January 30, 2012

do write

Truth be told I was never much of a student. But I acquired a love a writing as I journeyed and journal-ed  my way through a personal tragedy. That journey eventually led me to this blog. Mostly I do my writing for personal pleasure and this blog is a doorway to a vast community of people, very nice people. 

I'd like to think between my life's experience and my enthusiastic albeit basic abilities with the written word; that I might now and again actually do what good ole Mr. Franklin says......

Linking up with Bits of Bee today.

January 29, 2012

order in the family & the home

Keeping order in family is hard to do, believe me I know. I raised five kids- three of which were step children. To be a family I think you have to act like a family, do things as a family unit and one of those things is to be responsible for the space in which you live. How you ask? Chores! Yup you heard me right we made the kids do chores, age appropriate chores, this is something my husband and I were firm believers in.

Did you have chores assigned to you when you were a kid? My Mom and Dad asked me to do things when they needed doing and I was responsible for keeping my room clean but I don't remember having a regular schedule of chores. I remember doing my own laundry from a pretty young age, and we had a huge house with a big yard. We were always doing some type of gardening or bagging leaves. But all and all we- my brothers and I just did what we were told when we were told, you didn't question you just did.

We made our kids do chores, keeping their room tidy, dishes, mowing the grass (we have a riding mower). Then as they got older they helped with other things,firewood, weeding, planting the garden, vacuuming, and laundry. That's not to say they were happy about any of this because they weren't; well... sometimes they were happy to help! Sometimes it was like pulling teeth.

My daughter cracks me up when it comes to this subject; she and her hubby work full time. To deal with this  she has a list of chores that the boys have to do every week; vacuuming, tidying up their rooms- their bathroom, putting away their laundry, that kind of stuff. I asked her if she had to keep after them like I did her when she was younger. She replied," the kids get an allowance if they don't do their chores they don't get their allowance that means no spending money." "You don't yell at them or anything?" Thinking back to the knock out drag outs we used to have over dish washing and bathroom cleaning. She just shrugged and replied, "I'm not riding my kids like Seabisquit a trip or two to the store without money and they get the idea!" Problem solved for her, but then my grandsons are little angels, just sayin!

Yesterday Bill and I set off to do a few things on our list of many that need to be done around the house. Might as well get some stuff done while we're stuck in the house in this cold weather, right? I cleaned the oven. It has a cleaning cycle which takes 3 hours and leave ashes that need to be wiped out afterwards. Then we defrosted- cleaned and organized all the food in our chest freezer out in our breezeway and closed down our extra refrigerator which stands right next to it. We only use that over the summer months for beer and extra food since we usually have lots of company.

As hubby and I meet ourselves coming and going bringing order to this house and a huge piece of property without the help of the children I started to think.....  I never really gave much thought to how all those things got done after I left my parents house. But I can guarantee like us the did it with a good bit of effort!

How do you do it?

I am so inspired by my friend Melissa over at mamemusings whose word of the month is ORDER or click on this button to find out how you can join in and be inspired too.

January 27, 2012

from my kitchen- shepard's pie

My brother Gerard and I have an on going feud about an extremely important issue...for us Irish people, how we like our potatoes! He likes them whipped, I like them mashed. Whipped are WAY to creamy for my taste, kinda pasty if you ask me. You just can't properly make one of those neat little gravy pools in whipped potatoes, so what's the point I ask?

Mashed potatoes on the other hand are firm, they taste like they are one of the vegetables on the plate not soup! They are in my opinion mountains of white goodness with gravy or even plain of course plain's good I like them plain.

Are you a mashed or a whipped person?  We disagree all the time about lots of things like meatballs, you can read about it HERE so don't worry it's all in good fun, let us know!

I have another reason for going on and on about potatoes . Actually today I have this super fantastic recipe for Shepard's Pie. If you're familiar with Shepard's Pie you know one of the primary ingredients is "mashed" potatoes. And if you're ever wondered what to do with your left over spuds this is a it!

