Saturday 20 February 2021


A wooden door is ajar. Before it, a cuir doormat sits on a red carpet.
Home Sweet Home (for now).
(Image credit: author's own.)

What does it mean to you?

Home is a concept that most people understand, but it's not the same for any two of us. Whether it's where you hang your hat, where your favourite people are, or the house that you've lived in forever, such a familiar term has a different meaning to everyone.

As an expat that will be returning to the motherland this year (fingers crossed!), to a house and a street that I barely got to know before we left, but to a city where friends and family are close by, my own concept of home will be shifting again soon. 

Until I turned 15, I moved every two to three years, so home was wherever my family lived at that time. When people ask me where I'm from, it's easier to just say I'm nomadic, a navy brat: I was born on one coast, spent six years on the other (in two, three-year intervals), and have bounced around in the middle the rest of the time. But where am I really from? Where's home? I settled in my adopted hometown when I was 15, and my parents are still there, though they left for a while when I was in university. I lived there for 15 years in a row, but left it again as an adult with a family of my own, twice now. I hope to return there this summer. Forever? I'm not sure.

A wooden cabinet with glass doors. Inside, a tarnished silver vase and ribbons, and a stained glass sculpture.
Precious memories have travelled with me and hold a place of honour in each of my homes.
(Image credit: author's own)

I've had so much time to consider home over the last two years of writing and editing Ground Control. My protagonist, Sarah, is trying to come to terms with leaving. Earth -- the largest concept of home possible right now -- but also her house (that she'd only lived in for two years), and her parents, who still live in the house she grew up in, in another city, a home that she really left fifteen years before. 

She thinks about herself, but mostly about her kids, and how she wants them to have a home. She looks back to her own childhood and the joy she remembers of riding her bike and feeling the wind in her hair, playing outside on summer nights till the lights came on, climbing trees, and spinning round and round until you fall down on the grass and the whole huge sky whirls around your head. These are things her children will never know on Mars. She struggles with which mementos to bring along, collections of photos, trinkets, tastes or memories that recall the places she's left behind.

A guitar stands beside a desk holding a lit candle and a laptop
My guitar, my candle, my lip balm always make my office more mine.
(Image credit: author's own)

Her journey, and mine, when I think of it, follows the change that happens when you get ready to leave a home: from loss and regret, to the thought of adventure and a new life, to acceptance that wherever you end up, in whatever becomes your community, eventually becomes home again. 

These themes also come to play in my next novel, which is underway, where the elements of Cate's home -- family, friends and community -- are far different than they first seem (but stay tuned).

...and a recipe for 70s-style chicken casserole

Right then. For me, home needs to involve the concept of a somewhat 70s-style childhood, and fond memories of 70s food. I present my mom's chicken casserole. It doesn't sound like much, but it tastes like home. My kids love it. Hey, even Fis likes it.*

Mom's "That 70s" Chicken Casserole

2 cups boiled chicken, diced (off to a promising start! Of course, you can use grilled or roasted)
1 cup chopped celery (the "vegetable" element of this balanced meal)
1 cup almonds, sliced or slivered
2 cups cooked rice (it was the 70s, so white rice is de rigeur, but you can enhealthen it by using brown)
1 cup mayonnaise (please use light -- or lite. And yes, Miracle Whip works too)
2 tbs. onion, finely chopped (I tend to use a 1/2 onion, for, you know, flavour)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 tbs. lemon juice 
2 chicken OXO cubes dissolved in 1/2 cup water
Pepper to taste (my recipe calls for salt too, but it does NOT need any added salt)
... Potato chips, crushed, to cover (this is what you came here for)

Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C. Mix everything except the potato chips in a casserole dish. Crumble the chips over top, and bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

It's even better the next day.

*high praise
**Is this whole recipe just a vehicle for potato chips? Well, what of it?
***Vaughn slid by as I was writing this and was all, "Wait. Are you making that chicken casserole tonight?" He was disappointed when I said no. Looks like I'll have to make it tomorrow!

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