Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Groom's Side.......Part I

As many of you who read my blog “The Engagement”  know, my son is getting married early next summer. So this is going to be a year of many “firsts” for both of us. And since I am not one to typically stand on ceremony or tradition, I am going to work very hard at fulfilling my duties as mother of the groom. Problem being…other than hosting the rehearsal dinner, and in spite of millions of weddings proceeding this one,  no one for sure knows what they are!

So I have decided to bring you along on my quest to find the answers, to navigate the proper etiquettes, whatever they may be, and to periodically blog on “The Groom’s Side” of things over the next year.  And please don’t confuse this as just a drive to increase my readership. No, this is a cry for help! So please feel free to add comments at any time along the way!

First things first; you would think the first blog would be about the wedding budget, who should contribute and at what point – but it’s not. Today, I am going to write about what has been first and foremost in my mind. The thing that has me looking at fashion magazines (something I never do), the thing that sometimes makes me even a little queasy at times  – my expected wedding day apparel. My son had only been engaged for about thirty minutes when he leaned over to me and said “you are wearing a dress to the wedding”. It wasn’t a suggestion.

This analogy will help you understand; if I were to suddenly disappear and police were looking in my closet for clues to where I might have gone, they would surmise “she must have gone somewhere requiring dresses, because there are none in here.” Well, they better come up with another angle because if truth be told, there was never a dress in there. In fact, the only dress in my house, hangs in the attic, preserved in plastic and came with a veil.

And it’s not that I don’t like dresses, I just don’t like them on me. I’m of average height, above average weight, and have a long body with short legs. The waist of a dress never lies where it should be. And unfortunately for me, my bra size does not match my dress size, so the top is always too big. So here’s the picture - the dress is too long, the top is too big and the waist is somewhere between my boobs and naval. Not a pretty picture. It is a fashion challenge that I have covered with dressy slacks and long tops for most of my adult life. Until now……

Add this conundrum to the fact that many web sites state that as the mother of the groom, I should defer to the mother of the bride when it comes to a dress! A foremost wedding site, “” has this to say:

“It’s customary for the mother of the bride to purchase her dress first. Her choice is meant to subtly dictate what the mother of the groom will wear and set the tone of the attire. This may seem a bit old-fashioned, but we suggest you at least have a conversation. Get a sense of what she’s wearing (length, color, style) before you buy your dress. Then you’re free to find something similar that you’ll feel comfortable wearing.

My saving grace here is that, not only have I been blessed with a great future daughter-in-law, Kat, her mom, is equally terrific. Last week, the bride-to-be asked me to join her and her mother, Jean, for the time honored tradition of shopping for the all-important bridal gown. I was surprised but thrilled to be included. I took this opportunity to follow the advice of “” and had the dress “conversation”. When Kat was done with the evenings' bridal fashion show, (and I have been sworn to secrecy here), her mom and I started to also look around.

Now, Jean is a slender, attractive woman and could most likely wear any style dress she chose, so I was a little apprehensive about the “something similar” part of the web site’s suggestions. But she immediately put my mind at ease, “Jo Ann, you buy whatever you are comfortable wearing. No rules to follow here.” Yes!! Since she was looking at sleeveless, halter and strapless dresses, I was very relieved to roam around without looking over my shoulder to see what was catching Jean’s eye.

And I did get a few ideas, but with 11 months before the big day, I have time to join a gym, hire a personal trainer and whip myself into shape. This is basically the same plan I have every January. Only this time is different. And no matter how successful I am, it’s still not going to change the long body, short legs issue, but I have in mind a short dress with a jacket that just might disguise the problem areas. If I’m wrong, one of my sisters and EVERY FRIEND I HAVE – has offered their expertise in guiding this rookie through a dress shop. So I have confidence that in the end, I will find something stunning….that goes with flip flops! Oh yeah, it’s a beach wedding and I am told that is what I will be wearing…….stay tuned!

Cartoon by

Friday, July 20, 2012

Twitter, Pitters and Friends…..Oh My!

You have to just love a medium that brings the world to your couch. And I am not talking about television. I am talking about a few clicks of a keyboard that allows you to converse with people from around the world or around the block. Sometimes, you really just don’t know who you're chatting with….and if truth be told, it doesn't matter

Fresh, sweet cherries!!
If you are promoting anything at all, from blogs to soaps, from spices to real estate, Twitter is the grand internet flea market to do it on. Each @ address is a different stand selling a brand or an idea, and it is actually quite fun. I have “chatted” with people who’ve inspired me, people who've made me laugh, people who've made me cry, and even those who have angered me at times. Twitter conversations are great at nurturing the thought process.

