Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pooh Sums it Up.



In early May of this year I mused about the upcoming summer of 2011. I shared with you, friends and readers, my hope that the dark cloud that had hung thick and low over my family for so long had finally been blown out to sea. But in all honesty I knew that it had not. Oh, I wanted to wish that it did--and maybe somehow thought that by proclaiming on this page that all was fine, that it would be--but deep in the pit of my being, I knew I was about to lose my father.

And that--along with the loss of my grandmother and the end of my marriage--finally explains my silence on this blog for the past several years.

I lost my wonderful father, John Miksad, to cancer on July 1st, at 9:35 in the evening. The day before he died I visited him in the hospital, never realizing it would be the last time I saw him conscious. How I wished I had stayed longer that afternoon, told him the things I always wanted to say, had not assumed I would be granted more time. Because by the next evening, as fireworks lit up the sky over New York City, my Dad slipped out of our lives, and back into the arms of his parents and Our Lord.

Six weeks later, even as I type these words, I can't believe I will never see my father again. How I long for just five more minutes with him, to tell him about the Yankee game I went to on Thursday and the two Jeter fly-balls we just missed, or to laugh about our junket to Saratoga last weekend and how the Old Man lost the car, or how I got to take a ride in the fire truck, or.......oh, there are a trillion things I want to tell him and truthfully, five minutes wouldn't be enough.

My Dad was a gentleman, a comedian, a listener, a faithful husband, an awesome grandfather, a solid friend, a decent human being, a gardener, a fisherman, a lover of summer, and the best Dad I could ever imagine or invent. I am so proud to have known him for 47 years.

Rest in Peace Yonk. Until we meet again, you're forever in my heart.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer 2011

It's fascinating what happens to a person when their world falls to pieces. Three years ago this weekend I wrote a blog called The Wedding Crasher. At that time I knew my life was about to change, but I had no idea to what extent. Back in May of 2008 I was married, I lived in that great old converted barn in Chappaqua, I was still on the creative high of having written my Summer book, and I had a small, close group of friends that I could not only count on, but more importantly, could truly be myself with.

My grandmother died a few weeks after posting The Wedding Crasher, and instead of us all healing and moving on after her death, things simply spiraled out of control in my life and the lives of everyone around me. It was as if every member of my family was tossed at sea in the middle of a Class 5 hurricane--at night--with nothing more than dime store water wings to keep us afloat, a book of matches to light our way.

Collectively we were a mess; personally, I was beyond lost. I was going through an unpleasant divorce (as if there is such a thing as a pleasant one), I had to relocate two times in two years, and I lost many of those close friends I thought I'd always be able to count on. I finally understood what it meant to be broken.

There were so many times I sat down at my computer to write--I wanted so desperately to get my creative voice back--but there was just nothing inside; I had zero to offer, not a word of advice or a positive thought to share. I went through each day putting one foot in front of the other, some days incapable of much more than the most basic day-to-day tasks; eating, working, sleeping. Even when I posted last year that I was 'back', I realize now that was really just wishful thinking; I was still waiting for the storm to settle, the seas to calm.

It's exactly three years since the dark clouds formed on the horizon, and today the sea is gentle and it is warm. My family has survived the storm and we are closer than ever from having weathered it together.

And I, I am in love.

I would like to introduce you all to The Old Man.



You'll be getting to know more about him as I once again share my life on these pages.
But for this weekend, another photo essay, just as I posted here three years ago this weekend. I hope you'll follow me here and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/suzannebrown

The official start of Summer 2011. The start of my new life.

I wish you all the happiness in the world and a beautiful Memorial Day weekend.

XO,
Suzanne

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thank you BH&G

A big shout out to Better Homes and Gardens for including my Summerology blog in their August issue. Get to their website riiiiight here....

+ get to Summerology here! (what took you so long?)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One year later....

Will try to keep this yearly tradition going until I can't bear to see the changes any longer.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The backyard.







