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My daughter Andyy and my surrogate son Danyull have been besties since middle school.  Even Andyy’s move from Fort Lauderdale to Georgia can’t change that.  They talk every day.

Danyull and Andyy

The other day, they were making grilled cheese sandwiches “together”, and sent each other videos of their accomplishments.  The resulting videos are too funny not to post.  Andyy, whose sandwich is on the left, is a total foodie.  She cooks every day like her mama and calls me often to find inspiration or recipes to try.  Danyull, on the other hand, lives with me, and doesn’t have to cook much, as I usually take over the kitchen and love menu planning and feeding my boys.  The sound of Danyull’s laughter at his sandwich versus Andyy’s is part of the joy of watching the video.

 

 

I know I’ve written about by my dad in the past.  Today on Father’s Day, somehow, even though he’s been gone well over 20 years, I’m missing him more.  I am also celebrating that I had an amazing dad who taught me well.

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My dad was a CPA and showed my brother, sister and me the importance of hard work and always doing a good job.  By the age of 14, I was fully ensconced in helping with some of his accounts by doing entries on ledgers (no Excel spreadsheet or Quickbooks back then) and even preparing payroll for a local small restaurant each week.  I appreciate that I learned the value to a job well done from him.  It somehow was translated in my mind as “what I do is who I am” though.  Recent conversations with my siblings confirm similar beliefs about ourselves.  Maybe not such a bad thing.

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Dad taught us what he was taught.  He was the product of a father who was a CPA, the youngest of a large sibship, raised by his siblings when their parents died.  His mother was from an the elite Hulvey family from Sweetwater, Tennessee, whose homestead is a historical landmark along with the Tennessee Military Institute her father, Colonel Otey Crawford Hulvey, ran.

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And, maybe, just maybe, if more people did their best, no matter how routine, mundane, or repetitive our jobs may seem, the world would be a better place.

When I think of Dad, I remember all the good things because there were so very few bad things.  He was honest, hardworking, loving, kind, super smart, loyal, funny, and fun.

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He taught me to love the Steelers and the Pirates!  He passed on his great baseball abilities to his grandchildren.  Hardly a disciplinarian, but always an inspiration.  He made me want to be a better person.

I had moved away from home in 1978, and would only see dad once or twice a year.  I didn’t run home each time he had a health crisis.  Our family wasn’t that way, plus, I went through ten years of childbearing, and travel was not on the agenda.  The song The Living Years makes me cry every time, since I wasn’t there when Dad passed away, and I do believe I’ve heard my dad’s echo in my newborn baby’s tears.

Last, but not least, I’d like to acknowledge that my dad set the bar high.  I’ve spent years lamenting that my six children missed having a dad like mine.  Truth is – they are one in a million.

 

 

 

 

 

I recently cancelled all but local channels, which has led to me viewing much more news programs than I have in years.  I had recently only sourced my news from the internet, except to occasionally watch a 60 minutes, 20/20, Sunday Morning, or other such program.   Actual picture of me watching TV.

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Photo Creator:James Steidl & Kyle Gruba – Copyright:©2008 James Steidl James Group Studios inc. – no copyright infringement intended.

 

On Sunday Morning last week, they spoke about loneliness.  The researchers they spoke to said they initially expected to find that those suffering from loneliness would be largely comprised of the elderly.  This turned out to not be true.  The pattern of loneliness they discovered involved the isolative, divisive world of social media and media in general.  How many friends do you have?  How many likes did your post get?  When did you last pick up the phone or get together with someone you love?

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Here I sit, isolated, and there you sit, isolated, and the real connection you and I may actually have available to us is mostly lost.  Yes, you may identify with me momentarily, or think I am right, but no interaction or conversation will take place which could lead to a deeper connection.  We will both believe our own truths filtered through our own needs.  Do whatever we need to reinforce our own beliefs.

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I am heavily involved in a local non-profit organization that presents personal growth seminars a minimum of every 6 weeks to our local South Florida community.  At these seminars, more than anywhere in my usual daily life, I have an opportunity to connect:  to feel heard, to feel a sense of value, to listen to what people are really saying.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that the world has reached a collective “not good enough” place of shame and isolation that could prevent many of us from experiencing the joy that is part of our everyday lives.  One of my favorite poets, Merrit Malloy, said in a poem I didn’t understand the first time I read it.  She describes how a victim thinks.

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She also said something profound about living in the present.

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Seeing others’ lives online so that we can envy or judge them.  I can’t decide which is worse.  I do know that neither serves me or nurtures me.

