Embracing change: Gain vs. Loss

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There are so many hard lessons we have to learn in life. Our family, friends and even our enemies usually teach us. Sometimes we can find answers in books, on television, or in school.

Our personal encyclopedias of knowledge are the sum of our experiences, and it’s important to remember that not everyone has the same material available to them.

I read a lot as a young person, before life got so jam packed with responsibility that I spent less time with my books. I learned so much from the stories in those pages, and one lesson stands out.

It was a story of a young girl who had an older sister. They had always been so, so very close. No matter what life threw at them, they weathered the storm together.

Because of the vast age difference between them, the older sister moved out and married when the younger sister was still at an impressionable but somewhat selfish age. The older sister moved far away, and so the younger sister wasn’t around to witness her new life on a daily basis.

Instead, she had a picture in her head of what life had always been like. Subconsciously, she didn’t really acknowledge the changes.

One summer, the little sister went to stay with her older sibling, her husband and their new baby. She went with her old expectations.

It was disconcerting to have to share her sister – whom she had always considered her other half – with other people. It was even more disturbing to realize that instead of being the sun in her sister’s universe, she was now just a planet. An important planet, but still.

Her sister didn’t always have time for late night chats. She couldn’t just drop everything and take her to lunch, or to the mall. And worst of all, her sister would retreat behind closed doors with that man, that outsider, and share secrets that she was no longer privy to.

She became very unhappy that summer. She couldn’t understand why her sister had replaced her. In her mind, with its expectations written in chapters of the past, her sister had betrayed her.

And then she had a disagreement with her sister’s husband. It was silly, really, but blew up when she complained to her sister about the husband, and her sister, instead of immediately taking her side, chided her about learning to get along with others.

Furious, the little sister called her parents and told them she was flying home early. She had been betrayed. Her sister never had time for her, she had pushed her aside in favor of new people. What about family?!

The morning of her flight, her brother in law had to drive her to the airport.

She sat fuming in the passenger seat.

He tried to explain, to help her write another chapter in her book of knowledge.

I will always remember his speech, if not word for word, at least in summary.

“You were always number one,” he said. “But then your sister found a love of a different type, a type you don’t yet understand. And then she had a child, and another new love.”

The little sister rolled her eyes. All this talk about love. She understood love. Who was this guy? He was just a guy. He didn’t understand sisters.

“The thing is,” he continued, “You’re not number one anymore. You’re not number two either. But if you could learn to settle for number three, or later on, number four, you’d see that it’s not so bad.”

“It doesn’t mean your sister doesn’t love you. It just means that life has changed, and with it, so have priorities. You can still be a part of your sister’s life. An important part. But not number one.”

This was an earth-shattering revelation for the sister. Not number one.

“And you’ll most likely find that you’re gaining more than you’re losing. Yes, you won’t always win disagreements. Yes, your phone call might not be the first she returns. But you get a brother. And you get a niece, and maybe on down the line more children who will love you and call you their favorite aunt.”

He parked the car and looked at her. She stared back, tears forming, still unyielding in her posture but her heart beginning to understand.

I think of that story often as our family grows. As my favorite aunt married later in life. As my uncle remarried and gained a step child.

And now as my sister prepares to share her life with someone.

I haven’t always agreed with, or honestly, in the beginning, even liked my new uncle, my new aunt, my new cousin or my future brother in law.

But I was happy for my family members when they found their partners, understood when my place in things changed, and because of that have gained so much.

I have an uncle who is remarkably gifted in research, wholly generous and incredibly funny.

I have an aunt who is so strong she can handle anything that gets thrown at her.

I have a cousin who, although I rarely see him, is still one of my favorite people to run into and is brilliant and funny and has a rebel soul that is kindred to my own.

And one day, I will hopefully have a brother in law – no, a brother. A brother that I have always wanted. One who keeps my sister in line, wink wink, and helps my family do life.

That last change, that newest change, will be hard for me. My sister has three boys, nephews that I have helped to raise and have loved fiercely since the moment I saw them. And now they have a daddy, and instead of just calling up my sister and saying, “Hey, I’m coming to get the boys,” which has always been cool with her, I have to remember to ask if it’s cool with him too.

I have to learn that his ideas on child rearing and family and the general way things should be done is going to be different than mine, that it will most likely affect my sister’s way of thinking as well. And that it’s ok. That’s how things work.

