Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Grief

It’s almost impossible to believe, but it has been six years since my mom died. 

Six years without seeing her face or hearing her laugh. Six years of missing her and wishing she was here to watch Meegs grow up. Six years of healing and getting past what is without a doubt one of the two hardest losses in my life. Some days it seems as if she’s been gone forever, and still harder are the days when it feels as if she was only a wonderful dream. 

Grief is a funny thing. For the first few weeks, months and even years after she died I was sad and angry most of the time. The world kept turning and people kept living their lives. In the grocery store people were laughing. LAUGHING! And my mom was gone. How could they?  Friends were complaining about their parents when all I wanted was one day, one hour even, with my mom. 

There was an all encompassing sadness in my life that coloured everything I saw with the same cloudy, gray wash for some time. The first year was about firsts; the first birthday party without her, first day of back to school, first day of autumn, her very favourite season. And then came Christmas. All of the sparkly lights in the world couldn’t shine through this dull haze that hung over my head. I survived that first year, and that’s about it. 

As time passed, how I felt changed. I did not miss her any less, and the hole in my heart didn’t begin to close, but what did happen is it began to change.

The mom shaped hole that was smack dab in the middle of my shattered heart changed shape as I began to glue the shards back in place. Some weeks this fluid shape was gaping wide open, and tears would flow from the moment I woke up until the moment I was finally able to crawl into bed. Other weeks I stuffed that space with work, chores, anything to keep it full. And then one day I realized my “fake it ’til you make it” strategy had actually worked. 

Sure, I missed my mom. I will always have that hole in my heart, but I had finally healed. The ragged edges of grief and pain and longing for my mom were no longer there, and I could think of my mom without crumbling under the weight of the grief. I could tell a story about her without stopping to catch my breath - I actually WANTED to talk about her.  I was no longer avoiding the pain of her death, I was celebrating the joy of her life. At some point, without even realizing it, I had gone through the grieving process and come out the other side. Alive. 

In the throes of real, unbearable heartache it feels as if we will never be able to heal. But you do. In “A Grief Observed” C.S. Lewis compares the death of a loved one to an amputation. You survive, but your life will be forever changed, forever different. This metaphor is perhaps the best I have ever heard to explain what this feels like. She’s gone. I’m here. Life is different. 

There are occasional waves of unexpected sadness, and moments of pain so sharp they take your breath away, but I have found a kind of peace with her death that I never dreamed I would. I continue to heal and talk of the most incredible woman I had the good fortune of knowing and being loved by. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Birthday, Callie May!

Better late than never, right? I missed posting about my sweet niece’s first birthday. I never knew I could love another child as much as I love my own. Only love for this sweet little girl! Happy 1st Birthday Callie May...

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blackberry Lemon Sticky Buns

In this neck of the woods, we have 3 seasons. Rainy season, slightly less rainy season, and blackberry season. And suddenly this year we were hit with a new one: drought season.  After weeks of scorching temperatures and minimal rain, I can't begin to tell you how happy I was to see blackberry season arrive. Sure, there's the fact that it means the rain isn't too far behind, but more importantly...blackberries!

 

With an entire field full of blackberries at my disposal, trying to decide what to do with the inevitable buckets of these juicy berries that end up in my kitchen is a task I am happy to tackle.  There is the always delicious blackberry apple crisp, the classic blackberry pie, and last year's new discovery of blackberry apple sauce (have I mentioned we also have three apple trees in our yard?), but there is nothing more delicious than Blackberry Lemon Sticky Buns. 

 

There are 3 ways to make these Sticky Buns: The Martha Stewart way (hand made from scratch) the Proud-to-present-these-to-the-inlaws-and-never-tell-them-I-used-a-bread-machine way (bread machine dough) anddddddd the it's-too-hot-to-spend-hours-in-the-kitchen-but-I-love-dessert way. I won't tell you which method I subscribe to.  Suffice it to say you can buy frozen bread dough in the freezer section of your local supermarket and no one will be the wiser.  I've used all 3 methods and you truly can't tell the difference. I won't judge you if you go all Martha Stewart and outshine me, I promise.

 

Blackberry Lemon Sticky Buns


Ingredients

  • 2 loaves of frozen white bread dough, or homemade bread dough recipe dough
  • 12 ounces of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 3 cups of frozen blackberries
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 3 tbsp powdered sugar (divided)
  • 3 tbsp milk or cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions 

 

  1. Thaw the frozen bread dough in the fridge overnight (or for 12 hours) or make a double batch of your own bread dough recipe (I wont judge!)  Remove from fridge, cover and let rise for 2 hours. Flour the work surface well and roll the two pieces together into a rectangle of approximately 12” x24” (just eyeball it!)
  2. Mix together the cream cheese, lemon zest, sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the frozen blackberries, cornstarch and 3 tbsp powdered sugar.
  3. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the entire surface of the dough then sprinkle the blackberry mixture over the top. Starting on one long end, carefully roll the dough up into a log.  Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 12 equal pieces. Place the rolls in a parchment paper lined 9 X 13 inch baking dish and allow them to rise for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  After allowing the sticky buns to cool for 15 minutes, remove them from the pan using the parchment paper. Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk or cream and lemon juice. Drizzle this deliciousness over the top of the sticky buns. 
Enjoy!

 
 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Coconut Chicken Casserole

You know how sometimes you make a recipe and think “That was amazing, I can’t wait to make that again" ? Then you forget about it, the piece of paper you write it on disappears, and the recipe is never created again? 

This is one of those recipes.

I only remembered it because I ran across the pictures I took of it for the blog! It was so good, I had to share.  The next step was to dig through my recipe binders to figure out what I did with the scrap of paper I wrote it on.  

