Michigan Tart Cherries – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Tart cherry season here in Michigan has been open for about two weeks. Last weekend we made a family outing of picking cherries and raspberries. The picking was easy because the fruit was very plentiful. If the family hadn’t spent more time arguing than picking, we probably would have been done a lot sooner, but then it just wouldn’t have been a true “family” outing if that were the case.

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Why is it that we can’t have just one family outing where everyone gets along? If I go out with Grace alone or Zeb alone or Hubby alone, everything is great. We have a good time, we laugh, we relate, we make some great memories. Throw anyone else into the mix though and it’s a constant battle. There’s teasing and picking on, ganging up, and bullying. By the end, actually it doesn’t even take that long, at least someone isn’t talking, someone is grumpy, and I’m left wondering why I even suggested we go out as a family!

The silence was deafening!

The silence was deafening!

I thought as the kids got older they’d mellow and we’d fall into an easy, getting-along stage. At ages 20 and 22, we haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps Hubby at 53 and me at 48 are the problem. Who knows?

Actually though, for all the fighting and bantering, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone home. While they all got into their little tiffs and exchanges of words, I kept my distance and enjoyed the day with each of them individually. I didn’t dare try to converse with more than one of them at a time. Separately they were fine. It was just as a group things weren’t going to mesh. So when we got home Grace wasn’t speaking to Hubby, Hubby wasn’t speaking to Zeb, and everyone was still speaking to me. That works for me!

Oh well, what’s the saying “This too shall pass.” I sure hope so. Growing pains aren’t much fun on family outings or vacations.

With the 20 pounds of cherries we managed to pick I’ve been busy canning. Recipes for Danish Cherry Sauce and Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Filling can be found at Simply Grateful Canning. I’ve also updated the Fruit Page to include sections for all the recipes from Simply Grateful Housewife and Simply Grateful Canning for Sweet Cherry Canning Recipes and Tart Cherry Canning Recipes. Check them out if you need some ideas for canning either of these fruits.

Michigan cherries are some of the best and picking them every year has become a tradition for me. It’s unfortunate the family couldn’t set aside their differences and make the most of the time we had together, but I didn’t let them ruin it for me. Family dynamics aren’t always easy, but taking them in stride helps ease the pain a bit, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Since the 4th

The 4th was a wonderful day of family, friends, food, and fireworks. I thought I was being clever by having Hubby, the kids, myself, and my parents all meet up at Planet Fitness for their FREE Pizza Night, but in the end I did just as much work (if not more) as I would have had I cooked dinner. Instead of dinner I made 6 appetizers for late in the evening and 6 desserts for after the gym. Two days in the kitchen cooking — so where’s the time savings?

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We did several of these lanterns. What fun and a lot safer than fireworks.

Oh well, when don’t I want an excuse to try a few new recipes and make a few old favorites? That would be never!

Now I’m enjoying the first true harvest from the garden and working on my first canning project of the 2016 garden season. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener for July 6, 2016 Garden Harvest.

July is still hot and humid, great for the garden, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Fresh Air!

Three days ago at this time we were getting a snow storm! It began around 11 in the morning while Hubby and I were at the gym and didn’t let up all afternoon. Then it turned into freezing rain and things got really fun out on the roads.

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Where did that come from? It wasn’t in the forecast and with predictions for temperatures in the 70’s by the end of the coming week, who’d have thunk?

Well, that’s Michigan for you!

Anyway, after a few “too chilly to set foot in the garden” days, today I finally broke out of the house and headed to the garden to get my hands dirty. It was glorious. I spent nearly two hours planting a few bulbs, turning over the new designated pea garden, and watching as Bell rooted around every nook and cranny in the backyard as if she’d never been out there in her life.

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Bell rootin’ around.

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Everything seems new and exciting to Bell.

Hubby was at the gym with his man-friend, Zeb was at the gym with Gramps, and Grace was still at school. Finally — time to myself.

Those couple of hours out in the fresh air truly cleared the cobwebs from my head, reset my perspective, and improved my mood tenfold. The weather is only supposed to get better as the week progresses and I plan on making sure I get outside at least an hour each day — by myself. This might require getting up a little early, or perhaps sneaking out when no one is looking, but no matter what it takes, I’m outta here.