We had this very meal last night for dinner and it is yummy!


o    1 tablespoon olive oil
o    1 teaspoon black pepper
o    1 1/4 lb ground beef
o    1 large onions, finely diced
o    3 -4 large carrots, finely diced
o    1/2 cup frozen peas
o    3 -4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
o    2 tablespoons flour
o    2 tablespoon butter
o    3/4 cup red wine
o    2 tablespoons tomato paste
o    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
o    1 cup beef stock
o    1 large quantity mashed potatoes ( 4 cups or more, fresh or leftover)
o    1 eggs, beaten


1.    Pre-heat oven to 200C/400°F.
2.    Sauté carrots in the olive oil until starting to get tender.
3.    Add in the onions and sauté for a minute or two then add the meat.
4.    Season with black pepper and thyme.
5.    Cook until browned then drain fat. I poured the mixture in a colander. 
6.    Add the butter to pan, melt then put meat back and peas to the meat mixture.
7.    Sprinkle with flour and stir through.
8.    Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.
9.    Let this reduce slightly then add the beef stock. Allow to reduce down until you have thick meaty gravy. Season to your taste.
10.  Remove from heat. Grease an oven proof dish (9x13 or an oval baker) pour in meat mixture.
11.  Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes over top  then brush with egg.

12. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the potato is nice and browned on top.

January 26, 2012

you did what?

For Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop this week I chose this prompt: You know the stories that are retold a million times at family gatherings? I call them Life Stories that you just never live down. List your Top 10 Life Stories. 

Family stories are most funny to the family that they belong to because we know the people, the personalities. I come for a large family with lots of kids many many cousins.We're all in our thirties, forties, fifties even sixties now and I have to say we never get tired of these stories.  There are so many good stories that are swirling around in my head that could be told about all of us. Here are some of my favorites!

  • Once at a holiday dinner, I believe it was Thanksgiving, someone threw a piece of turkey  across the table and it landed in my cousin Genevieve’s soda , she sipped it not knowing it was there, then threw up on the table. ( my brother Paul swears it was stuffing not turkey, he had a front row seat, he was sitting next to her) We still don't know who threw the offending object!

  • I took a walk with my cousins, Gen, Patricia, my brother Paul and cousin Mickey on the boardwalk once, I didn't want to be with the girls I wanted to be with the boys. They however had different idea, they left me by jumped off the boardwalk. I was eight years old and lost, I walked to this little beauty parlor which sat off the end of the boardwalk and sat there crying and crying until they came back later. They got in trouble! (I didn't know my address we were living at a summer house)

  • We had a party at our house once and my cousin Yvonne mistakenly used a Clorox wipe thinking it was a personal feminine wipe. Ouch!

  • Poor cousin Lorraine was locked in the car trunk in Brooklyn by her sister Yvonne and my brother Paul, my grandfather found her.

  • My brother Gerard (aka, Gerry berry) stuck a berry in his ear, from the Christmas decorations.

  • My personal favorite when at a family party my cousins threw my little shit balls from my diaper out the upstairs window at Uncle Charlie’s head since he didn’t have hair!

  • While visiting my friends Flora’s Uncle Joe in Brooklyn he was commenting at the dinner table how beautiful my daughter Heather was, as the words left his mouth, she threw up on the table.

  • My son Billy put a clothes pin on our cat Tinkerbelle’s tail once, needless to say they didn’t like each other very much. Once when staying with my parents Billy was sleeping on the couch, and Tinkerbelle  who traveled with us decided to get her payback, she climbed on Billy when he was sleeping and peed on his back.

  • My cousin cut my hair after one lesson in hair cutting school; it was a disaster. Mom took me to the beauty parlor after to repair the damage, can anyone say pixie?

  • I was walking down the street with my son Matthew and I was VERY pregnant with Eric, a utility worker was working in a freshly dug hole on some sewer pipes. As we turned the corner I said to my toddler son” look Matthew a big hole.” The man looked up at me and said” not big enough for you lady!”

January 24, 2012

gems picked up in the bathroom

I was always very good with time management- still am. I tend to be an organized person- good at getting things done. With a family of seven I'd have to be or I'd have went crazy, right?  As each of the kids left the nest our schedules freed up more and more;
there are perks of an empty nester-well sorta!

