1015 The River

How Coconut Cake Clears Up The Easter Confusion

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 03/24/16 10:38 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog

Of our six kids three aren’t old enough to really understand our Easter traditions.  They are happy to wake up to a basket full of goodies, a trip to church dressed in their Sunday best, and brunch…no questions asked.

Of the other three one is a synic.  He was born that way.  He never bought any of it.  Not the dude who traveled the world in a sleigh and most certainly not a dumb rabbit that delivers eggs and jelly beans.   Thank goodness his synicism made him cooperative.  We could buy his silence with a wink and chocolate.

The other two aren’t as easy.  They are thinkers.  They think…about everything.  “Mom…how does this work?  Mom…How does that work?  Why?  Why not?  When?  How?”  

They are exhausting.  Especially when things don’t make sense.  And nothing makes less sense than our Easter traditions.

Let me get this straight.  A bunny delivers eggs; Jesus was dead but came back to life; and we eat Coconut Cake to celebrate?

Honestly, I think I could explain the cluster that is our current state of American politics before I could come up with a plausible explanation as to the link between the resurrection and an egg laying rabbit.  And the coconut cake?  I don’t have a clue where that came in.

And it’s damn good.

In fact, I’m beginning to think the coconut cake entered the picture as a much needed distraction for inquisitive children.  “Mom, bunnies are mammals.  Their offspring are live births.  They don’t lay eggs?  Why the eggs?”  

Have a piece of coconut cake.

Mom, I thought once you were dead your dead.  No do-overs.  Why did Jesus get a do-over?

Have a piece of coconut cake.

Seriously, coconut cake is a much better answer to these questions especially when the five year old inquisitor isn’t well versed in German folklore and Christian theology.

I always knew my mother was brilliant.  Her coconut cake proves it.

Happy Easter, Friends.


If you are looking for the coconut cake recipe I talked about with Rick on 101.5 The River click here.



No Wonder Our Mothers Drank The Hard Stuff

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 06/30/15 8:35 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog

Have you ever wondered what the first Independence Day celebrations  were like?  I don’t know if it was because I spent a lot of time as a kid watching Little House on the Prairie reruns or if it was because historical fiction was a genre that spoke to me when I was a young reader, but I often find myself wondering how in the world pioneeer women did it.  How did they take care of their families, protect their children, cook,  clean and clothe without the modern day conveniences of today?

Good God it must have been tough.

Like hellish.

Even during the course of my life caring for a family has changed drastically.  I remember when we got our first microwave.  It was my mom’s birthday. My dad surprised her and it was such a big, hairy deal that a small crowd of neighbors gathered around the giant box on our back patio to watch my mom open it.

It was as big as a fridge.

I think it took a couple of the men-folk to haul it inside and when they did we all gathered around while we boiled water…in two minutes.  It was epic.

So much was different of our mothers.  Fresh fruit was available “in season”; a quick supper consisted of “Swanson dinners” baked up in an oven (Remember the apples? The salisbury steak?); and most of the time dishes were done by hand…over and over again.

No wonder that generation drinks the hard stuff.  Roll those challenges up with the pressure of preparing for a holiday and good God…I’d be hitting the Manhattans, too.

In fact, sometimes I think Pinterest inspired, intricate party fare was because food preparation has become too easy. Where our mothers and grandmothers would have been slaving in the kitchen preparing apple pie from scratch–crust and all–our generation buys a pie from a gourmet bakery–in our supermarket– and instead slaves over glue guns, fancy chalk labels and decorated mason jars.

Blueberry pie circa 2012

Blueberry pie circa 2012

Yes.  That’s it.  Pinterest crap was born out of not having enough challenge in our domestic lives.  Instead of reveling in the ease of modern convenience we complicate matters with crafts.

My mama made these!  (Well...not the wine.  She bought that and I love her for it!)

Simple food.

This Fourth of July we are celebrating small.  A few close friends over for fireworks, potluck salads, ribs and an array of slider options.  I do admit to perusing Pinterest for slider recipes and if you listened to me this morning on 101.5 The River you heard me talking about the three recipes I picked out.

