Back to College

The day after cousins Debi and Peter arrived, grandson Nathaniel had to go back to college. We had lunch after church in Asheville.

112518 N JC Lise Debi Pete at Copper River.JPG
Nathaniel, John, Lise, Debi, Peter

All six of us piled in the car and drove to Charlotte. It probably took two and a half hours. We figured we could visit in the car and not miss a moment of being together. Photos taken during a break show the faces of three of our traveling guests.


Nathaniel offered to pose in his dorm room, and who was I to refuse?

112518 Nate in his dorm room.JPG
Nathaniel’s bed is the neat one.

In the parking lot, I saw his view of the city of Charlotte for the first time. Those tall buildings were just a few blocks away. The stadium was in view, too. We knew the trip home was going to be long, because a game had just let out. There were various groups of people dressed alike and walking together, as well as gridlock in the streets. John deftly maneuvered us away from the city center, and we shortly hit molasses traffic on the interstate. Lise used to live in the area, so she directed us on back streets. The trip home was twice as long as it would have been on a normal day, but we could talk as much or as little as we liked.

The next day, as we sat at the dining room table, I said, “I miss Nathaniel.”

I may have imagined that Lise and John steeled themselves for an outburst of grandmotherly grief. They laughed when I continued, “No matter where he sat at the table, he could reach anything and pass it to you.”

A footnote for Rooster: Nathaniel told us at church that he had forgotten something at the house. In the hubbub of leaving, he didn’t lower the mirror in the foyer. We all agreed this was not a terrible thing, since he will be back for Christmas in less than a month.

Guest in the Hospital

We were having supper and noticed a car in front of our house. When my phone rang, we were sure it was John’s cousin Peter and wife Debi announcing they were outside as expected. Debi was talking, but she explained that she was in the emergency room of a Knoxville hospital. They had driven from Illinois, and she didn’t feel well. She ended up being admitted to the hospital for further tests. After niece Julie left us the next morning, daughter Lise, grandson Nathaniel, John, and I drove an hour and a half to Knoxville to visit Peter and Debi in the hospital. We were afraid they would have to return to Illinois without seeing us. Probably because we went, Debi was cleared to leave about two and a half hours after we got there. I made them pose in the hospital room for illustrative purposes. You can’t see the grumbling, can you?

112418 Debi in hospital.JPG

A light-hearted moment came when Lise dared Nathaniel to sit on her lap.

112418 N sits on Lise's lap Knox hospital.JPG

Backtrack with me to breakfast. Nathaniel wanted to make biscuits from a recipe one of his culinary teachers gave him. He kindly posed with the biscuits. I told him friends Karen and Al from NY, who know Nathaniel well, would drool over that plate. My opinion? The biscuits were easily the best I’ve ever eaten. They were buttery, flaky, tender, and as tasty as could be.

112418 Nathaniel's biscuits.JPG
Disregard the bed-head.  He looked normal later.

Nate’s Aunt Lise asked him to turn around. What was on his pants? It was a floury hand-print, which called for another documentary photo.

112418 Flour hand-print.JPG

Hours later we had our second Thanksgiving feast, left-overs reheated. It was easy for me with no prep involved and with Nathaniel as the kitchen assistant. John and Nathaniel set the table, and we were all thankful and relaxed after a long day.

112418 Second Thanksgiving.JPG
Nathaniel, Lise, John, Peter, and Debi

Nathaniel, bless his heart, insisted on washing the dishes while we visited with Debi and Peter. One of these days he might be declared a national treasure.

112418 Nathaniel does dishes.JPG


Thanksgiving Day was a wonderful day for us, surrounded by relatives and friends.

112218 6 Thanksgiving.JPG
Niece Julie, daughter Lise, John, grandson Nathaniel, neighbors Marla and Connie

We knew there would be lots of laughs when turkey-head Marla came in with her mother.

