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Loving Lately 💡

Loving Lately: Fresh Blogging Inspiration

I don’t know what it is exactly. Maybe it’s the drop in temperature? Maybe it’s buying all of those exciting school supplies? I’ve always had a thing for stationery. It probably has a lot to do with all of the fall themed recipes that are making their annual debut on the Internet; pumpkin lattes and donuts, Yum! Whatever it is, I feel it. I’m ready for self-enrichment and self-improvement. I want to take a writing class. I’ve ordered books and I’m scouring the Internet for tips on food photography. I am humbled and proud to say I finally know the definition of aperture and shutter speed. (I’m a little surprised with my lack of knowledge that my blog has any photos at all.) I’m ready to give her an overhaul! (Can I refer to my blog is of her? I mean it in the most empowering way. Like you would a ship or a storm; as in she is my vessel and a force -my exercised voice.) Apologies for the sidenote/monologue. The point is I am inspired. I’ve got some ideas… And it feels good!

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Saying Goodbye to Grandpa

Grandpa excelled as an sportsman. He had a keen eye and would point out things in the tops of trees or in the back of a field at a great distance that I could never see. He was an excellent shot and terrific hunter of large and small game. He was one of those intuitive fisherman and had the trophies to prove it. He was a fantastic golfer and had plaques made for achieving two “holes-in-one” in the same week. He was incredible with a sling shot and could swim like Johnny Weissmuller. He worked hard and his life wasn’t easy. Born in Tennessee his family moved to Detroit for more opportunity when he was a young boy. His parents weren’t the most dependable kind. They often left his sister and him to fend for themselves. I remember once when he was asked about what it was like to live through The Great Depression, and his response was that they were so poor they didn’t notice a difference. As an adolescent, the streets of Detroit were his playground. He told me of playing “cops and robbers” with his friends and rolling down the now historic stairs of the Fisher Theater after he would fake getting shot. When he grew old enough he took a job as a cab driver. He would get his fares done early so he could have the car for personal use and drive wherever he wanted- mostly pool halls. He met, fell in love with and married my grandmother. Apparently they were quite the duo winning dance contests for the jitterbug and the such. We really didn’t hear much about all of that. You see, not too long after taking their wedding vows they were invited to a roadside tent revival. They accepted Jesus into their hearts and felt a peace and love they had never experienced before. My grandpa told me how shortly thereafter he was at the 19th hole with some friends. He was drinking his usual beverage that he said tasted like water when he felt this new found peace start to leave- and it scared him. He asked God right then and there that if He would give him back that feeling he would never drink again. He dedicated his life to God and his family. Grandma and grandpa both got jobs in one of Detroit’s booming manufacturing opportunities. They were great providers. They bought a house outside of the city to raise their two daughters, two nieces, nephew and take care of grandma’s mother. Grandpa became a bible teacher at their local church. He wasn’t perfect, but it was clear that he loved God, he loved his family and he wanted to give them better than the experiences he had lived. He said those days with his house full of kids were the best times of his life.

When grandma got sick with dementia, it was hard to watch. Not because she would forget things or regularly repeat herself or ask the same questions over and over. It was hard to watch grandpa. He wanted her to remember. Maybe he got tired of giving the same answers. Maybe he would get embarrassed, for her sake, in front of company. I think mostly he wanted her to get better. The night she went into the hospital for her heart, I drove just over 2 hours home from college to see her. She was sitting up, talking and doing great. I remember telling her I loved her and that she would be going home soon. I couldn’t believe it when I got the phone call that she had suffered ventricular fibrillation during the night and passed. My mom, aunt and grandpa went through the routine of making arrangements. The next year would have marked their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ll never forget my grandpa’s sweet words to me at the funeral, “She was a good woman, I didn’t deserve her” he said.