Going through transitions are not without their challenges especially for us; but we tried to approach it with a touch of humor.

Anyway, Bill - my husband -loves those funny little books with facts or cute little stories, you know the ones
- you keep in the library bathroom! 

Well, I was looking through on of them the other day and I came upon this quote and I couldn't help but laugh! Then I thought it was so ridiculous and humorous yet relevant to our lives it worth sharing. 

Linking up with Bits of Bee today.

January 21, 2012

our attempted break in-country style

Tonight after my husband and I finished our dinner we went off to our respective computers. His is out in the den, it's a desk-top. And mine is a lap-top which I usually use while sitting on the couch while the TV drones on in the back round. Have you noticed how bad TV is lately?

All of the sudden I heard this rustling noise by the deck, my husband went out to investigate.....nothing. It almost sounded as if someone had banged against the furniture on the deck. We were curious but found nothing. Maybe a stray dog or cat? After a quick investigation which resulted in finding nothing we went back all was forgotten.

A few hours later I heard this God awful banging, the den door was closed so Bill didn't hear it but it sounded as if someone was bashing against the duct work under the house. Let's not go into the fact that Bill needs to get his hearing checked, that's another story!  Now I'm thinking to myself, if these are burglars they are dumb as dirt since we have a crawl space not a basement! And frankly we have a bazillion guns since hubby's a gun collector so they'd be making a really really big mistake picking this house.

This time however we did find the culprits trying to break into the crawlspace door and making quite the racket doing it.  I'm thinking their intention was for a night of romance out of the rain and cold. They had a bit more hair and much sharper teeth than the average criminal! As it turns out it was a pair of Opossums, they are nasty little suckers. And the last thing I need is a mating pair taking up family life under my house.

This type of thing is occurring more and more often since a timber company came in and removed about a square mile of trees on a property closely neighboring ours. I swear I don't understand what people are thinking when they clear cut like that.

Tomorrow Bill will put some type of tasty morsel in our 'have a heart trap' and see what we can do about relocating these two to another location, preferably not near my house or anyone else's for that matter.

defend this family; do it for the children

Fred, Mark and their children

In my less than one year of blogging I have met some wonderful and interesting people. I must admit there are a few that I consider my favorites, people who touch me with their humor, their life stories, their compassion and their ability to love unconditionally. My friend Mark Himes is one of those people. Mark and his partner Fred have four wonderful children and I'm afraid their family is in danger of being broken apart. You can read all the details of this story on Marks blog Our Simple Lives and to a lesser extent in the letter I sent to The Secretary of Homeland Security on their behalf which I have posted below.

Dear Madam Secretary,

I am writing to you today to ask for your help. My name is Jennifer Forbes.  I'm American, I am a wife, I am a mother of two and step mother of three, and grandmother of four.

I am also the granddaughter of three immigrants who came to this country married and raised their families. They had a dream, a vision of a place where they could be free, free to work, free to worship, and free to associate. And they chose America because this is the land where differences are respected and diversity is celebrated.

In my own family my step-daughter who is white is married to a person of color, prior to the 1967 Supreme Court decision they would have been arrested here in The Commonwealth of Virginia for their union. My beautiful grandsons would have been considered little more than outcasts, but for those who dared to speak up when they saw injustice being done. 

And it is just such an injustice that has prompted me to write this letter to you today. I would like to appeal to you on behalf of my friend Mark Himes and his French born husband Fred Deloizy of Harrisburg Pennsylvania whose green card has recently expired and is in danger of being deported. Fred has resided in this country with legal status for the entirety of his 20+ year relationship and marriage to Mark; his love for his family is clear and there is no doubt that he is a loving spouse and parent.  Fred’s ties and relationship to this country are undisputed; the couple has four beautiful adopted children together; Jonathan, Claire, Jacob and Joshua like all children need their parents to be together. He loves this country and has shown a willingness to work and the fact that he will contribute to our society is beyond doubt because he has already.

