Wednesday, February 11, 2015

It's My Biannual "I'm Not Dead Yet" Post

::waving furiously::

Just being goofy!

If you are on FB or talk to me via email - most of you know I'm still alive and kicking - but not everyone does that, and I truly understand - but thought I better get something up here and let you all know I am thinking of you. 'Cause I am Tadpoles - I most certainly am.

It has been an exhausting last couple of months.  Steven is at the end of his tether with all of the woes associated with my health and the cost of it all. Meanwhile, I am plain old worn out from being sick.

I am so tired of being sick - and having it define every step I take every moment of every day. I am weary of talking about it. I am nauseous looking at our bills from it and lay awake nights knowing come March 30 our health insurance rates go up, and a new round of deductibles kicks in, so we start over again.

If it wasn't for the generosity of a very loving Tadpole, Bizzy -  we would have had no hope of a Christmas for Evelyn, nor would I have had my most valuable and expensive medication these past few months.  What is so surprising about it all is I have no idea how Bizzy knew we were in such dire straits, but these surprise packages would show up randomly in the mail [snowmen included! :) ] just when I thought all hope was lost.  She is truly an answer to all the prayers I say at night. Thank you Bizzy - I truly have no words for the extension you have given us.

Speaking of special packages in the mail. My sweetheart of a friend and Tadpole, Mare, went on vacation for 3 weeks to Key West Florida. Not only did I receive  daily updates via email of her consumption of Key Lime Pie [all time favorite] but she sent me the coolest care package from FL - including a pamphlet on manatees and a t-shirt that I had to hide from Evelyn. giggle Thank you Mare - truly brightened my dreary days.

So - comes the hard part of this post.   Steven and I have come to a very difficult decision, knowing we have to keep all the insurance we have and be able to afford my medications.

We have to move. Again.  We already left Sterling, VA two years ago because we couldn't afford the cost of living after our landlords needed their house back and we couldn't find another one in the same range.  So we moved 100 miles from Steven's work just to be able to afford a place to live, not realizing 6 months after we moved in our insurance rates would double and then our deductibles for doctors' visits, medications and hospitalizations would go beyond the stratosphere.

We can't afford both this house and my [sketch] health.  Sometimes I look at Steven and say "Sorry I didn't die already. This wouldn't be a problem and you could keep the house."  I cry as I write that because it does sound pathetic, but I understand what I am costing my family. And it crushes me, because I know, I DO KNOW, that they would rather have me here than gone. But what good is being here for them if we can't keep a roof over our heads.

We could handily afford this home when we moved in, otherwise we wouldn't have gotten it. We have 0 - yes ZERO credit card debt. We pay for our home, the utilities [electric, water, house phone and internet] one car payment [Oscar] and car insurance.  We don't go on vacations. We don't buy clothes or presents or go out to eat - ever. This is the first year since I had kids that they didn't [in this case, just Evelyn] get new school clothes for school. I just don't understand why, except that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies are greedy bastards and we are suddenly lower middle class because of it.

Please don't misunderstand - I am, I truly AM grateful for all that I have, but I don't get this. How can my husband have worked so hard for 4 decades, be 4 years from retirement and by the time we get there he won't have anything to retire on?

I have searched high and low for a place to cut our housing expense, but keep Steven close to his work. We can forget the "close to work" part of this equation. It simply can't be done. Nothing within less than a hundred mile radius is cheaper than the home we live in now.  And we have agreed with Emily graduating and Evie going off to college we we would downsize to a 2 bedroom, 1 bath if we could find something that cut our costs and we could get closer to work.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!  I have been looking for over 6 months, and the bottom line is - you are just gong to love this - the closest I can get Steven to work and cut our payments on housing down is to move him and me to Harrisonburg, VA. Why is this so funny to me? It is the town where Emily's college is located.  The town where we have been visiting her for 5 years. Nice town. BUT? We have found a few condos that would suit our needs [of size and cost] but it is 115 miles from my husband's work.

