Happy Birthday Daddy

Today is my father’s birthday. As I get older I now understand how important it was to him for us to just be there. We didn’t have to bring gifts of cake but our presence was what he wanted. It’s what I now want with the kids getting older and having their own lives and things to do. I’m learning to let a lot go and understand that they have to grow even if it means away from me. Tonight I thought we would all go out to dinner for my dad’s birthday and then over the weekend, I’ll work on finding a Scottish or Swedish dessert recipe to take place of his birthday cake, or even better a Scottish cake. If any of my readers have a recipe of Scottish or Swedish origins to share it would be greatly appreciated.

I thought I would try my hand at poetry again but this time kind of honoring my father and my quest to understand what he unknowingly passed down to me.

I Lost Something

I lost something I’ve never known.
Obsolete and unsure,
without the guidance from a living cornerstone.
Often wondering if I belong or even where,
Identifying with no one and solitaire.

I lost something I’ve never known.
Is it there and can it be shown?
Do I ask to learn?
Is this my concern?

I lost something I’ve never known
but promise an oath to learn of seeds sown.
How do I prepare?
I’ll start with some cookware.

Who am I? And what do I eat?

It’s one thing to grow up being proud of a heritage ONLY to learn that there is more to the story. In my quick video, I had mentioned that my father was adopted. My grandmother was a single mother to my father when she met, fell in love with, and married my grandfather who was in the Navy. The family (her side) kept secret the identity of my father’s biological father. So much so that the secret has gone to everyone’s grave. I unknowingly kicked a hornet’s nest (with my mother but that’s for another post) and did the Ancestry DNA test. In the FAQs, it details which parents DNA you may receive. Apparently, I received more of my father’s DNA and who knew that he was Scottish and Swedish?! I also got my mother’s DNA with Norwegian and Irish. I am trying to embrace my heritage both new and old. With my husband learning that he is Norwegian as well I started with recipes from Norway. NORWEGIAN SUCCESS TART (SUKSESSTERTE) and NORWEGIAN BUTTER COOKIES (SERINAKAKER) were my first two actual attempts. I’m so thankful that these two sites posted Norwegian recipes. I was proud of what I was able to accomplish. My original idea was to use my great-great grandmother’s Krumkake iron to make those awesome delicate cone cookies but my mother squashed it. So I searched all over the internet and found these two recipes that would be simple for me to find all the ingredients here in the states.

The tart and the cookies didn’t last long at all and I felt like I was able to own some of my heritage. The tart had no flour! I was shaken, to say the least. I was able to make something so light and filling from just a few ingredients. The excitement happened when it tasted like something I already was familiar with but never had. Bonus-it looked just like the picture. The cookies were a simple cookie that I could easily make from scratch again and again! I know my father and great-great-grandmother would appreciate it. One thing I learned and felt while tasting the little treasures from my oven is the fact that I felt a sense of belonging but also coming from somewhere. I didn’t feel as lost anymore.

The Scottish recipes seem to be my nemesis. I cannot find for the life of me some recipes that are new and exciting to try and make at home. This was an interesting find for me in my DNA and it belongs to my father. He passed away 8 years ago and I would like to make something that helps me feel closer to him and our heritage. Until I am able to get my hands on a recipe or two from Scotland I am going to try my hand at recipes from Sweden…I just have to find them first.

My Plea: I’m asking for help. Anyone with family recipes from Norway, Scotland, or Sweden that they wouldn’t mind me trying to make myself I would greatly appreciate it. Know a friend of a friend whose grandmother LOVES to pass down tradition and wouldn’t mind passing on heritage and the stories that go with I would be grateful. Unfortunately, I do not have those living relative links, family ties, but would like to slowly build my own for my children and myself. I can’t get to see these beautiful countries and experience the culture first hand but I can start to build tradition at home. Please share and ask if there are any recipes.

How I Single-handedly Ruined Thanksgiving Dinner…

At least according to my 16-year-old daughter. (I wanted to start with some journal entries to feel like I’ve caught myself up on my blog so thank you for hanging in there with me) First and foremost…I know my mamaw was rolling over in her grave the minute that I received the confirmation email. Being a southern woman, wife, and mother there are some things that are expected of us and one of those things is cooking a from scratch holiday meal, every holiday,  until the day we die. Before we die we are to also make sure to pass down ANY AND ALL cooking knowledge to the next in line which is learned through cooking every holiday. This year I did something so completely radical that my kids are ready to throw out the ENTIRE Thanksgiving Holiday. It went something like this once I got the kids home from school, dinner started, homework in progress and answering phone calls:

ME (to kids): Announcement Everyone!! (I’m all smiles so they know it’s not bad news)
KIDS (gather in the kitchen)
ME (still smiling): I will not be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. (still smiling)
KIDS (uprising officially commencing): OOH WHAT!! Now we have to go to grandma’s and PRETEND to like her food and PRETEND to like her boyfriend. Then have NOTHING for leftovers when we get home! I don’t want to let’s back out!
ME (wishing I had the ability to yell ‘SHIELD WALL’ and have the Vikings to back me up): No No…we’ll have leftovers.
KIDS (uprising paused and puzzled looks): Are we cooking?
ME (Still wanting that shield wall): No one is cooking?
OLDEST DAUGHTER (takes lead with fire in her eyes): Are we not doing Thanksgiving at ALL?!
ME (she is my mini me…I can take her if she rushes me): I ordered Thanksgiving dinner so all we have to do is pick it up, heat and serve the day of.
KIDS (in unison): What!? *Moaning and groaning noises*, its tradition! You ALWAYS cook dinner and WE eat it!
OLDEST DAUGHTER: *Steps forward, Thanksgiving is RUINED! *Stomps off.

