Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast
Astoria, Oregon

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sifting Through Life: People Say the Darnedest Things

This past week we took pictures of Finnley in Isabella's blessing dress.  She is so cute.

People, we are interesting creatures to say the least.

The older I get the more compassion and empathy I find myself offering to those around me.  I guess it may be because now that I am older I can relate to more people and more situations.  I find myself putting myself into their shoes.  It allows me to have mercy and charity for what I am seeing.  After all, I don't really know what they are thinking.  It is all based on outward appearances.

In the past few weeks I have had some interesting encounters with people.

A little bit of judging has been going on and it didn't sit too well on my busy mind.  I try to not let my feelings get hurt.  I try not to allow myself to be offended or unnerved by the silliest things people say.

BUT--

I am human.

I do let my guard down and those simple worries and doubts creep inside my mind.

Look Mom--I am now as big as the cat, Baby.

I bought a Vitamix a few weeks ago.  Side note--THE BEST PIECE OF EQUIPMENT EVER.  As I was sitting and listening to the presentation by a very enthusiastic woman of middle aged years, she decided to point me out in the crowd.

So typical, I try to blend into the walls and people make eye contact and then they have me engaged in conversation and questions before I know what is happening.

Don't get me started about the kiosks at the mall.  It drives my daughter crazy because every time they try to stop me, hand me something or try to make eye contact--I respond with a "no thank you", "not today" or "next time".   Rye says that I should just ignore them.  That is so ridiculously hard for me!

Back to the Vitamix lady,  she was pretty witty and thought herself to be funny.  The first thing she says to me is, " oh, I see you are trying to eat healthy".

Trying?  Seriously.....what ever!

My basket was full of vegetables just like it is every time I shop at our local health food store.  We eat a wide variety of foods, mostly healthy with a few splurges thrown in for variety.

 I found her comments a weird thing to say to someone in a crowd.

Isabella started piano and loves it.  Here she is practicing on our piano.
First of all, she doesn't even know us. I think her comment was based on our outward appearances.  I have been a size 10-12 for the past 12 years.  It doesn't matter how hard I exercise or --I don't like this word--diet my shape does not change.  My bone structure is the same.  I have big boobs and wide hips.  I turn sideways and I look skinny, I turn forward and HOLY CRAP thats a wide landing strip.

Have I created a good visual image of my shape?  Of course, I am exaggerating to some degree and I don't scare people with my wide hips but I did not always think this way.  It has taken me a long time to be okay with my body and to find kind words and thoughts to say to myself.

Here is my news flash.....not everyone that shops at Whole Foods is a size 0, 2, 4 or 6.  Some of us are a bit "fluffier".   Does this mean I don't eat healthy?  Does this mean I am not aware of good eating habits?  I have lots of friends that fall into those small sizes and they have their own sets of struggles, so I know that size is irrelevant but we do judge others based on what we see.

I found myself reflecting on this conversation for over a week and having the best come backs. DAMN I hate when that happens.  LOL

Sisters.  Soon their feet will be close in size;  for now this shows us what stage they are in.
My second encounter was with this same woman, during the same visit, same presentation.  She alluded to the fact that I wanted to feed my baby the very best and nutritious meals possible once she started eating "real" food.

I agreed.  DUH!

Then in front of everyone, she says to me, "you are breastfeeding right?"

She is wearing a mic.

She is standing on a podium or stool.

The crowd is large.

All eyes are on me.

I, for about 10 seconds, had this conversation in my mind.

"What the hell lady?  Do I lie?  Do I leave?  Should I cry?  What to do?"

I smiled through clenched teeth and said, "No. I am not."  I made a joke that I was 2 for 4 with my kids and for a variety of reasons I was unable to continue breastfeeding.

In that moment I felt like a failure.  A. COMPLETE. FAILURE.  I felt that I was being judged for my appearance and now for the fact that I was not breastfeeding.

Believe me, I tried!  I cried many tears when the decision for me to not breastfeed needed to be made.  I could have been selfish and continued fighting the jaundice issues, the all night crying, the no-weight gain for my already 5.5 pound baby who did not gain a single ounce in 3 weeks.  I could have done a lot of things but when you are tired, stressed and concerned, you make a decision.

And, we did.

It took me 3 days before I could even talk about it.  Not to mention, if I did speak of it, it was with a whisper.  A freaking whisper.