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The new pea garden in progress.

Hubby came home before I finished turning over the garden I was working in and wanted to know why I hadn’t waited for him. Okay, now I could have answered him in several ways, reminding him about how the garden is my “thing” and for the past two years I have done all the gardening by myself. Granted this wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to do it all by myself, but with him working pretty much 24/7 away from home, there was really very little time for him to dedicate to gardening. Plus, when he was home, I certainly didn’t want him to have to work. We had to spend some time together after all.

But, rather than bringing anything up that might make him feel bad I just smiled at him, gave him a kiss, and told him I was almost done, he could help me finish tomorrow and then I could plant the peas. Still, his guilt was palpable and this really bothers me. I don’t want him to feel guilty about me gardening or anything else that he wasn’t around to help with. I enjoy being outside with my hands in the dirt and know he really doesn’t. He thinks now that he’s quasi-retired, he should be doing all the things he was never able to do before. I keep telling him he doesn’t need to, but at the same time don’t want him to not have any purpose. Everyone needs to be needed.

This is just yet another bump-in-the-road on our journey as we adjust to his retirement. For so many years I’ve been responsible for everything here at home, asking for help only on the rarest of occasions. It was how things had to be. I didn’t always like it, but after 23 years of it, I had to come to terms with it or go crazy. I did the “going crazy” thing the first few years of our marriage and didn’t really like it, so I finally came to terms with it. Now I’ve got that same choice again.

I can either come to terms with Hubby needing/wanting to help out with things around here or I can go crazy. So, have I learned from past experience enough to forego the “crazy phase” and skip right to the “coming to terms” one?

Doubtful.

With the promise of warmer weather and lots of fresh air in my future though, maybe I won’t stick with the “going crazy” phase as long this time and perhaps transition into something like a “simply irritated” phase instead. But then again, this is the Simply Grateful blog, so that wouldn’t be very sporting of me, would it?

Anyway, it was beautiful here in Michigan today — the weather was perfect, the sun was shining, Hubby was home nearly all day — and for all these things I truly am Simply Grateful.

All Or Nothing

Ever since Hubby quasi retired I feel as though I’ve been running a race. Every day is a whirlwind of running around and at the end of the day I couldn’t even tell you what I’ve done. The only normalcy that has not changed is I make dinner every night. We have a set dinner hour of 5:30 which gives me a few extra hours than I had pre-retirement to decide what to make and do the preparation. This should theoretically be a good thing, but for some strange reason the supposed extra time I have to cook seems to elude me. Let’s blame Hubby for that too, seeing as of late he’s the best excuse for everything that just isn’t working out the way I thought it would.

Anyway, when it comes to dinners, it’s pretty much an all or nothing thing. When there’s a day that Hubby and I aren’t running around all morning into the afternoon or we haven’t worked on projects around the house all day, I seem to spend the entire day in the kitchen. I’ve been making homemade pasta, two to three new recipes sometimes in one meal, experimenting with lots of new ingredients, and really serving some five-star dinner entrees.

When we do run errands or have projects to work on however, I have no desire to be in the kitchen at all. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been gone or working for only an hour or so, that little blip in my routine/schedule is enough to take my ambition or whatever you want to call it away. Thankfully Hubby has been tremendously understanding — too understanding in my opinion — when dinner happens to be just hot dogs on the grill thrown together ten minutes before it’s time to sit down and eat.

I’m not so understanding. The guilt of it all has been weighing on me, so for the past two weeks I’ve been perusing cookbooks, magazines, cooking websites, and favorite blogs for quick meals that require little to no effort, are made with ingredients I typically have on hand, and create the illusion that I’ve done more than just sit on the couch all day eating bonbons (which I haven’t been doing, but again, I just can’t seem to figure out where the time goes and what I’ve been doing, so who really knows).

One such meal was one that I made tonight and was a real hit. Both Hubby and Zeb couldn’t say enough about it and already they’ve both called dibs on the leftovers. Definitely a keeper. Plus, this is one that I think I could vary using different types of meat, cheese, and/or sauce.

