Kindness

Share kindness. Treat others how you wish to be treated.

I want to talk about kindness tonight. Do you remember as a child, picking on another child who was weaker, or different in some way? Maybe you were the picked on child? Don’t you wish someone would have taught you to treat others with kindness? Don’t you wish that people would?

I tell my children “kindness is never a mistake” and I truly believe that. I love it when someone is extra kind to me. It makes my heart fill with joy that a connection was made. Maybe I brightened their day. Maybe I brightened my own.

I, myself, like to connect with people I come across on my daily travels. Today, I was shopping in a nearby city, and made several connections. It was great. The first was in a fabric store, where I asked the clerk if I could see a fabric that had been placed in the “put back” bin. It wasn’t what I wanted when I saw it up close, but it was worth a look. The lady at the other cutting station understood immediately. “You gotta check,” I commented to her. She smiled and told me she understood. Ah, yes! Connection.

So, you can go about your day with your eyes focused on your shoes, keeping safe. Or, you could bring those eyes up and look for a life-affirming connection. You never know how your smile or kind word could make someone’s day. And remember, kindness is never a mistake!!!

Oatmeal Cookies – The Almost Healthy Cookie

Yummmmm!

I must say that when it comes to oatmeal raisin cookies, they are so good and the oats are so good for you, that they could (in some warped mind such as my own!) be considered almost…dare I say it?…healthy? Maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but they are darned tasty and this recipe has no dairy in it, as well as no gluten! It’s a win-win!!!

You will cream 1 1/2 cups of butter substitute (I used Smart Balance) with 2 2/3 cups of packed brown sugar. Then you will add 4 eggs and 2 tsp. vanilla. When that is incorporated, add 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. of cinnamon, 1 tsp. of freshly grated nutmeg, 2 tsp. xanthan gum, and 2 cups of brown rice flour.

Stir in 4 cups of gf oatmeal, 2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut, 1 cup of almond flour, and 1 package (2 1/2 cups) raisins. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit, and drop by teaspoonfuls, or cookie scoop onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for five minutes before transferring to a cookie rack to finish cooling. Happy eating!!!!

Sloppy Joe’s or Dirty Mike’s

My Sloppy Joe’s Meat with Sauce – Yummy!

Sloppy Joe’s are a sandwich which originated in Sioux City, Iowa in the nineteen fifties by a cook named Joe, who added barbeque sauce to his loose meat sandwich. It is a strictly American food, with which some of my dear readers may not be familiar. My loving grandfather, the one who grew up in an orphanage, used to call them “Dirty Mike’s.” I have know idea as to why, but would guess he came up with the name as his creative alternative to sloppy Joe’s. Why should Joe have all the fun?

For dinner tonight, I decided to make sloppy Joe’s. We haven’t had them in a while, and it sounded good. Here is my standard recipe. You may enlarge it if you need to feed more than 3 – 4 people. It was just children #’s 2 and 3 with me tonight, so 1 pound of beef was plenty.

You will need:

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 Tbsp. dried onion flakes

3 cups of water

1/2 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1/2 cup tomato sauce

3 – 4 gluten-free buns (I like Udi’s multi-grain hamburger buns)

In a medium saucepan break up ground beef into small bits. Add onion flakes and water. Cook over medium heat until the beef is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain water. Add barbeque sauce and tomato sauce. Stir in and heat through. Serve as sandwiches, or as open face sandwiches, as we did. You get more meat and it’s neater because you eat it with a fork and a knife! Grandpa would be so proud!!!

In the Image and Likeness

Smile!

I stopped short yesterday as I went to climb out of my car. A friend of my brother in law’s was helping out around the house and he commented on my skinny legs. He said that my dad also had skinny legs. “Yeah,” I said, “That’s where I got them.” Instead of leaving it at that, he went on to “encourage me” to start an exercise program! Excuuuuuse me?

I will tell you, I wasn’t looking my best, as I had to change my shirt three times yesterday because of the yellow-jacket sting that I got on Tuesday, handing this bozo a bag of chips. My right arm is swollen from my wrist to my shoulder and it is painful and itchy! The outfit I had on was stretchy capris with a knit top. No, not the most flattering, but the first top I had put on did not look nice. The second top I had on cut across my sore arm and left a dent, though it did hold in more of me. The third was stretchy and by that point I didn’t care if I looked like a supermodel! I hurt and I just wanted to be comfortable.

I was so angry, it was a good thing God sent another yellow jacket to scare me away before I said anything! He hurt my feelings. It’s not like I’m hugely overweight. I know who I am. I am a mother who has had two single births and a twin birth. That will do a lot to a body. However, my body is still standing here and carries me through all that I need to accomplish everyday. And aren’t we all, after all, made in the image and likeness of God?

