Monday, March 9, 2015

PostHeaderIcon Cara: Let them eat Cake

This past weekend Diva turned 22. I have no idea how that happened. She's feeling like 22 is old (hmmm...try almost 48 on for size sista!)

This was not a significant birthday like let's say 21 was last year. So she has a rockin' Spring Break planned that just happens to coincide with her birthday so this weekend was just family Cake. 

I am not sure if "Cake" is a thing for all families. But it has been in mine for as long as I can remember and it even holds true for my closest friends who always were a part of my family cake and I theirs. We were just laughing remembering when, as teenagers I had to wait for my friend Mrs. B. (not Mrs. at the time) to go out, but first she had to have family cake then we could go. 

I was hemming and hawing about having Cake for Diva this year to be honest. First off having kids living at college and having lives of their own makes everything a logistical nightmare now it seems. And I was thinking is 22 too old for Cake? If I invite the usual suspects are they going to think "Really?" But after talking over my issues with Mrs. B and "Frances" they made me realize I was being silly. And who the heck is too old for birthday cake?

"Cake" is nothing fancy but it's not just cake either. It could also mean pizza or whatever too. But Cake is really not about the cake as I just recently figured out. 

Cake is about celebrating...again. Again with the same people that come every year to sit around the kitchen to chit chat and catch up for a little while. Cake is about making the effort on a cold Sunday night to go over and have a cup of coffee and be a part of each other's lives, and these days with everyone being so busy it gets hard. But you take the time. Even if you're going to be late or have to only stop in for a minute. 

It's about reminiscing about the birth stories of the kids. Or telling them the funny things that happened when they were babies that they don't remember. We have a shared history. We are part of each other's stories. Everyone remembers when someone had to cover a certain little cousin's mouth so he wouldn't blow the birthday person's candles out every single time(at 16 he's outgrown that now thankfully).We have gone from 6ft long homemade ballerina cakes and goodies bags to low key homemade requested old favorites.

We have little girls that want to open their presents in front of everyone and big girls who gratefully accept their gifts and then open them later in private. Or older boys who are all about the green and will thankfully accept a little something in the envelope. 

And it's not about the gifts either. It's about a room full of people that love you that took a little time to stop and celebrate you. Celebrate another year. Another year together. And I think if we don't stop and make time for the small things like the "insignificant number" birthday then things get lost. 

Relationships get taken for granted, time goes by and you look up and can't get that time back. 

I don't know where all the people in that room will be when Diva's birthday rolls around again next year. She may be off doing something fabulous for her birthday, and logistically maybe Cake won't be able to happen next year. But there will be another Cake for another someone eventually and we will make our best effort to be there. The little things are important, and I am grateful Cake made me remember that. 
Sunday, February 8, 2015

PostHeaderIcon Cara: February Recipe

Just popped on here as I make my shopping list for the week, to see if I felt like making something from our recipe list. 

I am SO not in the mood to think about what to make for dinner this week. Winter blahs have officially kicked in I think. Even though I feel like having a brownie and a cup of coffee for dinner in my pjs in front of the TV...alas that's not going to cut it. But then I realized it's my turn to post a recipe for this month. 

This is something I am making this week. It's a no meat kind of thing. We like it. By we, I mean me and the hubby. Shorty won't touch it with a ten foot pole. (Mushrooms? ew!!) But then I will have to think of something else to make for him that night...hence my annoyance with dinner making in general.

Anyway here's a spaghetti squash recipe. We eat it as the main dish with maybe salad on the side. 

Spaghetti Sqash with Mushroom Ragu

1 large spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise 
Salt and pepper 
1 1/2 cups chicken stock  
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 pound cremini mushrooms, chopped 
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped 
Salt and pepper 
1 small carrot, finely chopped 
1 small onion, finely chopped 
2 large cloves garlic, chopped 
2 rounded tablespoons tomato paste 
1/2 cup dry sherry or Marsala (I used Marsala)
1 bay leaf 
1 cup milk 
Grated cheese (I used shredded Parmesan/Romano)

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Halve both squash and place the pieces cut side down on baking sheets. Roast 1 hour or until tender, turn cut side up and shred the squash into spaghetti-like strands with a fork; season with salt and pepper.  

While the squash are roasting, in large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions cook 15 minutes or so until tender. Add thyme, salt, pepper, carrot and garlic; cook to tender. Stir in tomato paste, add sherry or Marsala, bay leaf and stock until heated.  Add milk, and simmer sauce to reduce over low heat for 30 minutes.

