An Empty Nest and the Next Big Wave

Sharing a cozy fusion meal of satay chicken, spicy noodles and flan l’orange in front of the fireplace with my newly empty nester brother and sister in-law as the first flurries of the season were getting ready to drop some snow on us, we chatted about about the next chapter in life. What do we want to be doing, contributing and accomplishing and where do want to be while we do it.

It is an odd feeling when you have spent the majority of your adult life focused on family and children and then suddenly your kids are out of the house and you have time to indulge a moment on yourself. It can be an enlightening and intimidating occasion when viewing life from this very different vantage point. Couples find themselves sitting across the dinner table looking at each other saying “now what” as the chatter of children no longer fills the space. Single parents may find themselves alone in their home for the first time in a long while without their child campadre to share the time with. It can also be a time of questioning whether you have prepared your child well enough to survive and thrive in the big cold world, and then the realization as they do thrive, that they no longer need you as they once did.

As parents, our job is to lay the ground work and foundation for our children, to give them the support and love to live their lives without us. To instill the sense and confidence so they aren’t afraid to venture out into society and find their true purpose in life.

I remember dropping my son off at college with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, then the realization of a certain freedom as I sat on the flight home, only to be sideswiped by sadness as I found myself sitting in an empty house that evening wondering what to do with myself.

It is a roller coaster of liberation and longing, self discovery and a processes of grieving for life has changed and a new phase has begun.

These days, I can barely get a text out of my son since he is working, playing and globetrotting his way through life. I do miss him and never feel as if I get to see him often enough, however, this is the natural progression and how the child/parenting cycle is supposed to work. On occasion, I am reminded that my kid still needs his mom when I get the call to say “I’m sick and I feel horrible” or “There is this girl I met…”.

At the end of the day, the additional leisure time can bring couples closer together as they rediscover each other and single parents time to pursue relationships, business ventures or creative endeavors. In fact, most parents find that the anticipation of their nest becoming empty is more painful then when thier children actually do leave.

There is always the pursuit of the next great wave to surf, mountain to ski, country to visit and friends to make. Life is full of surprises and never lacking adventures, so we all agreed that this is an exciting time in our lives.

Bring it on!


2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 large egg yolks
4 whole eggs
3/4 cup milk or almond milk
1/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoons orange zest
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Over medium heat, bring the water and 1/2 cup of sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir until sugar has dissolved and then swirl mixture in pan but do not stir it as it boils. Continue to cook until the mixture becomes an amber color.

Quickly pour the caramel into 6 flan ramekins or a round 7 or 8-inch ceramic or glass dish, tilting and swirling the caramel to coat the bottom of the dish. Allow the caramel to completely harden and cool for 15 -20 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together all of the remaining ingredients including the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Pour the custard into the flam ramekins or dish.

Place ramekins or dish into a large casserole or baking dish that is deep enough to pour and inch or so of hot water around it creating a water bath or bain marie which will cook the flans more evenly than without the bath.

Place in the oven and bake for approximately 1 hour for the large flan or 35-45 minutes for the small flans. Take the flan out of the oven when the outer edges are firm but the middle still jiggles. The flans will firm up as they cool.

Cool on a rack and then chill for 6 or more hours.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the sides of the flan and then dip the ramekins or dish into hot water for 20 seconds or so. Place a plate or platter over the dish or ramekin and quickly flip it over releasing the flan onto the plate or platter.



  1. What a wonderful flan recipe! I do love flan! 🙂 I enjoyed your story about your son. I really struggled when my kids went off to college, but like you, once I adjusted I realized a new freedom, and also just loved that they were living their independent lives. i do know that roller coaster you described! Debra

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