This has been a pet peeve of mine for many, many years. Thin people telling heavier people how to exercise and what to eat to lose weight. Excuse me, but who died and left you God? I eat pretty healthily. I had a bowl of my homemade bone-beef-broth soup that day with some crackers for lunch. What did he eat? Said bag of potato chips!!! I had had those for several weeks (maybe even months) and had never touched them. It’s not that I don’t eat chips. It’s just that I don’t eat them that often and not that many when I do. How dare anyone judge me!

Today, I will have to set some ground rules with him. No talking about my ex, especially in front of the kids (one of whom he totally freaked out by saying that some day they will all hug him and tell him he is forgiven!) I told him not to bet the house on that! Also, no talking about diet/exercise/weight. Can you imagine if he had judged one of the kids? My first child would have told him exactly where to go. My second child thinks he’s nuts. My third child would cry and then try to hurt herself. My fourth child would cry. I must stop him before he hurts the children that have already been hurt too much by their father! So, even though I hate confrontation, I will do it to protect my babies. I am, after all, well schooled in the catechism that says we are made in His image and likeness and to judge not lest you be judged! Didn’t we just hear that gospel at Mass last Sunday? Yikes!

Judge not lest ye be judged!

The Cans that Bind

My cans!

When I was a little girl, my mother canned many foods. Nothing like the amount her mother did, though. We grew up on stories of grandma’s canning prowess. The stories about grandma were legendary. We heard tell of her canning everything from windfall peaches, to green beans from her garden, along with the many other veggies grown there, to chickens. Remember, this was in the time before freezers, so if you wanted to have a continuous supply of food, you would need to can it. And can my grandmother did. I actually have my grandmother’s canner. I believe it is her second one, her having worn clean through her first.

My mother canned apples, applesauce, pears, jam, jelly, tomatoes, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, corn relish, and plums. Plums were my favorite.

There is nothing like opening some of Summer’s goodness on a cold Winter morning, the floor cold under little toes as one creeps across the kitchen to take a place at the table. The family is all there in my memory – dad next to the stove, mom across the big pine table from him. My sister next to dad and across from me. Sister making a face at having plums for breakfast with toast.

I loved plums and still do! I couldn’t wait to break into their purple sweetness, but watch out for the pits! I always wished mom could pit the plums before she canned them, but it was never that way. There were always pits.

Sometimes, my sister or I would help to can, but generally we were only the official taste testers, as otherwise we were too much underfoot.

In my house I don’t do much canning anymore. There just isn’t a lot of time for it. When I used to can, it was usually with help from my kids. We canned barbeque sauce, salsa, jam, jelly, applesauce, and grape juice concentrate from our own grapes. You may notice a theme here; we canned either to make future meals simpler, or from the bounty of our land.

There’s something special about putting those jars in the boiling kettle that my grandmother used; something about taking those same jars out to cool and hearing the “pop” of the sealing lid. It is not the only thing that connects the women in my family, but it is good and it is enough.

Mama’s Beef Soup – Italian Style

Beef soup – Yummmmm!

I am sorry to have waited until almost the last possible moment to write my Tuesday blog post. However, I do have a good reason. Today I was trying to hand up a bag of potato chips to a friend who was working on my roof. As I asked him if the kind was ok, a very angry yellow jacket (wasp) stung the underside of my right arm. OUCH!!! I am also slightly allergic to bee/wasp/hornet stings, so I immediately found my Benadryl, ibuprofen, and ice while child #2 made a paste of water and baking soda. It felt like I had a tiny, but very painful, hot poker in my arm. It was not a pleasant time.

So, now my arm has a section that is about 10 inches in length that is swollen, puffy, and hot to the touch. I’ll live, but yikes! What a nasty surprise. I am not going outside again any time soon, unless in case of dire emergency! It is well known that once you get stung, the stinging-type of insects can smell it and you are more likely to be stung again. No thank you!

So…beef soup. I found that our tiny little village restaurant made this awesome beef soup. My recipe is based on my rememberance of that soup, which I love to make on a chilly day. I start with beef that has a bone in it, since bone broth is so very good for you. (Sorry, vegan and vegetarian friends, though I suppose you could substitute something for the beef. Perhaps mushrooms?) Anyway, please make sure your beef has bones, or at least some of it does. Here is what you will need:

1 stock pot big enough to hold 2+ gallons

2 – 3 pounds of beef, some of which MUST have bones!

1 gallon of water

2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly

6 cups cabbage, roughly chopped (I take advantage of sales to buy cabbage, rough chop it for soup, and freeze it in 4 cup increments!)

4 cups diced tomatoes, drained (I used canned tomatoes, but if you are fortunate enough to have a garden where some neighbor is NOT stealing your produce, you could theoretically use fresh tomatoes or ones you have frozen from previous bountiful garden harvests.)

