Friday, August 27, 2010

Trip Around the Sun

Jimmy Buffett sings a song about birthdays titled "Trip Around the Sun".
This latest trip around the sun for me has been an eventful one. Matter of fact it's only been recently that I tried to think about it all at one time.
Since last August:
Youngest left for college
Both sons got engaged
I was signed by a literary agent
Daddy fell and had knee surgery
We joined a new church
Robert and Carrie got married
Lizzy transferred colleges
Mike's dad passed away
Robert and Carrie graduated grad school
Ryan moved to LaGrange
Robert and Carrie moved to Atlanta
Ryan and Casey got married
Ryan graduated college
Mike took on project in Wisconsin
All in all, it's been a wonderful year of living. Now, lets go do another one!

Trip Around the Sun - Lyrics
Hear 'em singing Happy Birthday
Better think about the wish I made
This year gone by ain't been a piece of cake
Every day's a revolution
Pull it together and it comes undone
Just one more candle and a trip around the sun

I'm just hanging on while this old world keeps spinning
And it's good to know it's out of my control
If there's one thing that I've learned from all this living
Is that it wouldn't change a thing if I let go

No, you never see it coming
Always wind up wondering where it went
Only time will tell if it was time well spent
It's another revelation
Celebrating what I should have done
With these souvenirs of my trip around the sun

Yes, I'll make a resolution
That I'll never make another one
Just enjoy this ride on my trip around the sun
Just enjoy this ride ...
Until it's done

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Asking a Favor for my Birthday . . .

My birthday is tomorrow and I'll be 49. As I used to say to the kids in the youth group when they'd ask how old I am, "Don't you hope you look this good when you're this old?" They would slowly nod their head, "Yes". Of course they were thinking, "I hope I'm able to walk when I'm THAT old."
Anyway - I have a Birthday Favor to ask:
In the year and a bit that I've done this blog many of you have left comments telling me that you've enjoyed it.
My agent has requested that we ask those who have read our writing or heard us speak to please go to our authors page on the agency website and leave a quick comment. Potential publishers check things like that out and right now mine says "no comments yet".
You just go to and at the top of the page you'll see buttons, one of which is "our authors" click there and you'll see my name in the list, click it and my face will pop up (don't let it scare you). And at the bottom is a place to leave comments. Even something as simple as "I've enjoyed Kay's blogs and look forward to her book." "Kay is able to get her thoughts across when she speaks and she doesn't dress too funny." Or for those of you who've read my book something like, "I've read Next Stop, Chancey and know it will be an amazing blockbuster when it's in print and make any publisher a bazzillionaire.
Or maybe not on that last one.
Thanks much for your help!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Presto Pesto!

On Saturday night I enjoyed pesto and pasta at Rob and Sherry's home. We had delicious Chicken Picatta and sauteed summer vegetables. They inspired me, so I relieved my basil plant on the deck of most it's leaves and made pesto yesterday - and then I mentioned on facebook I was looking for ways to use it.

And the floodgates opened. Well, two floodgates. My friend Joni from Illinois and my brother Linney from Tennessee made several comments each.

And I decided all their inspiring words needed to be shared because this is something I want to incorporate into this new life of mine. For so many years I've cooked for volume and filling stomachs cheaply. The dinner table seemed to expand at will and the diners were not picky. I'm really good at that kind of cooking, but it's just not that called for at the Shostak house these days. It's kind of hard to put that to the side. Nothing more satisfying than making pancakes for a dozen teenage boys, macaroni and cheese from scratch for college kids, or a chocolate cake for a bunch of chocoholic girls. But Rob and Sherry and Joni and Linney have inspired me! So - hope this blog inspired you too!

From Joni - We became kind of famous at Olivet (university) for Paninis. We put out all the ingredients and this is what they made with them. We got the multigrain Le Brea bread and sliced it on the diagonal. They put the pesto on the inside with ham, pepperjack che...ese, roasted red peppers, and arugula. I made a compound butter: 2/3 butter, 1/3 olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, parmesan and romano cheese, and a bit of salt because I use unsalted butter. They put that on the outside and grilled it in the panini press. All the guys that ate here put panini presses on their wedding lists!

A dollop in homemade minestrone or other suitable soup is good, too. On bruschetta (grilled bread) with other toppings, like "fresh" mozzarella and tomatoes. Traditional to toss with pasta, but I don't "love" that. Think i'm going to try it again with just a little and then more parmigiano reggiano to taste. One more--can put a little on chicken or fish as a sauce or put some under chicken skin and roast. Think of it as a spice blend...

Oops, one more. Can use it to season sauces, especially homemade maranara. Along the same lines if you're making a pan sauce can add a little to whatever you're deglazing the pan with--wine or stock.

