Summer Vacation With 10 kids….part 3 (and tre bionde)

Driving 800 miles in a car with 5 “kids” is no problem.  That doesn’t phase me at all.  We’ve never traveled without extra kids, it’s just how we are.  Once we arrived in K-Vegas, however, there were another 5 waiting for us.  Crazy!

The beginning of our vacation was more of a “Mommy’s Gone Wild” trip.  Lots of partying and dancing going on.  Now it was time to get down to the “Good Mommy” part of the trip. The kids were aged 12-17.   Thank you God for the 3 female high school seniors (they only came in blonde that year).  These girls are all close friends, 2 are licensed (and designated) drivers.  Two of them are also now my daughters (sorry Sue ~ but I’m keeping her!).   These big girls were easy to please.  A set of car keys, a credit card and an outlet mall kept them busy for a day.  This is the tribe showing off the new school clothes.

So there were 3 of us, and 10 of them.  We were seriously outnumbered.  How do you entertain 10 kids of at least 2 genders and various ages?  Tubing.  Not snow tubing.  Lake tubing.  Puckett played captain of her boat, while the kids went in groups of 3 out on a big tube tied by a very long leash to the back of the boat.  The game was: they try desperately to stay on the tube.  We try to knock all of them off into the lake.  Great game!  Speeding around the lake, bouncing over the wake of other boats and trying to knock off not one or two, but all three girls is a challenge.  Puckett, however, was up to the task.  Now don’t feel bad…they liked it.  Really!  When they weren’t on the tube they were all in the lake swimming  anyway.  Belew’s Lake has the warmest water you’ll find anywhere.  It was built by the power plant so they could use the water to cool the generators.  It’s ridiculously warm.  Even hotter than pee.  So they say….ahem…

Since the older girls are seniors we are expected to take them to at least 57 colleges so they can go on endless tours and eventually choose the best place to enjoy a 4 year party with a $200,000 cover charge pursue a higher education. We already went through this with #1 son.  It was ridiculous.  None of his friends were ready for college.  They were all extremely bright kids, top performers with good support.  They left home without their brains, I swear!  They spent so much time living the college life that they had no time for classes.  Well, guess what?  We’ve figured out a way to avoid all that.  Instead we took them to Krispy Kreme.  They can get gainful employment, cute (hats) uniforms and tasty fringe benefits.  The best part…between the 3 of them we’ll be saving a good half a million, not even including the money we’ll save with our donut discounts!  Oh yeah~ who needs a daughter in med school when I can snag a free Krispy Kreme???!!!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation…part 2…”The Benefits of Teenage Drivers” (or Running With Scissors- still happening)

Some people bring a parent along on vacations to help keep an eye on the kids.  We brought teenaged kids along to keep an eye on the grownups!  Who knew that only 15 years ago when we were bribing them to pee in the potty, and keep their clothes on in public, that they’d be our designated drivers someday?  Just for the record…we all kept our clothes on in public!

We pulled into K-Vegas around 7pm.  After the hello’s, the unpacking, the catching up, it was revealed that our dear Puckett was sitting and waiting for us at the Village Tavern.  The VT is a lovely place, great food and they have a huge pub room that is “breathing-is-only-possible-if-you-tip-your-chin-up” tight on Wednesdays as they have a “1/2 price wine” special every week.  When we got there we helped Puckett finish a bottle or so of Merlot.  I also met my new friend Carol, who Avery describes as “really pretty and “fancy”.  Avery is correct.  Puckett and Carol were attracting a lot of attention in that place, as full as it was.  There was a lot of wine on that table still waiting to be sipped when we arrived.  I can’t really remember if I drove home that night, or if we were rescued by my dear daughter-by-another-mother Bailey.  Have I mentioned  how nice it is to have a teenaged DD?

The next day was mostly playing in the pool, but we had to watch the clock because (my other new friend) Kathy had secured us tickets to a very fancy party! The PGA tournament was going on in Greensboro, and they were throwing a big shindig at the country club.  There was a really great band named Sleeping Booty.

There were lots of people, which isn’t surprising because they also had an Open Bar all night long!!!Who even does that? It was crazy fun though.  We danced like the pathetic white girls that we are, and loved every minute.