I am sure some of you are questioning why Steven doesn't simply find new employment. First, he has been in this business for almost 40 years. It is a specialized industry and to be able to afford health insurance, he needs to work where the $$ is - meaning where the pools are. There are not a whole lot of expensive, in ground pools in central Virginia.  Second, as I mentioned, he is 59 years old [in July] and in his industry he is quite well known and could find a job BUT it would be in the same geographic location of the one he has now [remember, nice expensive pools that people pay a lot of money to have others play pool cleaner].  We did talk about him branching out and trying to find a job in management in another field, since he has been in the office managing for 30 years, but no one wants to hire a 59 year old man, regardless of his experience especially if he hasn't worked in their industry.

See the problem here?  And if it sounds as though I am whining, so be it - I'm not. It's just the explanation of the reality of our life right now.

I am a fortunate woman in that I have the love and support of my Tadpoles and my family. In addition I have my faith - these things sustain me. More than anyone realizes I think, because somedays I fall asleep, despite the pain and hope that it's the last time I close my eyes.  I know what I have, I do sweet friends - but it's getting so hard to sustain it while we ponder a future we never realized we were going to have.

Thanks for listening - I have lots of new recipes and tidbits to share, but this is foremost in my mind. So this is whatcha' get. ::wink::  I am Skippy - I will always be Skippy - and the 'ol me shall return. Soon. I am sure of it.

Thank you again. We'll see ya' on the flipside froglets and don't forget to smile loudly. Life is truly a gift.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How Do I Say This

I don't blog so much, but I do read and comment on your blogs. At least I try. Mostly I stay on FB, because I find it is less taxing and easier on my hands and my brain fog.

I do keep up. With you all, even if I don't say anything in comments. Some of us have been friends for over a decade. Wow. That's a long time, isn't it?

Yet, be it a year or ten - you, my Tadpoles, are my friends. You have stayed fast and true. You have been supportive and loving, funny and sarcastic. You have made me laugh until it hurt and. . .

Your lives have brought me sadness. Not through any act of your own, or anything you can control, but because I truly love you and love your families.

I have watched your kids grow up, some even getting married, having babies. I have rejoiced in your birthdays and your anniversaries. Graduations, deployments for those in the military. . .the list is endless. But, as you have been there for me, I have done my best to be there for you too. There is nothing better than being able to cheer your happy.

But? Life. . .  and death have an awful way of sneaking up on us. Doesn't it?

My last post I wrote about being so terribly sad over a friend I knew was hurting that I disappeared into the kitchen to bake away the hurt I felt for her and her family.

You see . . .our lovely and dear friend Beth, Bizzy - from My Bizzy Kitchen - has suffered a loss that is completely unimaginable to me.  He husband, known as Tony on her blog, passed away a few short weeks ago.  Through the last weeks of his life Bizzy never faltered in her devotion to her husband [of 14 years] not only working, but travelling great distances to be with him while he was in the hospital.

Bizzy and I talked via FB/private message and email. Tony had two conditions that I also have - Congestive Heart Failure and liver failure - mine being a genetic condition, Tony's LF due to his heart.  A lot of what they were treating Tony for in Illinois, they are working on my sketchy body here in Virginia. I tried the best I could to answer Bizzy's questions, but it wasn't until recently that I realized that Tony was much more sick than I am and more than even the doctors had told her or her husband.

Sigh.  One of the things we discussed were transplants. Since I am waiting on one, Bizzy explained that Tony was waiting on [first] a liver transplant. But then the doctors said he would need a heart transplant. Ooookay. Both? Okay....well it still looked promising, but then?  His kidneys started to fail due to his heart. They mentioned that now it would be three transplants.

