Saturday, April 12, 2014

The best kind of birthday party

There's nothing quite like a four-year-old and a two-year-old throwing a birthday party for a nine-year-old and a three-year-old -- especially when the first two are the cutest kidlets ever and the second two are the cutest dogs ever!

I'm babysitting for our neighbors, Abby and Ty (the kidlets) tonight which, it turns out, is the day after Shasta and Quinn's birthday.  If you mention something like that to pre-schoolers, this is what you get:

"Put the frosting on the cupcakes?  But that's a wasted opportunity!"  Look at Ty's cheek!

An entire cake and a whole bunch of cupcakes, all for dogs!  No way!  They'll get sick! 
Solution: bring most of the cupcakes to Tom and save ONE for each dog.

Once the cupcakes were decorated, the kids brought them to our house and presented them to confused, but very happy dogs.  Quinn always sits nicely when she wants something!

Abby and Ty even bought and wrapped presents for the birthday girls!

A whole package of balls!  Shatsa is in heaven!

Needless to say, so is Quinny!

Doggy heaven, defined.

Ty and Abby teach Quinn and Shasta all about one-to-one correspondence.

It was all over too soon.  Goodbye, friends!  Thanks for the party!  Sleep tight!

(This is another blog post from my Chromebook, using the Blogger app.  I dunno, the formatting feels a bit kludgy.  I'll try to figure this out before we leave for Europe in three weeks!)

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Today, on the tenth anniversary of Mom’s death, I found these tidbits that I wrote as she made her way through ovarian cancer

None are dated, nor are they written to anyone in particular or in any one journal or collection.  It seems that I just wrote them to cope with some of the hurdles.

Omi and Carol Xmas 01Abrighter

Chemo (written to my brother):

I just got back from chemo with Mom. I wasn’t expecting such an impressionable morning and I’m still reeling a bit from it. My first impression, upon walking into the “treatment room” was how MANY people were in there, perhaps thirty or forty, lined up in cozy reclining chairs against two walls, each with a cocktail dripping downward toward an eager, if trepedacious, recipient. Each patient had an individualized cocktail, and the nurses seemed to not only know exactly who received what concoction, but who spent the holidays with grandchildren (and how many!), who lived in what surrounding town, who was accompanied by a regular entourage and who (sadly, obviously) endured chemo alone each time. I’d have been moved to tears, had I not been moved by something much more pervasive, much more powerful – the hope, peace, compassion and quiet camaraderie in that bustling room. Everything was conducted with utmost efficiency melded with true empathy and I can hardly think of a face that didn’t smile or laugh at least once during our hour-long stay. And no one cried. It was certainly not a place for self-pity.

The other impression I had was very much like the lasting impression from Mom’s original surgery in Portland, where she made doctors laugh and pain management specialist alter how they regarded their field of expertise: When Mom entered that room, a happy buzz came over the room. “Edith! How was your holiday? Were all the grandchildren with you?” “Here she is! Hi Edith!” Omi was obviously among friends who truly adore her, and she them. She greeted each nurse by name and had something kind and endearing to say to each one: “Brenda, you are always so cool under pressure. Good to see you!” “Here comes my favorite sex-pot nurse!” (Yes, I blushed. And yes, she was!) And one nurse from Frankfurt, Stephania (someone I’m sure Mom’d want to set a son up with, were they not all taken), drew Mom’s blood and engaged her in a long, friendly German chat.

I have a feeling no one was more affected by Mom than the 49 (yes, forty-nine) year old father of five in the chair next to her, awaiting his first chemo treatment for a rare cancer of the lymph nodes. He discovered a lump on his neck a year ago and went to two doctors, each of whom dismissed it, before finally being diagnosed. He was clearly scared, but his wife was obviously still very much in shock. Mom’s comfort with the nurses, the routine, and the disease seemed to put him at ease as he received his first chemo cocktail. His wife held a check for $10,000 in her hands. It was obvious to me that this unexpected turn of events in their lives was demanding everything they had to give – both emotionally and financially.

