Oh the holidays…

I’ve been baking and baking and baking some more these past couple of weeks! With Thanksgiving kicking off the start of the madness! I fixed some pumpkin cupcakes for a friend. Then made some treats for my fam. Followed by cupcakes and a cake for a co-worker’s daughters 5th birthday. Then breakfast cakes for our realtor to hand out to his clients. Finally more treats for the holiday, which will really start today! On the hopper I’ve got Poor Man’s Toffee (so yummy and so easy), Buckeyes for my native Ohio in-laws, Coconut Orange Snowballs and finally Cheesecake Brownies. I plan on spending most of today in the kitchen and I am so happy to do just that!

Have a happy, healthy holiday season! Merry Christmas to you and your families : ). See you in the new year!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Cinnamon Breakfast Cakes

Birthday Cupcakes


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November 5th

I realize that this is a little late as I would have liked to have posted this on the actual date, but today will have to be the day…

1998:  At the regional cross country meet in Newport News park, I have the whole thing planned out in my head.  I am going to walk up to the starting line and tell the boy that I have been fawning over for nearly a year that “yes” I will be his girlfriend (after he had asked me in a note two days earlier) then kiss him on the cheek.  Instead I shyly walk up to him and say “yes” and he kisses me on the cheek.  It is official, I am dating Brad Sorgen.

1999:  We celebrate our anniversary by going out to dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town where Brad presents me with a gorgeous yellow gold dolphin ring.  We then go to see a movie and hold hands the entire time.  Although college is looming, it isn’t something that we are thinking about much, yet.

2000:  Brad is on a cross country scholarship at Radford and I am figuring things out at Virginia Tech.  We aren’t really long distance, but aren’t really in the same town.  He gets us a hotel room for the occasion and we went to a nice Italian restaurant in Radford which had such heavily garliced food that if we weren’t 18, we wouldn’t have been able to be in the same room together.  We have a very rare night together with no roommates and it is nice to hang out just the two of us.  College has had its challenges, but we’re coping for the most part.

2001:  Brad and I go out to dinner at the fine dining restaurant on campus.  It is a Monday night, so we can only do so much, but we still get dressed up and have a nice meal together.  He’s at Tech now, we even have a class together, and it is so nice to be able to walk to his dorm to see him.  We still don’t spend every waking minute together, but now if we want to have dinner together, he’s just a ten minute walk away and in my carless existence, that’s something to be thankful for.

2002:  Tuesdays are our busiest day of the week.  I have classes from 12pm until 10pm with only a 45 minute break to get dinner.  I try to get through the day as quickly as possible, being so excited with giving Brad his gifts and being able to breathe after I was done with our last class of the day which we had together.  I have been getting weird comments all day.  One girl told me that my room looked so cool.  Another person asked Brad some strange question on our way up to his dorm room after class.  Five minutes after we got up to his room, he gives me something he has written and when I look up at him, he has gotten down on one knee.  Back at my room, my door is decorated by one of my residents, the entire room is full of streamers, confetti, bridal magazines, flowers and balloons.  We are going to get married!

2003:  I have Wednesdays off, so I spend most of my morning working on a scrapbook and getting all of the pieces and pages bound.  We celebrate by going to a Japanese restaurant and the bartender comps our drinks because we tell him it is our anniversary.  I wear my engagement ring with pride and can’t believe that we’ve already been engaged for a year.  Graduation is ahead of us, neither of us have any job prospects or have a clue where we are going to live.  We are enjoying our last couple of months of college and lack of responsibility.

2004:  Brad is gone Monday thru Thursday every week for his job.  We are living together and have adapted to his crazy work schedule.  I am working for my dad’s advertising agency and spending evenings and nights to myself, so we really look forward to the weekends.  We go out to dinner to celebrate our last anniversary before we get married in April.  We choose The Melting Pot and when the waiter brings our tray of dessert, there is a wrapped present on it.  It is a beautiful diamond pendant.

2005:  We are in Blacksburg for the game against Miami.  It is one of the biggest games of the year and we are trying to recreate the same exact game experience we had two years earlier when we crushed them.  We meet my sister there and crash in one of our friends’ rooms.  We spend the weekend visiting our favorite Blacksburg haunts and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  We lost badly, but we still have a fantastic time.  We are newlyweds with a new house and limited time together, but we’re doing ok.  I enjoy my free time and Brad enjoys his job.

