Mom's fresh basil plant.

The first time I visited my father’s grave, I was armed with a Dairy Queen blizzard and a head full of memories.  If anybody happened to witness that moment, they probably thought I was a crazy person, talking to the air while crying in my soft serve. It was the first time *ever I didn’t fully enjoy my frozen treat.

*Very important side note: I still finished the entire blizzard (but of course.) Dad and I always finished our treats in record time. Brain freezes just don’t run in our blood.

It got me to thinking about how one of the most interesting parts of life is how many “firsts” we experience on the journey. First steps, first words, first tastes, first kiss…first love. Life is also filled with “lasts,” but you rarely realize that this might be the last experience until the moment has passed.

One thing I have noticed about the process of grieving those last moments is how it changes with each season, bringing its own “firsts” as you continue through it. Only this time, the “firsts” are the realization that he won’t be there to experience these memories with us anymore.

These are the “firsts” that reopen the wound.

This summer is special and unique for me, since it is the first in almost 12 years that I am not working, but instead enjoying and adjusting to the benefits of being a teacher. I devoted it to traveling and was able to spend time in Minnesota with my family up at our cabin on Woman Lake…the first time I’ve been up there without Dad.

As I watched my oldest brother man the grill and take us on boat rides, I saw him taking over for the first time a duty that was all too suddenly passed down to him. He accepted this responsibility with incredibly composure, a “first” he wasn’t quite ready to inherit.

We all pitched in to create a week of “firsts” without Dad. Everybody shifted their norm to make room for the new. We drank different wines, cooked new foods and changed our expectations. Life will never be the same, but soon enough the “firsts” will become “seconds” and life will slowly start to feel somewhat normal again, just a new kind of it.

First, last and always, I love my family to no end. Finding ways to show them their meaning to my own life is something I truly enjoying doing. Laughing, singing, cooking, sharing wine: these are the things we do with people we love. Today, I’m sharing a recipe that I made this past week up at the cabin: Triple Pepper Pizza. Though it was not the first time I made it, it was the first time I was able to share it with these extraordinary people.

Triple Pepper Pizza


Triple Pepper Pizza

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 bell peppers: Red, Yellow and Orange

1/2 small red onion

1/4 cup parsley leaves

1/4 cup basil leaves

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

4-6 ounces mozzarella cheese (about half of a round of mozzerella)

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic + 1 Tbsp of oil to, mix together and set aside for brushing

Pizza dough for one pizza (see my favorite here)

First things first: Make your pizza dough! (If you choose not to make your own dough, skip this step). My favorite one is from Smitten Kitchen and I personally think it’s totally worth it to make from scratch, but if you’re pressed for time, you can buy pre-made dough pretty much anywhere!

About 20 minutes before your dough is ready: Preheat the oven to its highest temperature 450-500 °F. If you have a pizza stone, throw it in the oven while pre-heating. Before baking the pizza, make sure to sprinkle the stone with cornmeal. Otherwise, just use a regular pizza pan or cookie sheet.

Thinly slice the peppers and onion, and roughly chop the parsley and basil. Toss in a bowl with the 2 tbsp of olive oil and the vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Coarsely grate the parmesan cheese. Chop mozzarella into chunks. Set Aside.

Roll out a disk of pizza dough 12 to 14 inches in diameter and place it on the back of a lightly floured sheet pan or pizza peel. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, brush the garlic and oil mixture on the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle both the parmesan and mozzerella cheese on top of the oiled dough. Spread the pepper mixture on top of the cheese. Slide the pizza directly onto the pizza stone or bake on whatever baking sheet you chose.  Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is crispy and thoroughly cooked. Slice and serve immediately.

Makes one 12-inch pizza.