These two particular situations had me thinking over the past few weeks.  I know how I felt being the one misjudged based on my appearance and a simple yes/no answer to a rather complicated question (at least in my case).

How could I learn from this experience?  Was it possible  that I , unknowingly, was doing the same thing to others through my looks, my questions or my reactions?  Have I ever put my foot in my mouth?   That is a silly question because the answer is "yes and who hasn't".

We got more snow. Is it ever going to end?  Snowball fight in progress.

Along with the above two examples of my experience with one person, I had a few others  that are funny when you actually think about them.

1.  We walked into this same store and took the escalator instead of the stairs.  These two things are right by each other and you do have the option of either one.  On this day we chose to take the escalator and a set of kids followed behind us only to be quickly grabbed and told, " we are a stair family. We don't ride escalators".

2.  I was in the cracker aisle and I went to grab a box of crackers for my kids.  In a cart near the crackers a couple of small kids, I would say 3-5, reached out and wanted crackers too.  There Mom looked right at me and said, " those are processed.  We don't eat crackers.".

These two examples put me into a position to judge.  It was my first reaction.  I had some outrageous thoughts, rolled my eyes and laughed.

I don't know their reasons for taking the stairs or not buying crackers--and why do I care what they do. Yeah, it felt awkward that they said things a little louder so that I would hear them or looked right at me;  but ultimately I should not put much care into what they think.

After all, I have my reasons for doing the things I do and they have theirs.

I read this quote:

“You can’t control what others think. The only thing you can control is yourself. Some people will look down on you for your choices in life, no matter what they are. You can’t do anything about that. The only thing you can do is decide how to live your own life. And to hell with everybody else”

― Marie Sexton

Then, I read this article that I thought was filled with some good advice.

I could share a few more stories of people saying the "darnedest things" to me or my family but I won't. I just wanted to share what was happening in my mind the last few weeks with several instances that happened to me and how it settled into my mind.

How the words of others caused me to pause, reflect and hopefully, change just a little bit for the better.

I don't want to be so quick to judge others.  I want to continue to have compassion for people of all kinds and not to be so critical of their decisions based on my beliefs.

My goal is to judge less.  To be more compassionate and understanding.



Isabella loves the snow and is so happy to see it this winter.  Last winter we had a mild and rainy season.


Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cowboy Caviar


I love this side dish, relish, snack, appetizer or salad topping.  It has many uses. 

The obvious way to enjoy the Cowboy Caviar is with tortilla chips but I also like to use the left overs for salads and sandwiches.

Honestly, you can add anything to this wonderful array of color served in a bowl or take out what you don't like.  

I think these are some of the best recipes because they are so easily adaptable to your own families likes and dislikes.   I know that when I make it when my Mom is in town to leave out the black-eyed peas--she hates them.  I know that if I am going to be eating it I have to make a small batch for myself without the peppers.  I just learned that I am very allergic to bell peppers (and here I thought it was the eggs--LOL)

Do you see how this can be altered and recreated a ton of different ways.  I think adding jicama to this would also be really good.  I just thought of that so next time I will change it up a bit.

I like to serve this dish warm instead of cold.  My teeth are really sensitive to cold things. I just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, enough to take the cold edge off.

I think we will be making this soon, I smell a good football game right around the corner.

ENJOY!





Cowboy Caviar

Prep Time:  15 minutes
Serves: 6-8

1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup of orange bell pepper, chopped small
2/3 cup red onion, chopped small
1 15 oz. can white or yellow corn, drained
2 medium tomatoes, chopped small
1/2-1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1.5 cups of your favorite Italian salad dressing
Salt to taste
Jalapenos (optional--not pictured)

Combine all ingredients into a medium bowl. Stir well

Serve with chips, as a salad topping, over fish or by itself.

Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.




Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slow Cooker Homemade Applesauce


This is one of the simplest things that I make that taste so delicious and homemade.

My kids know that when I make a big batch of applesauce, I am getting ready to make my favorite gluten free applesauce cake with caramel topping.

I am spoiled because it is very hard for me to even think about eating a store bought version of applesauce.  I find it to be overly sweet and lacking in texture.   I like my applesauce full of pieces.  I wouldn't call it chunky but it definitely is not pureed.  I use a potato masher to mash the apples together in the slow cooker.