Although this is a “sandwich” and Hubby has always teased me by stating “You know you’re in America when you have a sandwich for dinner!” even he thought this was a hearty meal not to be scoffed at. He even commented that if we were to have a sandwich shop or something like that, this would be the one to bring everyone in. I didn’t serve it with any sides other than pickled green tomatoes, but making some homemade potato chips or even a quick batch of french fries certainly wouldn’t hurt.

If you’d like to check out the recipe, it’s on Simply Grateful CookingBarbecue Chipped Ham Sandwiches.  I’m not sure that I’d want to make serving sandwiches for dinner the standard around here, but with sandwiches that can hold their own at the dinner table, I’m willing to relax a little and serve them guilt-free, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Life in Transition

Based on the number of posts I’ve made lately, it’s a wonder anyone actually still stops by my blog. Yet, each day there are a few views and a few visitors, encouraging me to press forward.

It’s difficult to consider blogging when your life turns completely upside down. It didn’t happen in an instant, thus why my consistency has been lagging for months now. No, it’s taken several months for life to finally flip from one end of the normalcy spectrum to the other and now I’m in the process of digesting what, for the moment, is the new “normal.”

Hubby sold his business! After 28 years at what was the “current” business and another 10 years before that in other businesses, he, for the first time since he was 16 years old, does not have a job that consumes him 24/7. It has been a long time coming, something he has wanted to pull himself out from under for years. With the economy as it is, selling a business has been slow and hard. The only plus is that he didn’t have to walk away from the business. He did actually sell it, not for what he paid for it, not for what it is truly worth, but at least it was for something.

Now for the first time since I have known him, he doesn’t have a job — other than finally being home as a husband and father. Funny how for the past 28 years (the amount of years we have been together – 23 married and 5 before that dating) the thought of him really being here seemed an impossibility and now he is here practically every minute.

The transition has been interesting and not surprising — challenging. He is trying very hard not to get in my way or step on my toes, as I’ve been solely in charge of taking care of everything here at home with little to no help from him for the past 23 years. Yet, he is also trying to be as helpful as possible, almost as if he’s trying to make up for lost time.

My thought is that all those years are gone and at this point don’t matter. There is no “making up” for anything. We did what we had to, what we thought was right, what had to be done at the time. Now we need to move forward, not dwell on the past. Trouble is that I am so accustomed to not having anyone to turn to for most things around here, that having him here is awkward at best and cumbersome at worst.

I thought when everything was done, and the papers were finally signed, life would somehow fall back into place. That my routine and every day existence would somehow pick up where it had left off prior to all the time I had to spend helping Hubby get things ready for the sale. But, no. Nothing is the same. Well, the kids lives are still basically the same. They go to school, have their own activities, come and go as they have. That part of my life is still the same as well. I get up and get them both off to school, but when they are gone, when I would normally have the house to myself so I could plan my day and do “my thing,” I have Hubby to contend with.

The first week it was fun. It was nice to have someone here all the time to chat with, someone to share my morning coffee with, someone to run all my errands with. That was the first week.

By week two I was beginning to look for excuses to run up to the grocery store by myself. I got up early so I could have some time to myself. I went to bed a little earlier than he so I could read or unwind in peace. Heck, he had only been sleeping at home two nights a week for over a year and only four nights a week prior to that for the past five years or so. It’s definitely a change dealing with someone whose sleep schedule is going to bed after 11 o’clock, closer to midnight, when I have typically gone to bed between 9 and 10 o’clock for the past four years or more.

Then there’s the issue of filling in the time. Hubby isn’t without responsibilities. He has an online job that he works several hours a night, six days out of the week and he has an eBay business where he sells various items. These “jobs” however do not fill all the time that he has available and him going from having no time to all the time in the world — not an easy transition.

I’ve been trying to understand his position. I have accepted that he needs to get out of the house and do “something” every day since his “retirement.” Unfortunately though, my life cannot become his. This is the case for two very important reasons.

First and foremost, I don’t want to become dependent on him and then have it all taken away. Being as independent as I am today was not an easy place to get. When we were dating and after we were first married, it took me years (yes years!) to come to terms with what our lives were like. I had a predetermined idea of what married life should be, and what I got was absolutely nothing like it. Not having a husband around for the most part was hard on all of us. It took me a long time to establish a home where everything and everyone had a place and when Hubby was home, he had very little to worry about and very little responsibility. He had two other priorities that came before me, the business and his parents.

