Thursday, March 14, 2013

Good News Thursday

Judy L. has asked for good news blogs to be linked to her blog here.  I have been posting such sad news on my blog lately this is a good time to change and post some happy news.

Since September of 2012 we have been dealing with loosing both of my parents and if you have gone through this you know the mourning actually starts long before the death.  It begins when you notice changes that are not good.  You make hard decisions as you try to adhere to their wishes and still please everyone else.  Sometimes this means stepping on toes of those in charge of healthcare, but when you have the the Durable Power of Attorney and know the written wishes of someone I feel it is important to follow those wishes. We are still dealing with bills, cancelling things and changing names on stuff.

I had lived with my retired parents since I moved to KY in 1984.  The house is three level with three bathrooms and two kitchens up to a possible 5 bedrooms and two living room/den. Naturally with just three of us living here I had a sitting room, sewing room, bedroom and bath of my own.  I could of had a kitchen also, but we decided it was not need for me to cook only for myself.

Almost 11 years ago I married my dear husband Bill.  When we told my parents we were getting married my parents asked us to live with them.  At the time I was thinking they wanted us to be able to save up some money, but soon learned that unknown to all of us we would each soon have some health issues.  These started with me, then my Dad, my husband while the whole time my Mom was working on dementia which went unnoticed until it was too late.

Now for the good news of this blog.  I am now the owner of my parents house.  This actually happened about 3 years ago, but that is another long story.  Mom and Dad both had to go to nursing home. We knew neither would ever come home again, so we began the long slow process of sorting through things first in the garage.  Almost everything my Dad used for gardening, mowing, general household upkeep had major problems.  The lawn tractor was given to our neighbor as payment for helping us.  It took him almost two years to figure out how to tractor started and stay started.  Bill and I do not know how to fix mechanical things.  We found saws, drills, sanders etc. that did not work, including some items I bought when I owned my first house.  Needless to say we had a lot of sorting to do.  Our neighbor knew how to prepare things for recycling to get the most money out of them.  He also knew people who may need an item that just needed a little repair.  Since by this time both parents were in the nursing home money was needed.  My Dad never disposed of anything, broke or not.  We are now on our second time of going through everything.

Some of the interesting things we found were home made items.  My Dad turned bowls and candle holders and made other items.  My Mom did all kinds of crochet, embroidery, rug hooking and many other crafts.

Since my Mom had dementia every book may have something in it that means something to me, including pictures I have never seen, recipes that have been lost for years and sometimes patterns of  items that are incomplete.  Since my Mom taught me how to crochet and embroider our stitches are similar and I am going to try to finish what she started.  The most surprising items of my Mom's crafts was some quilt blocks.  I taught her how to piece and do some applique. She continued to try new items that I didn't know she did on her own.  Other then the things found in books it appears my Mom organized her crafts.  Much is in the back of a closet in plastic boxes, bags other boxes etc.  I will go through those items last, after I have all my sewing located in one spot.

So even though I sometimes sit and cry looking at a picture, picking up something either my Mom or Dad made, a note that was important to one or the other that I may not understand. The important thing I feel it is a healing for me plus it is allowing us to change the house from my parents house to Bill and my house.  We just changed a few things on the level of the house my parents lived.  The two main things was removal of the carpet that should have been changed years ago and putting down laminate.  Second was recovering the counter tops in the kitchen 
with Rust-oleum Counter Top Transformation. You can also see the floor.  The old counter top under that black flicked with grey and white was a light imitation butcher block 1970's top.  What a change it made in the kitchen for about $250.00 and a little work.

So to shorten this blog, we transformed the house with a lot of work but not much money from my parents house to Bill and my house.  Work is also being outside by cutting down trees, removing a lean-to type shed we don't need and general clean-up of the yard.

It does feel good that we are almost done with the actual work and that will just leave the clean up and reorganizing our stuff.