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Connection both serves and nurtures me.  I will continue to attend self-growth workshops, see a therapist as needed, speak to strangers at stores, and write my blogs.  Read more Merrit Malloy.

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The drought in connection in today’s world will potentially be the end of our civilization, just as the drought the Mayans suffered, leading them to scatter and disappear.  They ran away from the drought, leaving behind a paradise.

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Programs that help people connect are the hope for this world.

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Do I write this now to connect with someone?  If I say yes, I may have an expectation of an impact in the future by my posting this and I set myself up.  Or am I thinking it will be read by more people than it is, leading to disappointment.  Do I fail to dream of something that could happen, and believe no one will read it?  Again disappointment.

Here’s my take on life – I am writing this for me and my inner child.   No matter how the rest of my day goes, I have connected with myself today and looked at who I am and what I love about myself.  Definitely “good enough” stuff today.

scan0001 (2)My inner child.

At the very least, it got me into feeling, writing, and reading Merrit Malloy again!

 

 

 

Tex Mex Empanadas

Leftover chicken chili was the inspiration for these yummy empanadas.

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2 packs Goya frozen turnover cough  (these are my faves because there’s plastic sheets separating them.  No more dough sheets sticking together!

4- 6 cups leftover chili

I egg for egg wash

Water to deal seams

I finally got myself an empanada press.  Now making empanadas is so much easier!

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Lay the dough on the press and top with filling.

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Run your finger dipped in water along the dough edge and fold over filling pressing gently so it will deal well.

20190205_202249Squeeze closed.

20190205_202257Viola!  Place on sheet pan lined with parchment, sprayed with coconut oil.

Brush with beaten egg and bake at 37tF for 20 minutes.

So many variations of fillings!!  Sloppy joe.  Ground meat in gravy.  Sausage and cheese.  Barbecue.

Make Ahead Sandwiches

My mom used to make and freeze sandwiches for us to pop into the toaster oven any time we wanted one. Twenty four sandwiches sounds like a lot, but they go quickly!
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You will need meat and cheese and buns.
I used:
1 lb orange chipotle Turkey
20 sliced assorted cheeses
24 small hamburger buns
Lay them out for easier assembly.
Saute some onion (I used one large sweet onion, finely chopped) in oil, season while it cooks. Once the onion is translucent add 1 stick butter, 2 Tbsp. Mustard or other condiment, and fresh herbs. I used Dijon mustard and Italian seasoning.

Then tear off 24 pieces of foil and lay out the buns for assembly.
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Top each bun with the cooked onion spread.
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Top with meat and cheese.

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Wrap in foil and freeze.
To prepare, Bake at 350 in toaster oven 15 minutes. Cheese will melt and bun gets crispy.
The original version had a little Worcestershire sauce and poppy seeds in the sandwich spread. Needless to say the variations are endless!

 

Loss

Outspoken.  Adventurous.  Curious.  Inspiring.  Funny.  Talented.  Entertaining.  Down to Earth.  Genius.  Complicated.

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I would have like to have known him.

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I would have loved to share a meal with him.

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He was one of a kind.

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When I make boneless, skinless chicken in the crock pot, I always make too much.  I’ve been experimenting with fun ways to use up the leftovers, such as the burritos, egg rolls, empanadas, and now this super easy pot pie.

Chicken Pot Pie

4 C. shredded chicken

2 packages frozen mixed vegetables

1 package Simply Potatoes Steakhouse Seasoned Potatoes

1 c. baking mix (such as Bisquick or anything intended to make pancakes, biscuits, etc.)

3/4 c. cashew milk

Rinse the frozen veggies in a colander until defrosted.  Toss with potatoes.  Stir in chicken.  Mine had enough sauce, since crock pot meats are so wet, so I didn’t have to add anything.  If yours is dry or in need of liquid, you can use a homemade gravy by making a roux of butter and flour, and adding chicken broth to it and thickening it.  You can also use one of those handy pouches of sauce they sell nowadays or a canned soup.  These are just a little higher in sodium than we are comfortable eating on a regular basis, but can certainly make life easier in a pinch.

Pour chicken and veggie mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish (such as my Bobby Flay lasagna pan – to which I must bid adieu – a fine crack appeared and I’m not taking any chances!)  Mix baking mix and cashew milk.  If you want to spruce this up, you can add shredded cheese and an egg.  Spread evenly over the chicken and veggies.  Don’t worry about holes, because as you can see, the chicken bubbled up through in some places.