Not be peachy, but… whatever’s pissing you off today, whatever seems too enormous and daunting, whatever stresses you, let it go. Just for today, if possible. Because any of us could be in this man’s shoes… and in his reclining chair. Or in the young lady’s chair across the way. No more than 30 and beautiful even without hair, and she had a sparkle in her eyes, as she sat there with a colorful hand-knit blanket over her. Only one person in the room, though, evoked pure pity in me. A tiny, frail, very old lady, sat alone, bolt upright, staring straight ahead, not because she was deep in thought or mesmerized, but because she seemed completely lost and lonely. She seemed to be trying to smile, but could no longer find the strength or the will. Of everyone there, she seemed to have the least hope. Mom – in spite of having just been told by Dr. Dibb that her cancer is fatal (“he never said it that clearly before,” she said), seemed to have the most hope… or at least instill the most hope in others.

In that treatment room this morning it could NEVER be said that Mom was selfish, self-centered, ego-centric or intolerant. Much to the contrary, she laughed the loudest and embraced and accepted her role as friendly and familiar “Grand Dame of the Green Reclining Seats” with aplomb.

I wish you all could have all seen it – and that none of us had to.

DSC02703 - Copy

Feisty and Defiant

When my mom had her original surgery for ovarian cancer, her "pain management specialist" was in training. He came into her room every day, stood at the foot of her bed, and held up that condescending smiley-face chart and asked her how her pain was on a scale of 1 to 10. In four days, she refused to answer him on the terms he was looking for (compliant, categorized). Instead, she'd say things like, "What pain do you mean? The emotional pain of suddenly be faced with advanced cancer? The pain of hearing all those voices in the hall and not being able to get up and close the door?" The next day she said, "This is not a multiple choice question. Now if you want me to write an essay about my pain, I can do that. But please put those pictures down and don't request tidy little numbers from me!" On the last day, the pain management specialist came in the room, sat next to my mom on the bed and said, "Good morning, Edith. Let's talk about how you're feeling..."

I think he learned a LOT from my mom. I certainly hope he did!

She was given "maybe two years, if all goes well" at that point. A year later, when cancer was found in her liver, she was given "two months, eighteen tops." Now, almost 20 months later, she looks very much like a cancer patient, moves with great difficulty, and her body has been riddled by more chemo than most cancer patients ever endure. But that feisty, defiant spirit is unscathed. We know that when she stops needing to control everyone and everything around her, her fight will be over. Since we just found out that this most recent chemo didn't bring her CA-125 down by much at all, we expect her to concede in the next few months. Our hope at this point is that she makes it till Christmas. If she does, she'd have again defied everyone who said she couldn't and wouldn't... and she'll die as feisty as she lived!


From my journal and the journal I kept for Mom: her last weeks:

From my own journal:

March 29th through April 4th:

I had been in Ashland from Monday, March 29th through Saturday, April 3rd. At the beginning of that trip, Mom was still eating, walking, and playing a mean hand of Rummy. She had very little energy, threw up quite often, and was obviously depressed, but she was still very much “living life.” By the time I left to drive the 9 hours home on Saturday (thinking it would be at least a week or two before I’m needed again), she could no longer play a threatening game of Rummy, and finding all the words to make it through a sentence was a huge challenge. But I left to spend (what I thought would be) some time with family and getting some work done before coming back. We all went to dinner on Saturday night when I got home, Tom and I had some time together, and I took Kat shopping and to lunch on Sunday. I packed (or rather re-packed) a bag on Saturday night just in case.

Carol and Mom last card game 4 04Carol winds the hand

Monday, April 5th:

On Monday morning, as I was heading out work, Dad called and, not wanting to alarm me, but wanting me to sense his urgency, said, “You might want to come sooner rather than later.” Tom and I briefly discussed me driving 9 hours back to Ashland, but quickly decided I’d fly instead. I arrived at Mom and Dad’s at 6:00, greeted by Stephan and Michael (Chris would arrive the next morning). The four of us siblings hadn’t been together without families in many years, and we’d embark on a wonderful rekindling of childhood interactions and memories (and a few familiar conflicts). Mom was drastically different. She was in bed and seemed incoherent. After spending some time with her, however, I realized that she wasn’t incoherent; she was simply “in a different place.” She looked at me when I greeted her, but didn’t talk or smile. She did respond to me talking to her, though, and was very obviously completely coherent, but unable to express herself. A few words could be formed, but mostly she spoke in “grunts.” When asked a yes/no question or given a command (“let’s turn you on your side”), she made it clear that she was very much “here.”

