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. 
Wednesday, November 5, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Cara: Done (?) with 100 Happy Days....

Whew...100 days. Cue happy dance...(I love that girl up there she makes me happy!!!) I made it through the 100 days. I will admit around day 60something I was thinking what the heck did I get myself into. But a challenge is a challenge and I asked for it. 

I endured much teasing... "hey Cara are you happy today?" "how come you never made me your happy day?" "you don't seem too happy today what are you going to do now?" It's OK I dish it out on the regular so I can take it. 

Some days it was real easy. The days I spent with my niece? Easy peasy. Days at the beach? Piece of cake. But some days it was harder. And thinking back those are the days that mattered the most in this silly thing. 

I already know that happiness is a journey not a destination. I may not have known that years ago...when I thought, if I only I had this or that happened then I would be happy.  But it doesn't work that way.

On the the days when you have that battle gear on it's not so easy to find or even think about being happy. But during this I would think "I am not in the mood to be happy today and now I have to post a dam picture." So even if I was cranky or I was in for a battle that day I would keep looking for something, anything that made me happy. And I would find it. It may have been a tomato in my garden, an old picture of a happy time whatever. It changed my mind set. 

Now I am not about to say I am going to run around singing, throwing rose petals about because I am happy all the time, all day, everyday. That's not going to happen. 

I don't have to post a picture now for the world to see but there's a shift that I can say now is a habit. Even on blah day when there's nothing exceptionally good or bad going on...I look for something or a few things even, that make me happy. It can run the gamut from holding a baby to loving my selection of funky reading glasses I have to wear now.

I am learning what's really important and taking a step away from things or people that just simply don't make me happy. We all deserve to be happy. We can surround ourselves with it if we chose to. 

And that's it really. Happy is a choice. It may not be a choice that's easy when the difficult or sad things come your way which they will. But I can make a conscious choice to be seek it out. So that's what I learned from all this. I have a choice. I choose happy. 

A friend gave me a plaque (cause I love words...just come sit in my kitchen some day there's plenty on the walls to read) that says "Be so happy that when others look at you they become happy too."  

Easy to do all the time? Probably not...but it's worth a shot. 

Go. Be Happy.  :D
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Jenn: Happy

If you had asked me a year ago what made me happy I would have told you the health of my family.  If you had asked me what made me really happy - you know the kind - giggling, jumping for joy type of happy I may have said a new pair of boots or a great handbag, jeans that make me look skinny - you know the material things in life - I mean who doesn't love a great pair of jeans?

If you ask me today what makes me happy - I may tell you a new recipe, hearing my daughter laugh out loud or a chicken salad sandwich. It's definitely the little things these days.

In March my ballerina was diagnosed with Chronic Daily Migraines.  She literally has a headache 24/7.  She has sensitivity to light & sound & smells. She is constant pain. She is tired all the time.  She doesn't sleep.  It didn't start off as chronic but by the time we got a diagnosis thats where it was.  She was home schooled  for the spring semester.  She gave up ballet. She spent most of the summer in bed or on the couch.  We went from specialist to specialist and medication to medication - none of it helping much.  Every day is a struggle for her.  She is so unbelievably brave and stoic.  She has returned to school and ballet and does what she can.  She has missed a lot of school so far this year but she makes up all the work.  She just keeps moving forward ready to try the next thing.  She makes me proud - and she makes me believe that every day is a new day.  I wake up hopeful each day that this will be the day she tells me her head has stopped hurting and I have my ballerina back.  Hope is my happy these days.  I feel helpless and sad and sorry that I can't take her pain away but I keep trying.

One of her doctors suggested she give up gluten to see if that helped.  It didn't stop the migraines but now if she does eat something with gluten, the reaction is immediate.  Her head explodes, her body wants to sleep, she feels worse than before she ate.  She has a gluten intolerance.  I have been learning to remake all my recipes to be gluten free - easier said than done.  I didn't realize that flour is in basically everything I cook - from stews and soups to pasta & bread it's there. I am slowly remaking each of our favorite family recipes to be gluten free.  Today I mastered chicken pot pie and that makes me happy!  Here is the recipe:

2  t butter
4 chicken breasts - cooked and shredded
2 cups chicken stock
1 bag steam fresh corn (cooked)
1 bag steam fresh peas (cooked)
3/4 cup milk (I used lactose free)
3T corn starch

In a large pot, melt the butter - add the chicken and sautĂ© for a minute.  Add peas & corn (& any other veggies you like - I used to add carrots until I realized everyone was picking them out!) Add chicken stock, a sprinkle of nutmeg & salt.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Dissolve the corn starch in the milk and slowly add to the chicken mixture.  Simmer until thickened.  Serve over rice or with Gluten Free bisquick bisquits.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Cara:100 happy days #100happydays

Be happy for 100 days? Hmmm...impossible? Well maybe..but do I have to be happy for the entire 24 hours? I seem to find ideas like this (or do they find me??) just when I need to hear about them most. Sometimes the toxicity around you can really get to you and you need something to push you past it. 