Bake at 375 until a toothpick through the thickest part of the crust comes out clean, and then turn off the oven and leave it in there 5 more minutes to help eliminate doughy parts.

 

 

More Baked Egg Rolls

We had some leftover chicken and rice that I froze so it wouldn’t go to waste. I defrosted it today to make some egg rolls. I sauteed some stir fry bok choy cabbage etc etc and stirred it in with the leftover chicken and rice and rolled it up in egg roll wrappers. Brush with oil and bake at 400F for 20 minutes. A great weeknight meal and a great way to use up leftovers.

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Thinking of mom and dad today and missing them.  Dad’s birthday was yesterday and today being Mother’s Day, well . . .

Yesterday would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday.  Sadly we lost him over twenty years ago.  He was not a saint, but he did do some saintly things in his life.  Some would say putting up with and loving my mother unconditionally was one of them.  This year, for the first time in years, I am thinking of my mother on Mother’s Day and can miss the good things and let go of dwelling on the not-so-good.  Mom’s been gone over 10 years.  My parents were perfectly imperfect, as are all parents.  It’s part of being human.  Just like I am a perfectly imperfect mother.

I was the 3rd child out of 4, born after my mother reportedly had been told she shouldn’t have any more.  She had my sister, who was beautiful, smart, and sassy, and my brother, who was handsome, brilliant, and talented.  Susie was always Dad’s favorite, and Donnie was always Mom’s favorite.  Their view might be different (perhaps they saw me as the spoiled baby), but I knew ‘favorite’ was already taken.   Then, when I was 3 or 4, we lost my baby brother six hours after he was born.  That tragedy would define the rest of my mother’s life.   She never recovered from the loss.  Never stopped blaming herself.  I shudder to imagine what it is like to suffer a loss of a child and to blame yourself.  It took me all these years to have empathy for my mom,  instead of blaming her or judging her for not being the mom I thought I wanted, that perfect mom I actually thought existed.  There was a funny kid’s movie with Sissy Spacek called “Mommy Market” where three kids turn in their mom and try out different moms (all played by Spacek) and end up realizing their own mom was the right one.  I had a perfectly imperfect childhood that led to who I am today.  I am thankful that despite all the things I perceived as imperfections.   I always knew I was loved.

I’ve learned after years of personal growth work and therapy that accepting and understanding the strengths and faults of others can lead us to empathy instead of judgment.  I’ve come to believe that letting go of judgment of others, and more importantly, ourselves, is key to the peace I hear so many say they are seeking.

I want to share a writing by Rachel Macy Stafford.  If you are a parent or are thinking of becoming one, please read this in its entirety and re-read it often.  I wish I had read this sooner and forgiven my mother and myself for being human.  This excerpt from Rachel’s Only Love Today really spoke to me.

The Day My Child Lost Her Joy—and What I Did to Revive It

I let my joy get sucked away—then I saw despair in my child’s eyes.

THE DAY MY CHILD LOST HER JOY
In an especially chaotic rush out the door to go on a family vacation, I sat in the passenger seat fuming. Mad because I didn’t have time to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Mad because we were late getting on the road. Mad because the garage door was acting up. I’m talking trivial, insignificant, minor inconveniences here, but that was the state of a distracted woman who could no longer see the blessings, only the inconveniences, of her life.

Before we were about to pull out of the driveway, my husband looked at me as if someone he loved very much had died. In a barely audible whisper he said, “You’re never happy anymore.”

I wanted to defend.

I wanted to excuse.

I wanted to deny.

But I couldn’t.

Because I knew he was right.

Where had that happy woman gone? The one who smiled at people she passed on the street just because. The one whose friends often spoke of her positive outlook on life. The one who felt happy simply because she heard her favorite song or had a pack of strawberry Twizzlers in her purse. The one who could laugh off mistakes because mistakes happen, and they are certainly not the end of the world.

Where had she gone?

And that’s when I glanced to the backseat to see if my children, then ages six and three, had heard my husband’s words. Staring back at me was my older daughter picking her lip with worry the size of a small boulder weighing down her small shoulders.

As she pinched that tiny piece of fragile skin on her upper lip with wide eyes, I could practically read her mind:

Mom’s mad.

Mom’s tired.

Mom’s stressed.

But there was more. I could practically hear how a young child would interpret her mother’s unhappiness.

Mom’s mad at me.

Mom’s tired because of me.

Mom’s stressed because of something I did.