They are here…

Spicy Peanut Butter Bacon Sliders

Aloha Barbecue Sliders

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

If you are more interested in the low and slow method of preparing of ribs you can read my post  HERE!

Of course I’ll also be making strawberry pretzel salad.  (Using the term “salad” loosely here,  folks.   How a recipe that calls for two cups of sugar and an entire container of Cool Whip is called a “salad”? It’s a local thing.)

Ohio for the win.

Not really just Ohio for the win.  How about the United States for the win?  Or, better yet, how about women who don’t have to cook EVERYTHING from scratch, can heat water in two minutes, and buy wonderful homemade pie at the supermarket for the win!

Happy Independence Day, friends!



Attempted to go blueberry picking but the u-picks weren't open yet.  We settled on  fruit stand Michigan rasberries and blueberries which eventually became a bumble berry pie!  Yum.








The Tom-Foolery of Carving a Jack-O-Lantern

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/21/14 8:22 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog, Holidays

It started with the best of intentions.  It’s the week before Halloween.  We’ve been to the Gust Pumpkin Farm no less than five times.  We have a herd of pumpkins decorating our house.  So, the next step seemed obvious.  Time to carve those puppies up.

Afterall, it’s a tradition.

When I was a kid my parents would carve a pumpkin for each of their children.  I have memories of perching myself on a kitchen chair while my dad used an electric knife–later replaced with a jigsaw…he’s a power tool kind of guy–while my mom rolled up her sleeves gutting the innerds into the kitchen sink.  I’d bark orders about the shape of eyes, or the slant of a smile and regardless of how I wanted it to look, it always kind of looked the same.  Triangle eyes.  A toothy grin.  And if one of them was feeling extra crafty, a nose.

Of course, all of this occurred the hour before trick-or-treating so they could be promptly lit for the onslot of trick-or-treaters.

When Drew and Ryan came of age I tried to replicate the process.  I’ll never forget thinking it was oh-so-simple.  First, we’d carve.  Next, we’d illuminate.  Then we’d get into our costumes.  Finally, we’d enjoy the chile from the crock-pot before skipping our way out the door–all Norman Rockwell style.

Then reality set in.

Turns out carving a pumpkin without the help of a partner slows the process…a lot.  And, gutting a pumpkin with a kid who has a super sensitive sense of smell is less than optimal. And because the process was taking longer than the eight minute attention spans of my sons, the whole ordeal quickly became a chore while the boys tried to impale each other with a light saber and a ninja sword.  (I swear we bought costumes solely based on the weapons that came with them.)

Before I knew it, the entire process turned into one giant debacle that ended with me screaming something along the lines of, “fuck it”; throwing the half carved pumpkins on the porch; and grabbing a solo cup filled to the rim with wine to accompany my demon children while they pillaged for candy.

I swore I’d never attempt pumpkin carving again.


Then came the second cohort of kids.

Now let me preface this with something that I get…a lot.  As all of my readers know, the ages of our children are quite unique.  It’s not that having a  20 and 17 year old  is anything special.  Neither is having three—soon to be four—kids under the age of six.  But when a stranger asks how old our kids are and I render the answer–the entire answer— they all have the very same look of bewilderment.  I can practically read their minds and as a result feel compelled to explain that indeed, this is not a second marriage…they all have the same father;  and I usually add something about how we are really, really bad at timing.

Once the stranger collects themselves enough to form a sentence, many of them have the very same comment.  “That would be so cool.  Like a do-over.”  Which, is true in a way.  We’ve already managed to get one out the door and into college and another will fly the coop next year.  As it currently stands it appears we managed not to screw up our first two kids but there are definitely things we’re doing differently this time around.  Some of the do-overs are major.  We’ve chosen a different educational setting for our younger kids and we realize now that over scheduling a child in activities/sports really…REALLY…doesn’t make a damn bit of difference when college application time rolls around.  Some of the differences are more trivial.  Like trying to rekindle the tradition of carving pumpkins.

