No one knows what goes on inside another person’s home, even if the “others” are your own children’s homes. My three girls have been married a long time, with grown up children of their own. Those that live in another city are annual visitors to my house and I make the trip and try to visit them at least once a year. The annual visits to me are usually around a holiday where the house is full. Everyone arriving for an intense, sometimes stressful, family visit. The cousins get to see each other and the siblings and their husbands hang out together, too. Everyone is experiences the regression associated with “coming home.” Rivalries and long forgotten issues reemerge. Nothing new gets resolved and after the visit, everyone goes home and I luxuriate in the quiet resumption of my personal life.

Recently I decided to visit my daughter in Florida and stay for a couple of months. This was a first for me as I have never visited for more than a week to ten days at a time. Believe me, it wouldn’t have happened except for the fact that the previous winter had been a disaster for me. I was invited because my family felt I should not be in an icy, snowy city during the winter because the previous winter I fell and spent a month in the hospital.

Florida for two months is not a bad thing. In fact, it turned out to be quite wonderful. Despite my


My granddaughter Talia is visiting me and we decided to cook an interesting veggie lunch. There are lots of recipes for this kind of meal but we are just winging it. Adding ingredients as it grows. Talia says it was not so much a decision to make a vegetable goulash as it was a throwing together of whatever was in the refrigerator. The result happened to be vegetable goulash—with long brown rice which she cooked on the stove next to my pan of veggies.

I found myself in the kitchen, unsure of what to have for lunch. Peeking into the fridge, I saw the bunch of celery I bought early in the week which had been disappointingly bitter. I thought cooking it up could only help its situation. I also noted onion and green pepper standing out on the somewhat empty shelf. I started by chopping the onion, celery, and pepper and mixing them together in a pan drizzled with oil. The different shades of green sizzled nicely together. Then I remembered a lonely can of sliced organic tomatoes, I would have to add that, for what is a goulash without a saucy tomato? Sea salt and paprika complimented the vegetables. Lastly, I discovered half a zucchini waiting patiently to become a part of the lunch festivities, which I quickly sliced and added to the pan.

After all is said and eaten, I can attest to the fact that it was a success in every way.

My granddaughter Talia recently visited her sister Mira in Pittsburgh to celebrate her birthday. Talia and Mira’s boyfriend Yuri threw a very successful surprise party for the special birthday girl. Limos were rented, a private room was reserved on the terrace of a fancy new bar and lounge in the city, and the treatment was VIP. Mira says it was everything she could have hoped for and more since it was all a surprise. If you hadn’t already guessed it, this isn’t really a “how to” on throwing a party, or a surprise party, or even a surprising party. It’s just a little story about my granddaughter’s 21st birthday.

Giving someone a surprise party reminded me of the one and only time I tried to give such a party. It was for my husband’s 65th birthday. I had arranged for my three daughters to come to Chicago and be here for the surprise. They arrived several days before his birthday and he knew they had come just to celebrate with our immediate family. What he didn’t know was that I had invited a lot of other people to come, too. For some reason I didn’t think that he would wonder why I was baking a large quantity of pastries and cooking a very large amount of food for our little group.

On the day before his birthday I had asked a friend of his to invite him to listen to music at his home. It happened that this friend picked him up and would also have to bring him home because our house was about a half hour drive away. While they were listening to music all of the invited guests came to our house and waited for his return so they could shout “surprise” when he entered the house. All went according to plan except for one thing. When the surprise occurred, my husband was not really surprised because he had figured out that there would be no reason for me to cook as much food as I did unless I had some other plan in mind. Of course, he didn’t mention the fact that he was not surprised until afterwards.

So, this leads me to wonder how many people who are given surprise parties really know ahead of time what’s going on.