Second, this is supposedly not a permanent change. I have suggested he take at least 6 months, but he can take as much time as he needs, but eventually he plans on either going out and finding some sort of job or perhaps some years down the road we might venture into a business that will be “ours” rather than his. The business was really his parent’s business, but for the past several years his father’s involvement has been limited and for the past 10 months nonexistent. A new business would be something we do together and I would truly be a part of, not just helping out when he absolutely needed it.

So because of these reasons, and many others, I am hesitant in becoming used to how things are and having him here. It’s still a lot like a dream — not a nightmare-type dream, but something that doesn’t seem real.

Anyway, by week three, which was this past week, things started getting a little strained. The main problem is that Hubby has never been home enough to know exactly what I do, how long I spend doing things, or realize that things don’t just happen without me actually having to do the work.

Did you know that hanging clothes outside on the line actually takes a lot longer than just throwing them in the dryer? Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Hubby pointed this out to me, but then I wouldn’t have that wonderful fresh outdoor scent, now would I?

Did you know there is far more to changing the carpet in a room, than just waltzing in, unrolling the carpet, and tucking it under the floor boards? Yep, you have to repaint the room (which is what was necessary to remodel our office), move all the furniture out, remove the old carpet, then put in the new carpet, and yes, you do have to move all the furniture back into the room as well. Go figure! When was all this done before? Well, before Hubby got involved, of course.

Did you know that dinner doesn’t rear it’s ugly head magically without me having to spend sometimes hours on my feet in the kitchen over a hot stove? Hubby certainly didn’t and him telling me that he doesn’t like to see me spending so much time in the kitchen really wasn’t comforting. I like to cook — didn’t he know that, isn’t it obvious?

Did you know that they sell cans of beans, vegetables, and fruit at the grocery store? Really? And here I thought pressure canning my own was the only option. What planet have I been on all these years? The things you learn…

Did you know a dog needs to be let back in the house shortly after you let her out? Hubby didn’t. Well, that is only of course if you ever want to see your dog again. I suppose the hope that she’ll somehow figure out how to let herself back in is always a possibility, but I’m not willing to wait for that to happen.

Did you know that lint actually collects on the carpet and needs to be vacuumed several times a week in order for the carpet not to become obscured by a thin-film of white that forms a low rising cloud when walked across? Why yes, yes I did. But, did you know we actually have two vacuums to remedy this particularly tricky situation and they can be used by both women AND men (if it bothers you that much, that is)!

And my big question to Hubby:

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE TOILET SEAT CAN ACTUALLY BE PUT DOWN WHEN YOU’RE DONE? AND EACH AND EVERY TIME, NO LESS! The wonders of modern technology!

Yep, a challenge. And this is only the beginning. I have only lost it emotionally with him twice so far (seeing that in writing it seems a lot worse than I initially thought), but have vowed to do my best to not let it happen again. Patience is something I need to practice and with the hope of spring being just around the corner, I think we’ll be okay. With spring I can get outside, leaving him inside, and have a little free time. Of course he has made it a point to tell me over and over again he is here to help. Please! Please no. Go to the gym, work on our taxes, spend some time with the kids –anything but help.

So a new chapter in our life begins.

I can’t say for certain that blogging will once again become something I can find time to do on a more consistent basis, but when I can, I will. Today I finally completed a post I started back in March on Simply Grateful Cooking called https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/tomato-vodka-cream-sauce/. Check it out if you’re so inclined.

For now, I’m off to the kitchen to make dinner while Hubby heads down to the basement to workout. This way, dinner can magically appear and the illusion will continue, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Finding Fulfillment in Eating Healthy

Why is it whenever I see a recipe for something “healthy,” I immediately think “tasteless, boring, yuk?” And it’s not that I don’t eat healthy and don’t enjoy most of it. It’s just this predisposed belief makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up whenever I hear things like “whole wheat,” “whole grain,” or how about “low-fat.” Ewwww, a chill just went down my spine.