This is the basic rundown of the conversation. I didn’t need that shield wall but I did need to explain to them the reasoning behind the break in tradition. Time, my employer only allows one day off for the holiday and I would spend an entire week of prepping, cooking, and clean-up. With the hectic schedules that are in my house, I would be up until midnight or later. Budget is another reason for my decision. I can easily spend $200-300 on all the ingredients needed to make my authentic from scratch southern Thanksgiving dinner but ordering the already made dinner I am spending less than half of what I normally would. BONUS of ordering…unfortunately the place I ordered from is about an hour away. I know you’re thinking why waste time and gas? My husband and I haven’t had a decent night out without the kids. We are treating this as a little date night and the town that we are traveling too has a bunch of shops that we have been meaning to visit.

My oldest girl has been sulking since I told her what was happening. I compromised and agreed to use the china (She has to wash it since I wanted to use paper plates but this will also appease my ancestors). Instead of me running around, exhausted, and irritated with everyone we can have a nice meal and spend the quality time together that we have been missing. My advice to mom’s EVERYWHERE…make it easy for you. Break tradition if you have too. You are not ruining ANYTHING for your children. Looking back they’ll see that you were there and in the moment instead of in the kitchen killing yourself frantically trying to recreate your great grandmother’s recipes.

Image from Cracker Barrel

Weekend Internet Break

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I didn’t write this weekend but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t productive. We live in the city and there are really STRICT rules about having fires and sitting around them. I have also been missing open pit cooking like we used to do back home if we weren’t smoking meat. I was able to save for a setup that killed two birds with one trip to the local Lowes. I was even able to get everyone in our family camping chairs at a decent price along with lap throws since it was a bit chilly. Saturday we enjoyed ribs, corn, and vegetables cooked over an open fire and later smores over our fire pit. The kids had so much fun and ate so much food. Our neighbors looked at us either envious or as if we were weird. Either way, we welcomed fall with food family and fire.

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We learned real quick that we needed another source for firewood. Yes, we can purchase wood precut at the store but they charge an arm and a leg so we started looking on Facebook. I was able to locate a gentleman 10-minute drive from the house and it was free. On the way there though we saw some really awesome wooden statues things. I don’t know how to describe them. They would make a great plot line for a horror genre type of story. We’re going to go back and talk to the owner this weekend to see if he is selling anything and if so what are the prices.

Sunday are usually the days I try to do maintenance on my blog and attempt something artistic but instead I attempted canning. I purchase a bunch of apples to make homemade apple butter and applesauce. Do you realize what a flipping pain it is to peel apples? I went to Walmart for an apple peeling/corer combo but nope so everything was done by hand. I let the crockpot do all the cooking but then it came time to jar these boogers up. I had to sterilize them in the oven because I don’t have a dishwasher so a lot of hoping and praying that the jars didn’t bust was happening. I had no funnel and made a huge sticky mess all over my pot holders because EVERYTHING is supposed to be hot. 12 hours later I had 3 jars of apple butter. The seals finally popped around 10pm last night.

Inktober will be coming up and I have about a week or rather 6 days to decide if I want to participate. Normally I would but I have a haunted road trip planned and I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew which we ALL know that I’m really good at that. I’m going to try and stay positive this week and have fun. I hope ya’ll can too.

Weighing in on Weighing: Week 1

Week 1

Today is weigh in day. It’s been a week and wanted to see the average 2.5lbs drop off. I’ve been working really hard on making sure I walk each day and count my points. This has been difficult since I have to basically cook two different meals. One for my family and one for myself. Mashing taters and adding all the butter and milk last night-I almost drooled right in the pot! I didn’t taste-test, I didn’t steal a bite although I was naughty. My daughter was grabbing a handful of those amazing Classic Lay’s potato chips and I scanned the bag. 5 points for 15 chips! I ate 3 and counted a point. I couldn’t help it. But this morning, weighing myself I learned that I dropped 7lbs.

The Week (from Thursday to Thursday)

The changes I’ve made; I have NOT been happy with! Turkey bacon is a mockery of the real deal http://www.hark.com/clips/tsvyrktkwq-how-do-you-like-your-goannabut I had to do it. The crispy fried pork strips from the heavens had to be omitted from my diet. Sure, I could have had a piece but the point value of one strip could be the value of an entire meal! I also learned that I was drinking a lot of unnecessary points with creamers, sodas, and coffee drinks. No, I haven’t given up coffee (that would be dangerous for all involved). I just made changes to what all I added. I tried a SmartOnes dinner. In the words of Crocodile Dundee, ‘Well, you can live on it, but it tastes like shit.’ I have one more in the freezer for emergency purposes but I’ve been preparing and cooking a lot of my own foods. I have found it easier to prep the night before and sometimes it could take up to an hour trying to figure out measurement and points. When I get really frustrated I’ll just throw a salad together and call it a day.

