Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meatless Monday: Red Lentil Soup

We have a new favorite meal in our house.

It has kept us cozy during this ridiculously cold spring, and it costs only a few bucks for the whole meal. I'm not much of a recipe sharer, because I'm not much of a cook, but here's my friend Jenn's MIL's recipe for Red Lentil Soup. I hope you'll find it a healthy, delicious addition to your repertoire. Recipe can be halved, but I make the whole thing, because, yum.


2 cups red lentils (rinsed)
2 onions, chopped
4 T tomato paste
2 med potatoes, sliced or shredded w/peeler
2 carrots, shredded w/peeler
1/2 cup uncooked white rice


1. Bring 2 cups of red lentils to boil in water in medium pot. Boil until soft. There's usually some water still left in there. That's fine. Set aside
2. In LARGE pot, brown your chopped onions. (I use pre-chopped, frozen onions, and like to brown them very dark in a smidge of olive oil)
3. Add 4 T tomato paste to onions and cook a few minutes
4. Add 6 tall glasses of water to the paste and onions and bring to a boil.
5. Shred your potatoes and carrots w/ a potato peeler. Add to the water mixture and boil 5 min.
6. Drain your lentils
7. Add your lentils and 1/2 cup of rice to the boiling water.
8. Boil additional 15-20 min
9. Enjoy w/ generous dashes of salt and pepper and fresh lemon juice on top

This is a good weeknight dinner, b/c it's easy to keep these ingredients on hand.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

All things Vintage and a Fabulous Novel Giveaway

(NOTE: Giveaway is now closed! Congrats to Rachel S. from Richmond, VA!)

I love vintage things.

My house is full of old furniture that I've given mini-makeovers, and fun vintage accessories, like my jewelry box collection. My clothes tend to be more of the used, not vintage, variety, as it's my habit to do a lot of shopping at my local thrift store.

The only truly vintage articles of clothing I have are a beaded sweater that was my grandma's in the 40's, my mother's brown suede jacket from the 70's (which at size 14 barely fits over my arms and shows how much sizes have changed over the years) and a navy silk suit from the 50's. I got that one when I was still teaching school and one of my colleagues said to me, "I know an old lady from my synagogue who just died; she was about your size. Want to take a look at her clothes?" Well, I said what any career gal in her mid twenties would say.... "Of course!"

Sadly, the suit doesn't fit me too well right now, but it hangs in my closet, a hopeful reminder of the times I rocked it, including at a mother-daughter luncheon after which Margaret left me this little goodie:

Recently I was given a copy of new novel that's coming out TODAY, and it combines my loves of READING, WOMEN'S FRIENDSHIPS, and ALL THINGS VINTAGE.

Vintage, by Susan Gloss, is a charming novel set in Madison, Wisconsin. After reading it, I've decided I need to make a road-trip to Madison if anyone wants to go with me! Seriously, by the time I was finished reading, I wanted to hang out with all of the characters and go shopping at the clothing boutique that's at the center of the novel.

I loved the writing, the story-- heck I even loved the cover! The publisher, William Morrow, has offered a free hardcover copy of this brand spanking new novel to one An Inch of Gray reader!

If you are looking for the next great read to add to your nightstand stack, just leave me a comment on this post and I'll enter you in the giveaway. It's not required, but if you want to include in your comment the best score you've ever made at a yard sale, thrift shop, vintage boutique, or antique store, that would be great. Be sure to leave me your email address if it's not clear from your profile, so I'll be able to contact you if you are the winner.

This post is part of a "Vintage" blog book tour for Listen To Your Mother: Madison local sponsor, Author Susan Gloss

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

In the dark theater, made darker by the wood paneling and Elizabethan flourishes, I prayed. Hard. I didn’t care about anyone seeing me, eyes closed, hands clenched tightly, lips moving quickly and noiselessly. What mom wouldn't understand my praying right now?
Jack’s class was about to take the stage at the Folger Shakespeare Library to perform an abridged version on Macbeth. Jack, who had just turned twelve, was playing Macbeth. It was almost more than my nerves could take.  “Please don’t let him forget his lines. Help him not to be frozen like a deer in the headlights and then run weeping from the stage. Help him!”

