Friday, August 29, 2008

Athletic Supporters!

Fall in our household means we turn into athletic supporters. Oh get your minds out of the gutter people - I’m talking about supporting our favorite athletes! Watching games, driving to practices, hosting pasta suppers, tailgating, washing sweaty uniforms and more!

There’s the high school football team (NKB), the travel soccer team (BB), our beloved Iowa Hawkeye football team (regardless of whether they make it to a bowl game or not), fall golf (my favorite), and attendance at or paying attention to a whole bunch of other teams with which we’re not actively involved, just interested.

Now this is quite a departure from my youth. Growing up in a household with four daughters, one mom and one dad meant that there was only a tiny bit of testosterone in our home - and Dad was quite all right with that. Once a year, Dad watched the Iowa/Iowa State wrestling match on IPTV, but other than that, Sunday afternoons meant cooking “Sunday Dinner,” reading, napping, and decidedly NOT hearing the roar of the crowds blaring from the TV. About as close as we got to “sports” was going to Grandma and Grandpa’s for various holidays and the boy cousins would always have pro football on the little TV in the basement. Those gross, icky teenage boys plus Uncle Godfrey’s stinky cigars really turned me against watching sports on TV.


Upon meeting Dougie, my entire universe shifted with regard to sports. DB is completely and totally enthralled with sports of any sort. In our early dating years, I went to visit him at his college, and upon picking me up from the airport, we headed right to a sports bar. My trip was smack dab in the middle of “March Madness” and every game possible was blinking from the 27 TVs hanging from every corner of the place. It was completely bewildering to me. It’s not that I’d never seen a basketball game, I was after all in college and actively watching the Iowa Hawks’ basketball season. I’d just never seen that level of intensity, that fervor, that passion for watching the game.

Like any good sports fan, Dougie is a master of some pretty strange stats and details. You name just about any pro football player, and Doug can tell you not only where the guy went to college and the name of the head coach, but also the player’s high school and in most cases high school coach. He also remembers, in detail, the day we met – but only because it was the same weekend as the great Iowa / Ohio State match up in 1990. Unlike most husbands, however, he’ll never forget my birthday, September 7, as it happens to coincide with the birthday of ESPN. Sigh. Lucky me!

I learned quickly that each season just kind of melts into the next and it never really “ends.” To maintain a little sanity for me, a loose rule in our home is that professional baseball and basketball are taboo. This means that one’s “need” to control the TV remote for an NBA game is never allowed to take priority over a Julia Roberts movie marathon. However, come College Football Game Day or Zach Johnson playing well in any PGA tourney, the power grid in our town dims just a bit due to all 27 TVs in our home on full blast! Dougie is aware that the sports thing, even after 18 years, can sometimes be a bit much, and is careful to balance things out and tone down when he knows I need it.


My favorite part of fall sports is watching my kids. NKB is now in his sixth year of football, second at the high school level. Although the season not officially started yet, it appears he will be Safety on the JV team. He looks so dang BIG out on that field. I mean he is pretty tall to begin with, but once you add the shoulder pads, helmet and foam rubber pieces inside the girdle and pants, he’s just a giant! However, stand him up next to some of the varsity guys and he’s a relative runt! The height is there, but NOT the weight. The kid is 6’2.5” – 160 lbs. dripping wet, playing against guys 220 lbs. or more. Yikes! Did you know it is not possible for a fully-equipped football player to get into a Volkswagen Passat? Trust me on this one folks.

BB is out on the soccer field, and loving every minute. She’s a lefty and that powerful left foot has helped her around an unsuspecting opponent on more than one occasion. Although we’ve swiftly transitioned from soccer to basketball then back to spring soccer each of the past five years with nary a conflict, we might be approaching time to make The Choice: soccer OR basketball? This past spring she tacked on an additional basketball league, which was directly in conflict with soccer April-June. We have just been presented with another basketball opportunity which will conflict with soccer throughout the month of October, and are struggling to decide if she'll play or not. It just might be time to decide which sport she loves more, soccer or basketball? I think I know the answer, but I want her to discover it on her own.


