Rosemarie and her three girls, making our number 10 for dinner. What a fun evening! After our meal we watched the live production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and digested slowly.

Monday was so nice and quiet, with just the four of us. The weather turned cold, giving us an excuse to read the paper by the fire and only venture out for a little chinese bistro lunch. They departed on Tuesday morning and it was back to work for my husband and me. Thanks to their visit, we were able to extend those five days and truly experience five days rather than the rapid, whirlwind, collapsed time that I've been feeling is my life. In three weeks we head to Europe to meet my son--can you believe the semester is at a close?

Ruth's No-Cook Hollandaise Sauce

 

Growing up a Billy Graham Groupie

It's funny how many young people I speak with whom love the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Sure, it's classic rock-n-roll but it's not like their songs are played over the radio waves or in restaurants these days and therefore in their every day consciousness. More than likely, their parents are/were huge fans back in their youth. Often these young people grew up hearing stories of amazing concerts or have listened to their parents' collection of vinyls or cds and their testament that the band was "the greatest of all time!"

In my young missionary-kid existence, things were a little different. My parents went to "The Jesus People" concerts (not kidding! they were a quartet of two young women and two young men who sang under that moniker). And they also attended the Billy Graham Crusade when the reverend came to Taipei, Taiwan in 1975. 

There's no denying the man's impact on the world. He was an evangelist that never forgot his vocation, taking his mission--to spread the word and love of God--to every corner of the globe. And in his 5 decades+ ministry, he managed to reach 185 countries and 215 million people. He had personal relationships with every president from Truman to Obama. And yet he was the evangelist who never tried to profit from followers, nor build a megachurch, nor run for president. He was not a womanizer but was married to his wife, Ruth, for 63 years until she passed in 2007. 

No man is perfect, but I feel the Reverend Billy Graham was an amazing role model for us today. And that's why I'm okay with admitting I was kind of groupie for that humble, non-self-serving man of God. And as a member of the Billy Graham fan club, let me share a few fun facts about the man of which you may or may not be aware:

  1. His birthday is November 7. And so is mine!
  2. His wife's name is Ruth. And so is mine!
  3. Ruth was raised a child of missionaries in Asia. Me too!
  4. Billy was a southern boy, born in North Carolina. I was born in Kentucky!
  5. He loved McDonald's. Oops, not me, but maybe when I was a child?

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 (Rev. Billy Graham's favorite Bible verse)

 Dad is center, shaking the Reverend's hand and my cute, chic mother is on the left of Dad.

Dad is center, shaking the Reverend's hand and my cute, chic mother is on the left of Dad.

Happy New Year! Woof!

               2018 is the year of the Dog

              2018 is the year of the Dog

Confession: I am quite proud of my Asian heritage. I love being a "halfie" -- Dad is Anglo (white boy) and Mom is of Asian descent. My brother, sister and I grew up very aware of our "difference," teased by our American cousins, treated as a novelty by Taiwanese relatives, adored by members of our father's church. Our mother, too, was so proud of her halfie children. She grew up poor in Taiwan, of mixed race herself (Japanese/Chinese), and adored anything Western (American). She wore poodle skirts in the 50s, and watched every Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable and Grace Kelly film that made it to the screens in Taipei. It was purely chance (an act of God) that brought she and my father together and she immediately swooned over his movie star good looks - tall and thin, with hazel eyes and shiny white teeth. He was so good looking, she thought he would never find her attractive. But he adored her petite, exotic beauty, and then gave her the best gift ever -- three halfie children!

I grew up hearing pride in my mother's voice as she declared mixed-race children to be the most beautiful of all offspring and lacking in flat feet, flat noses, and possessing superior intelligence. Lol. Ring familiar? Every mother swells with delight over their progeny. For me, her pride led to a fascination and appreciation for my heritage, and especially the cuisine. We did not live in Taiwan long but I do remember fondly some of my favorite foods from that short time.

Jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings. My mother and grandmother would make hundreds at a time, using triple stack bamboo steamers. After steaming, my father could wolf down dozens in one sitting, dipped in a simple sesame oil-soy sauce-ginger mixture. I preferred them pan-fried after steaming, with a crispy bottom. Spicy Diced Chicken with Green Peppers. In my mind, this was my mother's signature dish. A lot of preparation went into each of her courses;  dicing the chicken into exactly the same size cubes, ditto with the bell peppers, hot peppers and slices of fresh ginger, marinating, double wok-frying and finally, sauced and brought to the table. Spring Rolls, not the Vietnamese version with rice paper but not Egg Rolls either with a thick doughy wrap. My mother's spring rolls had thin, crispy skins and were stuffed with lots of hand-shredded cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, strips of lean cooked pork and tender baby shrimp (if she felt like splurging). We didn't ever dip them in Sweet & Sour Sauce and only in simple soy sauce.