I will know my place. I will accept it. And I will be glad for all I have gained instead of mourning something lost.

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In the Kitchen: Salmon(ella) Quiche

I meant to post this yesterday as an April Fools’ joke, but instead we were incredibly lazy and napped, sat around with the boy and then watched the entire season 7 of Weeds after he went to bed.

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A few weeks ago, I had a hankering for some quiche. I’d eaten some with brie and asparagus awhile back and it was positively dreamy, so I figured I’d make my own and publish a long-overdue recipe post.

It turned out to be the beginnings of a nightmare.

Here it is, beautifully turned out. It tasted heavenly – cheesy and bacony and spinachy.

I ate two huge pieces, but hubs and the boy aren’t fans and barely touched theirs. Eh, more for me the next day for lunch, right?

But around five the next morning, when I woke up to bottle feed a litter of puppies I was helping to rescue, I got so dizzy I had to wake my husband. My head was pounding and I just felt…wrong.

I went back to bed for a few hours but when I awoke the room was spinning, my head still hurt and it felt like The 2012 Weasel Olympics were being held in my guts.

Throughout the day, my symptoms worsened. I took up residence in the bathroom.

Over the next five days, my fever would spike up to 103.2. I had violent chills but my husband, on orders from my grandmother who he’d called for advice, wouldn’t give me a blanket.

So I huddled under a sheet, basically vibrating from the chills. I began to hallucinate. I asked my husband for broccoli. I was pretty sure I was going to die myself dead.

I remained convinced through most of those lost days that I’d been the lucky host of a virus – a virus that was surely the biggest asshole ever because didn’t he understand I was a mom and moms can’t get sick and I had STUFF TO DO?!

Finally, that Saturday my husband ordered me to see a doctor, who diagnosed me with, you guessed it, food poisoning. He gave me drugs (blessed drugs) to kill the bacteria holding their Inaugural Intestinal Jamboree in my belly and, within three hours, I began to feel human again.

Hubs and the boy got sick as well, but were both somewhat resistant to the bacteria and barely felt the effects.

As a result of this illness, which we tentatively traced back to the eggs in the quiche, I can no longer live dangerously.

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As someone who bakes regularly, I can tell you that not licking the bowl or spooning out a quick bite of cookie dough is torture. I almost took a bite of cake batter a couple of days ago and then froze, throwing the spoon into the sink as if it contained arsenic.

So here it is – Mamamash’s Salmonella Quiche – perfect for those occasions when you’d really like to lose 10 pounds in the most painful way possible.***

Quiche a la’ Bacteria

1 premade pie crust
6 eggs
¾ cup milk
1 small onion, chopped
1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
salt
pepper

Place the crust in a pie pan and crimp the edges.

Crumble in onion, spinach, bacon and cheese.

Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper and pour over the mixture in the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, until eggs are set.

***Please never make this. Ever.

Also! Back when I started blogging, I met a crew of people through the community at Yeah Write, which was at the time called Lovelinks. Headed up by the Princess of Picky Prose, Erica M, the community proved to be a great place to meet other bloggers of all backgrounds and genres. For old time’s sake and to help Yeah Write meet its new goal of a full slate of 75 weekly entries, I’m linking up this week. C’mon, you do it too.

And I would do anything for love…

*Warning: This post might offend vegetarians. And anyone with common sense, which I am obviously lacking today. 

The hubs and I, we don’t really do Valentine’s Day. It’s not that we hate candy and flowers, it just one of those take-it-or-leave-it holidays.

So this morning was just like any other morning – we got up with the kiddo when he started squawking from his crib. Hubs let the dogs outside to potty, I plopped the munchkin in his high chair with some Cheerios and yogurt and then we sat down to read the morning news. (Ok fine, we were on Twitter. Shut it.)

After breakfast, Monkey and I read some books and hubs headed to work. A few minutes later the phone rang.

“Some fat guy in a diaper was on our porch,” my husband said.

There’s still a few inches of snow on the ground and the cat refuses to stay out at night, so I was thinking about how uncomfortable that nappied nincompoop must be out there when my husband added, “He was wearing wings.”

Most women would have caught on at this point, but I actually had a neighbor once who checked his mail while wearing pink underwear, a tutu and alien antennae, so instead of thinking “Cupid,” I was thinking “I hope that door is locked. Where’s my gun?”

Then, over the phone, I heard this weird mouth-fart noise that could only be my husband suppressing a giggle.