Some people talk about the “over-programming” of kids today. I don’t know if mine are over-programmed or not – and thanks but no thanks, not looking for your opinions on this one. What I do know is that our kids participate in as many activities as they are inclined to and that we can realistically support. We did try hockey, baseball, dancing and piano, and probably a few others over the years. As they get older, there are fewer activities, but perhaps a deeper commitment to each. It's a real joy to watch them develop as athletes. I can't help but get a little lump in my throat every once in a while, seeing them out there on the field.


Birthday shout outs to Al and Mary Pat! Love you both!

"The values learned on the playing field--how to set goals, endure, take criticism and risks, become team players, use our beliefs, stay healthy and deal with stress--prepare us for life."

---Donna de Varona



Friday, August 22, 2008

Off to College with The Round Oak Table

Here's a pretty typical column (complete text below) from Mom, back in the day. This was originally published on August 21, 1980. She writes about what's going on in her life: her parents 45th wedding anniversary and my oldest sister going off to college. Woven in there, however, are Mom's opinions, personality and sense of humor, that made her so dear to her readers for over 25 years.

Good luck dear friends who are delivering your babes to college this week. We're just a few years behind you.


One thing that I really love about reading Mom's columns is that it's a total walk down memory lane for me. As much as I try to be "anonymous" in this blog, most of you reading it know me as Kati/Katie. In this column from 1980, Mom has an entire section on my antics. If I'd read this at 18, I probably would have been totally pissed (teenage angst and all). At 28, embarassed (exploring conservatism). And now, at 38, still experiencing angst and exploring conservatism, I love it. I see so much of my own daughter and son in how Mom wrote about me. I guess it's totally true that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

This 1980 column is a great reminder of the fun we used to have on "road trips." The alphabet game Mom describes was a wonderful way to pass the time. My kids lately (and me too!) have been playing "Bingo." Whenever you see a yellow car, you say "Bingo" and get one point. If it's a yellow Mustang, you get 10 points! However, if you say Bingo and there is no yellow car, it's minus one for you. For example, two people see the same car and both yell "Bingo" but one's just a little before the other, the first person gets the point and the second person goes down one.

If you are the mom and triumphantly yell "Bingo Mustang" and then gloat about the 10 points you just got, you better be real sure it's a Mustang and not, say, a Dodge Charger. Especially if BB is in the car, as she will make you turn around and check up close that it is in fact a Mustang, and then upon finding out it's, say, a Charger, will take away your hard-won 10 points. For example, is all.
Enjoy From the Round Oak Table, August 21, 1980:

Sunday, August 17, was quite a day for our household with two important events to celebrate. My parents, Tom and Madeline Bray of Des Moines, marked their 45th anniversary as husband and wife, and Mary Pat, our eldest daughter, left for college. As a "mom," let me tell you that one of these occasions was easier to deal with than the other.


I suppose the thoughts that must run through every parent's mind as their offspring leave home is, "Did I do a good enough job? Have I prepared them for the challenges they are going to face: etc., etc., etc?" You, who are old hands at having children leave the nest, can probably relate to this. One "old hand" gave me some good advice this week. He said, "Put it out of your mind—forget it. You've done what you can do. Now let her be."


Mary is attending the College of St. Mary in Omaha. It is a women's college located on a corner of a busy intersection. The buildings sit on a large, grassy campus adjoining the Aksarben raceway. The view from Mary's window is of the track. With a pair of binoculars she’ll have a box seat. One of her grandmothers has already asked if she provided the $2, would Mary Pat place a bet or two for her??? Really, Grandma!