Turns out some of the stuff that stunk the first time around…still stinks.

Fast forward to this past Sunday afternoon.  After doing some Pinterest research and finding a way to “preserve” a pumpkin to keep it from rotting before Halloween, I decided that my first mistake, oh-so-many-years-ago, was trying to get the carving done on the actual day of Halloween.  Now that  I knew how to keep the pumpkin fresh for a week or two, I could devote the time to the process needed to make it stress-free and fun.

So off to the farm we went to pick out three pumpkins for the deed.  We decided on the four dollar variety (which, by the way, would cost no less than $15 at the super market.  I LOVE the Gusts!).  They weren’t to big yet big enough to easily, so I thought, get the deed done.

When we arrived home I covered the kitchen table, put the girls to work “washing” the pumpkins, and prepared my carving utensils.

Now… here’s the thing.  Remember how I said my dad used tools?  I think there may have been some brilliance in that because all I had was the $3.99 carving kit from Meijer which I quickly realized was like trying to cut a pumpkin with a spork.  That’s when the frustration started.  As the girls sat there patiently waiting for me to work my magic I quickly abandoned the spork for a kitchen knife.  And, after a few more minutes my plans for a Pinterest inspired templates were aborted for the triangle eyes, and toothy grins of my childhood.  And, after about fifteen more minutes I realized the girls had lost interest, and there I sat.  Alone.

To which I asked myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?


My plan was to carve a jack-o-lantern for each of my kids.  I stopped at three.  Even though none of them are intricate, they do make me smile because the girls actually do love them.  More importantly those pumpkins have taught me something important.   I know now that there are some things that I didn’t do so well the first time around that I still can’t do so well fifteen years later.  And that’s okay.

Most of it doesn’t matter, anyways.


If you are looking for the recipe for pumpkin seeds that I talked about on 101.5 The River click HERE.

If you are looking for tips on how to preserve a carved pumpkin click HERE.

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The Name Game…Part Deux

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/14/14 9:24 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog, pregnancy, Pregnant at 45, Recipes

I received an email today from a loyal reader asking me if I’d gone “off the grid”.  It made me chuckle because I’m not exactly “off ” the grid.  I’m more like “under” the grid.  And, the grid isn’t so much a grid.  It’s more of an onslot of book edits,  a pile of laundry and never ending doctor’s appointments that seem to be usurping my schedule in a way that isn’t allowing me to spend the time in this space that I’d like.  Plus…I’m friggin’ tired.  And I’m huge.  I’m probably tired because I’m huge.  Or maybe I’m huge because I’m tired.  It’s a chicken/egg thing.

Bottom line is I’m alive…my pregnancy is well…and  I’m profusely sorry for leaving anyone hanging.

I do have to say I always love it when one of my readers notices I’m missing.  It makes me feel safe because sometimes I actually wonder how long it would take Sean to notice if I was MIA–he’s a busy guy.  It’s good to know Debbie Schaaf has my back.  Thanks, friend.


This past weekend Sean and I attended my cousin’s wedding in Chicago.  It was a quick overnight trip that gave us some alone time to talk about important stuff.  Like, how the hell did I end up 45 and pregnant.  (The miraculous conception of 2014 is still baffling to us.)  And, since the inevitability of this little guy is really starting to sink in, we’d better figure out what the heck we’re going to name him.  Because he needs a name.  And we’ve got nothing.

Sean and I have a history of not giving the topic of names for our children due diligence.  I think our lackadaisical attitude about baby names started with the best of intentions.  When I was pregnant with our oldest Sean refused to discuss names before he was born.  “You wouldn’t name a dog before you saw it.  Why would you name a kid before you saw it?”  This was Sean’s mantra and I went along with it assuming that I’d develop a short list of favorties and surely after he witnessed the pain and agony of childbirth he’d let me name the kid whatever I damn well pleased.

You know what?  I was right.  Our first son entered this world shortly after I ripped a belt loop from Sean’s jeans during transition labor and out of respect–or possibly fear–Sean let me name him.  No questions asked.

