My Dad

From day one I’ve been a daddy’s girl.  Not the spoilt, get away with anything, daddy’s girl, far from it.  But we’ve always been buddies.  He just turned 70 and I had wanted to celebrate it in the proper way.  Our plan was to have our annual family get together this coming weekend.  Unfortunately we have had to cancel, well, postpone the festivities as he has to have major surgery this week.  It will be a good thing as it will get things fixed.  But I thought he should still be celebrated!  So in the spirit of the post I did about my mum I thought I would toast him as well.

Dad 1 2015

My dad always had time for his girls, something that has never changed.  Regardless of what he was doing, whether studying or working, we could be included.  It didn’t matter how long his day was he was always up for getting down on the floor and letting us use him as a jungle gym.  Many hours were spent doing row row your boat with his arms.  And pulling up his eye lids to see if he was still in there!

He’s had quite a journey in life.  He is a son of a coal miner who was the first person to go to college and continued on to get his masters degree.  When I went back to the UK for a year at university he came with me at the beginning to help me get settled.  We did a loop round the country which was a tour of his life.  He brought me to the house he was born in to show how far the family had came.  Imagine his surprise there was grass and the neighbourhood had come up a bit!  But I did get the point.

I am grateful that though he wanted us to have the world he didn’t fall into the trap of just handing it to us.  Mum and dad made sure we worked hard and never took anything for granted.  When he thought I was losing my way he wrote me a letter talking about how I was disappointing him.  I was having a bad attitude and being very angry about things.  Lashing out and hurting the ones I loved.  It was heartfelt and full of love but also a wake up call to me.  I still have that letter.

He has always seemed to know just what to say and how to be supportive.  For Senior Hooky Day I chose to go sailing with him instead of scarpering off somewhere.  It was a foggy day and it was great fun to just hang out and be outside.  He would show up to our American Football games in high school.  We had the worst team but once in awhile he would show up, bundled up to hear us play in the band.  On the rare occasion there was a touchdown he would actually hear the band play the school song.  It wasn’t often!

I get my twisted sense of humour from him.  You know the sort that gets you into trouble.  When we were in the UK there was an interview with Rowan Atkinson and he had a running gag of butt cheeks or kissing arse.  Something like that.  So the presenter would toss out words and he kept bringing it back to the gag.  They got to windscreen wipers and he just mimed kissing back and forth between butt cheeks.  I thought we were going to die.  Tears were streaming down our face.  Wish I could find that clip.  I can’t do it justice.

Of course there is the Championship of the Entire Civilised World for cribbage.  It’s quite stiff competition.  It’s just the two of us.  It’s a great way to just talk and joke about.

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I am so grateful to have a dad like my dad.  He has showed us how to be true to ourselves, set our standards high, and was a great example of what it means to respect women and treat them well.  He and my mum are a great example of what type of relationship we should be looking for.  I was lucky that I have that as well with my husband.  Dad wasn’t pleased when I wasn’t happy or treated right in past relationships.  It was a great relief, I think, to my dad when I met my husband.  One, he fits right in with my family and two, he makes me happy.

While I’m nervous about the surgery, I know it is a good thing.  It will get him healthy and ensures we have years still to be goofy, make more family memories, and to well, have my dad around.  Because he is pretty neat in my book.

Pure Joy

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best source of joy.  Take ice cream for instance.  It would be a very rare thing that it would bring a frown to someone’s face.

I have good memories of my Grandma, she was a neat lady and I would have loved to know her more but she passed away a few years after we moved over here.  I’ll have to do a proper post as she was quite the lady.  But as summer is coming to a close and ice cream shops are closing for the season I am reminded how ice cream can make you smile.

This is a photo of her getting her first ice cream sundae stateside.

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She loved it!  🙂

Bacon Dressing and the Revolutionary War

Are you a loyalist or a patriot?  We were asked that when we went to the kids camp for lunch.  Little did he know!  My husband said pacifist but apparently back then if you said that people just assumed you were a loyalist and were treated with suspicion.  Now my husband doesn’t have any American history in his family but I do.  My mum is American and people have been coming over nearly every generation in this family since the early 1600’s.  Including me.  So it makes for an interesting genealogy.  There was a good number of my family that had to high tail it to Canada as they were loyalists.  They came back down about fifty years later.   You know, when it was safe.  🙂

Not sure if the gentleman playing the father of the camp noticed my Union Jack on the back of my phone!  But we were served anyway.  Lucky us as the kids did an amazing job.  They made blueberry jam, butter, cornbread, pickles and soup.  The soup was tasty but a bit much on a very hot day.  So I was wilting a bit at the end.  Loved the butter and the jam.  So yummy.  We were impressed with everything they did.  And it was hard work keeping the fires going so they could boil the water and keep the tavern guests fed.

