Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Family

I was blessed enough to spend time with Grandpa Bruce this morning, and I am so very thankful to have him in my life. And then I started thinking about my actual grandparents (because ya'll know that Grandpa Bruce isn't a blood relative) and how much I miss them, and how I didn't ever get to meet my Daddy's parents (they both died before I was born)...which got me thinking about other members of my family, blood and not-blood, and how I learn so much from them, even when they really hurt  me.

Dad: He taught me that I have worth, and that I have value and that I should never settle for less. Despite me being a horrible, stupid bratty kid (my words, not his), he always loved me, even when he had to be tough. Dad taught me about tact, and keeping relationships together, even when there may not be a strong foundation.

Mom: I'm learning from her the value of forgiveness, both giving and getting. We've misunderstood each other so much in the past, and we're working on it now. I love talking to her and I love working on our relationship. I'm learning more about cooking in my culture, and the tips and tricks to Polish recipes.

Grandma Aniela: (Mom's Mom) She taught me to take no crap from anyone, ever. She taught me the value of church, the value of prayer. She taught me that it's okay to climb a tree in a dress every once in a while.

Grandpa Wladyslaw: (Mom's Dad) He taught me that everyone is human, and that there is an incredible bravery in everyone. He taught me not to be afraid of airplanes and he taught me that people can surprise you if you let them.

Grandma Marianna: (Dad's Mom) I never got to meet her, but I know she was a sweet, gentle woman, who gave birth to my aunt Josie in a concentration camp. She taught me about bravery and how fierce a mother's love for her kids can be.

Grandpa Franciszek: (Dad's Dad) I never met him either, but I know he was a quiet man who worked hard. On my hard days, I think about him, supporting 4 kids who all turned out to be amazing people. I think about him, in a concentration camp, and how brave he must have been, and I remember that whatever I am facing, I can get through it.

Great Aunt Bernice: She taught me that not every example is a good one. That not everything that sparkles is worth it. She taught me what I don't want from a marriage, and motherhood.

Great Uncle Karol: (Aunt Bernice's husband) He taught me to dance the waltz. He taught me to look for the magic in the little stuff, to skip down the park paths, and to be cheerful in my work, whatever that is.

Aunt Stacy: She taught me that forgiveness isn't for the other person, it's for me. She also taught me to be careful with my words, because other people may not always be.

Gosia: (the oldest blood sister) She taught me that sometimes things aren't worth trying to save. That sometimes, you can love from far away, without getting involved in hurtful things. She taught me what I don't want to be like, and that despite what other people may say, I am enough.

Gabe: (my husband) He taught me that I can come back from being completely broken, that I can pull myself up and that I can go on, no matter how hard it is. He taught me that the Bible is SO INCREDIBLY important and he showed me why I need a relationship with Christ. He taught me that if I want something, I have to fight for it.

Riley Grace: (my firstborn, in heaven) She taught me that I am so much tougher than I look. She taught me love and compassion, and that I am worth something. That I love motherhood.

Ella: (my first living child) She's taught me a world of things. She showed me that even after something so horrific as the loss of a baby during pregnancy, there is hope. She teaches me every day to be a better person.

Bill: (Gabe's Dad) He taught me a big lesson in forgiveness. He taught me that I cannot judge people without speaking to them. He showed me that I'm not alone, even though I may think I am sometimes. He showed me that forgiveness can turn an ugly situation into something beautiful.

North Carolina Mom: She taught me that sometimes, it's just nice to do something good for someone, just because you can. She taught me how to make creampuffs. She taught me that a movie and popsicles are sometimes the best medicine. She taught me how to cook Spam Casserole...I learned on my own that it was a terrible idea ;)

Ms. Lora (fake grandma): She taught me how to sit still and listen. She taught me how to really, really  love others. She taught me what a real Christian lady was like. She taught me even more to love motherhood, and cherish every single second.