I like my applesauce to be a combination of sweet and tart.  For this reason I use a variety of apples.  I always make sure that two or three of them are Granny Smiths.  I try not to add a lot of brown sugar but this is where the rich caramel color comes from and I find it to be exceptionally pretty.

I need to take pictures of the Apple Sauce cake and when I do I will link it up here.  I am still trying to figure out my time--juggling many hats at that moment.  LOL

ENJOY!




Homemade Applesauce


3 Granny Smith Apples or any tart variety--PEELED
3 red or green apples--red delicious, gala or golden delicious--PEELED
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 a lemon, juice only

1.  I use an apple corer to divide my apples in to 8 segments each.  Throw away the center.

2.  In a large crock pot, add the apple segments.

3.  Squeeze half of the lemon over the apples in your slow cooker

4.  Add cinnamon and brown sugar.

5.  Cook on high for 2-3 hours.  I usually check after two hours and give it a good stir.  If the apples are still not soft enough to break down using a potato masher, then continue cooking.

6.  Remove from heat and mash with potato masher until the desired consistency is reached.  I like mine chunky, so that is what you will see in the picture above.

7.  Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Written by Sherron Watson













Friday, January 24, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Dancing



A few weekends ago, Cory and I went on a three day getaway with the little kids (nothing romantic about this one-LOL)  We barely slept.  The kids were great, which they usually are except that Finnley was having a hard time sleeping some where new and I was having a hard time sleeping because Cory was snoring like a fog horn.

SERIOUSLY! The snoring is out of control.

 He just ordered a chin strap and I am afraid if this does not work I am going to be moving into our spare room.  I can't sleep.  I feel so bad too because I know he is not doing it on purpose but there are some nights that I just want to scream.

scream...snore...scream...snore...scream...snore

I am almost certain the screaming is not going to help the situation but I honestly think that it would help me, in some sort of twisted way.

I have drifted from my main thought, sorry!

The company that Cory works for celebrated 10 years in business and flew everyone in for a relaxing trip to the Hyatt in Cambridge, MD.  The weekend was gloomy with lots of fog and rain.  This was not that big a deal because they have this amazing swimming pool and other activities were planned.

One event that was scheduled was a trip to the new bowling alley.  Because it was during the day, the place was pretty bare.  I did not bowl because of a shoulder injury that decides to flare up when I do anything repetitive with my arm, like throwing an 8 pound ball for an hour.

Or raking leaves.

Or beating egg whites with a whisk<--who does that anyways...LOL

Isabella was thrilled to be doing something outside of the hotel.  She was anxiously waiting for her Dad to finish his meeting so we could hit the road.  Not only did they have bowling but they had arcade games and 25 cent tattoo machines.

As I was sitting there drinking my super sized unsweetened ice tea and nibbling on the best freakin' homemade fries I have had in a very long time , I noticed Isabella dancing.

Dancing in the space where you stand to pick up your balls from the conveyor built.

SPINNING

WHIRLING

SINGING

HANDS WIDE OPEN

DANCING

I thought maybe she would start singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music"....but I knew she wouldn't because she doesn't know those words.

Without a care in the world.  Just being the happiest kid to be alive.

She looked at me and smiled.

I smiled back.  I thought to myself, "wow... to be a kid again and to have that much inner peace and acceptance that you just decide to dance AND you do it."  She does what comes to mind.  Her body doesn't question her when she says...dance...sing....skip....jump.

It made me happy and sad at the same time.  Happy for her and sad for me.  I thought, please don't grow up.  Stay 6 forever!  



It reminded me of a conversation I had with my 17 year old a few weeks ago.  He mentioned to me that it "sucks to get older" because you become so aware of what others think of you and that changes you.

Changes how you see yourself, how you react to others, how you make your decisions.

 It causes you to pause.

On this same trip I did not bring a swim suit.  There was no way in heck I was going to put on a swim suit after just having had a baby--that was so stupid--duh, I just had a baby--what better excuse could I have had to be in the shape I am.   Total brain fart there.

So I sat and watched.

I watched Isabella and Cory laughing and playing in a pool that was pretty much to ourselves.

Isabella gets out of the pool and dances to the jacuzzi.

There she is again dancing, happy and so full of joy.  It dawned on me.  Isabella doesn't care what size I am or what my swim suit looks like.  Heck, I would have been in the pool the whole time.