112218 2 Connie and turkey-head Marla.JPG

For the foodies, here is our menu:

Turkey, dressing, gravy, frozen cranberry salad, spicy cranberries from a 100-year old recipe, rolls that looked like biscuits, lemon-lime Jell-o salad, creamed butternut squash, green bean casserole, and green pea-cashew salad. Desserts were something else! Neighbor Connie baked a blackberry cake, and we all tasted that one first. It got a solid round of applause. Luscious! Grandson Nathaniel created a chocolate cake with crème de menthe chips and a mirror glaze. It was superb. I said to forget the pumpkin cheesecake I baked. We have it every year, and they could take some home. That met with approval, and they did take slices with them.

112218 11 Thanksgiving blackberry cake, choc mint mirror glaze, pumpkin cheesecake.JPG

Marla’s dog Albert needed to be fed, so we persuaded her to bring him back with her. We loved his Christmas tie.


For 25 years I never missed going to church on Thanksgiving Day. I played the organ for the service and went to our big family dinner free as a bird. I had baked the pies for the dinner the day before, so it was an easy day for me. I didn’t think I could manage everything today until Nathaniel said he would watch the turkey. I said I had time to take a shower and go with John to Asheville.

Nathaniel asked, “What about breakfast?”

I said with surprise, “I forgot about that.”112218 1 Teddy bear on the altar

We all had cereal together before John and I rushed off. Before the service, I stepped into the aisle to take a photo of the altar. The decorations of pumpkins and gourds made me giggle, because it looked like a brown teddy bear was sitting there in the middle. Can you see that illusion?

Back at home, everything was under control. Nathaniel said the turkey was done long before the time I estimated. The reason our dinner went so smoothly was that Nathaniel helped with everything. He set the table while we were at church, having polished several silver serving pieces and trivets. As I put food in bowls, he ferried them to the table, adding serving pieces on the way. At the end of the meal, we passed dirty dishes to him, and he organized them. The company did as I requested and visited in the living room while I put food away and John loaded the dishwasher and washed the pots and pans. As we gathered at the table for dessert, Nathaniel cut the cakes and served them. He was at my side every single time I needed him. He knew exactly what needed to be done and did it without fanfare. Oh! If only everyone had a chef in the family to make everything appear effortless!


Our Favorite Chef

Things were quieter with only five of us in the house. Grandson Nathaniel began making his treat for Aunt Lise, and I was amused at the way he checked the cake in the oven. I would have opened the door and leaned over, but he had a better view by kneeling.

112018 Nate checks cake in oven.JPG

Nathaniel put warm chocolate mint cake in a snifter, topped it with ice cream, and presented it to John and me. What a treat! Lise and Julie missed that, because they hadn’t gotten back from taking Patty home.

112018 JC N warm cake with ice cream.JPG

The next day Nathaniel modeled his uniform from school (Johnson & Wales). He wore checkered pants, white jacket, and white apron. The dark green around his neck denotes a first-year baking and pastry student. The students are required to press the apron with a sharp crease in the front, and it must be pristine. The jacket must have a crease in the middle of the back and creases on the arms.  Pockets on his sleeve hold a pen, a Sharpie, and a thermometer.  One of the most-used rooms in the dorm is the laundry room, one on every floor. The school provides an ironing board for each room.

112118 N uniform for school.JPG

Nathaniel prepared the chocolate frosting and used a bit of it to pipe some roses, which he let us eat.


Here is the cake with its mirror glaze.

223229 Choc mint cake with mirror glaze.JPG

The More the Merrier

John’s sister Barbara, with husband Thom, arrived in the afternoon. We made the most of the time, chatting over dinner and all the afternoon. By suppertime, we got into serious laughter as we told story after story. Some were new, and some were old, but all got their fair share of laughs.

111918 Table of laughs.JPG
Lise, Patty, Julie, John, Barbara, Thom, Nathaniel

Grandson Nathaniel prepared eggnog for us, having gotten milk, heavy cream, and spices while shopping with his aunt Lise. It was a wonderful kickoff for Thanksgiving dining. He donated his pecan pie for dessert, and we polished it off.

