Addiction

I have a problem.

There, I’ve said it. Now, isn’t that supposed to be the first step, half the battle, or count for something anyway?

Yes, I have a problem, an addiction really, and I didn’t realize it until just recently. I had an idea that perhaps there might be a small issue, but actually, now that I have faced the facts, I realize this is far more serious than I ever allowed myself to believe.

Sure I put up a good front, not letting on that lurking just below the surface, behind closed doors, heck even under the mattress that there was a secret I couldn’t bear to reveal to anyone. Not even myself.

Most of the time I keep it in check. Out of necessity really. I mean, addictions can be very expensive. Yet, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and somehow I find a way more often than I should.

Now, I’m not discounting that there are many addictions out there far more worthy of attention than mine. This is by no means meant to poke fun at such a thing. But in a way I think everyone has an addiction of some sort be it to sugar, television, smart phones, working out, or even gardening or say cooking (yeah, I’m definitely borderline when it comes to those last two).

My addiction isn’t serious in the sense that I could hurt myself or others, unless of course I find myself somehow trapped under the fruits of my addiction or Hubby finds out and tries to perhaps “help” me, in which case, YES, he could get hurt. For the most part though, the only consequences of my weakness are a lighter checkbook and the continuing shrinkage of space available to enable me. Although I don’t think there could ever not be enough room for just one more…

So, here it goes…without further procrastination…there’s no time like the present to fess up…it’s time to be brave and acknowledge one of my many shortcomings in life…

I am addicted to…of course to many of you out there this will probably come as no great surprise and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this and many of you share this same affliction…

Where was I?

Oh yeah, I am addicted to —

COOKBOOKS!

I know, I know. This isn’t the end of the world. Things could be worse. But if you only knew how many cookbooks I really have and how I never think I have too many. Sure I have those few gems proudly displayed on my baker’s rack in the kitchen, and a few sparsely placed about the house for show, but if you were to sneak a peek into the cabinets in my dining room or open any of the many binders hidden among the books on every bookshelf in the house, you’d find cookbook after cookbook after cookbook after personally compiled cookbook. And this is after I vowed to scale down and get rid of my collection.

Actually I’ve down scaled my collection twice thus far in my lifetime. The first time was after Hubby and I were married. I’d collected hundreds of cookbooks prior to our marriage with the good intentions of using each and every one of them until my fingers bled. Throw in a new house, two kids, home schooling, part-time jobs, and life in general, and cookbooks became the least of my concern. So at a garage sale I sold off more than 3/4 of my collection, keeping only those I truly used or just couldn’t part with.

Then, as the kids got older I began volunteering at our local library for their used book sales. What a little piece of heaven that was. Not only did this enable my cookbook addiction like never before, but I also acquired a passion for children’s books (here I managed to collect more than 5,000 children’s books), mysteries (who knew there were so many mystery series that included recipes), and Christmas books (everything from decorating ideas to cooking to traditions from around the world). In all, over the course of ten or so years I managed to fill our house and every bookshelf in it with more than 8,000 books.

When the kids graduated from home schooling and began schools outside the home, I began downsizing my children’s book collection. I donated more than 1/2 of them to an elementary school and then sold the rest to a book dealer for practically nothing. The Christmas books too have nearly completely been donated back to the library. I have only two bookshelves of children’s books and one of Christmas books in the basement. All of the mystery novels have been donated to local charities, except for a few that have recipes in them I don’t want to just copy and stick in a binder.

The cookbooks…well, this is another matter. While I did go through and scan recipes out of nearly 1/3 of them and then donate them to St. Vincent last year, there are still lots of cookbooks I just can’t seem to part with. And to make matters worse, a good friend of mine introduced me to America’s Test Kitchen and now I am addicted to their cookbooks, their website, and even on occasion their shows. (Thanks Suzanne!) So far I have bought five of their books off Amazon, found two at the library book sale, and have three or four in my cart on Amazon for whenever I get the money to buy them.

