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It’s time to ramble again

I took a break. I needed to pay attention to my family for a while.  

I knew taking a job in another state was in the near future. That meant leaving my house and kids to fend for themselves, to face their days without a “mom” net. I owed it to me to savor some moments with them.

I’ll have been here a week in seven short hours. I put in six days of work, have almost everything I brought unpacked.  And I’ll admit, the family seems to be having an easier time adjusting then me.

If I were in Alabama, I’d be starting dinner right now. It’s hard to cook for one. Hell, its hard to plan a day for just one person, without talking to my son and daughters. Not seeing my little grandsons at least once a week. 

This is the first time in almost 30 years that I haven’t had someone in a house with me. That realization is both good and bad. While there are no drips on the counter to be wiped up and all the dishes are clean, there is also no witty comments, no loud videos playing while I’m trying to cook, no laughing and chatter from behind a bedroom door from a group online game. 

And I owe a bunch to my kids for helping make this happen.  When I say kids, I’m including my son in law, because after 8 or 9 years, I can claim him too.  And now I just keep telling myself they’re only 7 hours away.  

Now I’m just rambling about 7 hours.

~R

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Creating beauty from loss

This small town has a little phenomenon happening where folks paint and hide rocks. Whole families are sitting around the table with a bucket of rocks, sharing paint and brushes. They are spending time going to parks and hiding them; they are also walking around finding rocks, and sharing smiles and joy in photos on a Facebook page.

This little sensation is also helping some people deal with tragic events.

Cheryl lost a son in 2004 on Christmas Eve. He was 21.
Cheryl’s daughter, Brook, died at the age of 35 on June 2, 2017. She was being chased by a boyfriend she had broken up with. Brook wrecked and was thrown into traffic on the interstate.  Cheryl’s other daughter had to ID her sister with a piece of her wrist that had a tattoo on it. The details are grisly; and my heart pours out to this woman.

cheryl rocks collage

cheryl rocks1

Cheryl paints rocks to keep her mind busy. She is pouring her pain into art. I don’t know Cheryl, but I love her. I love that she can turn such tragedy into the energy to create so much beauty. I would love to find one of her rocks.   I’m not sure I could easily hide it again.  I would though, because she painted each to be shared.

 

Melanie was just introduced to the rock painting and hiding group.  She has used work as a way to cope with her teenage son’s death.  He was terminally ill, and she was his cheerleader, caregiver, his everything. And he was her everything.  We became friends on face book a week ago.  She used to do charcoal art until her son became ill.  She wants to spend some time getting back into practice and asked if I would be interested in a couple hours of art therapy.  Of course.  I would love to.  She loves drawing animals; mainly dogs.  She used to sell some of her drawings.

Melanie just got connected with Cheryl. Truly, miracles can happen out of despair. I admire the strength of these two women in trying to move on and pray they can help each other.

My sister lost one of her children. My sister gardens.  She grows huge sunflowers, vegetable beds, and makes special planters for holidays filling them with color appropriate blooms. She keeps a special flower bed in her yard that is Alex’s Garden. We have had much discussion about emotions and coping with the loss of a child.

I can’t even imagine.  I see a special strength in all three of these women.  In some way, the souls of their lost children live on in what they create.

I am constantly reminded masterpieces can be created out of pain.

Chicken again

I swear I’ll start taking a starting photo of what I’m throwing into my Instant Pot to put with my posts. (And to help me remember what I’ve used when it turns out fabulous.)

pot head productionsSo Chicken won the “what’s for dinner” lottery, and then I had to figure out what I could toss together.  I pulled out vegetable broth, smoked paprika, cajun seasoning, red pepper,  parsley, garlic, a pound of pasta, and a block of cream cheese.

Did I mention the two chicken breasts were frozen solid?  I literally pulled them from the freezer, ripped the bag open and put them directly into Pot Head Productions, my trusty Instant Pot.

I dumped in the herbs and seasonings and a cup of veggie broth.  I set it to manual for 30 minutes, and sat down to finish painting a rock.  (fodder for a different post)

That magic pot beeped three times letting me know it was done.  I quick released the pressure, put the chicken breasts on a plate and added the pasta and enough veggie broth to cover the noodles.  I chunked up both chicken breasts and tossed it on top of the pasta.  Put the lid back on and set four minutes on high pressure.  When it was done, I cut the cream cheese up and mixed it in with some salt and pepper.

It was delicious.  Stick-to-your-ribs delicious.  I should have put some vegetables in it. Hindsight.

