My Mile Marker Zero

Many of you may recognize this as Mile Marker Zero in Key West, Florida. Which might make you think that this is a travel blog post and it could be. We traveled there this summer, yes in 2020. It was my son’s senior trip, the handsome fellow you see in this picture. All he wanted was to go somewhere where he could snorkel. The Keys it was. What I did not anticipate was this picture.

God like to surprise us with little things that make our hearts happy. When we planned the trip, I know He was like, “This is gonna be so cool. You are gonna love this picture I have planned.” The reason it is so cool is that Jonathan is my fourth and final kid. I am officially done- he is my mile marker zero. It didn’t even occur to me when I took it. It was just a cool picture on a family vacation. But later, when we got home and I was looking at pictures, it hit me. Wow, what a way to wrap it up.

You would think that hitting such a milestone would feel so great. And it does feel great but at the exact same moment, it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. When the older two left home, I comforted myself with the fact that I had two more kids at home. Then the baby girl left home and that hurt like a mother. But, I still had J. Now, it’s mile marker zero.

So, here I sit. I can’t say I don’t have any regrets. I firmly believe that if you get to the end of your parenting run and don’t have any regrets, you didn’t take the job seriously enough. I may have some regrets, things I would do differently but I have no guilt or remorse. I know that I did the absolute best that I could with the tools that I had. Yes, 48 year-old me could do a few things better than 28 year-old me- I should hope so! But, I gave it my all and I am very proud of the humans I turned lose on the world.

Jonathan has joined the Marines and ships out January 19th. Talk about an abrupt ending. I am going from having full control (that is different from being controlling) to having NO control over anything in his life. I am not going to lie, this is a difficult curve to navigate. I mean, if anyone else talked to him they will talk to him, I would have gone OFF on them. You do NOT mess with my kids.

I realized that I had this narrative in my head that the Core was intentionally going to destroy all that I had built. While talking to my family at Christmas, this came out of my mouth. Thankfully, my dad is a former Marine. He said, “No Honey, its not like that.” On the long drive back to my island, I processed through all of this. I decided to change the narrative. I chose to look at it from a different perspective. I raised a young man who knows his mind, knows himself, above all knows Jesus, and is so strong that no matter was the Marines throw at him, they won’t break him.

It is amazing how a human heart can feel so many big emotions fully at the same time.

I am incredibly PROUD of him.

I am so SAD I won’t get to hear his voice everyday.

I am so HAPPY he is moving into adulthood and following his passion.

I am AFRAID of where that path will take him.

I am so EXCITED to see where that path will take him.

The list goes on. I am so grateful to have been given the gift of raising this boy. So, I will focus on the positive and celebrate my Mile Marker Zero.

Gratin Dauphinois- The Best Potatoes!

Food is essential to romance. Regardless of where the food comes from- a fancy restaurant, a cool dinner, or from home. The old saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” has a lot of truth to it. I don’t know many women who are impervious to a man who cooks for her- or at least brings her tacos.

In A Marine for Christmas, Lucas is no different. Dixie blows his mind with Gratin Dauphinois and Beef Carbonnade. What good love story doesn’t have good food? I love cooking, I love growing food, and I love serving that food to those I love. So, my characters do as well. I hope you enjoy the recipe I have included for you!

You could call these scalloped potatoes, but Gratin Dauphinois has so much more flair!  It is hard to go wrong with potatoes, they are a humble food from the earth that need only a little dressing up.  You will be hard pressed to find a menu that can’t be complimented with a potato dish.  With the potatoes cooked in the oven with milk/cream, butter and a little garlic, the simplicity is deceptive.  This taste is subtle but engaging, the texture is smooth, and the experience is wonderful.

This dish complimented the Beef Carbonnade the family greatly enjoyed at our Christmas Dinner.  There was not a bit left after dinner, always a compliment to the cook!  Unless of course there is none left because the cook did a poor job of planning for her guests, but that was not the case- this time.

The humble potato!

Gratin Dauphinois

3 pounds of boiling potatoes– peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (the food processor works great for this)

1 cup of whole milk – I like to mix 3/4 cup whole milk with 1/4 cup cream- adds to the richness and wonderful texture.

1 clove garlic– pressed and spread on bottom of a buttered flame proof baking dish- I prefer a deep dish 9 inch cast iron skillet

3 tablespoons of butter plus more for greasing the bottom of the dish.

Once you have buttered the cast iron skillet and spread the pressed garlic, place the potatoes in the skillet spreading in layers.

Season the milk with salt and pepper, pour over potatoes.  Add more cream until the milk is 3/4 of the way up.  Place on burner and heat just to a simmer- this is a very important step so that the liquid and potatoes come together in the oven.

Distribute 3 tablespoons of butter (real butter, not margarine) on top of potatoes.

Bake in a 425′ oven for about 25 minutes- until the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender.

Serve and be happy!  That is some flat out good food!  Great food does not have to be complicated to be wonderful.