I even get to read tweets from people like Cher who loves to talk to her fans from her bed at 4:00 am. Or watch Bette Midler post a picture of herself she had taken in Central Park with her iPhone seconds earlier. I “chat” with my sister and niece almost every night I have become “friends” with people I have nothing in common with but find everything to talk about. And here is the important part, if you post a link to something you've written, or made, or a product your're selling, - that the people who follow you like - they will retweet it to their followers….and so on….and so on. With any luck (and there seems to be plenty) people will click on your site and “page view” counts continue to climb!

Pop in anytime of the day, and you will be amazed at the bevy of activity. Recipes, jewelry, inspirational quotes, well-written blogs, art, home designers, breaking news, stationary, more recipes, etc., etc., Tidbits of information, spin around on an a screened in carousel that can be stopped with a tap of a key stroke.
An example; a few days ago, we were going to a party and I wanted to bring a dessert. Normally when looking for a recipe, I’d go to or some similar site to see what the professionals have to offer. But it was a Saturday and I knew that Twitter would be abuzz with weekend activities and recipes so I went there first. Now, there are tons of food bloggers on Twitter, and with a name like Kitchen Clatter, it is often assumed that I am one of them, but I’m not.

Ready for oven...
Anyway, I was only browsing a few minutes when I noticed a cherry pound cake recipe from my “friend” @GimletStyle  (who is also not a food blogger – see, you never know what you’ll find!). @GimletStyle is a wonderful writer, photographer, blogger and slightly off the wall great lady who just happened to have an amazing cake recipe, so she posted it. Now, I am not really sure when her original post went up, because when I checked again later in the morning, @RubyBeets had already made the cake and posted a picture. It looked great! This was getting interesting. 

By now, @ShelleyCHolmes was chiming in that she was getting ready to make it, and @Wisteriahomes – which is my RLS (which in twitter world stands for “real life sister” not “real loser” as I feared when she first introduced me to her tweet crowed), was telling me to make it and to save a her a slice! It was like a feeding frenzy. Sharks were circling this new recipe, creating almost as much twitter excitement as 50 Shades of Grey! (Which I have not read yet but plan to.....apparently when my husband is available, as it's been suggested). 

Can pit 8 cherries (or olives) at once!
Anyway, as I was getting ready to click on @GimletSyle’s web site for the full recipe, I saw her post “you can’t make this cake without a pitter” Okay, now the brakes were on…a pitter? Then @RubyBeets replied “an absolute must” or something similar. At first I thought, “I’ll buy ingredients, but I am not buying a tool”, (if you read my blog on my obsession with kitchen gadgets, you'll understand this because I am on a self-imposed kitchen tool probation), and that thought lasted right up to the point where I was weighing the fresh cherries on the scale at the market. 

Two cups of chopped cherries is a lot of cherries to pit without some help! And besides, this looked like the type of cake I just might make more than once. And, as my RLS Betty @WisteriaHomes tweeted, “we could use a pitter for olives when we make the olive salad” (a Thanksgiving stable at our house), and it would be neater than smashing them with a can - our current method. So I bought a cherry pitter....and not the kind that does one cherry at a time. Oh no, I bought one that can do up to eight cherries/olives with one slam of the lid! (If I was going to break probation, I was going all the way!) Plus I wanted to create pitter envy on Twitter. 

So, below is the recipe that caused such a stir. And, I can tell you this, I brought it to the party last weekend where there were many, many desserts, and it was the first to go! The dark black cherries poking through the cake enticed everyone. I did, however, make a few slight changes. In place of low-fat cottage cheese I used ricotta cheese which I consider Italian cottage cheese. And, I used salted butter because I never buy unsalted butter. So easy and so good, you have to try it! And please let me know how it goes!  

Cherry Pound Cake
stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer and large bowl)
12-cup Bundt pan, or tube pan
2 sticks unsalted butter
3 cups (525 g) granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 cups (339 g) flour
1 tbs 
vanilla extract
1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese
2 cups of cherries, pitted and cut into small pieces Powdered sugar for sprinkling, optional but recommended!
1. Preheat oven to 325° F/165° C.
2. Cut butter into chunks and cream. Gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time then vanilla.
3. Blend well and add the flour.
4. Stir in the cottage cheese, start on low and then high to break up the curds.
5. Carefully fold in the cherries, mix slowly and thoroughly
5. Pour into prepared pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 90 minutes.
6. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. Also good with a scoop of ice cream on the side.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Engagement......

