Thursday, December 31, 2009


Today is New Year's Eve and the transitions - the process or period of changing from one condition to another, seem to be all around me today. 

There is the obvious transition from 2009 to 2010 - year and decade happening at midnight.  There is something hopeful about changing decades - another chunk of time to remember as we get older - Jack & Charlie moved from little boys to teenagers in the 00's and will be men by the time 2020 arrives - what fun those transitions will be - let's hope "fun" is the term I use then!

Seventeen years ago today, my father, Frank transitioned into the next life - seems like yesterday we were literally watching that passage take place.

My mother, Mary, retired today after 16+ years as the Town Clerk of Salem, NY. I'm sure it will feel strange not to see her in the office, but I also know there will be new and exciting opportunities for her going forward.

Work seems to be transitioning for me too - new projects and old clients resurfacing after a somewhat slow 2009 is a wonderful direction.

Tomorrow I will begin to think about resolutions for the year, but somehow today, it feels right to contemplate the transitions.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Snowy Travel Day

We are heading up to the land of no internet today.  We will enjoy the snowy lake, a little KilKenney work and a bunch of homework for the boys - I'll post again when we get back on Wednesday night or Thursday.

Friday, December 25, 2009

And To All A Good Night

Merry, Merry Christmas.  We are enjoying a lovely, snowy day filled with love, laughter and thoughtful gifts.  

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

When in Doubt, Fake It

Well, it's actually happened to me - I swore It never would.  I have an artificial (fake) Christmas tree in my living room!  I am a die hard, real Christmas tree gal - I love the smell, the tradition, the history and the fun of a real Christmas tree.

So, you ask, how did I end up with a fake one?  Fate and frugality, I think.

Last weekend, we went to our local hardware store to buy a tree. I love supporting the small business - the people are great there and, by the way, the trees were reasonably priced.  So, being the bargain shopper I am, I picked the largest, fullest tree in the lot - Bill, of course having that eye, said let's cut a big piece of the bottom as I think it's too tall.

So we took our freshly trimmed tree off the lot and into our living room - OK - it was big, really big.  At this point, I'm feeling like it's a coup.  We (and by we, I mean the boys) put it in the stand and we decorated the heck out of it.  Now, I don't usually like to kibbitz, but I did say at one point - does it look like it's leaning? No, they thought it would be OK.  Sure enough, the next day I come home and it's on the floor - ornaments everywhere needles galore. 

But I'm stubborn, so we (the boys) put it back up - it looked great, shored up with a few extra twists of the screws and we're good to go.

So, I go out of town for work, and get the uh oh call from Bill - at this point, I'm all in favor of putting it on the curb - which they did - needles and all.

And, enter stage left the fake tree - borrowed from my in-laws and sweetly put up and decorated before I got home - thank you one and all - a gesture I truly appreciate.

Of course - I'll be right back to real next year, but maybe I'll remember my father's sage "you get what you pay for" advice and cough up a few more dollars for a better tree.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New is Good - Right?

I have a new project beginning tomorrow.  I welcome new work and new clients and as I've mentioned before, I really enjoy the work I do - HR Consulting and Coaching.

I am realizing, though, that whenever I have new work, I get a little nervous. It's easy to be worried about the unknown, I think, but I wonder if at some point the nervousness goes away and one just launches into the bold new world without thinking.

I'm thrilled with the opportunity, and confident in the work that I do, but the new still puts that little queasy feeling in my stomach. I would tell my clients that the feeling is normal and not to be afraid to "pursue the new" - so we'll see how good I am at taking my own advice! 

I also think the nervousness is probably OK because I know it helps me to prepare well and my experience tells me that when I get started, it will likely be fine. 

I'll post an update on Wednesday when I get back into town, but in the meantime, it feels better just to write it down and think through it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Little Irish Comfort

I've gotten a few requests for the Shepherd's Pie recipe that I've served for a few occasions over the last couple of months, so I thought this would be a great place to post it.  

Shepherd's Pie is an old Irish recipe that is traditionally made with ground lamb, but I usually make mine with ground beef because it's easier to find, less expensive, and I realize that many people don't like lamb.  It's a great dish to make for your family, true comfort food, and wonderful to take to a potluck or to anyone you are making a meal for.