Thanksgiving Fun Continues

We looked like a normal family having Sunday dinner in a restaurant. John, daughter Lise, and grandson Nathaniel posed before we ordered, thinking that would satisfy me.

111818 John Lise Nate at Firefly.JPG

I was content with one photo until the end of the meal, when we became boisterous. You know how it goes – one funny story leads to another until everyone is howling. Lise brought up Nathaniel’s childhood mispronunciation of DVD, which he called Dee Va Dee, and it caught me off guard. For the first time in my life, I spewed water halfway across the table. Lise and Nathaniel could no long contain themselves, and that had to be pictured.

111818 Lise and Nate convulsed in laughter when I spewed water.JPG

A bit later, grandson David texted me the link to the concert from his college in New York. We pulled up the live stream shortly after it began. He was in the very middle of the choir as they sang Handel’s Messiah. His mother Kate was in the audience, though the camera never moved to show the people.

111818 David in the middle of the choir singing Messiah.JPG

Niece Julie was here with her house-mate Patty. We had some break-the-rules pie before supper. Yes, this crazy family sometimes starts a meal with dessert. An hour later we noshed on cheese and crackers amid much merriment. At one point, Lise had tears rolling down her face because she laughed so hard. I predict we are going to sleep well tonight.

111818 Adding Julie and Patty to the fun.JPG
Julie, Patty, Lise, Nathaniel, and John

Thanksgiving Begins

Our Thanksgiving celebration began with bringing two relatives home. We picked up grandson Nathaniel at his first break from college. He sat in his favorite seat in the very back of the car.

111718 N leaving college.jpg

We ate lunch at Rooster’s while killing time before going to the airport. Nathaniel shot a selfie to show some of the roosters on the wall. We texted that one to his mother and his brother. This was our way of being together while 800 miles apart.

111718 AM Nate at Rooster's.jpg

Getting daughter Lise worked smoothly this year. John drove, and Nathaniel went into the airport terminal. I was the communications hub as John and I headed for the cell phone lot. When aunt and nephew connected, Nathaniel texted me, and we drove back into the airport to pick them up. The problem was that Lise couldn’t use her Danish phone, and she couldn’t reactivate her American phone without WiFi. Last year she asked several strangers in the airport before one would let her borrow a phone to text us.

111718 Lise and Nate.jpg

We congratulated ourselves that everything was going well. Big mistake! We stopped for Lise to get lunch, and the car wouldn’t start. Triple A promised to rescue us in two hours. We were hemmed in by cars on both sides in the parking lot. When a man came back to the car on the right, Lise asked if he would give us a jump start. He was very willing, but the cables wouldn’t stretch far enough. Two young women with children were getting in the car on the left, so John asked if they would help. One was very hesitant, but the other agreed to pull her car closer. Bingo! Nathaniel canceled the rescue as we headed home.

The bags were barely in the house when Nathaniel called Lise to be part of the mirror moving ceremony. Whenever Nathaniel is in residence, he puts the mirror on a higher nail where he can see himself. It’s silly, but we all get a kick out of it.

111718 Lise observes mirror ritual.JPG

As soon as they unpacked a few things, we had a snacky supper, followed by pie. I always bake a pumpkin pie for Lise. It’s her favorite, which she can’t get in Denmark. There are no rules for it, so she sometimes eats a piece for breakfast. This time she started before going to bed. Nathaniel spoke of wanting a pecan pie before he went off to college. I bought the nuts for it but ran out of time to make it, so how better to welcome him back? When he offered us a piece, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to make sure the crust was not soggy. It satisfied me, so I didn’t ask chef Nathaniel for an evaluation.

111618 Pies for Nate and Lise.JPG

Other relatives will be arriving during the week, though I don’t think we will have more than eight sleeping here any one night.  If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope your holiday is a marvelous one.