Still, eating healthy isn’t a choice as you get older, it’s got to be a life style. The alternative would be a regiment of prescription medications, continual doctor visits, obesity, and probably a long list of ailments just waiting to put you 6 feet under. I have been painfully aware of this for years because I’ve watched as my parents have let themselves go and have become slaves to their ailiing bodies and forced into a sedentary life because they neither have the energy or ability to get around like they used to. I do not want this to happen to me or Hubby.

For these reasons I have been making life-style changes for years that have kept us fairly healthy, very active, and pretty fit. I cannot say I could run a marathon, or around the block for that matter, but I do exercise, walk regularly, and make sure I am not sitting on the couch eating bon bons more than is reasonable. Hubby is far more disciplined when it comes to the workout, so he might be able to run around the block, but then what would that really prove. What’s important here is that we are healthy and able to maintain the life we currently enjoy throughout the next 30 or so years.

One thing that works a bit in our disfavor is that I really love to cook. And when I say I love to cook, I’m not saying that I like making dinner every night. No, I like to get in the kitchen, try new recipes, work with unique ingredients, duplicate meals that intrigue us when we go out, and really go all out when I make anything. Not many people know this, but when I was contemplating what to study after high school and planning my college schedule, the one career that I truly wanted was in culinary arts. Well, choices I made and paths that I followed did not allow this to be. I moved out on my own and needed to work full-time which left no time for taking classes in culinary arts.

Looking back, however, I realize that I never gave up on this dream. Not that I took cooking classes or anything, but from the day I moved out on my own, one of my favorite things to do has been to cook and I taught myself as best I could. I had a cookbook collection of more than 100 books that I accumulated and studied over and now I can honestly say that one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life is cooking for my family. I cannot imagine that cooking in a restaurant for strangers would be more fulfilling. How could it? My family means more to me than anything and being able to share with them something that I truly love and have them appreciate it — well, it don’t get much better than that.

This aging thing though has been putting a bit of a damper on my cooking. So many recipes, so little time. Well not really. What the problem is, is there are so many recipes that threaten to make us fat, and I want to make them all. Yes, everything in moderation and yes, sometimes I even have to break down and make something — dare I say it — healthy. Ewwww, there goes that chill again. But in order to maintain a healthy life we need to live a healthy life and that includes eating healthy.

One healthy ingredient that I don’t mind using (especially in cookies) is oatmeal. So when I saw a recipe for a refrigerator oatmeal for quick breakfasts, I knew that one day it would end up in my arsenal. Just a few weeks ago I finally played around with the recipe a bit and found that I really liked it. It was easy to make, easy to eat, and very tasty. If you’d like to check out how to make this, I posted the recipe on Simply Grateful Cooking https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/overnight-refrigerator-oatmeal/.

I have noticed that in the past couple of years when I find a recipe I want to try, I look at alternatives to some of the not-so-healthy ingredients of some of them. This way, even if the recipe might not start out the healthiest, I can make it healthier by changing it up a little. Actually though, just by eliminating eating out, eating processed food, and keeping junk food to a minimum, our health levels have improved drastically, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Too Many Choices

When I try a new recipe, quite often I will make several variations in the hopes that one will be the “clear winner” that the entire family can agree on. In a perfect world, this might happen, but I don’t live in a perfect world.

Every time I make more than one sauce, dip, flavor, or basically give the family a “choice,” the results are all over the spectrum. Hubby will like one, Grace will like another, Zeb will like them all, and I’ll either not like any of them or one that no one else does.

Is this one of Murphy’s Laws or something? I swear, for as often as this happens, there has got to be some rule in the cosmos that I’m not aware of, but a victim of each and every time.

Knowing that offering choices opens the door for someone, everyone, to shoot down one or all of my attempts, sounds pretty stupid when I think about it. Really now, how often does Hubby give me options when he heads out to mow the lawn.

It’s not like he asks, “Do you want me to cut it on the diagonal, straight up and down, across, or perhaps mow your name in it this time?” No, he just goes out and does it. Well, actually Zeb mows the lawn, but when Hubby did mow the lawn, he never offered me any options.

Seeing as no one else thinks to give me “choices,” why is it I feel compelled to do so?