Grandpa Bruce: He taught me how to care for tomatoes, and that sometimes, family isn't blood. He taught me to make chicken and dumplings, and pepper steak. He taught me the value of sitting on a porch with a green popsicle and watching a kid on a swing.

Grandma Jean: She taught me that marriage is important. She taught me that you can go through a terrible loss and still emerge a lady of grace. She taught me about loving my child, and that avocado goes with absolutely everything. She also taught me that sometimes, a rose has more value when you give it to someone else.

I'm still learning, every day. Even if it's a lesson that hurts, I'm grateful.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Homemaker Monday, Tuesday.
Monday didn't happen.
In fact, Monday was a huge bust, and I'd really like a do-over please.
We had a missing cat. (Sphinx)  And a cat who threw up, and is possibly constipated. (Dave) Yeahhhhh.

Thankfully, Sphinx is no longer missing and Dave is no longer constipated. And God solved both of those problems in the same hour! Praise Him!
Moving ON!

On the weather front: Warm, but not so warm that I want to live in my fridge. Yay!

On the breakfast plate: Leftover blueberry cobbler. Oh, so healthy.

On the TV: nothing. I spent my day reading, cleaning and worrying about a missing cat and a constipated one.

Menu for this week:
Monday: breakfast for dinner
Tuesday: baked potato bar
Wednesday: chicken, veggies and rice
Thursday: Beef Stew
Friday: Ground Turkey Tacos
Saturday: Chicken Soup
Sunday: Lasagna Rolls

On my to-do list: LOL. Everything

New recipe I tried last week: That white pizza. It was delish.

In the craft basket: Also everything.

Looking forward to: A short break from studying, and not worrying so much about my crazy kitties.

Homemaking Tip for the week: Get yourself a Libman Wonder Mop. Seriously.

Favorite Photo of the Week: 

Lesson Learned the past few days:  God's got this. No, really, He does.

On my prayer list: This whole messed up world, my Dad, whose appointment has been pushed back until August, my Mom, always, and Grandma and Grandpa Johnson.

Devotionals, Scripture, Key Verses: 

Sunday, July 26, 2015


30/52: I really feel the passage of time with this picture. She's so much OLDER, it seems, and she can help out around the house so much more.

30/52, Sunday. I love the dress and her sassy expression. You'll have to excuse the hair as it was still air-drying.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Desperation in the Kitchen: White Pizza

Last week, Gabe had his first white pizza ever. And he loved it! And since I'm super duper cheap, and I don't want to spend a ton of money on takeout, I decided I must learn to make white pizza.

Everyone knows that a white pizza starts with a white (cream based, not tomato based) sauce. You can pretty much use any dough (I used naan bread, because it's a family favorite) and of course, mozzarella is a must (at least in my house). I didn't want to add a ton of different toppings, so I just used cheese and fresh basil (that I grew from seed, still super proud of that!)

The sauce recipe is adapted from this one and I'll definitely be making this again.

Here we go!

What you need:

*Butter (1/4 cup ought to do)
*2 shallots (or one giant one, like I used)
*4 cloves of garlic (or 2 giant ones)
*1 Tablespoon of flour
*Heavy cream, room temperature or slightly warm
*salt and pepper
*naan dough
*mozzarella cheese
*(whatever toppings you want: we used basil, cheese, and bacon bits)

Here's what you do

In a large skillet, melt the butter on LOW and add the shallots. You want the shallots to be translucent, but not brown. Take your time and keep the temperature LOW. You don't want the butter to brown.

Mince your garlic (or buy the already minced stuff in a jar, I just can't stand the smell of the garlic in oil) and add it to your shallots and butter. Stir constantly, until the garlic is soft.

Add your flour and stir it in, until it looks gravy-ish...

...then add your heavy cream, drizzling slowly and stirring constantly....

It's done and ready for use when you can make a smiley face in the sauce and it stays. Happy Sauce :)

Spread the sauce on your naan/dough/whatever.

Add your cheese and toppings. This is where Gabe told me that my pizza looked like it had a frowning face on it.