For me a cookbook is not just a collection of recipes. I read them like books and because of this, I prefer cookbooks that share the history behind the recipe, the theory that makes the recipe work, or any personal insight an author is willing to share. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to read where a recipe originated, what ingredients were tried and then changed because they just didn’t work well, or how someone’s great-great-grandmother brought the recipe over from England when she came here with her husband seeking a better life. Danielle Steele, James Patterson, and J. K. Rowling have nothing on Mark Bittman, Julia Child, and Christopher Kimball.

Addiction, obsession, or quirky hobby — whatever you want to call it, for me cookbooks are it. There have been many other addictions through the years, but none have held on so long or so strong and I do believe this is one that is going to stay. It does go in spurts. Especially if someone happens to entice me with say watching an episode or two of America’s Test Kitchen (which opened up a whole can of worms — America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country, Cook’s Illustrated) or perhaps sharing a movie with me (Julie & Julia – which led to a near obsession with Julia Child!), then all bets are off. (Again, thanks Suzanne!)

Anyway, I just had to get this off my chest. I’m really in a hurry now because I just got a delivery from the mailman. He has a box of three brand new cookbooks I got on sale and the evening is young, I’ve got a hot cup of caffeinated coffee, and Hubby is working in the office — and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Cheese! Homemade Cheese!

Yes, I’ve made several different homemade cheeses in the past, but for some reason I never quite considered them REAL cheeses. Cream cheese, ricotta, and paneer might be in the cheese family, but I would consider them more on the soft side. Today I made a hard or firm cheese and am totally thrilled with the results.

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Mozzarella cheese is probably the easiest firm-cheese to make and takes only about an hour. Yes I have tons of cheese making experience, so this being the only firm-cheese I’ve ever made and seeing as it was easy, it’s got to be the easiest — right?  Well let’s just say of all the cheeses I’ve ever made, hard or soft, this one was definitely the most fun and yes, easiest.

Some websites claim if you allow the cheese to cure longer at the various stages it will improve the quality and/or flavor of the cheese, but for my first effort, I am quite happy with the results. Sure it didn’t have much flavor, but honestly now, does mozzarella from the stores have much taste either. I’m sure that the fresh mozzarella from specialty markets that have been cured in brines or marinades for long periods of time are very flavorful (I’ve definitely got these methods on my list of things to do with my mozzarella), but for using on homemade pizza, chicken parmesan, or pasta dishes, this version was ideal. Best of all though — IT’S HOMEMADE! Can anything beat that!

Hubby questioned whether it was really worth the effort and told me that I’m trying too hard, but with this taking right around an hour of my time and the “kitchen high” I experienced as the soft curds became stretchy and pliable, I think I’ll be making lots of this in the future. There’s a lot to be said for those kitchen endorphins you know. So would it be fair to call them kitch-phins rather than endor-phins because they are produced in the kitchen rather than the body (endogenue)? Either way, the euphoria as I stretched the cheese into itself and formed it into a flat ball was more fun than I’ve had in the kitchen in a long time — and something I really needed.

The past couple of weeks I have suffered more gardening mishaps than any one person should have in an entire season, my kitchen time has been short and tainted with several epic failures, and having Hubby home all the time is proving to be more of a challenge for the kids than myself which I think is actually more stressful than if I were the one having an issue with him. I needed some fun and excitement to pull me out of the rut I was burying myself in and cheese making definitely did the job.

Although there are lots of websites with recipes for making mozzarella out there, I will eventually put the method I used on Simply Grateful Cooking, along with a few recipes of how I used the cheese. For now, I’m content just sharing my joy. And hey, if anyone has some advice on how to make the mozzarella more flavorful or have any recipes for brines or marinades they’d like to share, feel free. I’ve got another gallon of milk in the fridge in the basement calling out to me — “Make cheese with me! Make cheese with me!” so I’m sure I’ll be in the market for lots of suggestions.