The next day, (and NO, I don’t know for sure who drove us home, but it could have been me.  I actually think it was…) we had to get up and head out in the morning.  My dear new friend Carol had obtained some swanky box seats at the PGA tournament for the 16th hole.  Now, I’m no big golf person.  It strikes me as being a bit slow going anyway, but when some nerdy guy walks around with a big sign telling you to hush up…I’m not having it!  These seats, however, were in a big, air conditioned, indoor room, right at the 16th hole.  I’m talking big round dining tables (with tablecloths), full on buffet and….you guessed it…OPEN BAR!!! And yes, I believe we did dive in face first.  It was still a golf tournament.  With an open bar, a full on buffet and some of the fanciest trailer potties I’ve seen in a long time…well who couldn’t enjoy all that?!!!

As I don’t usually have so much time away from the kids, I was seriously missing them already.  We all agreed that for the rest of the trip we would spend all…or most… of the time indulging enjoying our children.  After all, having teen drivers who are willing and able to pick up your drunk butt when you’ve been out carousing is not something to take for granted!

Tomorrow, assuming that someone kindly sends me photos ( I am sooo bad about remembering to take pics!) I’ll vent…rant…share some treasured moments with the tribe.  Including…my dear…darling…designated driver daughters!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation…part 1: GPS stinks!

GPS is ridiculous.  We used to do just fine with an atlas.  Or a map.  If you wanted to get fancy, you could have AAA make you up a “triptik”, with play by play instructions that any imbecile could manage.  We have 2 of those GPS suckers, as well as a navigation feature on our “smart” phones.  You know what? They all operate on ghetto mode.  It doesn’t matter if you’re driving to Paris or the local corner market, they route us through the ghetto.  I had a fab  Christmas party that I tried to get to last winter; it was only about a mile from my job.  That GPS drove me all around the greater Boston area, including a place where the buildings were burned out/ boarded up and there were people drinking and dancing in the streets.  That was as close as I got to celebrating, I missed the party and gave up when I was still circling the city about 2 hours later.  Seriously!

But back to the trip…We left Boston at 2pm after I scooted out of work.  I had a google-planned trip all laid out (these plans were, of course, nowhere to be found once we left).  It was planned so that we’d go over the Tappan Zee bridge.  I don’t like bridges.  The only thing worse than bridges are tunnels that go underwater…but that came much later.  The Tappan Zee is a nice bridge, as bridges go.  It’s lovely, actually.  Our GPS doesn’t understand this.  It refused to take me to anything but the George Washington Bridge.  When I realized that this was the plan, I tried to thwart this evil tool.  I left the route and drove up to White Plains.  Twice.  From two different locations.  Each time the b@xt$d would reroute me until finally, in exhaustion, I gave up and went over the George Washington Bridge.  It’s not all bad.  It’s been standing a long time, and I’m sure it’s really safe…but when you approach from the NY side you don’t want to see the structure underneath.  It looks like it’s held together by some scrap lumber and duck tape.  Seriously.  Even the kids said “this can’t really be a legit bridge”.  Some parts look really ramshackle.  To be fair, it held up long enough to allow our passage, and as far as I know hasn’t collapsed.  Yet.  (***Okay…apologies to fans of NY or the GWB.  This is not the real bridge.  We were moving too fast to get a photo- this fine pic is from

We then drove through scenic NJ, and farm country in PA (with the kids all staring out the window on ” Amish alert”).  There was some drama with the weather.  We had a lot of radio “emergency announcements” about winds, hail, 40 days and build an Ark” stuff.  The first day ended at an extremely nice “La Quinta” in Chambersburg PA.  The GPS was unable to locate a ghetto in Chambersburg.  It either grew tired of the games, or just gave up and brought us safely to our temporary abode.  Strong work, GPS.  We forgive you.  Almost.

No, we havn’t fallen off the face of the Earth…

While I know that people aren’t losing sleep over my lack of production in the blog world…I’m feeling guilty for my lazy ways. We puled into town 6 days ago. The first few days and nights were crazy. We got caught up in the PGA tournament with golf events, parties and dances. It was 3 solid days of open bar. I didn’t know people still did that!
The rest of the time has been kid focused. Favorite part: Belews Creek. We’ve been swimming and tubing. I want to move there. Looks just like Maine,but the water is warm. Hot,actually. They built this lake and it cools the generator for the power plant. It’s hot enough to swim almost the whole year. It’s even hotter than pee. Really. Now don’t you just wish you were here? Well, I’m loving it. No net. I’ll post from phone again later…

Call me (Blue-Haired Lady) Maybe…

Have you ever noticed how some females are not comfortable being single? There’s an old joke about a widowed woman living in Florida.  This woman says to a man “I haven’t seen you around here before”.  “Yes”, he says “I just got out of jail for killing my wife”.  “So” she says, ” You’re single?”.