Yeah, I'm back. Thought of a couple of new things I'm going to try. Larry makes a tuna salad during the summer with fresh dill and basil. Delicious. I'm thinking some pesto might make a great winter one. Would work for chicken salad, too, of course. And I think it would be delicious in tuna casserole. Especially if you made your own bechamel sauce.

AND - I'm excited about this one, although I don't know how well it will work! Put pesto on raw chicken breasts. Could let it marinate for a while. Then bread it. I'm thinking dredge in seasoned flour, egg, flour again and pan fry 'til crsip. Know I'm going to try it with zucchini, too. Pork chops and basil? Not sure.
Another thing I'm going to try this year is make some kind of pesto like thing that has parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme in it. I freeze my pesto and it would be interesting to see if this could work for saving those herbs, too. I dry them now, but a "poultry seasoning" pesto might be fun.

From Linney: A couple of notes here, you don't have to use pine nuts to make pesto. Pine nuts sell for around $40 a pound! You can use peanuts! I made it last week and used mixed nuts and it turned out great. I've read that cashews or almonds make really good pesto too!

On a cold fall or winter day take a artisan loaf of bread, something like sour dough or french bread and cut a couple of slices. Then make a souped-up grilled cheese sandwich with the pesto and a slice of mozzarella . Use olive oil instead of butter on the outside to give it a real Mediterranean flair. Then serve with a hot bowl of your favorite tomato soup and it is like Heaven on Earth!

Grill a chicken breast, a minute or two before you remove the breast from the grill put some pesto on top of it and cover with a slice of mozzarella or swiss cheese. When the cheese melts remove from the grill and serve. For mushroom pizza that's completely off the chart either get a boboli bread or other pizza crust (you could make your own) then spread the pesto on the crust. Put on shitake, portabello, button and/or any other kind of mushroom you like and a little mozzarella and parm cheese and bake.

Or you could make a pesto, tomato and cheese pizza

Monday, August 23, 2010

Birthday Party Payback

Friday night we had an early birthday celebration. Ryan and Casey were coming to town so they arranged with Robert and Carrie to take me out to dinner since they'll be busy next weekend when my birthday really is. Mike was still in Wisconsin and Lizzy was busy at school, so it was just us five.
It was a little disconcerting. They took my job.
You see I'm a planner, an organizer, okay - a boss. They asked where I'd like to go - in a certain geographical area - and then they did everything else. Even down to talking to Lizzy about her schedule and making reservations. They showed up with flowers and a ribbon-adorned bottle of wine. When it was time for the bill, they negotiated with the waitress for splitting it and I was left out.
Like I said, a little disconcerting. Don't get me wrong - it was fantastic and they made me proud. Later that night I even thought - "It's like payback for all those birthday parties I threw for them."
Then Saturday morning I read an article in Good Housekeeping about "Letting Go" and it got me to thinking. So much of this time of life for me is about letting go. Letting go of the planning, worrying, controlling. That sounds good, but still figuring out what it really looks like.
Although right now it looks like flowers and curls of bright ribbons.
I think I can get used to this.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Wanna Go Home

Back in the hills of East Tennessee the past four days found me practically brain dead - But that's a good thing.
Mama and Daddy and I just hung out - no kids (or Mike) wanting to go anywhere. Nothing I needed to do. Too overcast to swim. Too hot to be out in the yard. We went out to eat for their 53rd wedding anniversary with my brother one night. The other nights Mama cooked okra and squash and Daddy barbequed. We met my one goal of having lunch at a friends place in downtown Kingston (Gibson Girls is in an pre-civil war house and lunch there was wonderful.)
But mostly we sat and talked and watched TV and talked and watched TV. I took my crocheting because that was my plan for the week - sit, talk, watch TV and crochet.
My family is the most stress-free zone you can imagine.
But I was still glad to get back home to Marietta yesterday. My mama has often said she's so happy her kids like going back to their own homes. That everyone should want to go home. When the kids were little and would go to stay a week with Grandma and Grandpa she said she wanted them to like her house, but wanted them to want to go back home. She said through the years she'd heard other grandparents brag that the grandkids liked grandma and grandpa's home more than their own home.
Mama didn't like that.
It is quite a gift to want to go home, isn't it? To want to be where you live. To want to be in the life you are living. Shouldn't a vacation, or time a way, be a time to reinforce how much you want to be at home? How much you love the life you're living?
And if going home's not a good thing - shouldn't that be a sign changes need to be made? or maybe just attitudes adjusted?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peeling My Eyes OFF the Prize