Well, let me tell you why?  I want everyone to like what I make. Is this so wrong?

Maybe not, but at the same time I need to keep myself grounded and not get my feelings hurt every time someone gives me their honest opinion and tells me they don’t like what I’ve made. Most days I can handle a little constructive criticism. There are some days though…

The day I spent, or two days really, making roasted pork tamales I made three different sauces to serve with them. Check out my post https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/tamale-sauces-in-tillys-test-kitchen/ at Simply Grateful Cooking. Once again, true to form, the family could not agree on a clear winner. Still, this could actually work out in my favor in the long run, because although they could not agree on which one was the best, they liked all of them. This means I pretty much have three different meals in my arsenal to serve. I certainly won’t be serving them all in the same week or anything, but if I make tamales once every month or so using a different sauce each time, I doubt the family will get tired or bored of this meal,

So, I guess offering choices can work in my favor every once in a while too, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Kitchen Burnout

I was nearing  the end of another long, tiring day on my feet in the kitchen. I’d started the prep work for this meal more than 24 hours earlier and with the kitchen a total disaster area, the end was not in sight. The aroma that filled the house that had once made my taste buds tingle, now made me want to hurl. I was exhausted, anxious, and regretting ever wanting to undertake such a labor-intensive endeavor. Yep, just another day in the life of this Simply Grateful Housewife.

Grace texted me from school, preparing to head out to dinner with friends, and casually asked how I was. Wrong question. She got a lot more than she wanted in response.

So, how are things going?

If this isn’t the best meal I’ve ever made, I am never cooking again. We can eat out every night from now until eternity!

I’m sure it will be, you worry too much.

So I sent her a picture.

Those look good.

Well it took me more than four hours to make them and I’m still working on sauces.

I’m sure it will be great.

It had better be or I’m NEVER cooking again! We can eat processed everything!

Ok, I understand.

I’m serious. I’ll quit.

Yes, my day had been a bit stressful. Making a new meal can be that way, especially when you’re unsure of how things are going to turn out and your main taste-tester (Grace) is out the house having a life.

Who said she was allowed to have a life anyway? Probably her father, he’s always undermining me in some way or other.

As much as I enjoy making new meals, typically I pick ones that I’ve tasted at one time or other. Not this particular day, not this particular meal. No one in our house had ever tasted it. No one had even considered ordering it off a menu. In fact, no one, besides myself, even had an idea of what this meal consisted of. I saw it on the Food Network (those darn heretics!). I really should smash every television in the house, or at the very least, cancel our cable.

So here I was, spending two days in the kitchen working on a meal that I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, that no one who I was serving it to had any idea of what to expect, and now the mere smell of it was turning my stomach. Things were definitely not looking good.

I stood at the stove, mixing the ingredients for the final sauce I wanted to try, dreading the moment Hubby would be home and I’d have to start serving. The moment of truth was not something I looked forward to. If I hadn’t invested so much time and effort into this meal, I probably would have just scrapped it and heated up some leftovers. As it was, I pushed on.

When the last of the sauces were done and simmering on the stove, I took a moment and sought refuge on the couch in the great room. The aroma was everywhere so a reprieve from that was not to be found. I’d have snuck out for a walk but Hubby was expected at any moment. At least it would all be over soon.

I heard the groaning of the garage door as Hubby’s car turned into our driveway and he honked his horn so I could let Bell out to greet him. At the door I enjoyed a moment of fresh, cold air before following him into the kitchen where he exclaimed, “Something smells good.” That was a good sign. That was a start.

While Hubby changed from his work clothes and got comfortable, I put the pans of food on the table. I didn’t bother using serving dishes. I already had more than enough dishes to wash, dirtying more just for presentation purposes was not going to happen. I suppose there is some truth in the belief that “it’s all in the presentation” when it comes to how a meal is received, but at this point, I didn’t care. All I wanted was for this dinner to be over so I could clean the kitchen and hopefully rid the house of the aroma Hubby found so wonderful, and I found utterly unbearable.

Sitting in his spot Hubby asked, “So how do I eat this?” I served him, placing everything on his plate and explaining that I had three sauces for him to try. He decided to try the sauces one at a time. I then served Zeb and finally gave myself a very moderate portion. Then I waited.