After a hot lunch it seemed like a good idea to do a cool dinner.  I had some bacon to finish up.  I know, tough problem to have.  🙂  But didn’t want it to go to waste.  I thought I would have a go at some bacon dressing.  Once I started cooking the bacon the dogs got very focused on what I was doing.  Boy were they optimistic!

Bacon salad 1 2013

To make the dressing I scraped the bacon fat into a bowl and added some olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   I think I put a bit too much vinegar in.  It was tasty but either less vinegar or more bacon drippings.  Which would mean cooking more bacon.  But it had a brightness to it that went well with the salad.

Bacon salad 2 2013

The genius of salad is you can tailor it to the individual taste.  My husband likes beets and onion on his and he’s not a fan of blue cheese.  So for his I added some jarlsberg.  I love blue cheese and bacon together.  A great combo.

Bacon salad 3 2013 Bacon salad 4 2013

Very filling on a hot day and I just love all the fresh flavours of the veg.

The Birthday Girls

40 years ago today my mum spent her birthday having me.  We would joke that I was the gift that kept on growing and never went away!  I think the number of birthdays we haven’t spent together is in the single digits which given how busy we’ve been over the years is pretty remarkable.  Sharing it with my mum is what makes it special.

birthday 2 2013

I have been extraordinarily lucky to have her as my mum.  From day one she has been fiercely on the side of her daughters.  She has kept me alive when I turned blue from asthma and she was told she was a panicky mum.  Let’s ignore the fact she’s a nurse!  She never let anything hold us back.  My mum always put her family first.  Whatever decision she made it was with an eye for doing what was best for us.  I honestly can’t think of anything she did when we were growing up that was a just for her thing.  I am happy to say that now if she wants to treat herself she does.  A blow for freedom as she likes to say.

Throughout her career she worked long hours to make sure our family never went without.  I know she has wondered from time to time if it took away from us important time.  I don’t think she realises that the time she spent with us was quality time and we never felt cheated being latch key kids.  We never resented her having to be on call or work crazy overtime.  Because she did that we had a roof over our heads and got through college without any debt.  She was also the major reason why kids flocked to our house.  There was a good chance of homemade cookies and milk.  Let me tell you, her baked goods are hard to beat.

Mum and I are a lot alike.  We share so many of our traits both good and bad.  We can be stubborn, we like to be in control of the situation (though good luck getting either of us to admit that too often 🙂 ), we can be pretty fierce when we stand up for ourselves or our family.  I have to say she does that better than me.  I’m all fiery and she comes across as cool and collected but you know you stepped over that invisible line.  We share the same thought that our kids are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  After all, without family, what’s the point.  We love to dance in the kitchen while cooking.  If there weren’t books in this world we’d be a bit lost.  We cheer for the underdog.  Ginger is the first line of defense against illness before medicine.  Homemade gifts are the best, especially from your kids.  Food is one way we show our love.  She used to bring me lunch when we worked together.  Leftovers from the night before.  It was awesome.  When I was away at college I would get homemade cookies and congo bars.  I was the envy of the TV lounge.  🙂

Being a parent I find myself acting like my mum a lot.  I’ve even stopped myself in mid-sentence with the kids and say I sound just like her!  When they giggle I tell them to just wait until they have kids.  But you know, mum was right on a lot of things.  Chewing gum is not attractive!  Making me wait until I was 12 to get my ears pierced was the right choice.  It’s ok to use tough love.  There is a long list.

I guess I was trying enough as a child because when I started parenting my children they were 3 and 7 and I was bewildered or exasperated at something and my mum just burst out laughing and said “I have lived to see the day!”  Thanks.

birthday 1 2013

So thank you mum for being our cheerleader.  For being there for all the ups and downs.  You are an incredible woman and I am so glad you are on our side.  And I am so proud of you for all you’ve accomplished in life, it would make for an amazing story.  Happy Birthday, Lady.  🙂

Why I’m proud of my Irish ancestry…

Today there will be millions of people getting drunk.  Most won’t be Irish.  I debated going out tonight for the first time on St. Patrick’s Day then I realised, not only will a lot not be Irish, but a lot will be college students.  That settled it.  I have my Murphy’s here at home.  I’ll be having a lovely meal with my husband at home.

The notion of getting drunk like the Irish has always bothered me.   Aside from the fact that is a weird reason to get drunk, it’s a horrible stereotype.  Oh sure, Ireland has it’s fair share of drunks but so do most countries where historically hardship has been the norm.  I have found two drunks in my Irish tree.  That’s it.  And many more in the rest of the family tree.  And no my family history isn’t full of drunks but you get the idea.