5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch chunks

2 cups sliced carrots (optional)

2 cups fresh or frozen green beans (optional)

2 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. oregano

Sliced onions for the soup

Fill stockpot with the gallon of water. Add the beef and bones along with the onions. Let come to a boil and then turn down to simmer for at least 3 hours, or until the beef is falling off the bones. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. In the meantime, add potatoes and carrots, (if using) and let cook for an hour. Add cabbage, green beans (if using,) and tomatoes. Cook until a knife easily pierces the carrot and potato.

Beef pulled off the bone and shredded.

Pull beef off of bone and shred it before adding it back to the pot. Make sure to remove any fat or gristle. Add salt, pepper, onion powder, and oregano. Stir in and let simmer for at least half an hour for the flavors to meld. Happy eating!

Lookin’ good!

Your State Parks

Not quite the top!

We are fortunate enough to live in an area of many state parks. These parks vary in what they offer, but most have hiking trails (a family favorite!) as well as great scenery to enjoy while using said trails! If you live in a state that does not charge to use their parks, then you should take full advantage. However, if your state does charge, you might want to consider a park pass. These are usually relatively inexpensive (depending on who your relatives are!!! – I just couldn’t let that joke pass!!!!) and will provide your carload with a year of inexpensive entertainment.

I do not live in a state with free state parks. However, I purchased a state park pass for my state and children #’s 1 & 2 went with me on a trip to a state park on Labor Day. It was a great day to visit, though the beach and surrounding area were quite crowded. We stayed on a hiking trail and put up our masks when we saw other people.

It was a difficult climb up and, I’ll admit, I did take a few rests, much to child # 1’s annoyance. Whatever. When you are 25 years older than you are right now, then you tell me how you feel climbing out huge (and some not so huge!) rock steps that turn every which way, while trying not to fall on your face or your backside! Snotty child!

Rocks to climb!

I made it, though, and the view from the top was spectacular! The people looked like ants (ok, maybe carpenter ants, but still!) It was so fantastic that I took far too many pictures, once again, to the annoyance of child #1. Too bad, sunshine! My trip, my camera (on my phone!) and my battery life, so suck it up!

Topside!

I realized as we were descending down the trail, why we had seen so many people going the opposite direction! The climb down was more of a leisurely stroll down a couple of hills, than the back-breaking difficult climb up the rocks! Darn it, we had gone the wrong way!!! The other direction would have been an easier, though somewhat uphill climb to the top with a rockier, step-like trek to the bottom. Instead, we got the rocky, steep, step-like trek to the top (which almost killed me!) and the steep, but clear path to the bottom. Note to self: next time start at the easy path up!!!!

We all got some much needed exercise, and though my legs ached that day, I slept well at night and did not wake in any pain. So, my legs are still in pretty good shape. Yay! I also really enjoyed the scenery and the blissful peace of the park. Even if it was crowded in one place, there were still many quiet spots of solitude to be had. It was awesome and if it ever stops raining, maybe I’ll take children #’s 2, 3, & 4 with me!

End of day.

Special Note:

Child #3 is home and doing well. Please continue to pray for her (especially her mental health) and for all of us! She will start school on Monday, with a program tailor-made to her. She’s excited and I am too! I pray it all goes well.

Life and Promise

Life is full of challenges, but also promise.

Life is a funny thing. As I listen to the rain pitter-patter on my windows, I think of the many things I need to accomplish when I awake. Not now, of course. Now is the middle of the night, but rather in the morning and following hours. I am needing to take it just one step at a time. Otherwise, it will swallow me whole.

First, child #4 is happily installed at school with many of her friends from last year. We weren’t sure who would be returning for this new school year, but thankfully, she has many friends. It was a wonder to see them and to find out how their summers were. For this, I am very grateful.

Next, child #1 will be packing the car today after a much-needed grocery shopping trip, for our college-bound trip on Thursday. He is bound and determined to drive my car onto the lawn in front of the door for loading in purposes. It’s not going to happen, as the much-needed rain has made said front lawn a bit soggy. I do not wish to have a demolition derby mud track right outside my front door! I have informed him that he may use the wagon to tote his belongings out to the car, but he remains unhappy. Such is life.

After I get child #1 installed for his senior year at university, then child #3 comes home from her mental health vacation. Goody! I am looking forward to seeing her, however, I do have reservations, since this is the child who has so badly hurt me and her siblings. She is my baby and I will always love her. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are not nervous at best and terrified at worst. Please pray for her. She suffers so from mental illness, which means we also suffer. It is like they say. “When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.” Our family is like a body. One of our members is very much suffering from her eight different mental health diagnoses, and so, then, are we.

Child #2 is taking a gap year before pursuing her dreams. It will be an interesting dynamic here at home. I have yet to find a job, though I am very much enjoying my time with you! So, we will see what God has in mind.

My promise to you, is to write three times a week. I’m thinking Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. (Sorry about being late with Tuesday’s post! Life got busy!) What do you think? Are there any topics that you would like me to cover? Would you like more recipes or more writings? Please leave your answers in the comment section below! Thanks, and have a beautiful, if slightly soggy day!!!