It is my opinion that the Defense of Marriage Act is a failure as marriages do not need defining or defending, but families do.  Mark and Fred’s family does. We as a society cannot seriously protect a marriage that fails the children. Our children are the future of this country, they need both parent home and engaged in their lives. Married straight couples can sponsor their spouses but same sex marriages remain un-recognized because of this act. You MUST consider making an exception for this couple– for this family- for these CHILDREN. Do not uproot these children from the only life they’ve ever known, because that may happen. Don’t make Fred leave, please stop these types of deportations!

Fred & Mark
We as a country evolve, attitudes change and we need to change with them; and so must the policies and laws of this government so that they reflect the will of its people. And if there are times Madam Secretary when we find we are bound by laws that are unfair or unjust then we must apply them with common sense and mercy.

I urge you to keep this family together; please reissue a new green card for Fred Deloisy, his children deserve to have both their parents.

Friends, That concludes my letter to the secretary. I just wanted to add that I respect that your opinions may differ from mine about gay marriage or even on issues of immigration. But I ask you to please join me and write your own letter. Help save this family; if for nothing else do it for the children.          
                                                    With Thanks, Jen

Joshua, Johnathan Claire and Jacob
I hope I got the twins right!

Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

January 18, 2012

I was a dog burglar

For Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop this week I chose this prompt: Write list the names of five dogs from your lifetime, then write about why one sparks a stronger memory to you than the others.

  • Major- German Shepard 
  • Smokey-Belgium Shepard  
  • Bane- Mutt 
  • Cosmo- Lab mix 
  • Charlie- Cocker Spaniel 
The cool water of the hose splashed on my legs and feet as I washed away the beach sand, I could hear the phone ringing in the house. My Mom popped her head out the door and yelled down the steps at me standing in the yard," throw on a t-shirt,"she said, "then go down to the bar, your Dad on the phone he has a surprise for you."

I walked out the gate putting my t-shirt over my head at the same time kicking it closed with my bare foot. Why? I don't know since we didn't have a dog to keep in the fence anymore. It had been a year since Major was put to sleep, old habits I guess, that and a bit of hope my parents would relent and let me get a new dog.

As I walked down the block I glanced at Eddie while passing his house I smiled, he waved. He was most forgiving considering not two years earlier I had broken into his house. I remembered going to my Dad and showing him that puppy I stole; telling him about the neglect being filled with one part self righteous two parts scared shit-less. I was fifteen and I was a dog burglar. First he gave that little girl puppy to his friend Richie, then Dad forever a cop made me tell Eddie what I did, and Eddie forgave.

It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust going from the bright sunshine and into the shade of the bar. I spied my Dad sitting at the bar with his friend Richie, and in Richie's arms was a cute little puppy. Then Richie said, "that adorable puppy you (and he cleared his throat) stole had puppies and I brought one for you."  "It's fine your parents said it was OK, take him.

 That gate at our house never contained my dog friend Bane (that's what I named him). He was a great dog but he had a mind of his own and he was really strong willed. Must have been his mothers influence; my life of crime and all! Bane lived until he was 18.

January 17, 2012

do you talk with a fork?

Some of the most important conversations my husband and I ever had with our children were at the dinner table. Like most families our children were active growing up and time was precious. After school there was homework, school activities, sports and social lives but when it was time for dinner if we were home we were at the table as a family. Back in the day there weren't the added distraction of electronic devices being used  like there are today. I couldn't imagine if my five kids were younger and we had to deal were cell phones ringing all through our dinner time meal and I-Pads wars, ugh!

Now the kids are grown and when they come home the table is still at the center of the house. But truthfully we're not picky, it doesn't even have to be my table, it can be a family members table or the table of our favorite restaurant as long as we're together. And you know what? We talk, we share our lives, we laugh or share our concerns, we drink a bit of wine and eat good food. And the most important thing...... we communicate in person - fork in hand...... no electronics necessary.

What about dinner time at you house? Calm or crazy; dinner table daily or only in your dreams?

Linking up with Bits of Bee today.