“You got me a card, didn’t you?” I asked, feeling like crap because I hadn’t done any Valentine’s planning at all.

And indeed, he had. It was punny and silly and perfect, and inside he’d penned a beautiful letter. I thanked him and we hung up.

As the morning progressed, I thought hard about how to reciprocate his spontaneous declaration of love.

Well you know, of course I decided on food.

We were going to have tacos for dinner tonight – not the fanciest fare even if the tortillas were going to be freshly made.

Suddenly, this post I’d seen the day before popped into my head. Restaurant- style steak! Men love red meat that’s dead, having been drowned in butter, but barely qualifying as cooked. (Or at least, mine does.)

Except that he has the car seat in the truck with him at work and it’s not like I can just zip over to the store with a toddler in the trunk of the car, and we don’t have any steak here…exactly.

Oh! But what we did have was a huge beef tenderloin my mother had bought for Christmas dinner. We’d never actually gotten around to cooking it, so it was taking up an entire shelf in my deep freeze.

Now, that’s way too much meat for our little family to consume in one meal and since we’re heading out for a little vacation later this week I didn’t want to waste it by defrosting the whole thing.

“I know,” I thought. “I’ll just cut off a little piece of the end, slice it into steaks and serve them with roasted rosemary potatoes. What man doesn’t like steak and potatoes?”

Armed with my sharpest knife, I headed into the garage to the deep freeze.

I’d seriously underestimated a couple of things.

One, the size of the tenderloin. This was a $70 hunk of beef, y’all.

Two, frozen meat is freaking hard. The knife wouldn’t even scratch the surface.

So there I am downstairs with a hunk of frozen beef that resembles a cadaver leg – trying to come up with a way to lop off the end of it – when I caught sight of hubs’ tool chest.

“I’ll chisel this mother off, “ I said to myself, returning to my beefy challenge with a hammer and a (very clean) wood chisel.

You know, I discovered that would be a great way to cut beef medallions, but it wasn’t going to get me a clean slice through the middle.

Luckily, a more thorough search of the tool cabinet revealed a fresh, unopened package of new hacksaw blades.

Now I’m standing on a pile of dirty towels, this large, plastic-wrapped tenderloin pinned to the top of the washing machine which was the only clean flat surface available, vigorously sawing back and forth while meat confetti flew everywhere.

But I got a chunk cut off that sucker for dinner. Oh yes I did.

It was about 15 minutes later, after I’d cleaned up the murder scene in the garage that I realized he’d taken the car to work and left the truck – complete with toddler car seat – in the driveway for me to use.

Linking up with Yeah Write #44! You should really come check out the posts there. No two are alike. 

In the Kitchen: Sausage and Kale Soup with Focaccia Triangles

I came across a soup recipe last week that I pinned in hopes of tricking my boys into eating some healthy kale and white beans.

This is a monumentally difficult task because my husband could live on chilidogs and Cheez Its and my son won’t touch anything lately that’s not a Cheerio.

When I finally got around to making the soup today, I was missing a few ingredients, but I made some decent substitutions and after serving himself a third bowl, my husband proclaimed, “This is the best thing I’ve eaten in a such a long time.”

Ha. You just ate veggies sir. Score.

Sausage and Kale Soup
(original recipe posted here)

1 pound smoked kielbasa or Polish sausage, sliced
3 medium Yukon Gold or red potatoes, chopped
2 large shallots, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch kale, trimmed and torn
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1 large tomato, diced
1 can (15 oz) white beans, rinsed and drained
cups water

Heat a large soup pot. Drizzle in oil and sauté sausage, potatoes and shallots. You’ll get a bit of brown on the bottom of the pan, that’s good. We’ll get it later.

Add the garlic and seasonings then stir for another minute or so.

Pour in one cup of the water, and scrape the bottom of the pot to pull up the brown bits that will now dissolve into the broth, adding some fantastic flavor.

Add the rest of the water, the tomato, the beans and the bay leaves. Bring the soup to a brief boil, the add the kale, reduce the heat and stir occasionally while the kale wilts – about 15 minutes.

Serve with triangles of focaccia from this easy recipe for a hearty, warm and immensely satisfying cold-weather meal.

If you expect the unexpected, doesn’t that make the unexpected expected?

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Do you ever come across someone and get that feeling – that certainty – that you’re going to be friends?