The Sceptic and Critic

My art room partner said, ‘The first 10lbs drop off really fast but after that it’s hard.’ WTF does she mean ‘it’s hard?’ THE WHOLE THING IS HARD! It’s easy to grab a bag of snacks and go or sit down at a restaurant and eat WHATEVER you like. I have to be conscious of what I eat to how it’s prepared! Add me having to cook dinner for my family on top of that! I want to slap her with my banana peel! Then one innocent bystander stepped in with, ‘Try the grapefruit diet. It worked for me.’ No offense EWW. I have a difficult time even smelling that fruit let alone ingesting it. Plus, I don’t care about what worked for you, this is something I’m doing for me and I’ll choose my type of punishment. Then I hear, ‘Are you sure you can eat that?’ as I dip my pretend chip (cauliflower) in my greek yogurt and ranch seasoning dip. You damn right I can! It’s the first taste of creaminess since I started this diet and I’m pleased to say that it reminds me of sour cream without the points! So, YES I’m going to eat it. Then I discovered food rage! This is where I didn’t prepare ahead of time and needed to marinate mushrooms for an hour, it was late in the evening, and I was HUNGRY. Everyone suffered my starving wrath and damn it I wanted pizza. In the end, it was OK.  For portion sizing just reference the regular handheld pizza cutter next to the pizza. Yeah. NOTE TO SELF: It doesn’t reheat well the next day.

In the end, I just need to believe that I can do it. I’m doing my walks but I realize I will need to add more but that’s when I’m ready. That’s a social anxiety I need to prepare for and is why I walk EARLY in the mornings.  I’ve also decided, my ‘Weighing in On Weighing In’ will be on Thursdays but times will be different from today since I had to take off work to watch my son. Schools out but not for the older ones yet and he’ll be bearhugging by last nerve most of the day. Also, when on a diet, ALL YOU DO IS THINK ABOUT FOOD. Well not all the time for me, I have some doodling, painting, writing, and emails to complete.



Gumbo Wasn’t Easy

This will be a long post. If you are just reading for the method and ingredients just scroll down. It’s ok, I won’t be offended.

I have been asked by Kristian (psst check his blog out for some mystery short stories that will have you scratching your head trying to figure them out before the reveal) for my Gumbo recipe and it’s a great opportunity to share my story of how I came to learn to make it. A little back history: I am a born and raised Texas girl where southern hospitality is extended in my northern home (moved here for…ok that’s another post for another time) and my pride in my upbringing is something that cannot be taken away. My children, all born in the south, still receive ridicule for accents, manners, having a strict upbringing or just being born south of the Mason-Dixon line but we all find comfort in my cooking. Southern women take pride in our cooking and it’s how we show our love and other emotions. Lost a loved one? We are showing up with a casserole and time. It’s hot outside but we want to visit? Sweet tea, some sort of cookie, and a front porch are in order. Sunday dinner? Fried chicken. It’s your turn to feed an oil field’s worth of workers? Crawfish boil. Crowd to feed, Christmas gathering (not eve or the day just during the month) or it’s cold outside? GUMBO!

Before I jump into the list of ingredients and method of cooking there is a difference between Cajun Gumbo and Creole Gumbo. I found a lovely article that explains in simple detail about the two. Now, every house has its own version of a gumbo recipe just like fried chicken (yup I have my own) but it’s not really the recipe that matters so much but rather the method in which it’s cooked. Believe it or not my grandmother didn’t teach me to make gumbo, and old Cajun woman that was friends with my grandmother taught me. We would leave Texas and drive a few hours over into Louisianna and sit and visit for a spell and this is what allowed me to learn so much in that kitchen. From here on out there was NEVER a recipe written down and passed to me. It was a method taught and a few scribbles that I managed on my hand with a horribly, ‘close to drying up pen’ decades ago that I have people ask for all the time (the recipe that is, but no one is will to sit in the kitchen with me to learn).

It was a cold fall day and I was only a 12-year-old girl that loved to be in the kitchen with the older women. That’s when I also learned what it meant to have an old soul which that’s what they told me all the time. The subject came up about how the temperature was going to drop down into the 50’s (yup, I’m cold when it’s 70° out) and the debate over what type of soup to serve everyone came about. Sissy was going to teach me how to make HER gumbo recipe. The baton is being passed and it’s a great responsibility and not to be taken lightly. My young-self thought I was going to be handed a recipe card and just watch. Boy, was I wrong! I’m not going to have you go and slaughter your own chicken or use your grandpa’s meat grinder to make your own Cajun sausage so some things are substituted. Sissy said, ‘I’m not going to give you a card.’ In a Cajun accent, I could barely understand, ‘I’m going to teach you the secrets of my gumbo. You’re not going to watch you’re going to cook. I’ll show and help you ONE time.’ I learned that it literally is about taste, sight, feels, and love.