I promised myself that for now on I will be bringing my swim suit and swimming.  It is important to her and to me that she remembers that I was not just one of those Mom's that sat on the sideline watching her kids.  I want to participate and make memories with her.

I want to dance more.

I love to dance.

I will dance...

...maybe when my family least expects it in a room full of people.

Maybe.


Isabella dancing at 3.  She has loved to dance since she could walk. 


Written by Sherron Watson









Thursday, January 23, 2014

Italian Loaf



This sandwich is a family favorite!

I wanted to share it with you right before the big Super Bowl game coming up on February 2nd.

What I enjoy about this sandwich is that you make it the night before and let it sit all night.  Then when you are ready to eat, you simply pull it out and slice it up like a big pie or pizza.  The wedges look amazing, your guest will be thrilled with the flavors and the best part--you are not spending a lot of time away from the game.  

You did all the work the day before.

As with all of my recipes, I urge you to use the best ingredients to bring out the full flavor and potential of this show stopping meal.

Serve with a few of your favorite side dishes, chips, a vegetable platter and some cold drinks.  You should be set for the game!
ENJOY.




Italian Loaf

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8-10

1 (6-8 inch) round loaf of your favorite bread (Use a gluten free loaf to make this gluten free)
4-6 slices of ham
12-15 slices of Genoa salami
4-6 slices of turkey
10-12 slices of pepperoni
3-4 slices of provolone cheese
3-4 slices of mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup olive medley-recipe below
2 slices of red onion
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
Handful of Arugula or lettuce greens
Dash of olive oil
Dash of balsamic vinegar-your favorite flavor

To prepare bread:  Cut a 5 inch circle in the top of the round loaf of the bread.  Using your fingers, dig out the inside so that you have a hollow shell of crust. Remove any extra bread on the "lid" of your loaf.

Layer your meat and cheese in any order on the bottom. 

To make the olive medley: Buy three different kinds of your favorite pitted olives; add them to a food processor. Pulse a few times.  Add this medley to your sandwich after the meat.

Layer the onions, sun dried tomatoes and fill the top in with your favorite lettuce greens.  

Top the lettuce with a dash of olive oil and vinegar.  Replace the 5 inch circle and wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic wrap.

Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  When ready to serve, slice like a pie. 

Serve with your favorite side dishes and condiments.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake, gluten free

Isabella was trying to help me dish the cake up.  This was something she was doing to try to help me while I was in the kitchen.  SO, here is the final picture.  The cake taste just as good if served beautifully or by a six year old with the most sweetest intentions.  I love you Isabella, my little kitchen helper.


Cake.

This cake is moist, rich and gluten free.

Isabella's finger.  She just could not resist.
LOVE all three of those things when it comes to making a cake from scratch. When I lived in UT, I rarely made cake from scratch. The altitude was impossible to work with and since I had very little experience with baking at 6500 feet, I often found myself not making a cake or buying a cake from the local bakery.

I found the original recipe from Pinch of Yum and converted it to my own gluten free version. I also reduced the amount of sugar by a little bit. I find that some recipes are so sweet and we are trying to be better about our sugar in take. Believe me, the frosting is super sweet and delicious and you won't miss the little bit I took out of the cake.

Converting recipes can be a bit overwhelming because the options that we have when it comes to the flours and starches are many. Through trial and error I have learned a bit about ratio's, what flours work best together and how they work when paired together.

I don't buy any of the all-purpose gluten free flour blends because I want to "mix and match" myself.  I guess I enjoy the challenge.  I do have things that don't work out every once in a while.  This does not bother me though.  It drives me to keep testing and trying new combinations until something clicks.  I am a scientist at heart.

If you are new to gluten free baking I have found several sites that are very useful in describing in detail the flours and starches.  


I also wanted to add my friend, Shirley's site at GFE-Gluten Free Easily.  She is a great source of information in regards to the gluten free community.   She recently shared a link with me about oats and gluten sensitivity.  Here is the link that discusses the process in the US.

There is no shame in buying a gluten free boxed mix, especially when you are new to gluten free baking.  I find them to be very expensive and they rarely go on sale.  So, out of necessity, I decided that I would learn to cook and bake gluten free.  I will be honest in stating that it took me a good two years before I felt comfortable sharing recipes, baking for others and trying my own versions of things.  There is a learning curve but one that with a little bit of practice can be reached with great success.