So with the advent of Chinese New Year, I have occasion to celebrate my heritage! Although I no longer have children in the house on which to bestow red envelopes as I received from aunts and uncles in Taiwan, I am able to stuff myself with Chinese cuisine. Chopsticks up!!

 

Side Note: Our family is obviously Christian so we don't really follow or believe in the Chinese Zodiac calendar as a true indicator of personality and one's future. But just for grins and giggles, my family has 2 Rats, 2 Dragons, a Horse and a Snake. You can find out which sign pertains to your year at this site, and feel free to try and guess which is my sign! 

 

Oh, the places you'll go!

We all know and love the Dr. Seuss classic with that title. The book usually appears on a prominent table at a bookstore near the end of the school year because it is a popular gift for graduates. Our home has two or three copies floating around that were given on such an occasion.

But maybe the giver should have explained to our son, James, that Dr. Seuss' immortal push

“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”

was not an immediate call to action! As I write this blog, our youngest child is strolling the beaches of Barcelona and sampling paella. Last weekend, he soaked his tired feet in the natural hot springs of Budapest. And the week prior, he logged 15 miles in one day exploring the streets of Rome. James is taking his semester abroad very seriously...

All kidding aside, we are thrilled that he is having the experiences of a lifetime. Of course, it was not easy for Momma to let him go halfway around the world. It's a scary thing for me (as you can see by my not-so-excited face in the first image.) Thankfully, technology allows us to stay in touch to ease my fears and he has been very communicative. Also, TCU sent 35 students to the Rome program so he is not alone; his week days feel much like his time on campus in Ft. Worth...with the exception that he walks past centuries old monuments and on ancient streets to get to class!

Being his mother's son, he loves to eat good food and guess what? He writes. If you would like to read some of the musings from his trip, check out his blog. His photography skills exceed any in the family and his voice is young but detailed. Our family is really enjoying keeping up with his travels in this way. 

His father and I truly feel an immense amount of joy that we can send him on this journey. From our meager beginnings in a little apartment to having a son in Europe for 4 months is a huge leap and we are humbled by God's blessings.

Cherish is my word for 2018

In December I attended a breakfast where the guest speaker encouraged each of us to find our "mission statement" and to try to keep it to 6 words or less. We could then refer to our self-created statement to help make decisions for the new year. Initially, I decided my 6 word sentence would be "I will do what benefits my family." Therefore, when an opportunity would arise in the coming year to travel somewhere, participate in an event, etc., I could ask myself "will this benefit my family?" and with a yes or no, discern how to act.

However, after the events of the past few weeks, I feel the need to make it simpler than the 6-word mission statement. We lost a dear friend in December and in mourning his passing, we have felt a deep loss that is tinged with regret for missed opportunities. So my desire moving into 2018 is to Cherish. I will

  • Cherish my sweet, sweet husband. We will celebrate our 30th anniversary in 2018. What a blessing he is to me every. single. day.
  • Cherish my family. For the first time in four years, I had everyone home for Christmas. My daughter and her family were here from Atlanta and three littles ones, aged 5 years and under, will make any event exciting! They also brought the joyful news that they are expecting their fourth in May! We had a full house and full hearts.
  • Cherish my parents and in-laws. We are very fortunate to have all four alive and kicking. But time is passing and as the priest said at my friend's funeral mass, we are all terminal. I want to cherish every bit of time I have remaining with these wise people who have shaped my life and that of my mate.
  • Cherish my friendships. I don't always think about my friends every day but now I see how every interaction is so precious; life is unpredictable so I need to cherish the moments I have with my friends and not waste any time or energy on negative or petty feelings.
  • Cherish my health. Yes, this body of mine creaks and aches more than in my youth. Yes, I have to watch what I eat and exercise just to maintain my daily stamina. But it's the only body I have and it hasn't failed me yet. 
  • Cherish the downtime. The quiet moments when I can pray, reflect and meditate are also a sweet part of life and I will not take them for granted. 
  • Cherish the everyday. While working, writing, going to the grocery store, interacting with customers, rolling out pie crust, stirring over the stove, each moment that I am simply able to do these tasks + touch other's lives does not repeat and I will see the joy in each one.