One advantage of a smaller college is the family atmosphere that prevails. The friendliness and helpfulness of the staff and students at CSM is overwhelming. There was a special crew of helpers who unloaded our car and carried all the paraphernalia to the right room. There was a dorm counselor "Johnny - on - the - spot" who let Mary Pat know who she was, where she was in the dorm and "let me know if you need anything." Before we left for die trek back to Mitchellville we gathered in the dining area with other students and their parents for a briefing and welcome by the officers of the college. The president of the college is a gentleman who probably has experience at launching offspring since he verbalized so well what many of us were feeling. His empathy and concern were reassuring to many nervous parents and students.


Before the day was half over we knew why we had taken Katie, aged 10, with us. In the words of JPK, "for comic relief’ and in the words of her mother, "to keep everyone on their toes." She immediately offered to help Mary Pat unpack and rearrange her room. Offer was not accepted. She got around to the other rooms in the dorm to find out who was who and report back to her big sister. She ignored our piercing stares at speech time as she tottered on two legs on a four-legged chair near a large plate glass window. She kept her dad awake on 1-80 playing the Alphabet Game. The object of this car game is to see who can find all the letters of the alphabet, first, using all the available signs along the roadway or license plates or insignia on trucks. Both she and Jim agree that the rental company Jartan, has done players of the alphabet game a big favor. Usually the letter J (along with Q and Z) is difficult to find. Jartan rents equipment similar to that of U-Haul.


We observed field erosion in western Iowa along 1-80 that was so cavernous that the owner had filled it with three junk cars end-to-end and it looked like there was room for more. Hopefully, the farmer will succeed in stopping it as the crops in the rest of the field looked excellent.


Our lunch stop was at the Villager in Walnut, Iowa where we picked up a copy of the weekly newspaper, The Walnut Bureau. It is always interesting to compare other weeklies with our own Herald- Index and pick up new ideas. The Villager is also the restaurant- motel complex where we were charged sales tax (last year) on candy bars we were taking with us. After I protested via a letter regarding this violation of the Iowa sales tax law the owner sent me a check for $.03. He didn't realize he was in error and I shouldn't wonder since our tax laws are not just simple cut and dried things. There are always a million exceptions.


Remember the Iran hostages in your prayers and thoughts this week.


"I believe that we parents must encourage our children to become educated, so that they can get into a good college that we cannot afford" - Dave Barry


Sunday, August 3, 2008


Thank you to my guest blogger, 12 year old BB, for an update on Saturday's race. Honestly folks, I was really ready to bag it, because c'mon, SIX miles? Who the heck needs to run six miles? Isn't that just crazy? But then my little cheerleader and running buddy was up at 7am on Saturday, ready to go to the race with me, and I just couldn't let her down. Ya know what? I'm really glad I did it, proud to say I signed up for three races and I completed them all. Wasn't sure I would be able to say that. Mission accomplished!

Speaking of accomplishing goals, our entire family worked together all day Saturday and Sunday on our basement finishing project. BB and NKB were quite the pair in convincing DAB and me to go with a much different paint hue than we'd originally planned on. We had been thinking of a nice plain off white, but the kids lobbied hard and won the battle for a warm rich taupe, Bonjour Beige. Good call kids. BB and NKB also worked very nicely together re-installing outlet covers and switchplates. We are now at a carpet-choosing point, and the possibilities seem endless! We've created a complex family voting system to help narrow it down, and hopefully will have the order placed within the next week, and carpet installed before Labor Day. Still lots to do with installing doors, baseboards and trim, but we very content with progress thus far. We've accomplished so much on this project, with very little discord, and in fact it's brought us all closer together.

