Pull Up A Chair

Pull Up A Chair

July 8, 2016

Cornfield by Joao Silas

It was a short week and I’m not complaining about that, but there’s still a whole lot on my to-do list as I head into the weekend. I have no coherent commentary on anything in particular today, so here’s a handful of random things that are on my mind and heart. Before I start, though, how about joining me in a tall glass of Smashed Blackberry Sage Sprtiz? Seems like a refreshing way to start a summer weekend. Okay, so let’s see…

  • My social media feeds are once again full of news of white cops shooting black men  –and protests erupting in police deaths. Terrible, terrible. Each situation has its own particulars I know, but what they have in common can’t be denied. Hashtags and forwarding prayers aren’t going to fix this problem — each of us needs to play a role. There are lots of words that get written, and spoken, and words are important, but what particular actions can we take? I read about how one young white woman starting picking up trash in a section of her inner city neighborhood where many African Americans live. She ended up spending an hour cleaning and sweeping with an elderly neighbor and the two plan to continue the effort and encourage others to join them. Everyday, “ordinary” things can make a difference.
  • I had my first experience with deer ticks and it was a bit nerve-wracking. We came up with the bright idea of hiking last Saturday because it was so beautiful outside, and off we went to one of our favorite local spots. Even though we didn’t walk in tall grass and we wore long pants and had socks on, B still ended up with 3 ticks crawling on him, I had two, and H had one that had crawled in her shoe. We inspected ourselves thoroughly before getting into the car and I still found one on my arm when we were half way home (that probably came from my hair). We took our clothes off at the front door and got showers, and the next day the girls spotted a tick on our kitchen floor. Ugh! Luckily, no one was bitten, but I think that about did it for hiking in Maryland’s countryside until fall, especially after I read about the 92 pathogens ticks can carry around here, including the sometimes Rocky Mountain Fever. Sigh.
  • Currently on my nightstand is my 2016 “summertime novel.” It’s not something I need to read for work, it’s not related to parenting, or something I need to learn — it’s for pure reading pleasure. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr has been recommended by many people so I’m looking forward to seeing what I think. I’ll let you know.
  • After one of my daughters told me she couldn’t sleep because she was bored of her room and even the walls were “making her sick,” I decided we should take an afternoon and change things up. Not easy to do in such a tiny room with two doors, two windows, and a closet to contend with, but we managed it. It was a group effort and honestly, she’s been sleeping a little better ever since. Parenting lesson #9654: Kids sometimes need something new and different, too.
  • It’s July, friends; we’re halfway through 2016! How’s your year going so far? What do you need to do or plan for now to make sure you’re happy with the way this year has turned out when the end of December rolls around? I’m asking myself this very question.
  • Got any recommendations for carry-on luggage — for both kids and adults — for a week-long summer vacation trip? I’m in the market.

Happy weekend! Rest, relax, stay safe.

Image: Joao Silas at unsplash


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Pull Up A Chair

April 22, 2016

Gouthaman Raveendran pic

I’ve been missing in action for the past couple of Fridays. Sometimes the end of the week arrives and I’m like what, it’s FRIDAY?? and I can’t get to blogging. But I’m here today, so yay for little victories!

It’s Passover this weekend (happy Passover to my Jewish readers!) and have to admit be being intrigued when I saw “Passover Cocktail Recipes for Each of the Ten Plagues.” It’s very possible that none of them are appropriate for  Passover — I don’t know enough about observing Jewish holidays — but they were too fun on their own to pass up (over?!) So, for our end-of-week drink, how about something to mark the first plague — locusts! Grab this Desert Swarm — with white rum, non-grain gin, organic peat juice, lemon juice, fresh egg white, organic blue agave syrup, a couple dashed of orange bitters, and club soda.