Top spaghetti squash with ragu and cheese and serve half a squash per portion. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

PostHeaderIcon Jenn - chicken soup

Happy New Year!  I was supposed to put up a recipe for December but time has a way of running away from me lately and before I knew it, January was here.  I hope you all had a terrific holiday season.  Mine was hectic.  Back-to-work for the first time in 12 years, it was hard juggling all the Christmas decorating, shopping  and cooking, with work.  I did it, it was exhausting and I am glad to be back to business as usual come Monday.

My son gave me a cold for Christmas - I spent last weekend in bed.  I am still fighting it - but trying to keep it from spreading through the house.  The best thing for a cold?  Chicken Soup!  Until a few years ago I bought my chicken soup.  I thought it was too complicated to make, having never made it - but what did I know?  Now each week I make a big batch,  I pour it into a glass pitcher and keep it in the Frig.  The kids help themselves throughout the week - it makes a great after school or pre-practice snack.  Ballerina likes to put it in a to go cup and sip it on her way to school.  I am fine with soup for breakfast - at least I  know she is getting protein.  So here is my Chicken soup recipe - very simple, very delicious and very economical.  (For locals, I go to the market on Carlton - they almost always have cut up chickens and wings and if not, are more than happy to cut up for you)

1 cut-up chicken
4 chicken wings ( the wings are the secret - they make it richer)
1 large onion or 2 small - peeled and quartered
3 carrots - cut into large chunks
3 celery stalks - cut into large chunks
2 t fresh diced garlic
bunch of green onion whole (optional)
handful of sea salt to taste
pepper to taste

Put the chicken, onion, celery, garlic, carrots, salt, pepper and whole green onion in a pot and cover with water.  Simmer for a minimum of 4 hours.  After 2 hours, remove chicken breasts and set aside for use later.  The rest of the meat I let boil away.  Sometimes I will cook my soup overnight on a low setting - or sometimes just all day.  You can't overcook it - it will just boil away - the longer it boils, the richer the broth gets - but you must keep adding water as it boils down.  Skim the fat off the top of the soup as often as possible - but you can skip this step if cooking overnight  because once the broth cools, all the fat is congealed at the top and you can remove then, Once the soup is cooked - you taste it and you like the flavor - strain the broth.  I throw all the veggies away and just keep the broth.  To make a hearty meal, I heat the broth in a pot and add diced carrots, celery, chicken and noodles.  Having the broth in the frig is ideal for so many other meals - for every recipe that calls for broth, you can just pull out your pitcher.  No need to buy canned or boxed broth.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Cara: Happy New Year ( a little early)

I am in love with this wine bottle I received as a gift from my pal Mother Earth!
See the name? Quite apropos for the new year.
 (and it's my favorite white, which is that much better!)

Not quite the New Year yet I know. It's that in between time. The clean up from the 
Christ-mess time...little by little. Everyone's loot is almost gone from under the tree. I am not in a hurry for it. I am not a fan of messes but Christmas aftermath doesn't bug me (much).

I like to look back on where I was at this time the year before. A nice thing about a blog is having things "documented" so to speak so you get to look back. Sometimes I laugh about things that were written. (sometimes I cringe and think  "who the heck was the chick that wrote that??")

If I looked back on January posts from years ago (and it is years  when I wasn't as old wise I can see where I was setting myself up for failure.  I had plans for rearranging my life both figuratively and literally. "Get my house completely organized." Yeah, still waiting for that to happen. "Lose all the weight I need to." get the drift. 

This year I reviewed my last New Year's "words of wisdom". For once I was pleasantly surprised. I think I actually accomplished most of what I wanted for myself in 2014. And it's not because I have suddenly become super woman and have my act together. I think it's because I went a little easy on myself. Plus I put my money where my mouth is and brought about a shift in myself (albeit a work in progress) in the way I look at or react to things/people/issues in my life. I am now a firm believer in you can't change things or people but you can change how you react/act. 

I have given up trying so hard to hang on to relationships that are quite frankly too much work. Some I have put on the shelf never to be revisited or "worked on" again. That's not easy for me. That's not how I roll. I don't invest time in "disposable" relationships. But sometimes you need to take off the rose colored glasses and truly see someone for who they are. That's not always easy for me...even when Maya Angelou is in my ear saying " when someone shows you who they are, believe them". It's one of my favorite truisms just, ahem.. not always when it applies to my life.

There are some relationships though that are put on the back burner for one reason or another. I know they are there and either they or I don't want to deal with them now.  I am still here, just not about giving them my energy now. After opening my eyes, there are many relationships old and new that want and deserve my energy.  

I allowed new ideas, "Gifts of Imperfection" or what I thought was a silly "100 happy days"
and was quite changed with what I took away from it. 