Closer together, and ohhh sometimes farther apart. NKB is off at a basketball camp this week, and during the 45 minute drive to camp this afternoon, he and I talked about college choices. He's heading into sophomore year of high school, and so right on track to start thinking seriously about Next Steps. He commented today about a school in a land Far Far Away, and commented casually that he thinks he'd like to be about "five hours away... by plane." Suck breath in, hold for thirty seconds, exhale slowly. Ok, this is what it means to be a parent, I can handle this. I think. We're right on track for the sort of exploratory thoughts he's having about college choice, and it gives Mom and Dad some time to get our heads around our little boy making grown up man decisions. Suck breath in, hold for thirty seconds, exhale slowly. Ok, still breathing here, that's good. As we arrived at camp, he wanted to head off with the guys, but I wasn't ready to say goodbye, instead lingering over the bed-making and unpacking as long as possible. Eventually, with a brief hug and kiss, he left for the basketball courts, leaving me still mussing and fussing in his room. I smoothed the blankets, fluffed the pillow, tucked his duffel bags under the bed, and pictured his future college dorm room. Yes I can do this, suck breath in, hold for thirty seconds, exhale slowly.
You can be damn sure, however, that we will make the most of these next three years of high school, treasuring every moment - good and bad. Ann over at Life in the Mud Lane has some good advice for parents, which I wholeheartedly second - parents, just show up! Your kids will know if you're there, and although they may not even talk to you or acknowledge your presence, they need you. Just show up! Great great wisdom Ann.
"You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you had to overcome to reach your goals." - Booker T. Washington

Race Report - by Guest Blogger BB

Hello this is KK's daughter...BB! How funny is that? Well it's great that my mom is getting out there and starting her day without a soccer or football game. She's gets to get up for her own sake! KK finished a 4.5 mile race last Saturday and today completed a 6 mile! I'm so proud of her. She completed the 4.5 in 57 minutes and 37 seconds. As for the 10k (6 miles) she completed the race in about 1 hour and 20 minutes. This blog isn't about me for sure, but I would have ran the 10k but I had found out that I had tendonitis in my knees. Stinks I know. I'm just glad that my mom was able to finish in the time she did.

I did go to the race and cheer on my mom. I watched all the intense men and women come in and finish. The quickest time was 35 minutes. I had heard that there was a brutal hill towards the end and it was smokin' hot! I was wondering " Where is my mommy! I hope she is OK! Aw man. Is she still out there? Oh no this can't be good." And just as I was going out to look for her I saw a fast pink shorts lady sprinting to the finish line. Every one was cheering for her and excited to see her run through the finish line. When she finished, she gave me a big old hug and I was glad to see her so happy I almost cried.

KK is doing very well and always up for the challenge. Thanks for reading my mom's blog. BB

Friday, August 1, 2008

Eating at the Round Oak Table

Previously unknown fact: I love to cook. Now, this site, homage to my mom, is supposed to loosely follow the same format as the original Round Oak Table column. Mom wrote about her life, her kids, what was going on it the world and more. I am generally following these same topical guidelines, but I have a problem. My life involves cooking, eating (a lot of cooking and eating!) and shopping for food, checking out new restaurants, and trying obscure recipes. Mom has never really enjoyed spending time in the kitchen and is not a big restaurant-goer. As such, her column was rarely if ever about food. Dad was the cook in our house – inventor of recipes, maker of daring meals, producer of Sunday dinner. So, in the original ROT, you’re not gonna see a lot of food info, but here… well from time to time you’re going to have to oooh and aaahhh over something I’ve created, because I really dig the compliments! I promise not to turn this into a food blog, and will try to give you a link or recipe if I can, but I just have to share some food news every once in a while!

My friend Cathy over at Not Eating Out In NY dot com posted this OUTSTANDING picture of a Savory Asparagus Pie that she created. Despite of my self-imposed moratorium on turning on the oven in months that end in –uly or –ugust, I just had to try this one… plus it was still early –uly when I made it.

Here is a pretty picture: (well hell, I can't get the picture where I want it. See above.)

Cathy’s recipe, because she’s all about environmental and economic stewardship, calls for making a pie crust from scratch. Because I am me, kind of a mix between a Cathy-wanna-be and that Semi-Homemade chick from the Food network, I bought the pie crust… but pressed it into my own Corelle pie plate! Anyway, it was a HUGE hit, even with my “I don’t eat cheese” friend.

