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12 Jul

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My grandfather died last week at the age of 91. I count among my greatest gifts my relationships with each of my grandparents. Grandpa Joe was the last living grandparent I had, and it’s difficult to imagine my life without him.

Most summers, my siblings and I would happily ship off to Grandma Ann and Papa Joe’s house, where we would spend the first leg of our summer vacation. I hold the memories of these trips so closely that their physicality remains with me–the sharpness of just-cut grass on my skin as I rolled down the front hill, the smooth pine of the wooden swingset he built for us by hand, and the cold sensation of rainbow sherbert against my teeth after church on a hot Saturday night.

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I have often said of my grandfather that they “just don’t make them like they used to.” He was a member of the first graduating class of King’s College, and would go on to work there for the next 70 years. He was a man who did the right thing without so much as a thought toward cutting corners for convenience or popularity. His contributions to the community where he spent his entire life are too many to count, but among them is a long history of service to his church, alma mater, and country.

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His was an absolutely unconditional love of and loyalty to his wife, so much so that he often joked he would list the slides of he and my grandmother’s “trip of a lifetime” to Ireland among his assets in his will. In 51 years of marriage they never spent more than 3 consecutive nights apart; when my grandmother was helping to take care of a sick family member, he would drive 45 minutes to visit her through a screen window and then drive back home, as he had a cold and couldn’t risk passing it to my cousin. I once joked that my grandmother’s only downfall had been that she didn’t like beets. He looked at me over his glasses and said simply, “Your grandmother had no flaws.”  I knew that, in his eyes, she truly hadn’t.

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Even as the world’s most upstanding citizen, he had a wry sense of humor and a wonderful capacity for sentimentality.  When I mailed him an absurd glamour shot of my brother and I snorkeling in Sharm El Sheikh, he emailed me in response, “Thanks for the great snapshot, Chrissy. That’ll make the wall.”  He loved all sports (except the NBA), often bragged that he had been diagnosed with a “football fetish,” and had one word for Philadelphia sports fans: “crude.” He loved sweets unabashedly, and was known to meet a dessert menu with a joyful “Oh, boy!” The first Christmas after my grandmother died, I gave him a box engraved with her name for his keepsakes, and he called me later to tell me that it was the best gift he had ever been given.

EK_0015DSC00675_edited_1There are a million stories I could tell– that he taught me how to bowl, listened to me read Charlotte’s Web in its entirety over the phone for my 2nd grade read-a-thon, and once brought my husband to “a little place with great chicken noodle soup” called Bob Evans. I have the lucky distinction of getting him to pose for his first selfie, taken during the visit we revived our root beer float tradition after a two-decade hiatus.IMG-20130908-WA0000And, hilariously, he was wearing the same shirt 4 years later when I introduced him to Facetime. He was less impressed by technology served without a side of ice cream.IMG_7972But his life spoke for itself — the longer I go on here, the more I realize I’ll never capture how extraordinary he was. A friend shared the idea that we only die when our work is done, and my grandfather left this world complete with i’s dotted, t’s crossed, and ledger balanced. I’ll think of him often– in small moments like when I see a beautiful cardinal or blue jay, and in large moments when I hear his voice in my head as my moral compass. It’s terribly sad to know I’ll never visit him on Cherry Lane again, but I take some solace in knowing that the lessons I learned from my grandparents in the past will serve me well into my future and that, one of these days, I’ll get to make memories with my own grandkids as happy as the ones I have with my grandparents.

If, like me, you just can’t get enough Grandpa Joe, you can read his obituary here.

 

 

 

A Blueberry Treat Whose Name We Shall Not Mention

30 Jun

Some things that I love, in no particular order: carbohydrates that defy definition, blueberries, and GingerKef’s cousin. So when I got the chance to bake a blueberry kind-of-cake/kind-of-bread WITH PresidentKef HIMSELF, I knew it was going to be a good night.

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PresidentKef and I go way back to the early days of this blog, when he was just a young man searching for Emerald City and I was a young, imprudent woman living on Lincoln Rd. Since then, we’ve been basically #BFF.

PresidentKef came into town last week and requested some time in kitchen with Kef, and I was only too happy to oblige. This recipe comes from the 1940s, and has an obnoxiously-appropriate-of-the-era name to boot: Blueberry Boy Bait. Blech. Good to know that in the 60 years between this recipe’s publication and the Neptunes’ production of “Milkshake,” America held true to the ideal that a hefty amount of saturated fat and sugar would snag you a suitable life partner.

Anyway- PresidentKef and I had a blast whipping this guy up. Here’s a mini lesson on when to be precise in baking and when to just go with your gut:

Sadly, there is no chocolate in this recipe– but there is a bunch of butter, sugar, and gluten. I’ve made this two or three times for large groups and it has always been met with demands for an encore appearance (but somehow, not one suitor… hmph). It’s “cake” in the way that coffee cake is, which is to say somewhere in between bread and cake (cread? brake?). Whatever you call it, it’s awesome, and I think you should make it.