2006:  I sleep in, wake up and read the paper and enjoy a cup of coffee, then we run errands to the bank, Costco and Best Buy because Brad has saved up enough gift cards to purchase an Xbox 360 and he spends the entire day playing on it and figuring it out.  He makes us enchiladas for dinner and we have a relaxing Sunday.

2007:  Brad leaves early in the morning to head to Philly, which is where he has been working for months and will probably continue to work for years due to so many contracts in the area.  I’m working at a new place.  Our agency closed over the summer and now I’m on the selling side of what I used to do.  I spend the day attending our sales meeting, going out to lunch with one of my new coworker friends, coming home, fixing dinner and finishing reading a book.  We’ve been discussing getting a dog to keep me company while Brad is on the road and to see if I can keep something with a heartbeat alive.  We’ve settled on a Westie, and we are slowly starting our search for one.

2008:  I sleep in, opting not to work out because I was up late the night before.  As usual I’m running late and Brad is out of the door a whole ten minutes before me (typical).  He’s working down the street from our house and is only gone two months out of the year, rather than every week.  We have a dog named Foster who we completely dote over.  After work we have leftovers for dinner, take Foster for a walk and enjoy a glass of wine.

2009:  Brad is out of town and will probably be out of town this time of year for as long as he works at his current company because there is a huge trade show going on at the end of October through the beginning of November.  I don’t mind it though, I spend the night picking up mac and cheese and wine from Target for dinner and watch a movie I’ve been wanting to watch and thoroughly enjoy watching with Foster curled up next to me.  We’re starting to talk about trying to have a baby.  The baby bug has bitten me hard, and although I want it to be a stress free process, it’s just about all I can think about all day, every day.  Maybe one day I’ll be more excited and not so worried.

2010:  Brad’s parents pick me up from my parents’ house and bring me to the hospital in time for me to feed our week old baby.  He was early, so he’s still in the hospital, so I spend every waking moment up there with him.  It is the first time they will be able to hold him and they are both ecstatic.  I’m extremely frustrated because Chase keeps having bradycardia episodes, which is when he forgets to breathe when he’s eating.  I feel like I’m suffocating my own baby.  This is not a good day, but the nurses keep threatening me that he’s going to be discharged soon.  I don’t know what I’ll do with myself when I can hold him whenever I want to with no tubes, no wires and no monitors.

2011:  We’re spending the weekend in North Carolina with my grandparents.  Nana is not doing well.  She was diagnosed with leukemia this time last year and she’s been having less good days.  I don’t want to think about this being the last time that we see her, but that day is coming sooner rather than later.  Today Chase decides to start walking.  Not going one or two steps, going more like 10 or 12.  It is quite a sight to see, and he is proud of himself.  I am so happy that Nana gets to see him walk for the first time.  When I talk to Brad later that day I wish him a Happy Anniversary.

Brad, thank you for 13 glorious years.  Thank you for always being the one thing I can depend on.  For being my rock.  For loving me despite all of my flaws.  For being my shoulder to cry on.  For always keeping me smiling and laughing.  For being a fantastic father and blessing me with an equally fantastic child.  For these things and so much more.  I look forward to the next lucky 13 and beyond.

Nana

This past week I lost my last living grandmother, my mother’s mom whom all of the grandkids called Nana. She had endured a year-long battle with a form of leukemia prevalent among elderly people whose blood gets worn out after decades of doing its job. She is survived by her loving husband of 64 years, her four daughters, 10 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. She will join her son who passed away in adolescence close to fifty years ago.

That is what everyone will read in the paper, this is the woman that I knew.

I was the first grandchild of the oldest daughter, and had four glorious years of Nana to myself. I named her (and consequently named my grandfather Papa) although she had insisted that she be called “grandmother, it never stuck. My stay at home mom would take me down to North Carolina to the only house I ever knew for weeks at a time when I (and later my sister) were younger. When we weren’t visiting, we would call every weekend and keep in touch that way. When I was about 3 or 4 (I remember this, so I wasn’t that young), I filed a complaint about Nana. She hugged me so tight that it hurt. That epitomizes her role as a person and especially as a grandmother. She loved so much and so hard, it hurt. That is her lifelong legacy.