It also feels good to have good neighbors and friends who helped us even when I would have a melt down. They gave me a hug as I cried, even the two year old held to me with a hug when I had my last melt down about a month ago.  I will never forget his hug, because I was sitting on the floor crying and he would not let me go until I stopped.  I am sure his Mom was proud of him as she stood there and watch not wanting to disturb that moment.  Love is powerful and I feel love all around me!



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Loved You Aunt June

June Smith, my Aunt and wife of my Dad's younger brother I
called Uncle Skip went to be with our Lord today.  I remember Aunt
June as a fun loving, happy person.  She was a talented artist and did
many crafts.

While I was growing up I remembered traveling to visit my Aunt June
and Uncle Skip.  At the time they lived some where near the Indiana/Michigan
border near Elkhart, IN and Edwardsburg, MI.  One of these two places my Uncle
would wait on the overpass bridge to see our car go under the bridge and he would
hurry home to let Aunt June know we would be there in just a few minutes. She
would have lunch or dinner on the table when we arrived.  Aunt June at this time
was not known for her cooking, but we never went hungry are their house.
She said  "One pot pie for everyone except Mel (my father) and he would get two
pot pies." There was always bread and bologna and some type of spread for the
other meal.  She could also make Spaghetti.

Usually when I visited her we would do a craft of some type.  One time she had me
color a page in a regular coloring book.  I thought "OK, what's the big deal."  Then we
removed  the page from the coloring book and PAINTED the page with what I think
was mayonaise right out of the jar.  I remembered spreading it with my fingers.  The
results were beautiful.  The page had a sheen to it and the crayons seemed to blend
with each other.

Sometimes while we were visiting both Uncle Skip and Aunt June would be away
from the house for the day.  I think they were both working, but I am not sure.  While
they were away I would help Aunt June doing things around the house for her.  She
never asked me to do anything, but I just did it, including one time cleaning her oven
for her.  She was real happy of anything I did for her.  Sometimes my mother and I
would cook a meal while they were gone.

Since most meals were served on paper plates, to save on cleanup, we sometimes
did crafts with paper plates.  We made flowers, spinners and even colored scenes
on the plate.

Uncle Skip moved with his job a couple of times.  The first that I remembered well
was to Erwin, TN.  We would go visit them there taking what were the best roads
of the day.  The highways were mostly 2 lanes, up and down "mountains" with very
scenic vistas. Then we would start the decent down the mountain into town and we
turned into a drive of this cute, little house.  Once inside the house I realized it wasn't
that little.  It just looked small and cute due to the huge mass of hills that surrounded
the town.

One time we took my Grandmother down to stay with Aunt June and Uncle Skip.
They were expecting their first child.  Grandma stayed to help Aunt June with the
new baby boy.  We always thought the move from MI to TN and the change in altitude
allowed Uncle Skip and Aunt June to start their family.  I know they had another
boy, but I believe a baby girl passed away at a very very young age.

Their next move was from TN to Florida.  That was a new experience for us visiting
FL during the winter months.  We picked citrus fruit off the trees in their yard.  We
also went to Plant City and walked around the farmer's market buying all kind of
fruit and vegetables.

They had a large yard and we learned to check the tops of door frames before walking
out the door, because sometimes snakes would lay up there.  That was where I discovered
how noisy armodilos were at night, digging right under my window.  They also had
fire ants in the yard we had to watch out for when out walking.  The cows pastured
next to them loved oranges.  The one animal I didn't like that sometimes came to visit
was the wild boars.  They were know to be mean and would make a mess of the yard.

Their next house was my favorite.  It was in a neighborhood, but the lots were large
The house has a sun room near another large room.  It was a great place to have family
reunions. My Dad's family gathered there a few times while everyone was still healthy.
We stayed with Aunt June and Uncle Skip a few times.  That was the first time that
I was able to use a walk in shower that didn't need a shower curtain or door, because
the shower area was larger then our entire bathroom.

It has been over 10 years since I have seen Aunt June and Uncle Skip.  Health issues
kept us apart.  I have fond memories of my Aunt June and my heart goes out to my
Uncle Skip and cousins Dwayne and Scott.  Bless you Aunt June.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Only the Apples Know!