Mom had refused to wear a diaper and insisted on getting up (a huge ordeal for all) to walk – with much help and support to the bathroom to pee. It was clear that we’d need a commode soon. Mom has always been strong-willed, and although she was sweet and childlike now, she still made her opinions known – with more dignity than she did sometimes previously.

From my own journal:

Tuesday, April 6th:

We each took turns being with Mom and this is when some of the really special times would happen. In addition to her making her momentary/bodily wants known, she also made her thoughts known. “Phi Beta Kappa” she said, as Stephan and I sat with her. “Four point 0.” Then “downhill” (skiing?). Is it possible that one’s life really IS “relived” in a sense, just prior to death? The thought took me by surprise.

From the journal for Mom:

April 6, 2004 (Yes, that’s a four!)

I thought I had filled up this journal to you – this journal that had far too few pages to document your journey – long ago. But there are two more pages left, and if I write really small…

I was here last week with Nikki, drove home on Saturday because we thought it would be a while. Spent Sunday with my family, got ready for work on Monday, and on the way out the door, Dad called: “You might want to be here sooner rather than later.” So my brothers and I are all in Ashland now because… it’s time. After almost exactly four years, it’s time. The Hospice nurses now predict “a few days.” You aren’t you: not controlling, not in charge, not loud. Not walking alone, not eating, not talking. In diapers – which you hate. This is so hard to watch, but it must be harder to experience. You are aware of everything but can’t express yourself. If you try to talk you risk a coughing fit – and that is excruciating for you and so scary for us. Your words – what few there are – are jumbled and confused, but I don’t think your thoughts are. You know perfectly well what’s happening. Last week you said you were scared, but this seems different. I don’t think you’re scared anymore – but I am. I need to know – as Elisabeth says – that you’re there…somehow. Tom says Papa’s presence – even if just in his thoughts – is comforting. Elisabeth and I have chosen to believe that somehow you’ll be present. How could YOU, of all people, be otherwise?

From my own journal:

Wednesday, April 7th:

Hard day – for Mom and for us. Mom seemed agitated. She wanted to get up constantly – and would try to get up alone. We’d have to support her completely as she stood up. She wanted to pee – or at least sit – so we’d oblige her each time. It takes three of us, and it’s physically exhausting. But each time she’d moan or move to get up, we’d help her. She’s gonna do this HER way. She seems agitated. Eventually, the Hospice nurse inserts a catheter and we think that will relieve her need to constantly get up. We’re wrong: she still wants to get up AND she hates the catheter, pulling and tugging on it and asking (in grunts and grimaces) that it be removed.

Dad tells me – tears in his eyes, grimace on his face – that he’s betrayed Mom. She wanted a dignified death and he sees it as completely undignified.  He’s tortured by the whole thing. Mom continues to respond in one-word grunts or hard-to-understand phrases – but the phrases are fascinating, and obviously reflecting moments and experiences of her life. She says, “Elisabeth ferein” (“vacation with Elisabeth,” I assume in Germany) and I break down. I tell her that Elisabeth loves her and is just like her and that I’m lucky because I get to keep Omi through Elisabeth.” She grimaces, like a sob, but without sound, and tears run down her cheeks.

April 7, 2004 4 AM

Soon. You always fight everything. You fight this too. Let go, Mom. Be at peace. It’s OK. It’s OK to go now. The words – when they find their way out – are barely comprehensible. In the past hour: “Oh God!” twice. “Where’s Michael?” “Where am I?” “S’Geht nicht gut.”

Why do you keep getting up to pee? There’s no pee left. Relax, Mom. Let go. You don’t want to be here like this.

