Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Food Related Posts for 2013

#1 -- Garden Chicken Pasta

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . December 31, 2013

Outside my window . . . 25 degrees with a heavy frost and clear blue skies.

I am thinking . . . it's the last day of 2013. It hasn't been a bad year. Challenging might be the better term. We are ending the year with a mixed bag of stress and joy, but isn't that the way with most years?

I am thankful . . . for good friends and professionals that continue to support me daily, but especially when hard things hit.

In the kitchen . . . Honeybaked Ham Soup. Gotta get to the store and buy my black eye peas and greens for tomorrow's traditional meal.

I am wearing . . . my favorite homemade gown with my flannel robe and slippers and my parrot shawl.

I am creating . . . still in the wait and see mode. I need to get the holidays finished and packed up before starting anything new.

I am going . . . to do yoga with besties, LB and CCD, this morning. Do some laundry, and otherwise hang out with my guys.

I am wondering . . . about the ebb and flow of struggles. Do some people really glide through life without angst and drama?

I am reading . . . The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton. I've always wanted to read it and picked up a copy on my last trip to McKay Used Books.

I am looking forward to . . . the holidays being over. Don't get me wrong, we've had a good season overall, but I'm ready for a more dependable routine.

I am hearing . . . the ticking of the clock and Alan puttering and drinking his tea in the den. He surprised by being at home when I got up this morning.

Around the house . . . time to start de-Christmasing the house. I like having it all put away, but the process can be a bit daunting.

I am praying . . . for peace and contentment for all in the coming year.

One of my favorite things . . . routine. I bet I come back to this one every year!

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . yoga, soup making, a quick trip to the store, quiet at home celebrating tonight, and maybe a friend's house for a bit tomorrow. Then back to Bible study on Thursday.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . .
reading shelf for the new year

Saturday, December 28, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, December 27, 2013


We talk a lot, my husband and I. We talk about our life together. Our lives before each other. Our hurts and struggles. Our children and work and the future. People tell us we communicate well, better than most couples.

So why are there still those "hot buttons" that we can't resolve or at least make a treaty to handle?

We talked with someone new last night. Between the two of us, we bring quite a bit of baggage and history to the table. We don't keep secrets, and we don't yell and scream, but we get separated by fear and expectations.

The new person listened and asked questions. There was no judgment, which was really good for both of us. It was a long, yet positive hour of reflection. 

Afterwards we went out to dinner and talked some more. At one point, he said, "It amazes me that you can access your emotions so easily." I reminded him I've been learning about it for years . . . and years. And I'm a woman. We wear our feelings on our sleeves. Men, on the other hand, are taught from the beginning to stuff them down. 

Deep intimacy is a difficult thing to maintain. Society tells us that true love comes and is followed by "happily ever after". That is a lie. True love grows and develops if you are willing to work at it and stay the course. And "happily ever after" only happens in Disney fairy tales. Read the real fairy tales and they are full of reality. Just like marriage. I love my husband every day and he loves me, but the liking can be difficult to maintain at times. 

No one warned me about the work of marriage. I went into this expecting sunshine and flowers and white picket fences. What I've gotten is a lot of work, tears, frustration, and moments of pure joy and acceptance. And maybe I shouldn't be surprised by that because anything worthwhile takes effort, and anyone who tells you differently is selling something.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Choosing Expectations

It's the day after Christmas. The house is quiet. Alan has gone to work. Claire is off on a pet sitting job, and Sam is still snoozing away.

There's been a lot of stress in our pre-holiday household -- facing our first Christmas without Byron. Sam is in the middle of changing colleges. Claire just graduated from college a couple of weeks ago and has been searching for her first full time job. Add to that the regular stressors of the season and my own familial issues, and we had the potential for a huge, unpleasant Christmas Day.

Three weeks ago I wrote about my concerns for the season. About wanting to feel excited and upbeat, but instead feeling a bit cynical and working to lower my expectations. And here's what I discovered. Really taking the time to determine what was important to me for the season helped everyone else have a better season as well.