Hands on the sands of the beach they'll be married on...

They had both come out of relationships scarred and scared. One more than the other, but both still very hesitant about getting involved. They worked at the same place and she had caught his eye a few times, but he wasn’t ready to open his heart or his mind or to return to a road that once swallowed him in a sink hole. No, he was content to fly solo for a while, to stay safely in the company of his friends and roommates. And as his mother, this down time was a rather nice respite from the many painful late night phone calls from him. And yet….he kept getting a glimpse of her dashing through the office with her brilliant smile and large blue eyes. Still, he was determined to keep his guard and heart in check.

She was (is) by profession a high school teacher and works part-time where he is employed to earn some extra money. His boss, a very wise mutual acquaintance, saw potential in this coupling and knew that if she could break down his barriers, this would be a great match. So, thankfully, she made the connection and introduced them. At the time, Kat (short for Kathleen) was hobbled by a casted broken foot, and Trevor was hindered by casted emotions, so they shook hands, spoke briefly and went back to business as usual. As he walked back to his office, he turned to watch her briefly, but quickly refocused. “Nope, not going to happen”, he thought to himself. 

The next time he saw Kat was at an after-hours company event. She, still licking her own relationship wounds, bravely took the initiative to approach him and engage in conversation. By the end of the evening, he walked her to her car where they exchanged cell numbers. He watched her drive away, wondering when, and if, he could make that call.

About a year old, still one of my favorite pictures
Trevor had gone through a rough couple of  years. As parents, we raise our children hopefully armed with enough life information to make good decisions for themselves. Often, we support their decisions even when we quietly question them. And when something way out of our control hurts them, our protective instincts kick in and we are ready to strike at the cause. Their age doesn’t matter, when one of your own is crumbling, you struggle to gather up the pieces and hold them together while your own heart is breaking. I totally understood my son’s hesitation to get involved again but I so wanted him back in the game.

I mention this so you will understand the elation I felt when Trevor called me after his first official date with Kathleen and said “I think I found someone special”. Once while in Alaska, I watched a large chunk of a frozen glacier break from its mold and crash into the sea in an almost defiant means of capturing freedom. Those six words he spoke created the splash I was waiting for from him. I knew this woman had to be “someone special”……someone who had the ability to free him from a frozen wall.

He was three months into the relationship when he felt confident enough to bring her to a family Christmas gathering. It was the first time any of us had met her. Now, I was the one with my armor up. I was watching to make sure that he wasn’t repeating the patterns of his past. He wasn’t. Kat was beautiful and gracious. She even had the class to bring a gift for my younger sister who was hosting the party,  and a bottle of wine for me (smart girl)! She easily engaged in conversation and when the evening ended, she was the first to help start cleaning up. In short, she was raised right. How could Trevor not love her? We all did instantly!

His 4th of July girl!
That was three years ago. Last year, on July 5, 2011, Trevor called me early in the morning to tell me that he was going to propose to Kat on July 4th, 2012. Yes, he made me wait an entire year explaining that she was his “girl of summer and loves the 4th of July”! She grew up spending summers on the shores of Ocean City, NJ and he wanted to bring all of her favorite elements together when he popped the question.

So, this past January, my husband and I rented a beach house very close to the house Kat’s family spends their summer vacations. Our rental went from June 30th to July 7th. Smack in the middle of week was the 4th of July, the date he picked to propose on, and held to for 364 days.  Kat simply thought she was spending a week at the shore with our family. On July 3rd, the very friends who had supported him years earlier started arriving for what she thought was a big 4th celebration. Between family and friends, there were 15 people jammed into a house that slept 6, all knowing something she didn't.
Engagement dinner celebration!!!

In the early morning of July 4th, 2012, and somehow after a late night of partying, Trevor woke Kathleen (not a fan of mornings) and convinced her to go for a 7:00 am swim in the ocean. We all pretended to be asleep as they left. As she started into the waves, he called to her. When she turned around, he was on one knee with a ring in his hand as the water ebbed around him. The glacier now completely melted.

When they returned, the newly engaged couple was greeted with a standing ovation from 13 people hanging over the porch railing of our beach house, Mimosa's and Bloody Mary's were flowing, and her parents weren't far behind. I don't think it could have gone any better. 

An the summer....on the beach....on the 4th of July. All that she wanted, and all that he wanted to give to her. Good job, son!