January 15, 2012

I lied twice in this post and that's the truth- UPDATED

Did that title grab ya? Seriously it's all fun really! Instead of the traditional "about me" list I've decided to do something with a bit of a twist today. I was thinking back on my younger days, high school and beyond, believe it or not I had a umm.... wild side back in the day. Here's a glimpse into Jen then and now... with a twist in my list. Out of the dozen things about me, two of them are untrue, want to give it a shot and guess which ones I made up?
  1. I was voted the biggest flirt of my graduating class. The boys had issues because I wouldn't date them!
  2. I broke into a neighbors house (as in burglarized) to steal a puppy that was being abused and neglected. Writing about this on Mama Kat's  this week, stay tuned!
  3. I then fessed up to the neighbor breaking into the neighbors house after stealing said puppy. My dad marched me over and made me!
  4. I got so drunk on champagne once, I actually took my pantyhose off on a street corner after leaving a wedding reception. Not my greatest moment!Even now when I smell champagne it makes me sick.
  5. As a student I was never more than average, sad but true; maybe! Sometimes average is good!
  6. I was on the kick line in high school, can you imagine the younger me in saddle shoes and a short uniform showing all that leg? This was fun.
  7. I was born on Friday the 13th. March, I was due on St Patty's day but came early!
  8. Would you believe I'm five foot nine inches tall? Truth or tall tale? Every inch of it! And I'm the shortest member of the seven members of our family!
  9. I love shoes, I have tons of pairs and love wearing all of them. I would sell my sole for shoes! I wish i could be bare foot all year long, I hate shoes, hate wearing them.
  10. I was a singer in a band that played in the local bars in the town I grew up in. Did work in my Dad's bar as a bartender but I don't have much of a voice. Sorry!
  11. My last child was just under 10 pounds at birth. Eric was a big boy, 9lbs 10 oz -22inches
  12. I was a tomboy who loved to play outside and never did really care for dolls. who wants dolls when they have the beach?

Are you able to spot the fabrications in this list? There are only two. Care to make a guess, just comment? Then come back in a few days and I'll highlight the lies in red so you know if you guessed right. Oh and if this bring up any of your memories that you'd like to share, please do! I mean now that you think I'm a burglar and all! ( And family members probably shouldn't participate since it wouldn't be fair OK!)

January 13, 2012

photo day- the lay of the land

I got a lot of really nice comments and feedback from my first photo day and that was very encouraging. I also got a lot of hits- the stats don't lie, right? So I made up a new little button thingie just because I roll that way and here I am back again with some more pictures.

This batch of pictures were taken this week around our property. Like our John Deere bird house/condo!? We are a bird friendly household, and this thing is really high up because in addition to being a bird friendly household we are a cat friendly household!

This is Tarzan, he's our alpha cat..or he likes to think he is!

This is Cheetah, he's Tarzan's litter mate. How two brother could be more different I do not know. He is the sweetest little thing who loves to play and get into mischief unlike his brother who is quite aggressive.

This picture is something else isn't it; what a moon!? I wish I could take credit for it, but I'm afraid Bill gets all the credit for taking it the other night while grilling some chicken.

The sun going down through the immature pines..... not really crazy about this picture quite frankly!

The picture below are actually suckers growing under a tree, I don't know the name of the species but the colors are amazing aren't they? During the summer this tree provides shade for one part of my vegetable garden in the mid day so we plant our cucumbers underneath. The only down side to the tree is that it has very large thorns!

Through the smoke of burning leaves this is an old tobacco barn that is on our property.  Years ago when we first lived here it actually was functional and a farmer friend did use it for a few years. I believe there are more efficient ways to dry tobacco now. This barn has three levels and is very large, but without an interested farmer to use it and do the the maintenance plus one to many hurricanes the poor thing....well lets just say its seen better days.

That's this installment of photo day. I hope you enjoyed it, and please let me know what you think.

January 11, 2012

here's some news- I'm feeling snarky

Oh my goodness! Have you checked out the news lately? I must admit I don't read it as much as I should. I know terrible me! So the other day I put some local news publications and local tv new stations on my homepage so I can catch up on the local /national news. With the election coming and all I wanted to brush up on my candidates and now that the winter is here I tend to stay more isolated here in the house so reading the news becomes my tether to the outside.