It hadn’t been a year since grandma had passed and I knew grandpa was lonely. Owen and I had recently gotten engaged, it was the perfect reason to stop over for a visit. Grandpa was happy to see us, but I could tell he was out of sorts. He had the television remote in his hand and was frustrated. I asked him what the matter was and he answered with anger that “Someone has been messing with those wires.” What wires, I questioned and asked him if he had other visitors. The wires behind the TV he explained, and no he hadn’t had any recent visitors. It really didn’t make sense. I asked him who was messing with the wires, and he changed his story to an animal must have gotten in and messed with his wires. Since there was no sign of any animal being in the house, I assured him that that couldn’t be the case and told him Owen would take a look. I figured a wire had gotten loose and disrupted his service. I mean, technology is confusing even for me. When Owen moved the TV set away from the wall, we were all shocked to see that the wall was blackened around the outlet. Thank God there wasn’t a house fire! I told grandpa we had to unplug everything and we would need someone to come out to fix the electrical. He seemed a little dazed and confused, and I knew something was wrong. After our visit was over, I called my mom right away to let her know what had happened. “Something is wrong with grandpa” I told her, “he needs to get checked out.”

He had always been a sharp man. The kind of guy who could quote poems, riddles, stories and Bible passages without missing a word. He was the employee who was awarded $2000 for an innovative idea that would save Chrysler a fortune. Grandpa was a self sufficient person who always seemed confident in who he was and what he was about. The same guy who turned down a supervisor promotion to remain an inspector, because he knew what it meant. No, his weeknights and weekends were for hunting, fishing, tinkering in his garage and going to church. It wasn’t very long after our visit that he was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s. We all understood, himself included that it wasn’t safe for him to live alone. My grandpa, aunt, and mother saved a few personal treasured items, allowed the grandchildren to take any keepsakes, and kept what my grandfather would need. Then they contacted an estate sale company and put the house up for sale. A plan was set for grandpa to move into a first floor bedroom with my parents.

He had mostly good days at first. He could drive and go out to eat if he wanted to, his last bit of independence. Slowly he showed more and more signs of his disease. He would come home with 10 cans of the same baked beans because he couldn’t think of what else to buy at the grocery store. He would get frustrated and irritable. He was angry with himself for not remembering, and he would often take it out on his family members. Alzheimer’s has a way of making you suspicious on top of forgetful, and he started regularly accusing my sister of taking his belongings such as electric shavers and slippers when he had himself misplaced them. At doctor’s appointments, although clever, his answers became more evident:
“Who are these people?” the doc asked referring to my aunt and mother.
“Relatives” my grandpa answered.
“What kind or relatives?” the doctor prodded further.
“The good kind.” my grandpa replied.
He could no longer remember that they were his daughters. And so it went, some days worse than others. Some days we could cope with humor, like when it took him 20 minutes to baby-step/shuffle from the dining room into the living room. When he arrived he looked up at all of us watching TV and asked “Now what?” Some moments were frightening, like when there was a large crash in the middle of the night. He had pulled out a drawer of silverware that had dropped to the floor. He was just getting his tools he explained. Night wanderings had become more common and my teenage sister had a dead bolt installed on her door. She didn’t feel comfortable with the thought of grandpa walking into her room in the middle of the night. I couldn’t blame her. My parents had alarms installed on the doors after they were awakened to the police pounding on the door one morning at around 2 am. Thankfully they had found my grandpa walking down the road, and in a moment of precious lucidity he could offer to them my dad’s name.

My mother tried to keep him with her as long as she could. They paid my cousin and a family friend to be caretakers and help him with his hygiene when he could no longer remember how, not even when prompted. But it was only a matter of time when we were no longer able to take care of all of his round the clock needs. My mother and aunt found a comfortable adult foster care home with a 24 hour nurse and care he required just minutes away from their houses. They visited him daily, even though he didn’t know. As anyone with personal experience will tell you, the signature not-knowing is the curse and the blessing of the disease. It is the tormenting reality that the family members and friends have to come to terms with and accept. They have to watch their loved one become a shell of their former self, a person that resembles someone they knew very well. At the same time it is the only relief- to know when the Alzheimer’s has fully taken over, the infected person doesn’t seem to have any realization. And you pray that it’s true, that they don’t on any level know the depths of what they are going through.

I was with him early in the day of the night he died- my mother, sister, aunt, cousins and me. When I was told he passed I felt relieved to know he was finally at peace. He went to be with his Lord, with my grandma and many family members that had gone before. He was home and he had his memories. I didn’t attend his funeral services, I continued on a planned trip to Europe. In truth, I knew he was in a better place… and I had said my goodbye to grandpa a long time ago.