I've kind of made this dish up along the way, so if you have any questions, feel free to post them or send me an email:

KilKenney Shepherd's Pie:
Serves 4 - 6 (easily doubled)

1 Large Onion - chopped
2 Cloves Garlic - minced
1 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 C beef broth - or more as needed
1/2 bottle Guinness Beer - optional
1/4 C flour (regular or a gluten free flour mix)
1 Tsp dried Oregano
1 Tsp dried Rosemary, crushed
Salt & Pepper
4 russet potatoes
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter (or more to taste)
1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2.  In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion.  Saute for a few minutes until soft.
3.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute
4.  Add the ground beef and cook until browned, 8 - 10 minutes.
5.  Add the flour and cook until "raw" flour taste is out of the pan
6.  Deglaze the pan with the Guinness or beef broth - start with 1/2 cup at a time and stir until the sauce has a gravy like consistency. (if you want to skip this step, you can add a jar of prepared gravy instead)
7.  Add the oregano & rosemary
8.  Add the mixed vegetables
10. Cook until flavors have melded - 10 minutes or so. - add salt & pepper to taste
11. Place meat mixture in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish
12. Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to boil in salted water, cook until tender, about 20 minutes
13. Mash the potatoes with a hot milk/butter mixture add salt
14. Cover with mashed potato mixture
15. Shred cheese over the top
16. Bake until golden - 30 to 35 minute

This is great the second day, so go ahead and make it ahead for a family dinner or party.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Collective Wisdom - Teen Time

OK - here's the next collective wisdom request - Teens and time.  I have two boys, one teen, one almost teen and it seems that we are always arguing about time - particularly "family time"  I am thrilled to have boys who enjoy friends and have, shall we say, an active social life.  In some ways, I'm envious because I've always been an introvert and socializing can be tough for me sometimes.

Having said that - I think there is a balance somewhere between social activities and family time.  We get into it sometimes when we are trying to go to the cabin or other travel.  We often have them bring friends which we all enjoy, but sometimes I would just like us to go as a family.  

The struggle seems to be that perceived fairness - when do I hold my ground and just say no to the activities and when do I give in and change the plans.  I know it may sound easy to just insist, but, perhaps because I'm an introvert at heart and may be too prone to some quiet time, I think I should be more flexible occasionally.

So - how do (or did) you manage it with your teenagers?  Have you found a balance or system that seems to work well?  

Again, all opinions and advice are welcome here - feel free to share.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Small Win

OK - I won't bore you with the details, but all I can say is the score is KilKenney Family - 1, Mouse - 0 as of today.  It feels like a small win.  We'll keep at it and hopefully go into 2010 mouse free!

Also - tomorrow is the next collective wisdom question - so get your keypads ready, it should be lively.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

EEK - I've Come Undone

There are very few things that completely throw me.  I like to think of myself as fairly unflappable, but this morning I saw a mouse run under my stove.  I swore, jumped and screamed, not necessarily in that order.

I hate rodents in general, but I particularly hate mice and I completely hate the idea that there is one in my house.  - I know, there are probably more than one, but I am going to continue to rationalize that one brave, lonely mouse made it's way into my house by mistake on his way to a field somewhere.

I rushed to the hardware store to buy traps and anything else that might make it go away.  The dog, is no help - in fact she is afraid of anything that moves.  

I, of course, googled "getting rid of a mouse" and found about a million websites that talk about sealing up any small entrances to the house - that doesn't help me much now does it?  They also talked about cleaning the house which I took personal offense to because my house is clean - not obsessively clean, but certainly keep critters out clean.

As you can probably tell from reading this, I may be overreacting, but this has almost taken me down.  Who knows - maybe I had a run in with a rodent in another life.

I will defeat this mouse though - I refuse to let it take over my life.  The men in my house and I will be strong in our pursuit of the mouse and humanely put it out of my house - and all of our misery.

Any mouse hunting ideas are welcome, and I'll keep you all posted on the progress.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's a Toss Up

An update on the grey hair question.  So far from the comments I've gotten on the blog and many emails & conversations, the opinions are pretty evenly split.

Those in favor of going grey confirm the ease of it all and suggest that I may be able to pull it off with my complexion (honestly the biggest worry for me as my natural color can only be described as pale)

Those against caution against looking prematurely older than I am, and that makes sense to me too.  Frankly, one of my biggest concerns is the "going grey" from my current color.

I have a few months before I have to make a decision - in keeping with the timing of this journey.  I'll continue to observe women in all stages of grey, particularly women with complexions similar to mine and I'll let you know.

I may go back and forth a few times as I decide - a woman's prerogative right? I will, however,keep you posted on my progress.

Feel free to weigh in along the way.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A little Wednesday Obsession

OK, true confessions time here.  I love the series Top Chef.  As I've mentioned a few times, I love to cook and I think in another life, I will go to cooking school and be a real chef.  For this life, however, I'm content being an amateur, and living vicariously through the chefs in this silly "reality" show.