So enough about me...what's your word for 2018?

IMG_2DF7A8AAEFDA-1.jpeg

Farewell, my Friend

I am an obsessive journaler. Beginning in 2000, I have consistently written about our everyday lives in little snippets first on scrapbook calendar pages and then in dedicated notebooks. The entries are nothing exciting - simple commentaries on what I did each day - how far I walked, what I cooked for dinner, what movies we watched, even the time I woke up. But today I am grateful for my journal habit because I can tell you the day on which I met Dominic & Rosemarie Coletto. 

It was August 18, 2001, at the St. Ann Supper Club kick-off potluck. John and I had been assigned to the same group as the Colettos for the current round. It was the first time for them to join the club and we were veterans. I wrote that we met "a cute couple from Chicago" and that it had been a fun evening. Also noted: on September 29, Dom & Rosemarie hosted the first gathering for our group of five couples. They were new to the supper club and yet jumped right in to host in their usual welcoming way. Dinner was fabulous - I remember that she made Beef Braciole and Risotto--I was so impressed and according to my journal, we stayed until 1:30 am! 

There was an immediate connection between the four of us. John and Dominic were both in sales; Rosemarie and I both loved to cook. But deeper than those superficial commonalities was a love of our faith, commitment to our marriages and tough-love parenting styles. Deep friendships are rare and precious in this day and age and we knew we'd found a special bond in those two.

Over the years we shared many occasions and created lifetime memories together. Because we both lived in Texas and away from extended families, we began to celebrate Christmas eve dinners together. One year the Colettos would host the meal and we would bring dessert and the next year, the Butterfields would host and they would provide the sweet ending. It was Rosemarie who introduced us to the Feast of the Seven Fishes. There were a lot of poppers and goofy pictures with paper crowns, but mostly there was so much laughter! And drinks. And champagne. And delicious meals. Sometimes we played games. Always lots of pictures. Grandma Rita was a part of these festivities before she was taken too early from this earth. But each Christmas Eve was a joyful night of friendship and family.

We took family vacations together to Florida and Mexico. And a memorable couples long weekend to San Diego after we "won" the trip at the Bishops Ball. There were Easter brunches and dinners out at the newest restaurants in Dallas. Two surprise birthday parties. We saw each other through 7 high school graduations and 4 college commencements. Dominic and Rosemarie were present at each of our 3 grown children's weddings. We've been through job changes, house moves and child rearing challenges. We've shared so much together.

The latest chapter in our friendship has been Dominic's illness. On August 22, 2016, we had dinner in downtown Dallas for a belated birthday celebration for Rosemarie. The following morning, she texted me to ask how we were feeling because Dominic had been violently ill overnight. That week marked the beginning of his journey fighting a horrible disease. And fight it he did. We knew without a doubt that he was not going to let cancer take him down. And if it did, he'd go down swinging. Those fists were still going when he lost that battle on December 26, 2017. It is with so much heartbreak and sadness that I must acknowledge that my friend Dominic could not defeat his illness and has left his earthly body to join his Heavenly Father. 

He leaves behind his beautiful, devoted Rosemarie and their daughters, Danielle, Alyssa and Olivia. Additionally, he leaves a legacy of a life well-lived and so many memories for those of us who knew him well and those who were merely acquaintances. Below are a few of my thoughts and musings on my friend, Dominic.

  • He is a devoted Catholic, born and raised, reignited by the Christ Renews His Parish movement. He served tireless hours in Eucharistic Adoration, oftentimes in the middle of the night. Beyond the Church, he knows Christ as his Lord and Savior and acknowledges God's dominion over his life.
  • Dominic is a grateful, committed husband and his marriage to Rosemarie is an enviable example of two souls who have found their home in each other.
  • He is a cool dad. Loved and adored by three daughters, always able to make them laugh, and having a special bond with each of them. I see Dominic in Danielle's steely determination; in Alyssa's gregariousness, drawing all into the circle; in Olivia's tenacity and drive. 
  • Dominic is a SPORTS FAN. Chicago Bears, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Cubs, Oklahoma Sooners. John and he shared so many conversations in text and in person about sports analysis, predictions and game-time plays.
  • He is a story teller. Not as in tall tales, but as in relaying an occurrence detail by detail. Occasionally we would tease him by saying "is there a point to this story?" But he loves to tell a good tale especially one that ends in irony.
  • Dominic has an amazing sense of humor--he loves to make people laugh and he loves to hear jokes. His ability to slip in a conversation-stopping one-liner is legendary. One of my favorite Dominic lines: "What can I say? I'm a guy."
  • He is a loyal friend. Dominic can keep secrets, provide counsel, offer advice and give encouragement. 