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A Blueberry Cake Whose Name We Shall Not Mention

Ingredients

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 16 TBS unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first)
  • 1/2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 13×9 pan (pyrex or metal).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a stand or electric mixer on medium high, beat butter and sugars until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated. Scrape down bowl between egg additions.
  3. Reduce speed to medium, then beat in one-third of flour mixture. Once incorpated, beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture.
  4. Toss blueberries in about 1 tsp of flour (optional). Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  5. Make the topping: scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter.
  6. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan for at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Who run the world? Girls.

9 Jun

Now that school is over, the question pretty much everyone is asking is, “What are you doing with all your free time?” I’d love to say that I’m taking up a new hobby or finally cleaning out my closet… but, mostly, I’ve been sitting around watching YouTube videos of girls who kick ass. I’ll distill my favorites here:

Kicking ass at kindness:

Kicking ass at taking down obstacles:

Kicking monster ass:

Actually, kicking pretty much all the asses:

 

Girl mother-effing power. And that’s really all I have to say about that.

Some Wise Words From Other People

5 Jan

While the rest of the blogosphere is writing about goals and resolutions for the coming year, your girl Kef is just trying to keep her head above water. School, work, and self care are each their own full-time job, and I’ve been working overtime at each of them for the last year or so. I’m grateful to have a job I love, to be in the LAST SIX MONTHS of my NP program (#praiseHim!), and to be injury-free enough to run… but none of those wonderful truths make me want to rip my hair out any less on those days when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels (and not in the kicking-ass-on-a-seated-climb-to-your-college-playlist kind of way).

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Since my life is chock full milestones this year–finally being done with grad school, running my first full marathon, transitioning to a new role at work– I’m not stressing about goals set arbitrarily to the new calendar year. I love the idea some people have to choose a word and pursue it as the theme for the year, but we allllllll know I am a woman of many words and could never choose just ONE. So, instead, I’m choosing two phrases to get me through the tough 6 months I have ahead of me:

1) Goals are often simple, but never easy.

The tremendous Kelly Roberts wrote these words earlier this week on the Oiselle blog. I love this mostly because it is an elegant way to state the obvious: the difficult part isn’t figuring out what needs to be done, it’s actually breaking inertia and doing the work. The path to our desired result is pretty clear, if only we get out of our own way and do what we already know is required. Simple to say, never easy to do.

2) There is no secret. Keep going.nosecret

This is a tried-and-true Oiselle maxim I have always loved. It’s easy to feel like everyone else has a vat of the magic sauce that makes everything fall into place effortlessly–especially when they only post the clean-house/best-lighting/perfect-pace picture on social media. This phrase is a reminder that there is, actually, no secret, and that everybody else is in the same boat. As the good witch said, “you’ve had the power all along, my dear”–you just have to keep going.

So that’s my story for the next little while, and I’m sticking to it, whether I like it or not. What are your goals/resolutions/words/phrases for 2017?

 

22 May

Chrissy grandmaYesterday, this world lost one of the greats: my sassy, vivacious, tough-as-nails Grandma Rita.

Her love of dogs, gambling, and gossip (though she maintained she was merely “sharing information”) are well documented, but my most cherished memories of her will be how much she supported my writing–she read every word I ever published in The Hoya, bought every copy of Newsweek in Sugar Notch the summer I worked there (even when I didn’t have a byline), and always laughed at the jokes no one else found funny on this little blog. Even after I became a nurse and writing was no longer in my career path, there was almost never a phone call that went by without her reminding me, “You are a tremendous writer, you know,” and then, a crescendoing giggle, “And funny as hell.”

She was also the first person outside of the immediate family to meet MrKef, and I’ll always be grateful for how immediately and warmly she embraced him as part of the family. They bonded over paczkis and poodles, and he was an admitted and unabashed favorite of hers.

Here we are on our sort-of-secret first wedding day with her, because I couldn’t imagine getting married without her:

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And while I could go on and on about her, I’ll leave you with this absolutely-typical email she once wrote me, after she saw on the Facebook that I had gone to a shooting range, subject line: Annie Oakley:

chrissy—-so pleased that you have taken up the fine art of target shooting.  I told Jeannie and she was thrilled–she and I in our younger years were on rifle teams we competed every sunday.  Jeannie was a sharpshooter and all the guys wanted her on their team.  she never missed a target…….. she was one lady not to tangle with.  It is a great way to spend a day/////  hope all is well with you….the puppy is teething and driving this ole lady nuts.  To date he has eaten/chewed my new boots , the electric wire on my fan,one of Rose!s throw blankets last night he was very quiet, I was thrilled, after awhile I checked him he had my cell phone, chewed all the leather from the case top and bottom===we checked he did not make any calls.  Have a great day.  Love you                       rita and ryley

(Almost The Last) Wedding Wednesday: Reception Kings and Prancing Dads

20 Jan

Today we’re gonna finish up the party pics I couldn’t get posted last week, next week it’s all about the amazing work MamaKef put into this life event, and then its honeymoon in Croatia time. Sharing all these fun wedding moments has been great, but I’m ready to move on. (Part I ; Part II ; Part III ; Part IV)

First things first, I have to crown a King of the Reception. I’d like to think everyone had a great time at our little fiesta, but there was one guest who stood out in a sea of really fun people as the person having the MOST fun: RussianBearKef himself! There was not one single scene the photographer caught without him in, having a blast. A smattering of the many snapshots of one of my dearest friends getting down with pretty much every woman I know:

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Impossibly, we have known each other for TEN years– so because I can, I think we need a before-and-after comparison:

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I rather think we’re getting better with age (and less Russian Bear!).