So, I had to fix it. (cough, OCD)
Bake at 400 degrees until the cheese melts. I have major problems with cheese browning in the oven. I don't like it. But you can totally bake it until the cheese is brown, whatever makes you happy.

Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for any husbands/kids/whoever wanting to lick the skillet.

Verdict: Well, he licked the skillet....


...the other day, I started thinking about how much I missed my Tom. And how he was worth every.single.penny I spent on him and every.single.tear I've cried since his passing.

And I got the crazy idea that maybe we needed another cat.

And then we ended up with two.

This lovely creature with Gabe is Sphinx. She's pretty shy right now, and is currently hiding under our bed. She enjoys snuggles and licking people's faces. She's a year old and was found as a stray near the wildlife center in Banner Elk, NC.

This is my (other) main man, Dave. Originally, we were just going to adopt Sphinx, but I fell in love with Dave's face. He was given to the Humane Society with many, many other cats whose owners were going through a divorce. Dave enjoys stealing grocery bags and laying them out smooth to make himself a bed, as well as emptying cabinets so he can make a "Dave Cave."

While I truly believe that our Tom was a very special cat, and that there will never be a replacement, I think that rescuing animals is extremely important. Who knows, you may even see another Tuxie in our future!!!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Happy Homemaker Monday

Morning, ya'll.
This is already going to be a crazy week, I can feel it. I wish the weather would cool down a bit, so I could actually justify cooking again! Otherwise, after a pretty blah two weeks, I'm determined to make this week kick butt and be fun!

Ella was gone this weekend, to a friend's house for a sleepover and a trip to the zoo. I missed her, but I think it all hit Gabe harder than it did me. I see Ella every day (I'm her homeschool teacher as well as her Mom, lol), and so for me, it was kind of odd, but a nice break at the same time. For Gabe, he had to send his daughter off for two days on his day off.

It was nice, though. We had dinner, together. We hadn't had time just to ourselves of 2005. Even when I was pregnant and we lived in Texas, there was ZERO time to ourselves. We sent Ella off to her friend's and we had dinner. By ourselves. She called us once during dinner (yes, I am THAT Mom. I bought my kid a cell phone.) and I said to Gabe "I put Ella's number in your phone." He said "That sounds so weird." It really did sound weird!!!

She's not hiking a mountain range, I promise.

...I got gussied up and we had dinner together :)

And Ella was fine! She even got to pet a Victoria Crown Pigeon!

Moving on to Happy Homemaker Monday!!!

The weather in my neck of the woods: Warm. Bleh. Hurry autumn, hurry fast.

On the breakfast plate: Nothing. The thought of breakfast turns my stomach right now. I am going out for lunch though, yay!

On my TV: Nothing. But Ella and I are going to watch some videos for my school tonight. (So exciting, right? It is for both of us. We both love flowers and plants)

Meal Planning for this week: 
Tonight: Taco soup
Tuesday: White pizza (stay tuned for recipe)
Wednesday: Goulash
Thursday: Mexican Mac and Cheese
Friday: Sesame chicken and rice, veggies.
Saturday: Beef Veggie Soup
Sunday: Mostly-veggie Spaghetti (stay tuned)

On my to-do list:
Outing with Ella

New Recipe I want to try: The white pizza above. It's going to be odd for sure, because I've never made it. But we all went out to lunch before Ella left on Friday, and had white pizza. Gabe loved it. Ella and I have already had it, but I've never made it.

In the craft basket: Ugh, everything. I should add crafts to my to-do list.

Looking forward to this week: Work, believe it or not. Especially Thursday. And an outing on Saturday. And a surprise...and maybe another surprise. I really can't say.

Homemaking tip of the week: Meal planning is awesome. Also, pre-prepping your food (chopping veggies, etc) saves SO much time.

Favorite photo of the week: 

This is the new addition to my garden. It's an oriental lily/stargazer hybrid. I love it.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes, a break is well-earned and I shouldn't feel guilty about it. Also, school doesn't really feel like school when you're doing what you love.