This week Judy L is looking for recipes using Orange Juice.  We were invited out to a friends house for dinner and I decided to make a cake.  I decided to make a Jewish Apple Cake.  My friend from Maryland gave me this recipe years ago, but since my husband doesn't eat apples I have not made it in years.  The family we were going to see likes apples and it makes a huge cake that is to go into a tube pan or bundt pan, but since I am sharing this cake I made it in two loaf pans.

Jewish Apple Cake

4 large tasty Apples, peeled and sliced
2 t. Cinnamon
1/4 c sugar
Mix together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together in large bowl
3 c sifted flour
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 1/4 c sugar

Add to dry mix and mix in all at one time
1 c oil
4 eggs, unbeaten
1/3 c orange juice
2 1/2 t vanilla

Grease and flour tube, bundt or 2 loaf pans.
Pour half of the cake mixture into bottom of pan(s).
Top cake with half the apple mixture.  Top with rest
of cake mixture and then the remaining apples.
Bake in 350 degree oven 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until cake
starts to pull away from side of pan.

Cool and remove from pan.
Serve plain or with a touch of whipped cream.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cinnamon Toast Memories

I have been sick with a cold type thing that just doesn't want to give up.  Judy at Patchwork Times
challenge this week was cinnamon.  I love cinnamon.  Plus cinnamon has great health factors, but not the way I like it the most.

When I was a child my Mom would give us cinnamon/sugar on buttered toast.  I loved it and thought my Mom was tops when she would make me cinnamon toast on days she also served something I didn't like, such as plain scrambled eggs.  She would make the toast, butter it and sprinkle it with a little while sugar and ground cinnamon.  No measuring, no consistency but good.  Sometimes when the cinnamon was new we would get too much cinnamon and not enough sugar.  That would make the cinnamon a bit bitter to my taste, but still good.

Mom's cinnamon toast was great through my first year of college.  Back during the fall of 1969, my dorm closed and I had to go to a different dorm.  This was a shock to my small town girl system.  The woman's dorm was large, but also sat right on top of a men's dorm of the same size.  We all ate in the same cafeteria. That was a lot of people to feed all with in a short period of time.  The food was for the most part very good.  We usually had several options for each meal and back in those days if was served by order as one walked through the line.  Everyday at breakfast Cinnamon Toast was available.  It was the last item in the line, so some days I didn't get it, because of french toast, a sandwich offer etc, but most days I had Cinnamon Toast.

Now I know why I gained weight my second year in college.  This toast was to die for.  I didn't care it it was the first piece off the tray or the last piece, slightly cold, it was still good.

My way to make this cinnamon toast is to make a Cinnamon Butter.

Soften 1 stick of butter
Add 1/2 cup brown sugar (may be white or combination)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (more of less to your taste)

To make the toast preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread white bread, day old is preferred, with cinnamon butter on one side.  Place on cookie sheet.  Place in oven about 10 minute or until bubbly.

This can be made in large amounts for guest breakfasts.  If just making one or two pieces in a toaster oven toast one side first then broil the cinnamon butter until bubbly.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Homegrown Louisiana Cooking

Last week I made my version of Shrimp Creole.  As with most recipes I change them to my liking.  I made plenty so we shared some with a couple we talk with during the mornings at one of the local restaurants.  They loved it.  He had some for lunch, dinner and lunch the next day.  The next thing I know he brought me a book to read, Justin Wilson's Homegrown Louisiana Cooking.  The book has 270 pages of what I would say is Louisiana and Justin Wilson history via the influence of food.  

Each chapter begins with a story about Louisiana.  Some are historic, some are about the influence of nature and why certain foods are used, but most chapters also mention the people of Louisiana and the importance of food in the culture.

There are many recipes that sound so good and the recipes are well explained in detail of the process.  Some recipes include pictures, but most don't.  Some of the ingredients I don't have access to, because it is wild game and we don't hunt.  We have friends who hunt, but not all the items he offers in recipe form.  Some items I don't eat.  I am sorry I don't eat oysters.  I have tried them, but I didn't like them.  I will try most everything once or twice, but if I don't like it I just don't eat it again.