Homemade anything is always a good thing — but homemade cheese, well that really takes things to a whole new level, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

 

A Sweet Indulgence

As of late, one thing I have decided is there are just some things in the kitchen that should not be skimped on and my grocery bills have reflected it. Not that I’ve gone out and bought the most expensive everything and anything, but each trip to the supermarket, or maybe more like every other trip or every third trip, I pull out a list of what I consider “sweet indulgence” ingredients and buy something from the list — especially if I happen upon a sale.

Not everything on the list is expensive. Some items are just ingredients that I would not use very often, making it hard to justify purchasing them. Others are a bit on the pricey side but there are some ingredients you should NEVER buy imitation or knockoff’s of, it’s worth spending the extra money.

The other day while picking up a few items at a specialty fruit market (someplace I don’t usually go unless there is a sale of some sort), Hubby and I found a sale on mascarpone cheese. This cheese is best known for its use in tiramisu, but is a wonderful addition to many other rich desserts. A container that would normally be anywhere from $6.50 to $8.00, was marked $3.50 and the expiration date was not until the end of May. What a find! I picked up two containers knowing I would find a use for them.

Some nights I go all out on dessert for the family and spend half the day working on something special. Other nights they are lucky if they can find packaged cookies buried in the freezer. A day or so after finding the deal on the mascarpone cheese in between putting the finishing touches on dinner and serving it, I whipped up a mascarpone cream and soaked some fresh fruit in sweetened Marsala wine. Talk about a rich, decadent dessert!

Although this particular dessert was not something Grace could enjoy with her sensitivity to dairy, Hubby and Zeb devoured the custard bowls filled with the fruit and cream combo. If you’d like to see how I made it, check out my post on Simply Grateful Cooking for Mascarpone Cream with Sweetened Marsala Berries.

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This dessert could probably be made with a less expensive cheese such as ricotta, but the rich, smooth mascarpone, albeit typically pricey, made this dessert “company worthy,” and for this sweet indulgence 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.

 

Celebrating Spring!

Near 70 degrees in Michigan for the past two days has really given everyone around here spring fever. The minute I heard the temps were going to be above 50, sunny, windy, and no chance of rain for two whole days, I set my everyday to do list aside and started a new one —

Spring Fever To Do List

  1. Hang laundry out. I hate not being able to hang bedding and clothes outside all winter. Not only does running the dryer cost money, but it never leaves the laundry smelling quite as good as the fresh air.
  2. Start seeds for spring planting. It’s the beginning of March and time to start planting the seeds for tomatoes and peppers. These seeds take the longest to grow and are the biggest crops in my garden. Last year winter never gave us a break so I moved my potting bench into the great room along with bags of dirt and worked on starting my seeds there. This break in the weather couldn’t have come at a better time. Now I won’t have to spend a day setting everything up in the house and can just work on the patio, outside in the sunshine.
  3. Take Bell for a walk — many walks. Although Bell does get an occasional walk during the winter months, especially if the temperatures are above 35 degrees, they tend to be few and far between. With the warm weather making every activity outside inviting, walking Bell is a welcome chore.
  4. Garden planning. Admittedly, planning the garden for 2016 has not been something I have wanted to do so far this year. Every once in a while, when we’d have a fairly nice day, I’d get the gardening itch, but within a day or so the cold and snow would return and chase the itch away. Now that I can actually go out and get in the gardens to pace out new additions and plan crop rotations, the time has truly come to take this seriously.

Well, maybe not the biggest list of all the to do lists I currently have running, but I am far more excited about this one than any other at the moment. The past two days have been spent checking off this list and I have enjoyed every moment. All the bedding in the house has been washed and hung out to dry,

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Bell has had more walks in the past two days than in the past two months, I’ve got my plan for the 2016 garden layout done, and today I finished planting all the tomato and pepper seeds I’ll need come May (check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Starting Seeds for the 2016 Garden).

This is Michigan so accepting that snow will more than likely bury us again before spring truly comes to stay is just how it is. Having this reprieve and taking total advantage of the gift — 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.