I will miss you every single day. But I’ll miss who you’ve been in your life, not who I see at your death. It’s so hard to see you like this – like a baby… so compliant, so naïve, so NOT Edith. The last thing you said before I left you with dad tonight was, “Thank you, Carol.” You’re so very welcome, Mom.


4/7/04 10 AM

It’s hard to get used to: the slightest noise will rouse you and you can show with a grunt that you’re mentally here (at least to some extent), but if someone didn’t know that you’re aware, they’d think you checked out already. Your mouth and eyes are at partially open positions. You seem unresponsive… but you are quite alert under it all. You asked Michael last night, “Am I dying?” He said, “I don’t know.” But you are. This is the process of dying.

4/7/04 6 PM

Just words, barely comprehensible, but important: “Phi Beta Kappa,” “Downhill” (skiing?)

From my own journal:

Thursday, April 8th:

There are no real days or nights; it’s all the same – though Michael, Steph and Chris take shifts to be with her, with me as a back up and Dad hopefully getting some sleep. At 4 AM Mom has had it with the catheter and wants it OUT. I call the Hospice nurse and tell her we definitely want it OUT. She walks Dad through it. Later in the morning, Mom is slightly more comfortable – but continues to insist on getting up. Finally Chris takes her on a walk around the house in the wheelchair. Her eyes are closed, but she can sense it and sits peacefully in front of the fire in the living room for a long time. After that she sleeps for a bit. When she wakes up, she adamantly insists on everything – all clothes, all tubes, her diaper, being removed. If we don’t do it, I could swear she would have! We strip her naked. She tries to even remove the blanket, so we take that off her too. This is the skinny dipping mama after all!

Stripping completely is the beginning of the most incredible, spiritual, phenomenal experience I (or, I’d say ANY of us) have ever had.

4/8/04 8 AM

You are fighting death with the same fervor and defiance with which you fought the disease. Your oh-no-you-don’t attitude is still strong – even without the ability to speak more than a garbled word or two… or eat… or stand. Oh-no-you-don’t keep that catheter in me. Oh-no-you-don’t give me meds that I don’t want (is it because you’re not in pain? Or because you want a “pure” experience?). Oh-no-you-don’t. You’re STILL in control.

What is a “dignified death,” anyway? Is it one that one orchestrates him/herself? Is it what the Hospice workers call “a conscious death”? I know for sure what it’s NOT. It’s NOT a death that takes place in a hospital, surrounded by tubes and strangers. I’m sure of that. And as hard as it is to watch you helpless in so many ways, you are surrounded by the people who love you the most, and you are not “hooked up” and we DO listen to you and often know what you feel and need (which I’m sure doesn’t happen in the hospital). And our primary concern is your comfort (what comfort there can be…) and letting you know how much we love you. Maybe death, in itself, simply isn’t dignified. But maybe a death when Nature brings it, surrounded by love and compassion, is the most dignified it can be. I believe that there’s important work going on as you transition, and for the first time in my life I’m pretty sure that there even IS a “transition” and that there even IS another side. That work that you’re doing – whatever it is – is what makes this death, one that occurs in its own time, dignified. That’s what I’m choosing to believe, maybe selfishly, maybe not. But it’s the best I can do… and as “correct” a belief as anything else.

4/8/04 12:30 PM

Incredible. You absolutely insisted on having everything OFF – catheter, diaper, nightgown, even blankets. Everything! For a while, we couldn’t figure it out, but it became apparent that you were determined to lie flat on the bed, in the light shining from the skylight, stark naked.

Then you shared where you are with us:

“It’s peaceful.”

Almost singing: “Where I’m gooooing!”

Helicopter (Hawaii? Alaska? Dad knew and he and Mom agreed…)

“Elisabeth ferien” (about their trip to Germany when Elisabeth was 13! This one made me sob, and I told Omi that Elisabeth is sooo much like her, it means I get to KEEP Omi through Elisabeth. She grimaced and “sobbed,” without a sound, a tear running down her cheek…)

“A lake”

“Floating in there.”

“She’ll be there.”

“Will (we’ll?) be ready.”

“_____ (name?) will be there.”

“I want to geh.” (Trying to get up and go with entire body… legs in cycling or hiking motion.)