I find great joy in cooking and baking from scratch.  My family notices a difference in quality of food too.  I feel lucky that they understand the importance of what goes into their bodies and how the food they eat supplies them with nutrition and energy.

I hope you enjoy this flavorful chocolate cake as much as my family did.  

ENJOY!

PS--  This is a funny story about this cake.  I worked on this cake last summer while I was still pregnant.  I have made it several times after that with great success.  I tend to work fast and scribble instead of slowing down and writing out clear instructions and list of ingredients.  Well, I waited almost 4 months before I decided to post the recipe and could not for the life of me read my own writing.  I had to make it again and test the list of ingredients (its baking right now).  So far it looks good and my gut was right.

I find the humor in this because I am often exasperated with my families old recipes because of my inability to decipher the contents;  here I am doing the exact same thing to my kids and future generations.

I learned that I need to slow down, take the time to write it all out and make sure that everything is correct.

In the middle of all of this fine self reflecting, I remembered-- 

I forgot to add the chocolate chips--crap!

I guess I am still a work in progress.  I now need to run upstairs and add the chocolate chips to the unbaked cake.

Final update: The cake turned out just as delicious as before. 

Happy Baking Friends!





Chocolate Oatmeal Cake, Gluten Free
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup almond meal (50g)
1/2 cup white rice flour (85g)
1/4 cup oat flour (31g)
1/2 cup tapioca starch (60g)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup rolled oats  (Like Bob's Red Mill, Gluten Free)
1 1/4 cups boiling water
12 oz bag of chocolate chips
Frosting, see below

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking dish.  The red dish in the pictures is an odd size (7 1/2X11 1/2)  The result is a thicker cake.  When baked in a 9x13 it will be thinner--still good either way!

2.  Boil 1 1/4 cup of water and add the 1 cup of uncooked oats.  Let sit until oats are soft.

3.  In a mixing bowl, combine butter and both sugars.  Blend until smooth.

4.  Add one egg at a time.

5.  Add all of the dry ingredients.  Blend together.  Batter will be thick.

6.  Add the water/oat combination.  Blend well.

7.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Do not over bake.  The top should be soft and spring like to the touch.  See my picture below.  Cool cake completely before adding the frosting (see below for the recipe).




NOTE:  I have made this cake in my Vitamix before and it has turned out well. One thing to note though,  if you add the oatmeal and chocolate chips, they will become very fine and not remain chunky in the cake.  I personally like the texture that the oat flakes have to offer in this cake so when I am not in a hurry I will use my mixer and bowls.  A few more dishes is well worth the extra time.

Frosting Recipe

6 tablespoons of butter, soft
6 tablespoons of milk
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Melt butter in small pan over medium high heat and add milk.

2.  Add sugar and stir well.  Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds.

3.  Turn off heat and add chocolate chips.  Stir until melted.

4.  Pour over the top of the cake and spread as needed.  A smooth crust like surface will appear as it starts to cool.

5.  Serve warm or cool.





Friday, January 17, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Change


On December 21st we picked up my Mom and Step-Dad from the airport for what would end up being a fantastic visit for 10 days.

To be honest: It was nothing like I expected it to be.

I expected the worst.

I expected a lot of tension.

I expected some harsh discussions.

I was wrong!



Let me give you some back ground.  20 years ago my Mom married a man that was 17 years younger than herself.  This was her 5th marriage.  In my mind he was a kid that never grew up.

I will admit, I rolled my eyes a lot during the first few years they were together.  I never expected it to last.

NEVER.

It has though.  They just celebrated 20 years together.

This is a man that has turned into a wonderful Grandpa for my kids.

My kids never knew any of the other men so they don't have a history to remember like I did.  They only know "duck dynasty Santa Claus".  (We heard this a lot during their visit--LOL)

My kids look up to him, adore him and want to spend time with him.  This makes me smile.


I have some fond memories of times that I spent with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I really wanted this for my kids too.  The older kids have had this chance as we have lived around family off and on throughout their childhood.  My little kids may not have this chance.

We moved 3000 miles away from everyone.  This will create a much different environment for my little kids when it comes to being around extended family.

I am grateful for Skype.  With this technology we have been able to stay in touch a few times each week.  Isabella and Finnley will be able to stay connected to their grandparents.