Naming Drew was easy. I’d loved the name Andrew…shortened to Drew…my entire life.  That being said, we still managed to dodge a bullet that evening after our L&D nurse gently pointed out that we should consider our son’s initials before we went ahead with Andrew Sean Savage.

That’s why he is Andrew (because I’d always loved the name Drew but wanted a saint’s name)  John  (after Sean’s dad and also because we didn’t want his initials to be ASS) Savage.

Naming our second child followed a similar pattern.  We didn’t know our baby’s gender but I knew if it was a boy we’d be going with another name I’d spent my high school years scribbling on the back sides of my notebooks.    Again, Sean wouldn’t discuss the name during our pregnancy.  And, again, after nearly losing my life during an emergency c-section I was granted unchallenged naming rights.

That’s why our second son is Ryan  (because I love the name) Sean  (because I love his daddy)  Savage.

Mary Kate’s full name is  Mary Kathleen Savage.  She is named after Sean’s mother which was truly a heartfelt gesture that conjured all kinds of warm fuzzies until my mom came to the hospital and asked me a trick question.  “Um…Carolyn, did you pick Mary Kate because you liked the name or did you pick it because you wanted to name her after Sean’s mom?”    

I was like a deer in headlights because I honestly didn’t know if there was a satisfactory answer.  After a few second hesitation I threw a hail Mary and went with, “Uh…we liked the name?”  Which seemed to do the trick.

It’s also why one of the twins is named Reagan (after the president) Linda (after my mother) Savage.

As for the other twin’s name..  Well that’s where our lack of appropriate planning bit us…or me…in the arse.  First off let me rattle off a couple of excuses.  Naming twins is hard.  Naming twins of the same gender is harder.  And, lastly naming babies when there’s a third party with a well-earned equal vote makes the process kind of crazy.  You see, we gave Jennifer a say in the girl’s names.  It only seemed fitting.  She was birthing them so she got a voice–and a veto.

Here’s the thing.  She and I were always in agreement.  Sean was the fly in the ointment.  We liked Harper.  Sean said no.  Sean liked Stephanie.  We said no.  We all liked Reagan but couldn’t agree on an equally balanced name from the contemporary genre.  As a result, I scribbled out a list of ten favorites on the back of a Lowe’s receipt about an hour before Jennifer’s c-section and we agreed to reconvene once her anesthesia had worn off and the good drugs had set in.

It seemed like a decent plan until Baby B, who was full term and weighed a whopping 6#15 ounces refused to breath after birth.  Gone were the visions of all of us sitting in Jennifer’s postpartum room contemplating names, replaced instead by an emergency transport team that worked quickly at moving our baby girl to a hospital with a NICU.  It was an unexpected and very chaotic development that somehow ended in Baby B being given a name that wasn’t on anyone’s radar.

Hence, she is named Isabella (I have no idea why) Jennifer (after her guardian angel) Savage.

So…fast forward to crunch time.  We are T-minus six weeks and counting.  Sean and I have kicked around a few possibilites for this little guy but nothing has really resonated.  Drew and Ryan think they get a say, but so far all they have come up with is “Steele”.  Um…not happening.  They’ve accepted the fact that their first suggestion has been vetoed but continue to insist their little bro has a name that is a little “kick ass“.

And that, my friends, is where you come in.  Sean and I are looking for a little inspiration.  Give us your best…your most distinguished…most creative and beloved suggestions.  And don’t forget…the name has to be a little “kick ass” too.

There are bonus points for explaining why the name is so awesome.


We can’t wait to see what you come up with.


A few recent pics from our family.

Drew ran against his high school teammate at a recent college cross country meet.  So fun to see these boys later in life.

Drew ran against his high school teammate at a recent college cross country meet. So fun to see these boys later in life.


Ryan is nearing the end of his senior cross country season.

Ryan is nearing the end of his senior cross country season.

Took our girls..again...to the Gust Pumpkin Farm right up the road.  We have some serious bunny love going on.

Took our girls..again…to the Gust Pumpkin Farm right up the road. We have some serious bunny love going on.