And then, she did something she hadn’t done in two days: she opened her eyes and focused – on Dad – and said to him, clear as a bell, “Can you carry me over?”OmiandfamilyApril62004

4/9/04 4 AM

She’s no longer responsive to our questioning. Her eyes are almost always closed. And yet, she continues to insist on getting up (but she’s like a rag doll; it takes three or four of us to make it happen) to pee every few hours.

9:30 AM

Difficult effort to communicate. Voice no longer reliable; must look at tongue, lips, throat. Very difficult to discern. MUCH guessing. The place was likely a lake (“Wahlsee?”) and the memory was obviously NOT a happy one. Now looks asleep, except one eye very slightly open – still… always.

3:00 PM:

Deep sleep since noon. Very regular breathing. Strong.

8:30 PM:

Mom is almost totally unresponsive. No muscle tone whatsoever. Eyes shut, except a slit in the left eye. Opaque sheath over her eyeball (can she see?). And yet, she STILL insists on getting up (it takes three of us!) to sit on the commode and pee – and she does pee!


She said to me, “My mother.” I said, “Your mother? Let me tell you about MY mother!” And I did.


4/10/04 5:45 PM:

And that was the last thing she ever said to me. After that, she went into a semi-comatose state. She still flailed and wanted to sit up, but only one last time, early this morning. Since the she’s been completely limp and non-responsive.

At noon, the Hospice nurse came. Mom was in distress: pulse 105, respiration 25. Working too hard. Until she could calm down and stop fighting physically, she wouldn’t let go, the nurse said. At 3:30 we (Dad, Chris, Michael and me; Stephan had to go home) tried to give her a full cc of Morphine and ½ cc of Adavin. But she couldn’t swallow anymore and she choked – the loudest, scariest, most god-awful terrified (and terrifying) sound I’ve heard in a long time. I didn’t know it was choking; I thought it was the sound of death! I called, “Mommy!” and ran out of the room, covering my ears. I couldn’t handle it. But it wasn’t death. It was her body working – still working – to live. After that, we turned her on her side, and that’s where she is now, breathing slow, shallow, regular breaths @ 12 per minute. God, she is so incredibly tenacious – in life, and, it seems, in death… or at least in the process of it.

8:30 PM:

She’s not my mother. My mother left after she shared her “transition” with us on Wednesday. She doesn’t look anything like my mother. She looks like a skeleton. No character, no spirit, no personality. Now we’re just caring for her body until it gives out – likely within hours.

I had a thought/dream (not sure which; I’m hardly sleeping at all!) in the middle of the night: Miss Saum, my kindergarten teacher, used to pin “notes to go home” on our clothes. I dreamed that I pinned a picture of Mom at her most beautiful to her body so the mortician could see how beautiful she was before he cremated her. I wanted those who would care for her body to know that she was SO not just another skeletal cancer patient.


At 4 AM, Dad gently woke me up and held my hand as we walked down the hall and as we approached Mom he said, “If you’re very quiet, you can hear how peaceful death is.”

Just before dawn on Easter Sunday, as the half-moon rose over the horizon, Mom drifted peacefully and quietly from this life.

Her breaths were like a tiny, delicate little bird’s: very shallow, very regular, and very soft, with a faint rhythmic “click” to each breath. She looked totally relaxed. But she didn’t look like my mother. Mom had taken leave two days earlier. That was so obvious to me as we helped “usher” Mom’s body across as she’d asked. Over the period of an hour, she drifted so sweetly and peacefully away, surrounded by her family, and within the waning glimmer of her beloved Bavarian candle.

After she died, Dad went outside and picked a dogwood flower and placed it on Mom. He commented to me that dogwood flowers only stay totally white for a short time. He was right: in a matter of minutes, dark spots appeared on the tip of each flower. Then we all sat with her. No one cried. It was simply too serene and beautiful, too “holy” even, to cry. Michael and Dad even took a few pictures. Mom looked beautiful in her white lace gown, under the white lace sheet, with the white dogwood flower on Easter morning as the sun rose.