Didn’t matter, I had dinner completed from frozen to finish in 45 minutes.  Chicken and pasta in a spicy, smoked paprika, white cheesy sauce.

Like my sticker?  Want one or want something designed for you? They are $6 plus postage.  Email me at Plum Creek Creations.    

~R~

 

Grits, the West Coast Yankee way

eggs-grits.jpg
I’m not native to Alabama, or the South, but I got here as soon as I could.  There are a few foods here that reminded me of growing up. Grits is on that list.

We had corn meal mush for breakfast sometimes.  It had the consistency of Creme of Wheat, and with enough brown sugar/butter/maple syrup/jelly it went down well.  A “stick to your ribs” type breakfast when oatmeal got boring.  And it was cheap; much like grits are.

I was introduced to grits at the truck stop I got a job at when I first landed in the Florida Panhandle.  Pretty sure my mouth was hanging open when I watched some burly trucker mash his fried eggs into a stack of steaming hot grits, yolk and all.  And some co-workers returned the dumbfounded look when I dipped my toast in the yolks of my fried eggs, and skipped the grits.

I did try grits several ways, though.
I mashed with eggs – nope.
I added jelly – not a fan.
I salted and peppered – still not a fan.
I added cheese – that was palatable
I added diced up ham and cheddar cheese – okay, that’s better.
I added bacon, cheese and onion – better still.
I added garlic and cheddar cheese and paired this with fried mullet – NOW, we’re getting somewhere.
I added garlic and cheddar and paired with shrimp – I’m all in!

So I did find a few ways to cook and serve grits that I liked, but my Southern-born kids like grits so I made grits for them.  I noticed when chilled, grits hold their form, which gave me an idea.  I took the leftover grits and filled up a small bread loaf pan.  I stuck it in the fridge.

Later that night, I put the grit loaf on a plate and sliced it like bread.  It was similar to thick jello and held it’s form.  I got out my trusty skillet.  After the pan was hot, I tossed some butter in it and a slice of grit loaf with cajin’ seasoning salt.  What a treat that turned out to be.

I got the pan hot again, but this time, salted and peppered my grit loaf slice and fried it in bacon grease. Holy Crapola – another winner!   Pretty experimental for a bland breakfast dish.  Turns out I do like Grits.  I had to West Coast Yankee them up a bit first though.

I haven’t been so quick to experiment with Chitterlings.  I’m just leaving that Southern mess to the folks around here who appreciate them.

The beginning of June

The end of May, beginning of June is a hard time. I blame it on my mother for leaving so many open wounds.  Hell, from as far back as I can remember we weren’t close.  I don’t remember getting a hug from her.  Ever.  I don’t remember hearing my mother tell me she loved me.  I thought maybe I blocked it out due to years of fighting.  She fought with alcohol, and I fought to get away.  My older sister confirmed it. It was no dream. We were unloved.

I remember school programs and events she didn’t attend.  Other kids so happy as their beaming mom wrapped her arms securely around them after a choir concert.  I busied myself with finding a ride home or hoofing it almost three miles through the darkness at that time of night. It would be loud when I got home if she was awake. This was long before cell phones.  I couldn’t text my sister to see if it was safe to walk in the front door, or to get warning that she was drunk, and sneaking in the basement would allow me to go right to bed.

I learned to appreciate the long evening walks and quiet streets. I played a game with myself; how many sleeping dogs could I creep past without walking them.  I called every dog “mom” on these journeys.  The barking and snarling signified the hell that would unleash if mother woke up when I got home.

The beginning of June meant no place to escape for hours.  School was out.  So I learned her drinking patterns and used any door or window available to escape the house. I’m sure the neighbors had plenty to say about her wandering brood.  The back yard was a haven to escape as well.  I’d hear her call me from the window, and I ignored her.  I blamed it on the dogs, geese and ducks, or the neighbors’ donkey being too loud.

It was a day in early June, not many years after, that I left home with no plans to ever go back. They moved to Florida, while my sister and I stayed in Washington. I then moved to Michigan. So many years of silence between myself and my mother.  I eventually moved to Florida while ending a bad marriage.  I had hoped the years had mellowed her, especially her cutting words.  I was wrong. I had no door to sneak in so I faced her. She had a beer in her hand.  No hug. No small talk. Not even a smile  She simply looked at me and stated “You finally came crawling back.”  It was early June.