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Mommy Blogging

If a picture is worth a thousand words; this is the my definition of mommy blogging. Something’s got to give in order to make it happen. 

Have a good weekend! (I’ll just be over here cleaning up…)

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Loving Lately 🌸

Loving Lately: Lingering Summers

I’m one of those parents that doesn’t want summer to end or school to start. I do love all the seasons and the holidays… I guess I just wish that life was one big vacation.

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I love all of the flowers and greenery.

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I love the berries and tarts!

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But even though I’m trying to hold on…

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I know the seasons have an inspiring way of keeping you excited for what’s coming next.

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I’ll be ready, but I don’t have to think about that today. Maybe I’ll think about popsicles?

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Thank you Pinterest for helping me put my thoughts into photos… I’ll be outside.

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Farmhouse Rules’ Chocolate Toffee No-Bake Cookies

From the moment I watched Nancy Fuller make these cookies in her idyllic farmhouse kitchen I knew that I was going to replicate them in my pretend farmhouse kitchen. No-bake cookies are a family favorite, and the toffee addition just seemed like a stroke of genius! Of course I also tend to gravitate towards treats that I can make with my kids. So even if my garden is in reality a pool, and my cows and chickens are actually neighbors in my subdivision; by golly, I can eat like a fuller farmer! (I didn’t make that up, it’s the name of her blog😉 )

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The original recipe can be found on FoodNetwork.com

As organic as possible:

3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee bits, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Combine the oats, peanut butter, bitter and semisweet chocolate chips, toffee bits, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate chips melt, 3 to 5 minutes.
Scoop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the baking sheet and sprinkle each cookie with extra toffee bits. Freeze for 15 minutes before serving. The cookies can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for 1 week.
Recipe courtesy of Nancy Fuller

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nancy-fuller/chocolate-toffee-no-bake-cookies.html?oc=linkback

 

Loving Lately 🍕

Loving Lately: Pizza (and all of it’s flavorful convenience)

Pizza has to be one of the greatest creations ever made. It’s inexpensive, can easily feed a lot of people, and is generally a crowd pleaser- because it is scrumptious! It’s bread, it’s cheese and it’s whatever else you want baked to perfection. I mean seriously. I think if my husband had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of his life, it would be pizza. And I sincerely believe that he feels pizza from a different place every night of the week is an entirely different daily meal. Oh, and in many places you can have it delivered hot and cheesy right to your front door! In less than 30 minutes! Let’s not forget that little golden nugget.😉

Pizza is a great way to express your culinary creativity. Colors, flavors, textures… let ’em fly! Take this Nectarine Pizza with Basil, Blue Cheese and Reduced Balsamic from Alexandra’s Kitchen for example. Yeah, that’s right.

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Or maybe a White Pizza with Garlic Sauce and Garden Herbs from How Sweet Eats… How much pizza is acceptable to eat at one sitting? Also by Jessica from How Sweet Eats are these mouth-watering 30-Minute Portobello Pizzas featured by The Pioneer Woman. I’m not going to lie, mushroom for crust just seems like a really good idea. I wonder how soy cheese would work for my vegan friends out there?

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Apparently, the thing is basil. Everything will look beautiful as long as you have fresh basil. But I imagine Chicken Florentine Flatbread by Rachel Schultz tastes pretty good too. Little bursts of roasted cherry tomatoes… Yummmm!

And because this is the way I think, wouldn’t this be pretty for Christmas?

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How about the fall? Are you ready to see everything that embodies autumn wrapped in a pizza package? Drum roll please…. Caramelized Butternut, Crispy Kale + Fontina Pizza with Pomegranate Salsa by Half Baked Harvest. Bravo! …Of course you could always go with the Cranberry Sauce, Bacon, and Gorgonzola Pastry Puff Pizza from Baker by Nature. Decisions, decisions.

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Whether it’s buffalo chicken, taco, Hawaiian, regular pepperoni or pizza in a cone (that’s a real thing, thank you Pillsbury), “Za” is awesome. (That’s a real word too, thank you Scrabble).