About two hours after Mom died, a Funeral Alternative couple came to get her. A husband/wife team, they gently told us what would happen. State law requires gloves and a plastic sheet and that she be covered and encased. Previously, I’d thought I couldn’t stay for such a thing, but I would have never considered leaving at that point. They handed me the dogwood while they wrapped her and placed her on the gurney. Then they “zipped her in,” forgetting to replace the flower – which I wanted with her. So I found my way to her, unwrapping her, and placed the flower on her chest. Then I gave her a kiss and said, “Schlafy, schlafy (my family’s “sleep tight”) one last time.


I am so honored, so blessed, to have shared Mom’s life, and death, in the past three weeks… and four years… and forty-seven years. So incredibly blessed. And I have Mom to thanks for showing me how peaceful death can be. I love you, Mom. Thanks for being such a wonderful mom. And sister. And even daughter. You will always be with me – as all three.

Isn’t it fitting? Almost exactly four years ago, I wrote to you as we flew amid turbulence in the tiny LifeFlight plane to OHSU, promising you we’d fight your battle together. And today I’m in a plane again, making my way back to my family after spending three weeks with you. I know that, although we lost the fight, we did fight it together. I did keep my promise to you.

Be peaceful where you are, Mom.

Edith_obit_brochure_front_nolastnameWine and flowers for MomOpaandkids504

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Testing, Testing (from my new Chromebook)!

So let's say that I had only this Chromebook, my iPhone, and a wi-fi connection (as will likely be the case) next month in Europe.  Can I post photos from both Google Drive (where I'll store our D-40 photos) and from my phone (which I will likely use at least as much because dang, iPhone 5 takes great photos!)?

Here is a random photo I just uploaded to Google Drive:

Spoiled kitty #1

And here is a photo uploaded from my phone to the newfangled and slightly kludgy Google + Photos:

Spoiled kitty #2

That seems to work too, but it's sure more time-consuming than just uploading directly from my phone!  I have to plug my phone into the Chromebook and use it as a drive, uploading to Google + Photos (to allow editing).  I have a feeling that there's an easier way.

How about links?  Are they as breezy as usual using this Blogger app for the Chromebook? Here's a cool link -- some information on our first destination!

Thank you for your patience!  Yes, I know this blog was going to be more about our journey trudge into retirement.  But that will have to resume after our upcoming family trip.  We leave a month from tomorrow!  And yes, it seems that I WILL be blogging!  (Assuming fast and easy internet connections...)

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Northwest Ladybug, Part 2?

For a few months now, I’ve been pondering what to do with this once active and thriving, but now quiet and neglected blog.  Should I just start writing again – sometimes a quick quip, other times a thoughtful essay -- as I did in those pre-Facebook days?  Unlike those who make their living by blogging, I have no incentive to post here other than my own personal need to write and to connect.  I can do that via my blog OR via Facebook, but likely not both. 

When I started this blog in 2006, we were in the throes of empty nest – or rather, we thought we were.  Elisabeth had just graduated from Cal and had begun her career.  She lived on her own in Seattle.  Peter had graduated from high school but was taking a year off before college, living at home and working.  Aleks and Kat were sophomores in high school. 

Empty nest? HA! Not at all!

Even six years later, in 2011, we weren’t true empty nesters, I now realize.  By this time, Peter had graduated from Washington State and had a full-time job, but it was in Yakima, of all places, in what he and Tom have come to call “the armpit of Washington,” and he came home every single weekend to escape to heat. Or the cold.

In 2012, Aleks and Kat graduated from the University of Washington (after coming home most, or at least many, weekends while they were in school), but the economy stunk for new graduates and neither were able to quickly find a career job that would allow them to move out on their own.  So at that point, although Peter had found a job he liked in Seattle and had a place of his own in the city, Aleks and Kat lived at home with us. 

It was only in September of 2013 that we were the actual empty nesters that we purported to be way back in 2006!  That was the month when both Aleks and Kat moved completely out, leaving only one or two boxes in the garage, as Peter and Elisabeth had done earlier.  That was the month when we had three (THREE!) guestrooms and a real office, rather than four cramped kid’s room. 