Speaking of hopping bugs, I keep reading about how the periodical cicadas are getting ready to erupt from the bowels of the earth here in Maryland any day now. Last time I heard cicadas were coming, I saw one or two, but the time before that was a whole different story. We were living in Washington, DC and for weeks, you couldn’t walk down the sidewalk without the crunch-crunch-crunch of cicadas under your feet and a buzzing so loud it made you feel a bit crazy.

In case you’re curious, some species of cicada come out each summer, but three species are known as “17-year-cicadas” (or periodical cicadas). They have the longest confirmed life cycle of any insect. Much of the mid-Atlantic and some of the northeast will see them a whole lot come May. Scientists don’t know the exact date, but according to Science Alert it will happen whenever the night-time soil temperature hits 64F (17 degrees Celsius) for four nights in a row at a depth of 8 inches (20.32 cm). Things will then get loud as the insects come out, climb trees, shed their exoskeletons, and the males start their mating chorus, which some people have described as “an alien spaceship coming in.”

Maybe I’ll come up with a cicada-inspired drink for their month-long visit!

Well, enough about insects, how are you? How was your week? Any exciting plans ahead? Things are kind of open here this weekend for a change, but it won’t stay that way for long with spring cleaning/organizing tasks to complete, side projects to work on, and the usual stuff of life. The gorgeous spring weather we’re having makes it hard to do anything but get outside. I wish these temps would stick around. We went hiking last weekend so maybe we’ll do it again.

Hope it’s a good one where ever you are! See you back here next week.

Image: Gouthaman Raveendran at unsplash



Pull Up A Chair

April 1, 2016

S and H at Easter 2016

We’re still celebrating Easter here. The girls were on their spring break this week — which in our particular homeschool world means we don’t have homeschool academy and our school work at home is at a minimum. We’ve thrown in some fun things along the way, in between my work schedule: watched our circus performer friend at the Festival of Lights in downtown Baltimore, joined friends for an Ethiopian lunch, had another friend over for a visit, had dinner at a favorite restaurant, ate some good chocolate, and drank some good wine (well, that was me).

I bought S and H sweet Easter outfits from one of my favorite children’s lines, but a friend had given them fancy white dresses a couple months ago and Easter Mass seemed the perfect time to wear them. Luckily it was warm enough here to just throw cardigans on top.

What’s new with you? Anything exciting on your docket this weekend? We have a fundraiser to attend for our homeschool academy tomorrow evening — a Texas cowboy-themed casino night. B and I don’t have cowboy boots or hats, and we’re supposed to run some roulette tables. I think I’ve played roulette a total of one time, on a cruise many years ago, and after reading the instructions I’m going to need a cheat sheet. I thought you just stuck a chip on a number or on “black” or “red” or “even” or “odd” — but no, it’s more complicated than that. So, we’ll see how this turns out.  They may wish they has just assigned us to the bar.

Speaking of which, I had the loveliest Spanish red wine when we were out last night. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was called, but I woke up thinking about it. It went so well with everything, including my chocolate dessert, so how about a glass of that today? Please grab one and have yourself a lovely weekend. See you back here soon!


Image: Zoe Saint-Paul


Pull Up A Chair

March 18, 2016

Green Waterfall

Were you wearing green yesterday? Whenever St. Patrick’s Day rolls around I realize how few green pieces of clothing I own. But I did manage to make Irish Soda Bread! I used a colleagues’s recipe and switched out a few things so I could live up to my reputation of being a health-nut, and it still turned out really well.

Yesterday was also the birthday of my mother-in-law. I’m one of the lucky ones out there who has a great relationship with her husband’s mother — I really lucked out in that department.

So in honor of my mother-in-law, who doesn’t drink much alcohol, and to celebrate St. Patrick a little longer, I think this matcha latte would be perfect. It’s green and creamy and healthy and yummy, so what more could you ask for? have you had matcha before? It’s a finely ground powder of a specially grown and processed green tea with supposedly many health properties.

Any plans for the weekend? Ours is full, but some fun stuff to look forward to, and we are heading into a spiritually significant week — Holy Week, the seven days leading up to Easter.