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 Bathroom Incident

I sat on the edge of my unmade bed staring into the bathroom knowing what I had to do. For months I’d been avoiding it, many months, too many months. Excuses had been made time after time until finally there were no more excuses, no more getting around it, no more denying the inevitable.

Already my day had been full and it was only 8:00 a.m. I’d made breakfast for the kids, gotten them both off to school, done a 45 minute workout, put in a second load of laundry in the washing machine, and had one drying in the dryer, put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, taken out some meat for dinner and set it on the counter to defrost, and wrote three things on my daily to do list in the hopes it would motivate me to actually do them. Surely such a productive morning could be rewarded, surely this would warrant the governors reprieve from what I knew was waiting for me in the bathroom.

A new excuse — Hooray!

But alas, I knew this lame excuse would not be enough to thwart the guilt I would carry with me, as I had been for months, if I didn’t just bite the bullet and do what had to be done. It wasn’t like it was going to take me any time. In fact it would all be over in just seconds. The trouble was I didn’t want to face the ugly truth. It was far too easy to ignore the situation than to walk that lonely mile, or ten or so feet in this case, and deal with what was absolutely necessary if anything I did the rest of the day, week, or month was going to make any difference.

Yes, the time had come and as much as I really wanted to just shut the bathroom door, walk away, forget all about it, and go on living in blissful ignorance, I knew I just could not do it. Not and be able to look at myself in the mirror again.

Mirrors! That was all part of the problem. Every morning when I look in the mirror I see what I want to see. I have gotten very good at fooling myself, brainwashing almost, into believing that everything was fine and there was no reason to do it. No reason to rock the boat. But there were tell-tale signs everywhere beyond the fun-house mirrors I’d convinced myself were real that even if I wanted to ignore them, I couldn’t.

No, there was nothing I could do, nothing I could say, nothing I could dream up as a reasonable excuse to delay walking into the black hole that surely would destroy the false sense of complacency I’d spent months building, designing, engineering to justify my actions.

Slowly I slid my feet onto the cold floor and with my hands firmly on the bed, pushed myself to a standing position. Halfway there. Not really. Standing was surely not half the battle here. Actually it was just the first step to the many it was going to take to actually do this deed.

Sucking in a deep breath I closed my eyes and took a step. My feet felt like lead. The natural spring in my step was now nothing more than a mere dragging of cinder blocks across the floor. My heart began to race.

“Maybe I’ll have a heart attack before I get there,” I thought to myself. “Then I’d really have an excuse worthy of listening to.”

The cinder blocks dragged on, slowly closing the distance between me and my nemesis. Sweat began to stream down the back of my neck and drip into my eyes from my forehead. Why was this so darn stressful? People do it all the time. In fact, some people do it everyday and think nothing of it. Why oh why had I put this off so long? Why had I spent so much time trying to avoid this when I knew it would only make matters worse? Ignorance is a wonderful thing, until reality smacks you upside the head and tells you “You’re only hurting yourself.”

I crossed the threshold into hell — I mean the bathroom, and the cold ceramic tile made me wince. A mere pat on the back compared to the slap in the face I knew was waiting for me just a few feet away. Reaching the end of the road I stood staring aimlessly at the wall in front of me, refusing to look anywhere else.

Closing my eyes I sucked in one last breath of air and stepped up with one foot and then the other. Firmly positioned at my destination I squeezed my eyes tighter, willing them to glue themselves shut. No luck. I opened my eyes and looked up, then to the right, then to the left. I looked everywhere and anywhere I could except where I needed to look — down.

For hours (actually minutes, but it sure felt like hours) I stood there, enjoying every last-minute of life as I knew it, as I had convinced myself it was okay to be, before I finally let out the breath I’d been holding and looked at my feet. There it was. I could no longer go on telling myself nothing had changed. It was right there in front of me, in black and white — literally.