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Hot Potato

Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to…

Did you know how healthy potatoes are? I’m not talking about diced, shredded and fried (although undeniably Delicious). I’m referring to the low-cal (about 110 calories in 1 medium) naturally gluten-free vegetable with more potassium than a banana, 45% of your daily intake of vitamin C, 10% of vitamin B6, zero fat, zero cholesterol that contains essential minerals like magnesium and zinc to mention a few. We all know the story: eat your potato while drinking a glass of milk and live forever! Or at least avoid scurvy. But seriously, with necessary blood aids like iron and much needed digestive assistance from fiber (of which sadly our diets are greatly deprived), it just might be what the doctor ordered. That is of course baked- to maintain the most nutrients. (Save the sticks of butter and cups of cream for special occasions😉 ) And if I may, please make sure you buy organic- not crazy hi-bred weird GMO who knows what they are potatoes, because I can’t vouch for those.

Serves 4-6

2 1/2 pounds -about 10-12 medium Potatoes (Russet, Idaho, Golden, Red…)

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1-2 Tbsp Course Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375°. Wash, scrub and rinse the potatoes. Remove any eyes or blemishes that you don’t want to eat. Dry the potatoes completely with a towel. Brush on the olive oil (a little goes a long way) or get messy and use your hands to cover the skins. Generously sprinkle the potatoes with the course salt. (Do not be afraid of this- the Kosher course salt is not as “salty” as fine salt. If you are using regular table salt, go easier obviously… I trust your judgement.)

Place potatoes on a baking sheet. I like to cover the sheet with Silpat or parchment paper for easier clean-up. Bake for an hour (sometimes 15-20 minutes more if using large potatoes) until skin is crispy and inside of potato is tender. Eat just like this, or with a pat of butter and a little salt and pepper, or with a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt if you’re eating clean) or crumbled bacon if you’re feeling wild. I’ll stop. You know what you like.

For more information on the healthiness of potatoes along with recipe ideas check out potatogoodness.com or an interesting article on the health benefits at livescience.com.

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Taste of Home’s Chicken Pot Pie

Can I get a round of applause for chicken pot pie? Let’s hear it! Because there is precious little in terms of food that comes as close to comfort as juicy bites of chicken, baked in perfectly seasoned creamy gravy with tender vegetables covered with a flaky buttery crust. Period. Perhaps, the only thing better is to have a friend bring one two to your home for you and your family while you are ailing. #thatreallyhappened Thank you AnnMarie!

As found at TasteofHome.com

As organic as possible (from Sadie):

2 cups diced peeled potatoes

1-3/4 cups sliced carrots

1 cup butter, cubed

2/3 cup chopped onion

1 cup all-purpose flour

1-3/4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 teaspoon pepper

3 cups chicken broth

1-1/2 cups milk

4 cups cubed cooked chicken

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

2 packages (14.1 ounces each) refrigerated pie pastry

Preheat oven to 425°. Place potatoes and carrots in a large saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, covered, 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Stir in flour and seasonings until blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in chicken, peas, corn and potato mixture; remove from heat.

Unroll a pastry sheet into each of two 9-in. pie plates; trim even with rims. Add chicken mixture. Unroll remaining pastry; place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in tops.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.
Freeze option: Cover and freeze unbaked pies. To use, remove from freezer 30 minutes before baking (do not thaw). Preheat oven to 425°. Place pies on baking sheets; cover edges loosely with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven setting to 350°; bake 70-80 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and a thermometer inserted in center reads 165°.
Yield: 2 potpies (8 servings each).

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Loving Lately 🎂

Loving Lately: Party Cakes

August is a big birthday month for my family and friends. I love parties, and pretty things- that you can eat. I appreciate the art of it all. You know how they say you want what you can’t have? I don’t know it that if that applies exactly…

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But I really wish I could decorate a cake.

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I’d be happy if it would turn out half as good as these ideas.

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I am amazed at the creativity of people; how they get ideas in their heads and have the ability to make it happen.

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I think “Wow! Can you imagine the party that goes with these cakes!”

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Well, they are probably fabulous. (Like Pinterest, which supplied me with the photos)

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