I have given myself a lot (well, it's all relative) passes this year. I have eased up on outside obligations without much guilt.  I've focused on what's going on with my kids, not that I have been neglecting them, heaven forbid. But I am more focused on how different they all are what different things they need from me, even if what they need is not that much anymore, well not on a regular basis anyway. Focusing more on my marriage which is just fine thank you very much, but now that the daily craziness of having little kids is a thing of the past, there's more couple time. There are more opportunities for conversation without interruptions or short people tugging on my leg. 

So of course I have some plans for the new year. That's what the clean slate is all about right? I haven't got any grand plans or resolutions (p-lease with those already). Maybe there will be some new ideas about being healthier as the 48th birthday that will arrive in 2015 is pinching me a little. There are definitely plans to make better use of the space in my house. (OK yes, that's organizing I know but it wouldn't be January without an organizing plan, c'mon!!)

I am looking forward to my clean slate. Looking forward to shaking things up along the way this year. 

Wishing you a clean slate and oodles of chalk in cool colors to write all over it to your hearts content...or not.

Happy 2015!!!! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Recipe: November (Cara)

A few people have asked me lately to get some new recipes on the blog. Still after 1000+ (yikes!) post later it still catches me off guard when I realize people actually read the blog. (happy day!)

So let's ease back in with a recipe a month. Jenn can do December. (I have not even told her of my latest plan...surprise Ethel!)

Tuned in to Lidia (nice Italian lady) on Sunday morning. She was making this and it looked warm and yummy so I searched high and low for the recipe. I made it one rainy chilly night this past week. It was good, peasant food (like my mother-in-law likes to call stuff like this). It calls for ground turkey so it may be a good way to use up some leftover Thanksgiving turkey. I used ground chicken as I will be up my eyeballs in turkey this time tomorrow, and didn't want to make turkey anything this past week. Mangia!

                       Sformato di Verdure e Carne
                       Vegetable & Meat Casserole
                          from "Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
*my two cents :)

6tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2small onions, thinly sliced
1pound zucchini, diced
2teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2pounds ground turkey
2tablespoons tomato paste (*I finally smarted up and bought it in a tube so I can keep some 'til next time)
1 1/2cups white wine
2fresh bay leaves
1 3/4pounds russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced(1/4 inch thick or so)*(I may use white or yukon next time so potatoes aren't as al dente)
8ounces low-moisture mozzarella, shredded
1cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano *(I used parmesan that's what I had!)
2tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the zucchini is tender, then remove vegetables to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the ground turkey. Cook and stir the turkey until it is crumbled and browned, about 4 minutes. Then clear a space in the pan and add the tomato paste. Let it toast for a minute,*(I love that "let it toast a minute"!!)then stir it into the turkey. Add the wine and bay leaves, bring to a simmer and cook until the wine is reduced and saucy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onions and zucchini.
Toss the potato slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining teaspoon of salt. In a medium bowl, toss together the two cheeses. To assemble, butter a large oval baking dish (4 quart size). Layer the potatoes in the bottom, and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Layer all of the turkey mixture, then all of the remaining grated cheese. Cover with foil (making sure it doesn't touch the cheese), and bake on the bottom rack until bubbly around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Uncover, and bake until the top is browned and crusty, about 15 minutes more

*Serve with maybe a salad...everything's in the pot you really don't need much more

Monday, November 17, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Cara: Guest Blogger: Diva with life lessons sometimes learned the very hard way...

Haven't had a Guest Blogger in forever. (Says the one who hasn't been blogging faithfully as of late.) She and I seem to be on the same page this week so I asked if she wanted to write about it because like me, writing is healing for her. As a mom you want to take away any pain your child feels. It never ever stops. Even when they are real adults. And even as a real adult child when you're in pain you just want to come home. So even though her blog makes me sad, I am happy about two things. That she knows home is where her heart is and there she is safe and loved no matter, what no matter when even at 11:00 on a Sunday night. And that she gets it at 21 years old. Her mom is 47 and has just started to figure it all out. So some more points to ponder and reminders of how precious our time is. 

Why do bad things happen to the most amazing people?

On Friday, as I curled my hair, and picked out my heels for a complimentary happy hour that I had won, only worried about the free drinks I was about to get for 2 hours, and forgetting the "stress" that was taking over my life with my senior year responsibilities dawning upon me, I turned my phone on silent to "get away from everyone" who apparently were too much for me handle when I had hair to curl, and jewelry to pick out. 

In that time, I received 4 missed calls from my friend, half of the duo who have been my surrogate big sisters for the last 7 years, calling to tell me earth shattering news. Our other friend's brother had been in a car accident. Our other friend's brother was dead. If I could explain the blow that I felt in my chest when I heard those words, I would. But there is no way to articulate the pain I felt for my dear dear friend in that moment. 

