Traditions And Prognostications – The McLuxies

I love traditions.

As some of you know, among our family’s traditions, my very favorite is

The McLuxies

Way back in 1992, our pal, Ellie, came up with the idea of a prognostication competition in which we would predict the outcome of a series of events during the year and whoever had the highest number of correct predictions at the end of the year would be declared the winner.

the first McLuxies

The very first McLuxies. The notation in the corner says “at Lux’s 1/1/92”.

As you can see on this very low-tech scoresheet, that first year we predicted only 4 categories: Super Bowl, World Series, Presidential election (ironically, the other “Clinton” was running that year) and the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Every year since 1992, Ellie and her husband, Archie, Peter and I, and our two children have made predictions and kept score. Along the way, our children have gotten married and their spouses joined in on the competition.

Like all good traditions, this one needed a name. Ellie, creating a mash-up of our surnames, coined the moniker “McLuxies”.

We even have hats.

McLuxies Hat

For many years the winner got nothing more that a feeling of moral and intellectually superiority.

Now we have a trophy.

McLuxies Champion

Please note the plaque on the front bearing our motto:

“Peritia, Fortuna, et Conjectura Temere”

Loosely translated: “Expertise, Luck, and Random Guesses”.

As we’ve gone along, our list of predictions has grown. We have permanently added:

  • NCAA Football Champions
  • NCAA Women’s and Men’s Basketball Champions
  • Master’s Golf Tournament Winner
  • Stanley Cup Champion
  • NBA Champion
  • Wimbledon Winner – Women’s and Men’s
  • Best TV Drama
  • Best TV Comedy
  • World Series Winner
  • People’s Sexiest Man Alive
  • Time Person of the Year

Heavy on sports and pop culture; light on anything really meaningful.

Over the years, however, the McLuxies have been a way to chronicle important, historic or iconic events.

In addition to the list of permanent categories, we have made random guesses about things like:

  • Gender of the Royal baby (more than once)
  • The O.J. Simpson verdict
  • The Clinton impeachment
  • Will Microsoft be in one piece? (I guess that was something about a monopoly???)
  • Major League Baseball teams to be eliminated
  • Combined weight of our twin grandsons, Chip and Dale at their final doctor’s appointment of the year
  • Dow Jones year ending number
  • What college will Malia Obama choose?
  • Number of Supreme Court vacancies at the end of the year
  • Post-election party in control of the House of Representatives
  • Married or not at the end of the year: Tom/Katie, Brad/Angelina, Britney/Kevin, Ben/Jen
  • “Number of countries that will have indicated their intent to withdraw the Euro as their official currency by year-end” (Nerd alert… Although you probably thought that the nerd ship sailed with the “number of Supreme Court vacancies” or “post-election party in control” questions.)

In Olympic, election and World Cup soccer years those are added to the list.

In 2012 we predicted whether the Mayan calendar was right or wrong.

“Will the world come to an end this year?” Spoiler alert: the correct prediction was “no”.

2016 McLuxies

Thanks to Annie our tradition has gone high-tech with our McLuxies google doc.

The 2016 McLuxies have some interesting aspects to them.

For years and years and years, we have had what we call “The Cubs Clause”.

The Cubs Clause states that if a person picks the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series and they actually do, that person automatically wins the McLuxies championship for the year. Game, set, match.

The Cubs Clause was created so that sentimental schmucks like me wouldn’t feel so bad about throwing away a point predicting a Cubs victory year after year after year.

Well, you might know that this year the curse has ended – the goat is gone – the Cubs are in the World Series.

We still have a long way to go but if by some wild chance, the Cubs pull this off and actually WIN the World Series, The Cubs Clause will kick in.

And, the six of us who predicted a Cubs victory will share the McLuxies trophy.

Go Cubs Go

Given that all predictions are locked in place during the first week of January, it’s quite remarkable that Jerry foresaw the Trump vs Clinton presidential matchup.

The Time Person of the Year is generally close to impossible to predict. But, this year six of us have guessed that, if she is elected as the first woman President in U.S. History, Hillary Clinton should find herself on the cover of Time Magazine.

Keeping in mind that Time Person of the Year is someone who has had the biggest impact on society – good or bad (past recipients include Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin(twice), Ayatollah Khomeini and Vladimir Putin), other strong contenders would be Donald Trump (son-in-law Jerry’s prediction) or Julian Assange/WikiLeaks.

My first choice would be, of course, that the Cubs emerge victorious and Time Person(s) of the Year are Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon.

But what do I know? It’s all just a bunch of conjectura temere, right?


“Who I Am” is a writing project hosted by Dana from Kiss My List and Bev from Linkouture.