Hubby ate heartily. He put bite after bite into his mouth, with no comment. I sat there, waiting.

Zeb dug in, lopping up the sauce I’d served him, without comment. I watched and waited.

Finally, it was too much. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I broke the silence, “Well???”

Hubby smiled. Yes, he was torturing me. He knew all too well that I was nervous about this meal. He knew I’d been working on it for nearly two days. He knew and yet he continued to drag it out, just to prolong this. Didn’t he realize that the fate of having a home cooked meal EVER again lay solely in his response? Didn’t he know that my very future as a housewife was at stake?

Of course he did. We’ve been married more than enough years for him to read me the moment I open the back door to let Bell out to greet him. He can tell by the way I stand, the position of my head, the look in my eyes, the tone in my voice — one look and he knows if he should come through the door or run for the hills. Today, as much as I thought the end of the world as I knew it was upon me, he knew everything was going to be fine and took full advantage of it.

Putting his fork down, Hubby covered my hand with his and said, “This is really good.”

Relief? I’m not sure that’s what I felt. At that point all feeling had left my body. I was numb and yet all I wanted to do was cry.

I turned to Zeb, who had not lifted his head from his plate, and asked him what he thought. He grunted a favorable response without missing a bite.

Hubby continued to assure me throughout the meal that it was “excellent” then “really good” and “you can definitely make this again.” That’s always a good indicator as to whether or not he truly likes something or not. Then he said it. The one thing that is the ultimate compliment Hubby will give, “This is definitely ‘company worthy.”

There it was. All my hard work was not for naught. I ate two bites, choking them down, and have to say it was pretty tasty. Hubby and Zeb definitely gave the meal their seal of approval. As for me, I don’t know that I’ll be able to eat a tamale or any Mexican food for that matter again. Just the thought is making my stomach churn.

Still, as much as the process might have been laborious and time-consuming, I do have enough tamales now frozen for two more meals. Three-for-one — not bad in the whole scheme of things. Should you want to give this fairly tedious meal a shot, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/roasted-pork-tamales-a-dish-not-to-be-taken-lightly/. The results will definitely not disappoint. Just make sure you set aside enough time to get the job done.

Another Mexican dish to add to my arsenal (for special occasions ONLY), and for this I am —Simply Grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

Love Is In The Small Things

I had finished cleaning up the kitchen from dinner, packed Hubby’s lunch/dinner to take with him back to work, and was sitting on a stool at the kitchen island skinning chickpeas. Hubby came in and we chatted while he put his shoes on and got his coat. We’d spent maybe two hours together in the past 24 and he was leaving again for another 18 hours. We talked about nothing really, just catching up, filling each other in, trying to hold on to some time, dragging it out before he had to leave again.

Picking up his lunch to leave he finally noticed I was doing something. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Skinning chickpeas for hummus.” I told him.

“Why?”

“Well, I read that if you leave the skins on the chickpeas when making hummus it can have a gritty texture. Removing the skins should give it a creamy, smooth texture and I thought you might like that better.”

He put his lunch down, came over and put his arms around me. “This is what makes you such a special wife.”

That really caught me off guard. There are so many things, little things I do every day that go unnoticed, yet I continue to do them because I know my family likes them. I don’t do them for recognition. I don’t do them so they’ll feel obligated to be grateful. I do it because that’s who I am and how I want to be. Having Hubby notice, but even more surprising actually appreciate my efforts and not scoff at them as pointless, was truly special. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that he doesn’t appreciate me, but when he sees me doing little things like this, he will usually tell me that I shouldn’t waste my time because my time is valuable too. Maybe so, but making the time to do these little things is what I do.

I don’t know that I’ll always have the time to skin chickpeas when making hummus, but doing things like this for my family is how I express my love for them every day. Slipping a slice of banana bread in Grace’s book bag as she runs out the door to her night class; giving Zeb a thermos full of hot soup in his lunch on a bitter-cold day; driving across town to buy Hubby’s favorite headcheese to make sandwiches for him to eat at work during his 4-day long stint he has every Monday thru Thursday; this is how I tell them I love them and I wouldn’t change this for the world, even if they never noticed.