Yesterday was a classic mid-July sort of day; the kind of day where there is very little change in the mercury after sunset, the humidity makes everyone as lazy as cats, and the best solution to the sweltering heat would be to play hooky, plop your ass into a big old tire tube, and float around a lake until you're as wrinkled as a raisin, preferably eating an ice cream cone while the current carries you along.

Despite the steamy conditions, there was a barbecue last night to celebrate my Aunt's birthday in backyard of the Big Old House that has been in my family for as long as we all can remember. It was the house that belonged to my grandparents--a comfy, well-worn, two-family home on a big corner lot--and each and every one of us have memories of growing up there. My grandparents raised my father and my aunt there, my brothers and I began our lives in that home, my cousins were always staying over, family was always weaving in and out. Years later, both of my brothers at separate times lived downstairs from my grandmother, and as a result, my nephews and nieces got to connect with the home the same way that we did when we were young. My Grams died two years ago and since then my cousin and his wife have lived there with their two children, but as I have posted before, my grandmothers spirit is still very much a part of that house.

For me, it's bittersweet going back to Parsons Street as it seems like just yesterday my grandmother was there with us in the backyard, 'racing us' across the lawn, around the big Azalea bush and back again--always letting us win, hanging her laundry out to dry on the clothesline, tending to her garden. In that home--with my family around me--I always felt safe and protected. Last night I got to taste a bit of those sweet summer memories once again as I ran around the yard barefoot with the first generation, the second generation, and the next generation that is growing up in and around the house. We barbecued, played baseball, caught fireflies, shot water pistols, and later in the evening we went upstairs to the dining room table--the dining room where we've shared more meals than any of us could ever count--to sing Happy Birthday to my Aunt. In my minds eye I flashed back to this scene repeated a hundred times before; it was so familiar and comforting that I never wanted the night to end.

As I drove home in my Jeep, my mind wandered to the things that are truly important in my life, and how those things seem to be evolving as I grow older. I don't buy 'stuff' for myself any more; I now care more about experiences with people I love, rather than possessions I don't need. In fact, I would give away everything I own to simply have time stand still, and for everyone in my family to be exactly where they are at this very moment....

In Long Beach.

Down the Jersey Shore.

In a car driving to Medieval festival.

Sitting on a deck beneath the warm summer sun.

Paddling on a kayak.

Tending a garden.

Driving in a Jeep with the top down.

Running barefoot after a toddler in the backyard.

...frozen in time on a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-July, enjoying life and appreciating it's simple pleasures, because we were fortunate enough to grow up learning such things in that beautiful backyard on the very edge of Parsons Street, my grandmother watching over us as we laughed, love overflowing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm a thief.

I'm stealing from my talented and beautiful niece Maureen's blog today. You can arrest me, or thank me. I bet dollars to donuts you'll thank me.

Read

http://makingmypath.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/goals.jpg

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heat Schmeat



There's been quite a lot of bitching and moaning going on around here on the east coast as the mercury soars into the triple digits, and newscasters screech on apocalyptically about the Big Heatwave of 2010 Me? You won't hear one single complaint spill out across these lips as I'm genuinely grateful for this steamy, bubbling cauldron of New York stew, since the flipside--which will most definitely come sometime in early 2011 in the form of sleet, then snow, then high winds, then downed power lines, then maddening claustrophobia--is certainly no picnic.

As far as I am concerned, this has been a fabulous--and classic--summer here in the Northeast; sunny hot days with nary a drop of rain, other than the occasional rumbling thunderstorm in the afternoon or late evening. And thankfully those few-and-far-between showers that do roll into town quickly make haste, leaving in their wake yet another inviting sunny day. We've not had a summer like this in as long as I can remember -- it brings me back to a time when I was young and school was let out, and I had no agenda other than simply being lazy and carefree for two warm, delicious months.

I made a promise to myself early on in the season that I would not squander this lovely time of year; there has been too much time frittered away over the past twenty-four months, so I refuse to waste any more precious minutes on things or people that don't make me smile.

If it doesn't bring a smile to your face or your heart, then you don't need it in your world.