Each month we are given a prompt regarding some aspect of our life. The goal is, at the end of the year, to have twelve chapters in the book titled Who I Am.

This month, Chapter 10, the theme is Traditions.

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Two Melon Soup – A High Impact, Low Effort Recipe

Hi, folks!

We had a busy weekend which started with the celebration of this gal’s birthday.

the birthday girl

You may know her as “Momma” from the comments section of this blog. I know her as the best mom a gal could ever have.

Our two-day celebration was capped off with a delicious dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s.  By the way, did you know that they will print a special occasion message to the guest of honor on the top of your menus? Nice touch, McCormick & Schmick’s.

On Saturday night we had a mini-reunion with part of our Camino de Santiago group at the home of fellow pilgrims, Nora and G.

Before dinner, we plugged our computers into G’s gigantic and gorgeous television to share pictures from the trip. We scrolled through 300+ photos bringing back great memories of a most amazing journey.

In honor of the evening’s theme, Nora prepared a lovely and delicious paella.

paella and two melon soup

Paella is something I enjoy eating but would never attempt to make myself. Nora is a gifted cook who whips up dishes like this with her eyes closed.

I’m delighted to be the frequent beneficiary of Nora’s culinary skills and have, in fact, “borrowed” her recipes for posts (Panzanella salad).

Today I’m going to share another of Nora’s recipes with you.

See that pretty bowl of soup served with the paella?

This Two Melon Soup, served chilled, is the perfect, refreshing start to a summertime meal.

Also, Nora assures me that the recipe fits my requirements of being High Impact, Low Effort. The hardest part, she says, is pouring the soup into the bowls.

two melon soup

Nora’s Two Melon Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 small honeydew melon, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh mint

Puree cantaloupe with lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Rinse blender then puree honeydew with lime juice and mint until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, either:

Transfer purees into two separate measuring cups. With one in each hand, pour simultaneously into the bowl, pouring equal amounts on each side.

or use Nora’s preferred method:

Tip bowl slightly to the side and pour in the desired amount of cantaloupe puree. Pour the honeydew puree into the other side of the bowl as you are lowering the bowl back to level.

Either way might take some practice but the result is beautiful.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Easy, peasy. Or so I’m told.

Big surprise, Peter and I brought wine to enjoy with dinner.

First up, a bottle of Albariño.

Albariño is a white wine commonly grown in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. Galicia is the very same part of Spain we walked through on the Camino of St. James. Along the way, we enjoyed lots and lots of great Spanish Albariño. 

Peter and I brought a bottle from one of the few U.S. producers of Albariño, Hendry Vineyard. It was on a trip to Hendry’s winery in Napa that we first tasted Albariño and fell in love with it.

2014 Hendry Albariño

The 2014 Hendry Albariño ($22) is light and refreshing with good acidity. It is fruity and floral without going over the top. 

Floral, herbal and peachy aromas. On the palate, tangy citrus, nectarine and passion fruit flavors reflect the bright acidity.

– Tasting notes via Hendry.com

Albariño reminds me a bit of Viognier in that it is a pretty versatile food wine. It pairs best with shellfish like mussels and clams but is also great with chicken. It’s the perfect white wine to serve with paella.

For the red wine lovers in the group, we brought a bottle of 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat from Spain.

2007 Clos Magador

This bold red Spanish wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carinena, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Albariño.

The 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat is dark and juicy and immensely satisfying. It brings flavors of licorice, blackberry, and black cherry. It’s a little bit spicy and a little bit smoky.

Oddly, though, because of the hearty nature of paella, this wine played well and did not overpower the flavors in the main course.

You have to love a dish with which you can pair both a light white wine and a bold red wine. Something for everyone.

For dessert, Nora made (you won’t believe this) homemade non-dairy rocky road ice cream with mini-marshmallows, almonds, and dashes of cayenne and red pepper.

That’s what I call a “HIGH EFFORT, HIGH IMPACT” recipe!

We ended the evening re-watching the movie that inspired us to do the walk in the first place, The Way.

This film from 2011 stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Dedicated to Sheen’s father, Francisco Estevez, who hailed from Galicia, the film was inspired by a trip Sheen took with Emilio’s son on which they walked part of the Camino. A real family affair.

Although the movie tells the sad story of a dad completing the pilgrimage on behalf of his late son, it also captures the beauty, the community, and the spirit of The Way.

I highly recommend it!

And if you can get Nora to make some Two Melon Soup and paella for you – even better!!

I’ll bring the Albariño.

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The Camino of St. James

The Camino of St. James describes a series of pilgrimage routes with starting points throughout Europe, all ending at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Since the middle ages, pilgrims have traveled the path to the burial place of St. James the Great hoping to earn the special blessings promised to those who complete the pilgrimage.