I did notice Wilson cooks with wine, which I like the flavor in cooking, but we don't have any.  I guess I need to get some for cooking.  Some items he talks about we do not have available in our stores.

I really enjoyed the chapter about sauces and gravies.  He points out that many recipe assume you either know how to make a particular sauce or it is available at your local market.  I like making things from scratch, so when I saw his recipes for sauces I was happy.  Many of his sauces are similar to the way I make then, but they  may have an ingredient or two that I have not included in my recipe.

I also liked that he has recipes to use leftovers.  My husband and I will eat leftovers.  Sometimes cold, sometimes reheated, but most of the time I make something different from the leftovers.  Tonight was one of those nights.  I had left over country ribs that I started in the crock pot with onions and seasonings.  I saved all the juices and onions and the left over bar-b-que pork meat.  I sliced it back into the juice.  We had two pieces of rib steak that may have weighed 3/4 lb and last night we had one hamburger left over.  So this is what I did with the leftovers.

Leftover Surprise

Cut up leftover meats to bit size that you have saved all leftover juices and vegetables from the original cooking.
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can of peas or vegetable of your choice
1/2 to 3/4 cup sour cream
 3/4 to 1 lb of spaghetti or noodles

Start by cooking the spaghetti or noodles according to package directions.  I used spaghetti, so it cooked in 8 minutes after adding it to boiling water.  While waiting for the water to boil I was cutting my meat and heating the juices and mushroom soup.  I added the spaghetti to the water and also the meat to the juices to warm.  Right before my 8 minutes was up I added the peas to the juice, soup and meat mixture.  I drained the spaghetti, added the sour cream to the meat mixture and I then combined the spaghetti and meat sauce.  This was a less then 15 minute meal to make, using leftovers, but if your juices and or gravy was good during the first meal the mixture is good enough to serve to company.  Maybe keeping the meat mixture and noodles separate with a salad on the side.  We each had two helpings and have enough left over for someone to have lunch tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who Want's Some Slop?

When I married 10 1/2 years ago I learn that my husband Bill came into the marriage with some new  ideas for meals.  One day he came to me and said "My sister Phyllis used to make Slop for dinner, can you make some for us?"  Number one, Slop in my mind was what people used to feed their pigs.  I asked him to tell me what were the ingredients.  He told me and I made some Slop.  It was good for a fast meal that was easy to make.  So here is my version of Slop.

1 to 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 chopped onion
salt and pepper and/or other seasonings
2 cans cream corn

Brown the ground beef and cook out the water.  Remove the excess fat if needed.  Add the onions and cook until they are clear.  Add seasonings, stirring well.  Stir in the creamed corn. Serve.

We like to serve our Slop over home made Mashed potatoes.  A friend of ours made his, adding a bit of garlic to the Slop and served it over Hash Browns.  Others use a pasta as a base.  I have seen recipes that also add green peppers, tomatoes, and seasonings for certain regions or the world.  This could be made into a casserole by layering whatever you are serving the slop with and the slop.  Basically Slop can be made to your liking to serve immediately or make one day and serve the next.

Here are my pictures of the process.  I can say once Slop is stirred it isn't all that pretty,  but it tastes good.

See what others have done with Creamed Corn by going to Judy L's blog

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Teacher, My Guide and My best Friend, My Mom

December 17, 2012 my dear Mother passed away. She died of natural causes, at the age of 87 years, 2 months and 21 days. Her death did not come as a surprise, because she and my Dad were very close and he passed away on September 3, 2012. I always said once they were older, "If one passes away the other will follow soon".

