Thursday, October 16, 2008


The morning of Friday, October 10th my only expectation for the day, or even the weekend, was to attend a hearing Friday morning. I had two goals for the weekend: laundry and pulling my winter clothes out of storage and swapping them for summer clothes. The hearing went better than anticipated (although I think we still lost. . . .) and I returned to my office around 100 to pick at a bland lunch while browsing through blogs and emails. 

Unexpectedly I was overcome with the urge to go home. Not my apartment home a mere 20 minute walk away, to my home home - the one with unconditional love waiting for me. The next day would be my mom's birthday and I couldn't believe I hadn't planned on going home to spend her birthday weekend with her. I tried to get back to work but I was completely distracted by this homesickness. I don't get it too often. After all, I was just there in August. The desire was strong enough I decided to look up the cost of a ticket. 

It was within the realm of justification.

But I went back to work. 

Still distracted.

Around 2 I called my mom. She wasn't there. I didn't want to tell her I was thinking of going home but if I was going to get serious about this I had to make sure she wasn't planning on flitting off to Idaho or St. George for the weekend.

So I called my dad. I asked him what he was doing for my mom's birthday weekend and asked for suggestions for gifts for my mom. Then made an excuse to get off the phone.

I refreshed my flight search. The flight was scheduled to leave Newark at 5:20 pm. It was now 2:15. 

My closest work friend was in Chicago getting ready for a marathon but I needed a voice outside of my head to assure me I wasn't being crazy.

So I walked down the hall and talked it out with a co-worker. And got very excited about it and by 2:30 I had purchased the ticket, shut down my computer and walked out of the office. 

Out on the street I was weaving through the crowded sidewalks in the unseasonably hot sun staring at my cell phone wondering if I should tell someone of my plan and if so, who. 

I nearly ran over another co-worker who was returning from a recruiting lunch with a student I had interviewed. I shook everyone's hand and said something strange like "I'm off." I'm sure I looked slightly crazy as I tried to think through what I should throw in a suitcase and calculated what time I had to leave my apartment and whether I should take the train or a cab or call a car to pick me up . . . 

I decided to call a long time friend, one who will from here on out be termed my ever-reliable cohort in all things stealth. We started conspiring and hatching mystery plans and practicing our drive-by skills back in our teenage years. I knew she would help me formulate a good surprise attack. She readily agreed to pick me up at the airport.

I arrived home just before 3 and could not get the air conditioner on fast enough. I was so hot. I started pulling clothes out of my closet and then realized I had no idea what the weather was like and guessed it wasn't pushing 90 with humidity there. I was right, forecast was for snow. 

Hmmm, remember those two things I needed to accomplish for the weekend? Laundry and winter clothes . . . . yeah, I really didn't have much other than a few transition sweaters and I didn't have a single pair of clean underwear. So I decided to take the laundry with me.

I walked out of my apartment to run down the hall to my storage unit to grab my suitcase and possibly a couple of sweaters. When I heard my door latch shut, I realized I didn't unlock the door. 

Yup, I locked myself out.

Luckily I was able to retrieve a key from the doorman after running down 6 flights of stairs (not helping the overheated issue). I overpacked. I had no plan. I just needed clothes. And shoes. And if I'm taking a few things to wash, I might as well take enough for a whole load, right? Right. And maybe I should take a couple of wii games in case my sister wants to play. And a book or two for the flight. And I'll just throw a couple of things in my purse for a snack. And oh, I should take my Peru book so my sister and I can look at that. And maybe (!) I'll go for a little hike. Should take my hikers. Oh, that would require socks. Maybe a dress for church. And my trench coat. But I don't want to haul that on the plane so maybe another jacket.

Yeah. Not my favorite way to pack. 

My goal was to get out of the house by 330. At 330 I was standing in my kitchen inhaling some food so I wouldn't starve on the cross-country flight. I then threw a bag of cashews in my already bulging purse and was on the corner hailing a cab at 340. 

I wanted the cab to take me to Newark. He wouldn't. So I settled on taking the train. And I've already told you how that portion of the trip (HA!) went.

What I didn't tell you is my train left at 417 and my flight was leaving Newark at 520. Yeah, I should have been at the airport when my train was still sitting in Penn Station. I was nervous but kept telling myself there was no way I could miss it at this point.

I assumed it would only take 20 minutes. And it did. 

What I forgot to factor into my crazy timing calculations was the time it would take to ride the crazy slow shuttle to my terminal. As soon as I was released from the Disney-like Airtrain, I ran with all my junk. I rain up stairs. I ran down stairs. And I remained fully upright. Then I reached the security line. 

It was long. 

And it was 5 pm. 

And the departures sign was flashing "BOARDING".

So I did something I've never done. I marched to the front of the line and started asking people if they minded if I went ahead since my flight was boarding and leaving in 20 minutes. 

People were nice. I'm sure I looked pretty crazed by then. I was still sweating.

I walked onto the plane just in time for them to squeeze into a window seat next to a very large man (luckily it was the exit row so there was leg room) and sit on the tarmac for an hour waiting to take off. 


In flight I concocted a plan while watching episodes from the first season of Pushing Daisies (please watch that show if you aren't already - love it). 