The Camino serves as the backdrop for the 2010 movie, The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen.

Camino old marker

Three years ago, our college friend, Ellen, walked The Camino with a few pals. Upon her return, Ellen shared the story of her experience with our group.

One by one, everyone chimed in saying, “We should do that.”

Before we knew it we had a date, a plan, and reservations with a tour company.

We were going to walk The Camino.

First sign of the Camino

The first and most important thing we did to prepare for the trip was to hire the super fabulous tour company, Spanish Steps. This was the same company that Ellen used for her first trip.

I can not say enough wonderful things about Spanish Steps or about our super amazing, rock star guides, Monica and Olga.

Spanish Steps Camino Guides Monica and Olga

Monica and Olga – Guides Extraordinaire

Many people who take on The Camino walk hundreds of miles over weeks and weeks, staying in hostels or albergues. For those of us interested in more of a “glamping” experience, a tour company is the way to go.

Our group of 13 pilgrims (nine of our Notre Dame pals, the sister and brother-in-law of one of these folks and our Glenview friends Nora and G), was expertly cared for every step of the way.

Spanish Steps arranged our lodging for each night including a private breakfast and dinner and provided a bus to take us to and from the trail each day. The bus also met us at several checkpoints throughout the day to replenish our water and snacks and, if necessary, give us a ride to the next checkpoint.

Most importantly, Spanish Steps blessed us with Olga and Monica.

Our plan with Spanish Steps was to walk the final 110km of The Camino over five days, ending in Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral of St. James. (By the way, Spanish Steps now does the trip in 7 days.)

Pilgrims must walk at least 100km to earn the Compostela or certificate of accomplishment.

On day one, we all donned our team shirts and were ready to go.  Olga and Monica gave each of us a shell, a pilgrim’s passport and a map of the day’s journey.

Camino passport and shell

The scallop shell is the symbol of The Camino. There are many stories about the role of the shell in The Camino’s history – from mythology surrounding the death of St. James to the shell’s practical use as a water scoop for pilgrims. The shell symbol can be found on all of The Camino markers along the way.

 

Camino day one

Ellen and Byff show off our team t-shirts

In order to receive a Compostela at the end of The Camino, pilgrims must “prove” that they walked along the path for at least the required 100km. This proof comes in the form of stamps in one’s pilgrim passport.

Stamps in pilgrim passport on The Camino

Stamps can be attained in bars and churches along the way. As you can see, we spent a great deal of time in bars and churches. Mostly bars. More on that later.

Our maps showed the part of the trail we would cover each day including locations of the checkpoints where the bus would be waiting, mileage from point to point so we could keep track of our progress, a description of the sights and scenery we would see along the way and where to find the ever so important bars and churches.

And the even more important “facilities”.

Camino facilities

The spirit of The Camino dictates that each person must do it for their own reasons, at their own pace, and in their own way.

Right from the start, our group of 13 transitioned into two groups: the fast group and the slow group.

Monica and Olga took turns walking with each group so they could get to know us as individuals. Almost immediately they understood our capabilities and needs and used this insight to make sure that each of us got the very most we could out of our experience.

Olga and Monica encouraged us, translated for us, shared lots of stories and lots of laughs with us. Their presence was the secret sauce that made our time on The Camino extra special and we will be forever grateful for that.

Camino group

Our Camino group receiving a send-off by our innkeeper, José.

Each day we walked up to 15 miles. The terrain varied from paths through farmland to rocky, muddy trails to streets through tiny or not so tiny towns.

Camino path through farmland

 

Camino muddy trail

 

Camino walking through town

Along the way we would stop for lunch – almost always including some wine and beer.

Camino lunch

Because of the area’s proximity to the coast and the bounty of available fresh seafood, we enjoyed lots of treats like scallops

Camino scallops at Casa Tia Dolores

and more pulpo (octopus) than you can imagine.

Camino octopus stand

Sometimes we would enjoy leisurely sit-down lunches and other times we would make a quick stop in a bar for a snack or sandwich and always to get a passport stamp.

One day we popped into a bar for what was intended to be a quick stop and ran into our innkeeper, José.

José insisted on treating us to a bottle of wine so that particular stop turned out to be more leisurely than originally planned.

All part of going with the flow on The Camino.

At the insistence of Olga and Monica, we stopped at Casa Tia Dolores to take part in the beer ceremony, something not to be missed.Camino beer ceremony at Casa Tia Dolores

We came across another bar in which hung hundreds of t-shirts left by pilgrims over the years. At the end of our stay, we all signed one of our blue shirts which our guides are going to drop off at the bar on their next tour.

