Category Archives: Sous Chef

The Passing of My Mother-in-Law


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In the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 6, my mother-in-law, Dora Thornton Durham, passed away in her sleep.

She was 84 years old.

Dora was a character in every sense of the word and her larger-than-life personality was in complete and delightful contrast to almost incomprehensibly small frame. Dora suffered from COPD and the disease took its toll on her, to be sure, but the twinkle in her eye and the edge in her wit remained until the end.

Dora and LBC

Dora Thornton Durham and Little Black Cat, April 2015.

Compassionate, intelligent and engaged, Dora had a saying for almost any occasion and many of them were wise, indeed. She was a life-long educator (her most important student being HJ jr who she taught to read) who valued knowledge and character development and she shared many, many stories about the children she had taught throughout her career. Dora married a man whom she first dated because she thought he was Don Meredith, believed in flying saucers and tried to always see the positive in negative situations. She became more liberal in her thought and politics the older she got. She was funny as hell.

There are so many things about my mother-in-law I will miss, but I will always associate Dora with how much she loved animals.

As she lay in our home in during the last days of her life, Dora was not alone. The incredible Cinnamon Girl cared for her night and day, ably assisted by first year nursing student Sous ChefHJ jr and I were around as well, and her son was by her side, too.

But I am not talking about the company she had from any of us. I am talking about our animals. We have cats and a dog and Dora loved them very, very much.

Dora shared many lovely “last words” with us when it was her time to go, but perhaps none were as precious as two directed at our animals.

As she was losing strength one afternoon, Dora saw our dog and lit up with a bright “Hi!” The wagging of the dog’s tail spoke for everyone.

Later that same day, our lovely Siamese cat Lulu crawled onto Dora’s bed. Dora looked down and said to her “soft.”

At that point, these words were an effort for her to form and they must have felt important to her.

I will cherish many memories of Dora, but, in particular, I’ll hold on to these two.

I did not have the luck to know Dora for a very long time , but I am blessed to have had 10 years with her.

I love her and I will miss her.

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Happy Birth”Day” – Sous Chef at 18


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Sous Chef turns 18 today.

18.

She is the last of the brood to reach “adulthood” but, in a great many ways, seems more adult than her brothers, her step mother or me.

Composed, compassionate and cute, Sous Chef has been, for The Cinnamon Girl and me, an almost perfect daughter. I don’t use that term careless or without consideration. As the youngest of 3 kids packed together in rapid succession, Sous Chef was the last to leave for college and The Cinnamon Girl and I had the amazing opportunity last year to spend Sous Chef’s senior year with her. Here’s what I learned:

  • Sous Chef is one of the hardest working people I know.
  • Sous Chef is quick, witty and funny.
  • Sous Chef is one of the smartest kids I’ve known (and I’ve known plenty.)
  • Sous Chef is beautiful in every way that term applies.
  • Sous Chef is consideration and kind.
  • Sous Chef is one of the greatest blessing I’ve ever been given.

Here’s another truth of Sous Chef – she is someone I’d like to have as a friend. We’re stuck with family, to be sure, but I would choose Sous Chef as someone to spend time in any circumstance.

 

I know she’s destined for great things as an adult.

I miss her now that she’s at school.

I love her, deeply.

Happy 18th, Sous Chef!

She got the pun in the title of this post even if you didn’t!

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Off to College (3 in 5 Daze) Part I: Sous Chef


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Over the course of the next five days, The Cinnamon Girl and I will bid farewell to all 3 kids as they head off to college – within a 120 hour period! I love how small the world is and know that we’ll all be able to remain in contact far more easily and more closely than I was in contact with my family when I went off to school more than a few years back.

Still, it will be strange to have no kids in the house… strange and sad? Strange and wonderful? Strange and… we don’t know. It’s just a new chapter for us all.

What we do know is that Sous Chef and I get in the car early this morning to make the drive from Denver to St. Louis. She is off to St. Louis University to begin her college journey.

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She is the first of our kids to leave for school and the first of her friend group to leave for school. Though she doesn’t know it, she is also incredibly ready for the transition. I hope that I am!

Hard to believe it’s time, but it is and she’s ready – more ready than she knows.

Kateri Portrait

From this…

SLU Photo

… to this in the blink of an eye.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…

 

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Yesterday, Sous Chef Walked Onto A New Road


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Yesterday, the youngest child in our household walked across The Stage after her full name (fours words in all) was called. We clapped. We laughed. We cried. We know things are changing, but we were overcome with pride.

Yesterday, before she walked across The Stage, the youngest child in our household gave the Valedictory Address during her graduation ceremony to her class and their families. She was cool and collected, warm and welcoming, funny and fascinating. She was everything her classmates know her to be – inclusive and loving. She gave a great speech.