I was amazed at all the different ingredients she had on her counter and thought, ‘This SO isn’t worth the time.’ and wanted to give up there. This is an ALL day affair too, so be prepared to become one with your kitchen. But here is my updated list of ingredients that you’ll need:

Mess and Scants of Ingredients

  • One Whole Chicken – Boil until done and pick your chicken and set aside. KEEP YOUR BROTH! You will need that and water (enough to give you about 8 cups total liquid). If you cheat this step, Sissy can tell (I tried one time and she spat it out and said she could taste the can). But if you’re on a time crunch 8 cups of good chicken stock and a rotisserie chicken picked clean will work.
  • Yellow Onions-Dice your onions. How much you ask? Sometimes I dice up 1 sometimes 2. For this, I’ll say 2 smallish to medium onions or 1 large onion.
  • Celery-diced. Sissy used an entire bunch but I’ve been known to do as little as 6 stalks. Secret time: PEEL the celery before dicing. I know it sounds weird but I’ve learned that it’s just better when peeled-IN ANYTHING really.
  • Green onions! Trust me, an entire bunch of these beauties needs to be diced for this dish.
  • 1 super large bell or 2 smallish bells-Bell peppers that is. Take out the seeds and white veiny parts. Slice and dice.
  • Garlic-Peeled and finely diced. Don’t be afraid to use this! I normally do about 5-6 cloves worth but since it’s your first time start with 4.
  • Cajun or Creole seasoning. I’m heavy handed with the seasoning but start with 1 1/2 tbsps. You can always add but you can’t take out. ‘Slap Ya Mama’ is good and so is ‘Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning’. I personally use Tony’s when I’m feeling lazy and want to cut a corner but you can follow any seasoning recipe online. I still adjust the premixed seasoning but it’s a good start. It took many years to get it how I like it but start with a basic seasoning.
  • Okra-This is where it gets a little tricky with the thickening. If you can’t get fresh okra frozen will be ok to add but will add more liquid and no thickening. If you are able to get fresh okra it will thicken nicely and not as much roux will be needed.
  • Fresh Shrimp or crab or both- If not available frozen will do but more liquid will be added. Account for this with the thickening agents. About a pound will do of the seafood.
  • Boudin Sausage-This is a cajun sausage and is hard to come by. I do order it specially when my family isn’t able to bring some from back home when visiting. If neither of those options will work, Andouille sausage is good to use and if that’s not available, another cajun spiced sausage will work. IF neither of those is available a smoked sausage such as Hillshire brand will work. Slice the sausage and brown on both sides. Trust me, the level of flavor goes up a notch and the added texture breaks through the stew. Oh, about a pound will do.
  • Roux makings-In reality this is eyeing and adding a little more of this and a little more of that. I use butter but vegetable oil will work and All Purpose flour.
    To make your roux you’re going to want to with a 1 part butter/oil to two parts flour. On a medium-low heat stir and cook until it’s a beautiful chocolate brown. This works double duty giving your gumbo a nutty flavor while thickening. Remember the tricky parts and possible extra liquid additions? This is where you are going to want to make a little extra roux to add to thicken the stew. You can make the roux in advance or the day of. I do it the day of because cooking for me is therapeutic and get’s me back to a time when things weren’t complicated or when I was…well, me.
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce (this helps when you are feeding little ones or you can’t handle as much spice).

Sissy’s Method (I tried my best giving measurements but again I still cook it the way I was shown)

Imagine you’ve already slaughtered your chicken and have it boiling in a pot (add enough water to cover your chicken and boil until the chicken is done). Sissy: You ready for some chicken-pickin’? When your chicken is done just pick the meat off the bones and set both the ‘chicken water’ and meat aside. Peel and chop the veggies. Sissy: These came from the garden and the herbs from the neighbor when we are done we’ll have a mess that we can take to the neighbors. Girl, add some of that chicken water to the pan and scrape up them flavor bits and add to the pot of chicken water. You can do this OR (which I do) is saute the veggies in the sausage drippings for a little more flavor then add a little broth to deglaze the yumminess and add to my ‘chicken water.’ In the same pan add ingredients for the roux. When you have your roux at the right color and consistency (thick like frosting and a chocolate color). In the chicken water add veggies, sausage, chicken, seasoning, and roux. If you can’t get fresh okra, more roux. If you can’t get fresh seafood and need to use frozen, more roux. At this point, you’re probably wondering how much roux is needed. Always make too much roux. You can save leftovers for about a while in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. The only time I’ve thrown it away is when the oil separates. You want to obtain a thick stew consistency. I usually cook on low heat for about 4-5 hours stirring here and there. Don’t let it stick. After a while, take a taste out of the bowl of magic. Does it need more spices? Add a scant, stir, cook for a few minutes and repeat until you have faith in its healing powers. Is it too spicy? Don’t toss it. Add the tomato sauce, stir, cook and taste again. If it’s still too spicy and more tomato sauce. Still to spicy? I don’t know what to tell you other than, ‘Why did you add so much seasoning if you knew you couldn’t handle it?’ But I do have one more trick that will help. When you are satisfied with the level of spice, add the seafood and cook until the seafood is done.