On my prayer list: The families in TN, our entire country, which is in desperate need of God, a good friend of mine whose Dad is fighting cancer, my Dad, who has an appointment this week.

Devotionals, Key Verses, Scriptures: 

Have a Blessed Week!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


29/52: What to do with giant swiss chard leaves? Well, if you're a Southern Lady, you use them to fan yourself on a hot day ;) 

29/52, Sunday: This is obviously not our front door. Ella was at a friend's house, and had a blast going to the zoo. Thank you to Jessica for taking this picture and keeping our project going :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Desperation in the Kitchen: Jo vs. The Fried Green Tomatoes

Nearly 5 years ago, when we moved to North Carolina, I

1)Saw the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" and fell in love


2) Tried Fried Green Tomatoes and fell in love.

Since then, I've bought the movie and tried (and failed!!!) to make the dish.

Today, I thought I'd give Fried Green Tomatoes a try again.

I got a package of Whistlestop Cafe (like in the movie!) breading mix, which cut down on me spicing and making a batter (and therefore cut down on stress for me)

I also took into account my friend Helena's tip of getting rid of the moisture with salt. I'm going to apologize for the lack of pictures, but when you're slinging batter-covered tomatoes into hot oil, it's not really practical to whip out a camera.

Long story short.
Fried Green Tomatoes; 0, today


Lessons Learned the Hard Way: On Joy

I'm going to confess something to you.

Joy in motherhood hasn't always come easily to me. 

Before I met Gabe, I had my mind made up that I

Obviously, things changed, as I've been pregnant twice and have one beautiful living girl. 

When we brought Ella home from the hospital, and I started to believe that I really really was going to be able to keep this one, a new fear took over. Yes, I had given birth and Ella was alive and whole, but WHAT IF something happened? 

What if she died of SIDS? 

What if I dropped her?

What if I'm not cut out to be a Mom? 

What if? What if? What if?

The first two months of Ella's life were MISERABLE. Awful. I was in a place that I absolutely hated (Texas) and nobody and I mean, NOBODY told me that what I was feeling was normal. When I returned to Chicago, things got better almost right away, but the turning point was when my Dad sat me down and told me

"You need to find your joy. You are going to miss everything."

For the next few months, I soaked up everything about my infant daughter. I took her on long walks and talked to her every step in the grocery store. I memorized every detail of her crooked little smile. I played with more baby toys than she probably did! 

We moved across town from my Mom and Dad and then my husband left his job and a lot of stuff fell onto my shoulders. I worked nonstop, and even took Ella to work with me. And, friends, it's hard to find joy on a deadline night, when you're haulin' a gigantic diaper bag and a one year old up a precarious flight of stairs, not knowing when you're going to be able to sit down and have a real dinner at home. 

One such deadline night, a call came into the office. Being the only one there, I answered the phone. It was my Dad. 
"What on earth are you still doing there?" he practically shouted. "I'll be right there." 
Ten minutes later, the security bell was ringing and my Dad thrust a plate into my hands. 
"Dinner." he said. "Your mother made it and it's delicious. You need to SLOW DOWN. EAT."

I ate silently, while Ella slept in a playpen in my office. That night was a big wake up call. And so, I slowed down. I worked, but I made time to see the joy. The little things. A string of beads from the dollar store. A trip to the pizza place across town. A new park. 

When we came to North Carolina in 2010, Ella was 4. Gabe and I hated each other. (seriously, we did. ask him) Life was miserable. I was depressed. I wanted to go home. And one day, Ella grabbed my hand and said, "Come on, Mom. Let's go and explore!!!" So, we did. We explored our yard. We explored the town. We hiked near the watershed, and I stepped in a pond (we actually live near the watershed now and we laugh every time we pass it, because "Mom stepped in a pond!!!") Those days with my daughter are what got me through those tough times of depression, during the awful times in my marriage.