I’ve had friends who were that desperate.  I now realize that they felt inadequate without a man on their side.  At the time, though, that was a foreign concept.  Okay, it’s flattering when a guy makes declarations of undying love, not gonna lie.  It’s what you grow up waiting for (I’m not blaming you Mr Disney, but geez!).  I just didn’t need flattery to be okay. Usually.  The thing is,  I misunderstood my friends.  I actually figured that all those women were afraid to live alone.  And that was something I could understand.  I did plan to get married someday.  I figured that (given statistics) I’d outlive him.  And I had some concerns about how I’d cope.  Who would take the trash out?  Kill the spider?  Have the tires rotated?  Well, actually no one does that.  The point was, even when I had my teenage Disney-infused dreams of coupledom,  I was mildly concerned that my life would be harder, and sadder, someday without all that testosterone around.

And then I met my little blue haired ladies.  In my pre- nurse/wife/mom days I was working at a big waterfront restaurant in Plymouth, Massachusetts called “McGrath’s”.  It was a huge hit with the tourists, and the tour buses,  and the little old blue haired ladies.  There was a large group of them, and they would meet there at least once a week, sometimes more often.  It was like “Golden Girls”, in real life. They’d all sit together at a big round table.  I loved waiting on them.  They’d all have a 3 course lunch.  Every time.  Before they had any food though, they’d order drinks.  Those great old fashioned drinks that no one has anymore.  I was just learning how to tend bar, so I made the drinks myself.  The Manhattans, Martinis (The real ones- with Gin. Don’t even get me started there), the Rob Roys, Sidecars, Rusty Nails, Old Fashioned, Gibsons, Gimlets, Horsenecks, Stingers.  Those were the easy ones.  These ladies weren’t having a lot of sugar water with a splash of vino.  They were out to have fun, and they were cruisin on high octane!  I really, really loved waiting on them.  They always had something to celebrate, some reason to be happy.  They’d start out with a toast every time, and before you know it they’d be giggling like teenagers.  They’d drink their way through the cup of chowder and either a lobster roll or a clam roll (and if you haven’t had one, you haven’t lived).  They’d keep on going right through the indian pudding, or the grapenut custard.  When it was finally over, they’d go off in pairs to the ladies room, to freshen their makeup.  I’m not sure if it was the cocktails, Parkinson’s or just the frailty of age, but they would put that 1940’s harlot-scarlet lipstick on just a little crooked, every time.  Then take their wobbly legs and crooked smiles off to more adventures.

So I stopped being concerned about being alone in my “declining” years.  Not trying to rush you, or anything, Grumpy.  But if you do go on ahead of me, know that I’ll be fine.  I’m gonna gather a group of  little old blue haired ladies, or whatever my generations’ equivalent will be, and celebrate my ass off.  Every week, for the rest of my wobbly days!

I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic for those great little old lady foods.  I’ve found a great recipe for grapenut custard at Hil’s Blog . ****

At What’s cooking America I found a great recipe for Indian Pudding (also known as “Hasty Pudding” in other parts of the world).  I have no idea why, it’s anything but “hasty”!

***** I hear from Peter Troutman, of Scargo Cafe in Dennis, MA (that’s in “Old Cape Cod” for the out-of towners) that they are serving the world’s best grapenut custard.  Since Bon Appetite has requested their recipe not once, but twice in the last 25 years, I think they may just be right! Click HERE if you’d like to take a look at their recipe.  Thanks Peter! :-)


Thanks to Green Olive Media for their photo of “clam roll” and to Elle’s New England Kitchen for the use of that lovely lobster roll photo.

How to survive Blistering Heat, Sad Farewells and Scouting with Ginger Beer

It’s just tooo hot.  This weekend was a great lay-on-the-boat-and-do-nothing weekend.  I only wish I were there.  Instead, I’m running around trying to help my friend move away.  And helping my new daughter (given to me for a year by same friend) move into our home.  And going through the usual musical rooms routine that we seem to do every few months.  In and out of the attic with furniture that is just “wrong”, rotating with furniture that might be alright.  All in a home that was built 110 years ago, before central ac, when insulation was one of those new-fangled things that would never catch on.  In short: It’s just tooo hot.

I shouldn’t whine.  At this very moment, I’m taking a break in front of a window fan with a tall, chilly glass of my new favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage.  Homemade ginger beer.  Sugar free. Oh my.

For about 10 years I was a Girl Scout leader.  I never liked scouting when I was a kid.  Then it meant weekly lectures and coloring.  Blah.  When I got to be the leader, though, I made the rules.  We got to do things.  Real things.  We made things to sell for real money. 