When your pot of soul touching goodness is ready, serve over white rice or dump the rice on top. Whichever you choose. For the, ‘It’s still to spicy crowd,’ add some cold butter to your rice and pour the gumbo on top. The butter will help cut the spice and have some milk on hand.

It took me cooking this method of Sissy’s for 4 years until she deemed it as good as her mama’s. Every time we visited I bought the necessary ingredients and would slave over her stove (both summer and winter) for hours just for her to tell me, ‘No, close but you’re missing the soul. Where’s the love?’ I think what she really wanted was for me to have pride in my gumbo and serve it with love to the people I love. Give it a try and if you get stuck or have any questions send them my way. I won’t be harsh like Sissy but can help. Take pride in the tradition of gumbo creation and serving hospitality to strangers and loved ones.

Kristian, please let me know how it turns out or anyone else that tries for that matter. ENJOY!

Caramel Apple Dump Cake-TRY IT!

I was a little upset because I thought I ‘thought up and created’ an awesome new dump cake recipe. As usual, I was wrong but will share it anyways. Mine is a way easier version. It was so fluffy and moist that my kids and even my husband asked me to make it again (my husband doesn’t like anything with fruit cooked into it, so this was a HUGE win!) I have come to appreciate the minimal ingredient requirements for a dessert that can be thrown together and cook in the oven while everyone eats. My son and husband have come to enjoy the idea of desserts so I wanted something really different. Something that would taste like memories of growing up to the scent of my grandmother’s cooking.

While shopping at the store I had gone down the baking aisle and found Caramel Apple Pie filling. With that in hand, I wandered through the cake and cookie mixes and picked up a box of Spiced Cake mix. I decided that I wasn’t going to wash a possible fail and grabbed a disposable pan.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Can of Caramel Apple pie filling
1 Box of Spice Cake mix
3-4 Tablespoons (or more because I really just eyeballed it) butter
8″ x 8″ pan
Non-Stick Cooking spray (I wasn’t taking any chances)

To Do:

Eyeballing was most of my method in this so good luck!

  1. Spray pan (I used disposable but spraying kind of defeated the purpose and you’ll see why) with cooking spray.
  2. In the pan, mix 3/4 of the cake mix and the entire can of pie filling until smooth (this is when I later realized that I couldn’t respray the pan but it didn’t stick so I was good with it).
  3. Sprinkle the rest of the cake mix on top of mixture.
  4. Top with pats of butter (or chunks-whatever just need butter on top to mimic a crumble topping.)
  5. Bake at 400° for about 40 minutes or until the top looks done. I did insert a toothpick and it came out clean as well.

If you try this please let me know if you liked it or did anything different.

Bacon and Jam

It all started with a fun fact included in my daily doodle a couple of days ago.  An educational and delightful conversation ensued between myself and an excellent writer. I encourage you to wander through her words and read between the lines.

We discussed what weird food combinations we liked and how some were learned from a young age. You can follow along in the comments if you would like to try some that we listed. I chose toast smeared with jam and topped with bacon. I used white bread, smoke-cured bacon, and Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly. I know it’s probably not the type of ingredients that Liz uses but as promised, I tried.

The results: OH MY YUM!!! As I’m waiting for the masking fluid to dry (my first attempt at using that stuff) I thought it would be a perfect time. The salty smoke bacon aroma of the meat cooking woke everyone in the house. I let it cool and crumbled it. I have a weird thing about my toast needing to be cooled before the topping is added. In my impatience, I waved the toast in the air to cool faster. I smeared the jelly on and sprinkled crumbled bacon on top. My kids, ‘EWW mom what are you doing?’ My husband, ‘Umm please don’t try anything too disgusting.’ I took a bite and they all watched with bated breath. Yum sounds were all I could make.

I ended up sharing with everyone before they would make their own. So, I ask you:

What is your weirdest or oddest food mash-up that you eat?

I would enjoy the culinary adventure. If I can get enough writers, culinary adventurous cooks, and just people that love food-I would like to start a feature of these people once a week. They can include the history, images, and everything. I’m really excited about this. The reason being, you can learn more about cultures and people from food. It’s a way we show love and comfort one another.

Bet on the Wrinkle

We do everything together. This could be grocery shopping to doing the dishes. The one thing that I wouldn’t let him help me with is making our bed. I was a stickler for wrinkles in the sheet, quilts, and even our pillows. I don’t know why, only that it bothers me to the point I’m distracted at work.

