6-Month Hiatus

It’s been a long while! Six months and a day since my last post here at Simply Grateful Housewife and even now writing is not going to again be part of my normal routine.

So much has happened in the past 6 months, but not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about blogging. I have piles of recipes and post ideas ready for the writing, but time just escapes me. When Hubby retired ten months ago I never dreamed that so many things that filled my days would suddenly become things of the past. It’s not that I don’t want to do them anymore, but for the moment I don’t NEED them as I used to.

Blogging used to be more of an escape for me. It filled in the long hours I spent alone — or at least without the company of my Hubby. Seeing him 16 hours a week for nearly two years and not much more than that for the twenty or so years prior to that, I was always looking for things to fill my time. Crafting, scrapbooking, writing, journaling, cooking, canning, blogging, and then gardening were just a few of the things I took up. Through the years I got burned out doing several of them, but the last batch of time-fillers I had chosen are still high on my list of things I want to do, it’s just that now isn’t their time.

Now my days are spent enjoying the company of a husband that I never truly got to know. It’s amazing how I could have been married to this person for 24 years  and am just now beginning to really know him.  Spending 24/7 with him for ten months is bound to give you a bit more insight into a person.

For better or worse! Hubby has brought this up many times and always concludes it with, “We’ve did the worse part for the past 23 years, so how about trying for the better part now!” Sounds like a plan.

We’ve taken day trips, seen parts of Michigan that we’ve never seen, done things we’ve never done, and spent days just sitting together doing absolutely nothing and yet we’re not bored. At first I thought I’d want to do all the things I thought I was missing out on. Now I’m just happy to spend a quiet morning with him sitting in front of the computer drinking coffee and me putzing around the house. Just having him home is enough to fulfill me.

This too shall pass!

Maybe.

I’m not going to expect this honeymoon phase to last forever and I can’t say honestly that there haven’t been days when he’s gotten on my nerves and I have to run up to the store to escape, but when I think back about all the time we lost and will never get back, I think I’ll take being with him rather than without him.

I’m always surprised to see how many visitors I receive each day on my blog and want to thank all of you for stopping by. I know as Hubby and I get more used to being together I’ll be able to return to blogging and do look forward to it. I miss the blogging but at the same time I don’t want to take time to do something so completely selfish — not now. Eventually the day will come when I’ll be able to split my time between “making up for lost time with Hubby” and doing the things that I enjoy doing by myself, but for now the only thing I want to fill my time is Hubby. That being said, who’s to say that day won’t come next week or even tomorrow?

At the moment Hubby is sitting in the office, in front of the computer, drinking coffee. I’m sitting on the couch, with Bell between my legs sleeping, and blogging. Not a bad way to spend the evening, 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.

DSCF3706

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.

DSCF3735

Bell rootin’ around.

DSCF3740

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.

DSCF3741

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.

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.

 

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 Grill Master – It’s All In The Sauce

Barbecue Blog-1

Growing up I was lived in a home where my father was the only person who barbecued. Mom was in charge of cooking in the kitchen, but whenever it came to grilling anything from hot dogs to prime rib roast, Dad was in charge.

The line of “men” being in charge at the grill wasn’t something that started with my father. His father and my mother’s father were also the Grill Masters at their homes and whenever we went to any family reunions on either side of the family, men were always the ones who hung around the barbecue pit, drinking beer, sneaking tastes, and chasing away any woman who came within ten feet of the hot coals.

For 20+ years I was comfortable with this barbecue hierarchy and never questioned it.

Then I moved out on my own and started dating my now husband, Hubby. While living on my own I never invested in a grill, but Hubby bought me a little hibachi for my balcony so we could grill steaks, burgers, or just about anything we wanted. While we dated, Hubby took care of the grilling. I don’t think it was because he wanted to do the grilling, but more because of my ignorance when it came to cooking anything anywhere other than the stove.

After we got married and I began accompanying Hubby to barbecues at his parent’s house however, it became immediately clear that things were very different in his family when it came to the “Rules of the Grill.” There were no men gathered around the grill, no beer drinking and comradery going on by the coals, and no taste testing hot off the grate. Nope, just my mother-in-law standing over the grill, sweating, cussing, and completely alienated from everyone else. Until the food was put on the table for everyone to enjoy, it was as if the grill and my mother-in-law didn’t exist.