And Dominic is not really gone. He's still present in Rosemarie's tears, Danielle's laugh, Alyssa's ready humor and Olivia's sports enthusiasm. That is why I say Farewell, my Friend and not Goodbye. Dominic, you are not forgotten and and we feel your presence and love even now and anticipate a joyful reunion with you in heaven. 

 

The Feast of the Seven Fishes

We all have family traditions, some that you've cherished for years, can't remember when they began, and are automatically a part of every celebration. Then there are the special things you might do one year because you read about another family's participation or felt inspired and you try it out on your group and they love it so you add it to the annual festivities. No surprise, our family's traditions usually have something to do with food!

A few years ago, our Christmas eve dinner became a seafood meal. We had some Italian-American friends that introduced us to the concept, rooted in Catholic tradition that involves fasting from red meat on major religious days as Christmas Eve leading into Christmas day is such. The Feast of the Seven Fishes came into being to allow for a meal that would abstain from meat and of course, seven is a big number in the church! 

So for a number of years, when we are fortunate to host our family or friends on Christmas Eve, I have attempted to serve SEVEN fish courses. Some years I have managed only 5 but last year was a winner...

Christmas Eve 2016

Smoked Salmon with crostini

Clam Chowder Shooters

Tuna Tartare with wonton crisps

Mini Crabcakes with Remoulade

King Crablegs

Endive & Goat Cheese Salad

Shrimp Scampi & Angel Hair Pasta

Seared Swordfish Steaks on Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Chocolate Cake Roll

For 2017, I am planning to scale it back a little (maybe 4 or 5 fishes) for several reasons: 1. the meal follows a church service which limits time to prep. 2. there will be only 5 people at the table, so why overdo it?  and 3. Christmas day dinner involves a complicated potato dish, a huge rib roast and a cream puff tower. Regardless, Christmas eve will be filled with laughter, spirits, fishy courses and family...I could not ask for more.

What are some of your family traditions for the holidays? 

 

 

Life of Pie

What was the first thing you ever baked in your parents’ kitchen? I think 9 out of 10 people would respond “cookies.” Me too! I remember that our neighbors across the street  (Joyce Strong and her mother, Mary) had shared these funny little brown, bumpy lumps with us and I thought they were divine! When I asked Joyce about them, she said they were “Cat-tails.” The joke was that we had cats and the Strong family did not care for pets of the feline persuasion.

The cookies were actually an unbaked oatmeal confection that many of you have probably tasted or made at some point. It was the perfect first foray into the baking world for me because the cookies required no oven time! My mother’s cookies were a different story. Unlike those Peanut Butter Chocolate No-Bake cookies, each of Sadako’s cookies were perfectly round spheres…crisp and chewy and mostly eaten right off the wax paper where they cooled on the counter.

My mother, Sadako, born and raised in Taiwan, was a novice to American baking but she applied the strict attention to detail learned in her mother’s kitchen to her newly acquired skills. Due to her quest for perfection, she struggled especially with pie crust. And of course, apple pie was my favorite dessert in the world. I could not wait until she baked pie—sneaking into the kitchen late at night for a last piece before bed, waking up in the morning and eating a slice for breakfast. I even loved the little cinnamon strips she would make with the leftover pieces of pie crust. But she constantly complained of the troubles associated with rolling out crust so we did not have pie as often as young Ruth would have liked. :(

Fast forward to my first kitchen away from home and by golly, I was going to learn to make pie. Ironically, I don’t remember the first fruit pie I baked. But I do remember the first time I made a chicken pot pie for my sweetheart, JB. I recall that I used too many herbs in the gravy and one in particular, tarragon, was not his favorite. So several tweaks later, the Home Sweet Home chicken pie as it is today, became my signature dish. I took it to pot-lucks, friends who’d had babies recently or lost a loved one, and family reunions.