I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Andrew Coelho at Unsplash



Pull Up A Chair

March 11, 2016

Tasja Brewis pic

It’s been a whirlwind week and all I have for you today is a little story that might amuse you.

But first, grab one of these classic margaritas from Epicurious… I could really use a refreshing drink right about now. Plus, we’ve had 70 degree temps here all week —  crazy for early March! But a nice break from the cold.

So yesterday morning I was sitting in downtown traffic with one of my daughters trying to get north of the city for a 9 a.m. appointment when I suddenly realized: I need a bathroom and I need one now.

We were driving down a notorious city block called “The Strip” — for reasons that should be clear —  so there was no way I was hauling my child inside any establishment there for a restroom, even at 8 a.m. I can make it another 15-20 minutes — I just won’t think about it, I convinced myself. We could not be late for this appointment . I just had to bite the bullet.

Then we got on the highway and I realized that no, I really wasn’t going to make it, so I took an exit, stopped at a 7-11, and went in with my daughter, “Sorry, no public bathroom,” the cashier said, “You might try McDonalds, half a mile up.” So, we ran back to the car, and as I was about to close the door, a woman (who had been in the 7-11) came out and said, “I know what it’s like to have a kid who needs the potty so you might want to try that breakfast restaurant across the street there with the yellow awning — they’ll probably let you in.”

“Right!” I said, “Thanks!” (Having kids can be so convenient sometimes!) We hopped back out, made out way across the street, and the restaurant was closed. By now we probably could have been at the office where we had our appointment, of course.

We got into the car and once again, I thought, Okay, I think I can make it another 10 min! But two minutes down the road again and I knew that, nope — wasn’t going to happen. By now we were driving through a tony part of town, and I remembered a café in a swanky plaza that would surely be open for breakfast. I drove in like a mad woman and parked. At this point, every second mattered. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and we ran up the stairs to the cafe and I could tell as we approached that it was closed. In desperation, I tried the door anyway and… it was open! We ran in, past the kitchen (where a light was on), and found the bathroom. Once inside, my daughter said, “Mom, are you sure you’re allowed to do this?”

“Mommy sometimes breaks the rules” was probably not the best answer, but I did offer a better explanation when I was calmer. We ran into a busboy on the way out, who — when I said “I’m sorry we’re patrons here sometimes and really had to use your restroom!”  — looked at my daughter with a knowing smile and said, “Oh, sure, no problem!” Did I mention there are advantages to having kids? And also, thank heavens that door was open, as I had very clear visions of myself behind one of the manicured bushes under the balcony of somebody’s fancy condo and my daughter having to watch her mother get taken away in handcuffs for lewd behavior.

Speaking of which, any plans for the weekend? Haha. A few things on my agenda that I’m looking forward to,: including a Lenten event tonight at a friend’s church, a night out tomorrow with a friend, and a gathering with other families at an Ethiopian restaurant on Sunday. All of it will help my feel better about trying to get taxes done over the next few days.

Have a lovely and slow weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Tasja Brewis at Life of Pix





Pull Up A Chair

February 5, 2016

Jared Erondu photo from UnSplash

What’s going on, friends?

I’m finding it hard to believe that the first month of 2016 has already come and gone. It certainly ended with a bang around here — a giant snowstorm with a one week clean up. Rumor has it we may see more flakes next week, which would make my little ones super happy.

I never did set any specific goals for this year — which is weird for me — but I’m excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. B and I are beginning to work on a couple of exciting projects and when there is more concrete info to share about that, I will. My prayer these days is that my time somehow finds a way to multiply itself as it’s hard to make time for additional things when my schedule is already so full. But lots of people are in the same boat, and you just move forward the best you can — sometimes it just takes a little longer, but you get there if you keep on trucking.