I got back on my feet. Mom and I spent the next 18 years in a twilight zone.  We could talk on the phone for hours but were not able to stand in the same room.  I lived, usually, about 30 minutes away, but got on with my life like it was 3,000 miles.  When I had kids, I told them I loved them. I hugged them. I played with them.  Mom and I didn’t share that special little joy most moms and daughters enjoy when grand kids show up.  She did softened a little towards the grand kids.  I tried to talk to her about our odd relationship, keeping the distance emotionally.  I didn’t want my kids thinking we were a normal mother and daughter. She wouldn’t have it.

In early June of 2000, I moved to Mississippi for my job. She found out she had cancer a week later.  I offered to move back to help her out.  She asked if I needed to come crawling back.  That door slammed hard.  It was a three hour drive between our houses, but it could have been 300.  I stayed away. I hugged my kids more. I told them I loved them every day.

The last six months of her life, I came over to help my dad as much as possible.  He needed a break, even if it was just running to Winn Dixie to get away.  We talked more, empty subjects about nothing important, and certainly not about relationships.  We could never talk about past.  I didn’t bring it up, I didn’t want to rile her.

The last months and weeks of her life was difficult. She got weaker in body, but still the stubborn mind.  The time came for all of us to gather for the last days.  She passed away at home, with her children and husband caring for her until her last breath.  She died 16 years ago on the first of June.

~R~

Blueberry cheesecake pancakes wasn’t on today’s list

Usually there is a daily plan or list I’m working off of.  Today was no different until I took a break.

I got up early, sanded and painted an old window, cut chalk board, and then needed a fresh java upload.  Got my coffee, and sat for moment to check Etsy, two emails, Instagram, and then Facebook.

A friend on the west coast was already assaulting his friends with food porn.  First thing I see is a rib steak, with juicy butter and rosemary and blue cheese crumbles.

My belly grumbled. Next, a fat stack of blueberry pancakes.  Just quit, dammit!

OK, you got me.  The power of social media is driving my hunger.  That, and last night during a talk with my sister, she tosses blueberry cheesecake into the discussion.

So I come up with this.  Blueberry Cheescake Pancakes.

blueberry cheesecake pancakes Oh hell yes.  Cream cheese icing drizzle over hot blueberry pancakes.

I still have almost a quart of frozen blueberries in the freezer.  This might be dinner tomorrow night.

Some notes/tips:
1. N
ext time blueberries are on sale or you go to the fruit market, grab some extra, spread them in a baking pan and freeze them in a single layer. Then put them in a freezer bag or container.  Makes it real easy to grab a handful for pancakes or muffins.
2. No one wants to get out the mixer or blender to make a small amount of icing.  I use a mini food grinder.  Put two TBS of cream cheese in, and two TBS milk.  Mix it on lowest speed. Once the cream cheese is broken down a bit, add about 1/8 cup powered sugar and more milk until you get a pouring consistency.

Happy Sunday!

~R~

Dual-Duty Appliances – Waffle Maker

Waffle makersWhat? A waffle maker is dual-duty?

You bet it is.

Sure, it makes great waffles that hold butter and applesauce. (syrup if you like)  But here is a list of other things that little work-horse can produce.  And here’s a tip: it doesn’t heat the whole house up.  Easy enough for the spouse, SO or kids to make too.

Waffle maker stuff1

  • Cornbread – mix it up and spoon it in.  You may have to adjust the consistency a smidge.  You’ll not believe how good chili holds in those little divots. Top it with cheese and it looks like dessert for supper.  Great with taco soup, baby lima beans and any other main dish you eat with cornbread fresh from the oven.
  • Muffin Mixes – Easy in the morning or for dessert; serve with butter, or whipped cream or pudding or ice cream.
  • Brownies – Drizzle with chocolate syrup, and decorate with shaved chocolate curls.
  • Cake mixes – Top with frosting (mix it up – butter pecan, fresh fruit, pie filling, pudding, ice cream or whipped topping

waffle maker stuff 2

  • Cookies – These can be cut in triangles and put over a rolling pin to form them in a semi circle, then stick them in a small  (or big) bowl with some ice cream.  Easy treat.
  • Hash browns – You can cook shredded hash browns and they come out crispy and somewhat stick together.  Another method is to scramble two eggs in a large bowl and mix a bit of hash browns in it, then put them on the waffle iron.  They stick together but the potatoes don’t get as crispy.
  • Zucchini patties – these worked best on a waffle iron that has temperature dial, and they cook best on high.  Mix up your favorite recipe and spoon it on.

I joked about trying refrigerator biscuits, and using with sausage gravy.  That might not be a joke in the near future.

What have you tried in your waffle maker?  Post it in the comments and I’ll try it out.

See my other Dual-Duty Appliance posts here.

~R~