That’s pretty much how I felt the first time I met Greta of Not Enough Patience and Never Enough Jewelry.

Although we hang out pretty frequently on The Twitter, we’ve been lucky enough to get together on several occasions in real life and it’s always a good time. (Especially this last girls’ lunch – I can tell you straight up that neither of us has any tolerance for alcohol. One fourth of a Bellini at lunch had me giggling like Piglet.)

When Greta (whom I refer to as G Funk in my head, because you all get secret nicknames) asked me to contribute a post for her Great Expectations series, I got the warm fuzzies. Ok, and also some prickly panic because let’s face it, when you don’t write for awhile, your creative prose muscle starts to atrophy.

If you’ve got a minute, head over to Greta’s place and see what I came up with. Also be sure to check out her four adorable kiddos and then go follow her on Twitter and chat with us sometime.

*Comments are closed so please head over and visit with us at G Funk’s. 

2011: The Year of the Blog

*Update: When I wrote this, I was struggling with the idea of moving back to Texas and going back to work, which would require me to polish up my online image a bit. As the months ticked by, it became apparent that although we wanted to go to Texas NOW, and had prayed for such happenings, God’s answer was either “No,” or “Not now.” I really wanted to mope about that, but I decided instead I’d just bloom where I was planted. So I’m baaaack.

As the year draws to a close, so does my blogging experiment. For one year, ever since January 2nd when I posted a gallery of photos from the year before, I wrote and kept a public record of my life.

I shared funny stories about the world around me: my son, my extended family and my friends.

I published recipes that were special to me as well as new ones that I just had to share.

During that time, I made some wonderful friends. Some of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet face to face, and some who I count the days until we get to share a bottle of wine or see our children play.

I’ve discovered that I’m living virtually parallel lives with so many women across the world. I’ve watched as others struggled with PPD, chronic illness and loss in their families and I’ve hurt, prayed and offered support along with the rest of the blogging community.

This entire year has been such a gift to me.

I’ve been amazed to see that during twelve short months, my blog has seen more page views and more followers than I ever though possible. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to earn money for my family through blogging.

I’ve been able to accept, for myself, that if I put my mind to something I can take it as far as I want. That I can be successful.

So, thank you, wonderful blogging family and friends and exceptional brands, for this gift that you gave me.

During this next year, my family has been blessed with a couple of new projects – projects I either can’t or won’t write about just yet. Because it’s so hard for me to not write about what’s happening in my life, I’m ceasing posts on mamamash.com for the time being.

I’ll still be available if you need a guest post – you can find me on Twitter (where I won’t be posting much but will answer mentions and DMs) or you can email me at mamamashblog at gmail dot com. I’ll also continue to subscribe to your awesome blogs and visit you when I can.

I wish all of you the happiest of new years, I look forward to coming back in a few months to update you on our little projects and I leave you with my favorite posts. God Bless!

My favorite stories:

The Five Nap Commandments: My all-time favorite post, written while sleep deprived.

Rookie Mom Mistake: Sending Mixed Signals: When pooping deserves its own celebration.

The Pythagorean Theorem in Real Life: Wherein I explain how my husband got those stitches in his face

The Legend of Captain B: A sort of feature a did about my cousin, the man I’m sure will save us all during the Zombie Apocalypse.

Does that mean I can say fart now:  A post about the silly people who are my heart and soul.

Ewwwshi: Sometimes, my family does not share my tastes in cuisine.

Sugar and Spice and some potty advice: The first time I realized that my days of pooping alone were over.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat: How motherhood can be monotonous, but also satisfying.

My favorite recipes:

Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

Chicken Spaghetti

Italian Wedding Soup

Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Gruyère Sandwiches

My guest posts:

Today’s PSA: The Drawer – At Multitasking Mumma’s

If I Could Turn Back Time – at Chosen Chaos

Making Memories – at New Mom Survival Adventure

Guest Star – at Mama Wants This

In the Kitchen: Bacon-Swiss Chicken

I love perfect trios. Red, white and blue. The Scarecrow, The Lion and The Tin Man. Jack, Chrissy and Janet. The Bee Gees.

And of course: Chicken, bacon and Swiss.

My bacon-Swiss chicken is a bit like a certain famous dish at that overpriced-but-tasty chain restaurant that uses a bad Aussie accent and cheesy commercials to promote itself. The cheese is different – as is the lack of any fungus tucked under the other toppings poised and ready to gross out my husband – but the basic slightly-greasy goodness is the same.