Do you like setting goals? Do you usually have a "to-do" list hanging around? How much satisfaction do you get from crossing things off your list? (I've been known to add things to my list after I've done them - just so I can cross them off.)
I'm pretty goal-oriented. For a while last fall right before I signed with my agent, I went through a time when the horizon became fuzzy and my goals weren't clear. Hated that. Now I want a publisher to say "yes" to all the work I and my agent have done. But, you know, that's a goal I really don't have a lot of say in. That kind of goal isn't much fun, is it?
Then this morning I found this phrase about some folks, "Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." They are even called, "Blessed". I don't know about that. Sure, I totally believe in appreciating the journey, seeing the sights, taking my time - as long as I'm headed in the right direction.
I blogged last November ( ) about taking the "Road Less Traveled" - however I can tell you with certainty that if that detour had ended up taking us in the opposite direction of Panama City, the blog would have sounded a tad different.
So the idea of setting my heart on the pilgrimage instead of the end goal is not that appealing to me. And yet. . . the same passage in Psalms 84 says about these folks, "They go from strength to strength." That, I like.
Can I do it? Can I set my heart and hopes and dreams on the journey instead of the outcome?
Can you?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are You Happy?

"If I seem so happy to you, you could never say anything that would please me so much. For men are made for happiness, and anyone who is completely happy has a right to say to himself, 'I am doing God's will on earth.'" Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
The Elder Zossima says this when a woman tells him he seems happy and it struck home with me. Could his statement be true?
I do know the older I get and the more I see, the less I take being happy for granted. Another quote I really like about being happy is the opening line in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
(Just hit me that both of these are Russian authors and yet the Russian authors are never thought of for their happiness. Could it be that happiness is more thought of where it's not as plentiful?)
Is that true about the happy and unhappy families? I kind of think it is and maybe that makes happiness appear simple or uncomplicated. Maybe that is why it's so underrated as a goal for a life or a family.
What if our goal was to be happy and then we looked and listened to those folks around us who are truly happy? Would you know where to even look? And after a look would we say, "Aw, that's too easy. Too simple."
Ever seen that sign that says something like, "If you're happy, you obviously don't understand the situation." How incredibly enlightened and clever.
How incredibly sad.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Bucket List

Many years ago I read in one of Maya Angelou's autobiographical books about how she fell in love with Fydor Dostoevsky's "The Brother's Karamazov." Well, that bothered me because I knew Ms. Angelou's background. She was raised in the segregated south, went to a poor, falling down school for only black kids in Stamps, Arkansas. She worked hard every day leaving little time for learning and then ran away and was working with prostitutes when she discovered Dostoevsky and fell in love with his books.
How could she, of such limited learning and resources, not only understand, but LOVE a book I couldn't begin to even want to read. What was there in that book I wasn't willing to take the time to discover? What was there that reached out beyond all the barriers between 1880's Russia and th USA in the 1960's? And even if I took the time to read it - would I get it? And if I don't get it - what then is all my privileged education worth?
So, now, decades later, I finally have picked up The Brother's Karamazov. Believe me, I picked it up with trepidation, but I started reading it this morning. And it's very understandable, filled with drama and story and wisdom - all the things I like. Whew! I may not get all the nuances and layers - but I can read a good story!
So, I'm working on my Book Bucket List with a renewed passion.
What books are on your Book Bucket List? What have you always wanted to read, or thought you should've read?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Toilet Paper Beliefs

I firmly believe toilet paper rolls should be placed on the holder so the paper is lying on the front of the roll for ease and convenience.
Mike, just as firmly, believes it should hang down at the back for ease and convenience.
Shocking to realize we made it to our 26th anniversary, isn't it?
At first, we explained to each other the infallible attributes of our firmly held, supported-by-our-families, long-practiced, only-reasonable-possibility, belief on the correct execution of this household necessity.
Then (unbelievably without government aid) we came to a compromise. Whoever put the new roll on got to decide how it went and it stayed that way until it was empty.
I had a woman friend tell me once this sharing of being right, was wrong. She said, "I just change it to be the way it's supposed to be."
However, for twenty-six years this compromise has reminded each of us -several times a day - that just because I think something is right, doesn't mean it is the ONLY way for it to be right.
It's a simplistic act of will to bend to another's wish. However, the fact that after two and half decades we each still cling to our preference, says we know and understand we are different and will likely have differences all our lives.
Plus - in our desire to have things our own way, the toilet paper holder is rarely left empty!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

