Saturday, October 15, 2011
I always knew in my heart that when my precious Nana was gone it would be heartbreaking. The past year has been a roller coaster of grief. I hit the angry phase and stayed there for awhile. Lately I have been wavering between feeling numb and remembering the happy stuff.
It is hard to describe the heart wrenching pain of losing someone. Even when you know it is coming, it still hurts as bad as if it happened quickly. I spent six months just remembering that last month with her. Going over every detail, wondering if there was anything I could have done different. When I finally got past that part, I was so angry with her. Wondering why she did not love me enough to take better care of herself.
Now in this phase, when I think about my Nana, which is often, I can finally remember the good stuff. And yet ... as the one year anniversary of her passing fast approaches, I am finding myself right back at the beginning. When I think about Nana now I remember those days again.. and the pain.. and the questions.
You see the nurse told us that we should tell her it was okay to go. I could never bring myself to do that. I never asked her to stay, but I never held her hand and told her she was okay to go. I just told her I loved her! I still to this day wonder if she held on so long because I did not tell her it was okay.
Nana and I have always had a strong bond. I was blessed to be able to grow up with her, she was an amazing woman who taught me a lot about everything. I grew up with an appreciation for things beyond my years. I love black and white movies, the opera, Al Jolson, The Rat Pack (not the Brat Pack) and so many other things. All because of her. I know how to play just about any card game there is, and have an appreciation for people who have a different belief system than I do. These are all things that I learned from my Nana.
As I write this, I find myself falling back into the angry phase, still wondering why. Why didn't she go to the Dr? She knew she was sick. Why didn't she take better care of herself? Wasn't I enough of a reason for her to stay? They are all selfish questions, but they are still there. As I revisit all of these questions I have a lump in my throat and my chest hurts.
I actually have about fifteen unpublished blogs that I called Letters to Nana, they are deeply personal and as I read them now, I still cry. Does it ever get any better? And if it does I am not sure I want it to stop hurting. If it does, does that mean that I am okay with her being gone? Because I never want to be okay with it, I just want it to not hurt so much!
Saturday, September 10, 2011
So my wonderful bread machine has finally died.... it was older so I am not surprised. I used it everyday and sometimes twice a day. My wonderful sister in law has "donated" her bread machine to me. She does not use it anymore and knew that I use mine all the time.
A couple of months ago, she had given me this really great cookbook. The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking.... so now I think it is time to break in the new one. I am going to start cooking a new recipe from the cookbook at least twice a week.
So stay tuned for my reviews of "The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking"
And a special thank you to my family for giving me the first bread machine.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I have begun the college process yet again. I am not sure I can even remember how many times I have started and dropped out of college. I am ashamed to even admit that, but it could be a great lesson for other people. Ugh! Now I know I am a parent, when I am turning my mistakes into life lessons.....
What is different "this time"? Is that not the question everyone asks in this type of situation. Since I have been in and out so often, how do I know for sure this is the time. For now, my answer is quite simple.
Everything is different this time. Towards the end of last year's school year, I realized that my son would be graduating from high school in five very short years. This was a wake up call. My parents went back to college when I was in high school, and I have to tell you it was hard. During that time period, I do not remember much of them. They were always gone, in class, working, or studying. It was the hardest time of my life, and my parents had "checked out". At that point in time it should have been the moment that pushed me to this point. Sadly that was not the case.
I have had people in my life who tried to show me the path to success. I ignored it, thinking, like most young people, that they had no clue what I was going through. Age, experience, and self awareness, prove that we do not know Jack Squat when we are younger. It is the people like me at this age who prompt, guide, lead, and just try to rescue the kids. Just like most of the adults in my life!
I can try to list all the reasons why I failed before, instead I choose to list all the reasons that I will succeed this time.
1. Obtaining my degree will mean trying to "break the cycle" in my family. I want my son to understand that college is not an option. I want him to see it as inevitable. The way that I should have.
2. Now that I am older, I understand it all more, which means it means more to me than just the first one listed. It is validating the ones who tried to guide me in the past (ie. My parents and My Aunt Ali).
3. I am busier now than I ever was before, but I always find time for my schoolwork.... because, see number 1 & 2.
4. It isn't about making more money, or even having my degree, it is about proving that the hardest thing you can do, is NOT go to college.
It took me turning 36 and a lot of wonderful people in my life to finally figure out what I liked enough to spend so much time away from my family. It also took living out in the country and seeing how so many other people live their lives, content, without a college education, but always struggling. I do not want my kids to be constantly struggling. Even if I never use it, I have to have it, I feel like my children's future depends on it. What more motivation do you need than that?
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The Italian Pork Chop recipe looked amazing. It only took me about fifteen minutes to get everything into the crockpot. And as it slowly cooked all day on low, it smelled absolutely amazing. I would soon be disappointed!
The instructions told me to remove the pork chops... well that might have been possible if they had not fallen apart the minute I tried. So removed as much as I could and added the final ingredients which were water and starch. I am assuming to thicken up the sauce, which was confusing considering the sauce was already thick.
Since this was a first timer I was not sure my kids would eat it. So I made additional pork chops that were breaded and baked. I am so glad I did this, because only half of my clan ate the Italian Pork Chops. The other half preferred the breaded.
This dish was good, but not delicious. It tasted like I poured spaghetti sauce on top of pork chops.
I am not going to strike it off the list completely. I have plans to distort the recipe in true Hoosier Mama fashion.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I wonder if I can get a book deal from cooking every recipe I find in the Taste of Home cookbooks and then blogging about it. I could call it, Jessica being Casseroles..... or maybe not. Anywho, I tried another new recipe last night, and it was a winner!
