Feed on
Posts
Comments

Holidazzle

This year, the family did something we had never done before in the Minneapolis area.  We went to the Holidazzle parade.

holidazzle-for-web

It may not seem like much – standing around in the Minnesota cold (8°) and watching a bunch of people walk down a street, but it actually is a tradition in the city, rich in history and extremely well loved by the community.  Every Friday and Saturday, you could find the street of Hennepin overflowing with faithful followers and some newbies to boot, ready to see the lights, the people, and best of all – Santa!

And unfortunately, it was the last year for it.  We caught it just in time to see it leave.

I had mentioned to Paul if we were going to go (and I had been wanting to go for the past two years), we had to make it happen because it was our last shot.  So on December 20th after work, the last Friday of the parade, he and Jadon made their way downtown. (Paul was already on PTO since he had a slew of days to use.  The jerk. :P )  Sadly, Taegan had been scheduled to work most weekends for some time, so we couldn’t get her involved.

They joined me at my building and we walked down to the right avenue.

Holy. Moly.  Was it crowded!  It was as if the doors of an ant farm opened and all the ants were let loose to fill the street.  We had to make our way to a point were we might be able to see over the crowds of people already 3 layers deep on the sidewalk.

Now I don’t mind crowds.  I’m not agoraphobic or even claustrophobic, but when you’re 5’2″ and everyone towers around you, blocking out the view of the sky or four feet in front of you, it can get a little overwhelming until you find a place.

But I had none of the “overwhelming” concerns this time because the entire atmosphere was one big playful, excited carnival.  Everywhere I looked, I saw smiles, heard laughter, witnessed courtesy and felt happiness.  It really was a magical, joyful time.

We found a spot where we (I) could see into the streets.  As it turns out, it happened to be a perfect spot for first timers like us.

What made it perfect?  The view was fine, but the people surrounding us were absolutely wonderful.  They made the entire experience all the more exciting and filled with the Christmas spirit.

Jadon, 14 and anxious to eat dinner, was appreciating with the whole scenario with a bit of eye-rolling.  What teenager would be caught dead at a parade? But knowing how to make his time more enjoyable, I suggested a bag of popcorn or hot chocolate to sweeten the event.

Of course he didn’t say no food.

I asked Paul if he had any money.  He didn’t.  With a hesitation, I pulled out my wallet, wondering if I would have anything among the cobwebs I store in there.  I rarely carry cash either.

I had a buck.  Bummer. A dollar short.

The lady next to me said, “I’ve got money.  Let me help, please.”

What a really thoughtful and generous act of kindness!   I thanked her warmly for her willingness and was about to say yes when I said, “I’ll take it if I need it, but let me check my change.  I might have enough with it.”

I did. Whew.

We stood in the back, talking with our new neighbors.  We were standing by three generations of attendees. They had been coming every year since it started and now they bring their kids/grandkids. They never missed a season and they looked forward to it and the kids did too.

When they found out we were Holidazzle virgins, they took me under their wings, telling me all about it, describing what would happen, talk about the procession and what we should see, and lamented that this was the last time we would attend it.  They wanted t eek out all the Christmas spirit and joy they could from this merry event!

When the parade was about to start, one of the women turned to me and said, “Little woman, come take my spot. You need to stand right here so you can see the parade.  There’s no way you’ll be able to see it all from back there and you need to see it all to really enjoy it!”

I think my smile might have lit up the block from the felicity I felt from that sweet gesture.  I didn’t even pretend to want to turn it down.  I said thanks and jumped right into her spot behind the row of kids lining the streets.  It was a perfect view. (Paul and Jadon being at least 6′ tall had to stay back where they were. Ha!  That’s what they get for being jolly giants.)

It was magnificent being surrounded by the kid’s wonder that was contagious to those around them!

When the parade started, and boy, you should have heard the cheers erupting down the strip!  You’d have thought a famous celebrity was strolling down the avenue.  It was loud.  There were shouts of glee.  Merry Christmas was being tossed out from the parade walkers, but even more so from the crowds to the volunteers.

Walking stars

I saw a number of people from work who volunteered to be in the parade.  They were dressed in costumes lit up with lights or  as characters in the themed floats coming down the street.  They all looked happy to be a part of this particular moment in history, contributing to the smiles and joy in the crowds and making a memory of this last event.

