Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wear your AFS shirt day

Tomorrow I hope to run into someone I don’t know, have never met and know I have something in common. I want to walk up to said stranger and have a very exciting laughter filled reminiscence of years past. Of an experience we didn’t share, but forged a bond among strangers.

Because…you see…tomorrow many, many AFS returnees will be wearing a shirt that ties them to an organization. All the shirts will be different, but the three letters “A",”F” and “S” will identify this stranger as a friend.

So tomorrow, look for me at Reagan International or around Washington, DC in a bright green t-shirt.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Why I hate summer…

Ok so that is a lie. I love summer. Swimming, ice cream, gardens, being in the sun. It’s a wondrously glorious time of year, especially after a Buffalo winter. Yet, some part of me  hates the “adult” summer. The one that doesn’t give you two and a half months to be outside as much as you want. The one that doesn't let you go camping at the spur of the moment, but requires it to be scheduled [shudder].

This summer of mine, rather, makes me cram all of that summery goodness into a pitiful 48 hour weekend—a weekend that might be rainy, eliminating one of those days to bask in the sun. An “adult” summer makes cutting the lawn less of a chore and more of an excuse to escape to the outside.

But those 48 hours of my “adult” summer each week are to be enjoyed.

This week they were filled with a few hours of home repairs (ick) while it was too rainy to be outside, but out came the sun as did the…

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Daiquiris and the…


Fresh lettuce and zucchini from the garden (the zucchini was consumed before the camera even had a chance) and the…


Chicken barbeque and the…

018 019 021

022Family picnics and the…
010 - Copy 011 013 014 

     POOL TIME!!!







I guess I can deal with “adult” summer if all my 48 hours are as enjoyable as those from this weekend.


If you want to know how to make the amazing daiquiris a la Giroux, guess you’ll have to ask. In fact that are so good, I usually don’t even use run—kiddo friendly.

The next 48 of my “adult” summer will be completing a conference in DC, so let’s see what we can do with them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Soldier has come home

Today’s blog was to be about daiquiris, but driving home I passed Amigone Funeral Home and a much more important topic became obvious. Lining the entrance and street in front of the Funeral Home was an honor guard posting the red, white and blue that represent our freedom. Within the funeral home a young man, 21-years of age, is laid out—a young man who gave his life defending our freedom. A young man with just one month left of his tour in Afghanistan. A young man who left a family behind to mourn.

Serwinowski pic

Timothy Serwinowski is a stranger to me. The only things I know of him I learned from news articles following his death, but that doesn’t make his loss any less significant. Whenever I hear of the loss of a soldier, no matter what age, I am saddened. For those of us from Western New York, this is our second loss in a matter of only a few month.

Facing each death striking so close to my doorstep, I can’t help but remember how lucky I am. How lucky I am that we never got that phone call saying my father wasn’t coming home. How lucky I am that I get to share the stories and experiences of my father’s tour in Iraq. How lucky I am that although my heart would catch when I hear their were more casualties in Iraq over the radio, we never had to plan a funeral.

Today when I think of this young Marine, I am saddened. I can only imagine the loss this family feels. I can only hope that when they look back on their memories of their son they feel a sense of pride that he died defending our country, doing what he fell was right, giving his 100%.

(click to read the Buffalo News article)

There is no better tribute to a fallen soldier that the lyrics presented in the song “The Soldier Has Come Home” by Barry Sadler:

Lay the green sod on me / Carve my name in stone / Lay the green sod on me / The soldier has come home

Don't mourn for me, my darling / Don't cry when I am gone / Don't mourn for me, my darling / The soldier will come home

My friends have gone before me / And laid their tired bodies down / My friends have gone before me / To prepare the resting ground

Let me go to sleep now / To march and fight no more / Let me go to sleep now / I'm tired, my body's sore

So lay the green sod on me / Put the wreath upon my stone / Lay the green sod on me / The soldier has come home / (the soldier has come home)

May God bless this Marine and may he comfort those that were left behind.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The end of an era


With that diploma ends a quarter of a century of Knoxes at St. Leo’s school…Do you see that people?  A QUARTER OF A CENTURY! Being that there are eight of us kids that’s not quite so hard to imagine, I guess…

But today my baby brother became a high schooler. I remember when he was cute and little—hey Peter! What happened? (I have some blackmail pictures of that cute and little Peter that will come out of the archives someday…mwahaha)

DSCN1260  DSCN1265  







Congratulations, Peter!


