Happy Memorial Day!

How are you celebrating this weekend? Before you light the grill, head to the beach or jump in the pool, please take a moment to remember the troops.

Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Photo credits: peachpizzazz.com, ehow.com, juxtapost.com, socialcouture.com, stonegable.com, justshortofcrazy.com, examiner.com

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Catching up with…The Adventurer

Between getting ready for Christmas, fighting a nasty cold that we have all shared chez Avery and reading a divinely funny and poignant blog, I have been absent from writing my own!

I love this addictive new blog so much that I have to share an excerpt with you and then you can link on over to read the rest. I promise you will laugh, cry and everything in between.

So you are wondering how I came upon this blog… I recently ran into a friend of mine from interior design school who I had not seen in about a year. I was shocked to hear in that time she had gotten breast cancer and was already well into the fight. We were so busy catching up on the world of design, family and friends that we didn’t have a minute to talk about her cancer battles. If you knew her personally, you would not be surprised, she is busy enjoying her life!

I had to read her blog to discover what her last year has been like. So, she started her blog, The Adventurer, with the day she had the mammogram which was also her third anniversary to (second) husband Peter.

It was hard to choose just one post so I took an excerpt from her latest.

Read on…

I LOVE being bald. Yes, I know, pretty weird thing for someone blessed with a thick mass of untameable curls that she used to hate but grew to love, but honestly I really like this new look. And I’ll tell you something – having no hair makes getting up and out of the house a breeze. I actually take quicker showers than my husband! 

Peter, godblesshim, having become an instant parent to four teenagers some years ago, came up with a bizarre rule called The Two Minute Shower. His attempts to turn the entire household into TTMS followers met with dismal failure. My three girls would simply give him The Look as they trailed steam and wet towels. My son, who should have been more receptive to the concept being of the same species as Peter, just grunted and tried to wrestle him to the ground. As the wife, I paid no attention to P’s quaint little quirks. But these days I’m not only a convert to TTMS, I’m its best practitioner. With no hair to wash and condition or legs to shave, two minutes is longer than I need.

After I’d shaved my head and become a regular in the infusion room at Norwalk Hospital, I discovered that walking around au naturel was not the norm at all. In fact, I was the only one without a wig or scarf! Mind you, I’d started off wearing hats and scarves, mainly to keep my head warm but also because I didn’t want to make on-lookers uncomfortable. But there came a day when keeping my head warm was the last thing I wanted, and I didn’t give a hoot what anyone thought.

My step-daughter Rony (she’s in the middle in the photo) was visiting from Australia and I decided to take her to Stew Leonard’s, a funky local supermarket. It was the middle of the afternoon and the temperature was hovering around 105°. Remember Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam? It’s hot! Damn hot. Real hot! As we set off across the parking lot I realized I’d left my Panama hat in the car. Ooof! We were nearly at the air-conditioning. Did I want to go back for the hat? No way. 

Now that I think back to my pre-cancer days, I don’t remember seeing a lot of bald women walking around – and I’m the sort that notices that sort of thing. So I was absolutely gob-smacked that no-one stared at me in Stew’s. Actually, not quite true. Little kids stared open-mouthed, then tugged at their mothers, but nobody pointed or said anything out loud. Quite amazing. After that, I ditched the hats altogether except as sun protection. Incredibly liberating.

For more from The Adventurer

What’s Cooking in our Kitchen: White Bean, Sausage and Escarole Soup

The weather is getting cooler. Though there are many after-school activities, we are trying to be a part of the slow home movement and put healthy delicious meals on the table for dinner. My husband, our five year old daughter and I cook most of our meals for the week on Sunday afternoon. I have had countless questions as to how we do it.

Our daughter loves to help in the kitchen. She washes her hands, puts on her apron, puts a headband in her hair and pulls up her step stool. Then we are ready to work. In the recipe below, she washed and hand tore the escarole, squeezed out the sausage from the casings, mashed the cannellini beans and poured in all of the ingredients. I move the pot to a spot on the counter away from the stove. Here she is stirring home made hot chocolate – what could be better after raking the leaves?

Cooking with your kids does require a few changes in your cooking style and takes a little more time and a bit more mess. But the results are well worth it! Your children will learn about food, you can make a game out of measuring (sneak in some math) and they are much more likely to eat it. Why? Because they will proudly announce at dinner – I made this!

If you are having trouble getting your kids to join you in the kitchen, try asking them to help you make cookies after!

Here is another tip: make a meal in a bowl.

Every Sunday, our slow cooker or a large pot on the stove is simmering with a hearty soup that we can dip into all week with a chunk of hearty bread and a side salad. This is a great recipe for tailgate parties too – just serve it in some heavy duty plastic mugs.