Big brother came to watch MK run her last cross country meet.

Big brother came to watch MK run her last cross country meet.

Daddy was super proud.

Daddy was super proud.


Me and my great Aunt Angie at my cousin's wedding.  Aunt Angie is my grandmother's baby sister.  I love seeing her!

Me and my great Aunt Angie at my cousin’s wedding. Aunt Angie is my grandmother’s baby sister. I love seeing her!


My baby cousin and my baby bump at the wedding.

My baby cousin and my baby bump at the wedding.

Sunday morning we woke to the pitter patter of the Chicago Marathon passing our hotel.  Awesome sight.

Sunday morning we woke to the Chicago Marathon passing our hotel. Awesome sight.  Awesome weekend.


If you are looking for the recipe for candy corn bark I talked about on 101.5 The River with Rick and Mary Beth click HERE.

Sometimes Parenting Sucks…oh…and pregnancy, too.

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 08/11/14 8:54 PM
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Blog, Blogging Honestly, perspective

I bought four pillows the other day.  Not throw pillows or decorative little squares.  They were full fledged, I-need-this-to-sleep-comfortably bed pillows.  And they were all for me.

The clerk in the bedding section of the department store must have thought I was a little odd.   I mean, I’m sure it’s normal for people to hit the pillows or squish the pilllows but I was pressing them against my side;  squeezing them between my knees; and hugging them to my very pregnant body all in hopes of determining which one would help me sleep.

You see, I’m getting big.

I can no longer sleep on my stomach.  I haven’t been able to lay on my left side since I pee’d on that stick--sleeping on my left side makes me throw up. As a result, my right hip is starting to get a little sore–especially considering I can’t lay flat.  I have to keep my upper body raised in order for gravity to help my Nexium-Zantac-Tums cocktail keep the contents of my stomach–well–in my stomach.

Making matters even more challenging, I have a horrible case of restless leg syndrome.  I honestly didn’t even know RLS was a thing until two pregnancies ago.  With Mary Kate and Logan I had minor boughts of the condition but unfortunately, this pregnancy has me playing world class soccer in my bed.  It takes hours to fall asleep.  And, once I do…I have to get up and go to the bathoom.

I’d love to report the pillows have helped, but I’m not sure they have.  As a result I am a walking zombie.

But…I’m not complaining.

Oh wait.


Yes I am.

And that’s okay.


This morning I watched Savannah Guthrie bid the world of network morning television a maternity leave adieu.  Apparently her little bun in the oven is about baked.  In celebration of her momentous occasion the Today Show had a gaggle of celebrities give her some last minute parenting advice in a clever little montage.  You can read it here.

The messages were sweet.  Some of them were even funny. Many of them shared one underlying theme.

Enjoy it. Love every second of it.  Parenting is an honor.  It’s a privelege.  It’s the best job you’ll ever have!”

I don’t know if it was my sleep-deprived, grumpy, ill-feeling-pregnant-self but all I could think of was, “What a bunch of bull sh*t.

The more I thought about the well-intentioned, sugary advice to “lap up every second” the madder I got.  You see, after being a parent for the past 20 years I’ve realized that some of the duties us mothers are called to–well–to be frank–kind of suck.

For instance, last Friday night Sean and I lugged all five of our kids to the shores of Lake Michigan for an evening picnic at the water’s edge.  Great plan in theory but damn if every single kid isn’t their own little variable.  Four of our five were agreeable but one would have nothing of it.  Suddenly, after a week of playing at the beach without incident, she didn’t like sand, water, sunscreen and the site of seagulls made her scream.  In addition, she protested that her bathing suit was ill-fitting, her sandals were too tight and she had a tummy ache.

Therefore she screamed…for a solid thirty minutes.

Being the savvy parents that Sean and I are we weren’t about to let a crabby two year old thwart our plans.  We sat her in a chair, set up camp, and ignored her display.  It was us against her and we were determined to prevail.  After all, the sunset was brilliant, the other four kids were playing happily, and we figured we could outlast the tantrum.  It was a battle of wills and come hell or high water we were going to win.