There are not many others who traveled through the years with us. Below is a picture of my parents and one of the two teachers at the school that survived the Knox era at St. Leo’s. He taught us all. And there isn’t a student out there that doesn’t appreciate Mr.. W.


Now on to the next chapter….

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father’s Day

Every year for Father’s Day my father gets to request his meal of choice. And unlike my mom who says anything she doesn’t have to think of, he’s not shy about holding back. So this year it was spare ribs, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and strawberry shortcake.

Corn on the cob takes a bit of time to boil all that water for ALL THAT corn (we’re feeding 11 mostly all grown people here)…but not hard.

Baked potatoes (in the oven because there’s not quite enough room on the grill)…not hard. Potatoes aren’t hard when there’s no peeling involve—I hate peeling.

Shortcake…not hard takes a bit of time, but Sarah made that last night.

But Spareribs…let me tell you about spare ribs. My mother asked me what I learned about cooking for a large family tonight (as if I’ve never cooked for the family before). I told her “Never make spareribs.” Seriously people, they aren’t that hard to make. But have you ever tried to parboil three racks of ribs—and well “meated” ribs at that? No? Well don’t. We took a roaster, put it across two burners and cyclically rotated the racks of ribs (now cut in half) so they are exposed to the heat equally. I made a mess splashing water everywhere—once even putting out both pilot lights and relighting the burner required a match.

But all in all, they were delicious. My father enjoyed them, and the work made the gift of HIS dinner all the more special.

Dinner was followed by a rousing game of KanJam. Of course the parents were into it. My Grandpa even stuck around for an hour or so to watch.

Then the family migrated to the Island for some pool time. Some loud, splashing, screaming pool time. And—one of the reasons my father is so cool—my father climbed on the ladder (that Mark delivered in his truck—thanks Mark) and checked out my gutters. It’s Father’s day and he’s climbing on my roof…


(I can’t believe I didn’t take any pictures.)

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why AFS? Why me?

I had to dig into the vaults to help answer these questions.

Well it all began in 1999 when a 17-year-old got on a plane and flew far away to this country…

Map picture

And drove down a few streets like this…

Paraguay streets

To this house…

Paraguay home

To live with these people…

Paraguay grandparents 

Juanita and Guillermo in a mandioca field

To go to this school…

Paraguay school

And make friends with these people…

Paraguay Kokis fla Paraguay schoolmates

And that was the beginning of the best thing that ever happened to me. Perhaps someday it maybe topped by the birth of children, but until that day comes, this is pretty much it. It completely changed my life. I went on to study Spanish and International Relations and now speak Spanish everyday in my job at an Immigration Law Office.

If you’ve gone on an exchange, you completely understand the transformation the exchange experience brings.

If you’re thinking of going on exchange, I have two words for you “DO IT.” They money you pay will not even come close to covering the value that you get from this experience, and that expense you will earn at least twofold in college scholarships. It’s the most worthwhile experience ever.

And if you are reading this and you are past the years of being an exchange student, think about bringing one into your home. The impact you will have on a students life cannot be counted.

Until my next post…chau!

(Feel free to ask me questions, or follow me. Thanks for reading!)

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Welcome Visitors!

By the way, I’ve noticed there’s been an upsurge in my blog readership. Yay! And I know many of you are coming via AFS…Welcome!

I’ll post a little about my AFS experience shortly. I just enjoyed the outside too much and now it’s late.

Again welcome!

What did I do this Thursday?

I skipped out on choir practice. I needed time to be home, not grumpy—content.

And so I swam, I grilled and then I roasted marshmallows, by myself, because hubby dear had no patience—or is too cool for roasting marshmallows.May2010 003 May2010 004 May2010 005 May2010 006

Hope you enjoyed your evening as much as I did!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tranquilizers and Tranquility

Today was one of those days when I just wanted a drink the moment I walked in the door.  And I’m not talking about Kool-aid. I’m thinking straight shots here…and if I thought that’d help, I’d be S***-faced right now.

Instead my plan was to do something physical. Our pool’s ready-chemicals are balanced, the pool is cleaned. I was going to go swimming. Or perhaps, I could work on my flower garden. I have plants. I need to re-weed my flower bed and then put the plants in. Pure physical labor.