Owning a barbecue for Hubby and I didn’t come until a few years after we got married, but when we did get one, I held my ground when it came to grilling.  I took care of the food preparation inside the house, and Hubby was to be in charge of the grilling. I never gave it much thought because he’d done it while we dated on our little hibachi at my apartment, but after we were married, his attitude changed. At one point he even pointed out to me that “His Father” didn’t have to grill — that “His Mother” did all the food prep including the grilling.

Being the so understanding and ever patient wife that I was back then (NOT), I quickly pointed out that he didn’t live in Oz anymore and here in the real world if he wanted to have a barbecue, he was going to have to do the grilling. At first he protested by burning practically everything he put on the grill, but I held my ground. A battle of wills that I knew was not going to end well…or at least with me being the victor.

Finally after many arguments and too many ruined meals, grilling became a thing of the past. Dinners were planned rather than barbecues and Hubby won. Or so he thought.

Summer is the time for grilling, but even in the dead of winter, a burger is just not a burger unless it’s cooked slowly over the hot grates of a grill. Hubby may have won the battle, but I was looking long-term and waging to win the war.

After a year or so of no grilling, Hubby began suggesting we grill on occasion. There was no argument, he just went to the grill, lit it up, and grilled. Then, because of the lack of tension between us, I also became far less averse to pitching in and grilling if I happened to plan a meal that included grilling during the week when he was working. I’d light the grill and get the meal almost done in time for his arrival and then he’d finish up while I put everything I’d made in the kitchen on the table.

This compromise on grilling has served us well for the past 20 years. Now however, because Hubby’s work schedule is in such upheaval (working from Monday morning 8 a.m. until Friday afternoon 4 p.m straight with only a short break to come home each day for dinner) I have taken to grilling completely. Dinner is done and on the table when he gets home. He still will grill if we have company, but for the most part, I have taken over the role as Grill Master

As with most things I attempt to do, taking on this new Grill Master role is not taken lightly. Now I am struggling to truly earn that title. At this point I’d have to say I am just barely scraping by, but I continue to work at it. One thing I have learned though is that success in this role has a lot to do with the tools you have to work with. Not just the grill itself or the utensils used, but also the selection of meats as well as the sauces used.

That being said, this year I have been experimenting with various recipes for homemade barbecue sauce. The one I made last year Sizzlin’ Plum Barbecue Sauce didn’t quite turn out how I’d wanted, so this year I tweaked the recipe to make it better (check out my post today on Simply Grateful Canning for the updated version Plum Barbecue Sauce Update). I’m also going to have posts on a few other sauces I’m working on, so keep a lookout.

Marriage can be a battle of wills, but realizing that compromise will serve your relationship better, is what holds you together, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Holiday Decorating…The Rules!

“I have never seen anything like this!”

“This must take you months to finish.”

“We’re going to refer to your home as ‘Bronner’s East’ from now on.”

“It looks like Christmas threw-up in here!”

These are just a few of the comments I’ve received over the years when people have come by our home during the holiday season and they take in the enormous amount of decorating I do.  For me, because it is something that I have been working on and building up to for so many years, it just seems normal.  But I understand that the typical person does not spend 6 weeks decorating their home for Christmas, sometimes spending 8 to 10 hours a day for weeks on end to get everything just right.  It never ceases to surprise me how taken aback people are when they step through our front door and find themselves surrounded by tradition, decorations, and even a little whimsical fantasy.

Getting to where our home is now was not an easy journey.  When Hubby and I got married I had some decorations, but the accumulation through the years is what now consumes so much of my time during October and November every year.  At first, Hubby was tolerant of my passion for Christmas, although he himself never understood it or even liked Christmas.  As the years passed and my collection of decorations grew, however, the holidays became a time for argument, resentment, and even hostility between us because we were at such opposite ends of the spectrum.  Finally, after several years of knocking heads, I sat down with Hubby and asked him how we could get past this.  There was no talking to him.  He was set in his ways of not understanding or wanting to understand me, and I was forced to either give up my passion for celebrating the holidays the way I really wanted to or continue to have three plus months of unhappiness overshadowing what I thought should be The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

The trouble with this situation was that I wasn’t really listening to Hubby.  Although he wouldn’t come right out and tell me what he didn’t like or what he was upset about, there were many subtle clues that I just refused to listen to or see.  Realizing that something had to change because fighting with him every year was getting old, and quick, I finally took a long hard look at what I was doing and how it was affecting him.  Thus evolved “The Rules.”