How could this have happened? How could I possibly have let things get this far out of hand? Panic began to set in. How was I ever going to fix this? It was worse than thought, worse than I imagined, although to be honest my alternate reality had really convinced nothing was wrong so thinking and imagining were rarely, if ever, done.

I jumped back onto the hard floor and quickly retreated back to the bed. It was done! I’d finally done that which I hate doing the most. That which causes me more stress and anxiety than it should because I put it off rather than deal with it. That which in order for any changes I make to mean anything needs to be faced and addressed. It was over and now I could move on, make plans, deal with it. None of this gave me any comfort. No, the writing was right there on the wall, well not exactly the wall but close, and it was time to face the music.

Yep — 155! That’s what the scale said. ONE FIVE FIVE! ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-FIVE.  ONE WITH TWO FIVES AFTER IT. FIFTY PLUS FIVE PLUS ONE HUNDRED. TWO HUNDRED LESS FORTY-FIVE. ONE HUNDRED, FIVE TENS, AND FIVE ONES.

My heart was in my throat. Sure the holidays had been full of wonderful food and lots and lots of sweets, but that’s what the holidays are for. But this has started long before the holidays were even a line on my to do list. I’d been ignoring the ever tightening jeans, the rolls that formed on my back between my bra straps, and the ever-increasing chins that formed when I lowered my head toward my chest (actually lately I’m not sure I even have to lower my head for this to happen!).

Yes, I’d finally gotten myself back down to the gym and was making great strides at maintaining a regiment, adding more reps, increasing the weight, and getting my heart rate going three or four times a week — but this was almost too much to bear. How was I possibly ever going to get back into shape, lose the weight, have the will power not to eat chocolate, sweets, sugar — basically everything I love to eat and cook with. No, this was just too much for any one person to deal with.

So without looking back into that horrid place that houses that tortuous contraption called “a scale,” I threw on some clothes, grabbed my coat and keys, opened the garage door, and got in the car. There was only one thing that was going to change my mood, give me hope, make that ugly memory of what will be forever referred to as “the bathroom incident” forgotten. I tore out of the driveway, flew down the street (stopping only when absolutely necessary), and headed to the hairdresser.

Yep, nothing like cutting off 8 inches of hair to bring that scale down an ounce or two. Hey, and if your hair is really thick like mine, you might actually be looking at nearly a whole half pound. Then, on my way home I stopped off and bought myself a candy bar to celebrate. No point in letting my well-intentioned efforts go unrewarded now, is there?

So, that was my morning. How’s yours been? I’m home now, planning on how to continue making all the sweet concoctions I want to share with the family and somehow be able to show restraint and not eat them myself, and working on menus of salads, yogurt, cottage cheese, and fresh vegetables for myself while the family still gets to enjoy loads of mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables in cream sauce, and other gazillion calorie entrees that can no longer be on my plate. But I’m not bitter. No, I got myself in this mess and it’s up to me to do the time and get myself out of it.

I sure am hungry though. What I wouldn’t give for a fresh slice of garlic cheese bread right about now — but instead I’m going to go make a fresh salad for lunch, and for this I am (sort of) — Simply Grateful.

Farewell To The Holidays – The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the last until next year,

I reflected on the season filled with hope and holiday cheer.

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A bit late, but still relevant — the holidays are finally over and the transformation of the house from festive and bright back to our normal comfort zone has begun. Every Christmas season is filled with ups and down, successes and failures, joy and even sometimes sorrow as we try to make each holiday better than the last. This struggle to keep up and surpass what we experience every year can be overwhelming and add more stress to an already stressful situation. That being said and knowing this to be absolutely true, doesn’t stop me from falling into the Christmas trap every November and December.

This year I nearly gave up and in to the pressures of the holidays, threatening to ruin what can be and should be the most wonderful time of year for the entire family. Sure I’d love to believe that all year we should carry the love and magic of Christmas in our hearts and demonstrate this in our actions, but it is not something I believe can be done. Some people hold the magic longer, some manage to keep it strong inside of them, but there is only one time of year when people are a little kinder, a little more giving, and full of more hope openly without inhibition. In a perfect world this could be maintained 24/7 – 365, but alas perfect the world is not. Life is demanding and that is why I think it is so important not to lose focus during the holidays, although I can’t say that I am always successful.