 When Jack confided the night before during snuggle time that he was afraid of getting up on that stage, I dished out my regular fare. “Your nervousness just means you care about how it goes. That’s adrenaline. It will help you focus and do well. That’s always how it works with me,” said the woman who had never, ever graced a stage unless you counted delivering one line as Tiny Tim in a church basement production of A Christmas Carol “God Bless Us Everyone.” Indeed.
“God, please bless Jack. Now!”

The spotlights turned on. Jack hit every line and nailed his entrances and exits. He even had to go with a change of plans when time was short and change from one shirt to another on stage versus offstage.
Acting was Jack’s sweet spot.
Even though in conversation he spoke so quickly he was sometimes hard to understand, in acting he enunciated clearly. When I’d pick him up from school or a sporting event I’d find my mother heart asking, “How did it go?" but really meaning, "Was it a disaster?” but when I’d pick him up from theater camps, it was like picking up a mini rock star. “Hey Jack’s mom! Jack rocks!” counselors would yell across the parking lot.

We didn’t record the whole play, but Tim did turn on his phone to capture this famous soliloquy:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

Act 5, scene 5, 19-28

It guess it was Shakespeare’s version of our 1980’s mantra, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” It’s tough to watch any movies with Jack in them, but even more so as he delivers such a depressing indictment of our short, meaningless lives, only 3 months before his accident.

I have the hope of heaven, and like many bereaved moms, I operate with one foot here and one foot there. Death holds no sting or fear for me at all anymore.
But what about now? But what about the in between time, when I'm charged with continuing on, with living? Did Macbeth get it all wrong? Is there meaning in this life? Is there vitality and spirituality and significance right here? Right now?
I believe there is. Our lives may be short, but they are not meaningless. I don't  know what I plan on doing with the rest of my days, but I know I don't want to just strut and fret my hour on the stage. And I'm guessing watching reality tv and eating ice cream, which are my current past-times, are not quite the meaning and significance I'm thinking of...
What about you?
What are you doing with your awesome, hard, significant hour?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Happy Birthday, Jack!

We love you. We miss you. We will NEVER forget you.

Love, Mom, Dad, Margaret, and Shadow

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Old School

Back in the stone age of blogging, say 6 or so years ago, bloggers sent around questions like this to get to know each other better. I thought it would be fun to join my friends Kim and Elaine in answering Old School Blogging questions today. Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments section, or if you are a blogger, please link up with other bloggers HERE or HERE to make new friends.

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
The Americans on Amazon Prime. Tim and I are trying to watch at least one episode every night after Margaret goes to bed. We are staying up too late, but I'm glad it's a show we both want to watch. I love the outfits from the early eighties, but Felicity, I mean Keri Russell, looks a lot more stylish than most suburban moms I knew back then.

When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
I just let Shadow out to pee. It is so windy today! I'm guessing she's NOT getting a walk unless things settle down a bit.

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Lot's of  stuff. Family wall calendar, pictures of the kids. I'm in the kitchen.

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?
I would buy five acres in the Shenandoah Valley and put a GORGEOUS cottage on it so I could see the mountains from my porch/es. And by cottage, I mean adorable yet spacious house with all the bells and whistles. Preferably yellow.

Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
I like to organize other people's stuff. I think I would do a good job of helping elderly people think through what to keep when they are overwhelmed with the task of downsizing.

Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
Telemarketer. I don't pick up the phone. Ever.

If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do?
I would blow open the kitchen to the living room and dining room. I would do it TODAY. I'd also add a screened porch, b/c I miss my old one. And I'd have ferns on it, if I had someone else to water them and keep them alive.

What was the last thing you bought?
A scarf from Everyday Icing and a chair from Working from home has become expensive for me because of pop-up sales on my computer screen. I also have a slight chair problem. I give them away, but somehow keep ending up with more.

Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving? 
Sky diving, but only if I am strapped to an instructor. No way would I trust  myself to pull the cord!

If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
I'm weird and tongue tied around famous people. See also: "Anna meets Cheryl Strayed, Maya Angelou, and Kelly Corrigan and says NOTHING." If this hypothetical includes those living or dead, I'd take a gyro and fries with my mom and my son Jack over ever meeting any famous person.

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
I don't really have any stores I'm that into. Homegoods, maybe? Marshall's? I should probably pick a clothing store because I'm sick of all of my clothes, but I don't even know where to start. Friends tell me Nordstrom Rack is awesome...

Is the glass half empty or half full?
I would say half full, but my family would probably say I'm half empty!

What’s the farthest-away place you’ve been?