He was in the hospital on kidney dialysis, awaiting a transplant when the doctors told Bizzy that Tony's heart just wasn't strong enough for anything more to be done and that she should take him home, to hospice. I can't even write the words "take him home to die" because who can do that? HOW do you do that? [Ugly cry commencing now.]  I don't know that I could if it was Steven, but Bizzy is Bizzy and she's amazing.

It was a Friday when Bizzy told me they had Tony home and comfortable.  I was alone, in my house, waiting for Steven and Evie to come home. Of course I was crying. Crying for the unbearable pain I know Bizzy, Tony and the family were facing, but also because of the unfairness of it all.

Let me stop for a moment and say something. . .I am doing a sucka** job describing any of this, and for that I apologize. It's one of the reasons I didn't do this post sooner. I used to be very good at getting my thoughts down on this dang computer, but it isn't as easy as it used to be. I love Beth and Tony with all my heart and I hope I can relate this in a way that honors their love and life together and what a terribly awful thing I think this is. Perhaps others or even Bizzy sees it in another way, but I just don't know.

All you Tadpoles know I believe in God. You also know I believe in the power of prayer. Bizzy and Tony were prayed for from all corners of the world, including this little 'burg, and I can't say prayer failed, but I have to say I was truly surprised when Bizzy called me to tell me Tony was coming home.

Steven walked in from work and found me sobbing. Although he knew that Tony was doing poorly, he initially thought it was one of our kids. I don't think he wanted to hear what I said.  Nope. Evie pulled him aside and whispered in his ear what was happening and he came over to put his arm around me. And do you know what the only thing I could say, between heaving sobs and the snotfest I had going on? The only thing I could say was. . .

"It is just black words, on a white screen. They are just pictures on a page. These people aren't real."

And I kept repeating it, and do you know why?  I wanted it to be true. If just for that day. To take away all the pain and be able to pretend that the Velantis weren't real and their pain and Tony's death weren't going to happen.

Sounds awful doesn't it?  I know better - God knows I know better - but it was my last defense to take away the pain I knew my friends were feeling. I was scared for them and DAMMIT I am 1,500 miles away, so pretending they weren't real seemed to make sense to me. I felt [still feel] so powerless.

So 48 years old of me, right? I know..."Janine, grow the eff up." Steven gave me a little shake and told me what I was saying was wrong and that trying to discount the realness of Bizzy, Tony or any of you wasn't going to do anyone any good. Everytime I said it, he would respond "No, Janine. You know better."

After cleaning myself up I explained to Steven that since Tony was home, dialysis had been stopped so ....I can't even write it. Sorry. You guys know.

What I can't believe, and what I will be forever grateful for, is that Bizzy took the time to phone me the day her beloved husband died. She told me that she didn't want me to read it online. I actually couldn't believe she had the strength to think of anyone outside of her big, loving and supportive family. [Bizzy's whole family is amazeballs btw - makes sense considering how wonderful she is.] I love her for that and she taught me such a great lesson in love, compassion and friendship.

I truly wanted this post to be a tribute to the love story that is Tony and Bizzy's life together. If you want to read about and see what true love really is - and what a great friend we all have in Mrs. Velanti - you only need to go and visit her at My Bizzy Kitchen . Most of you already know Bizzy, because I honestly believe she is the best cook I have ever met. Not only that - she is one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met.

I am blessed that she shares her life and Tony's life with me and for that I will [also] always be thankful.

Do me a favor, if you have a moment - please go over and share the Tadpole love I know that you all are so beautiful for and do so well.

I'll see you on the flipside. And never forget. . .Life is a gift.
Love and hugs, Janine

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Whatcha' Gonna Do?

When I get sad. . .not depressed, mind you, just heart wrenchingly sad.  You see. . . when something happens that affects someone I love and I am powerless to do anything to help the person [by virtue of distance and health] I get sad.

And I do three things. Always.
-I ugly cry. Because my heart is breaking for a loved one and it makes my heart ache for them. And we all know what an ugly cry is.
-I pray. Recently it feels as tho' my whole days have been taken up in praying. Does it help? Me, I suppose. I have some idea of whether or not God answers my prayers, but it brings me a small amount of peace to hand over the awfulness of something that is troubling me for another.
-And I cook.