I kept turning to Jadon and shouting like a kid all the things I was seeing.  ”Look, Jadon!  The Tin Man!”  ”Here comes mice! Aren’t they adorable?” “Jadon!  The band is coming!!!  Can you heeeeeear them?”

The pack of teenagers, I noted, were cracking up at my display of frivolity and silliness that combatted with Jadon’s stoic responses.  (That boy knows how not to laugh.)  You know that only made me do it all the more, right?

They were bowled over with laughter as I pulled my Elf-like acting when Santa was coming down the street.

“Santa!  It’s Santa, Jadon!  He’s coming!  It’s Saaaaaaaaaantaaaaaaa!”  All accompanied by a bunch of jumping and clapping and smiling.  That started cheers and screams from all the kids around me too.

He broke then.  He couldn’t last forever.

As the crowd broke to go their own ways, I hugged and thanked my new friends for their warmth and inclusion on this festive occasion, glad they took us under their wings to help us enjoy the parade to the fullest.   They made us feel like family, like we belonged on the street with them.

“Of course!  Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?!  Merry Christmas to you all!”

Why yes.  Yes it is.

The Pleasing Kind

The other day I was trying to figure out what I was going to make for dinner since I walked into the house and realized I hadn’t given it a thought that morning.

Yep, I’m the model of good housekeeping.

I opened the fridge and realized I had cooked some chicken breasts the other day, too much for the previous recipe I had used.  It was just sitting in a nice cold spot, waiting to be used.

Hmph.  Maybe I’m slightly better at this home keeping thing than I thought.

I had all the makings for Poppy Seed Chicken.  I hadn’t made it in forever!  Why do I not make it more often since it’s so stinkin’ easy and satisfying?!

Oh yeah.  Here’s why:

  • Jadon LOVES Poppy Seed Chicken.
  • Paul tolerates it.
  • Taegan will it eat it, but she will not enjoy a single bite.

Sigh.  It’s hard to be the pleasing kind sometimes.

But wait. Taegan is at work tonight!  She’ll eat after she gets home, and I’ll hide up in my bedroom when she returns, so I won’t have to witness her suffering through this meal.

Works for me.

Jadon, walking into the kitchen, asked what he always ask around the 5 PM hour.  ”What’s for dinner, Mom?”

“Poppy Seed Chicken.”

His eyes widened with joy.  His face revealed a beatific smile.  He wrapped his long arms around me from behind and whispered, “Thank you, Mom.  Oh, thank you.  You are the best mom ever.”

I know it’s all for the meal, but you know what?

I’ll take it.

I had the first part of the Poppy Seed Chicken completely prepared.  All that remained was the buttery cracker topping.  I went to the cabinet to get the Ritz crackers only to discover  a hitch in my plan: the kids had eaten them all.

What the?  That was a new box!  I can’t make this meal without those crackers!  It’s a key ingredient to all the buttery goodness on top!

Sheeze Louise.  It’s hard to keep food in the house when you have teenagers in the house, eating you out of Ritz crackers.

Do you notice how kids won’t eat you out of broccoli or oatmeal?  But give them a bag of chips, a box of PopTarts or a package of Oreos, and they’re gone!

What do I do now?  Dinner was ready to go, but I didn’t have time to run to the store.

Wait a minute.  I recall walking into this house when we were looking to buy one and immediately wanted to make an offer. It made no sense.  It had nothing to do with room placements, the size of kitchen (seriously not the size of kitchen) or the steep hill in the back yard.  For some reason, I knew this place was where we were supposed to be.

We had been praying to find a place with great neighbors – friendly people who wanted to know us, who loved being neighborly.  I didn’t know it at the time, but God was telling me he was answering that prayer in full.

Who knows it wasn’t for a moment such as this that God put us in this house?

Okay, it’s no Esther (Hadasah) moment, but still.  Isn’t this kind of request what I hoped encompassed the whole neighbor thing?

I sent a group text out to my neighbors, begging for the missing ingredient.

Within one minute, I had a response, offering to bring it over in a few. No questions, no bartering, no conditions. Just like that, I had what I needed.

Have I told you lately I love my neighbors?

Dinner was made in quick time.  Jadon was in hog heaven.  I reminded him that he would need to save some for his sister.  Looking me straight in the eye as he pulled a second serving, he said, “Mom, I can’t make any promises. It’s Poppy Seed Chicken.”

As Paul refilled his plate, I knew there wouldn’t be enough for Taegan. I let Jadon finish it off as I tried to figure out what to serve my working girl.  Ahn, she’s 17.  She’ll find something to eat.