Eventually, we all return to our first (food) love and I am no different. I’m baking Apple Pie this week and every one of my senses will be aroused to memories of my mother’s flaky pies which she claimed were less than perfect but I found to be pure heaven.

 Grandma Alice's Apple Pie

Grandma Alice's Apple Pie

The IKEA Milestone

There are many different phases in the development of children from baby (completely dependent) to adult (hopefully independent). And as they near closer to that jumping off point into self-reliance, I think the benchmarks sometimes transition to becoming our own milestones.

Case in point, this past month my husband and I loaded up a rental truck and headed to Ft. Worth to transfer our college junior into a rental home that he is sharing with 5 other TCU students. I remember making this same trip six years ago with our daughter as she moved into a house two blocks from campus with 3 other girls. (Incidentally, all 4 housemates of “Casa Wabasha” are now MARRIED! How did that happen? Where did the time go?) And then, as in this summer, we moved a bed and several lovely boxes purchased from that mega-store, IKEA.

Sidebar: What is it with millennials and IKEA? I recently viewed a pre-showing of Reese Witherspoon’s new movie “Home Again” and one young man, in an attempt at seduction, offered to construct something from IKEA. Lol.

Back to the subject at hand…three boxes, three hours and three people to put together a six-drawer dresser for my son’s room! I am not exaggerating. When we finished, my son was thrilled. His room was complete and represents a safe, solitary haven to escape to from the stresses of upper level courses, internship applications and an ex-girlfriend. So I  consider the building of IKEA furniture a milestone in our continued advancement of moving him along the path to adulthood. Cross another one off the list. Had to do it. It’s done. Move on. No tears associated with this objective.

But two weeks later, when he texted me a picture of his first home-cooked meal made in the rental house kitchen, I felt a little more sentimental. He had requested I send him a few simple staple recipes and I recently came across an idea whereby you save these go-to recipes as contacts on your phone. Perfect for young people whose lives are on their smart phones; if they are at the grocery store, they have only to search for the recipe name in their contact list and they have the ingredients list in front of them! So he made spaghetti for himself. My baby made his first meal away from home AND it was not only edible, but delicious! I’m so proud. And a little sad…that he is one step closer to not needing me anymore. :(

 james' first self-prepared meal as a college student

james' first self-prepared meal as a college student

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

-William Shakespeare

Summer, the most magical of seasons, is drawing to a close. Many of you were as busy during June and July as you are the rest of year..but I hope you had some respite from the crazy, frenetic Spring.

My favorite summer activities include going to movies to escape the oppressive heat, shopping the local farmers markets for amazing produce, picnics & concerts at the Dallas Arboretum and lazy afternoons by the pool. I also love eating dinner as late as we want to, outdoor exercise and the sun rising with me in the morning.

The images of summer that I adore are drippy ice cream cones, children in pajamas and puppies running around the farmers markets, colorful pedicures in chic summer sandals and emerald green waters with white sandy shores.

Soon the hot days will shorten to cooler evenings and we’ll be back on our patios sipping wine. The lights from Friday night football games will fill the neighborhood. The cross country runners will be on the streets early in the morning. After school activities will have us running, dividing and conquering. It’s all good, all part of the natural progression of things. One season closes, another begins. The goal is to enjoy each and every moment.

IMG_0053
IMG_0053

Seven days

Recently, we returned from a vacation to the Florida gulf coast with three out of four off-spring and two respective spouses. We were so fortunate to have time with family for our week because it doesn’t always work out that way. Now that most of our adult children are married, they must divide time between us and their in-laws so a week together here and there is a real treat.
So, in brief, here’s a look at our week by the numbers…

1 round of golf, 1 stand-up paddle board, 1 date night

2 days of rain at the end of our week, 2 sheet-pan breakfasts*, 2 martini nights

3 girls on the beach, 3 books finished by yours truly, 3 family meals at the vacation home

4 boys in the water, 4 absolutely-drop-dead-gorgeous days on the beach, 4 delicious dinners in restaurants

5 walks on the beach, 5 days without rain, 5 ways to eat oysters

6 games played, 6 different swimsuits, 6 water bottles consumed each day

7 sunrises & sunsets, 7 days of laughter, 7 cruiser bikes

Countless: inside jokes, photos snapped, snacks consumed, waves ridden, eye rolls, quotable comments by JB, songs shuffled, cocktails created, memories made.

Can’t wait to do it again.