That’s when an even more powerful question hit me.

Where had my happy little girl gone? The one who woke up with the most gorgeous bedhead and good morning smile. The one who beamed at the words “sprinkler,” “cotton candy,” and “pet store.” The one who laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. The one who licked beaters with sheer pleasure and danced happily to any song with a beat.

Where had she gone?

I knew.

Because my happiness was based on external measures—on tasks being completed, plans running accordingly, goals being met, hairs being in place—I was continually disappointed … upset … impatient … and stressed. In the process of making my own life miserable, I’d funneled my unhappiness straight into my daughter’s once joyful heart and spirit. Her pain was a direct reflection of the expression I wore on my face.

I desperately wanted to bring a smile back to my daughter’s face. I knew I must bring it back to my own. I began praying for small steps I could take to become a more positive, present, and peace-filled person. On brightly colored sticky notes, I posted daily goals and positive mantras that came to me during morning prayer time. Especially prominent on my mirrors and cabinets were these two go-to phrases: “Only Love Today” and “See Flowers Not Weeds.”

I used the phrase Only Love Today to silence my inner bully. Whenever a critical thought would come to my mind or my mouth, I’d cut it off with Only Love Today. I used See Flowers Not Weeds as a pathway to gratitude, to see what was good in situations and people.

As Only Love Today and See Flowers Not Weeds became a daily practice, I felt a profound transformation occurring in my heart and home. No longer were my goals exclusively items that could be measured or checked off—they consisted of immeasurable items like listening, laughing, dreaming, playing, connecting, and loving. With a more meaningful daily goal, I was able to see the blessings in my imperfect self and in my imperfect life. My eager-to-please, helpful older child looked different too. I saw her for who she was, not an annoyance or a bother, but a loving child with clever thoughts and ideas. For once, I could see all the things she was capable of doing—not perfectly, but good enough for today. The tightness in my face relaxed and the smiles came more easily for both of us.

One morning, I looked out the kitchen window to see her making a little garden right there in the middle of the yard. I watched as she tended to her miniature plot. Her joyful smile made me take pause. Clearly, she was at peace tending to her garden. I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the response I received. My parents wrote:

“Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative, and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”

I covered my mouth to muffle the sobs.

When I was struggling to breathe beneath the weight of perfection, distraction, and self-induced pressure, my child was too.

My daughter had absorbed my tension.

She had absorbed my frustration.

She had absorbed my anxiety.

She had absorbed my unhappiness.

And as my negative emotions were being filtered down to her, they impacted her ability to grow, thrive, and blossom.

If I didn’t know it before, I know it now:

Our children are our garden. They absorb our stress, just as they absorb our peace. They absorb our negativity just as they absorb our joy. And we have the power to control what they absorb, but first, we must tend to ourselves.

It might sound like this:

Dear one, you have feelings. They are worth listening to and acknowledging.

You have limits. They are necessary to keep in place as a means of valuing your time and honoring your health.

You have dreams. You are worthy of time to pursue what makes your heart come alive.

You have needs. You deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace.

Perhaps you forgot that it is necessary to look after YOU. It’s okay. I forget too. But we still have today. Thank God, we still have today.

Today let’s tend to ourselves as we do our loved ones. Perhaps we can make it a habit. We’ll never know how much we can grow and flourish until we take time to tend to what is most precious.

💞by Rachel Macy Stafford (Only Love Today)💞https://foreverymom.com/…/when-my-child-lost-her-joy-rache…/

To all of the Moms out there…I know this is touching you, it touched me too. If you notice, this post is dated 2017, yet recently someone commented on it and made it start back up. I believe this is happening because I needed to see it again, but apparently all of you did too! Due to the overwhelming response, I am starting a group for Moms called “the Mom Squad”. If you go to my timeline, you will see a post about it and I would welcome you to join this community of Moms, like you, like me who need to breathe and know we are doing it right and that we deserve to be lifted up and cherished through the hard times as only another Mom or Mum can understand! NEW REQUEST! I Cannot keep up with the comments, so a smarter me is posting the group link here: ☺️https://www.facebook.com/groups/230146250902781/?hc_location=ufi

 

 

 

 

Matilda Cake!

Tonight is Girl’s Wine Club night.  Olivia and her boys and Tricia are coming over.  Molly and Lein made a Matilda cake.  Apropos since Olivia’s boys serial watch Matilda!

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Yum!

I had to update this post to share this pic of the Matilda cake once it was cut!

Matilda cake cut

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