We have not spent a Christmas with my parents in over 9 years.  This past summer they decided to make plans to visit us for  the Christmas break.  If you are familiar with my other updates, you know that I suffer from a bit of anxiety with visitors to my home.  This sent me into crazyville for a few days.

Not to mention my Mom wanted to come for 2 weeks.  WTH!  2 WEEKS--I thought about how much I would be drinking during this time. Kidding (kind of).

We compromised and they booked their flight and stay for 10 days.  Driving to the airport I was shaking with nerves.  I so desperately wanted this visit to be a peaceful one.  I did not want to fight, relive old sorrows and woes or dig up our past encounters (although my first turkey was chatted about AGAIN).  I served a turkey that had a raw center to 20 family members for my first turkey and I will never live it down nor will they, since I had a complete melt down (think Christmas Vacation and Clark in the living room)...LOL   It is one of those moments that is really funny now but wasn't back then.

My kids were so excited to see them at the airport.  We made signs and waited with anticipation as every passenger from the plane passed us by.  Pretty soon we could see them around the corner and we ran to great them.  This was Finnleys first time seeing her grandparents.  She did great.  Not a tear in sight when grandma picked her up and showered her with kisses.

We made it home and started planning our visit.  We were all open to spending time together, playing games and getting ready for Santa's visit.

I know that people can change. I have changed.  I was just hoping that our encounter would not change us back to who we were so long ago.  Family has this strange way of time warping me back to when I was 15 years old.  It doesn't matter how old I get when I am around my Mom or sisters I revert to old habits.  Why is that?  I don't think I am alone because I have seen my husband do it around his family too.  In fact, I would often give him the " what the hell" look when he started acting like a kid again in his Mom's home.  Then I realized I did the same thing.  LOL

Well, I can happily report that we had the best time and I did not spend any time drinking.  Their visit could not have been more perfect (well, of course the winning lottery ticket that night would have been nice--next time).  I felt that my kids will have some amazing memories to pass onto their own families about these two people who they call grandma and grandpa.

So what changed?  For my step dad- I believe-  had a life altering accident one year ago on New Years Day when he wrecked his motorcycle.  He was in terrible shape.  I believe he had a lot of time to reflect on the importance of family and what really matters.  While visiting with us he often commented about how important family is to him and how happy he was to be with the kids.  Happiness and being grateful can definitely change a person for the better.

I personally have mellowed out considerably.  I'm half Irish, I used to be a fighter.  I used to get my shackles up in a ruckus.  I was really uptight when ever I spent time around my family which made me very edgy.  I was prickly.  I was a brat to be honest, especially to the many step dads that I had in my life. I was on guard-a lot.

I vowed that I would not let "grandpa's" come in and out of my kids lives like "dads" did.  I needed to protect my kids.  I was in Momma Bear mode.

It wasn't until right before their visit that it dawned on me that Burler was their only grandpa that they had ever known on my side of the family.  EVER.   I had a new appreciation for the relationship.  I didn't know how much he loved the kids until he came to visit us.  I regret taking so long to be warm and fuzzy to a person that was rough around the edges but had a heart of gold.

Love is something that I don't throw around loosely.  I don't give it freely (except to my kids and husband).  It must be earned and then respected.  Our previous encounters never allowed either of us to be friends first, we were thrust into a situation that was instantly hostile.

Until this visit.

They were on my turf.  In my home.  With my kids.

I had hoped I could control the situation and make it a visit that we would all remember. I believe it was.  Not because I controlled it but because we all could finally relax, love and enjoy each others company without the stress of outside elements intruding on our time together.

I will say that I can't take back the past, the harsh things said in a heated moment from years ago, but I can fill the future with better memories.  I can call more, skype more, have more planned visits together and try with all my heart to make my kids understand that having grandparents that love you is a gift.

Like most families we have struggled, suffered and had strife within ourselves and among each other.

BUT,

We always find our way back.  We find the love that carries us to a higher place and allows us to forgive, laugh, care, smile, praise, enjoy and live.

It is possible to change.

I know this now.

And we had the best Christmas.

We love you Grandma and Grandpa!





Our elf left us a winter wonderland when the kids came down stairs on Christmas Day.  Lots of balloons, snowflakes hung from the ceiling, the tree was covered with tinsel and "snow"...glitter was everywhere.  It was awesome!
















Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Crustini



Easy is what I am looking for in my meals recently.  I also need something that I can make fast.