Currently, we've been in North Carolina for nearly 5 years. It hasn't been easy, and the last 2 years, my sanity has taken a hit. My Dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and thankfully, he is in remission and recovering. We've moved 3 times in 2 years, but we're finally in a place that my whole family loves. My marriage, which suffered much since 2006, has been repaired by God's grace. 
The last week was especially hard. Losing a family pet is never easy. Losing a family pet when you're working 3 jobs, have both spouses working AND in school and basically things going a mile a minute is nearly impossible. Doesn't leave much room for joy...

Today, I took Ella to do a craft at the library. I've been feeling off and nauseous since yesterday, and honestly, I did not want to go. The thought of being in a library with a bunch of 8-12 year olds made me even more nauseous. I very nearly said "We'll go next week." But, kids can be persuasive so I went. We made super hero capes. Ella, of course, is Super Owl: Saving the World from Mice Everywhere. 

Two people asked me for use of my drawing skills today. Ella got to see an old friend and made some new ones. 
On the way home, we stopped by the Schwan's truck and bought soup. I was watching her run across a field, cape flying in the wind, when she turned back and shouted, "Mom! Thanks for today!" 
To find my joy in motherhood, I have to stop and look. Look past the immediately visible circumstances. Yes, I'm stressed. Yes, I'm tired (all.the.time). Yes, life goes a mile a minute around here. 
But there is so much joy. I just have to stop and find it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Happy Homemaker Monday

I totally overslept (by my standards, I was still the first one up), but it's the summer and after the week we've had here, I feel entitled to oversleep.

Let's get started!!!

On the breakfast plate: Sausage biscuit. Don't get too excited, it was microwaved.

The weather in my neck of the woods: Warm, but not too hot. Let's hope it stays that way, and let's hope that it rains some.

Things that make me happy: My husband acing his technology/sociology test, caring people.

Menu for this week: Last week seriously messed up my meal planning, but I'm hoping to get back to it this week.
Monday: Salsa Chicken
Tuesday: Beef Tips and Gravy, Noodles, Veggies
Wednesday: Frittata
Thursday: Naan Pizzas
Friday: Swiss Chard Roll-ups (wish me luck on that one, it's new)
Saturday: Taco Soup
Sunday: Chicken Pasta

On my to-do list: Cleaning House
                              Attempting Fried Green Tomatoes
                              Get more stuff ready for Goodwill/Consignment Sale/To give away

New Recipe I want to try: Fried green tomatoes, which aren't new, but I'm no good at making them. So, I'll be attempting those later today. And swiss chard rollups/enchiladas.

In the craft basket: LOL, headbands! Those WILL get done because school starts for Ella soon and that will take a lot of my attention.

Looking forward to this week: Getting back to my normal routine. This last week has really thrown me for a loop.

Tips and Tricks: This isn't so much a tip as it is an observation. Take a few minutes before leaving for a day out/event/whatever and prepare. Take an extra bottle of water, or a snack, or if you have a small child, an extra change of clothes. When I'm prepared for whatever may come, I feel better.

My Favorite Blog this Week/Blog Hopping: The Siren's Call which is an awesome weather blog.

No Words Needed: 

Lesson Learned: Kids are resilient, and we need to allow ourselves more time to grieve than we may think. We need to grieve on our own time, not someone else's.

On my mind: Work, school, maybe getting out of town for a few hours later on this week, hoping the Fried Green Tomatoes don't turn out awful.

Devotionals, Scriptures, Key Verses: 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Garden Update and Tomato Count

It's a few days late, but this week has been super rough, so here goes.

We have some Cubanelle peppers coming along...

...and a few tomatoes ripening

....speaking of tomatoes, we have 181 of them!

I picked the first two ripe grape tomatoes and ate them with artisan mozzarella, for a snack. YUM!!!

Until next time!


28/52: It's been a rough week, so it was good to see her play at Grandma Jean's. This is the 5th summer she's used that swingset :)

28/52, Sunday: Love this color on her. She told me she feels like a "pretty tulip." :)