Camino bar with t-shirts

At the end of each day, the slow group would finally catch up with the fast group and we would head to our B&B for the night. After freshening up and changing out of our dusty trail clothes, we would meet for cocktail hour

Camino cocktail hour

before sitting down to a delicious dinner.

Camino Toasting

One night, Monica treated us to a presentation of the Queimada ritual of the region.

Camino Monica's Queimada

After sleeping soundly, we were up every morning and off on the trail again.

Along The Camino, we saw many beautiful churches both big and small.

Camino church

Most of the smaller churches were not open but when they were we took the opportunity to collect another stamp in our pilgrim passport.

Camino collecting passport stamp in church

We walked through the woods, across rivers and among the local people carrying on their day to day life.

Camino through the woods

 

Camino scenery

 

Camino cows on the street

We met people from dozens and dozens of different countries. Families and long-time friends. College students and senior citizens. Some who were “glamping” like us and many who had already been on the trail for a month having started their pilgrimage in the Pyrenees.

Along the way, we greeted fellow pilgrims with the call of The Camino.

“Buen Camino”

That wish for a “Good Camino” was the universal language of the trail, uniting and inspiring all of us.

Our friends, Byff and Ernie, were particularly good at striking up conversations with once-strangers-now-friends. They taught a group of Spanish students the good old camp song, On Top of Spaghetti.

Camino singing on the trail

The students repaid the kindness  by performing the Macarena for us.

Love and a feeling of community were everywhere.

Camino Free hugs

On the final day, we ascended to Monte del Gozo (Mount of Joy), so named because it is the point at which pilgrims get their first glimpse of the city of Santiago.

Camino Monte del Gozo

We were on the home stretch.

Completing the final 4.5 km, we reached our destination: Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral of St. James.

Camono Cathedral of St. JamesThe feeling of relief, accomplishment, camaraderie, and sheer joy was overwhelming.

After five days and well over 100 km, we had earned our Compostela.

Camino Compostela

Upon returning home, and talking incessantly about our experience, the question most people ask is, “How hard was it to walk The Camino?”

The answer is that The Camino is hard but doable.

Doable, especially if you have the support of Spanish Steps, guidance by the incredible Olga and Monica, and the loving encouragement of this team.

The end of the CaminoIt was a Buen Camino, indeed.

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Golden Threads In The Tapestry Of Our Lives

 

I’ve said it often: I’m a lucky gal.

Among the many, many blessings in my life are my friends.

I once heard someone describe friends as the golden threads in the tapestry of our lives. I love that.

My pal, Ellie, and her husband Archie traveled to visit us for the weekend. We were able to get together with our sweet friend, Therese, her fabulous husband and dear Clare. All golden threads in the tapestry of my life.

Over Easter brunch, Ellie and I reminisced about how we first met.

I hope you will indulge me as I revisit that story…

Camp Beenadeewin postcard

Camp Beenadeewin postcard via Ebay.

 

It all started at Camp Beenadewin during the summer after my 8th-grade year.

That summer, while my sister and I were at camp in Vermont, our family moved from Connecticut to Florida. I would be starting 9th grade at a new school, in a new home, in a new city.

On the last day of camp, everyone scurried about collecting addresses so that we could stay in touch with the girls with whom we had bonded over the eight weeks time.  (Obviously, this was WAY before email was even a concept.)  I had memorized my future Florida address and passed it along to my new BFFs.

One girl, Janet, upon seeing my address, casually mentioned that she knew someone whom she thought lived in that very same city in Florida.

Janet gave me the girl’s name, although we were both quite sure I would never run across her.

What were the chances in a city with a population of over 200,000?  Janet wasn’t even sure if it was the same city.  Plus, I would be going to a tiny, all-girls, Catholic high school rather than one of the half-dozen giant, public high schools at which my odds of coming across this needle in a haystack would be slightly better.

Well, I bet you know where this story is going.  On my very first day of school, in my very first class, sitting – I am not kidding you – RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME (!!!!!!) was the girl that Janet knew.

My friend, Ellie.

We couldn’t have been more different – I was super shy, she was (and is) a fabulously fun, outgoing, life-of-the-party kind of gal. But fortunately, something clicked between us and we have been dear friends for over 40 years.

Whether it was serendipity or fate, Ellie and I will never forget Janet’s part in bringing us together.

Friends are the golden threads in the tapestry of our lives

I am so grateful for all of the loving and beautiful golden threads in my life.

Has serendipity or fate ever played a part in your friendships?

Does anyone know Janet Espinoza? I’d love to thank her.

 

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