Yesterday, before she gave the Valedictory Address, the youngest child in our household was volunteering her time at a local hospital, weeks and months after The Cinnamon Girl advised her that she could stop. She didn’t need the service hours. She did need more time in her schedule. She didn’t listen and continued volunteering because she didn’t want to let anyone down.

Yesterday, before she finally gave up volunteering, the youngest child in our household was in her bedroom hanging with “The Squad,” her inseparable group of friends with whom she laughed, learned and loved during her high school years. What a lovely group of young women they are – friends of Sous Chef who’ve become our friends.

Yesterday, before she was hanging with “The Squad,” the youngest child in our household was falling down – sans grace – in Belize. Ask her about it! Sous Chef is a closet klutz. It’s one of her most endearing traits.

Yesterday, before she was falling down – sans grace – in Belize,” the youngest child in our household was doing homework. At 7:30 at night. On a Friday. The Cinnamon Girl and I (and Stretch and HJ jr) are so impressed by her amazing work ethic and its results – straight As in school, lessons learner, knowledge gained. She is an amazing student, like one of the best I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen more than a few.

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Yesterday, before she was doing homework, the youngest child in our household was trying out for softball. Why is this a big deal? Because she gave softball her best effort and came up short, bravely learned from the experience and moved on. I have rarely been as impressed by her as I was in the moments after her very short high school softball career.

Yesterday, before she was trying out for softball, the youngest child in our household was delivering the Continuation Speech at her matriculation from middle school. For an eighth grader, she was funny and confident and irreverent. She remains those things today.

Yesterday, before she was delivering the Continuation Speech, the youngest child in our household was learning to cook at The Cinnamon Girl’s side. Sous Chef could drop the “Sous” from her name. She makes amazing food and will be able to wow and impress as she sets up the “little apartment” she and The Cinnamon Girl have discussed, many, many years from now.

Yesterday, before she was learning to cook, the youngest child in our household was excelling in Spanish acquisition, at a dual language elementary school. She has retained her command of Spanish and will study it in college and make it part of her life.

Yesterday, before she was excelling in Spanish acquisition, the youngest child in our household was smiling and giggling, laughing with her brothers, lightening our lives.

Yesterday, before she was smiling and giggling, the youngest child in our household was a fixture – her brothers had left for school and The Cinnamon Girl and I could look forward to seeing her at home, to hearing about her day, to listening to her make us a laugh with a joke or a story, to watching her grow into the amazing and confident young woman she has become.

And, soon, we will have to do all of that remotely. Soon our conversations will be electronic, completed via text or over FaceTime. Soon, she will take her full ride scholarship to college, her possessions and herself out of state.

Soon she will be far away.

But, we have Yesterday, we still have a summer of Todays and, Sous Chef, YOU have tomorrow. The Cinnamon Girl and I will always be a part of your shining Tomorrow.

Yesterday, before she looked into the shining sun of her tomorrow, the youngest child in our household was sitting on my knee…

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A Mother’s Day With Cinnamon


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My wonderful wife, The Cinnamon Girl, is one of the most talented storytellers I know. This is not an exaggeration shared through love colored glasses, it is a fact. I have seen her take over a dinner party with this ability, making people laugh until they cry. I have watched her take over many a classroom with it, inspiring students and engaging them with her wit and smarts. Frankly, I love when she tells stories because she’s so good at it.

She fascinates and entertains our children. That’s another statement of fact and it’s also not something that I am exaggerating. She treats them as equals, as young adults and they more than appreciate that. They like being entertained by her, by her stories and her offhanded irreverence. They understand she has important things to say to them. They feel her love for them.

We have three wonderful kids, and that’s primarily because of what a wonderful mother she is. She has helped them grow and helped them find their places in the world. What a gift she is to them.

I simply couldn’t ask for a better partner in every way.

I couldn’t ask for our children to have a better mother.

I couldn’t ask for a better wife.

Happy Mother’s Day, Cinnamon Girl!

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Denver Broncos Super Season 2015 Memories I


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As we anxiously await the kickoff to Super Bowl 50, I wanted to reflect on this crazy year for the Denver Broncos – a year unlike any I can remember – and share a few highlights of the season that was…


At The Games…

I had a terrific time at the games this year, even the ones I saw in person that the Broncos lost … yes I was at both the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs home games, but being at the post thanksgiving New England Patriots game and both  playoff games offset those experiences.

The best part of being at these games, though? The company I kept!

In order:

  • Sous Chef at the Kansas City game – loss.
  • Stretch at the New England game – WIN!
  • The Magister at the Oakland game – loss.
  • The Cinnamon Girl at the Pittsburgh Divisional Playoff game – WIN!
  • Sous Chef at the New England Championship Playoff game – WIN!