In approximately 14 minutes, the final show of this season will be on and there are three chefs left - Kevin (my personal favorite) and the brothers - Bryan and Michael.  One brother is cool and one is kind of a tool (nice rhyme huh?), but all three are talented chefs.

I have actually drafted my entire family into my little Wednesday obsession and our world kind of stops for an hour a week - and it doubles as family time.

I hope Kevin wins - I like his style and his food, but sadly, my favorites don't usually win, so we'll see how it goes.  I am now hearing Jack and Charlie chanting "go Kevin" so it must be time to go get my tea and my place on the coach - I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Cardinal in Snow

I am sitting in my office enjoying the first real snow of the winter here in Minnesota.  I can see a pair of cardinals in the backyard.  They look so beautiful in the snow - red and regal.  

Somehow the Cardinals seem like hope for the cold winter.  We have two or three pair that spend the winter here and they always brighten my day.  I love to point them out to my kids - and they always say - we know mom, a cardinal - big deal.  But I never get tired of seeing them.

They also remind me of my dad, who loved to bird watch.  So when I see them, talk to them or acknowledge them to anyone who'll listen, I remember having those conversations with Frank.

Enjoy the snow and be sure to say hi to the cardinals in your backyard.

Monday, December 7, 2009

50 already - Wow

I just noticed that yesterday I reached 50 posts on this blog.  I'm pleased, and frankly a little amazed, that I've written that much. Maybe I'm more sensitive to the number 50, but it seems like a measure of stick-to-it ivness (truly not a word) and I feel good about it.

I am enjoying writing the blog and even though I occasionally think I don't have anything else to say - I seem to come up with an idea or two.

I love that people are reading and following along.  The support and ideas you share are encouraging me along this journey.

In early January, I plan to post an update on all those goals I listed early on (that reminds me, I'd better take another look at them this week!).  I reserve the right to edit them, but I think it will keep me honest along the path.

On to bigger thoughts tomorrow, now that I'm on my way to the 100th post.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gobble, Gobble

Last night we hosted the 26th (I think) annual Turkey Trot dinner party at our house.  It's a party Bill and some of his friends from college days and before started and it's evolved over the years.  The theme of good friends, great food and a rousing white elephant gift exchange has remained the same however.

I love to cook, so I truly enjoyed planning and cooking the meal - topped off by a wonderful, if I do say so myself, cappuccino creme brulee.  (I'm happy to share the recipe with anyone who's interested - it's easy and a great make ahead dessert)

Every year it's a fabulous group of people some of whom know each other well and some who are meeting for the first time.  I always marvel at the voices and laughter from the kitchen and I think how lucky we are to have such terrific friends.  

This year it happened to be in December, rather than November, and I think it's the perfect kick off to the holiday season - maybe that will become part of the tradition in the years to come!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Boca Chica - Yum

One of my favorite spots in the Twin Cities is Boca Chica - a wonderful mexican restaurant on the East side of St.  Paul.  Lucky for me, Jack had a Spanish project he had to complete last night.  He had to go to a place he could speak only Spanish for a meal or event.  Being the smart kid that he is, he figured he could get a great mexican meal out of the deal - and we did.

Bill, Jack, Charlie and I went to Boca Chica and enjoyed a wonderful meal and terrific waitress who was happy to help Jack with his project.  Who knew the Sophomore knew so much Spanish?

I love that I live in a city with such rich cultural heritage - the East side of St. Paul has a great hispanic culture.  I also love and frequent El Burrito Mercado, an excellent mexican grocery store.  

I do love food, sometimes a little too much as we've discussed, and in this journey of my 50th year, I'm trying to embrace the idea of appreciating great food, in all its forms and truly enjoying it in moderation.  So far, so good.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Collective Wisdom - to Grey or not to Grey?

OK - here goes with the requests for opinions & help.  

One of the things I've been toying with as I approach the big 5 0 is whether I want to let my hair go to it's natural grey.  I have been having it colored (expertly, I might add by my friend Joanie) for a long time, but I think I might be ready to let it all hang out, so to speak, as a 50th birthday resolution.

I know it's all grey underneath the brunette now - I come from a long line of lovely, Irish grey-haired women, but I'm not sure I'm ready to take the plunge -

Any thoughts, experiences etc.. are welcome - no holds barred here!

PS - if you'd like to comment, the easiest way is to open a Google account - free, easy and no spam involved - just go to click on login at the upper right corner and follow the directions to open an account.