Until…we didn’t.

You see, turns out two year olds have weapons up there sleeves–and in their pants–that can beat down even the most resolute parents.

Remember that tummy ache?  The one I ignored.  Turns out there was some truth behind her complaints.

Drew was the first to recognize there was a problem.

Drew:  Mom…what’s with the flies all over her?

Me: Um…I don’t know.  Maybe they are mistaking her tantrum as a mating call.

Drew:  Um.  No.  I think there’s a problem.

Ryan:  Oh my God.  Look at her leg.

Me:  What?…running towards her…”Shit!

There in lies the problem.  Shit.  Shit everywhere.  Turns out my recently potty-trained no-diaper-wearing little girl decided to end this trip to the beach the only way she could.  She used the one weapon in her arsenal we couldn’t ignore.

And she won.

And it sucked.


This pregnancy is getting difficult.  At this point, I thankfully have no reason what-so-ever to be worried about the dangerous complications that I’ve experienced before.  So far, my blood pressure is stable and my body seems to be cooperating with it’s new inhabitant.  I’m grateful for that.  I really am.

But, here’s the thing,

Pregnancy is tough.  It alters a woman’s life in a way that forces her to sacrifice so much.  Discomforts that range from the minor to the major often plague women during the forty week gestational period.  Yet, and I can only speak for myself,  I always feel guilty complaining.  I feel like I should be thankful for this opportunity because so many women would give their left arm to be in my position.  My pregnancy is a miracle.  This little life I’m carrying is a blessing from God.

And just like those feelings, sometimes when I’m having a challenging parenting moment I catch myself thinking about how my life would be easier if I wasn’t a parent at all.

I know.

Can you believe I just admitted that?  Me.  The woman who went to the extreme of extremes to have this brood of children.

But I admit it.  There are moments where I wish I could beam myself to a parallel universe in which my current “challenge” (aka. “kid”)  didn’t exist.  For instance,  in the moment that I was wrapping my sh*t covered two year old in a beach towel and carrying her through the sand while she was kicking and screaming because suddenly she didn’t want to leave the beach–I wanted to be somewhere else.  In fact, I wanted to be someone else.  Anyone but this child’s mother.

Do I feel bad about that?  Maybe.  Kind of.  Not really.

Dare I say, “It’s normal”?


Look…I know it’s  not on trend to complain.  Gratitude:  Enjoying the small things:  Basking in the minutia of parenting;  well, it’s all  supposed to be the bomb.

Sometimes it is.


Some parenting moments suck.  Kids puke.  They destroy things.  They can make bad decisions that put parents in undesireable positions.  They can break hearts with their tongues and do things that make you feel like you’ve have failed.   And, damn if they don’t have a special knack for embarrassing you.

When those parenting moments happen it’s okay not to love every single second of it.

We need to quit telling each other to cherish every moment.  As well intentioned as the sentiment is–it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and guilt.  And those are feelings that mothers don’t need any more of.  I’m pretty sure most of us walk around every day worrying that we aren’t doing a good enough job and feeling guilty about it.


Considering my Y-list celebrity status I’m not at all surprised the producers from the Today Show didn’t invite me to participate in the advice laden montage for Savannah.  But, if they had, this is what I would’ve said,

“On most days you’re going to love being a mother.  But there will be days where you don’t; and that’s okay.  They pass.   But for the love of God don’t feel bad for not loving every single second of motherhood.  Oh…and don’t ignore complaints about stomach aches.  They often result in sh*t.”


We were visiting my parent’s last week.  They live on the shores of southern Lake Michigan.  Here are a few snap shots of the parenting moments I actually did love.



On the lawn of my parent's yacht club.

On the lawn of my parent’s yacht club.

Lawn bowling.  She's kind of dangerous.

Lawn bowling. She’s kind of dangerous.

Cousin mayhem.

Cousin mayhem.

Burning off some steam.

Burning off some steam.

Uncle love.

Uncle love.

Cuddle time.

Cuddle time.

Uninhibited smiles.

Uninhibited smiles.