What was once this (once both Peter’s room and Aleks’ room)…


became this, guestroom #1:


What was this (once both Elisabeth’s room and Kat’s room)…

Elisabeth's roomIMG_3208

became this, guestroom #2:


What was once this (Kat’s old room and our former office):



became guestroom #3:


And what was once Aleks’ old room…


became our dual office:


And now that we are TRUE empty nesters, meaning that one or more kids coming home for more than a few hours is an uncommon occurrence, we have some big – and I mean BIG – decisions to make. 

The process of making and implementing those decisions just might be the focus of Northwest Ladybug #2.  What do you think?

Tom has spent almost 20 years fixing up this house to, as he puts it, “attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”  In my opinion, he has been a wild success. (Just look at all he’s done!)  But in his mind he has only applied patches to a “horribly built” house.  He knows that the electrical wiring is a godawful (and likely dangerous) mess.  He knows that the roof and some floors are sagging and that the builders (just boys of 18 hired off the street, we’ve been told by neighbors) cut corners every chance they got and built just another a sub-standard tract house.  It drives Tom crazy! Not normally the stubborn sort, especially about Big Life Decisions, Tom has made it clear that he “in not going to die in this house.”  So, much as I love this house that finally feels like a home, we are on the look-out for our next move – physically and emotionally. 

I have come to realize that Tom needs a project and that remodeling and improving our homes over the past 30 years has been that project.  For him, the satisfaction is in the process, while my satisfaction has always been in the result.  So for 30 years I’ve been waiting to live in a “finished” home, while he has been immersed in the process of finishing homes.  So, whereas I now feel satisfied and settled in, he now feels unsatisfied and itching to move onto the next project. It’s one of the gazillion and one ways that we’re different.

That means that this huge backyard water feature project that he began last summer…




…will now be finished with the idea of selling the house rather than of being the perfect water feature for us.

Newly designed living spaces and gorgeous new landscaping projects will now give way to home maintenance and repairs, in preparation for selling.  It is taking me a while to get used to that idea, but I must admit that the idea of moving anywhere we want (within an easy drive to Seattle, of course; we intend to have grandchildren one of these days!) and either buying or maybe even building a dream home that IS well-constructed and has the amenities we want, is actually kind of exciting!

Our current thoughts for locations are Bainbridge Island (and maybe other surrounding areas like Poulsbo or Kingston), Leavenworth, or perhaps Bellingham.  We’d love to stay in Woodinville, but we can only get for our money here what we are selling here, and that makes no sense at all!

We visit Zillow constantly, but have also begun to look at floor plans and are just now beginning to form a wish list.  It looks something like this:

  • At least a half acre, preferably wooded but also light and sunny in places, and preferably with a fenced area for the dogs
  • A water view would be glorious.
  • Well-built construction and a style that we actually like.  (Neither of us have ever liked the split-level floor plan of our current home.)
  • Either a single story or a second floor that does not contain “necessary” rooms that must be accessed daily.  We are, after all, planning to grow old and decrepit in this home!
  • A large, open living area with a gorgeous kitchen (like the one I have now – sob!) and great room in one.
  • A “media room,” where lively grandkids can go be lively, happy, loud grandkids while their old parents and older grandparents visit in the great room
  • The master suite and master bathroom that we never had – two sinks, a huge bath tub, walk-in closetS, etc.
  • A guest room, an office, and a craft room (so yes, we’re looking for four bedrooms for just the two of us!)
  • Either a fully fenced yard or a fenced portion of the yard so we can let the dogs out without being attached to a line and without having to worry about snarky neighbors reciting laws about unleashed animals.  (Yes, one of those lives in our current neighborhood.)
  • An “blank slate” for Tom’s big retirement project – building either a separate guest cottage like my parents had or a full apartment over the garage

This list will continue to grow and be honed as we delve further into this process. 

I seriously considered starting with my own blank slate project – a completely new blog – but I just can’t see abandoning Northwest Ladybug!  So just come with us now on our new adventure as we decide where to move and what we want in our new home, and as we make all those plans and wishes a reality.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Fun with rouladen

I’ve posted more than a few times about our traditional German sauerbraten dinners.  (Mmmmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!)