As she returned home after work, Taegan yelled, “Mom!  I hear you made Poppy Seed Chicken for dinner tonight.  Thank you so much for making it on a night when I wasn’t here.  You are the best mom ever!” And then she pulled out leftovers from the previous night.

Wow.  A twofer on the best mom ever deal.

I know it’s all for the meal, but you know what?

I’ll take it.

Poppy Seed Chicken

Click here for printable recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, boiled and pulled apart into small pieces
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup (you can substitute one can with cream of mushroom or cream of celery)
  • 1 Tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers (or the knock off version – I actually get mine from Aldi – way cheaper and just as delicious!)
  • 4 Tsp butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine chicken, sour cream, soups and poppy seeds.  Spread into 9 x 13 pan.
In bowl, lightly crush crackers, leaving many larger size pieces. Add melted butter and mix well.  Spread on top of chicken mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes.  Top should be golden brown and crispy.
I like serving this meal with a side of rice (sometimes I go wild and put the Poppy Seed Chicken on the rice when serving!) and Le Sueur small early peas (or realistically, if I can’t find Le Sueur peas on sale, I use the Aldi brand.  They’re just as tasty for a fraction of the price.)

Unempathetic

This morning I was emphatically labeled unempathetic.

This after being told I was “inconsiderate, rude and socially obtuse” yesterday.

If I keep this up, I may just hit the life-long goal of receiving the “Worst Woman to Walk the Earth” award.  I might as well go for gold, right?

Why do people have to say words that hurt so much?  Especially when they’re not true?

Am I such a tyrant, really such a self-centered person?  Do I truly give an air of being unsympathetic or uncaring when others are in pain, in need, hurting?

Oh. My. Lands.  I must be a A-level, top of the charts, poster child of all that is wrong with society when it comes to understanding others.

Yes, I must have been completely unempathetic, thoughtless and rude when I:

  • used my “me time” to assist a family member when they misused their time and didn’t get things done as they should have
  • reminded someone they can make it through the day on less sleep than they wish they had
  • have little patience for people who refuse to change when they complain about their situation
  • organized a meal calendar for a neighbor in need
  • held my tongue when someone was lashing out at me when they were cranky or upset about something else
  • reminded someone I’m not someone who can be treated like a doormat because they’re having a rough day
  • worked diligently and hard on a task, knowing I would not receive any credit for it, just to help someone out
  • jumped into action when someone “forgot” they had to bring a snack for school – that day
  • dashed from the bus to home so that someone would make it to work on time
  • worked late into the night on a task for someone else despite wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed
  • worked a three hour shift on a weekend to support a child in a beloved activity
  • gave a massage to someone when that person had been truly inconsiderate to me that same day
  • did the dishes so that someone could play computer
  • refused to say “I told you so” when the situation warranted such a response
  • held someone accountable to their word
  • put my goals on hold so someone could achieve theirs
  • did someone’s work because they weren’t feeling well
  • brought soup to someone at work because they were fighting a really bad cold
  • smiled and became cheerful for someone else when all I wanted to do was cry
  • searched high and low for the “perfect gift”
  • didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to have a fight/be considered “difficult” again
  • gave up my dessert because someone didn’t get one
  • supported someone regardless of not agreeing with the decision
  • advised someone to make changes if they didn’t like the way things were going after making poor choices
  • prepared meals for someone who was having a rough time in life
  • made an early morning run to the store because someone “just realized” they needed something for school
  • spent hours readying the house and preparing good food to make someone happy to have friends over for a night of fun
  • started another day with a hopeful heart despite feeling as if I were unappreciated, unnecessary or unworthy of love
  • expected people to work hard and focused for a good cause and to leave the socializing to before and after the event
  • went shopping for a special outfit when shopping is known to be one of my least favorite activities
  • made a favorite dish for someone even though I do not like it at all

So here I am “unempathetic”, crying silently under a blanket in my room because I don’t want someone to have that sight ingrained in their memory.  Knowing they caused the pain and they can’t make words said unsaid.

Yep, that’s just me being utterly inconsiderate and rude. Again.

Sometimes, I don’t know how people can stand to live/be around me, especially when all I do is think of myself.

P.S. Don’t worry about me.  I’m emotional and venting right now.  I’ll talk with the person once I know I can keep my eyes from leaking when discussing the matter with them.

Talking Italian

I love Italian food.