Bacon-Swiss Chicken

4 slices baby Swiss cheese
4 slices bacon
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Kick’n Chicken seasoning (or whatever you have around the house)
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
salt
pepper
shredded cheddar (optional)

Trim excess fat off the chicken breasts. Cover with plastic wrap and beat the hell out of ‘em until they are of a nice, uniform flatness. I’m not going to tell you to pound to ½ inch thickness, because who really goes around measuring their meat after they pound it?

Put your hand down.

Drizzle a bit of the oil over the chicken then season well with salt, pepper and seasoning mix. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Cook your bacon using whatever method you prefer: skillet, microwave, oven or idling engine. Set out to drain on a paper towel.

Mix the mayo, mustard and honey and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the rest of the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken breasts.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place the chicken on top. Cover with the mustard mixture, bacon and sliced cheese. If you like a bit more color, cover the Swiss with a bit of shredded cheddar.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

*Yields one man-sized serving, one mama-sized serving and one extremely-picky-but-will-eat-this-every-time-toddler-sized serving.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The day is done.

I pull on the silver handle and hot water pours into the tub. After leaning over to sprinkle in some bath salts, I straighten up and disrobe.

I leave my clothes in a pile on the floor. They are soaked in dishwater and covered with the tell tale spots and patches of a day spent toiling at the housework. They are the uniform of a stay-at-home mom: Loose, comfortable black sweats and a baggy t-shirt.

I step gingerly into the tub, anticipating warm water but find it to be a little cool. Once I’m seated, I turn the handle to the left. The water comes in hotter. It’s still not enough, so I push a little further.

Steam begins to rise.

I swirl the water around the tub, pushing it behind me where it always seems so much colder. I fan my fingers and let my hands sink below the surface.

I look down and my gaze rests critically upon my body. Breasts that could still be described as full but certainly not perky. A flabby, scarred abdomen that once proudly held a child. Strong, muscular-but-stubby legs. Crooked, misshapen unpainted toes.

I slide back, lay my head on the cold white surface of the corner and use the tips of my toes to shut off the tap.

The resulting drips lull me to sleep.

Too soon, the chill of the water revives me.

Reluctantly, I lift the drain stopper, step out of the bath and towel off.

Goosebumps pop up all over my body and I reach for the flimsy, leopard print satin robe – a gift from some long past Valentine’s Day – hanging on the back of the door.

It sticks to my damp skin but provides no warmth, so I trudge into the bedroom and search for a fresh pair of sweatpants, dress and crawl into bed.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

In the Kitchen: Basic pork roast

Pork roast is one of the staples in my freezer. It’s something I grew up on and have continued to share with my family.

A quick search on Pinterest or Tastespotting will reveal that it’s also a beautifully blank canvas on which you can create a variety of tastes.

Make it sweet, make it spicy. Make it stuffed, make it saucy.

Occasionally I’ll branch out and try these variations, but usually I stick to the slightly adapted version of my mom’s tried-and-true recipe.

It’s pretty easy, and because I use a crock pot it’s one of those “set it and forget it” type meals that are perfect for busy weekdays or hectic holiday weekends. Also, it’s great for when you’re feeling stabby. You’ll see why in a bit.

Savory Pork Roast and Gravy

1 3-lb pork roast
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup pickled peppers of your choice
2 cups water or broth
Seasoning salt
Pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil

Start with a fresh or defrosted pork roast, whichever cut you prefer. This time, I had a sirloin roast in the freezer. Stab your roast repeatedly on all sides. This is great for relieving holiday frustrations.

Stuff each hole with alternating garlic and pepper slices, then liberally coat with seasoning salt and pepper. This time, I used Cavender’s Greek seasoning (this stuff is amazing and I put it on just about anything), kosher salt and black pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet and sear all sides of the roast.

Place the sliced onions in the bottom of the crock pot, set the roast on top and pour the water or broth (I used some leftover veggie broth) over the top.

Cover and cook on low for at least 4 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I left this one to cook for about 6 hours, and it was fall-apart tender.

It’s traditional in my family to thicken the gravy with a tiny bit of cornstarch slurry and to serve with rice and some kind of greens.

Check out Glory canned vegetables if you get a chance, they’re my favorite when I’m too lazy to make a side dish from scratch.