Yesterday, though, I decided to delve into uncharted cooking territory and attempt another dish that my mom made often (far more often than she made sauerbraten) during my childhood: rouladen.  Rouladen usually consist of bacon, onions, carrots, mustard and pickles, wrapped in thinly sliced beef which is then cooked.

When rouladen are all cooked and ready to be devoured, they look something like this:

You’ll notice that I stole this photo from Google images – specifically from “What a Dish.” (Thanks, “What a Dish”!)  You know why I had to resort to stealing photos from Google images?  Because we (“we” being all the kids plus SOs, along with Eva, the now-24-year-old ex-exchange student from Germany for whom I was an AFS liaison back in 2006, and who is currently student teaching at a local high school) were so busy having a good time and visiting that I simply forgot to take photos of our celebration and finished meal!  (Yes, I AM out of blogging practice, but I am doing my best to post more often this year.)

So I don’t have photos of everyone hanging out in the kitchen drinking good German beer or of us making the other dishes that we served with the rouladen… 

(Well, that’s not entirely true.  I do have this one photo of Tom making the spaetzle while Peter kept him company:)


…but I DO have photos of the process of making rouladen.  If you have a realio-trulio German along to help you, it’s even more fun!

Here’s the cast of characters:


Most importantly, you’ll need about two slices of thinly sliced top round per person, each piece about 3” x 7” x 1/4.”  Our butcher sliced these for us and they were gorgeous!

You’ll also need salt and pepper, German sweet mustard, bacon, onions (you can simply sauté them; I totally annihilated caramelized them), baby carrots or thin carrot slices, German pickles (“die Riesen” are unlike any American pickle, sort of a cross between sweet and dill.  These were given to us by my dear friend Christel, also aus Germany!) and, for the gravy, beef broth, corn starch, and some sour cream.

Here’s the fun (read: messy) part:

For each roulade, season the meat with salt and pepper, then spread some (that’s an official culinary term; it means “as much as you want) mustard onto the flat meat.


Next, lay a piece of uncooked bacon lengthwise smack-dab in the middle of the meat, like so:


Now spoon some onions at the end closest to you:


Add a small carrot or a thin carrot stick:


And lastly, add a thin strip of pickle. 

What?  You want a photo of the pickle added?  Hmmmm.  I don’t have one!  You know why?  Because either I totally forgot to add the pickle to this piece of meat or I totally forgot to take a photo when I did add the pickle!  Fortunately I have a photo of when I added the pickle but totally forgot to add the bacon!


Hey, just have fun with it!  Yes, that’s my excuse.

Speaking of fun, this is the fun part.  Start rolling!


If you’re lucky, you’ll have a friend from Germany to help you.  This is just how Eva and I roll.  (Sorry…)


In order to secure each roulade, you’ll need either toothpicks (which we used), string (which my mother used), or some of these things (thank you Google images!):

Reminder to self: get some rouladen clips when we go to Europe in May (yes, I will blog that trip – I promise!).

This must be when I started my second beer because I pretty much stopped taking pictures at this point.

Once all twenty of our rouladen were rolled, we cooked them on high heat in our large electric frying pan, turning the heat way up to braise them and then down again to cook them until all pink in the meat was gone. 

At that point, we transferred them to the crock pot…


…leaving the drippings in the frying pan.

We then made a roux from the drippings, slowly adding beef broth and a little corn starch until it was gravy consistency, and then we poured gravy that over the rouladen.

And then we just let those little guys cook on low heat for a few hours while we made the kasespaetzle – which I took next to no photos of… but here’s one from our sauerbraten dinner.  (Same idea, except that yesterday we made about a fifth of that amount!)


About 15 minutes before you plan to serve the rouladen, add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sour cream to the crock pot.  To make it easier, I removed all the rouladen, stirred the sour cream into the gravy, and then replaced the rouladen.

I wish I had taken photos of our plates filled with this deliciousness and of the whole “Mishpocheh” (look it up… in a Yiddish dictionary) enjoying each other’s company, but I am so out of blogging practice that I totally forgot! 

Which gives us reason to do this whole thing again sometime soon!

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