I let go of Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart visions. I accepted that the Publix and Apple commercials, while lovely to watch, are not reality. By focusing more on Advent and, oddly enough, my own wants and wishes, instead of trying to make it all perfect for everyone else, I had a calmer, more relaxed, and appreciative day than I have had in years. 

It wasn't perfect. 

My chocolate chess pie baked all over my oven on Tuesday, so I had to clean the oven instead of baking Cranberry Orange Nut bread, but I'll make it for New Year's Day instead. And the pie was ugly, but still delicious, and no one seemed to care. The Milk Salad wasn't the best one I've ever made, but it happens. The Cinnamon Eve Buns tasted heavenly, but fell apart when Claire turned them out of the pan. 

But my kids liked their presents more than I had expected (even though we toned it way down this year), and I even managed to surprise Alan with a couple of gifts and lift his spirits. We went to the in-laws and had a pretty good time. It didn't run like clockwork, and was actually quite chaotic, but I chose not to stress it. I chose.

That's been the key phrase for me this year -- choosing what to take on as my responsibility. Choosing to make my wants and wishes as important as everyone else's. And accepting that I can't make everything work out perfectly for everyone else, because it's not my job and I don't have that kind of power.

So it's the day after Christmas. My kitchen is clean. The wrapping paper is all picked up from the living room floor. I got some lovely goodies. Ate some pretty good food. Helped some other people have a good time. Talked and laughed with my kids and husband. And I never got angry or yelled a single time. 

Merry Christmas 2013. It was good to see you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . December 24, 2013

Outside my window . . . I woke up to snow flurries! It's 28 degrees with clearing blue skies. We might hit 32 today.

I am thinking . . . it's Christmas Eve and I've never been this calm. Lowered expectation really help :)

I am thankful . . . that Alan and Sam had a fun few days in D.C. while Claire and I had fun here at home. They are due in tonight just in time for cookies, eggnog, and sparkling beverages.

In the kitchen . . . today there will be Milk Salad, pecan pie, chocolate chess pie, Cranberry Orange Bread, and Christmas Eve Cinnamon Buns.

I am wearing . . . sweat pants and my Rugby sweatshirt with stripy socks and Crocs.

I am creating . . . nothing new right now. After the holiday I have lots of plans.

I am going . . . to bake, wrap presents, and doing a bit of straightening up around the house, and then sit back and enjoy the rest of the day and night.

I am wondering . . . at the amazing gift of Christmas.

I am reading . . . The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I'm working my way through it slowly for two reasons. The language is so lovely, and two, it's the holidays so there hasn't been much time for savoring beautiful phrases.

I am looking forward to . . . exchanging gifts with the family tonight and tomorrow. I enjoy watching others' reactions, and as I am a kid at heart, I love receiving gifts!

I am hearing . . . wind chimes, Claire wrapping presents to be delivered today, and the dogs wandering the house.

Around the house . . . just a bit of picking up to be done. Clean sheets on our bed. Lots of baking. It's a good day.

I am praying . . . for safety for all who are traveling this week. 

One of my favorite things . . . a day or two of doing what I want.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . enjoying the holiday week!

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . .

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Eve Cinnamon Buns

(reposted from 12/19/11 -- Merry Christmas Week!)

These have become a Christmas tradition for us over the past few years. Quick and easy to put together and yummy to munch on while playing with our gifts on Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve Shortcut Cinnamon Buns

Makes 20 buns

These are made the night before and popped in the oven Christmas morning when the kids are attacking their stockings!

20 unbaked frozen dinner rolls (Bridgeport is a brand I have used)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

Lightly grease a 10 inch bundt cake pan. Place frozen rolls into the pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, the pudding mix, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over the top. If you don’t have a bundt pan, you can use a muffin tin, but they turn out better in a bundt pan.

Cover with a clean, damp cloth and leave overnight at room temperature to rise.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake rolls for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Turn rolls out onto a serving plate and dig in!

(For more recipes please visit FlyLady’s Kitchen)

link up to Made by You Monday at Skip to My Lou

Saturday, December 21, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

RITI lunches in progress

for more information visit Room in the Inn

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . December 17, 2013

Outside my window . . . the sky is pale blue and the sun is shining (thank you, Lord!). It's already 39 degrees.