No, what I like to remember on St Patrick’s day is the journey many of my Irish ancestors took.  The main thing is, if you have any Irish in you, you have some strong stock.  There is a definite survival of the fittest in play.  Though my dad, my sister, and I are from England my mum is American.  My sister and I joined the many generations of my mum crossing the Atlantic.  We had it easy though, the plane ride was hardly roughing it.  There is a term to describe the ships that brought millions across the Atlantic in the mid to late 1800’s.  Coffin ships.  They were packed with people with all their meager possessions looking for a better life.  Many didn’t make it.  My great grandparents, Margaret Mary McGee and John Joseph Morgan did it when they were young.  Not sure how old John was but from what I can gather from the genealogy Margaret was around 10.  It looks like she was an orphan when she landed.  There isn’t any record of her parents in the US.  They were married in 1892 in Massachusetts and had four daughters and a son.  Sadly John didn’t make it out of infancy.  Their youngest Elizabeth became St. Dolerine.  To be honest I’m not sure it was because she had a calling or it was expected of her.  She was elderly when I met her and a tiny little thing who loved her Dunkin Donuts coffee.

I forget the date when Elizabeth became St. Dolerine but this picture was taken on that day.  Margaret and John very proud of their daughter.

Irish history 1 2013

My great, great Aunt Margaret was someone I’d have liked to meet.  My mum has a wonderful mind for finances and figures and I think she got a healthy dose from Aunt Margaret.  She was one of 4 secretaries for John D Rockerfeller.  Can you imagine the tips she would get!  He would dash out and say buy this and that, sell this and that.  Alas, she fell in love with someone who wasn’t Catholic.  These days it isn’t such a big deal but back then it just wasn’t done.  Her parents decided it was time for the three of them to leave Manhattan and head back to Massachusetts.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for her but she did it with grace and went back to take care of her aging parents.  In all the photos I have of her though she has a great smile.  Like there there is a private joke.

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My great grandmother was the eldest and I never got to meet her as she passed away 11 months after I was born and we were in England.  We all call her Mary B as her middle name changed from Agnes to Bernadette after confirmation.  She had a lot to contend with in life.  Her eldest, my great Aunt Myrtle, was very sick as a child.  She survived the scarlet fever and polio but it disabled her.  So Mary B’s family eventually headed to Florida where the doctors said Aunt Myrtle would do better.  By this time she was divorced and had to figure out how to make her way.  Back in the day when the “little woman” needed a man to make the money decisions she was able to get a $10K mortgage to start a hotel.  It ran for several decades.  She was tough as nails but she is thought of fondly as she loved her children.

This picture is of Mary B and Aunt Myrtle.

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Aunt Myrtle was full of vinegar!  What a character she was.  She gave the impression she would outlive us all.  We think because of the scarlet fever she lost the ability to feel pain.  Not very handy when you get old and you fall and break things.  Mum brought her flowers once and asked where she kept the aspirin so she could put some in the water.  She didn’t have any.   No pain killers.  Though that was dangerous as she never felt the cancer.  She survived that as well.  She loved to flirt with the husbands in the family and thought my dad was the bee’s knees.  She took over the motel when Mary B passed away and kept it going until she couldn’t care for herself any longer.  She lived until she was 92.  She was the perfect example of not staying down when live knocks you down.

My Grammy, whom I am named after, was a spitfire.  Her nickname growing up was Gingersnap.  🙂  A very fitting name for her.  Like her mother she was pretty tough.  Once, kidding around, I had my arm around her and wouldn’t let go.  I think I was 10 or 12.  I got a charlie horse for my troubles.  But she doted on me and my sister.  She felt that my mum had lots of promise, that she didn’t need to view college as a place to find a husband and settle down.  Grammy saw that mum hit the books after school.  And she was right.  Mum got into Cornell for nursing.  Grammy was also an amazing cook.  We have a lot of handwritten recipes from her which is so wonderful to have.  She was a classy lady who knew how to have fun.  For me she started the tradition of dancing in the kitchen while cooking.  I’d like to think that tradition went back further to the previous generations.

This is my Grammy in High School.

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My mum has carried on the tradition of these wonderful Irish women in fighting fiercely for their families and making sure we have all the opportunities to succeed ourselves.  My mum has succeeded in life in a way that would make these women proud.  It means their fight and journey to make a life for themselves and their families was worth it.  My mum has shown my sister and me how to be strong, that is it is ok to be strong minded (as all the women have that in spades), and how to make our own way in life.  From Margaret and John, who truly survived the unimaginable at times and forged a life together, we have a family tree with multiple cousins who all work hard and carry forward with the various successes but never forget the journey that brought us to this point.  This is why I’m proud of my Irish ancestry.