I spotted this grapefruit cocktail at Food 52 yesterday (one of my favorite food sites) and it’s exactly what I’d love to sip on today. I introduced my daughters to grapefruit recently and it was a mixed reaction… they didn’t like the fruit too much, but they liked the juice. Go figure. Grapefruit really needs the proper grapefruit spoons, though, don’t you think?

I hope you have a lovely weekend ahead and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Jared Erondu at Unsplash via Crew




Pull Up A Chair

January 22, 2016

Snowfall in Pixabay

Yes, pull up a chair and stare out my window because the snow is really coming down here! I finally made it to the grocery store at 1:00 p.m. and it was nuts. No carts anywhere, lots of empty shelves, lines forever. I always get a kick out of how people in the mid-Atlantic act when a snow storm is forecast… But the truth is, while everyone is used to cold temperatures here, they are not used to snow — so no one has snow tires, or knows how to drive in it, the roads don’t get plowed and salted, and people are just generally ill-prepared for dealing with snow.

I’ve grown used to snow-less winters, myself. My kids didn’t even have snow boots until yesterday afternoon. I haven’t been able to stomach spending $60+ on boots that they might wear only once or twice and will grow out of before next winter. (S and H take the same shoe size so it’s not like I can pass a size down to the other.) Thankfully, I’m on a neighborhood list serve and managed to score a pair of boots for free and another for $15. Both were advertised as “boys’ boots,” but that just means they’re not pink and lavender. I’m glad the girls will at least be able to get out in the blizzard tomorrow, and maybe even get some sledding in on Sunday when it calms down. They are beyond excited about it all.

I get a kick out of how everyone keeps focusing on Washngton D.C. as the blizzard’s bullseye. Baltimore is forecast to get even more snow than D.C., but Baltimore… where’s that?

The major weather is supposed to hit tomorrow, but it’s not even dinner time yet and our street is already looking pretty bad. Last time we had more than two feet of snow, it took about five days to get our car out, mainly because they don’t plow our small neighborhood streets and even if you shovel your car out, where do you put the snow?

This week was a crazy one. So crazy that I thought I published a post here on Wednesday only to discover this morning that it never actually published. (Which means I hadn’t checked my own blog in two days.) Sigh.

As long as our power stays on this weekend, I’m looking forward to some quiet time at home to catch up on some work and personal projects and hang out as a family. We’ve got hot cocoa, popcorn, firewood — and I picked up some red wine — so we should be good to go! Please grab anything you enjoy drinking by a roaring fire on a snowy day and join me in wishing everyone out there in snow storm territory a very safe and cozy weekend.

Image: Pixabay






Pull Up A Chair

January 8, 2016

Boceh Tree Lights/Picography

Well, the first week of 2016 has come and gone. Is your Christmas tree still up? We usually get ours and decorate it pretty close to Christmas, and then keep it up until Epiphany (Three Kings), which is the day before Ethiopian Christmas (the day Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas). In fact, tomorrow we’ll be joining other adoptive families with Ethiopian children at a local Ethiopian restaurant to mark the occasion, which we’ve done every year since S and H came home (and actually even before that, while we waited for them). After this, though, the tree usually goes. I always feel a little sad when it comes down and all the Christmas decorations are put away for another year. But I also enjoy having a bit more space again and moving forward into the year.

This Christmas was a good one, though some of it is a bit of a blur, probably because I was battling a virus for a good part of it. But I also think that’s just how it goes most of the time, especially when you’re a mom.

It was our first week back to a regular schedule. I was kind of dreading it, but we all made it through. If you did, too, that’s cause for a toast, so grab a cup of this bourbon spiked apple cider and join me!

So, how was your week? Are your holiday decorations put away, or are you holding on? Any fun plans for the weekend? Hope it’s a good one and I’ll see you back here early next week.

Image: Viktor Hanacek at Picography






Pull Up A Chair

December 4, 2015


I don’t know about you, but I’m dragging my chair into the circle today…  Another mass shooting? I can’t say much here that isn’t being said elsewhere, but whenever these things happen, something usually stands out to reflect upon.