*Recipe for Sheet Tray Pancakes for your next family vacation/reunion!

Thankful for my Faithful Father

It’s Father’s Day weekend and time to honor and celebrate the men in our lives. Mothers get so much more acclaim than their male counterparts and moms definitely deserve to be honored. There is nothing like the nurture you receive from your mom to shape your personality and future.

But I want to speak to the blessing that my dad, Tom Beach, has been in my life. When I think of my father, so many diverse images come to mind. Scholar. Pilot. Jesus-freak. Teacher. Sports fan. Marathoner. Evangelist. Brother. Husband. Son. He has been all those things to so many people.

 My father in his post-Jesus freak phase

My father in his post-Jesus freak phase

He ran track for Kansas State for one year.  Became a missionary in Taiwan after graduating from college. Learned to speak perfect Taiwanese. Received a Masters in Divinity. Earned his private pilot’s license. High school teacher at Taipei American School. Founded a ministry-“The Way Inn” to provide a meeting place for young people to worship in Taiwan. Youth pastor at Christian Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Avid motorcyclist. Ran multiple marathons. He can name every tree in the forest and identify the clouds in the sky.

But besides all of the talents and accomplishments, my father is the most faith-filled man I have ever known. He believes that every person is “savable.” He is compassionate and discerning and loving and affectionate. He married a girl who could speak no english but he saw in her the beauty of Christ. And he has loved each of his children fully and unconditionally. I am so proud to call him my dad and am so thankful for the way he raised me.

So on this Sunday, I just want to express my gratitude for him. I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day! <3

 Loving on Daddy, 1969. Tonia is left, Ruth is right

Loving on Daddy, 1969. Tonia is left, Ruth is right

In Pursuit of Patience

For the month of June, I’m finally getting around to calling out my problem with impatience. As evidenced by the pained look that appears on my face when I’m standing in the express line behind a woman writing a check. Even worse than the fact that I am utterly impatient is the fact that you can read it on my face. So I’m going to try to take calming breaths and assume a look of peace and tranquility.

But beyond my impatience with every day tasks, driving conditions and snail mail, I really need to learn to wait on life. On God to answer prayers. On solutions to dilemmas that will only be solved with time. I must acquire peace through stillness and inactivity. And. This. Is. So. Hard.

Sometimes we think we can make things happen quicker. That if we line up all the chickens, we will be flush in eggs. That if I pray the same prayer every morning, I must get the answer I am desiring. Unfortunately, we are NOT always in control and God may have a different plan. In June, I will try to let go of my expectations about timeframe, and even more difficult to do, let go of my demands for the outcome. I know I will find peace in this act of faith.

This doesn’t mean I will discontinue my prayers and hopes. As long as I’m not impatient and demanding and can remain peaceful. And that’s where I hope to be.

I hope that many of you are around this week to enjoy our fabulous menu. We will be cooking all of June and will be sporadic for most of July, then close completely for two weeks at the end of July and first part of August.

Blowing kisses in May

By golly, I’m going to get my act together. If my resolution in May doesn’t shape me up, it’ll kill me for sure. So, first my confession: I’m a bit of an aggressive driver. Impatient to a fault. Lead-foot. Not a tail-gater, but have been known to talk to the driver in front of me, gesturing with uplifted hands, smacking my head, hoping they are looking in their rear view mirror to register my annoyance, disgust or anger.

Well, this month my goal is to gesture in a completely different way when I’m cut off or delayed by the very cautious motorist in front of me. For May, I will try to blow a kiss to the subject of my irritation and utter this saying “I hope you arrive safely and on time to your destination.” I will attempt to murmur this blessing every time I feel the need to scream silently or when I feel my blood boil in righteous indignation.

037e79b2fb52127537be79110891ae3f-e1494073270269.png

This may be my most difficult change to date. Please send help.

But seriously, if I can accomplish this goal, how much better will the roads be?! If we could all send out blessings instead of curses, the energy around us would completely change to a positive force of synchronized oneness from which all love would abound…yeah, right. Sorry, that’s just silly talk. Life is well, life. It’s messy and dirty and can be negative and ugly. For now, I’ll just be happy to change the 6’x6’ atmosphere inside my ride to a place of peace. Most of my commutes to the kitchen or the big box store are short and SURELY, I can blow kisses and whisper blessings for the 15 minutes I’m in the car each way.  I hope. I’ll try. Pray for me. :)

At the end of this week, we honor our mothers, whether honorary, adoptive, by birth, or by action. I am so blessed by my mom, Sadako, who brought me into the world and continues to be a Godly inspiration of sacrifice and service, and by Jeanette. my mother-in-law, a woman of limitless patience and discretion. I wish I could hug them both on Sunday and tell them in person what they mean to me, but a phone call will have to do. Be sure to tell your mother figures how important they are to you this week and as often as possible.