I love seeing the colors and presentations of the dishes.

I love creating recipes or playing with known ones to make them my own.  Or occasionally, I actually follow the directions, word for word, and revel in the gloriousness of what someone has already discovered.

(See?  I’m not a complete wild spirit!  I can follow directions.  :) )

I love eating Italian food, and let’s all agree it is probably the most important part of Italian food.

Unless I’m savoring the wine paired with said meal.  I’d say the wine selection is as important as the meal itself.  (You can make or break the palatability of the courses by sticking it with a really poor wine. (Don’t read “expensive”  I love several wines that are $8 or less and they compliment meals so much, the salad is even blushing!)

It’s better to drink water, tea or Mt Dew than to serve a crappy wine with your perfectly crafted dish.

I don’t even like Mt Dew.  That should tell you something…

There are several Italian dishes that are delicious, but they take hours to render.  Personally, I love those kinds of meals.

But I’m a freak and we all know it.

Then again, there are meals that only take as much time as it takes to cook the pasta.  And my family loves those meals and feel just as happy with my 15 minutes of creating dinner than they do when I take two hours.

That really works in my favor on a week night when I was an idiot and didn’t even think about what to feed them, despite knowing they will accost me the moment I enter the door with questions like “What’s for dinner?” or “How long will dinner take?  I’m starving!  I mean, not starving, because we know I have food and don’t have to wonder where I’ll get my next meal, so what I meant to say is what time do you think we’ll be eating, mother?  I’m quite famished.  Can I help you make dinner?

Can you tell I’ve had the “you’re not really starving, let me tell you what it really means to starve and then you will be more grateful for what God has provided for us, even if it’s not your favorite food” talk?

Last night was exactly one of those I’m-not-a-good-planner night.  Coming home on the bus, I was going through my mental food box, trying to figure out what I could make on the fly, especially since Taegan had robotics at  6:30.

Then inspiration hit.  I hadn’t made Fettuccine Alfredo in too long of a time to remember.  It’s quick.  It’s easy, and it is inexpensive.

What might cost $15 out at a restaurant, I can feed the 4 of us for $5, if you include the salad and the store bought bread.  (I didn’t have time to make this recipe.  But I love it when I do!  It’s fantabulous! And it would have brought the cost down even further.)

The beauty of Fettuccine Alfredo is it only takes a few ingredients – butter, cream, parmesan cheese, and pasta.  Well, five ingredients if you include “seasoning”, aka S&P.

I didn’t say it was the healthiest meal, but it sure is satisfying.  That’s why I paired it with a salad, to cut the guilt of such a luscious dish.

And red wine.  For the antioxidants.  Ahem.

Start your water to boil the fettuccine.  Once you have a rolling boil, place your pasta in the pan and cook as directed.

Now here is where I tell you if you want the absolute best dish ever, use Barilla pasta.  It. Is. The. Best. Pasta. Ever.

You can use another brand, but oh my lands.  It’s so worth it to use Barilla in the first place.  And it doesn’t cost any more than a cheaper brand really, especially when you get it on sale. (I look for the $1 sale and buy lots of boxes to stock up.)

When you’ve set the pasta in the water and set a timer so you don’t ruin it by making it a big, sticky mess you can cook it to perfection (add that extra minute – the pasta should NOT be al dente), in a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup of butter.  Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream to the butter and stir.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add 2/3 to 3/4 cup of parmesan, stirring to melt and to mix the cheese.  Use the good cheese, not that cruddy stuff you shake from a can.  That stuff should be BANNED from the earth!  (By good cheese, I mean shredded parmesan or a block.  Personally, I purchase the shredded cheese from Sam’s.  It tastes great and doesn’t cost out of this world.)

Set off heat when cheese is fully incorporated.  Crush fresh ground pepper into sauce (about 1/4 tsp) and sprinkle salt over sauce – just a dash or two.

Here’s the different part of how I make this dish.  I don’t mix the pasta and the sauce.  The sauce should stay separated.

When pasta is ready, drain it and then place a serving on a plate.  Ladle sauce over pasta and top with a sprinkle with a little more parmesan.

Serve with warmed bread and a side salad.  I liked my meal with Merlot, while Paul chose a Cabernet.  Since it’s a light dish, a nice cold Pinot Grigio would have worked as well.

1450930_10151948889583808_2137096529_n

While we were eating dinner, Jadon remarked that this is one of his favorite dishes. Taegan seconded it. Hmmm.  I had no idea.