In 2008 I wrote a post at the end of the summer titled It's not Over Till It's Over, which listed 21 things to do before the end of the summer. Since we are midway through the Summer of 2010, I thought I would revisit that idea and post a new list to inspire you (and me as well) to grab hold of the two remaining summer months, and fill each and every minute of them with carefree joy and memorable adventures, just like we did when we were young and didn't let little things like heatwaves + humidity + limp hair keep us from living each day as if it was our last....


Things to do before September 1st comes around...
Plan a road trip to some place you never thought you'd visit Don't test the water...just jump in (better yet, do a cannonball) Have a water balloon fight (I don't care how old you are) Enjoy a rootbeer float Roller skate Eat an ice cream sandwich Make pickled vegetables Picnic at the beach at sunset (with someone you love, or by yourself) Sleep in a hammock Whip up some homemade ice cream Nap Wear a flower in your hair Construct a sandcastle Hang the American flag Squeeze fresh lemonade Have BLT's with ripe tomatoes for lunch (or dinner) Sleep naked Watch the Perseid meteor shower in August Study bugs in the grass Drink rum and coke while listening to reggae Dig for clams Fly a kite Skinnydip at midnight Go to an outdoor concert Play hopscotch Blow bubbles Grow gigantic sunflowers Tie dye t-shirts Hang a tire swing Buy a water gun + spray people with it Run barefoot around the yard catching fireflies Take a cool bubble bath Make freezer jam to remind you of summer all winter long Dip bananas in melted chocolate, freeze, then eat Skip Stones Go to a midnight movie Get a henna tattoo Eat more hot dogs Wear toe rings and ankle bracelets + paint your toenails different colors Play badminton Watch Grease, Shag + Dirty Dancing Eat cherry (or blueberry) pie with vanilla ice cream Wear flip flops every day Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do when you retire + can be young and free every day....


Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana's

From my book, Summer: A User's Guide


3 Bananas

12 ounces semi-sweet or German chocolate

Ice Cream Sticks

Plastic Wrap

Waxed Paper or Coated Paper Plate


Peel the bananas and remove any remaining stringy fibers, then cut in half widthwise. Insert an ice cream stick through the cut end of each half, cover each banana in plastic wrap and place in freezer until frozen (approximately 3 hours).


Melt the chocolate either on a stovetop in a double boiler, or in a microwave. Remove bananas from freezer and use a rubber spatula or butter knife to coat the bananas evenly with chocolate.


Place the pops on wax paper and freeze until ready to serve.


Makes 6 pops.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Punctuation is Powerful


An English professor wrote the words:

"A woman without her man is nothing"
on the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly.

All of the males in the class wrote:
"A woman, without her man, is nothing."

All the females in the class wrote:
"A woman: without her, man is nothing."

Punctuation is powerful.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thoughts for a humid Tuesday.

This is proof that sometimes--just sometimes---there's actually something worthwhile in my email box.

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Housewarming Weekend.

My brother and niece moved to a wonderful new home last month, so to celebrate, our family came together for a big housewarming party this past weekend. On Friday I spent the day preparing traditional Polish food with my niece, and then on Saturday evening the entire family joined us for the celebratory feast of pierogi, kielbasa (with plenty of hot horseradish), stuffed cabbage, kapusta, latkes with sour cream and apple sauce, and delicious homemade paska.

Since I've been busy with work and writing these days, I thought I'd share some of my photos so you know I am still alive and well. Oh, and since I'm in a good mood.....a recipe, too!

Nostrovia!

Maureen's seedlings!


The potato pancakes before.....and after (we made 100!) Recipe


My niece is the baker in the family. Her paska...


The "outdoor fridge" and pierogi's browning....


Hot stuff!


Real men chop garlic....


The host and the hostess (my brother and my niece)


Maryclare and kielbasa!


More pierogi (144 to be exact)


The host....Leah and my Aunt MaryAnn (Hi Aunt MA!)


Hugs everywhere! Mati + Mark......My mom and my brother, Michael


Sweet Logan!!!!!...Me and my lovely niece, Claire.