So with my new publications all set up I browsed a bit scanning the headlines from my area and what was happening nationally.

I will repeat myself oh my goodness!

As I looked at the links for the local t.v news then the local news papers- headline after headline was shockingly bad news,highlighting criminal behavior and violence, it is just horrible!

They must have something good to highlight why don't they lead with that? Why does it always have to be the bad stuff, the horror, the tragedy and the suffering? AXPGRTGJ3YWR

Here's a sample from just today:

  • Virginia gets a failing grade for safe roadways
  • Police identify man burned to death and left on the side of the road in James City County
  • Judge says "No Deal" to woman accused of faking cancer - (speechless, I am speechless)
  • Richmond man given 28 years in abduction, robbery
  • U.S. Marine Corps to investigate video of Marines urinating on corpses
I don't mean to be snarky,*throat clear* but I will!
If they are going to continue to call this news I have a suggestion. 
They might want to consider a name change for the level of negativity they display.
They should call it BAD NEWS.


January 9, 2012

comfort on a gloomy day

The past few days we have had some unseasonably warm weather. I've gone out over the property with my camera and Bill has been able to catch up on a lot of long needed leaf burning. We have huge old trees lining our drive and it takes forever to clean up our property. For us being able to throw open windows in January here in Virginia is really unheard of but we get what we get so we might as well make the best of it, right?

Alas today the colder weather is back. Although the thermometer isn't way down there with the humidity up the chill goes right through you. After lunch Bill gathered up some fire wood from the shed and put on our wood-stove. We have one of those lovely cast iron cook stoves from Ireland that's capable of heating the entire house and makes the most awesome pizza's amongst other things.

Then came the most important decision! What to make for dinner. I don't know about you but when it is cold and gloomy I need to eat some comfort food. While Bill napped I went through the usual suspects whether it be soup or stew- pot roast or pasta or mac & cheese generally something home made that will fill the house with wonderful aromas and be satisfying too.

From the comfort of the couch are we getting the theme here? I made my decision, and decided on Chili and rice. The house already smells wonderful as the pot simmers on the regular stove, can you smell it? Sorry there's no such thing as smell- a - blog!

You do crave comfort food on a rainy gloomy day, don't you?
For me its like a hug on a plate or a bowl.
Do you have a favorite?

January 7, 2012

photo day- look at the birdie

Hi Folks,

Now that I have my new beautiful camera I am going to start putting some pictures on this blog, as promised.

I admit I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm doing with the darn thing. I still have yet to read the complete instructions on pdf,  all 200 + pages...yikes!  But hey I am enthusiastically willing to learn.

Nor am I the slightest bit shy about sharing my results both positive and negative with you my friends on my blog. Notice the sucking up going on here!?

What I thought I'd do a post from time to time as I learn to use the camera- become more familiar with how it works. ( I'd love to make a schedule, but that's probably a bit to ambitious for me, maybe later when I know what I'm doing.)

So when you see my posts title Photo Day come see my picture or pictures OK?

And it wouldn't mean a thing if you didn't tell me what you honestly think.

Today I went out with the camera and found a beautiful cardinal in one of our small trees. He sat there as if posing for the camera; ham that he was! Since it's just Bill and I and the kitties in the house this week I was lucky to find such a beautiful subject to try out my new toy.

Here's the problem I had, holding the camera still. My goodness gracious, I had such a difficult time really I did. I was leaning my arms on my boobs to steady my arms but it was SO hard to do. And all I kept thinking about was our perfectly good tripod leaning against the grandfather clock in the dining room.

Anyway I did take a few pictures, get some fresh air and some exercise. Plus, I did learn a thing or two from my little walk in the back yard today.

1. Holding the camera takes practice.
2 Keeping track of the subject takes practice, especially a tiny bird in a tree.
3.Focusing is not easy and takes practice even when the camera does most of the work.

My pictures in the order that I took them!

As you can see I am a beginner!