Then we donated some, and with the rest we went apple picking. Every fall.

And skiing.  Every winter.  Most of the girls had never been skiing, and didn’t have a chance to ski other then on our annual trip.

We also went to a Dude Ranch.  The horse I was given to ride was named Big Mac.  I tried to not take it personally.

But mostly we went camping.  A lot.  I loved it.  It was everything Girl Scouts was not in my childhood.    We mostly stayed in tents like this one, just high enough above the lake to enjoy some nice cool breezes at night.  Always sleep with your tent flaps open.  Trust me on this one.  And beware of the prankster- every encampment has one.  This was ours.  I am seeing this photo and it just takes me right back there. She’s a hoot.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we had together.  If the GS nazi’s new they’d ban us from scouting for life.  Maybe two lifetimes.

It was on one of our many, many camping trips that I discovered Ginger Beer.  One of those hot, steamy days when the last thing I wanted to do was go off camp to a market.  We must have needed something dreadfully, because off I went.  There, in the (maybe 40 sq foot) so-called market, I bought an icy cold one.  I was hooked.

I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own ginger beer many times.  The image of dozens of glass bottles exploding in my pantry has held me back.  Recently, I found a recipe for homemade ginger ale at  This recipe involved simmering ginger and making a syrup, which was then added to seltzer.  How absolutely brilliant!!!  No fermenting.  No exploding glass.  I decided to adapt this, make it a bit stronger and sugar free, to create a sugar free ginger beer syrup.

Here is all you need:  Ginger (2 lbs)  ; Limes (optional)  ; Stevia 1.5 cups (or whatever substitute sweetner you prefer)  ; Seltzer

Start by peeling 2 pounds of ginger.  It’s really easy; just scrape the outer skin with the side of a spoon and it slips right off.   After peeling, slice all of the ginger and place it in a saucepan, just barely covering it with water.

Simmer for about 45 minutes, do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover with a lid.  After it cooled I refrigerated overnight.  The next morning, I strained it (save ginger and candy it later) and added the Stevia, whisking gently over low heat until it had completely dissolved.  After cooling, It’s ready to use.

Fill a large glass with ice.  Add 1/2 of a lime (squeeze that thing for all it’s worth).  Pour around 1/4 full with syrup.  Top off with seltzer.  You can use more syrup, or less if you prefer.  It’s so gingery and refreshing. Takes me right back to that first icy cold ginger beer, lying on a cot in a tent with a gentle breeze off the lake. 

Queen of the Road

The most important thing I can teach my girls is independence.  They should experience being in charge of their own lives.  Travel overseas.   Drive around our country.  Go with friends, but don’t go with a guy.   Not to learn independence.   I once drove cross-country with a guy-friend.  My car, my trip.  I planned to camp all the way from San Diego to Boston.  He came along for the ride so I would be “safe”.  It made my friends and family feel better.  Maybe I was safer with him.  But it was Hell.  By the end of the trip we were no longer friends.  We fought over every decision, every stop for food.   We couldn’t eat at any place he hadn’t heard of.  Can you imagine, driving for days along those great American highways and eating at Denny’s?  Or the Sizzler?  Miles of cute mom-n-pop diners, Mexican places, BBQ and he wanted drive thru!  I later made the same trip, twice, with my son when he was a small child.  What a difference!  He never pouted when it wasn’t his turn to drive.  He didn’t care where we ate, or if we made an unscheduled stop.

Now my blondie is itching to make the same trip.  She wants to travel with friends (or even alone) along those iconic roads.  She’s pushing me to let both my blond girls (herself plus my dear newly acquired daughter-from-another-mother) enjoy a road trip this summer.  Holding me back is a natural anxiety, to be expected from any doting mother.  Also the fact that neither of them are adults.  How do I let 17 year old girls hit the road on their own?  I can’t even imagine.   On the other hand, I KNOW how much they’d love the trip.   I’m toying with the idea.  Not cross country.  They want to drive to North Carolina.  That’s over 700 miles of excitement, distractions and danger.  Maybe, just maybe, I could let them drive a shorter distance.  They could go for an overnight to a friends’ summer home.  It’s only a couple of hours away.  Maybe that’s a good starter journey?

This is sooo hard.   I want them to be independent.  I really do.  But not just yet.

Where am I and What Happened to Monday?

I’m suffering from holiday confusion.  What was a Tuesday felt like a Monday.  Tuesday morning actually felt worse than a Monday.  It felt like one of those Sunday mornings from my 20s.  I’d grade that day a “D”.   From Drunk to Deflated, Drained and Dragging.  It was really deserving of an “F”, but I’d better not start up with that.