Still, now that the holidays are over, there is a certain air about the house that continues to be refreshing and comforting. The holidays enter with a bang filling us with expectation and anticipation and then leave us quietly as wrapping paper is discarded, presents are put away, decorations are stored, leftovers are consumed, and family and friends fall back into their “normal” routines. We spend two months preparing for and enjoying the holidays and then the next ten months recovering. This recovery period is when I like to reflect on the holidays. It is this time that gives us the opportunity to really appreciate what we have and relish in the memories of moments that will help to keep Christmas alive in us until next year.

It takes me several weeks to untransform the house from “The Christmas House,” back to our home, and some years I find myself literally throwing decorations into boxes just to get the job over with. The minute I clean an area and clear away every sign of Christmas, leaving it refreshingly bare, I am filled with a certain excitement to have every inch of the house as clean. It takes a lot to contain the excitement I feel as ornaments are wrapped, trees are disassembled, and lights are unplugged and boxed. Saying farewell to all these symbols and reminders of Christmas for another year, allows me to miss them so that next year when they are pulled out, I appreciate them and once again am filled with their magic.

The next couple weeks I will be working on putting the decorations away, catching up on cleaning that kept being put off, and dreaming of what next year’s holidays will hold. After that, it will be time to start thinking of spring, planting the garden, and summer canning, but that is still months away. Winter has firmly made its mark here in Michigan, with bitter cold temperatures, fierce wind-chills, and snow piling up on the ground and roof tops.

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Today is a day for snuggling under a comfy quilt, sipping a steaming hot cup of cocoa, and counting my blessings, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

The Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas no more excuses, no more debate

The time has come to get back in shape.

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Working out is definitely not one of my favorite things to do, but I know that it is the only way to actually stay healthy. Eating right is part of it, but without physical exertion, your body cannot maintain.  A sedentary life opens the door for all sorts of terrible things including being over-weight, diabetes, depression, muscle deterioration, and aging. Granted you cannot reverse the aging process, but you can certainly slow it down.

Last year I stopped working out because of injury. Honestly though, I was looking for any excuse. I truly hate working out. I’ll go for a walk, work in the garden, or do housework, but none of that is enough. It takes weight training and really getting your pulse up for more than 20 minutes to make any difference.

So, my knee isn’t completely healed from the torn meniscus and my lower back is still weak (which it has been all my life), but I can no longer keep dwelling on this. It is time to get back down in the basement and push myself. No time, too many other things on my to do list, or promising to do it tomorrow are just excuses that I am no longer going to accept.

The ninth day of Christmas seemed like as good a day as any to make it happen. I put on my sweatpants, pulled my hair into a ponytail, put on my tennis shoes, and walked that lonely mile down the stairs into the cold basement. Thirty minutes later I crawled back up the stairs.

Thirty minutes isn’t bad for the first time in more than nine months to actually do a pull down or tricep extension or bicep curl or shoulder press. In fact, coming back up the stairs I could already feel my muscles aching. That’s a good sign — another reason I hate working out. How can pain be a good sign! I know, I know, there’s no other way to actually get back in shape other than to shock the muscles and make them do things they have never done before (or at least not done in too long a time).

The ninth day of Christmas and I’m on my way to getting back in shape. I’m not fooling myself into believing that in 30 days I’ll have that killer bod I always wanted or look and feel 20 again, but it sure would be nice to get a little more tone in my arms, improve my stamina, and really start getting some strength back into my knee. And hey, if I can lose a few pounds and stop having to squeeze into my clothes on a daily basis and have them actually fit me they way they should, I won’t complain.

Getting back on track to be healthy and fit, it feels good (emotionally at least, let’s not even think about how my body is going to feel for the next couple days), and for this I am — Simply Grateful.