One morning he begged to help me. ‘Please Jo, let me help you make our bed. We both sleep in it.’ I just rolled my eyes and smiled. ‘Just this once, let me help.’ ‘Ok, but you know how I am. I’ll be anxious about it all day if there is anything out of place or a single wrinkle.’ He kissed me on the forehead, ‘You need to learn to let go of some of these habits,’ he said picking up his side of the blanket. We both straightened out the fitted sheet then the flat sheet and moved to the quilt. We just finished placing the pillows when he flounced himself of his side of the bed. I gasped and my heart started racing, ‘Get up, get up, get up!!’ I said with every word getting louder and faster. ‘Why would you do that?’ I said shocked.

Grinning he said straightening out the bedding, ‘I’ll bet you five new books that you can’t let this wrinkle in my pillow stay until tomorrow morning.’ I was taken aback. He knows that I LOVE going to the bookstore and this is where I show no restraint. He has to supervise me so I’m not spending our grocery budget on books. I desperately wanted to prove. ‘Is there a spending limit on my five books? He chuckled at me, ‘No, no limit.’ I squinted my eyes and asked, ‘What happens if I can’t? What do you get?’ He thought for a minute, dramatically rubbing his chin and looking towards the ceiling. ‘You have to invite my brother to Thanksgiving this year.’ I groaned. His brother was a man’s man and made manly noises, and thought women were meant to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I didn’t keep him from his brother but I didn’t go out of my way to have him at our apartment. ‘Oh, you’re on!’ We shook hands over the wrinkle and went to work.

All day that wrinkle in the pillow nagged at me. My phone buzzed, ‘My brother loves chives and butter in his mashed potatoes.’ I grinned, ‘The Viking cookbook I want is no longer on sale. $120 is the price,’ I smiled hitting send. ‘Ok babe, luv u and see u tonight.’ I put my phone away and smiled. I was in a surprisingly good mood. I think it was a combination of going shopping for my books and proving him wrong.

I arrived home first which was odd because he was usually home starting dinner. I can’t cook to save my life so I understand why he doesn’t want me getting my hands on that book. An hour past and he wasn’t answering his phone or texting back. I called the office and no one answered. Maybe he was shopping for dinner. I walked into our room and took a picture of the wrinkle on the pillow and sent it to him with a caption, ‘It’s still here’. Nothing. It was getting late and started a pizza when I was startled by a knock. I opened the door and there stood two officers, ‘Mrs. Tucker?’ I could feel the tears welling up in my eye, ‘M…me,’ is all I could get out. I didn’t let them in because that meant that anything they told me was real. ‘Your husband was in an accident. A car veered into his lane…’ The rest was garbled words and noises until he reached a book out to me, ‘This was in the floorboard.’ In shock, I turned the book over in my hands to find it was my cookbook.

His brother invited me over for Thanksgiving that year. He knows I can’t cook either. We still do everything together I carry my husband’s photo with me everywhere I go. I haven’t gotten my other four books. I can’t go unsupervised but I have cooked every recipe in the book he bought me. The inscription in the book, ‘You win baby, you cook dinner tonight. Hope this helps. Love Wayne.’ And his wrinkle is still on his pillow.

This is a response to the Daily Post Prompt: Wrinkle. I wanted to try something new. I even surprised myself and started to tear up. I would enjoy your opions and thoughts.

February 17th, 2018

I have a few stolen moments between caring for a sick husband, running the house, cooking the specific dinner requested by the contagious man baby, errands, and keeping the kids alive to post about my day.

I have my petri dish of infectious husband quarantined in our room which meant that I’m not inhaling the diseased air as I sleep in the living room. In doing so my son was up at 4 am thinking that it was a weekday. I was able to get him to wait for breakfast until 6 am that consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, and skillet taters (something I thought that would be easy on the hubby’s tummy). From there I monitored the weather and had some errands to run in a larger city an hour away. My oldest daughter and I timed the trip perfectly and were able to retrieve the purchases and then go to the grocery store all before the snow hit. BONUS: I remembered the salt for the sidewalks.

The only ‘slap in the face’ part of my day was a simple question that I asked an individual at the mall. Now it’s very difficult for me to go into crowded areas and need to take my medication for even stepping out of the car but this errand was important to my daughter so we had to go. While in the mall I saw service dogs that were going through training. No, I didn’t touch or even ask to touch the animal. I simply asked where and how do I go about getting a service dog for me. She looked at me as if there was no reason for me to even be asking her this question. I disclosed that I have C-PTSD and could benefit a great deal from a service dog or even an emotional support animal. She said a note from the doctor and $5000. I need to prove that I was abused for years? Can barely live with myself, have night terrors, flashbacks, panic attacks, and have days that I can’t get out of the bed just to name a bit of what I experience in a week. They train for veterans and no further help or advice. I was at a loss for words. I can barely afford decent watercolors let alone that training. Devastated I went home. I shoved it to the back of my mind and have come to accept that I will never be able to have a service dog. I’m sorry I’m not a deserving individual for such a necessity.

One of the items on my list was the movie, ‘Stand By Me’. My daughter heard her friends talking about it and how the kids in the movie find a body. I Scoffed louder than I should have and explained that the movie was more than kids finding a body. So, when we got home we put away the groceries and I started right away cooking lunch. Chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese for my patient and tomato soup and grilled cheese for the rest of us. We sat down to feast on our lunch minus the infected and by the end of the movie my daughter was crying. I just looked at her and simply asked, ‘Do you understand now?’ Red-faced she nodded.