I cook a lot. It seems to be the only thing that works because I am alone all day with my thoughts and powerlessness against it all.  The cooking is always from scratch because it takes longer and occupies my hands and my eyes and my mind and no one wants Mom snarfing in dinner, right?

I know most of you know of what am speaking about - that one of our own is suffering and so far away, but it is not my story to tell on her behalf right now. Until it goes up on her blog, I respect her quietness and pray she keeps the strength that all of us have come to admire. Although it is up on Facebook, and she called me yesterday, she has many, so many, blog friends that aren't on Facebook that I don't want to run the risk of telling them anything until she does through her blog.

Make sense? I hope so. I suck at this kind of thing, especially when I am sad, but I am trying.  I just needed to come here and talk, about anything.

Steven came home last night and found me in tears but preparing dinner. At first he thought it was the pain, but then realized this was worse.  He told me to sit down, forget about dinner and we would just eat leftovers.

Nope, I had to get up and do something.  So with Evelyn's assistance in the kitchen I made up a few new recipes.  I was too exhausted to look up recipes, but having never made these dishes before I thought I would just wing it with the knowledge I have on hand. . .my sketch memory and sad skills.

I knew we had about 2.5-3 lbs of dark meat turkey leftover, turkey stock I made Sunday and a few blocks of cheddar cheese.

I don't know why but I thought turkey burgers and macaroni and cheese sounded like a meal. So I used my Ninja [mini food processor] and minced the cooked turkey, celery and onion for the burgers. I followed the same recipe I use for salmon cakes and added 2 eggs, about a cup of Italian bread crumbs and then veered off of that with 2 heaping tablespoons of turkey stock [it had congealed, so it was probably more like a half of a cup,who knows] and a heaping teaspoon of sage.  I mixed it all in my stand mixer and Evelyn made patties.

While she was making the patties I used the base of another recipe I use that is a roux to begin the macaroni and cheese.  I melted 5 tablespoons of butter in a pan, adding a teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper [more or less]. I added a heaping quarter cup of flour and mixed that until thickened. To that I poured in milk - I don't know how much, but I would guess 3 or 4 cups? I just poured until I had a nice thick sauce which I added 3/4 lb of ninja'd [I love that thing] sharp cheddar cheese and about a cup of mozzarella. I stirred until it was melted and had the sauce to mix with about 8 oz of cooked elbow macaroni.  Put that in a greased baking dish, sprinkled with paprika, covered and cooked at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. My family doens't like it overly brown, so I didn't remove the lid.

While that baked, I fried the turkey burgers in a scant amount of oil on medium heat.  When they were thoroughly browned on both sides, I drained them on paper towel and let them sit.

When the macaroni and cheese was done, I took it out to rest and popped the burgers in the oven on 250 degrees to keep warm.  The turkey was already cooked from Thanksgiving so no worries with making sure they were cooked all the way through.

I also served the last of the Cracker Barrel style green beans and ham as a side.  I made these for Thanksgiving and that is what Evelyn calls them, Cracker Barrel beans [we haven't eaten there in 5 years, so how she remembers?] To me they taste like my grandma's homemade, and again, it is another recipe I couldn't be bothered to research. I just winged it.  I snapped two lbs of green beans [took me an hour - I don't miss the days of doing bushels of these during canning season for my grandma] rinsed them and put them in the slow cooker with 2 cups of chicken broth and 6 oz of diced cured country ham/fat back/pork hocks - take your pick. I used the cured ham. Set on low and those were some of the best dang green beans I have ever had. And easy. Just cook them until soft. Steven did have to put a cup of water in at two intervals, but our slow cooker is pretty hot.