Whenever Hubby would bitch or scream about something that he didn’t like, or make some snide comment in passing (and believe me, there were many), I’d make a note.  I am a great note taker.  I write everything down.  This too has evolved over the years, but now-a-days I write so many notes, that I need notes to remind me to read other notes that remind me to read other notes, etc, etc, etc.  Anyway, as I listened to what he was saying, rather than just getting defensive and hurt, I realized that he was right in much of what he was saying.  In fact, I learned a lot because of his comments.  You could say that I am where I am today in my decorating because of him.

When Hubby took his arm and flung all the Christmas knickknacks that I’d put on the end table next to his chair high into the air and they came crashing to the ground, breaking several beyond repair, it was his subtle way of telling me that he didn’t want “his” space cluttered. Perhaps he could have found a nicer way of expressing this to me, but for years I wouldn’t listen anyway, so his resentment was completely understandable.

When Hubby came storming out of the bathroom and yanked all the cords from our family tree out of the wall, literally ruining many of the wires and making it so only half our tree actually lit the rest of the season, because the circuit breaker had jumped AGAIN while he was blow drying his hair, he was reminding me that there are other people in our home that have needs that require electricity and I shouldn’t overload the circuits. At the very least, I shouldn’t turn on the lights while he was getting ready.

And when Hubby stood in the center of our great room surveying my decorations and everything that I’d spent weeks trying to make “just perfect” and said, “It looks like you just dumped a bunch of Christmas decorations out of their boxes and threw them every which way.”  I was devastated, but after I calmed down I took a look and realized he was right.  There was no rhyme or reason, just decorations, lots of decorations, put everywhere and anywhere I could fit them.  I realized then, I needed a plan.

There were many other comments, all spat out with his usual patience and understanding (NOT!), that I began to take to heart and really look at, and finally settled on a list of “Rules” that I thought would help us somehow come to mutual understanding.  He wasn’t going to change, and so he shouldn’t have to.  My passion for decorating could still be fulfilled without being a thorn in his side.  I knew I could do it.  I had a new mission:  To make Christmas a time when the whole family could be at peace together, even among all the baubles and bells.

My mission sparked the need for a Decorating Bible.  Something that would spell out what to do, how to do it, where to plug it in, and how to accomplish it in a way that would be conducive for everyone.  It has taken many years and continues to grow and evolve every year, but today I have a three-inch binder and three or four additional notebooks with explicit instructions on how to decorate every room, where to run the wires, which circuit they are on, how much power they require, if there are any glitches (meaning if the lights need to stay off until Hubby finishes drying his hair), and what changes/additions to make in the future.

DSCF5697

My Decorating Bible

DSCF5698

The very first section in my binder (after the introduction explaining what this binder is), the one that is read prior to me starting any decorating every year, is called “THE RULES.”  In this section are all the rules that I have ascertained through the years from Hubby and just plain common sense (something that seemed to elude me during those first few terrible years of marriage and decorating).  After so many years of decorating now, some of these rules seem so obvious, yet I do not want to forget or digress, so I keep them there as a reminder.

DSCF5699

The Rules — Right up front where they wont be forgotten.

Hubby and I have now been married for 22 years and we have both matured, grown, and mellowed.  Now, although I do my best not to upset Hubby with my decorating, he is far less violent when it comes to reminding me if I cross the line.  Also, he has actually told me for several years running now that he really thinks the house looks beautiful.  In fact, for the past couple years he has suggested inviting various friends over to see the house, something he would never have done ten years ago.

I cannot tell you how much nicer it is now come October when I start dragging out the boxes and ladders, preparing for the great Christmas decorating transformation and Hubby actually tells me that it’s okay if I have a bit of a mess with the decorations when he gets home.  It used to be that if I were decorating, I had to be sure to have the mess all cleaned up before he got home or I’d get grief for it.  He now realizes that the mess is only temporary and a necessity during the transformation.

Marriage is so difficult.  I am glad though that I finally “listened” to what Hubby was saying and now we have come to a mutual understanding of Christmas and my passion for decorating.  He may not share my love for every aspect of the holidays, but he tolerates and even supports it now, and for this I am — Ever So Simply Grateful!