Things have been hectic in my life lately, decisions with men have left me sort of confused as to who I am and what I want. Senioritis has been the constant battle, and difficulties with friends have left me with anxiety that I never had to deal with previously. But there is one thing I know. I am lucky. I have family who is present and strong, and friends who are absolutely incredible people, the top of that list being my sweet friend who has been dealt this terrible, unfair, absolutely unfathomable challenge. 

What do you say? What do you do? How do you help someone who has never ceased to be able to help you? Someone who has truly been a testament of Gods work on earth in your life. I can't even make sense of how if there is a higher power, he could let this happen to someone like her, to a family like hers, to a brother like hers. 

It's been two whole days of contemplating this, and I can't even come up with a beginning of the answers to these questions, because I don't think there is one. 
But I will get myself together, get on that train, and get home to my friend. To my town, who despite its disadvantages, loves and cherishes its people, and will come together tonight to mourn the loss of one of our own. One who graduated from our high school, rode his bike down to our beach, and ate at our diner. One who loved his family, his friends, and his fiancĂ©. Who, despite his challenges, remained an incredible big brother to my friend, who beamed with pride at the person she is, and loved his little brother with all he had. 

I'll hug my little brothers a little tighter when I see them, as its heart breaking to think of something ever taking them away from me. Unfathomable of thinking about going on with my life without them there. I'll appreciate my friend for the strong woman that she is, but console the grieving sister that she has been reduced to during this time. 

I'll catch up with those we have lost touch with from our high school years, brought together by the love with have for this family, and for our darling friend. 

I'll play my piano, and visit my church, hoping to find the strength in God and music, to give my friend what she cannot give herself right now. 

And I'll appreciate my life, my family, my friends, and the fact that it can be taken away at any moment. 

So why do bad things happen to the most amazing people? I still don't know, don't think I ever will. But my mother always tells me, everything happens for a reason. There has to be a silver lining to the pain people are forced to feel, the loss they have to carry. I can only hope that they find peace, and love in their lives until they can find that reason. 
Friday, November 14, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Cara: Laundry on my kitchen floor

Yeah there is. Laundry on my kitchen floor at 9:30 pm. Well I mean it's not like strewn all over the floor, but it's all there waiting to be folded in baskets. I intended on folding it after dinner. But I'm not. (such a rebel...I know, I know.) It will be there tomorrow unless someone else in this house folds it before morning(not gonna happen).

Besides the fact that I am just plain tired tonight, it's an example of where my mind is at...or going to now. 

I am and always will be Type A personality with a side of OCD. But months of taking a step back, laying low and re-evaluating I am learning things like if the laundry is there in the quiet morning before men get up, after I have had a night's sleep, and a cup of coffee I can fold it then and the earth will not stop spinning. 

Hubby made the "first fire" in the fireplace tonight. I like just sit around when the fire is on in the evenings. Too many of those evenings gone by I was scurrying around doing this and that before I would even consider slowing down and enjoying it. Too many nights I didn't sit on the couch with a cat on my lap watching something good on TV. Now that I think of it, too many nights I didn't sit around with an old dog's face in my lap and now she isn't here anymore. Was I thinking of that at this time last year? "Hey you better take a night off and go sit with that old dog 'cause she's probably not going to be here next year." Sadly no. 

Point is, I am taking the time. I'm taking the time so slow down. It's not always easy, especially with a tween boy involved in 8 million things that keep us running. (and running) 

I am s-l-o-w-l-y learning to say "no" and that being OK. (No is a sentence.) No to "obligations" which really aren't obligations, just at one time I thought I was obliged. But choosing what's important of my time and energy. Realizing I am not responsible for the happiness of everyone I know. I'm not. Letting go of those pressures to "do" and "be". Letting go of people who don't want or deserve my energy and suddenly realizing there were people standing in the wings waiting for me to remember they are still there and have been quietly waiting for me to realize that all along. It's amazing the things you discover when you stop long enough to see and listen. 

But even as a family we are learning we need to take the time. Passing up some opportunities that seem great in lieu of not ruining our holidays with too much extra running and not enough just being. Recent "of age" children taking the opportunity for a family jaunt the night before Thanksgiving, forgoing what happens to be the THE party night of the year to do family stuff. 

So I hope if I say no a lot more lately people won't think me rude. I need to say yes to the right things.

So yes to sitting by the fire after making hubby and I a cup of coffee. Yes, to that one-eyed cat who must suffocate me while I try to balance my lap top on my knees.

Although you will never see a Jack o' Lantern still on my porch after November 1st (seriously,I would get a rash), but this year you may not see every hall decked with boughs of holly the day after Thanksgiving either. I have that weekend with all my kiddies under one roof... and we are going to enjoy it. 

Wishing you time. Use it wisely. 
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