I served the turkey burgers on hamburger rolls with the sides.  Steven put cranberry sauce on his, while Evelyn ate mayonnaise on hers.  I was too tired to eat, but I would lean towards my homemade cranberry sauce because it is more tart than sweet and tastes really good with turkey.

Sorry to bore you all, but it's honestly? I just didn't know what else to do and it seemed to make sense to come here and write down recipes.

Hugs and love to all of you. I can't begin to tell you how much you mean to me, and if you knew the heartache I have for one of own I am sure you could begin to understand better.

See ya' on the flipside. Janine

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day Full O' Bargains

Something is in the air Tadpoles. I don't know what it is. . .but Sunday was epic!

Two things well known about me are that I don't like any type of shopping except the grocery kind and I LOVE a bargain.

Yesterday was so cool.

We all know Thanksgiving is Thursday. However, we won't be eating the traditional meal on Thursday because the kids can't make it home until Friday. No worries, we're going the Mimosa and Sloppy Joe route that day, while prepping everything for Friday and watching the parade. Works for me.

We did want to make sure we had everything purchase before Thursday tho' and we decided to go shopping at ALDI.  I have an unabashed love for this grocery store. There are so many reasons, but today I am going to focus on one of my favorite things about their store.

Prices. I can literally get three times the food for the same price as I could at Food Lion or heaven forbid Giant Foods.  For example - three weeks ago I went shopping with Steven and we purchased enough food for 3 weeks of breakfasts, lunches and dinners for $160. We ate chicken, pork, ground round, sausage and soups. They only thing we replenished in three weeks was bread, milk and juice.

This makes me happy. So, so happy.

Our Thanksgiving menu consists of the following [keep in mind everything is fresh and homemade. I don't buy boxed or canned goods with the exception of boxed chicken broth because I don't have any homemade made and stocked in the freezer.]

Turkey with gravy
Oyster dressing
Mashed potatoes
Sweet potato casserole
Corn Casserole
Green beans with ham
Yeast rolls
Cranberry sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Caramel Cake
Crudite plate [don't ask but this is a weird tradition my mom started years ago and the kids insist we have it] It includes black olives, sweet pickles, radishes and stuffed celery [see? told you it was weird - but it works. somehow]

I didn't write that list to bore you or even make you drool - I am doing enough of that for all of us - I write it because I still can't believe how little we paid for all of the ingredients. I could feed 6-8 people with our meal and it only cost:  $48.24. That's $7.10/per person for 6. Not too shabby.

Even better?  We will have leftovers Saturday [Gravy with turkey and mixed veggies over waffles - again, don't ask. It is SO good.] Then I will boil the carcass and make turkey soup, pot pie and Thanksgiving sandwiches with the remaining turkey. So actually my food cost is much lower. YAY!

We have never, ever paid so little for Thanksgiving - and we know, as we make the same exact menu every single year.  Even when I could purchase turkeys for .39 cents a lb [25 years ago] I still spent upwards of $100 for 8.

Even better than that bargain?

Wait - let me back up a moment.  I talked about this on Facebook, but I realize not all of you are there [and if you are, why aren't we friends? :)  ]


This goofball, our very own Evie Lou [Wallene], was accepted into the National Honor Society. We could not be more proud and I have to say, with all the turmoil in her life in the past 4 years [my health, losing our home, moving in her Junior year of HS, etc] we are amazed at the hard work and perseverance she put forth to earn this honor.

Tradition in our home is if you are accepted into NHS Mom gets to pick out and will purchase you a new outfit for the induction ceremony. I know, pushy right? But you can only imagine the fights that would ensue if we let them dress in school clothes for this. It's a big deal.   I have done it before, to the liking of her siblings, but with Evie?  She was having none of it.  And really? It's our last kid and I am worn out by being sick, so I told her to go shopping by herself and Dad and I would pay for whatever she chose. She knew I had to approve, and I gave her parameters. Then I sent her out.