So Darned Happy

New tennis shoes are walking up my street--slowly. They are headed to the bus stop. Yep, first day of school. All over facebook parents are putting up their thoughts on how the morning is going. Reports of tears from the first time moms are surprisingly light. Well, surprising to them.
One mom wondered if the lack of tears was from exhaustion. Or maybe because she'd done it before with her older child. Or maybe because her little one was just "so darned happy".
I pick door number three. It's kind of hard to be sad when they insist on being "so darned happy". Robert graduated from grad school in May, but I remember the day we moved him into his dorm like it was yesterday. After all the moving and hauling and arranging, me and Mike and the younger two were pulling away from Robert's new home. His dorm was having an ice cream social in the front courtyard and as we backed out of the parking space he plunged into the midst of other new students - excitement and anticipation pulsating off him. And my tears just dried right up. He was just "so darned happy".
My best memory of Ryan's wedding day was his grin. Ryan is a happy person anyway - he's always smiling. But on his wedding day his grin was ridiculous - the whole day. How could I feel anything but overwhelming joy?
And shopping with Lizzy yesterday for her apartment. Apartment - not dorm room. Her apartment with a real kitchen and a real living room. Her new home. How do I claim any regret or sadness when she's becoming a wonderful woman? I try, but then she asks me to teach her to cook or buy some silverware. And there's that "so darned happy" grin.
My parents gave me the most wonderful gift of never getting in the way of my times being "so darned happy". They never made it about them and so I never gave their feelings a second thought. Just wallowed in the fact that they obviously were just "so darned happy" for me - besides what could they possibly be sad about???
Now I know the truth - a child's "so darned happy" is them pulling at the strings that tie them to us and us opening our hands and letting that string go.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

(Whine alert) It's So Hooooot

Our house in Illinois didn't have air conditioning. It was an 100 year old farmhouse on a couple acres. Not having air conditioning forced a bending to nature that appealed to me. Sometimes.
We opened windows at night and then closed them mid-morning to keep the cool air in. I did chores early in the morning, because by noon the house would be getting pretty warm. The afternoons were spent sitting in front of a fan or out in the yard under a shade tree. The oven stayed off.
We didn't combat high temperatures. We conceded to them and adapted.
Now, I don't want to try and adapt to Georgia summers. I LOVE my air conditioning. However, sometimes I get so used to controlling my environment, that I miss out. The heat pushes me indoors. In the car, I never consider turning off the air and rolling down the windows. Lights inside make outside look so very dark and going out into the darkness never enters my mind.
Summer can be a time of loosing control. The heat, the bugs - especially the loudness of the bugs at night, profusion of green, intensity of smells, abundance from gardens, glare of the sun, shedding of clothes. And yet I forget to let summer tug on my strings of control. No, I don't just forget - I actively resist that tugging.
So many things must get done today. There's all those dvr'd shows backing up to watch. It's so much more comfortable inside. My computer is lonely.
I want some of that adapting back in my summer. Now, to figure out how to do it---
without turning off my air conditioner.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Loved this Book!

Just finished a book which is now one of my favorites. It's about a painting. A painting I love and even have hanging in my dining room. Well, of course what I have is a print. A print in a plastic frame all of which I found for less than $10 at an antique store. And, no it wasn't a great find - it looks like is should've cost less than $10. But I love the picture. Now, I love it even more.
The painting and the book have the same title: Luncheon of the Boating Party. Pierre-Auguste Renoir did the painting. Susan Vreeland wrote the book. The book was written in 2007. The picture painted in 1881. I always meant to read the book, but I never read things when they come out because I don't want to get on the waiting list at the library. However, I'm going to a new book group tomorrow and this is the book they were reading. I can't wait to discuss it. Seriously, I am going to have to hold myself back and try to not be obnoxious (it is my first time there, you know.)
The book follows Renoir through the entire process of planning, setting, and completing his painting through eight Sunday's of luncheons on the terrace of Maison Fournaise. The models were his friends and benefactors and the book is about each of their stories. The Impressionist movement and it's turmoil plays a part in the book and since one of the women in the painting becomes Renoir's wife - there is romance.
But best for me is it expresses Renoir's philosophy of painting: "To my mind, a picture should be pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them."
That's how I feel about writing. I have friends who write very dark things and I have some who write very light things. I want to write beauty and happiness-realistically.
Guess I know now why Mr. Renoir's picture appealed to me so many years ago. Maybe I'll go buy a nicer frame.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Early to Rise . . .

With Mike out of town, I’ve been getting to sleep in.
For 26 years, whether I was working full-time, part-time or staying at home, Mike and I have gotten up together. I make his lunch and coffee while he shaves and dresses. Then we have coffee for a few minutes together.
Sometimes nothing is said and we just sit and wake up.

It's what my Mama and Daddy always did and since they have the happiest marriage I've ever seen, why wouldn't we do it?
I remember Mama talking one time about a friend complaining that her husband went to bed too early. Mama told her friend, "If you'd get up as early as Ken does, you'd go to bed as early as he does."
When the kids were little, getting up with Mike meant I had a little bit of solitude after he left and before they got up. I know that made me a better mother. It also meant during those crazy years of baseball, basketball, and soccer that we had a few moments everyday when it was just the two of us.
Now that the kids are gone and Mike and I have lots of time together there are a couple reasons to still get up when he does. First, Mike says quite often that those early morning minutes are his favorite time of the day. Second, that whole getting up at the same time leads to going to bed at the same time.
Need I say anymore?