White Bean, Sausage and Escarole Soup from ‘Gourmet Every Day’

Makes about 9 cups

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 heads escarole (about 1 lb.), chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 15 oz. cans chicken broth (I use low sodium and organic)

2 cups water

2 19 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Squeeze sausage from casings into a 5-quart heavy pot and cook in oil over moderate heat, stirring to break up large lumps until golden. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings.

Stir in escarole and garlic and saute over moderate high heat until escarole is wilted. Add chicken broth and water and simmer 5 minutes.

Mash half of cannellini beans with a potato masher or fork. Add all beans in mixture and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper.

P.S. When I designed our kitchen, I put the safety of our future children at the top of my want list. I am available to help you design a kitchen that works with your family in mind. You can learn more at Avery Design Interiors.

Remembering 9/11

twin towers, cross, sunlight, new york city, downtown, 9/11
One man in the sun alone
Walks between the silence and the stone:
The city rises from his flesh, his bone.
–Archibald Macleish
These were the words quoted this morning by Mayor Bloomberg at the Ceremonies for 9/11. Nine years later, I still miss my friends from Marsh & McLennan, Aon and Cantor Fitzgerald, especially my classmate Calvin. I am still haunted by the vision of the towers falling.

And I will never forget

…being at a conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel when I over heard someone say a plane crashed into the World Trade Center and thought they were must be joking. Surely, it must have been a small plane from Teterboro.

…seeing a woman half an hour later weeping because the towers had fallen and knowing in my gut that it was no joke. Something was terribly wrong.

…getting Don out of the meeting and rushing to a phone, any phone, to call his wife and let her know we were okay. It was the only phone call we were able to make that morning, so his wife called my family to let them know I was okay.

…seeing my friends arrive at the hotel on foot and bunking out for the night in the conference room because there were no more hotel rooms available anywhere in the city.

…realizing that the very next day I was supposed to be attending a conference at Windows on the World.

…wondering “is he on that plane?” and waiting for hours to hear that my dad was not on that plane.

WTC, 9/11, twin towers, collapse, downtown, new york city

…watching the collapse over and over again on the TV screen in the hotel’s bar for hours, drinking sodas, and shaking our heads not quite believing it was real.

…watching women covered in dust walking in to the bar in flip-flops or bare feet (high heels in one hand) to take a break before continuing the walk home – no matter how far home was. Later I found out that amongst the many women walking that day was a friend of mine. She said that she was working in Wall Street and her family had recently moved to Connecticut. They had a newborn son at home and she would do whatever it took to get home. It was not long after that she stopped working in the city.

…walking to my parent’s apartment for the night because there was no way for me to get back to CT and offering to friends to come with me to stay the night.

plane, WTC, twin towers, nyc, downtown, wall street, terrorism,

…watching my dad put eye drops in his eyes later that night and thinking I can’t believe how lucky I am that he is even here to do such a simple routine thing. He wasn’t in the plane headed to Washington, DC. He heard about the first plane on the radio in the car en route to the airport. He looked back and saw the second plane hit and knew it wasn’t just an accident (AP photo). They turned around and returned to downtown to be with his colleagues on Wall Street. They got as far as City Hall before walking the rest of the way with cloth napkins from a restaurant held to their faces. Of course, the eye drops were for his bright red eyes from being amongst the dust and debris.

…going to the salon for a pedicure in the hopes I could escape the devastation for even a little while. The TV was on and I glanced up to see Frank’s daughter sobbing and wishing for the firefighters to find anything of her father’s – any momento she could hold onto. But all trace of her father (and so many others) had vaporized in the flames and heat.

…hearing my brother’s stories of so many colleagues from the consulting group he was supposed to be working with in the World Trade Center. Just a few weeks earlier, his boss had changed his assignment to an in-house job. One gal told him how she was late to work because she couldn’t decide if she should wear the red skirt or the black skirt. She rushed off the subway train, saw the crowds coming back at her, turned around and ducked back into the subway train. It was the last train to leave the station.

WTC, 9/11 memorial, plan, downtown, new york city

Cross Section of the 9/11 Memorial Museum

…hearing so many stories of survival. My friend, a Navy man then in insurance, instinctively ducked flat into a doorway to avoid the falling debris. Others ran down the streets and risked their lives. His Navy training saved his life.

…or the story of the two young men I used to work with at AIG. They were waiting with so many other of my former insurance colleagues for a meeting to start on an upper floor of the Tower. They were the only two who suggested they leave immediately. They begged the others to come with them, offering to help some of the older guys down the stairs. But  the others insisted on waiting for the elevator that never came.