On the way home from the grocery store Steven received this pic' on his phone. I was shocked that she had actually listened and found something appropriate for the ceremony. Look! Her she is in the dressing room:
When I saw the pic' I said to Steven "It's perfect and looks so good on her.  But? This is going to cost us $50, isn't it?"


We arrived home and Evie was already back from Cato [the only women's clothing store in Orange, VA] and she came walking down the hall holding up a blanket. I asked her what the heck she was doing when she suddenly dropped the blanket and was wearing this dress.  I squealed because it looks even better in person [she paired it with the cutest belt] but I was confused.  We hadn't given her more than $5 [to eat lunch while she was out shopping] so I asked her how did she get the dress home. Certainly $5 wasn't going to buy a dress that nice. [Btw, for those who care - it's completely lined. It's a NICE dress.]

She showed me the tag on it.  It was, in fact, originally, $49.99. But had been marked down 3 times. To the low, low price of $4.99!!!!!  She had change in her purse so she was able to purchase it with tax.

HOW AWESOME IS THAT? ::skippyhappydance::

It's the little things Tadpoles. Simply the little things.
Okay, that's all I got for Monday. I hope everyone has a lovely holiday [if I don't make it back here] and we'll see ya' on the flipside.

Smile loudly, LIFE IS A GIFT! Love and hugs, Janine

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Retro in the Pond

That should probably read archaic, but let's go with retro - sounds cooler.

It's no secret I don't own a cellphone. I don't need one. I hardly go anywhere alone, and if I do I am usually back at home within an hour or two. So, if the school, my family or friends need me? The house phone works just fine.

Not owning a cellphone isn't retro, but my house phone is.  Check this out. . .it was my grandparents and sat on their desk for as long as I can remember:

It's a stock photo, but our phone looks exactly like that.  I have the phone because when my grandparents passed away my mom took it because she thought the great grandkids would get a kick out of playing with it.  They did. They all love this phone.  They had never seen one until my mom put this one in the toy box. This phone is in my will because otherwise they are going to bicker.

The biggest bonus to this phone is, obviously, that it belonged to my grandparents and I have such fond memories of them and being at their house. When it rings here, it reminds me of being with them on the farm.

However - it has a few drawbacks.  First, the ringer is LOUD. Dang LOUD. So loud that everytime it rings the dog goes bonkers and tries to attack it, but we never miss a call.  I could be over at the neighbor's across the street and I can hear this thing.  Second, it is rotary.  I know we all grew up with rotary phones, but raise your hand if you have dialed one in 30 years.  Tadpoles - it is a serious time commitment when you are used to push button phones. I will get all excited to call my MIL or Steven to tell them something and I am standing there for a good minute DIALING. giggle I know - no big deal, but I tease my husband all the time and tell him that he needs to call me, I don't have time to dial. And finally, let's all admit it - it's brown. Brown isn't a bad color, but brown? It's ugly.

But I love it.

Let's continue onto other things we own [or don't own] that are out of the norm for the 21st century.

We don't have a drip coffee pot or a coffee maker.  I make Steven's coffee in our camp coffee pot.  Yeah, no kidding.  When we moved we misplaced our automatic coffee maker and in a "first day in our new home desperation" move I pulled this out.

Again, a stock photo but that's our pot, but ours has wear and tear. Steven loves the taste of the coffee so in the 14 months we have lived here I just never bothered to go buy another Mr. Coffee or a Kuerig.

Which brings me to having to admit we do not own a microwave either. ::GASP:: We did. In fact since we moved in we have owned two.  But we have had two electric blow outs in our home - one even set part of the basement on fire OH JOY! - and in the process roached both of our microwaves.  Turns out that the electrical company hadn't grounded our home outside, eventhough they came  out the first time and said it was an inside issue.  We had an electrician in after the first power surge and thought we had solved the problem, but nope. It happened again and it was the electric company. They fixed it and we haven't had any fires or flashing lights in over 6 months. ::skippyhappydance::

Not having a microwave kind of sucks.  I never cooked in it, but I liked it for tea, oatmeal and reheating food.  Now I reheat my lunch in the oven - and being the instant gratification kind of gal that I am [see what I mean about dialing the dang phone?] I hate waiting.  Tea and oatmeal, which is an almost everyday thing for me, is a little bit better because I unearthed the "Teapot From Hell" in our move.