Oh, and even though Cathy’s version looks really long, it was wicked easy, that is soooo all about me! I’m going to paraphrase her version here:

1 large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed; reserve 4 good-looking long stalks and chop the rest to 1/2″ bias-cut slices
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. crème fraîche
3.5 oz. chèvre goat cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter

1 pre-made pie crust, 2 crusts for 9” pie

Press one pie crust into greased 9” pie pan. Roll second pie crust in one direction so you end up with an oval shape. Slice it into 6-8 strips for the lattice crust (can be any width you desire!). Slice the reserved good-looking asparagus stalks carefully into halves, lengthwise. Set aside, we’ll be back to this shortly.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter on very low heat. Add the chopped onions, and let sweat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t brown. Once onions are translucent and just slightly caramelized, remove from heat and let cool. KK translation: stick them in the freezer cuz I’m too impatient to “let cool.”

In a large bowl, combine the creme fraiche and chevre. Mix with a spatula to combine. Add the egg, and whisk mixture until fully blended. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and chives. KK note: I was concerned that the mixture was too runny, so I added about a tablespoon of flour. Note sure it was necessary, but made me feel better about the batter! Add the chopped asparagus slices and the cooled onions and mix with spatula. Pour the asparagus filling into the pan with the bottom pie crust and smooth top with a spatula.

Keep reading and promise not to freak out: “Place one asparagus stalk lengthwise down the center. Lay a pastry strip down the center perpendicular to the asparagus. Lay another two asparagus stalks (alternating between the blunt end and the flower tip side by side) to the right and left of the pastry strip. Lay two pastry strips to the top and bottom of the asparagus stalks, gently tucking the middle part of the strip underneath the middle asparagus stalk to create a basketweave. Continue weaving in this manner until you reach the ends of the pie. Arrange any leftover pastry along the top of the pie’s edge and distribute pieces until the pastry edge is fairly even in bulk all around and well-integrated. Crimp or pinch edges in whichever manner you prefer.” KK note: This is exactly as Cathy has it on her website, and I just have to tell ya, it’s way more confusing to write (and read) how to do a lattice crust, than it is to actually just do it. Just look at my picture or hers and you’ll be fine.

Brush top of pie with milk or egg wash (optional – oh but it looks so pretty! Just do it!), and bake at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, or until top is just lightly browned. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.


In other food related matters, my attempt at gardening is a disappointment for the second year in a row. I think I put it in too late – June 22 to be exact. I thought it might be ok, but there must be some magic in that late May early June sunshine, cuz it just ain’t growin’. I’ve been watering, weeding, keeping the bunnies and deer away, and, just… nothing. Well I take that back, the basil looks pretty decent. The tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, rosemary and chives are just givin’ me the big cold shoulder. So even though the greenhouse still sells that stuff way into June, doesn’t mean a novice like me can have success with it. I’ll stick with it – and probably next year too. But for this year, grrrr.


More on food, then I’ll leave you alone for a bit. I’m gearing up for the back-to-school edition of “Kiki’s Kitchen.” This is where I’ll have five friends come over for a four+ hour cooking session. We’ll chop and slice and dice and whisk and sauté and at the end of it all, prepare six or more home cooked meals, that each person will stick in their freezer for later. There seem to be little store fronts popping up all over the place offering this concept of “once a month cooking” or as I like to call it, OMAC (yes I know I transpose the “M” and the “A,” but it works for me!). There’s Dream Dinners, Super Suppers, and many, many others. Some are better than others, for sure, but having experienced one myself, I knew I could do better in my own kitchen. Yes, you lose the convenience of having them do the shopping and chopping for you, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I actually like to go food shopping. I like to pour over recipes, make grocery lists, read nutrition labels, and, a little old fashioned here, I like to call the meat market and place my order. It makes me feel like Alice from the Brady Bunch calling Sam the Butcher. Except of course I’m not sweet on the butcher.


“The one who eats the fastest gets the most” – MMK

(Yes these words of wisdom are an actual quote from my childhood)