The Island had other plans…

A storm cloud hung over my house—literally and figuratively. If I jumped into the pool I’m sure lightening would have begun. And when I picked up the flowers it started to pour. So much for that. Weeding would’ve not been so successful.

So I returned to the house, stared at the mountain of dirty dishes and sighed. By the way, my super awesome husband took care of that mountain of dishes. I made dinner, the sun came out. I thought about going out to my garden—the clouds came back along with the raindrops.

So my intention to take pictures of my super awesome vegetable garden to post was deterred by the rain. So instead I will tell you about the variety (influence by hubby dear) of plants in my garden. There are the “normal” plants that I have grown in a garden all of my life. There’s leaf lettuce (so yummy) and millions of green onions (my aunts bought me planting bulbs in slight excess-but never fear they will not be wasted), beans, carrots, green bell peppers, zucchini and yellow summer squash, tomatoes and pumpkins. Then for fun and variety we planted Cantaloupe, eggplant (I’m not sure how to really make a successful meal with it, but I will learn), spinach, various other colored bell peppers and lastly hot peppers. Yes, more than we can eat, but that has been Marc’s driving force behind the garden. He wanted to plant hot peppers, and so we did. Ironically they are not even in the garden, but in a planter on the patio so they don’t cross-pollinate with the bell peppers. Someday, should the clouds lift, you will get to see my green, vibrant garden. (I know you can barely tolerate the suspense.)

And then there are my various flower beds. I have two others besides the aforementioned weed ridden one, plus the front that I am in various stages of planting. The one (needing weeding) has a few gladiolas and oriental lilies in various stages of growth. But the farthest backyard bed I put in, dug up sod and all is the most complete. Full of perennials struggling to make their presence known, a few gladiolas and annuals for color, some herbs and rhubarb.

Yep, rhubarb—it’s my greenery. But something is eating my rhubarb. Not a rabbit, as previously discussed they have not been sighted yet. But a bug—my father tells me it’s impossible, my mother tells me nothing eats rhubarb, but the fact of the matter is something is eating the leaves off my rhubarb. So I powdered them and I wait…let’s hope it works so sometime this summer I can write about making rhubarb sauce, crisp, pie…mmmm….

So here’s to hoping I will not need “tranquilizers” at the end of tomorrow, and I will be able to let off some steam and make some progress in my garden at the end of the day. If not, someone please have the “Kool-aid” ready at the door.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

10 years already?

So today I met with a small group of my high school graduating class to run through the details for our 10 year reunion.

It’s a weird feeling, the ten year mark. It doesn’t seem like we’ve been out of high for ten years, but at the same time it feels like we have been graduated and moved along for so much longer.

Going over the list of names of the Sweet Home class of 2010, it was weird to see how many names I didn’t recognize, how many people I didn’t know. Now I hadn’t gone to the Sweet Home Public schools my whole education career, being a Catholic school girl, but I at least thought I recognized most of the names if I didn’t “know know” the people. Yeah, so that’s not true. :-D We’ll be using name tags.

So along the beginnings of our reunion planning (of which I was not part of nor will take any credit for the hard work put forth) it was almost disgusting how much drama erupted. We are no longer teenagers and yet the harsh criticism was vast, explosive, and frankly, teenager-like. And I have yet to see the loudest critics offer to take over the reins of planning this shindig—just sayin’.

I hope that my little input is helpful. While we are trying to keep the work load low-impact as to allow the planners enjoy the reunion, I know there is a small team hauling the load. It’s nice—for me. While my time is largely directed towards my AFS-ing and that paycheck generating thing I refer to as work, I’ve made the decision to offer some of my time to hand over to my class.

It will be interesting to see where we all are in our lives. I would have never seen myself doing what I do, living where I live, married with two four legged children (ok maybe I knew I’d have a cat--since my mother would never let me). So if I didn’t see that for myself—I clearly will find it fun to see where others are and the path that got them there.

Wow…10 years…here’s to another happy, healthy 10 more. Salud!

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Can i ask you a favor?

On a side note, I have a favor to ask. As you may have seen me mention, I have a pet project of mine: AFS-USA. This is a great International Exchange student program that hosts and sends students. The impact a foreign exchange has on an individuals life is incomparable.