Anyone remember this little number?
It is a Rachael Ray teapot that I received for free - I only had to agree to post on my blog about it.  And boy did I!  This tea pot is a hazard, but it's so happy I never got rid of it.  If you want to read the review of it's faults, it's here:  The Rachael Ray Teapot Has Arrived.  I was honest - and I found out that in recent years they have actually redesigned the teapot based on reviews like mine and other bloggers.  Since I am intimate with it's faults I know how to use it without harm. I am just glad they don't produce it anymore.

Basically, we're living in the 1950s and you know what?  It works for us.

But really? I wish the ringer dial wasn't broken on my grandparents' phone. I don't know how much more of this Spot can take. :)

Smile loudly. Life is a gift.
We'll see ya on the flipside Tadpoles.
Love and hugs, Janine


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Surprising Myself

Nothing earth shattering mind you - just the run of the mill, hum drum, "Oh look what Skip can do." kind of stuff.

Having a daughter in college, one in her senior year of HS and paying out over $3,000 a month in insurance and medication fees money is tight.  Damn tight.

And in the words of Mother Hubbard - Skippy's cupboards were bare. Cobweb collecting kind of bare.

Okay, really there just wasn't anything I wanted to make for dinner staring back at me from the fridge or the pantry. We have food - but you know that feeling when you just don't want "that"? That being anything you have when you really want something you don't have?  Yeah, that feeling.

Then I saw a large can of crushed tomatoes.  Hmmmm.....

And I knew I was in the mood for spaghetti with marina sauce.

This was so, so easy and so, so good.

I sauteed one small, diced onion in olive oil - I would have added green peppers too, but Steven threw away the tops to my peppers the other night when he made stuffed peppers for dinner - and after they were translucent I threw in some minced garlic and about a half a pound of hamburger.

Once the hamburger was browned I poured in the crushed tomatoes, and tossed in some dried oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  I decided it was a bit thin so I added two heaping tablespoons of tomato paste and about 1/2 cup of water.

Then I let that bad boy simmer for an hour.

Side note:  My mom used to make homemade sauce when we were growing up. The stuff was amazing, but always made with canned tomatoes.  She was a "city" girl and didn't have access to fresh produce like we do here, so she became accustomed to cooking with canned.  I was blessed with an abundance of garden grown tomatoes from my beloved father in law's garden and spent a large part of the summer making sauces and lasagna with all the stuff we were given.  But I had never attempted sauce with canned tomatoes and have no idea what my mom's recipe included.

This is some good sauce Tadpoles.  And easy!  Impressed the heck out of the family too - always a bonus.  I have always bought canned sauce, until this year [see above] but I am not a fan of the sweet sauces like Prego or Ragu - we would buy Hunt's spaghetti sauce and this made up sauce came close to that, but BETTER.

I realize a lot of you have been doing this for years, but before this summer I had never made my own sauce. And with money so tight I find I have to stretch what I have.  I spend, on average, about $60 per week to feed the three of us - this includes all three meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner, as  Evie and Steven both take their lunches. Thank goodness Steven likes leftovers.

I know this is probably a boring post, but I am quite pleased with myself.  I have never really considered myself a great cook - I am just someone who cooks and bakes a lot.  But that sauce? Is really, really good.

Hope you all have a fabulous Thursday. Smile loudly, life is a gift!
We'll see ya' on the flipside. Love, Janine

Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27th

 Kind of pointing out the obvious aren't I?  Yes, it's today's date.

This day has a great amount of significance to me.  For two very important reasons.