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Our Own Christmas in Colorado


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This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2013. I was going to update them, but they were primarily perfect the way they are.

Beyond spending time with the kids, The Cinnamon Girl and I look forward to this time of year in part because we are creatures of habit and there are wonderful routines and tropes we anticipate renewing this time of year. They are what makes the Christmas Season feel like Christmas.

One cannot always count on the weather. On December 21, 2015 as I update this post, it’s sunny, so one must generate the Christmas Spirit in other ways.

It isn’t hard to do.

Christmas Things We Enjoy

12. Decorating the House

Right after Thanksgiving, we love to get the Christmas lights and Christmas tree up and running. We did this when Stretch and HJ jr were home for their Thanksgiving Breaks. Our outdoor lights are white icicle and we added a Christmas Fox to our yard this season.

The tree is trimmed. It shines all day. I love this time of year.

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11. Making Christmas Cookies

The kids are older now, so some of the overwhelming excitement about butter, flour and sugar may be a bit lessened, but we spend an evening this week making and decorating our cookies. Everyone gets to do just what they want to, make and decorate for as long as they wish. We put on a movie or Christmas Carols, break out the cookie press and bake. These are times to enjoy!

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10. Listening to Christmas Music

Also immediately after Thanksgiving, I begin listening to Christmas music. I have a playlist ready to roll all year for this event and I even change my running routine (I’ve been listening to audio books for my runs this year) to Christmas classics. The song below is my newest favorite…

9. Christmas Kringle

When I married the Cinnamon Girl and we began to combine Christmas traditions, I can say that the best thing I gained in the bargain was the eating of the Christmas Kringle!  Never heard of it? Here’s what wikipedia has to say: “In the United States, kringles are hand-rolled from Danish pastry dough (wienerbrød dough) that has been rested overnight before shaping, filling, and baking. Thirty-two layers of the flaky dough are layered, then shaped in an oval. After filling with fruit, nut, or other flavor combinations, the pastry is baked and iced.”  Um, yeah. That description doesn’t do the Kringle justice! It’s a delicious (and calorie free!) delight that I wait all year to eat!

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8. Holiday Shopping

Each year, The Cinnamon Girl, the kids and I go out for a meal and shopping for Christmas presents. The day begins with breakfast, brunch or lunch (depending upon the shoppers’ mood!) at the Cheesecake Factory and then we wander the mall while the kids point out things they want from one another  and we do the same for them. It’s a lovely tradition that we’ve been doing for years and it is clear from these young adults that they want nothing about this tradition to change – don’t even mention it!

Once home, the kids retire to their rooms and wrap their gifts and then get them under the tree.

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7. Holiday Calendar

We love to plan the month… and plan the season. We love to work everything in that we want to do. With three teenagers and two households to consider, that gets a bit challenging, but we make it work!

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6. Smelts

My dad was Italian. A little. His mother was Italian. A lot. Italian families celebrate Christmas Eve with the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In our context, this meant only smelts. Smelts need to be cleaned – de-boned and washed. That task has fallen to me for the last decade. It’s a tradition… perhaps not the most joyous one!

In case you don’t know what that is:  from wikipedia: “The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence – in this case, refraining from the consumption of meat or milk products – on Wednesdays, Fridays and (in the Latin Church) Saturdays, as well as during Lent and on the eve of specific holy days. As no meat or butter could be used on such days, observant Catholics would instead eat fish, typically fried in oil. The meal may include seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. The most famous dish Southern Italians are known for is baccalà (salted cod fish). The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà is attributed to the greatly impoverished regions of Southern Italy. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.”

smelts

5. Sponge Bob and the Christmas Moose!

Each year for the last few, Sponge Bob and the Christmas Moose have been a part of our celebrations. They turn up when we least expect them… they scare the animals, they frighten the children, the make us laugh!

They haven’t made their annual appearances yet, but I am sure they are coming…

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4. Christmas Cards

Is it a dying tradition? I don’t know. I certainly hope it’s not. There is much to be said for the act of writing, the act of signing one’s name, the act of putting a stamp on something and putting it in the mail. I love sending cards as much as I love receiving them.

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3. Christmas Eve Celebration

With the extended family on Christmas Eve, we always feel as though we are home.

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2. Cinnamon Girl Makes Christmas Dinner

No matter what she decides to make for us, it’s always delicious. This year, it’s likely to be crab and mashed potatoes with asparagus. She might even make homemade cheddar biscuits to go with along. She’ll give us champagne cocktails. She’ll make it perfect. The Cinnamon Girl is actually the best gift I got this or any year. Period. End of discussion.

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1. Time with the Family

Sous Chef.

Stretch.

HJ jr.

The Cinnamon Girl.

Family makes Christmas. My family makes Christmas great.

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