Celebrating 80 big ones … and 5 things my mom taught me.

We celebrated my mom’s 80th birthday over the weekend. There was lots of old-fashioned fun with cake, candles and family!

Today I reflected on just five of the hundreds of things my mother taught me.

1. My mom taught me patience. When I was a little girl she taught me how to knit. She is a righty and I’m a lefty, so there was lots of frustration on my part. After dropping many stitches and finally getting my tension just right, I finally got the hang of it. Today the rhythm of clinking two needles together is still music to my ears.
2. My mom taught me about the power of stories. I still remember sitting at the laminate kitchen table when I was probably 8 or 9. It was at that kitchen table I first learned she was a little girl when German soldiers marched into Holland during World War II and stayed for a number of years. Mom would tell me how she peeled buckets full of potatoes every day. It finally dawned on me the story wasn’t really about the potatoes. It was all she and her family had to eat.
3. My mother taught me love is in the little things we do for others each day. I’ll never forget how she spent the first two weeks with us after our Katie was born. In the middle of the night we’d bump into each other in the hallway after our newborn cried out for another feeding. “I’ll take this one,” my mother would say, “you go back to bed.” She would stay with us again when the next two were born.
4. My mother taught me how to iron a shirt. Back then there wasn’t such a thing as permanent press. Everything wrinkled. There was lots of spritzing and heavy steaming involved. Of course, the skill wasn’t just about properly ironing a shirt. I also learned to walk my little brother around the block in his stroller about 10 times so mom could finish making dinner. Basically, I learned to pull my weight so mom could keep a home with a husband and five children running more efficiently.
5. My mother taught me there is beauty in the smallest things like the white paper snowflakes we folded and snipped with scissors as kids. We hung them all over the front picture window every winter. Or the flowers she grew in her yard each spring and shared with family and friends. Too bad I didn’t get her two green thumbs. Obviously teaching is a lot different than inheriting a gift!

“Kick in the Pants” Chicken Salad

It’s beastly hot outside. Yep … summer in Texas. So what to cook tonight for dinner? I was thumbing through a stack of cookbooks looking for a recipe that didn’t require turning on the oven, or the stove top, and came across one for chicken salad that looked moderately interesting. After the first taste test, I decided it contained just the right amount of cumin and chili powder. It really gave it some zing! I’ve renamed it “Kick in the Pants” Chicken Salad. So instead of literally heating up the kitchen … decide if it might be more fun to simmer a couple of taste buds instead. On a scale of one to five my husband gave the recipe a five. And don’t forget the corn and bell peppers. They give it just the right amount of crunch! I just had to share.

Chicken Salad with Corn and Cilantro
Serves four

Serve with salad greens, or roll the chicken in a wrap for a quick lunch.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 ears yellow corn, kernels removed
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ red bell pepper, diced
4 green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and hot sauce in medium bowl.

Add cubed chicken, corn, cilantro, bell pepper, green onions and stir well to coat. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Adapted from “Pure Flavor” by Kurt Beecher Dammeier

Never forget June 6, 1944

Last year we celebrated our 40th anniversary with a trip to Paris. We also inserted a trip to visit the beaches of Normandy. I mean … how could we not? Overlord Tours, http://www.overlordtour.com, is the company that we used to book our 8-hour “Band of Brothers” Tour. Our tour guide picked us up at our hotel in Bayeux. Oliver was amazing in his knowledge of World War II history, storytelling, reverence … and dude … he had some amazing flip charts. If you are a fan of “Band of Brothers” this is the tour for you!!! We visited farm houses, a field full of cows where Dick Winters engaged the Germans and took out several cannon batteries, several small towns and churches where important things happened, a WWII museum, the American Cemetery, Pointe du Hoc and walked the beaches of Omaha and Utah where the American soldiers landed today … just 69 years ago.