Please allow me to explain, and I hope you understand.

I will start with the best part of this date.

My girl. The daughter I wish I could have added to our [insane] family. A woman who has been with me for over a decade. Someone who makes me smile. Who makes me want to scoop her up in a warm hug and make her cocoa.  A Tadpole of such depth, intelligence and honesty that I am surprised she puts up with my stuff. And for this long? Gawd, I love the girl. I do Yvo. Hope you know that.

I give you Miss Feisty Foodie, Yvo.  Lovely, isn't she? And it's her BIRTHDAY!!!

Yes I stole your pic'. Whatcha' gonna do?

I wish her the happiest of birthdays and hope she is rocking her butt off in NYC - which, if you read her blog, she probably is.  She has amazing friends and they do the funnest stuff, with great NOSHES included.  Friends, food [and alcohol] what could be better. hee

I wish I could call you Yvo and sing [poorly you know] to you! But this is my birthday wish for you. I will never forget your birthday. . .because you are you and I love you. You are my original Tadpole. And I thank you for all you have given me over 10 years.

Now excuse me while I walk down Morose Lane. I'm sorry.
The second half of today falls on my head.

Please understand that I am not trying to take away from our beautiful Yvo, but today is also Senior's birthday.

I know, right?  For those that don't understand, Senior was my first husband. He is father to Sean [JR] and Emily [Squirrel].

He died when he was 38.  On Christmas Eve.  It was the most shocking phone call I have ever received. That memory replays in my head so often.  When I got off the phone I threw the phone at Steven I was so upset. I wasn't aiming to hit him, mind you....just wanted to get it out of my hands because it told me what I never wanted to hear.

I know you all know how tumultuous our marriage was. We were young and scared. I think, sometimes, had we just matured a bit? That he would still be alive and we would still be married. I could have saved him.

That is not said to take anything away from how very, very much I love Steven.  I do. And he understands my emptiness at Senior's death. You know that I love Steven and the blessings he has given me, he isn't a second choice, he is my WORLD - every bit of 20 years -but I had to accept a long time ago that Senior chose to leave me and the kids, when they were babies, for his drugs. That was hard.  I don't think I ever minded for me so much, but the kids?  That wasn't fair.  And what he did afterwards was horrible.

Still? I can say this. . .

He was a good man.  He had his demons. He did.  He treated me and the kids poorly during the divorce [which took so long] and the ensuing years, but I have always known it was because he had an outside influence that he was trying to make happy.

Whenever we were alone together or the three us [me, Senior and Steven] he could be himself. He was witty, kind and loving. He was the *old* Senior I loved so much.  But when the influence was around?  He could be the nastiest son of a bitch I ever met.  His eyes would blaze at me, the words would spew and the only thing that kept him from coming at me, to hit me again, was my beloved Steven, but I could see the apology, the sadness, in his eyes, that he was acting a role for the sake of it and he knew he was hurting me and the kids.  He didn't want to, he just felt he had to...I don't know why he chose what he did over them.

He was a good man.  He worked hard. I have never wanted him back since he was so cruel for so long, but? This day makes me sad.  Because he shouldn't have died so young. He shouldn't have. He had gifts to give to others, he just didn't choose me, Sean Jr or Emmy.  He would be 46 years old today.  I raise a glass to him.  He had a good heart, I never doubted that.  Otherwise I would have never married him. I have always known I have good taste, right?
What prompted me to include Senior in this post is because a very nice FB Tadpole, Iggy, shared this song with me this morning [without having any idea of this day] - and the line "I thought I'd see you one more time. . ." resonated with me. I really thought Senior was timeless and he would always be a part of our lives.  Mean, funny, kind or cruel? I thought he would be here.
And now? 
He isn't.

So, welcome to the roller coaster that will always be October 27th to me.  I truly don't want to take away from Yvo's day, as she is simply the best.

I love you girlie and thank you for bringing such a light to my day, everyday.