When I heard about this first I thought of someone dancing around for 24 hours acting/being happy...yeah that's not going to happen. After reading about this 100 day thing I realized it's about finding something to be happy about everyday take a picture and hashtag it on social media. And it's not about acting happy either. It's not about one-upping happiness to be more happy that the next guy. It's truly finding things to be happy about. 

I am gung ho. I am down with the whole grateful thing. My favorite book ever "Simple Adundance" literally without sounding too weird, changed my life. But I am human, I get caught up in the noise and can go for days, weeks without remembering to be grateful each day. Until something kicks my ass and I remember... "oh yeah I am forgetting that...that's why I am off". 

I am only on Day 6. Only 94 more days to go. It's going to bring me into late October if I stay on course. As with anything I am determined in the beginning and whether I make it through to the other side always remains to be seen. 

It has made me slow down the past 6 days and look for reasons to be happy. One day was easier than the next perhaps, but the days that it's harder are the days that I think I need to do it even more. And so far the lazy days of summer have not brought me super duper amazing things to be happy about. But those don't happen everyday right? Then they wouldn't be super duper amazing. But there's lots of little things to be happy about. Truly, everyday. A few of mine were really simple like:

My silly one-eyed cat that is my shadow every morning as I take my coffee outside and check on my gardens

Or finding the first ripe tomato in the garden

Cats and tomatoes not super duper amazing right? I know. But in that moment, on that day it made me happy. 

So here's to 100 happy days. #100happydays (

Then maybe even 100 happy more.....

Friday, June 13, 2014

PostHeaderIcon Cara: My Lucky Charm

Today is Friday the 13th. (cue scary music and hockey mask)

Today's one of my lucky days. It's my "baby's" birthday. He's 12 (when did THAT happen) but will always be the baby.

When I was pregnant with him people would (literally) say to me things like "You're have a boy and a girl why would you want another one?" "This was an accident huh?" "Are you gonna find out the sex? You have one of each so who cares what this one is." Then when they found out I was going to pick Michael for a boy, I got "Oh don't do that Michaels are bad" "You will be sorry if you do that" 

Anyone who knows me knows, that the more you tell me I shouldn't the more I want to. So I would tactfully (read...not) put them in their place. I could get away with my replies then because I was "hormonal".

The only person besides those closest to me who either didn't agree about bad Michaels or were smart enough to keep it to themselves, who said something nice was a nurse who came in to my hospital room in the middle of the night the day he was born. 

It was about 3 a.m., the room was dark and quiet except for the TV. I was giving him a bottle ("you should breast feed=don't tell me what to do I this is my third kid give me a bottle"). I was thinking "OK St. Michael Archangel..boss of the better be on my side here and not let this kid be a maniac." Truly that's how me and St. Michael roll, I talk to him like that. Then she came in to check on us. 

He was happily eating and sleeping at the same time. She asked what his name was and I thought here we go. I said "Michael and please don't tell me I shouldn't have named him that." She laughed. She said "People have been saying that to you huh?" I said "Yep!" She said "Let me tell you something... I am married to a Michael and my oldest son is a Michael. My husband is the best husband in the world..and my son is the light of my life. They drive me nuts sometimes but they love me like no other, they fill my heart everyday and my little Michael makes me proud to be his mom. So don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It take a special mom to be a Mike mom. You will see." And with that she left. I looked down at Michael he had stopped eating and his eyes were wide open. (I believe that's when the nosy busy-body character trait began) and I said "Did you hear that?" He blinked. I said to him "See I knew it!!" He closed his eyes and went back into eat/sleep mode.  I never saw her again while I was in the hospital. I don't know her name. I asked about her but since I didn't have a name they weren't sure who I was talking about. So...nurse? Or nurse angel? I like to think the latter. So, today people may be worrying about walking under ladders or breaking mirrors. I know it's my lucky day. 

This boy who snuck in under the wire of "OK we will give it a year and if we don't get pregnant then so be it", can be the bane of my existence and the joy of my life at the same time, brings light, laughter and noise into our home. He gave me one more shot at Santa, The Tooth Fairy, first day of school and hand print Valentines. He's brought the torture and fun of being "sports parents" into our life. (that is a good thing right??) He's happy, outgoing and smart. (a smart ass too if I am keeping it real) He is the "5" that makes us "The Fab 5".

He still thinks I am the best thing since sliced bread and remembers to tell me that often. 

So happy birthday to my "Lucky Charm". Can't imagine my life without him. Lucky me.

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