I think I had a conversation with someone and they gave me an idea for a post.  It was brilliant, really.  I do wish I could remember.  As Pucket said (with her sweet-as-sugar accent) “that girl… she’s just not right”.

I even forgot the Tuesday trip to the farm.  Those cows make all that nice fresh milk and I forgot all about them.  Fortunately,  Mrs Kathy had her wits about her.  She bottles the stuff and refrigerates it right away.  By the time I got through with all the Wednesday things, my girls were around and they came to say Hey to the cows.   That’s the cows saying “Hey” back.

When the girls come to visit the cows come running.  Literally.  The girls bring bovine junk food: white bread.  They just love that stuff.

I know it’s not great for these cows, who eat only healthy grass and some nutritional supplements (the grass here is a little light in selenium). 

But once it a while…in moderation…I guess it’s pathetic to try to justify this.

I’m a soft touch when it comes to them.  Just look at those eyes.  How do you not bring them treats?

It’s funny, but my “day off” started at 5am.   It’s been nonstop ever since.  I’m forever trying to fit 10 lbs of shxt into a 5 lb bag.  Going to the farm for milk takes another hour out of my day.  It’s so worth it, though.  Not only do the kids have fresh milk, but somehow going out there to visit the cow-girls takes all the stress out of the day.   I may just make it through the rest of the week after all.  Thank you sweet cow face!

Crack-wich at New Saigon

I believe Banh Mi is Cambodian for Crack-wich. And Boba- oh my.  Chewy little bubbles bouncing in fruity froth.  I’m no stranger to addictions.  I came to adulthood in the late 70s.  In the early 1980s I worked in a popular Boston sports bar.  I’ve seen too many friends spiral into their habits head (or nose) first.  Truly, however, I was never in any danger myself.  Until now.

For the past 9 years I’ve worked near the evil source: New Saigon Sandwich.  It even looks shady.  I wandered by today, in time to catch the morning delivery of fresh bread.  The amazing, crusty outside/ soft and tender inside bread.  For the Banh Mi.  It’s been a constant temptation.  I do indulge, but I’ve limited myself to only once a week.  And, today is the day.

I usually only get the sandwich.  Or the bubble tea.  Never both.  Today, in order to write about this with recent experience, I get both.  I feel so virtuous. Yeah, that’s me in the halo.

The shop is tiny.  There are only 2 stools, and they are not worthy.  There are all sorts of beautiful temptations on the counter.  There is barbecued pork, chicken and other mystery meats with noodles or sticky rice.  The shrimp rolls and chicken rolls are delicious.  But for me, it has to be my Banh Mi.  Specifically, a #5.

This Vietnamese sandwich shop is staffed by Chinese workers. Yup, really.  The 2 who usually work in front speak English well, sometimes I’ll be served by a granny who will make the sandwich with either mayo or pate, or some other ingredients that I’m not familiar with.  It’s all good.  Officially, however: the #5 is a 6 inch perfect french roll, with teriyaki chicken, fish sauce (there is a bit of anchovy there, but overall it’s sweet), very lightly pickled daikon and carrots, fresh scallions, onions (I skip them), tons of fresh cilantro and lots (for me lots and lots) of fresh sliced jalapeño.  Because I knew that I’d have eaten half of them, the big half, before I sat down.  To happiness on a bun.

Now the Bubble Tea.  It’s all about the Boba.  Boba is a little ball, made of tapioca.  They go into the bottom of a smoothy.  The smoothy has a big wide straw, and as you sip it, the boba dance up and down the straw.  Then into your mouth.  They don’t have a strong flavor of their own.  It’s kind of like a little gummy bear.  They “tea” comes in a lot of flavors, from the common fruits like apple, strawberry, pineapple, mango,passion fruit…then it gets kind of weird.  I can’t bring myself to try red bean, avocado (not in a drink), lychee or taro.  They also have “milk tea”.  I’m getting pineapple.  I’m kind of boring that way.  Actually, he seems to know that.  My friendly fellow tells her “#5, no onions, lots of hot” when I walk in.  Then, I tell him (smugly) “oh, I think I’ll have a boba too”.  He knows.  He says “yeah, pineapple, okay” and nods.  Then he turns without waiting for my answer and starts making my drink.  Maybe I should step outside my comfort zone more often….no.  Because this is the best.  If you look close you can see one little boba up in the straw.  I am sooooo glad that I don’t live next door to this place.  I am now 50 miles away.  And I would gladly run right back for another.  But I’ll be strong.  For another week.