Days spent with Nana were filled with baking cookies, icing cakes, pouring over baby pictures of my aunts, my mom and myself, fixing delicious southern style meals, playing cards, taking pictures and spending time in her garden or on one of the swings she had installed around the property after she had grandchildren. Once we were in school, we would still go down for a week at a time at least once in the summertime. If we got lucky, we would spend that time in the mountains at a timeshare that my grandparents owned. Mom and Papa would go play golf and Courtney and I would hang out in the condo doing crafts that Nana had brought for us to do. At their house, we knew that every morning there would be a gift waiting for us on the dresser in their room and store bought coffee cake (the ultimate treat for us) waiting on the kitchen counter.

 I always had a special place in my heart for Nana when I was younger, but once I grew up; I realized what a special person she was. She was the kindest person I have ever met. She never met a stranger, and never hesitated to tell you all about the strangers she met. She had an enormous heart, would give away everything she had to someone less fortunate than her and also had a wicked sense of humor. She was a religious watcher of entertainment shows on television and sometimes you would get half way through a conversation with her about Britney this or Brad that before realizing she was talking about celebrities. She was a fierce fan of the Braves (and later Nationals), Duke basketball (although she was really a closeted Carolina fan) and Virginia Tech football during and after my time there. She and Papa would stay up later than I would to watch the ends of games or during a particular lengthy and competitive game of triominos or Rummy cube.

Although she was 86, she could remember everything. Even until the day she died she was sharp as a tack. She remembered things about people and events that sometimes it would catch you off guard and you would wonder if she was finally losing it, but she wasn’t. She had just proven to you that her memory was better than yours. 99% of the time she was right about what she was talking about. I like to pride myself on my memory and I know that I get it from her. For her sweet side, she was feisty too. One of the first times my high school boyfriend (and later husband) met Nana, she told him to pull his pants up and that he needed a belt. When I would bring my child down to see her, she would fuss at me about putting him in some nicer outfits (particularly overalls), making sure he had on a dry diaper and had a full stomach. She would fuss at us for not eating enough, waking up too soon (she was a lifelong advocate of sleeping in and practiced herself), calling my unborn child a “kid” (she would ask me if he was a goat) or not helping out our mom. She was extremely protective of her grandchildren. She once chopped the head off of a baby rattlesnake that I came across one summer at their house and she was proud of my sister for breaking up with her mediocre boyfriend (and told her so).

I have so many wonderful memories about Nana. Her chasing down (as much as she could with a walker) a handsome college friend at our wedding that she had met at my college graduation. Waking up to the smell of coffee at their house (my parents didn’t drink coffee, so that olfactory memory was even more powerful). Her crying when I told her that she was going to be a great grandmother and not stopping the tears long enough to call her only daughter that didn’t know yet. Lying in bed with her watching movies that she had recorded off of TV for me and my sister. Swinging on their porch swing for hours hearing about her childhood.

I am selfish about some parts of Nana too. Her side of the family had longevity on its side. Her mother, brother and sister had been close to ninety when they passed away. When Brad and I discussed starting a family, I figured that my children would have memories of their great grandmother because I “knew” I had years before her time would be up. Now that she’s gone, I am so grateful that she was at so many special events in my life. She attended my high school and college graduation. She preceded me down the aisle at my wedding. She got to cuddle and snuggle and hug and kiss my son. She was able to spend five weekends with him before she passed away. But it makes me so sad that he won’t get to know her like I did. That he won’t get to experience the love she had for him or how much joy he brought to her. That he won’t whine to me that she hugs him too tight. Instead all I have are some stories I can tell him about the two of them, and some pictures. Although that is all I have, it’s going to have to be enough. And it is more than anyone else.

No matter your religious affiliation, there are some signs when someone passes away that you cannot ignore. The day after she died, Brad said in a passing comment before leaving for work, “Oh look, our roses are blooming again.” In December. You figure that one out.

I love you Nana, I will miss you until the day that I die, and I will never ever forget you. Thank you for hugging me so tightly. Thank you for being a role model on how to treat other people and how to love. If at the end of the day I have 1/8 of the compassion that you had, then I came out better than most. You were the best grandmother that anyone could ever wish for and I am so happy we had 29 years together. Your legacy will live on among all that met you and knew you and although we won’t be perfect, we will try to make you proud.