This week, as I watched the San Bernardino tragedy unfold in the news, in addition to being perplexed as to what was going on and why, I realized something: how vigilant I’ve become in public places, especially since 9-11.

Last month I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles (where I need to be again next week to renew my license) and found myself identifying the exits, scanning individuals, and paying extra attention to my surroundings. I didn’t feel overly anxious, but I was on alert. I’m the same way in the post office, and even when I’m walking around my downtown neighborhood. I don’t stare down at my phone, I know what’s going on around me, and I follow my hunches. It’s so second nature by now, I barely notice I’m doing it.

I saw this article on Facebook the other day called “What to Do in an Active Shooter Situation,” which I thought was very thorough, and, well, I’m pretty much already doing what’s suggested there. Not sure what that says about me — maybe I’m a good candidate for surviving something so awful? Who knows. It’s just terribly sad that anyone has to even think about this, but we do, and we should know what to do, just in case.

For those of us not directly affected by these tragedies, life still carries on… B’s holiday work party is this evening, and we’re off to a friends’ son’s birthday tomorrow afternoon. Some friends of mine are getting together tomorrow night for an early birthday celebration for yours truly, and our precious nephew’s 3rd birthday is Sunday. I’ll do my best to enjoy all this celebrating because the truth is, we only have the moment we’re in, with no guarantees of tomorrow.

What’s on your mind today? Do you find yourself more cautious than you used to be? Are you the type who likes to be prepared for anything, or not think about it at all until you have to?

Have a lovely — and safe — December weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Pixabay



Pull Up A Chair

November 13, 2015

Maryland Zoo

How was your week, friends?

If you tried to stop by Wednesday evening or Thursday and had trouble accessing the site, I think there were some server problems going on — sorry. It messed up my posting schedule so here I am at the end of the week again, offering a drink and thinking about how quickly these weeks keep flying by!

First, let’s get to that drink. I discovered a lovely winery in northern California that’s making authentic Ethiopian honey wine. It’s called Queen Sheba and if I ever make it to the west coast again, I need to check it out. In the mean time, I’m opening a virtual bottle of the Orange Blossom and pouring a few glasses — please grab one!

So, my week… It started off with a field trip I organized for our homeschool academy to the Maryland Zoo, which is right here in Baltimore. After living very close to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., which is terrific, I didn’t expect to be very impressed with the zoo here. Happily, I was wrong. They’ve got a great new exhibit of African penguins and the largest part of the zoo is dedicated to African animals — which my girls love. In fact, they’re obsessed with big cats — S with leopards and H with cheetahs. The zoo happens to have two brand new cheetahs and one walked right by H and me as we stood still and silent behind a glass partition. It was the highlight of her day — and mine. That  animal is gorgeous! There didn’t seem to be a high enough partition between the lions and the humans, though, which made me nervous, but I choose to believe that the people there know what they’re doing.

I still get a little sad to see some of the animals caged. I know we’ve come a long way when it comes to how North American zoos treat and house wild animals, but it seems like big cats should have large swaths of land to run upon, and chimpanzees should be able to swing from real trees without concrete below them. But I’m no expert. I do know that watching these incredible creatures never gets old. This last trip left me wondering if someday I just might make it to South Africa with my daughters for a real safari. That would be pretty cool.

So that was a highlight of the week. A very sad part was the death of a family friend who I’ve known since I was 11. Captain Sweeney was a former Canadian naval captain and lived a fascinating life. He’s the kind of man you might read about in a book or watch in a movie and maybe some day that will happen. It was a surprise to all who knew him that he made it to 93. He passed away on such an appropriate day for him — Remembrance Day in Canada (and Veterans’ Day here in the U.S.). I will always think of him when I drink a snifter of brandy and enter a room with richly colored textured wall paper and I’ll miss him calling me “Lady Z.” May he rest in peace.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, friends. I’ll see you back here next week.

Image: B