See?  Dinner time can teach you all sorts of new things about your family!

Paul said it would be exactly on his diet if I had added chicken and broccoli and left out the sauce and pasta.  (He’s a big dummy.  I noticed he completely cleaned his plate, so I guess he didn’t suffer too much.)

Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients

1 box Barilla Fettuccine
4 Tsp butter
1 c heavy whipping cream
2/3 c shredded parmesan
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions for noodles NOT al dente.
  2. In small sauce pan, over medium heat, melt butter.  Add cream; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in parmesan cheese.
  4. Add dash of salt and some freshly cracked pepper.
  5. When noodles are fully cooked, drain noodles and plate a serving. Top with a ladle of cream sauce and a little more parmesan.

Voila!  Dinner is served.

Your family (and your pocketbook) will sing praised to you for your divine prowess in the kitchen.

I want to clean about something that has been weighing on me.  I believe I have led some of you astray.

I actually love Fall.

I do love Summer more, but that’s because I feel right at home in shorts, a tank top, sunglasses and bare feet.  If I could slip into a bikini top and soak up some rays while reading a book, then that’s all the better.

I also relish the opportunity to grill everything under the sun and not turn on the oven as much.

But still, there is so much I adore about Fall.  There’s something about this particular change in season that leads me into the new season with a sense of anticipation and excitement.

  • I love the brisk air in the mornings and the cooler temps at night. (However, I wish the temps weren’t so cold at night here in Minnesota… brrr!  Hey, I’m a hundred pound girl with not a lot extra to keep me warm.  And no, I will not gain weight just to keep warm.  That’s why God made baths. And hot chocolate. And down comforters.)
  • The dead leaves crunching underfoot persuade me to run from brown leaf to brown leaf, leaving flattened and crumbling foliage in my wake.
  • Sounds of cheer and groans resound in the air as football teams and fans taste success or feel the want of it, especially in Minnesota.
  • The fragrant scents are so enticing! Burning wood wafts from neighborhood chimneys. Aromatic bouquets from apples at the local apple farms add a sweetness to the air.  Hay bales from the bumpy hayrides smell earthy and inviting. Whiffs of melted marshmallows and chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers around fire pits beg to be made again and again.

And on the personal side, I get to wear my very loved black wool coat and red (or black) leather boots which I only paid all of $20 for all of them!

Oh yeah, baby.  Style may not be a talent I have hold confidently, but I can find deals!

The main thing I love about autumn’s arrival of cooler weather?  It begs for baking and simmering to commence.

Hellooooooo soups, stews, casseroles, and a myriad of flour-prevalent goods.

One of the soups the kids ask beg for me to make no matter the time of year is Loaded Potato Soup.  (But it does seem to taste all the better on a cold day.)

I mean what not to like when you have potatoes, cream, green onions, cheese and bacon.

Mmmm… BACON!

The other thing that’s perfect about this dish?  It takes not much time to create a hearty meal that will stick to the ribs and make mouths smile.

You know I made this recipe up, right?  I’m guestimating on how to make it, but I’ll get you close enough to make it on your own.

Ingredients

  • 5 or 6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese (preferably sharp, but mild works just fine)
  • 3-4 green onions, all parts, sliced
  • 5-7 sliced of bacon, cooked to medium crisp and cut into small pieces
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • extra bacon, green onion and cheese for topping, if desired

In a medium pan, cover potatoes with water and boil on medium-high until fully cooked. (breaks when gently poked with fork)  Drain.

After starting potatoes, in 3.5 quart pan over medium heat, pour cream of chicken soup, cream and milk.  Whisk until smooth.  Add cheese, stirring until cheese is fully melted throughout the soup.

Add green onions and bacon.  Stir.  Turn heat to low.

Add fresh ground pepper to desired taste.  (Maybe 1/4 tsp?)

Add drained potatoes to creamy mixture, stirring to mix and cover potatoes fully.

Let soup simmer a few minutes to fully incorporate the flavors.

Serve topped with extra toppings for decoration… and flavor.

Because the only thing better than a soup flavored with bacon is more bacon.

Bacon makes everything better.

And sourdough bread.  It is the bomb with this soup. I makes for a great scraper for the bowl.

Much better than licking it clean as you may be wont to do.

*Ahem*

Click here for a printable recipe.  Or save this page for all the times you will need to make it to make your people happy (which will be a lot. :) )

Older Posts »