I am thinking . . . that I am now the mother of a college graduate, but I did have to take her to the doctor yesterday after she slammed her hand in the car door. Poor baby!

I am thankful . . . I am thankful for the cloud of friends God has provided for me. For prayer partners, listening ears, words of comfort, and helpful words of advice.

In the kitchen . . . there was much yumminess this weekend for Claire's graduation party -- pigs in blankets, spinach balls, pumpkin bread, cranberry oatmeal dunkers, hummus, naan, pitas, veggies, wassail, and Winter Sangria.

I am wearing . . . my favorite yoga pants and a long sleeved t-shirt. Be amazed I'm dressed!

I am creating . . . lunches for our Room in the Inn program at church. It's kind of fun because I'm doing a few Christmasy touches -- decorated lunch bags, candy canes, homemade cookie, and snowman napkins.

I am going . . . to work on lunches this morning and then wrap presents.

I am wondering . . . why it can be so difficult to listen to and trust in God. Over and over again He shows me and tells me He is in control, but I forge out on my own and then am surprised when things begin to fall apart.

I am reading . . . The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I've read this book many times, but I saw a copy at the used bookstore recently and just had to have it. The language and imagery are stunningly beautiful.

I am looking forward to . . . seeing "The Nutcracker" this weekend with Claire. We are doing a few special things as the boys are taking a quick trip to D.C. 

I am hearing . . . peace. It's my favorite time of the morning.

Around the house . . . things are still nice and neat from the party this weekend. I'm striving not to let things fall back into disarray. But best laid plans . . . 

I am praying . . . for my friend, Reco, as he is on a long road to recovery from a car wreck. I am also praying for our family as we face this first Christmas without my father in law.

One of my favorite things . . . a good cup of hot chocolate on a cold night.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . RITI today, therapy and grocery shopping tomorrow, getting the boys off to D.C., brunch with friends on Saturday, and then the play with Claire in the afternoon.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . .

Yaya with her ears in a "top-knot" courtesy of 
my college graduate.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter Sangria

Yesterday we celebrated my daughter's college graduation with a little come and go party. We wanted something festive to drink, so she found this Winter Sangria on Pinterest. Of course, being me I had to alter it a bit. It was a huge hit! So here's my variation.

1 pear, sliced and seeded
4 clementines, sliced thinly
1 apple, sliced and seeded
1 cup pomegranate arils
1/4 cup raw sugar (demerara)
1 cinnamon stick
1 bottle (25 oz.) sparkling pomegranate juice
1 cup orange juice
1 bottle sparkling white grape juice
1 bottle sparkling red grape juice

In the bottom of a large pitcher, combine fruits, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Pour in pomegranate juice and orange juice. Stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours. To serve remove cinnamon stick and mix in sparkling grape juices. May be served chilled or over ice.

It really was quite tasty and refreshing with the blend of winter fruits. A nice change of pace for holiday festivities.

Happy eating! (or drinking!)

linking up with Made by You Monday

Saturday, December 14, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Belief and Love

"We accept the love we think we deserve." -- The Perks of Being a Wallflower

"People put you down enough, you start to believe it. The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?" -- Pretty Woman

I watched "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" last night. With my husband and 20 year old son. He was deeply affected by the film the first time he saw it and really wanted us to watch it with him. It is a finely crafted film with impressive performances, most notably Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller as Charlie, Sam, and Patrick, respectively.

If you haven't seen the film or read the book, IMDb summarizes it this way -- 

Based on the novel written by Stephen Chbosky, this is about 15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman), an endearing and naive outsider, coping with first love (Emma Watson), the suicide of his best friend, and his own mental illness while struggling to find a group of people with whom he belongs. The introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who welcome him to the real world.

And here's the thing. It's a story about so very much, but it was for me about the reality of the abuse epidemic we have in our society.