This sudden appreciation was a bit out of character for Hubby. Perhaps it’s all the time we’ve been spending apart. It doesn’t really matter. All I know is this moment we spent together made spending the next hour alone in the kitchen after he left far more bearable. I finished the chickpeas, made my first recipe of hummus, and packed it away in the fridge so he could have some as a snack when he finally comes home again.

Hubby will be home tomorrow around 5 p.m. and doesn’t have to go back to work until the following morning at 7 — finally home for more than a couple of hours. He’ll catch up on his sleep and then we’ll catch up on spending some time together. Then, when he leaves for work again I’ll do my best to find a little thing that will remind him how much he’s missed, how much he’s appreciated, and how much I love him, and with any luck he won’t notice — he’ll just know, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Oh, by the way, if you’d like to try my first recipe of hummus, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking — https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/roasted-garlic-parmesan-hummus/.

The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas there was freezer space I found

And lots of pork and chicken that needed to be ground.

Remembering ‘not to sweat the small stuff’ is really important when something unexpected happens. This was really put to the test when I decided to grind some meat to fill our freezer.

Since we bought our meat grinder last summer I have enjoyed grinding all sorts of meat and filling our freezers with it. So when I noticed that the freezers were looking a bit empty, I knew it was time to pull out the old meat grinder and set to work.

The meat grinder we selected is a manual, heavy-duty one and quite heavy. Because of this, Hubby told me to attach it to our marble dining room table when I used it so it was at a height that was comfortable and where it could be attached to the end easily with clamps.

All summer and fall I did this without incident. I admit though that cranking the handle on our grinder certainly wasn’t easy. In order to get the meat to go through the blades easily, it had to be partially frozen, which certainly made the turning hard. The end result however made it well worth the effort.

Ground pork at the store goes for nothing less than $3.00 per pound but more often $4.00 per pound. I can buy boneless pork butts for $.99 a pound and grind it myself. I think a little bit of work is worth saving $2 to $3 per pound, especially when we use more ground pork than ground beef.

Well, the saying ‘All good things come to an end…’ took a shot at us on the tenth day of Christmas. As I was cranking away at the meat grinder yesterday the unthinkable happened – CRACK! Yep, I broke the corner right off our dining room table. And it wasn’t a clean break. Basically the corner crumbled into pieces, leaving me holding the meat grinder by the handle and shards of marble all over the dining room floor.

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I suppose most people would probably freak out if their table were to break as they were grinding meat, but after the initial shock, I just shrugged and moved my grinder to another corner of the table. What else could I do?

Before you start thinking “Wow, this girl really knows how to keep her cool” I should tell you, this isn’t the first break we’ve had in our marble table. When we tried moving it about 10 years ago to change the carpet in the dining room, the table broke in half. At that break I went into hysterics. Hubby assured me he could fix it and did. He attached a large sheet of plywood to the marble base and then placed the two pieces of marble on top of it and somehow cemented them together. Viola! It was fixed. This time however, I seriously doubted this table was salvageable.

Marble is not the best material for tables. We had a coffee, two end, and a couch table made of marble and every table cracked after just a few years. The cracks did not go all the way through, but they were cracked none the less. And this wasn’t from abuse or misuse. You might argue that perhaps this was from wear and tear, but if that were the case, then how can you explain the cracks in the bases as well. There certainly wasn’t any wear and tear on those. They just sat there, undisturbed, never being moved, never being touched. Nope, marble is definitely off my list of materials I will ever buy furniture made from again.

Hubby wasn’t upset at all when I told him about the break. In fact, he right away asked me if I wanted to get a new table. I flatly told him NO. We rarely entertain anymore so why spend money on something we don’t need. I’m more concerned with where I’m going to attach my grinder.

He broke up the rest of the table, which basically crumbled when he tried to pick it up, and we are left with the board he had put on the base years ago. Good enough!

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I threw a table-cloth over it and no one is the wiser. It’s slightly narrower than I’d like, so Hubby said he’d get a bigger sheet of wood and attach it to the top and we’ll be all set.

Even though my meat grinding didn’t go as smooth as I would have liked this time, I still have ten packs of ground pork in the freezer, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.