 

Outgrowing My Garden

This year is the first year I have made a real effort to keep my garden healthy and managed. In years past I would plant and then come the end of July or August take a peek at what nature did. Most of the time I’d end up with a garden full of weeds,  lots of tomatoes and very little of anything else. Because I want to be able to use more home-grown food in my canning, I decided this year I was going to give being a “real” gardener a shot.

So far I have been somewhat happy with my efforts. I have no idea what my bounty will look like, but the plants look healthy and are growing for the most part. I have no idea how fast some of my plants are supposed to grow, so if they are not where they should be, I guess I’ll figure that out when they don’t produce anything.

Canning any type of vegetable takes a lot of that vegetable, so in May I worked on expanding our current garden and collecting pots being thrown out so I could plant tomatoes, peas, beans, and scallions in those. The garden expansion has been a great success. I planted beets, carrots and sweet potatoes there and so far they are thriving better than anything else I’ve planted.

The sweet potatoes are a little too successful however. They are taking over the new section of garden, covering the carrots and beginning to smother some of the beets. Something needed to be done. Also, the tomato plants I planted in the pots are not getting as big as I’d like. When I’ve planted them in the ground in years past, I would have more tomatoes than I’d know what to do with, having just four plants. This year I have three times that many plants and so far I doubt I’ll have enough to can.

My long-term gardening plan was to add a new section of garden next year along the back of our property. I bought some extra bags of mulch that I laid out on the lawn where the section would be, in hopes that the grass beneath would die and be easily removed in the spring. With the sweet potatoes spreading and the tomatoes stalling, I decided this plan needed moving up and set out to start removing some of the grass under the bags of mulch this morning.

Although the grass under the bags was yellow, it was still very difficult to remove. I worked for about two hours and managed to clear away a 10‘ x 2‘ section. My goal is to have a 16‘ x 8‘ garden. When hubby got up this morning and found me struggling with the sod his first comment was “Why don’t you just spray the grass with Round-Up, cover it with dirt, and then plant.” Okay, so perhaps this would be the easiest route, but I wanted to plant today. Patience is not always something I’m good at, especially when the summer countdown clock is ticking and the number of days left before fall is upon us are few.

Well, after hubby reviewed with me my options — his way which was the “smart” way or my way which we’ll refer to as the “hard-headed” way, we headed out to Lowe’s to buy some landscape timbers and spikes to outline the new garden section. Tomorrow he will spray the RoundUp (as it rained this morning) and then in three days I can have top soil dumped right in the new section, spread it out and plant.

The new garden section along the back of our property.

The new garden section along the back of our property.

This is part of the section where I removed the grass.

This is part of the section where I removed the grass.

The bags of mulch that will now be stored until next year.

The bags of mulch that will now be stored until next year.

So why didn’t I discuss the new garden section with hubby in the first place? Other than being stubborn or “hard-headed” as he refers to me, I don’t like “my” projects becoming “his” projects. He has more than enough on his plate already, that I really just wanted to do this and not have him have to do anything other than tell me how great it looked. Thankfully, the way he suggested we complete this new garden is a whole lot easier than my way and the amount of time and effort he’ll have to put forth is minimal.

In preparation of the new garden, I spent over an hour this evening trimming my sweet potato plants and planting the slips. Thanks to Sarah at Coffee To Compost and her post How To Start Your Own Sweet Potato Slips I learned how to do this.  The sweet potatoes were taking over the entire new section of garden, but when I was done, they were back to a manageable carpet of green. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to cut them back as much as I did, but hopefully they will still produce lots of potatoes underground.

The sweet potatoes taking over the garden -- don't get too close Bell, it might just suck you in.

The sweet potatoes taking over the garden — don’t get too close Bell, it might just suck you in.

One of the sweet potato vines I clipped to plant.

One of the sweet potato vines I clipped to plant.

My sweet potato slips planted and basking in the sun in the new will-be garden section.

My sweet potato slips planted and basking in the sun in the new will-be garden section.

The garden after the sweet potatoes were trimmed -- big difference.

The garden after the sweet potatoes were trimmed — big difference.

The new section of garden will be for all the tomato plants I have in pots, which will be carefully transplanted, and my sweet potato slips. With any luck, I’ll have enough sweet potatoes for an entire year. Between drying, canning, and freezing, I think I can definitely handle whatever nature rewards me with.