My son has grown up with the knowledge that I am an abuse survivor. He knows enough to understand a bit about my struggles, but he knows none of the nitty, gritty details. As my friend says, "He knows the PG version". He wanted us to watch this movie with him, and he knew it would impact me, but he had no idea of the intensity of feelings it would release. As I sat sobbing through the final portions of the movie, at times with my hands pressed over my mouth, as if trying to hold in my own secrets and shame, he kept glancing over at me. When the film ended he turned to my husband and me said, "Did you like it?" And I couldn't speak. My husband told him to give me a moment. As I sat sobbing, my son, who is stingy with hugs and "I love yous", asked if I needed a hug. And I said yes. He held me and rubbed my back and told me he loved me, and he held me some more. I accepted his efforts at consolation, being deeply moved that he has a heart that saw the pain in the movie and the pain in me, and responded to it.

There wasn't much sleep for me last night. I kept replaying certain scenes from the movie. Doing comparative analysis. Scanning images in my head from the movie and from my own experiences. 

Abuse is an enormously damaging thing. It lingers. It dwells below the surface and rears its ugly head at unexpected moments. Charlie gets it. He hears the pain around him. 

Charlie: There is so much pain. And I-I-I don't know how not to notice it.
Dr. Burton: What's hurting you?
Charlie: No, not... not me. It's them! It's... it's everyone. It never stops. Do you understand?

And that is the legacy of abuse. There is no good way not to notice the pain all around us. We must learn to hear and respond, and in responding agree to carry some of the pain in our souls.

To be compassionate witnesses, as my son was for me last night.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sing Something Beautiful

I've been listening to Christmas music like everyone else. In the car, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, while I work. They are everywhere and I love it! I got to thinking about my favorites. In truth, the list probably changes from year to year, but right now I think these are my top faves --

1. Good King Wenceslas 
I've always loved this song. Maybe it's the story or just that old world feel. This is a particularly nice cover.

2. The Little Drummer Boy
It's been a favorite since my childhood. I love the movie and the story itself. When I found this cover I knew I'd found my go to version.

3. Santa, Baby
I am partial to the Eartha Kitt cover. Others are just cheap imitations in my estimation. Just the right tongue in cheek interpretation.

4. My Grownup Christmas List
Michael Buble does a beautiful job with his haunting interpretation of a struggle we all have as we grow up.

5. Ho Ho Home
A new one for this year. It's a fund raiser for Catholic Charities of Tennessee. It's just loads of fun. Enjoy!

So there you go. Just remember the list could change tomorrow!

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Expectant Waiting

Mother's know all about it. Nine months of waiting and wondering and falling in love. Then all those years of teaching and loving and praying. 

Advent is the season of expectant waiting. It is the celebration, in many ways, of Mary's willingness to serve without fully understanding what she was being asked to do.

I live in a world that wants instant gratification. Total explanations. Total preparations. What exactly is going to happen. And it better not alter from what I've been told. 

That kind of expectation slinks in innocuously. It's insidious. It creeps in and takes over my life. It starts out harmlessly enough. "Your pizza will be ready in 15 minutes or it's free!" I'll get what I want when I want it or it will be free.

And over time I've come to expect that in everything. This depression. These flashbacks. These negative thought patterns. I've identified them and done the prayers and the therapy. I did my part, so what's taking so long? And where's my free pizza?

Expectant waiting. 

For whatever reason, I expected there to be a cathartic moment when it would all just lift and fly away. Don't get me wrong. There have been some cathartic moments. Some of it has lifted and flown away, but there are still seasons of depression, some panic, an occasional flashback, and all with a heaping dose of guilt for not being over this struggle.

And I read Emily Wierenga's post this morning, and I can't get that image of Nelson Mandela out of my head, waiting in prison for 27 years, so long he forgot how to tie his shoes.

So I wait. Not for my free pizza, but for the gift that is Advent while realizing we are all waiting, and it is in the waiting that we learn and grow the most.

linking up with Imperfect Prose

A Little Bit of Reading

linking up with Wordless Wednesday & The Jenny Evolution

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Just Write

It had been a long time since it happened. She had developed a since of complacency. Focused on all the good and positive things. How happy this made her, even a passing thought of gratitude for those things being in the past.