Couldn’t find it. 

So now what?   Hmmmm…… Google the ingredients to see if I could find a similar recipe (I had a picture of the ingredients after all). 

Success! Thank you, Martha.  Seems whoever I stole this recipe from, stole if from Martha originally! So, for Martha’s version of the recipe, visit here.

 

Here’s what you  need:

 

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  • 3 pounds of chicken ( I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but any would do) 
  • 1 can of light coconut milk 
  • 1 1/2 cups of veggie stock (original calls for chicken, but I had veggie on hand) 
  • 3 tsp of thai red curry paste (original says 1 to 2 and I’m NOT a fan of spicy food, but 2 wasn’t enough) 
  • 1 cup of jasmine rice 
  • 2 red peppers cut into 3 inch pieces 
  • 12 ounce or so of green beans cut into 3 inch pieces(original calls for 8 but 12 was perfect). You could use frozen if that’s what you have on hand 
  • salt and pepper to taste 

 

Here’s how you put it all together:

You can do this in a dutch oven if you have one, or if you don’t have one, cook this in a large pot.

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, and then transfer to a plate. 

2. Next, add coconut milk, broth, 1/2 cup of water and 3 tsp of curry paste (you can add more later if you don’t find it spicy enough).  Bring to a boil, stir in 1 cup of jasmine rice.  At this stage if place the chicken back on top of the casserole and pour any juices from the chicken on top, put the lid on and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. 

3. Put your bell peppers and green beans on top of the chicken, replace the lid, cook for about 12 more minutes.

It’s that easy. And OH SO tasty.

 

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Impossible to lose the recipe once you’ve blogged it! Try it - you will thank me!

Summer Bucket List

Every summer I come up with a list of things I’d like to accomplish, and every summer I end up disappointed at how little I actually got done.  The list usually includes things like “paint the bathroom” and “lose 30 pounds” and “go camping for a week” (I want to like camping, I really do…) - all reasonable, concrete goals. This summer I took a bit of a different approach. I managed to get all of July and August off, and really wanted to focus on spending the time being happy. 

Happy? I know, seems so simple. Who has to focus on being happy?? Well, THIS GIRL. It’s so easy to just get wrapped up in working, cleaning, LIVING, that you forget to be happy.  So, with that in mind, this is my summer bucket list: 

  • Read. Every single day. Only books I enjoy. 
  • Watch the sunset at least once. 
  • Watch the sunrise at least once.
  • Play more Scrabble with Meegs
  • Sit under the apple tree and read with Meegs as often as possible.
  • Watch the blue moon rise.
  • Watch the stars and identify constellations.
  • Bird watch.
  • Pick blackberries and make some jam with Meegs. 
  • Spend some time at the beach. Reading. Playing cards. Swimming.
  • Spend time around the campfire (thanks a lot, fire ban!)
  • Take a day and hang out in our PJs, watching girly movies and generally having fun.
  • Go for a long drive into the middle of nowhere and have a picnic (We might just do this on Meeghan’s birthday next Saturday.)
  • RELAX.

This might seem a disappointing “bucket list” to those who prefer the kind that involve sky diving and swimming with sharks, but it’s really just perfect in my eyes. Most of these can already be checked off, and the few that remain will be complete before I head back to work and Meegs to school.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August

This has been an atypical summer for us west coasters. Hot and dry weather have been lauded by some as a "real" summer, while still others (ME!) much prefer the cooler, damp summers of years past.

 

As we make our way into August, I'm already mentally preparing for fall. I'm writing this from my picnic table, after finally receiving a showery day. Sweater and pants, but still enjoying Meegs and her friend laughing while jumping on the trampoline. I can hear crickets, but still see blackberries on the vine.

 

You see, August is the best of both worlds. The sun is lower in the sky, and the nights are cooler. We can enjoy what's left of our oft too short summer, and we no longer take it for granted. We start to realize what my ol' buddy Will once wrote: summer's lease hath all too short a date.

 

I had a summer bucket list this year, and I feel like I've made some serious progress. Maybe tomorrow I'll post it on here, and you guys can let me know about your summer bucket lists. In the meantime, I'm content to sit here, soaking up the August-ness of this evening.

 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hard Working Man

We are currently in the process of building a playhouse in our backyard for Meegs to enjoy.  I use the word “we” loosely, because really, Kevin’s building it.  But hey, what’s a project without a supervisor, right? Watching him out the window building what will likely be her very favourite spot in our yard, makes me smile. Smile, and cringe. Watching tar paper rolling off the roof, one-foot-top-wrung-of-the-ladder reaches, and sunscreen-less 30 degree days spent putting up walls are what lead to the cringing. I have to look away or I’d be constantly shouting out the window “be careful!” and “do you want me to hold that ladder?”  I’ve learned that my help, while silently appreciate I’m sure, isn’t as well received as I might hope. 



Meegs often says “Daddy is a hard working man,” and he really is. Much of his spare time is spent doing things to make our life better, or more fun.  It’s easy to forget how much time and effort it takes to do what he does, and it’s equally as easy to ask “What’s wrong? You seem cranky. What can I do to help?” when all that hard working Daddy really wants is a nap. Because 3 am comes early every morning, and those of us with the luxury of the summer off tend to forget that he continues to work before the crack of dawn, in addition to building the house that childhood dreams are made of.


An overnight visit with my aunt was on Meegs’ agenda for the last 2 days, and while Kevin (frighteningly) puts the roof on the playhouse, I sit on the porch reflecting on how legitimately thankful I am that he is ours. Because after all, he’s a hard working man.