Holding a baby in one hand has allowed me to get really good at doing things with my left hand and using only one hand.  Not to mention my right arm is getting pretty buff.  Now I need to find the time to work on my left arm or I may look like Popeye pretty soon, or half of Popeye.

The one hand "everything" also applies to eating.  I really can't hold a sandwich very well. The insides seem to be falling out constantly or I spill mayonnaise onto Finnleys outfit or forehead.  She does not like that much.  Speaking of Finnley, here she is at 3 months old.   Her hands are keeping her very busy these days.

So I find that these small crustini appetizers work well for me.  I can buy the baguettes or make my own bread, cut them into small rounds and load them up with what I like.  On this day I chose to mix the sweet flavor of cantaloupe with a bit of mozzarella cheese and Prosciutto.   The melted mozzarella was a nice touch.

MMMMMM, my taste buds were thanking me on this day.  I love pairing sweet with salty ingredients. I also love to add a bit of tartness so I drizzled a few drops of my favorite balsamic vinegar, this month I chose the bordeaux cherry flavor.

Other combinations that I like to use are: cream cheese, ham, chicken salad, fresh herbs, olive oil, sharp cheddar cheese--really, the options are endless.

If you have time, share with me your favorite combination of flavors and textures when you prepare a platter of crustini for your family or friends.


Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Crustini

Prep. Time:  15 minutes
Bake Time:  15 minutes

16 slices of baguette style bread
2 T. olive oil
8 slices of mozzarella cheese, cut in half
1/2 cantaloupe
8 slices of Prosciutto
Flavored vinaigrette, optional
Mint leaves, optional 


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Cut bread into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3.  Bake bread for 10 minutes.  Remove, add 1/2 slice of mozzarella cheese and return to oven for 5 more minutes.  

4.  While the cheese is melting.  Use a potato peeler to make thin slices of cantaloupe.  Cut Prosciutto in half. 



5.  Remove crustini from oven and lay a folded piece of Prosciutto on top of cheese, add folded cantaloupe, top with a small leaf of mint.


Optional:  add a drop or two of your favorite balsamic vinegar. I used Cherry (see picture).

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sifting Through Life: A New Year



It has been a while since my last "sifting through life" update.

I can't believe the holiday season is already gone and I am left sitting here looking at a new calendar for the year 2014.

I have decided to do more writing this year. I miss writing my thoughts down and purging the chaos that swirls around in my mind.  I say chaos because there is a certain amount of insanity that comes from carrying around bewildered thoughts, lost philosophies and mindless wranglings of the soul.

My friend Jamie, from Life's a Feast, recently shared a quote on her facebook page and it has stuck with me for over a week.



A non-writing writer is a monster courting 

insanity.- Franz Kafka, Letters



I find this quote beautiful--full of context in one small,yet simple sentence.

Why would this resonate so strongly within my being?  I believe it is because I don't write.  I don't express my views, share my opinions, stage my course in life through words-through my blog or anywhere else for that matter.  I really only share my true feelings and thoughts with my husband.  


My life took a very different path last year.  Finding out that I was pregnant at 45 was both a shock and a joy.  I wrangled with heart ache each month as it would appear something new was happening within my body that caused many sleepless nights.  The fear I had of expressing those heart wrenching experiences in a written form, only to have to reread them and see there permanence, if something had happened to Finnley--was too much.


Too, too much.


So I did nothing.  I slowed my blog down.  I quit writing.  There were days that I quit thinking.  I could only focus on having a healthy baby. 


Vowing to do anything if only she would be born healthy and happy.

I became consumed with eating the right things,  helping Isabella with school and running my big kids back and forth to work.  I functioned only in the confines of my own home and family.  Anything outside of the walls that I lived in became non existent in my mind.  

I developed a pattern that would allow me to function until Finnley entered this world.  My fear of miscarrying was always in the back of my mind.  I have had several losses and those are very painful experiences.   As I grew bigger with Finnley and I could feel her moving inside of me, my thoughts calmed. The fear became less and less of an obvious occupant of my mind.


Not completely though.  I discovered with this last pregnancy that I held back a little bit, a small section of my heart for this new little love of my life.  I had to be ready, prepared and possibly, capable of detaching myself from the situation, in the event of an unhappy ending.  


