Popcorn Madness!


My brackets are busted.

A couple of upsets and I’ve now got zero shot at this year’s NCAA pool jackpot. But being out of the money isn’t so bad; I still get to watch the hoop dreams unfold with my friends, many of whose teams are still hanging in.

In a sports world defined by lockouts, salary caps, endorsement deals and trade deadlines, the NCAA basketball tourney is a breath of fresh air. Most of these kids aren’t going pro—they’re playing for the love of the game. They’re taking their best shots, and it’s a delight to see. Best of all, the tournament is a great excuse to shake off the dregs of winter and gather with friends to watch and wager.

My buddy Andy is the Grand Master of March Madness. For the past 20 years, he has scheduled his annual “TV Vacation” just in time for the Sweet Sixteen playoffs. He and his pals gather at his place for a day-long marathon of food, drink and basketball on the giant flat screen. Over the years I’ve seen people come early…come late…come with spouses, children, neighbors and even work colleagues in tow…but they all show up for this can’t-miss party. And everyone brings food, typically of the frat house variety.

The Prized Possession


by Nicole

My 11-year-old has lots of cool baseball memorabilia in his room. He’s got giant decals of two of his favorite New York Yankees standing guard over his bed; photos; trophies; pennants, miniature bats; team shirts; and more. But his most treasured souvenir is a recent addition: a beat up ball from last week’s Little League game. As he explained to his grandfather, it’s got two big smudges on it, “one from where I hit the ball, and one from where it hit the tree beyond the fence.”

Because, after six years of playing baseball, the kid finally hit a home run.

My son is a good ball player, and he’s had lots of wonderful experiences with the game. Most importantly, he’s learned to be part of a team, and to play by rules, even when he wholeheartedly disagrees with how they’re enforced. He learned early on that if you complain too loudly, the ump will make sure you get to evaluate the rest of the game from the bench.

And while baseball is most definitely a team sport, it’s unique in that it puts every individual player in the spotlight. You hit the ball or not. You catch the ball or not. You make the play…or not. (more…)

Wrapping up a Workout with Cranberry Almond Popcorn Muffins


by Nicole

My husband was born with a gift: he’s absurdly coordinated. Give him a ball, a bat, a racquet or a club and he’s in his element.

Thank goodness, because with him donating half their genes, our kids have at least a fighting chance. They need him to offset my DNA, which is pretty much coded for clumsiness. I stumble over nothing, collect random bumps and bruises all day and have even broken a bone while walking around my house. And sports? Let’s just say I’m still the last kid picked.

It’s no small wonder, then, that we’re together. Through courtship and the early years of our marriage, he was always out mixing it up on some field, course or court. Not to mention his marathon bike rides and two-day hikes on the Appalachian Trail or the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. You’d never find him inside, much less cooped up at the gym, which he deemed a spot for muscleheads and uncoordinated folks like me, who needed to sweat it out in a controlled environment. He always maintained he’d rather be out playing.

But lately, something has changed. The poor guy is falling apart. He’s got weak ankles; early signs of arthritis; and, at 6’4”, a back and neck perpetually inflamed by living in spaces designed for much shorter people. What’s worse, a round of golf can put him practically in traction, and jumping for a fly ball while coaching our son’s Little League team recently landed him in a neoprene ankle brace, hobbled for three months. (more…)

Scoring Big with Buffalo Ranch Popcorn


After almost two decades with my husband, it’s finally happened: I’ve learned to enjoy watching football. Maybe it’s the fact that our kids are so into it, or perhaps that I always know where to find my man on Sunday afternoons (and Monday and Thursday nights) but I am no longer a wailing football widow. I’ve made my peace with the fact that, in this house, we are fans.

And so, as Big Game Day approaches, we prepare. This year, my husband will be hosting five of his cronies from the office where we met back in the 90s. Most of these guys are settled with families and ready for an evening out; a couple others are clinging hard the single life and are coming for free beer and hot food. Either way, they’re headed for my couch, and they’re going to be hungry. And these boys can eat. Years back, I was out with them for 10 cent wing night at a local watering hole. For six of them, the bill was $30. Do that math!