In this economy, however, the cost of an exchange is unattainable for many students. While the money spent on an exchange is almost always replaced with college scholarships, this cost is sometimes the only roadblock to an amazing adventure for a student.

That said, I need your help. No I don’t need money…I need 5 seconds (or so) of your time, everyday through the month of June.

Maybe you have heard commercials about the Pepsi Refresh project on the radio or tv. But through this contest, the top two winners get $250,000 to carry out their project. AFS has such a project pending and we really could use your votes.

The Pepsi Refresh Contest gives AFS-USA a chance to win $250,000 to put towards scholarships for students living in underserved communities. It literally takes seconds to vote, and you can vote every day until June 30th. At present, AFS is in 40th place and moving up, but we need your help! Click the link below for more info and to vote:


***Helpful Tip: After you click on this link, insert your email address in the red box on the page and AFS will send you a little email reminder everyday until June 30th to vote. This helps remember, I promise.


(I stole the wording from a fellow Returnee Initiative member, I’m sure he won’t mind if you help us out)



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OF A Garden, a pool and an island

This year we put in a raised garden, mostly because they tend to keep the rodents out better (ironically I have yet to see a rabbit or a squirrel on this island) and partly because we don’t have a tiller. But I have since learned of another benefit of putting in a raised garden. When we built the garden we brought in topsoil to fill it. That makes all the difference in the world when it comes to weeding. In this area the soil is more clay than anything and is rock hard. With our wonderful topsoil garden, all I do is move the clay slightly with a hoe and voila! weeds come out like nothing.

So with our house came a pool. We swam in it once last year, and then took about two weeks to close it. I’ve never owned a pool. I’m following Marc’s lead on this one. Well wouldn’t you know that every time we went to look for a piece necessary to close the pool the piece was not at the house—back and forth to the pool store we went. Finally it was all in place; we were ready to put the cover on. I pulled out the cover, begin to unfold and exposed a former mouse nest—complete with a few dead babies for fun. Well most pool stores were closed by this point so I pulled out my handy duct tape and patched all those holes.


Knowing that our pool cover was patched with duct tape and having been forewarned by a number of people as to what we would find when we opened the pool, we were completely content to see this…

DSCN1229 DSCN1225 …The bottom of the pool.

There was some debris and a bit of duct tape, but it was clear, not black. On top of that, as you can see on the first photo in this blog, there were no leaves, barely any water, and a generally clear pool cover—apparently that makes some people jealous.

So now we putter through the pool opening process, which has been a bit delayed by the need to make our neglected deck look better. A little semi-transparent weatherproofing, a lot of hours and some wonderful friends and family brings you this:


Believe me, that’s great improvement. And just an FYI—trellises suck. Keep that in mind should you be building a deck.

An now, my island. As I may have stated in an earlier post (or perhaps not), we live on a island. And as all you wonderfully sharp readers know, you need to cross water to get to an island. The most common ways to do this is with a bridge. Now should that bridge require construction, chaos ensues. And that my friends is the state of my commute. Since the construction began, my commute has lengthened by about 10 or 15 minutes most days—and then only on the way home. But recently my fellow commuters have decided that they don’t know how to drive. On Wednesday it took me an HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES to get to my house. People, that’s unacceptable. So Thursday, having faith in my fellow commuters, I head home on my normal route and immediately take the fist exit off. Backed up traffic, not again. So for now I take the longer route—you know, the one that moves—and get home after a bit more driving. My mother finds it amusing to tell me “I told you not to move to the Island.” Gee, thanks Mom.

And that is the story of the garden, the pool and the island.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'm Slacking and I know it

So yet again I begin a post apologizing for my failure to keep up with it. So there I'm sorry.

But why I am slacking is another story (or many).

This past weekend I was in Portland, Oregon for one of the most jam packed, energizing weekends I've had in a long time. A group of 17 or 18 AFS (I talked about AFS here) Returnees and Staff gathered together to really jump start a new movement. In other AFS countries, young returnees are AFS. They are the movers and the shakers. In the US, that doesn't happen. So we are making that happen. In a weekend.

Now we return to our homes with a little "we can do this" attitude; able to put a face to the voice on the phone. We have people to run to when we are stonewalled and discouraged. We have sources and we have help.

Go AFS Returnee Initiative!!!