I have a special menu for those of you who want to make Mom’s day easy and tasty—you can find it here. If you are a mother on my list, know that I admire and respect you in your tireless devotion to your families.

Blessings and car kisses,

Ruth

A quick trip to Music City

My sister-in-law, Diane, turned 60 this month and she decided that for this momentous occasion she would like her sisters, mother, and sisters-in-law to meet for a girls’ weekend in a city to which she’d never visited. Nashville won the bid so the 7 of us traveled there from New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin and Illinois a couple of weekends ago for a fast & furious 48 hours.

The weather was a bit chilly but warm for the upper midwesterners. We stayed at a boutique hotel in downtown Nashville, attended a concert at the Ryman, caught live music at Robert’s Western World, toured Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, and dined at a restaurant whose chef’s recipe was featured on the March cover of Food & Wine magazine.  It was a fun, informative, tasty weekend but my biggest takeaway…

Nashville is THE bachelor/bachelorette party destination for 2017 weddings.

I have never seen so many brides-to-be and gangs of guys on Pedal Bars in a single downtown area. Not that they were especially wild or obnoxious but that the sheer number of party vehicles was astounding. Traffic flow was definitely inhibited by their slow progress so our Uber to dinner was a 25 minute ride when it should have been 10. The positive is that all of the partiers were having fun with no risk of DUI...

But back to food. I think my favorite meal of the weekend was breakfast at a restaurant  in the Omni Hotel. We didn’t plan to dine there but when our driver tried to deliver us to Biscuit Love and we saw the line down the block (it was cold, remember!) we quickly checked our smartphones for “breakfast near me” to find an alternative. Kitchen Notes was a hit. I ordered hot chicken and waffles. Yum-yum-yummy. The chicken was tender and spicy and the waffles, buttery but substantial. Good stuff.

I hope to visit Nashville again but next time, I think I might:

a) stay off the beaten path a little

b) take the river cruise to see more of the beautiful natural surroundings

c) spend more time seeking out live music

d) go with my best friend and hubby! <3

 My breakfast at Kitchen Notes

My breakfast at Kitchen Notes

April's Attitude of Gratitude

If you’ve been following along with the blog, you’ll know I’ve been working on monthly resolutions.

January – Ditch the Grudge

February – Pay it Forward

March – Plant Seeds of Optimism

This month’s theme was inspired by a talk from a young priest last month. He had spent his “spring break” on a mission trip to a third world country. He commented that as is so often on these outreach events, as the “missionary” you gain as much as, if not more than the people you intend to help. He described a young child who would hang around the job site as they built homes for these needy people and when he asked her to show him her toys she proudly brought out her prized doll. When he requested to see her other toys, she looked a little confused and replied, “This is my toy. Isn’t she pretty?” She was so happy with her one plaything, her one possession.

The young priest had an “a-ha” moment…a forehead-slapping humbling insight. We are all so caught up in our phones, iPads, laptops, and other things that we feel we cannot live without each day. We don’t feel grateful for the ease of our lives and the possessions that we take for granted. We forget that our children have never done without or had to worry about a safe roof over their heads or the accessibility of healthcare. Plentiful healthy meals, superior education and culture are a given in our neighborhoods. So his recommendation for the lenten season was to work to be grateful for what we already have rather than to sacrifice or “give up” a favorite food, beverage or activity.

During the month of April I am working to cultivate daily gratitude for my blessings, as well as my normal existence. I will try not to take for granted the things I have, the people in my life and least of all, this great state and country I call home. My goal is to see the beauty of my health, enjoy each new morning as it rises and sigh with a grateful heart at the end of each evening. Won’t you join me in my attitude of gratitude this month?

Other things to be thankful for:  sweet customers who make my work worthwhile, fresh produce in the markets to make delicious salads and soups, and ripe fruit for pie! Have a great week…be sure to check the order site for available items not listed on the posted menu. 

 Raspberry Pie

Raspberry Pie