It was an extremely tough decision. The runner up goes to SummitKef, for cheering us on SO wholeheartedly as we fed each other beignets and baklava. The whole photo series is priceless, but here’s just one to wet your whistle:

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Back to the party:  the FamiliaKef really knows how it’s done:1503

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FINALLY, JetSet learns how to Wobble.

While my family was dancing, MrKef and co were up to some very-usual antics

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#posselove #brandeis

Naturally, FlailKef, SpeakToSomeoneAboutThatKef and I were picking some apples and putting them in our pocket:

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It was just a room full of dancing fools!

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The most beautiful couple on the planet, clearly.

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I think this is me “dancing” to Makossa

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Countless cool points were won and lost that night.

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Partying like we should have in 1999.

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Things reached a fever pitch when MamaKef’s cocktail hour props made their way to the dancefloor:

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Not in a frame, but they’re two of my most beloved, so I’m going Blogzilla and throwing it in there, anyway.

In case there was ANY wonder whether this whole night had been worth it, a miracle happened. Our last song of the night was “New York, NY.” Everyone was swaying in a circle, minding their own business and belting it out along with the original Bl’italian when…

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… SUDDENLY MRKEF’S DAD AND MY DAD ENTERED THE CENTER OF THE CIRLCE HOLDING HANDS AND PRANCING:

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It cannot be understated how happy this made me– my father does NOT dance, does not like attention, and does not touch other humans. My reaction was pretty much the same as KPopKef’s, captured wonderfully in the background to the right.

Once we got over the shock, everyone piled through the dads to form a bridge.

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1589 I honestly think this is the happiest moment of my whole life. I bemoaned the process of putting together a wedding for a price below the Federal Poverty Line for an entire year, but  I would happily pay twice the cost of the wedding just for this amazing memory!

Beautiful MakeUp and Emergency Hair Touchups: Colleen the Stylist
Amazing photography provided by: RMN Photography
Venue and gracious coordinators of logistics: Key Bridge Marriott
White dress the bride could live with: BHLDN
Alterations that kept the bride IN said dress: G2G Couture
Perfect party music played by: DJ StereoFaith

Extravaganza 2015: Sparkly Selfie Sticks & Seating Arrangements

4 Jan

Welcome to a new year in Kefland. Sadly, my time management skills have not improved since 2015 and I do not have any resolutions to rectify that, so we’re going with a quickie post full of pictures today with the promise for some yummy recipes later this week.

The FamilyKef and our surrogate family, CafeKef and ChampagneOnlyKef, love Christmas, and we love an extravaganza. For more on both of those things, read this post and this post.

As 2015 was the year of the weddings, this was the first Extravaganza where all our spouses joined in, and they did so each with their own zeal:

Jimmy2.0Kef with his rifle/gift

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MrKef with his 1920s-style toothache remedy

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and KimmieKef with her usual cuteness.

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Now, one would think that the major life events and additions that happened over the last year would have been all the change one family could handle. But then, MamaKef realllly rocked the boat by… SETTING THE DINING ROOM TABLE FOR SEATING, INSTEAD OF BUFFETING. This was a scandal no one saw coming, and so we all waited patiently for MamaKef to provide each of us with seating assignments.IMG_5377

I’d say it was dinner as usual, but I have a feeling most people’s Christmas Dinners don’t include a riling version of “Chrissy the Christmas Mouse” (featuring ChampagneOnlyKef on the spoons) and the Queen Mama herself drinking a Pumpkin Pie Vodka cocktail at the table.

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This one is blurry because ChampagneOnlyKef was just THAT enthusiastic about the spoons.

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Hot Mama– ow OWWWW.

So then it was gift… I mean, NO GIFT… time, which of course meant there were some gifts. ChampagneOnlyKef and CafeKef totally took the cake by giving MrKef and JetSetKef those magic towels that come in a teeny little package and expand to reveal their shape. Suddenly, it was 1995 again and there were two small boys in our midst:

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To round out the night, CafeKef (who is looking hotter than ever), whipped out her sparkly selfie stick and we took some group shots. Here’s a blurry shot of both the magical woman and her magnificent wand:

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We tried to recreate our first-ever Ganza Group Photo, but we weren’t particularly impressed with the result. For posterity’s sake, here’s a comparison of life  BSS and ASS (before selfie stick and after selfie stick):

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I’ll let you guess which one is which.

We decided a venue change was necessary, as only JetSet and MrKef had the skin tone to withstand that fluorescent lighting. We managed to get the lovely shot below, which I think is really quite nice.

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But, of course, there were some bloopers along the way:

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And that, my friends, was Extravaganza 2015! I’m sure I missed some important moments, and I’m sure my lovely family will remind me in the comments below.

Later this week: champagne punch, amazing eggplant, and a cake that will knock your socks off.

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