I served Chicken Club Casserole. I picked this recipe because of the fresh spinach and tomatoes. The picture in the cookbook helped as well. You cannot go wrong with fresh veggies. Wow, what an amazing color and flavor combination. My dinner was not only delicious but beautiful as well.
4 cups uncooked rotini pasta
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 cans (10.75 ounces each) condensed Cheddar cheese soup (I used the Heart Healthy cans w/low sodium and no MSG)
1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup mayonnaise
4 medium tomatoes seeded and diced
3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 8 ounce package shredded Colby-Monterrey Jack cheese
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chicken, soup, bacon, milk, and mayonnaise. Stir in the tomatoes and spinach.
2. Drain pasta and add to a large greased casserole dish. Pour the chicken mixture over the pasta and use a spoon to stir until completely mixed through the pasta.
3. Cover and bake at 374 for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.
*** The picture above is my finished product, doesn't it look just delicious? Stay tuned tonights dish is Italian Pork Chops. Sounds complicated but .... you might be pleasantly surprised about just how easy it is.
In the grocery store line there are always these little cookbooks. They are only about the size of a Readers Digest, but are stuffed full of some yummy looking recipes. I finally had enough one day and bought, Taste of Home Casseroles. Why this one, well in prominent letters on the cover it said "prep in 20 min or less". I could always use some quick recipes, at the time my son was really young, and I was working full time. It did not hurt that their was a picture of this amazing Supreme Pizza Casserole on the cover, which by the way has become a family favorite.
Since that day, I have purchased two more of these little cookbooks, and I have never regretted it. My most recent acquisition is called Easy Back to School Meals. This caught my attention because I have two in school this year, I am taking a few classes this semester, and will be starting to work again. This little cookbook gives you the recipe for 12-16 servings so you can freeze another meal for later. While I was standing in the checkout line, flipping through my cookbook, I said to myself and quite possibly out loud "I am going to make one of these tonight".
After I got home and twisted my son's arm to put away all the groceries, I flipped leisurely through my new little gem, stopping and checking ingredients on several different recipes. I found two that I had all the ingredients for, but one required cooking in the Crockpot for 4-4 1/2 hours (this will be tonights dinner). So my mind was made for me, and Honey Dijon Chicken it would be!
12 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 Dijon mustard
1/3 cup honey
Hot cooked rice or noodles - I made plain rice
1. Rub chicken with garlic and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, cook chicken in oil (meat should hit a temperature of 170).
2. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, pineapple juice and water until smooth. Stir in the mustard and honey. Add to the skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 more minutes or until thickened.
3. Spoon half of the chicken and sauce into a greased 11-in x 7-in baking dish, cool. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months. Serve remaining chicken with rice or noodles.
This was an incredibly easy recipe to make even with little ones underfoot. Sadly though it bombed with my kids. They did not like the strong pineapple flavor of the sauce. After reflecting on this recipe, I believe I already know what I did wrong.
Even though I have a large skillet, I still had to cook my chicken in sections. And once the second section was cooking I got distracted by the kids..... and the garlic burned in the bottom of the pan. There was no way that I was going to dump my sauce into a pan that had burnt garlic in it. It would have completely ruined the recipe. So I pulled out a clean smaller skillet and started my sauce. I am sure that the garlic, thyme, and juices from the chicken are supposed to help flavor the sauce even more.
All in all this was a simple dish to make, tasted good (except for the strong pineapple flavor), and will make it into my favorites. With a little bit of tweeking this will turn into a great dish.
Monday, August 15, 2011
So I forced Hoosier Daddy to watch "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with me about five years ago. It is a great movie about believing in yourself and finding love. What we found the funniest was the Greek father in the movie had an obsession with Windex. He believed that Windex solved everything. Which of course elicited eye rolls from his family. The vindication was in the end. The couple had just got married and were sitting in their limo on the way to their reception. They were discussing how crazy it had all been. The bride brought up how stressed she was and that she had woke up that morning with a pimple. The groom of course said that he had one too. The bride looked at his face and said "What did you do? I don't see one now"........ and he replied "I put Windex on it"!
After we watched that movie, we have enjoyed making fun of people who have a "Big Fat Greek Wedding" obsession. For my mother in law, it is Dawn dish soap. Her solution is to put Dawn on everything. Over the years we have had a lot of fun teasing her over this. One year for Christmas we bought her the largest bottle we found at Costco. She of course loved it, which almost defeated the purpose....
I got my wake up call, when I was telling Hoosier Daddy that I found a great natural face mask that might be perfect for him to use. My husband works a lot with plaster, and it gets all over his face and causes some issues at times. He gets so self conscience about it. We had tried a lot of different facial cleansers, and have not found one that works for him yet. So I had googled all natural face masks for blemishes, and what popped up? It was a baking soda face mask! It was finally my turn to be the "butt" of the jokes.
Since we have moved here to Southern Indiana, I have found many uses for Baking Soda. I use it as a drain cleaner, a stain remover, teeth whitener, a booster in my laundry soap, face mask, a basis in my all purpose cleaner recipe, cleaning the gas residue off my pots and pans, cutting down the poison ivy outbreak by two to three days, and I am sure as time goes by I will find many more uses.
Here are some links to my favorite baking soda uses.
If you get poison ivy, oak, or sumac, then soak in a warm bath with about 2 cups of baking soda. It helps to dry out the blisters and reduces the time for the outbreak. For my pots and pans, all I do is add a little baking soda to my scrubber and then apply to the bottom of my pans. It works better than any dish soap I could buy, and is less abrasive than buying Comet or Bar Keeper's Friend. As a booster to my homemade laundry soap, all I do is reduce one of my ingredients by half and replace it with baking soda. It really helps on the tough ground in stains.
So what is your "Big Fat Greek Wedding"?