Amanda picked me up at the airport and we caught up on the drive to my parent's house. As we turned into their circle, I called my mom and asked if she had received my package. She said no. I told her it was left on the porch and she sent my dad out to look. 

And there I was running up the driveway yelling surprise! as I dropped my phone on the driveway and left Amanda sitting in the car with my luggage and the door open. I wish I had taken a photo of my dad's face. It was great. My mom heard the commotion and was upstairs and at the door only a few seconds later. Hugs all around and we spent the evening chatting in the living room with Amanda as our guest until we released her from surprise duty to return to her family.

My dad was anxious to tell my sister. But I wouldn't let him. I wanted to lure her down the next morning and surprise her too. While my plan worked, it took much longer than anticipated. I made my mom these pumpkin pancakes while we waited for my sister to wander down to the south end of the valley.

The best part of convincing my sister to come down is I called her that morning and asked what she was doing for our mom that day. She said she was having brunch with her and then going shopping. I told her I want to go and she said - you should! We have those conversations a lot. So she obviously didn't expect me to be standing in our parent's kitchen a couple of hours later:
We had a great girl's day. After our late breakfast, we set off for the mall - South Town Mall. I hadn't been there in ages and memories of hanging around a certain mid-mall cart selling odds and ends where Amanda worked in high school at the then-nearly empty mall flooded over me. Now, many of you may love a day at the mall. Me, not so much. And not so much for my sister and mom either. We start out with grand ideas but tend to fizzle. We have zero shopping stamina. I can walk all of New York City on a Saturday but you throw a little shopping in there and I am completely drained within the hour. Not sure why that is.

But in celebration of my mom's birthday, we pulled ourselves together for the cause - the cause being new clothes for my mom. Having watched a lot of What Not to Wear, my sister and I felt more than qualified to select a new wardrobe for our mother. We filled a dressing room with a variety of outfits and gave our mother a make-over. And you will understand how much fun this is if you have a mother like mine who has always insisted on purchasing clothes for you instead of buying anything for herself. And as we all understand, it is much easier to select items when you have honest opinions being offered.

Our stamina flagged after the first department store. We tried rejuvenating ourselves with an orange julius but that can only take you so far. The shopping spree was a success but ended with three exhausted women dragging their bags to the parking lot. And by the way, what is with the over-heated malls? Just because the temp drops a few degrees outside does not mean you should crank the heat up to sweat box. 

That night we went to dinner at the closest place that didn't have a line because due to afternoon scheduling hiccups, we were all about two to three hours past our desired feeding time. Here is my mom and me - notice her snazzy new ensemble (the semi-matching stripes and vests were not purposely coordinated)!
I had to post this picture of my dad - I took it because he was standing in front of a Ute sign (GO UTES!). He is not normally a fan so I was proud to see him coming around.
And this was our dinner. All 20+ pounds of it. I love barbeque. I feel like I shouldn't but I do. That is my sister with her fiance, both eager to dig in.
And here is my sister and me - practicing our self-portrait skills for our upcoming vacation.
The next morning, I was the one to get a surprise:
SNOW!! Sure, the weather guy said it would snow. But the forecast was for snow on Saturday and once there was snow in the mountains I figured that was that. I found it beautiful and curled up on the couch to read while parents went to church and I waited for my sister to arrive (I got in trouble for waking her up too early at 858 am).
The snow cleared up pretty quickly, but started falling again in the afternoon:
Then I made a birthday cake (yes, it was a day late but after our massive bbq dinner, we needed a day to digest): a chocolate tort with pumpkin cheesecake filling . . . yeah, I made this one up.
I admit, it was a bit over ambitious. You shouldn't ever try to layer a thick, heavy batter on top of a thinner batter. The top one doesn't spread very easily. But it all worked out - except for the edges that didn't slide out of the pan as planned.
To go along with my overly ambitious cake, I decided to top it with ganache and ginger whipped cream. But I decided to make the ginger whipped cream with fresh ginger . . . . here it is making a syrup with sugar and water - little ginger pieces simmering away. It is very tasty, just time consuming.
After the ginger was finished simmering, I spread it out to dry in some sugar. Seriously, these are yummy. I put them in trail mix or in cookies or whatever. If you like ginger . . . try it!
During the lengthy cake preparation process, my sister entertained herself with my camera:
I'll let you guess which butt belongs to me and which is hers. I'll give you a hint. Hers was a self-portrait . . . 
In case you are wondering, I have no qualms in posting these. If she chose to take them, she can live with them being shared . . . this is my favorite:
FINALLY, the cake is ready. . . . isn't it pretty?
Not my favorite finished look but it tasted good. And my mom was happy . . .
Here it is topped with some of that ginger whipped cream and a few candied ginger pieces. Delicious!


Tiffany said...

Awwww. Having met your mama, I can totally understand running home to be there for her birthday. Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Emily said...

This is so awesome!!! I get homesick a lot, too. I wish I could take off for home at a moment's notice... maybe I should!

meg said...

Being spontaneous is so much fun! Looks like you had a great time visiting.

I hate the mall too. With every fiber in my being.

KimmyGoat said...

This makes me happy and makes me miss my own family (that's only a measly 4 hours away, but still)! Way to be spontaneous!

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