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NEW Get the Picture
Under a crisp, sunny summer sky, serious faces study programs, debate odds and circle sure winners in the racing form. There are a few minutes to post as my family mills around, each one with an ink pen at the ready. It's our annual Uncle George Day at the horse races. This group of about 20 is focused on how to parlay two dollars into two hundred. Everyone, that is except me. My winning ticket involves capturing this moment with one snap of my digital camera. Corralling chickens is easier. 

NEW Reeling in the Deals
The saying goes: It’s OK to be thrifty, but not cool to be cheap. It’s a delicate distinction to draw for this daughter of a single mother who didn’t buy anything unless it was on sale or she had a coupon for it. Glorious was my mom’s smile on those rare occasions when she managed to get both ends of the deal working—on sale and with a coupon. The ride home from the store was happy for a then second-grade girl who may have scored new Barbie clothes, Scooter Pies for her lunch pail or a shiny pair of black patent leather shoes.

NEW From the Kitchen of…
It’s not fancy. It uses five ingredients, and you won’t find it in the Joy of Cooking. Still, “Aunt Sadye’s Mac & Cheese” is the #1 most requested meal in my home. I’ve served it over and over since my sister Sadye first shared it with me years ago. It had been her son, Thomas’s favorite dinner. I know the recipe by heart, yet I pull out the card--tattered and oil-stained--and read the directions written in her hand.
Eager to help a young bride on the road to becoming a good cook, my sis had tucked a blank recipe card inside each invitation to my bridal shower. Along with dishtowels, waffle irons and food processors, guests supplied me with their family’s treasured recipes.

NEW  You’re Embarrassing Me!
Most people think teenagers worry about getting a date to the prom, scoring a goal in soccer or passing calculus. Not true. What keeps teens up at night is wondering when the next mom-sponsored embarrassing moment will arrive. It’s easy to be a source of chagrin to my kids. In the right setting, everything I do (including breathing the same air) can be considered embarrassing. Simple reminders about taking a jacket when it’s cold, asking what the movie is rated or the name of a new girlfriend can qualify for sincere eye rolls. 

NEW  How My Garden Grows
Like many moms, I took time to garden with my kids, Shawn, Jake and Seth. We planted sunflowers in early spring and watched them skyrocket past each young boy’s head by the time summer arrived. I’ve tried daffodils, tulips and sweet peas--all flowers guaranteed to grow easily for the novice gardener. I also dabbled in spearmint and basil. No luck. I have had great success with rosemary, but I think that’s due to nature, not my nurture. My healthiest plant is silk. 
I used to brag about my success in growing shamrocks. Then the neighborhood florist told me they were really weeds. That’s when I gave up embracing horticulture with any passion. I’ve seen Ireland’s 40 shades of green and my thumb doesn’t qualify for even the lightest hue.

NEW  Piecing Things Together
Forrest Gump compared life to a box of chocolates. I’m a chocolate lover (especially when it’s covering nougat), but I disagree. I think life is more like a box of jigsaw puzzle pieces—1,000 lopsided segments, odd-shaped bits and unfamiliar parts. Some pieces are smooth and easy to recognize; others are downright jagged and unwieldy. You know it’s going to take awhile to figure out which side is up. Like many moments in life, puzzles start out a jumbled mess, but with consistent effort, piece-by-piece, it all comes together. Fun, frustration and unexpected surprises intertwine as the fuzzy picture comes into focus. 
I’ve been a jigsaw puzzle aficionado since I was a teen. You’ll find one--in various stages of completion--atop my dining room table. I keep it corralled on a sheet of foam core board for easy relocation to a coffee table when it’s time to eat. Visitors--family and friends—are familiar with my loosely enforced 10-piece minimum. Before kicking up their feet, getting a snack out of the fridge or changing the TV channel, they’re invited to make a puzzle contribution. After all, we’re in this together.

NEW  Look Son, No Hands
With a controller in one hand and a spindly book of directions in the other, I’d spent the better part of Saturday morning failing to unlock the secrets of motion-controlled video games. Touted as a great way to infuse aerobic exercise into our daily routine, I’d bought the system for my husband, Nick’s birthday so we could bowl, river raft or score a goal in the comfort of our home.
I pushed every button and highlighted every TV screen option. No luck. Nick tried to help, but we both grew up in the generation that thought Pong and Space Invaders were futuristic. As I coached, Nick stood in front of the system’s motion-detector, resembling an amateur airman flagging down planes. He swung his right arm up, then his left arm out. He might have gotten a bit of a workout, but none of his gyrations got the console to perform. 



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