 My Mom, Margaret Matjasic Smith, was not only my Mother, but my teacher, my guide, and the best friend I have ever had. She showed by example how to be a good person. She allowed me to be at her side when she was cooking, cleaning, entertaining and sewing/crafting. My Mom was Croatian and knew how to make from scratch foods that most people, even back when I was a child, would buy at the grocery store. She taught me how to make noodles, strudel including the very thin dough that is stretched instead of rolled thin, and many types of bread products. We also cooked the majority of our meals from scratch. She knew how to take a tough piece of meat and made it tender. When we were poor she could stretch whatever we had in the house to feed four or more. When someone stopped by, expected or not, they would get a fresh cup of coffee or tea and something to eat. It may be a piece of her great homemade pie, I could not begin to tell you what kind, because she made many varieties, or a complete meal if it was that time of day.

 While many of my friends were getting up and trying to find something to eat before school, my mother made sure my brother and I was up, dressed in clean clothes and ate breakfast. We would watch out the kitchen window for our bus to cross the railroad tracks and then we would get our jackets on and wait for the bus to travel the half mile or so to our house on the edge of town. Some of my Dad's jobs required him to be at work very early in the morning, so Mom would get up and make him breakfast and usually a lunch to carry with him. We usually ate dinner as a family, late afternoon when Dad arrived home. If one of us had to do something that caused us to get home later than the usual dinner hour leftovers were kept warm for when we arrive. My Mother worked in the garden, helped with all the yard work, painted walls and trim, kept a clean house, washed clothes with a wringer washer and hung them out on the line in the backyard to dry. I love the smell of clothes dried on the clothes line in the middle of winter or on a windy day. Even after we got a dryer she would still hang some of the laundry outside. My Mom was my Dad's helper when he was building our house, repairing our cars, and even helped him study when he was trying to further his education. She also went fishing with us and attended games and other activities, just to morally support her family. My Mom would work the polls during elections and helped to make the major decisions of a growing household. On occassion my Mom worked outside of our home to help with the household budget, but for the most part she did things that would make the money my Dad was bringing home go further then expected. I was always a designer. My dolls had clothes made from scraps of the clothing my Mom would make for me. She first taught me how to sew by hand, and then at the suggestion of a neighbor Arta (sp), my Mom taught me how to use her pedal singer sewing machine, that I still own. She encouraged me to move from making doll clothes to making my own clothes. Before I moved away from home I was making clothes for everyone in the house, making drapes, reupholstering furniture. She also taught me to crochet, embroidery, weave and many other crafts. She helped with the troop when I was in Brownies and Girl Scouts. Throughout the year Mom was always making sure we had plenty of items canned or frozen. I remember helping pick and freeze strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, rhubarb and apples for pies. We would also make jams, jellies and butters. We would can peaches, pears, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and even pork. Sometimes when we had a variety of vegetables she would also can soup.

 One day my Dad went to an auction. He bought live chickens, I don't know how many, but there were a lot of them. He was working nights at the time. When he got up in the morning he would kill a certain number of chickens and hang them up on the famous clothes line to drain the blood. Then before the morning was over Mom and I would pluck the chickens and freeze this selection of birds. The smell is something that will be with me forever. Sometimes Dad would go hunting or fishing. Mom knew how to cook whatever he brought in and it was always good.

 Mom's favorite flower was the rose. So we had roses all around house. Our front flowerbed had red and white climbers, yellow, red, white, pink and peace regular roses. The same was true in the back yard, but unless you came to visit, most would not know they were there. One of the favorite places at our house during summer evenings was the back yard. When we were young my brother and I had the standard swing set. Mom and Dad would sit in their chairs or at the picnic table while we played. After we out grew this type of swing our old swing frame was used for the long wooden swing many could sit on. It became one of the favorite places to visit with friends and relatives. Our house was always open for friends and family. Many stayed overnight, some moved in during times of need. My favorite guest for many years was my grandmother on my Dad's side. My Mom took care of her making sure she had a room of her own, food to eat clean clothes, etc just like us kids. Mom even took care of her wounds when she had operations and nursed her when she was sick. Granny had her own life and would go places to play Bingo usually with one of her Daughters. Sometimes she would go to stay with one of her other children. This may be for a week, a month or maybe longer, but her home base was our house until my parents decided to moved to KY.