Thankfully it went well.  She is healthy and full of life.  I reflect on that time in the delivery room and the moment I saw her for the first time: relief, love, joy and tears spilled abundantly out of me.  It was during this quick moment of realization that I discovered how much I had held back from fully enjoying being pregnant.  Then it dawned on me that I had done the exact same thing with Drake and Isabella.  


I kept a small window open.  I couldn't give it all.  I was afraid.



Fear causes us to do strange things.  We think odd thoughts.  I found myself playing the "what if" game constantly last year.


This is a New Year and I don't want anymore "what-ifs".   I want peace and quiet for my inner self.  I am talking inwardly, not the motion of my family or what work has to contribute to my journey. 


Just peace and quiet for my inner sanctuary so that I can remain present for my kids and husband. Enjoy the now.  Live in the moment.  Go with the flow of energy that becomes like a flame when you see clearly and it shines bright.  

I want to shine. To smile.  To breathe.  To live.

I would never say I wasted 2013 because I did not.  What I did do was put my own goals and ideas on hold for a special addition to join our family.  I still have concerns, heck I am a parent, for my kids, but I also want to find some time for me.  I will always carry concerns and worries about my kids.  I just hope that in 2014 I am a better person than I was in 2013.  I hope that I can manage to do more.


More service, more giving, more developing my talents.  MORE.


I made a list.  I don't usually do this.  I find the older I get, I need list though.  This brain and mind of mine don't seem to store things like it used to.  I have too many people pulling me in multiple directions to keep my thoughts centered on what I hope to accomplish.

My list is:

1.  Write more.

2.  Love and laugh more.
3.  Run a 1/2 Marathon with my friend.
4.  Keep a journal.
5.  Lose 10 pounds (extra baby weight).
6.  Ride my bike.
7.  Play the piano and my flute more.
8.  Be on social media less.
9.  Finish up a few quilting projects.
10. Donate my time to more worthy causes.

These are just personal goals.  I always want to spend more time with my family, make sure Cory and I have date night every week and strive to live a worthy life.

I will continue my Friday post of updates, events, thoughts and pictures with Sifting Through Life entries.

I am excited to write again.




Here is Finnley, so cute and Cabbage Patch kid-like.  Thanks Aunt Shannon for the cute hat.



Written by Sherron Watson



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Merlot Meatballs


Back in October I was sent a gift basket that included a bottle of Merlot, along with cheese, crackers and an apple slicer.  At the time I was tending to Finnley and put the bottle under the cupboard for a later date.  To be honest, I forgot about it until I ventured into the kitchen to make these wonderful creamed mushrooms.

I guess I was in the mood for something creamy and warm.  I ended up on Pinterest scrolling though some easy recipes because I was out of some of the ingredients to make the Creamed Mushrooms.

Bummer.

It was a bummer until I found this recipe for Merlot Meatballs by The Midnight Baker.  They sounded easy enough; plus,  I had the Merlot.

The recipe below has been adapted from the original.  I modified it to fit our families taste buds and to use what I had on hand.

Delicious sums up the end result of this dish.   Pre-made meatballs are easy but I think homemade meatballs taste better.  Here is an easy recipe for Homemade Meatballs that I use quite often with a variety of meatball dishes or this recipe for Turkey Meatballs would work well too.

As with some recipes, they tend to taste a little bit better the next day.  The sauce on the meatballs got a bit thicker and the flavors really shined through.  I enjoyed the meatballs but the sauce was the star of this dish.  I highly recommend that you have some fresh bread  (gluten free bread found here) on hand.


Recipe:  Merlot Meatballs
Adapted from The Midnight Baker

Makes 16/18 meatballs
Prep. Time:  30 minutes

1 bag of pre-made meatballs (16-18 count)
1/2 cup diced mushrooms, small
1/2 cup diced onions, small
2 T. butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Merlot wine
1 1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon honey

Loaf of Italian Bread, optional

1.  Bake meatballs according to package directions.

2.  In a large saute pan on medium high heat, melt butter; add garlic, mushrooms, salt/pepper and onion.  Cook until onion is clear. 

3.  Turn heat down to medium, add wine, cream, honey and parsley.  

4.  Add Meatballs and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened.  Sauce should simmer for at least 15 minutes. The longer it reduces the thicker and creamier the sauce will be.

5.  Serve in a large bowl, over noodles, or in individual serving dishes as an appetizer. 

The sauce is too good to waste, use the bread to sop up every last drop.

Written by Sherron Watson

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