The women in the kitchen



PASKA (traditional Ukranian Easter Bread)
Makes 3 loaves

(PRINT RECIPE CARD)

1 tsp sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 package of yeast
3 cups of whole milk
5 cups+ bread flour

+

6 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted
1 TBSP salt

+

3 cups golden raisins, optional (soaked in warm water to soften)


Scald the milk, then allow to cool till very warm. Combine milk, yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Add flour, one cup at a time -- either mixing it with the bread attachment of a Kitchenaid, or kneading it with your hands -- until the dough is smooth. The dough will be a bit sticky.

Cover dough with a dish cloth, set in a warm place, and let rise for about 1 hour.

Beat together
6 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup melted butter
1 TBSP salt

Add the mixture to the dough and knead until it becomes smooth, adding more flour as needed. If you are adding raisins, drain them and mix them into the dough.

Cover dough with a dish cloth, set in a warm place, and let rise for approximately 3-4 hours, or until it doubles in size.

After it doubles, punch dough down in the middle, cover and let rise again for another hour.

Divide dough into 3 parts. Place loaves into greased round pans, brush each with an egg wash, cover and set them a warm place for approximately 1-2 hours, or until they double in size.

Preheat oven to 400F

Bake loaves at 400F for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350F and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pining for Monday.


Some months just seem to slog on forever, don't they? Despite being the shortest page on the calendar, February always seems like it's twice as long as the other ones for whatever reason. Perhaps it's because the weather is just Godawful during this month and that horrible little Cheesesteak-lovin' rodent doesn't make matters any better by seeing his shadow (or is it not seeing his shadow? I can never remember...) and smashing any dreams we might have of an early spring. Sidenote: Did you know that groundhogs are also called woodchucks, land-beavers, and—my personal favorite—Whistle Pigs?! I believe I'll start a Facebook page campaigning to change Groundhog Day to Whistle Pig Day.


But I digress, as I tend to do.


Now, where was I? Oh, yes, February sucking....


There's also the always irksome and stressful Valentine's Day in the month of February as well—a holiday I'll neither understand nor embrace as long as I live; too much pressure associated with that one. Thank you FTD, Hallmark, and Kay Jewelers for making us feel like losers if we're alone on that day, or worse—if we're not—that either we are, or we are married to/dating, total slacker cheapskates if we don't buy what you peddle.


It's also difficult to muster up any sort of energy for exercise during February: it's boreal outside, so it's much easier to stay indoors scarfing down carbohydrates, rather than suiting up like an Everest climber in order to schlep to the gym, only to have to wrest ourselves out of a multitude of layers upon arrival, exhausted beyond words before even lifting our first dumbbell. As a result of the lack of both physical activity and sunshine, my midsection and thighs look as pale and squishy as rising dough. I've also sadly learned that no matter how much yoga I do with Pat the Rockstar, it simply can't stave off the damage caused by sitting around the rest of the day, eating bags of cheddar cheese Goldfish crackers, drinking glass after glass of Cabernet. When it comes to working out, yoga just can't hold a candle to kickboxing, it seems.


I had a colonoscopy this month, too, and of course—despite every Baby Boomer under the sun telling me theirs was a breeze (or as breezy as starving yourself for one and a half days, emptying your colon with powerful laxatives, and having a camera inserted up your butt and woven through your entire colon can possibly be...)—it was not without drama. Apparently I have what they call a long and tortuous colon. Long and T-O-R-T-U-O-U-S. I think that description sums things up perfectly so I will leave the rest up to your imagination, spare you the horrendous details of my viscera.


So, while I normally don't look forward to Monday mornings, this coming Monday marks the arrival of March, which means folks, that beautiful, glorious spring is just around the corner. In fact as of this posting, even though there is a foot of snow piled up outside and the talking heads on TV are either warning New Yorkers about an impending apocalypse, or more snow in the forecast, spring is just a mere 21 days away. Monday I am back to the gym in full-force. The Goldfish crackers are history as are the glasses of Cabernet. These doughy thighs and my muffin top will simply be yet another unpleasant February memory come April May June.


Longer days.

Daffodils.

Pastels.

Hope.

Optimism.

Energy.


Yup. Monday; Can't wait.