 When I was in Junior High and High School, Mom and I would walk to the bus stop at least once a month on a Saturday morning. (Mom did not drive.) We would take the bus to downtown Hammond, IN to go shopping. Lots of time this shopping was window shopping, but sometime we would get something we could not buy in our little town. Usually our trip included a movie. I remember people commenting that when we were together we looked and acted more like sisters rather than mother and daughter. Once a year we made that special trip on the train to downtown Chicago, IL. This trip was always after the Christmas decorations were up in all the windows of the many department stores that used to be located there. That was such fun having a mother daughter day. Mom also often times went on the many field trips we had at school. We went to museums, zoos, special activities all over the area.

 Often in the spring and summer we would go on picnics. Mom would make special salads and desserts and Dad would cook the meat and sometimes vegetable. These picnics were sometimes just in the back yard, but sometimes at "far" away places like Lake Michigan or Kankakee River. One time we even went on a picnic when we still had snow on the ground. One of the special things about my Mom was her family. They mostly live in or near Cleveland, OH. This was always our big trip when I was young.

Her father Mathew came over from Europe as a young man. He married and had two children, my Uncle and my Mom. I never knew my Grandmother as she died while my mother still lived at home. My Grandfather married twice after that, so the only Grandmother I really knew was his last wife, Mary. She was also a special woman willing to share what she knew about cooking and sewing. Now my Grandfather is what I call today a character. He loved life and I think he taught my mother much as she was growing up. I know he taught her the love of roses. He also taught my Dad how to graph fruit trees and start roses from old plants.

 The sad part of my Mom's life was her dementia. Several years ago we notice that she was not herself. She spent more and more time in her chair. She would organize and reorganize her recipes, but could never find what she was looking for to make for dinner. I was doing more and more things that she used to do. She no longer liked to go on road trips, out to eat or even shopping. Keeping the check book and getting the bill paid was impossible. "Burnt offerings" became common meals when she was cooking. Even talking on the phone or visiting with people who would stop by was hard on her. The last time my Brother and family visited while she was still at home she said when they left "I don't know who those people were, but I am glad they are gone". How sad is that! I became the "lady downstairs!", but she knew my husband Bill. We had other times when we meet with friends or relatives and she had no idea who she was talking to all day. She used a walker for years due to knee problems, but looking back on the whole thing it may have been her dementia. One day while she was alone she put a plastic container that had a gelatin salad in it into a heated oven. Fortunately we caught all the times she did things like this before she caught the house on fire. Then she started falling. She would never hurt herself as she would roll when she fell. At first Dad could get her up, but then it would take Dad and someone else. Then it would take Bill and I until the day even Bill and I could not get her up. That was the day we had to call for professional help. They managed to get her up and took her to the hospital and that was the last day she was at home. She had a sever Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), but didn't have the normal signs of the infection. She spent over a week in the hospital and they transferred her to the nursing home for rehab. They planned to teach her how to walk again and to do things safely. She could not learn how to walk. Her brain didn't know left and right and her temper would get in the way of her trying. They stopped the rehab once she was evaluated and it was determined she had sever dementia and recommended that we allowed her to stay in the nursing home for her safety and ours. After long discussions and evaluations of the home situation we decided the best place for her was the nursing home. She was not there too long when she had a broken hip. She told me at the time that the pain was worse than giving birth. They had to so some test before they could give her pain medicine etc. After she had the hip replacement surgery she was no longer in pain and didn't remember the trip to the hospital. Sometimes she knew Dad and sometimes she didn't. Sometimes she knew me and sometimes she didn't. Most of the time she knew Bill, but towards the end she didn't. She had a reoccurring UTI, they would treat at the nursing home with antibiotics. Right before she died she had a bladder infection that put her into the hospital. Every time we visited her she didn't know we were there, but she was carrying on a conversation that we could not understand. She did go back to the nursing home and she was never awake when I went to visit her. Her last day was a good one. She got up, ate breakfast, talked to the aids and nurses, had her hair fixed at the in home beauty shop and passed away during a nap.

 Mom I love you and miss you,

 The "Lady down stairs" your Daughter Peggy