What’s under your bed? 
Baseball cards.

What is your favorite time of the day?
Mid-day. I would be a happy camper if all of my interactions-- social, business, amorous or otherwise-- could take place solely between 10-2.

What Inspires You?
People who overcome obstacles. People who are humble and are not worried about personal reputation or glory. People who aren't afraid to get involved in messy situations. Foster parents.

Your turn! If you are a blogger and want to do some Old School Blogging, just cut and paste the questions, grab the badge over at Elaine's, and Please link up! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Birth and Rebirth

I became a mom in March, 15 years ago. He wasn't supposed to be here until April, April Fool's Day actually, but he made his entrance early, after my water broke in the middle of the night, and Tim grabbed a plastic shower curtain to make sure I wouldn't mess up the upholstery of our new green minivan on the way to the hospital.

Jack's birth turned March into an occasion in our home. Something to celebrate after the long, cold winters. But now, when March comes, I feel like somehow I'm the fool. I see beautiful purple crocuses popping up, which must have been hidden by snow just 2 days ago, and I instantly think of rebirth, and beauty, and hope. And I know that hope is there, always, even when it's covered up, or hard to recognize. But now it's married to despair. The despair of a mom who thought life would turn out differently for that baby-- so smart, so beautiful, so winsome-- I mean, how could it not?

The despair sucks energy out of me, even as the days are getting longer and the sun shines brightly for the first time in forever. So in March I put fewer things on my to-do list each day, and I scheme about how early is just too early to climb into bed to gorge on ice cream and Netflix. When a show ends, I reflexively go right to the next episode, staying up far too late trying to get lost in the lives of characters so loathsome and despicable I must ask myself why they get to live-- even frozen inside a flat screen-- for 20, 30, or even 50 more episodes, why they merit time and attention and space in the universe, when Jack has floated off into the ether?

And I think ahead to September, when my book will finally come out. September, with its smell of new school supplies and the excitement of new beginnings. September, which took Jack on a sultry yet dangerous afternoon. This book, Rare Bird, was birthed out of Jack's death. And it provides a little something to look forward to in that once promising yet now despised month. I wonder if for me, and maybe for someone else, it can be like a crocus, hearty and determined, peeking out of a mound of wretched, dirty snow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Big League Parenting

I went to a beautiful funeral service on Friday for the long-time mayor of our town. She was a lovely lady who lived a good life. There is so much about her that I admired-- the way she humbly used her leadership skills to help our town, how she poured herself into the unique interests of each of her five grandchildren, and of course there was the beautiful relationship with her daughter that I witnessed when I saw them around town, always together. It's how I imagined my mom and I would be.

One story from the funeral really stuck with me, and it makes me tear up to think of it.

One of her grown sons shared that when he was around 9, he was excited to finally get to play baseball on the "big" baseball field in town. He was accustomed to his games being at local elementary schools, on very basic, grassy fields, but the "big" field had real dugouts, an announcer booth, and even a raised pitching mound. He could barely control his excitement.

But though the little boy tried his best, his first game in the "big league" was a total disaster. In particular, his pitching was terrible, and he was inconsolable on the way home. Like many of us, he looked for something to blame, and the pitching mound took the brunt of his wrath. He claimed it had thrown off his pitching.

As I listened to this story, I thought about what I would have done as a parent. Would I have told Jack and Margaret to quit trying to place blame? Would I have told them to just get a grip? To work on sportsmanship and being a more gracious loser? Would I have used it as a teachable moment to have them consider that maybe, if they were this upset, this sport wasn't for them? I'm guessing those would have been the directions I would have taken, and they wouldn't necessarily have been wrong.

But that's not what happened.

And what that little boy's parents did had more of an impact on him (and me!) than any lecture on sportsmanship ever could.

In the silent church we all waited to hear how the story ended.

The son looked up from the pulpit, and instead of a fifty year old, I saw a nine year old again as he finished his story. "A while later I heard something in the back yard. It was my mom and dad, both with shovels, digging up the grass, making me my own pitching mound."


I love this story.

In life we just want to be supported and understood. These parents used a simple, wordless action to say, "We love you. We hear you. We stand behind you. We believe in you. You can count on us."

Isn't it amazing how a seemingly small, unexpected action over 40 years ago, can still teach us so much? And I'm guessing that the end of the story wasn't an ending at all for that 9 year old boy, who now has three kids of his own.