Michael Arad, Peter Walker, memorial, 9/11, refelcting pool, absence, WTC, Freedom Tower

Memorial Garden 'Reflecting Absence' Designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker

…wondering if it really made any sense to bring a child into a world where hate came knocking on our door. Years later, having the child I dreamed of anyway, because if we didn’t hate would have won.

9/11, WTC, twin towers, absence, reflecting, water, Michael Arad, Peter Walker, memorial

9/11 Memorial Reflecting Pool

…sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium for Game 3 of the World Series while the President threw the opening pitch. It was likely the safest place to be in the world that night. We were just a few rows from the top of the stadium (the nose bleed seats) and our view was of snipers all around us. It was a new world we were living in but we were a part of it – a part of the dreams, the living and the hope.

Rendering of the Memorial Exhibition at the 9/11 Museum

Never forget…

343 firefighters

23 police officers

nearly 2900 civilians

(photos: AP Photos and 9/11 Memorial Museum)

Design Tribute – Memorial Day

St. Paul's on the Green

Have you ever been driving and gone back because you saw something so breath-taking you just had to stop, take a photo and share it?  Today, I was driving home when I passed this sight.  I had to drive around the block and back to the church’s parking lot, because I could not let that moment pass by.

Flags at St Paul's on the Green

The front lawn of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on the Green in Norwalk, CT has 5,481 flags on it.  Each one represents a US soldier who has given his or her life for this country in Afghanistan or Iraq.  It’s easy to ignore a death toll until you are given a visual reminder.  That number is not so staggering as wars past, but why should even one person have to lose a life?  Why should one mother or father or spouse or child have their child or spouse or parent taken away?

Sea of Flags

Look, I’m not going to get all political on you.  Whether I am for or against the war in the Middle East is not the point.  I lost twenty people in 911.  I have friends who lost over 100.  I have heard countless hair-raising stories of survival from that day and close calls from my own family members.

Mine is a comment on the preciousness and precariousness of human life.  How do we take this in?  How do we put our heads around it?  When do we stop fighting and learn how to love one another – no matter our skin color, or politics or faith?

Normandy Cemetery with Flags

It took me back to this moment in time – Summer of 1991 – last stop on the continent.  I had backpacked solo across Europe and spent my last weekend in Normandy.  I will never forget staring out at a sea of crosses with an occasional star of David.

Prayer for the Soldiers

Imagine what it must have been like for the people who came together to install these flags.  Can you envision them talking about how they would ever fit over 5,000 flags on the lawn?  Thinking – should we put in a path or just make it a sea of flags?  Walking through the path is so moving.  Did someone carefully plan it out and draw it up?  Or did it evolve in that organic way projects do when a group comes together?

Were they thinking what price do we pay for needing to be right?  What price freedom?  What price peace?

Imagine…

Imagine Central Park

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

–John Lennon

(Photos of Normandy and Imagine from latribune.fr and konradprojects.net respectively)

Happy Easter!

Here in Fairfield County and throughout the Northeast after several serious storms, we have had the most gorgeous spring weekend.  One minute we were covered in gray clouds and falling trees and the next, the magnolia and cherry trees are in bloom, the daffodils and forsythia make a gold path up our road and the hyacinths and countless other spring flowers are showing off their colors.  We spent hours yesterday afternoon walking the beach, playing ball, swinging on the swings.  We reveled in the beauty of the world around us – Mother Nature as interior designer.  I just wanted to inhale it all!

As Easter brings hope and new life, so too does Spring.  Wishing all a blessed Easter!

(photo from Flickr: Steve Isham)

Social Media Near Disaster Averted (or Thank God I have a Facebook Account)

I just had a near miss on a social media disaster.  I was copying the third part of my latest blog and lost it!  First thought, PANIC!  I have to confess, I am a bit of a Type A perfectionist.  I meditate several times a day to offset this.

Second thought: stop, don’t think and breathe.  OK, breathe some more.  Not thinking is still a relatively new thing for me, so it took a good bit of breathing.

Instead of old me swirling through the 100 reasons why I will never remember my brilliant point and just what was my brilliant point, I stopped long enough to think of another option.  My friends would be so proud…  LOL!

And here’s what happened.  Breathing helped me to redirect my thought process.

New thought:  where could I have this information so that I wouldn’t have to reinvent it?  Hmmm… I didn’t write in in Word.  I wrote it straight into WordPress.  Step One: search WordPress for a back up copy.  Ok, no luck.  Breathe.  Breathe again.

Where else have I posted this?  Aha… Facebook!  Maybe, just maybe… Facebook has my brilliant thought.

Yes!  Crisis averted.  Amazing.  Cut, paste, save.  What could be easier?

Breathe…ahhhhh…doesn’t that feel great?

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