After cleaning up the garden and transplanting a few more tomato suckers for the new garden, I decided to enjoy a glass of fresh Watermelon-Lemon Refresher. Similar to some of the lemonade concentrate recipes I’ve been making lately, I was happy to come up with a way to use the last of the watermelon juice I extracted from the watermelons I bought last weekend. It is lighter than the berry-lemonade concentrates and not as sweet, thus the reference “refresher.”

Watermelon-Lemon Refresher Concentrate

photo2

3 Cups Strained Watermelon Juice
4 Cups Lemon Juice
6 Cups Sugar
3 Drops Pink Food Coloring (optional)

Puree the watermelon, put in stock pot and bring boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain watermelon pulp through a jelly bag for 2-3 hours.

DSCF1066

Combine strained watermelon juice, lemon juice, and sugar in stock pot. Heat until it reaches 190° but do not boil. Add food coloring.

Ladle hot concentrate into jars, seal and process in water bath for 15 minutes.

To reconstitute: Combine 1 cup concentrate with 3 cups water (or more to taste). Serve over ice.

Today was a good day and I am very excited to be working on our new garden section. Hubby’s help and advice will save me a ton of work and now this project is not only “my” project, but “our” project, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Frozen Pina Coladas

Today was one of those days when I should have stayed in bed, pulled the covers tight over my head, and not gotten up until tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m not that lucky, so I banged my head against the wall and failed over and over until I thought the next thing I touched would explode. Absolutely nothing has gone right. How is this possible? How is it possible that I managed to break, wreck, spoil, and ruin everything I tried to do today? There has got to be some talent in that, don’t you think.

I woke this morning thrilled the weather was perfect, elated the sun was shining, and I had more energy and ambition than I thought I’d ever be able to use in one day. I was wrong. When everything I did had to be done at least twice, you tend to extinguish any energy you might have had pretty quick.

One thing that I did manage to finish, without ruining, was canning a batch of Pina Colada Lemonade Concentrate. This was at the top of my agenda seeing as I needed to use up the last six of the first twelve pineapples I bought a week ago. Now I just have twelve left that are slowing ripening in the basement. The recipe turned out as predicted. The one problem was I don’t like it as written. However, I know canning is a learning process, so I immediately came up with a solution that will make the next batch perfect. Here is the recipe, with the change I’ll be making noted.

Pina Colada Lemonade Concentrate

7 Cups crushed pineapple with juice
4 Cups fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 Cups sugar
3 tsp. coconut extract

Core and scrape two pineapples, saving as much juice as possible. Puree pineapple in food processor till nearly smooth.

Puree fresh pineapple.

Puree fresh pineapple.

Combine pineapple, lemon juice, and sugar in large stock pot.

Combine pineapple, lemon juice, and sugar in pan.

Combine pineapple, lemon juice, and sugar in pan.

Bring liquid to boil and cook until it reaches 190°. Remove from heat.

**This is where I am making a change next time I make this. I did not like the texture of the drink with the pineapple in it. Once the mixture is boiled, I will run it through a food mill to remove all the pineapple pieces. Then continue as directed.

Add coconut extract. Ladle cooked mixture into jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Pina Colada Lemonade Concentrate

Pina Colada Lemonade Concentrate

UPDATE 6/18/14 – Today I made another batch of this concentrate but removed most of the pulp using a food mill.

After the liquid has reached 190, run liquid through food mill.

After the liquid has reached 190, run liquid through food mill.

This will remove the pulp.

This will remove the pulp.

Return juice to pot, bring back up to 190 and continue as above.

Return juice to pot, bring back up to 190 and continue as above.

To make a Frozen Pina Colada: Mix one cup concentrate with one cup of ice in blender. Blend till slushy. Add one cup vanilla ice cream and blend until thick and evenly distributed. You might have to add a little water or pineapple juice if the mixture is too thick. Serve with pineapple garnish.

This is one of the kids and my favorite Family Movie Night beverages. Ice cream makes everything better and this is no exception.