I have dinner in the oven now and Rocky is on the TV, another movie that her friend told her that she needed to see. I now have a running list of movies for these kids to watch. I’ll do my 6-word story after dinner with my time being rather occupied today and hopefully able to start a couple of projects that I have jotted down as I thought about them. Wish me luck that I’m able to do so.

Important Side Note:
Thank you to everyone that is reading and following my blog. It doesn’t go unnoticed and helps me more than you could think. It also gives me the encouragement I need to comment, follow blogs, and write on my own and I love immersing myself in the inspiration that other authors offer on their blogs. Thanks ya’ll.

6 Word Day 17

The stress of doing everything in a modern society sucks…especially when you are raising a millennial minded teen. The usual ‘raising teen’ horrors are fine but adding the mentality of entitlement takes the cake. I’m constantly on top of that attitude. Then throw in work and trying to write. Don’t get me started or even ask what personal projects I have completed lately. Feeling less than super.

Prompt Word: The Juggler

Work, family, creativity, mind…stressed mother.

Compassionate Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella

with Roasted Potatoes & Summer Squash

This was a complete accident. I thought I cancelled all the Blue Apron deliveries for this month. For some reason in my scattered brain fog I forgot this week. Well shit. Luckily I had the money in the bank to afford this delectable dinner.

My daughter knew how exhausted I’ve been and took charge. I arrived home from running to the store and dropping kids off to their requested destinations and smelled the fragrances of dinner. She was prepping the meal and hadn’t even started cooking! Garlic, oregano, and chopped prune scents were dancing in the air. What the hell is Chicken Marbella? According to our Blue Apron angel:

Chicken marbella is an Italian-American preparation of baked chicken served with a tangy-sweet sauce featuring prunes, capers, and more.

We’ve had prunes and I have had capers but never in a million years would I think they would make an amazing sauce. Watching  her dance around, chopping, drizzling oil, and sprinkling spices was mesmerizing. I offered to help but she wasn’t having it.

The aromas in my kitchen one would think they were being introduced by a professional chef but instead performed by my daughter. She informed me that she missed having blue apron and I had to agree.  The zucchini and potatoes were roasted perfectly and complimented the chicken nicely.

 From what I was allowed to observe she diced the potatoes and zucchini and placed them on a roasting pan, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and placed them in the oven that was already cooking the chicken. She rehydrated the prunes she cooked then with the capers, garlic, oregano, daft, pepper in the olive oil. When it was all done we enjoyed perfect bites of goodness. There was English butter, cherry vinegar, and light brown sugar added somewhere but she was so quick I couldn’t tell you where they went but I can tell you she put them exactly where they belonged.

I learned two things:

  1. Never be afraid to try new things
  2. I’m raising my daughter to have compassion.

That nah was proof that she understood my exhausting schedule limits me with time constraints but she had the compassion I needed to get through the evening.

Blue Apron is not a sponsor for me but I encourage you to step outside of your tastebud comfort zone and try something new.

Frying Catfish Through Stormy Weather

Stormy weather is an understatement. After the week that my family experienced last week we all were looking for some comfort food that you can only get when cooking at home. As I wrote before, I am forcing my family to try Blue Apron. I had a delivery almost two weeks ago and didn’t get a chance to cook ANY of the meals but the food is holding up pretty well. I do have to replace some turnips but no problem. There’s an Amish store not to far from where I live so I will still be able to adhere to Blue Apron’s standard of food.

I left work (and if you would like to know how my day went at my job my journal entry May 15th, third to last paragraph summarizes my shit day pretty well with a small petty victory), to head to the school to pick up my children and stopped by the house and found my husband sitting outside on the porch. Pulling over and rolling down the window I asked him if he wanted to go with to fetch the kids hesitantly he agreed but asked me to see what he did. I was a bit worried. I asked him to do 2 things, one was to clean up and rearrange our room a bit because it’s getting close to putting the AC in the window (living up north, it can be hard to find central AC so we have window units), and to repair the sink. He didn’t repair the sink and is quite irritated with it right now but our room, our room looks AMAZING! I would take a picture to post but it’s my corner of the world that no one has invaded and set off any of my triggers. Let’s just say, he’s made room on my side of the bed for a painting area and a writing area. It feels wonderful to literally have my own space. And the fact that he gives me time to myself to write (even this) is so encouraging.

Dinner Time


Yes the picture looks yummy, but mine didn’t look like that. I didn’t have time to stage my food because I had hungry tummies running around nor did I have natural lighting because of a storm coming in. Yes, we are having a ‘Weather Aware’ evening according to our local news. I’m from the south and desperately miss the afternoon to evening thunderstorms. The smell of the sulfur in the air before the storm is in full swing, the sound of the thunder promising the relief from the humidity and heat with droplets of water. This is something that we do not get to experience all that often here in the north.