She should know better by now. Happy, at ease, content, positive were all the warning signs for the ax to fall. And fall it did. It started gradually. Just a fleeting image through her head at an inopportune time. The shaking of her head to send it flying away. "I'm not going to think about it." The old methods, except they don't work any more. The picture stayed and grew and morphed. 

Different approach. Okay, she'd take control of the situation. Stop what's happening and look at the picture. Acknowledge it and agree within herself to deal with it later. See, she thought to herself, I can do this. Except she couldn't. The panic escalated. She remembered this feeling. The "I know, but I don't want to look at it" mentality. Shut it back in the box. Don't talk about it. Don't investigate. It's disgusting. It's denigrating. It's just more evidence of what a heinous person she really is.

The moment of happiness is gone. It is replaced by self-loathing and self-doubt. By trying to figure out how much to say, and what the right things are to say. How to explain to him in a way to get what she needs. 

And she never gets that right.

linking up with Just Write (an exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments)

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . December 10, 2013

Outside my window . . . we have sunshine and a lighting dusting of snow.

I am thinking . . . about this cool video my husband showed me this morning --

I am thankful . . .  for reminders of the real purpose of the holiday season and my own efforts to be more purposeful in my celebrating this year.

In the kitchen . . . last night was leftovers, but tonight will probably be salmon, baked potatoes, and vegetable mix.

I am wearing . . . as always, my flannel robe and slippers.

I am creating . . .  wips, but looking at these cute little squares from Attic 24

I am going . . . to store decoration boxes. Clean the bonus room. And possibly do some early food prep for Sunday.

I am wondering . . . if there is a way to take a vacation from December?

I am reading . . . The IPO by Dean Koontz

I am looking forward to . . . Claire's graduation party on Sunday. We are hosting a come and go reception for friends and family. 

I am hearing . . . the wind chimes in the breeze. They always sound so pretty to me when the air is crisp and cold.

Around the house . . . it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I am praying . . . for so many people and things. And remembering to be grateful in all my prayers and requests.

One of my favorite things . . . is turning on the tree lights first thing in the morning. They never fail to make me smile.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . housework and baking in preparation for Claire's graduation on Saturday and the party on Sunday.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . .
dh completed the new bed frame he designed and built.
It slept quite well last night :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Easy Winter Dinner

I recognize I am the queen of "don't use prepared food", but there are times when it comes in handy. I've become a big proponent of Trader Joe's after the past several months. You still have to check ingredients, but my experience has been that they use fewer chemicals and additives, and their meats are usually organic or at least grain fed and antibiotic free. They offer a cabernet pot roast that, while a bit pricey, is wonderful because it cooks up quickly and is pre-marinated. I'm also a fan of their polenta.

We've been hit with the icy, cold weather that has been traipsing across the nation, so last night I wanted a warm, filling dinner and was pleased with what I came up with from the pantry and freezer.

I roasted the cabernet roast at 350 for 1 1/2 hours uncovered. I didn't do any of the pre-browning, just threw that sucker in my small roasting pan that I'd sprayed with organic Pam. When it was done I let it sit before slicing it for 15 minutes while prepping the rest of dinner.

One large can of Allen's Italian green beans cooked with a little bacon fat, salt, and coarse ground black pepper.

I sliced the polenta into slices a little less than 1/2 inch, and laid them in a pyrex dish that had been drizzled with olive oil. Then I drizzled on more olive oil and a nice dusting of garlic salt. Then I spread on fresh basil leaves and quartered Campari tomatoes, a little more olive oil, and roasted it at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

While the polenta and beans finished cooking, I sliced the roast and then served buffet style to rave reviews!

(this is the only photo I got. Dh's leftovers for lunch today!)

linking up with Made by You Monday

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Anchor

My holiday anchor, with thanks to The Nourished Home --

Fred Gailey
: Look Doris, someday you're going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn't work. And when you do, don't overlook those lovely intangibles. You'll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.

-- Miracle on 34th Street (1947)