Today was a frustrating day, but the nicest thing happened when hubby came home from work. He listened patiently to me vent about my day and after showing him a batch of jam I’d made that would not set he tasted it and said, “Well, I like it! This is really good. This will be perfect for pancakes and crepes. You should make those next week.” That little bit of support, picking me up when I felt I was at my lowest, made all the difference in the world today and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

You Know You’re In American When…

“I’ve learned that I should never praise my mother’s cooking when I’m eating something fixed by my wife.” – Age 27 Anonymous, page 28, Live & Learn & Pass It On

Coming up with something original to make for dinner 365 days a year is not an easy task. It is downright stressful. Even with a stockpile of recipes to go three months without repeating a single meal, I sometimes want a break from the old meat and potatoes or meals inspired from around the world. Sometimes I just want something simple and quick.

When I got married some 20+ years ago, my hubby didn’t say a whole lot about my cooking. He would say it was “good” or that he liked it, but wasn’t one to gush. I learned with him the less he said the better because he was the first to point out if something wasn’t right or God forbid — his mother didn’t make it like that or … wait for it … you guessed it “My mother really makes good ________ (fill in whatever I had made for dinner that night).

I can tolerate quite a bit, but being compared to his mother, well I draw the line there. My rebuttal was always the same, “Then maybe you should have her make it for you!” And that meal was wiped from my menu permanently. No I wasn’t bitter, just not in the mood to be compared to someone who told me after my husband and I got engaged, “It would be so much nicer if he’d marry someone Serbian.” Yeah, in the 45+ years my in-laws have lived here, they have not accepted Americans in the least.

For the most part, my husband is all-American. He has been here since he was a young boy so has assimilated the American ways, but many of the old traditions and values remain. One such instance of this was made apparent to me when I served hot sub sandwiches for the first time for a dinner. This is one of those quick and easy meals I love to make when I’m tired of spending hours in the kitchen day after day. Being that it was hot, filled with meat, and served with a side of homemade potato salad, I figured it could squeak by for dinner.

With my hubby sitting at the table, waiting for me to serve dinner, I casually walked to the table and placed a Corning Ware dish filled with hot sub sandwiches on the table. He looked at it, pierced his lips, shook his head, and said, “You know you’re in American when you get served sandwiches for dinner.” I won’t get into what happened next, but lets just say, the meal was spent in silence and for years I never attempted to serve “sandwiches” for dinner again.

After so many years of marriage I believe I have earned the right to serve whatever I want on occasion, without regard for what darling hubby wants. He gives no help in the kitchen, offers no suggestions for meals, and is dead-set against eating out more than once or twice a year. I believe this gives me cart blanche when it comes to deciding whether or not I’m going to serve sandwiches for dinner.

Time has a funny way of mellowing people. Now-a-days, hubby has been known to suggest every once in a while that I make some sort of sandwich for dinner. It might be because it’s too hot to crank up the old stove, we might have been out all day and don’t have much time to make something before we pass out from hunger, or dare I say, he actually has a few “favorite” sandwiches that he enjoys having for dinner.

One of his favorites, as well as the rest of the families is a roasted turkey with peppers and onions sub. I made these yesterday after spending too long in the sun working outside. I didn’t saute any peppers, only onions, but it was delicious just the same. Served with homemade pickles and pickled peppers, two sandwiches for a grown man is plenty. I barely choke down one.

Roasted Turkey Sandwiches with Peppers & Onions

  •  Deli Sliced Turkey (I used both turkey and ham yesterday)
  • Cheddar Cheese Slices (I added a little Fiesta Jack cheese as well)
  • Garlic Powder
  • Vedalia Onion (2)
  • Yellow, Red, or Orange Bell Pepper (1)
  • Sub Rolls

Toast rolls.

Toast rolls and assemble ingredients.

Toast rolls and assemble ingredients.

Place five to seven slices of deli turkey on half of roll (how many will depend on how thick the meat is sliced).

Put sliced deli meat on rolls and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Put sliced deli meat on rolls and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Sprinkle with garlic powder.
Cover meat with one to two slices of cheese.

Top with cheese.

Top with cheese.

Saute onions and peppers in butter until tender. Drain and put on top of cheese.

Drain sauted onions and put on cheese.

Drain sauted onions and put on cheese.

Top with other half of sub roll, place in Corning Ware pan, cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350°.

 

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

DSCF1454

Marriage is a learning process that begins with the first date and lasts for a lifetime. Getting your footing can be challenging, but once you get your stride and everything calms down, life is good, and sandwiches pass for dinner, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.