Growing up in the south allowed me to experience not all that good for your heart home cooking with trays of fried foods, gravies, sauces, cheeses, bacon (If there wasn’t any bacon on the table you can bet that there was an item cooked in bacon fat retrieved from one of the many jars in the fridge. Yes, I’m even guilty of that to this day.) and some type of starch. When the storms were moving daddy would go fishing and come back with tons of catfish. He swore that the best catfish was caught on stormy days. Now, frying catfish and crawdad boils would put ANY northern Friday fish fry to shame. Where I grew up, fish was an any day of the week meal, not just on Fridays (a concept I still can’t wrap my head around this concept here in the north). Blue Apron really came through for me with a menu of pan fried catfish, sauteed spinach with lemon, sweet tater fries and homemade tarter sauce. I didn’t screw this meal up by opening the wrong bag of ingredients, skipping a step, or not thawing meat out for the planned meal. I am happy to announce even my husband ate it without complaint and he’s not a catfish type of guy. All the stress of the dinner slipped away as I slipped the fish into the three-step breading process. Plus, I actually felt so accomplished and full, I decided to write.

Cooking dinner through the storms passing through also helped me through another storm that is definitely brewing between my mother and I. Now, understand, there is ugly history between us two. So much so, that I have gone over a decade without talking to her the first time and 5 years the second time. The reasons behind this is for another time. The storm, well, my mother and I are extremely busy with jobs and we cannot get together as much as I would like and the fact that she has a new boyfriend doesn’t help matters either. She’s the type of woman that can’t be alone (opposite of me), and just a couple of weeks after her husband and her separated (yes, separated) she was going on dates with just about anyone that would pay attention to her. That sounds bad but her now ex-husband was a real douche bag. Back on track, I asked if she wanted to go to brunch with her grandchildren, son-in-law, and myself and she said no. Bewildered, I asked why. Her new boyfriend was making her breakfast in bed. ‘Um, ok’ is all I could say because if I rattled out what I was really thinking it would probably be another decade of not talking to her. I quickly hung up and vented to my husband. She later asked if I wanted to come by but I explained that I was exhausted and we just got back from the movies and needed to figure something out for dinner. Told her I would come by on Monday (now today) but I was able to tell her I’m in the middle of cooking dinner and she said that she had homework to do. She is creating the weather and when she stands in her rain screaming it’s raining, then I’ll let her know. I just need to calm down and cooking catfish through the storm has fended off another storm for now.

Again, I’m better off not being around certain individuals, including my mother. Can’t wait to cook tomorrow.

P.S. I still have 5 free deliveries to give away from Blue Apron. If you would like to try it out, shoot me a message and I’ll send one your way.

Spaghetti and Anxiety Meatballs

I had just had another bad day at work and was going to be busy attending my daughter’s band concert.  Having a bad day, no time in the evening to do any writing, and dealing with a large crowd only made my anxiety and self doubt scream throughout my body.

I already have faced anxiety with just the thought of ‘what’s for dinner?’ and ‘shit! I have to run to the store and deal with people while trying to shop for ingredients’. This took the therapeutic unwind I needed and time with my family cooking away. Shopping and trying day at work only equaled to an anxiety filed and head down lady. I don’t like her but have come to be familiar with her. My therapist said that cooking could help with anxiety but I had to get through the shopping and planning. But there are plenty of articles that support cooking for individuals with anxiety, depression, PTSD etc…to get in the kitchen.

It’s nothing new that I’m a self proclaimed podcast junkie and I had listened to so many that promoted Blue Apron that I decided to investigate as to whether or not this would be helpful and approved as yummy by my kids and husband.  I was excited and impressed opening the box of goodies that would hopefully help with home life. But after ordering I learned some important things. FRIDAY is not a good day for my delivery to come. I work all weekend. ANY bread delivered needs to be placed in the fridge. If I place meat in freezer, REMEMBER to pull out the morning of cooking for dinner that night planned.

I wasn’t able to make the first meal until the following Tuesday. That’s when I learned that I should have pulled the meat out that morning. Fine! No meatballs for us but instead I just started cooking the beef. Other than that…WOW! My son helped cook the sauce and chop garlic, my daughter helped with the beef so I could supervise my son’s knife skills. We were laughing and having a great time cooking together in the kitchen. All of us eager to try this new delivery. It was a HIT!!! I didn’t have to rush to the store for all the ingredients needed and no leftovers to throw away after it sits a week in my fridge. 

The stress of the day disappeared and  I was able to make a connection with my family that I haven’t been able to do in a long time. Blue Apron is not giving me any monetary compensation for this advertisement whatsoever. I just want people to know that this option is out there. It can help with a lot of the pressures of cooking dinner and shopping. And if you’re anything like me, memory is often a problem. I’ll forget an ingredient and either have to go back to the store or try to make it work without. The only thing I wish they had was an option for adding another serving because my husband likes to take leftovers to work or the kids like seconds but still happy with the first meal.

NOTE: I have 5 invitations for someone who hasn’t tried Blue Apron to receive free shipping. If you would like this invitation extended to you, please just send a message through the contact form.

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